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TITLE:  AUSTRALIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995




                           AUSTRALIA


Australia has a federal system of government and a long history 
as a multiparty parliamentary democracy.  Federal, state, and 
local police carry out their functions in accordance with the 
law, which respects and safeguards individual human rights.

A highly developed economy, which includes manufacturing, 
mining, agriculture, and services, provides most Australians 
with a high per capita income.  A wide range of government 
programs offers assistance for the minority of relatively 
disadvantaged citizens.

Laws provide for basic human rights; the Government respects 
and enforces these laws.

The Government administers many programs to improve the 
socioeconomic conditions of Aboriginals and Torres Strait 
Islanders, who together form about 1.6 percent of the 
population, and to address longstanding discrimination against 
them.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killing.

The April 1991 report of the Royal Commission investigating the 
deaths of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in official 
custody stated that, although the deaths were not caused 
deliberately by police or prison officials, "in many cases 
death was contributed to by system failures or absence of due 
care."  The Commission found that indigenous Australians died 
at approximately the same rate as others in prison, but it 
stressed that they were arrested at a rate 29 times that of 
whites (see also Section 1.c.).

In a report issued in June, the Australian Institute of 
Criminology stated that the number of Aboriginal deaths in 
custody remained at 8 in 1993--the same number recorded for 
1992, and significantly fewer than that for 1991 (12).  
Further, the rate of deaths per 1,000 persons in custody in 
1993 stayed significantly lower for Aboriginals than for others 
(i.e., this was the case for the second straight year).  That 
represented a notable improvement over 1991 data which attested 
to a somewhat higher death rate among Aboriginal prisoners.

In terms of all prisoners, however, the Institute noted that 
the total number of deaths increased to 74 in 1993.  This was 
the highest figure recorded since 1987 and contrasted with data 
for 1991 and 1992, in which the total number of deaths remained 
essentially constant (65 and 64, respectively).

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of political disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits all such practices, and the authorities 
generally respect these prohibitions.  However, the Royal 
Commission investigating the deaths of Aboriginals and Torres 
Strait Islanders in custody indicated it had found credible 
evidence that indigenous Australians had frequently been 
mistreated while in custody.  It recommended several steps to 
reduce the number of arrests and improve the treatment of 
prisoners.  During 1994 federal and state authorities continued 
to address the problem of deaths and mistreatment of indigenous 
Australians in custody by means of police reform, including 
improved detention procedures and training courses in 
Aboriginal culture.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and imprisonment.  This 
prohibition is respected in practice.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

A well-developed system of federal and state courts, 
independent of the executive and legislative branches, ensures 
the right to fair trial.  Both in law and in practice, 
defendants enjoy rights to due process, including the 
presumption of innocence, the right to confront witnesses, and 
the right of appeal.  With regard to indigent defendants, all 
Australian states except New South Wales oblige persons charged 
with criminal offenses to meet a merit test before qualifying 
for legal aid.  The purpose of the merit test is to save the 
Government from "wasting funds on unwinnable cases."  Under 
these procedures, many, but not all, defendants in serious 
criminal cases have been found to deserve legal counsel.  
Defendants who receive an unfavorable decision may appeal to a 
panel of independent lawyers and social workers appointed by 
the Legal Aid Commission.  The High Court has stated that it 
would be an exceptional case in which a person accused of 
serious charges could be tried fairly without a lawyer.

The Government provides legal counsel for all persons of 
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.  Defendants 
appearing before a defense force magistrate are likewise exempt 
from the merit test.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

By law, the authorities may not conduct searches without a 
judicially issued warrant, and in practice they do not do so.  
The Government respects the privacy of family, home, and 
correspondence.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

A democratic political system, a highly professional judiciary, 
and diverse, vigorous, and independent news media combine to 
protect freedom of speech and press and full academic freedom.  
Australia does not have a bill of rights, and from time to time 
a few journalists have been subjected to court proceedings 
aimed at compelling them to reveal confidential sources.  In 
1994, however, there were no reports of such cases.

