By Sasha Pei-Silovo – EM TV Online
Concerns have been made known over the possibility of the Australian government cutting funds to the Australian Humans Rights Commission.
The Commission’s inquiries into the issues surrounding the treatment of asylum seekers cited as a plausible cause for the cuts.
Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Hugh de Kretser said on an interview aired on Dateline Pacific today, that 30 per cent of the Commission’s funds over the next three years were slashed.
He said that reports suggested that funding was being redirected towards the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse.
He says it is obviously critically important work being undertaken (in reference to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse) but goes on to point out that there were no justifications for the substantial cut to the Australian Humans Rights Commission’s budget, as compared to the “size of that cut relative to other cuts”.
“There’s plenty of agencies that are avoiding cuts of almost a third to their entire operation which lends weight to the conclusion that this is a politically motivated cut really in response to the Commission’s work around children in immigration detention,” said Kretser.
It is being alleged that there is a pattern by the government of Australia to target funding cuts and apply pressure on organisations who are greatly involved in advocacy work; and who have criticised the government, in any way.
“We’ve seen this already earlier this year with cuts to aboriginal legal services and the removal of their ability to undertake law reform and policy work, cuts to the environment defenders offices, cuts to immigration legal services, cuts to other community legal services, cuts to the Refugee Council,” said the Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre.
He noted that the Commission was undertaking an inquiry with a report yet to be released; however, he says that it is likely that the report will be most critical of the government. He said that the nature of the report adds weight to the conclusions being established over the funding cuts being politically motivated.
“It comes at a time when the government should be increasing the capacity of Australia’s human rights watchdog because of the pressing human rights issues particularly in the migration space but also with the passages of some very controversial counter-terrorism laws.
“We need a strong balancing voice for human rights and yet what the government’s doing is cutting the capacity of the Commission,” stated Kretser.
The Australian Humans Rights Commission deals with at least 2, 000 human rights and discrimination complaints annually, according to Kretser, this may well be an area that the funding cuts will have a greater impact on.
“You can’t simply remove 30% or 33% of their budget without it having a drastic impact across the board.
“This is really part of a concerning trend of government responding to criticism by announcing funding cuts or changes to funding arrangements or putting pressure on particular organisations that advocate against government policy,” says Kretser.