CATHOLIC Religious Australia has criticised the Federal Government’s bid for seats on the United Nations Security and Human Rights councils.
CRA’s Justice Network co-ordinator Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Father Claude Mostowik issued a statement on October 1 after Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop announced Australia would seek a seat on the UN Security Council for the 2029-30 term and on the Human Rights Council for 2018-20.
“I am appalled that (Ms Bishop) could seek these positions whilst (Australia is) criticising the behaviour of countries such as Iran and Syria whilst ignoring the behaviour of governments such as Indonesia with regard to West Papua and (Australia’s) own appalling treatment of asylum seekers in Nauru, Manus Island and other detention centres,” Fr Mostowik said.
Citing the words of political leaders that “bad behaviour by any government should not be rewarded”, he was critical of Ms Bishop’s comment on ABC News that, “we are an international leader in advancing the rights of women and girls, strengthening governance and democratic institutions, and promoting freedom of expression”.
He said women abused, sexually mistreated and raped “on our watch” in off-shore detention centres were ignored.
Fr Mostowik urged the Australian media to question the Government’s self-promotion as a country that respected international law and its selective administration of domestic law.
He said laws on domestic violence were enforced on shore but not for people under Australia’s care off-shore.
Fr Mostowik also asked the media to hold the Government accountable for “its failure to respect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees under its care; and its failure to bring perpetrators of crime to justice or to (try to) hide their crimes by threatening whistle blowers (in immigration detention centres)”.
Ms Bishop’s office did not respond to a request for a comment but on ABC TV’s The Insiders she said “Australia would bring the same principled and pragmatic approach to the Human Rights Council as we did to our term on the security council from 2013 to 2014”.
“Australia is a principled nation. We hold values that I think are important to be heard in the UN, including our commitment to freedoms and the rule of law and human rights and democratic institutions,” she said.
“Our focus would be on empowering women and girls on better governance, better democratic institutions, on freedom of expression and abolition of the death penalty.
“I reject absolutely criticisms that Australia is abusing its human rights record.”
Ms Bishop said the Government had to deal with the legacy of Labor’s border protection and asylum seeker policies, which she said were “possibly the greatest public policy failing in decades”.
“Australia is a principled nation, we have a lot to offer and I believe that we would make a very significant contribution to the Human Rights Council and particularly when there are other countries that get elected to the Human Rights Council whose record is dubious, to say the least,” she said.
– Peter Bugden