The Northern Territory and five of Australia's six states (all 
but Western Australia) prohibit public disrespect, e.g., verbal 
abuse directed toward police or other officials.  Spokespersons 
for Aboriginal groups charge that these laws are enforced in a 
racially discriminatory manner.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although not codified in law, citizens exercise these freedoms 
without government restriction.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Australians have complete freedom of religion.  A provision in 
the Constitution precludes the adoption of a state religion.


     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government imposes no restrictions on movement within or 
outside the country and respects the rights of emigration and 
repatriation.

The Government repatriates boat people whose applications for 
asylum or humanitarian admission are denied.  In late 1992, the 
Australian High Court upheld the Government's right to detain 
boat people pending adjudication of their cases.

Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees have commended Australia for speeding up official 
processing of refugee claims, while recommending that the 
Government adopt a policy of administrative release into the 
community under appropriate safeguards.  Parliament's Joint 
Standing Committee on Migration advanced a similar proposal on 
March 2, recommending standardized procedures that would permit 
release into the community of boat people detained for more 
than 6 months, those whose continued detention resulted from 
inaction or administrative error, and others who met specified 
conditions.  The Government, however, rejects such proposals, 
arguing that all unauthorized entrants and their children 
should remain in detention until final disposition of requests 
for asylum or refuge, even though administrative appeals and 
lawsuits can take several years.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Australians elect representatives to a two-chamber federal 
parliament as well as to numerous state and local bodies 
through free and open elections.  Voting by secret ballot is 
compulsory in general elections for Australians 18 years of age 
and older.  Voters who do not at least collect ballots may be 
fined, and fines are in fact levied.

Indigenous people participate fully in Australia's political 
process, doing so as voters, members of political parties, and 
candidates for elected office.

Although no legal impediments exist to prevent women from 
holding public office, in practice, relatively few women are 
elected to public office (e.g., only about 14 percent of 
current Members of Parliament are women).  In September, the 
Australian Labor Party (ALP) formally decided that, by the year 
2000, women will be 35 percent of its nominees for "winnable 
seats."  The Liberal Party has likewise declared it wishes to 
increase the number of female candidates, but it has not 
adopted a specific quota.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Nongovernmental human rights organizations operate freely, and 
the Government grants unimpeded access to all international 
groups investigating alleged human rights violations.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

In a July report on equality before the law, the Australian Law 
Reform Commission, a government-funded advisory body reporting 
to the Attorney General on possible law reforms, concluded that 
women face systemic discrimination within the legal system.  
The Commission found that discrimination against women 
permeates substantive law, judicial interpretation, and women's 
access to appropriate legal services.  Although this reflects 
women's unequal social and economic status, the Commission 
believes that the legal system contributes to the inequality 
and tends to perpetuate and exacerbate it.  The Commission 
recommended the immediate establishment of a national women's 
justice program in which the federal, state, and territorial 
governments would work together to address women's needs in the 
areas of legal representation, legal advice and referral, 
community legal education, development of the law, research and 
data collection, court processes, and facilities.

The Federal Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 prohibits 
discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, or 
pregnancy.  The Affirmative Action Act of 1986 also obliges 
employers to provide equal employment and equal promotion 
opportunities for female employees.  The Department of 
Industrial Relations and the Sex Discrimination Commissioner 
receive complaints and attempt to resolve those that they find 
valid.  They mainly do this by seeking to persuade employers to 
comply with the law, but can also decide to refer complaints to 
the Attorney General's Department and recommend legal action.  
Overall, enforcement is reasonably effective.  Pay equity as a 
legal right went into force on March 30.

In an effort to end violence against women, the Government 
continued its community education campaign, begun in 1991 and 
operating under a 3-year budget of about $2.3 million.  Social 
analysts and commentators estimate that domestic violence may 
affect as many as one Australian family in three or four.  
However, government officials stress that, because of 
underreporting and the lack of an agreed method for collecting 
statistics, it is impossible to provide an accurate national 
profile of the number of women who are victims of domestic 
violence.  The Government is currently considering a national 
survey on violence against women in order to provide baseline 
data.

     Children

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates 20,000 
children are victims of child abuse or are at significant risk 
of abuse each year.  This is somewhat less than 0.5 percent of 
persons under 17, but the president of the Australian Medical 
Association stresses that many cases of neglect and abuse are 
not reported.  The six states and two territories investigate 
complaints of neglect or child abuse and institute practical 
measures aimed at protecting the child (e.g., placement in 
foster homes) when such complaints prove founded.

