Thursday September 4, 2008 9:30am WST
For Immediate Release
"We congratulate the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC) with its new name "Australian Human Rights Commission", as announced by the organisation this morning," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said on receiving the news.
"We hope however, that this is not the only change to what still is our National Human Rights watchdog, which has suffered a great deal during the Howard government, which curtailed its powers and narrowed its independence and legal powers," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"The name change to the former HREOC today is an opportune time for the Rudd government to seek to restore the true independence and "frank and fearless" platform to stronger levels by giving it independent access and assessment powers to human rights cases and increase its funding base."
"If HREOC had the powers it really should have as an independent monitor of human rights abuses, untold misery in detention centres may have been averted before they developed in hundreds of cases, and there would have been also a lot less misery in the life of Doctor Haneef, where politicians had carte blanche and exercised a shocking level of interference with Australia's public serviceand bringing government departments "to heel" - including the Australian Federal Police - for their own interests in manipulative ways.
"Assisting the Australian Human Rights Commission is an opportunity for Kevin Rudd to show that his money is where his mouth is, since he has repeatedly stated that NGO's and other Australian organisations do not necessarily need to agree with the government of the day."
"John Howard undermined the standard of human rights and the role of organisations scrutinising his government. Kevin Rudd needs to show a lot more guts in promoting, applauding, supporting and making all Australian laws, subject to an important body such as the Australian Human Rights Commission. This includes scrutiny by the organisation of the often doubtful assessment of refugee claims and deportation decisions, by officers of the Immigration department."
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]