On June 30, Parliament enacted a law that prohibits sexual 
relations and other indecent acts with children on the part of 
Australians who are visiting other countries.  Offenders, as 
well as organizers of travel for such purposes, may be 
prosecuted in Australia.  The maximum penalty is 17 years' 
imprisonment.  By year's end, no prosecutions under this law 
had taken place.

     Indigenous People

The Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination 
on grounds of race, color, descent, or national or ethnic 
origin.  In practice, however, the community services provided 
to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders tend to be 
distinctly inferior, and Aboriginal spokespersons charge that 
police are less responsive to requests for law enforcement 
services which originate in Aboriginal rather than in other 
communities.

Even though Aboriginal Australians constitute about 1.6 percent 
of the population at large, Aboriginal prisoners exceed 15 
percent of the overall total.  In May Minister for Aboriginal 
and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Robert Tickner criticized 
the states' lack of action on various recommendations put 
forward by the 1991 report of the Royal Commission on deaths in 
custody.  "Across Australia," Tickner said, "There has been an 
abject failure by state and territory governments to tackle 
this deplorable overrepresentation" of Aboriginals in prison.  
He called for a "radical reassessment" of criminal justice 
policies.

In much of Australia, the incidence of arrest of Aboriginals 
and Torres Strait Islanders for minor street crimes is 
disproportionately high.  Public drunkenness remains a criminal 
offense in three states (Queensland, Victoria, and Tasmania), 
even though decriminalization was one of the 1991 Royal 
Commission's key recommendations.  Drunkenness is no longer an 
offense in New South Wales.  However, instead of being charged 
with drunkenness, disproportionate numbers of indigenous 
Australians are arrested for violating a provision of the 
state's criminal code which proscribes "conduct ... in an 
offensive manner in ... a public place."  New South Wales is 
conducting small-scale trials of an alternative procedure that 
would not require arrests under such circumstances.  In effect, 
a court summons that would resemble a traffic ticket would 
direct the offender to appear in court and answer charges on a 
specified date.

The states have established racial-sensitivity training 
programs for police officers, as well as advisory bodies and 
other outreach programs which seek to improve police relations 
with Aboriginal communities.  In spite of notable and 
praiseworthy improvements in particular localities, there is no 
evidence to suggest that current approaches have been effective 
in reducing arrests nationwide.

Because Aboriginals are the most disadvantaged group in 
relation to education, housing, health, and employment 
(unemployment is three times the national average), the federal 
and state governments provide special services which supplement 
the broad range of programs that are available to all 
Australians.  These special services are aimed at improving 
socioeconomic conditions among indigenous Australians.  The 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission gives 
indigenous Australians control over many government programs 
intended for their benefit.  The Council for Aboriginal 
Reconciliation is coordinating a 10-year program to promote 
better understanding between indigenous Australians and others.

Aboriginal spokespersons generally support federal and state 
programs but often describe them as underfunded.  They note 
that much of the underlying problem of racial discrimination 
stems from deeply rooted personal attitudes and views and 
express doubt that government programs will produce notable 
results in the short run.  In addition, they question whether 
federal and state police authorities have shown sufficient 
diligence and energy in pursuing police reform.

Most Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders welcomed landmark 
legislation (December 1993) which established federal tribunals 
to adjudicate claims to land ownership by groups of indigenous 
Australians who can demonstrate active association and 
uninterrupted use (native title).  But most indigenous 
Australians cannot meet this test, and Parliament is 
considering draft legislation that would establish a national 
trust fund to purchase land for them.

     People with Disabilities

The Disability Discrimination Commissioner, a member of the 
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, promotes 
compliance with federal law prohibiting discrimination against 
the disabled.  The Commissioner also promotes more energetic 
implementation and enforcement of state laws that require equal 
access and otherwise protect the rights of disabled persons.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Australian law and practice provide workers, including public 
servants, freedom of association domestically and 
internationally.  Approximately 40 percent of the work force is 
unionized.

Unions carry out their internal functions free of government or 
political control, but most local affiliates belong to the 
state's branch of the ALP.  Union members must make up at least 
60 percent of the delegates to ALP congresses, but unions do 
not participate or vote as a bloc.

There are no restrictions on the right to strike.  Legislation 
which went into force on March 30 for the first time legalized 
what had long been a de facto right to strike.

Laws and regulations prohibit retribution against strikers and 
labor leaders, and they are effectively enforced.  In practice, 
employers tend to avoid legal remedies (e.g., secondary boycott 
injunctions) available to them in order to preserve long-term 
relationships with their unions.

Since 1992 the Federal Government has used its adherence to 
International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions to override 
state objections to new labor relations legislation.  Major 
provisions (right to strike, parental leave, pay equity, 
minimum wage, and protection from unfair dismissals and hiring 
discrimination) of the 1994 legislation referred to above were 
deliberately based on ILO conventions and recommendations, as 
well as on broader U.N. conventions and covenants.

However, the official employers' representative to the ILO, the 
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, formally 
complained to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association in 
June that the new legislation actually restricts employers from 
bargaining freely with their employees without impediment 
because it contains vestiges of the old system, namely 
compulsory arbitration and centralized wage-fixing.  The ILO 
has not yet issued a ruling on this complaint.

Unions may freely form and join federations or confederations, 
and they actively participate in international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Australian law and practice give workers the right to organize 
and bargain collectively, and they protect them from antiunion 
discrimination.

Officials administer centralized, minimum wage awards and 
provide quasi-judicial arbitration, supplemented by 
industrywide or company-by-company collective bargaining.

The Government's 1994 legislation aimed to facilitate 
decentralized collective bargaining, keyed to individual 
enterprises, in order to relate wage increases more directly to 
gains in productivity.  Workers can trade fringe benefits for 
greater wage increases, but must register their agreement with 
the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, which insures 
that they suffer no net disadvantage.  The legislation also 
created an industrial relations court to adjudicate disputes, 
especially the failure to bargain in good faith, arising from 
the increased use of enterprise-level bargaining.

Export processing zones do not exist.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Although there are no laws prohibiting it, forced labor is not 
practiced in Australia.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

There is no federally mandated minimum age for employment, but 
state-imposed compulsory education requirements, monitored and 
enforced by state educational authorities, effectively prevent 
most children from joining the work force until they are 15 or 
16 years of age.  Federal and state governments monitor and 
enforce a network of laws, which vary from state to state, 
governing minimum school-leaving age, minimum age to claim 
unemployment benefits, and minimum age to engage in specified 
occupations.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Although a formal minimum wage exists, it has not been relevant 
in wage setting since the 1960's.  Instead, 80 percent of 
workers are covered by differing minimum wage rates for 
individual trades and professions, all of which are sufficient 
to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and his 
family.  However, cottage industry work has grown recently, 
especially in the clothing industry.  These workers, working at 
home and paid by piecework, commonly earn less than $1.50 
(A$2.00) hourly, not enough to maintain decent living 
standards.  The ALP, at its September 1994 Congress, noted that 
such workers are almost always women (frequently immigrants); 
it urged the Government to investigate this phenomenon and 
afford such workers the wide range of protections and 
entitlements found in the formal labor market.

Most workers are employees of incorporated organizations.  For 
them, a complex body of government regulations, as well as 
decisions of the applicable federal or state industrial 
relations commission, prescribe a 40-hour or shorter workweek, 
paid vacations, sick leave, and other benefits, including at 
least one 24-hour rest period per week.

Federal or state safety laws apply to every workplace.
The Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) 
Act of 1991 gives a federal employee the legal right to cease 
work if he or she believes that particular work activities pose 
an immediate threat to individual health or safety.  Most 
states and territories have laws that grant similar rights to 
their employees.  At a minimum, private sector employees have 
recourse to state health and safety commissions, which will 
investigate complaints and demand remedial action.

(###)
TITLE:  AUSTRALIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995




                           AUSTRALIA


Australia has a federal system of government and a long history 
as a multiparty parliamentary democracy.  Federal, state, and 
local police carry out their functions in accordance with the 
law, which respects and safeguards individual human rights.

A highly developed economy, which includes manufacturing, 
mining, agriculture, and services, provides most Australians 
with a high per capita income.  A wide range of government 
programs offers assistance for the minority of relatively 
disadvantaged citizens.

Laws provide for basic human rights; the Government respects 
and enforces these laws.

The Government administers many programs to improve the 
socioeconomic conditions of Aboriginals and Torres Strait 
Islanders, who together form about 1.6 percent of the 
population, and to address longstanding discrimination against 
them.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killing.

The April 1991 report of the Royal Commission investigating the 
deaths of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in official 
custody stated that, although the deaths were not caused 
deliberately by police or prison officials, "in many cases 
death was contributed to by system failures or absence of due 
care."  The Commission found that indigenous Australians died 
at approximately the same rate as others in prison, but it 
stressed that they were arrested at a rate 29 times that of 
whites (see also Section 1.c.).

In a report issued in June, the Australian Institute of 
Criminology stated that the number of Aboriginal deaths in 
custody remained at 8 in 1993--the same number recorded for 
1992, and significantly fewer than that for 1991 (12).  
Further, the rate of deaths per 1,000 persons in custody in 
1993 stayed significantly lower for Aboriginals than for others 
(i.e., this was the case for the second straight year).  That 
represented a notable improvement over 1991 data which attested 
to a somewhat higher death rate among Aboriginal prisoners.

In terms of all prisoners, however, the Institute noted that 
the total number of deaths increased to 74 in 1993.  This was 
the highest figure recorded since 1987 and contrasted with data 
for 1991 and 1992, in which the total number of deaths remained 
essentially constant (65 and 64, respectively).

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of political disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits all such practices, and the authorities 
generally respect these prohibitions.  However, the Royal 
Commission investigating the deaths of Aboriginals and Torres 
Strait Islanders in custody indicated it had found credible 
evidence that indigenous Australians had frequently been 
mistreated while in custody.  It recommended several steps to 
reduce the number of arrests and improve the treatment of 
prisoners.  During 1994 federal and state authorities continued 
to address the problem of deaths and mistreatment of indigenous 
Australians in custody by means of police reform, including 
improved detention procedures and training courses in 
Aboriginal culture.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and imprisonment.  This 
prohibition is respected in practice.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

A well-developed system of federal and state courts, 
independent of the executive and legislative branches, ensures 
the right to fair trial.  Both in law and in practice, 
defendants enjoy rights to due process, including the 
presumption of innocence, the right to confront witnesses, and 
the right of appeal.  With regard to indigent defendants, all 
Australian states except New South Wales oblige persons charged 
with criminal offenses to meet a merit test before qualifying 
for legal aid.  The purpose of the merit test is to save the 
Government from "wasting funds on unwinnable cases."  Under 
these procedures, many, but not all, defendants in serious 
criminal cases have been found to deserve legal counsel.  
Defendants who receive an unfavorable decision may appeal to a 
panel of independent lawyers and social workers appointed by 
the Legal Aid Commission.  The High Court has stated that it 
would be an exceptional case in which a person accused of 
serious charges could be tried fairly without a lawyer.

The Government provides legal counsel for all persons of 
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.  Defendants 
appearing before a defense force magistrate are likewise exempt 
from the merit test.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

By law, the authorities may not conduct searches without a 
judicially issued warrant, and in practice they do not do so.  
The Government respects the privacy of family, home, and 
correspondence.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

A democratic political system, a highly professional judiciary, 
and diverse, vigorous, and independent news media combine to 
protect freedom of speech and press and full academic freedom.  
Australia does not have a bill of rights, and from time to time 
a few journalists have been subjected to court proceedings 
aimed at compelling them to reveal confidential sources.  In 
1994, however, there were no reports of such cases.

The Northern Territory and five of Australia's six states (all 
but Western Australia) prohibit public disrespect, e.g., verbal 
abuse directed toward police or other officials.  Spokespersons 
for Aboriginal groups charge that these laws are enforced in a 
racially discriminatory manner.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although not codified in law, citizens exercise these freedoms 
without government restriction.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Australians have complete freedom of religion.  A provision in 
the Constitution precludes the adoption of a state religion.


     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government imposes no restrictions on movement within or 
outside the country and respects the rights of emigration and 
repatriation.

The Government repatriates boat people whose applications for 
asylum or humanitarian admission are denied.  In late 1992, the 
Australian High Court upheld the Government's right to detain 
boat people pending adjudication of their cases.

Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees have commended Australia for speeding up official 
processing of refugee claims, while recommending that the 
Government adopt a policy of administrative release into the 
community under appropriate safeguards.  Parliament's Joint 
Standing Committee on Migration advanced a similar proposal on 
March 2, recommending standardized procedures that would permit 
release into the community of boat people detained for more 
than 6 months, those whose continued detention resulted from 
inaction or administrative error, and others who met specified 
conditions.  The Government, however, rejects such proposals, 
arguing that all unauthorized entrants and their children 
should remain in detention until final disposition of requests 
for asylum or refuge, even though administrative appeals and 
lawsuits can take several years.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Australians elect representatives to a two-chamber federal 
parliament as well as to numerous state and local bodies 
through free and open elections.  Voting by secret ballot is 
compulsory in general elections for Australians 18 years of age 
and older.  Voters who do not at least collect ballots may be 
fined, and fines are in fact levied.

Indigenous people participate fully in Australia's political 
process, doing so as voters, members of political parties, and 
candidates for elected office.

Although no legal impediments exist to prevent women from 
holding public office, in practice, relatively few women are 
elected to public office (e.g., only about 14 percent of 
current Members of Parliament are women).  In September, the 
Australian Labor Party (ALP) formally decided that, by the year 
2000, women will be 35 percent of its nominees for "winnable 
seats."  The Liberal Party has likewise declared it wishes to 
increase the number of female candidates, but it has not 
adopted a specific quota.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Nongovernmental human rights organizations operate freely, and 
the Government grants unimpeded access to all international 
groups investigating alleged human rights violations.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

In a July report on equality before the law, the Australian Law 
Reform Commission, a government-funded advisory body reporting 
to the Attorney General on possible law reforms, concluded that 
women face systemic discrimination within the legal system.  
The Commission found that discrimination against women 
permeates substantive law, judicial interpretation, and women's 
access to appropriate legal services.  Although this reflects 
women's unequal social and economic status, the Commission 
believes that the legal system contributes to the inequality 
and tends to perpetuate and exacerbate it.  The Commission 
recommended the immediate establishment of a national women's 
justice program in which the federal, state, and territorial 
governments would work together to address women's needs in the 
areas of legal representation, legal advice and referral, 
community legal education, development of the law, research and 
data collection, court processes, and facilities.

The Federal Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 prohibits 
discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, or 
pregnancy.  The Affirmative Action Act of 1986 also obliges 
employers to provide equal employment and equal promotion 
opportunities for female employees.  The Department of 
Industrial Relations and the Sex Discrimination Commissioner 
receive complaints and attempt to resolve those that they find 
valid.  They mainly do this by seeking to persuade employers to 
comply with the law, but can also decide to refer complaints to 
the Attorney General's Department and recommend legal action.  
Overall, enforcement is reasonably effective.  Pay equity as a 
legal right went into force on March 30.

In an effort to end violence against women, the Government 
continued its community education campaign, begun in 1991 and 
operating under a 3-year budget of about $2.3 million.  Social 
analysts and commentators estimate that domestic violence may 
affect as many as one Australian family in three or four.  
However, government officials stress that, because of 
underreporting and the lack of an agreed method for collecting 
statistics, it is impossible to provide an accurate national 
profile of the number of women who are victims of domestic 
violence.  The Government is currently considering a national 
survey on violence against women in order to provide baseline 
data.

     Children

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates 20,000 
children are victims of child abuse or are at significant risk 
of abuse each year.  This is somewhat less than 0.5 percent of 
persons under 17, but the president of the Australian Medical 
Association stresses that many cases of neglect and abuse are 
not reported.  The six states and two territories investigate 
complaints of neglect or child abuse and institute practical 
measures aimed at protecting the child (e.g., placement in 
foster homes) when such complaints prove founded.

On June 30, Parliament enacted a law that prohibits sexual 
relations and other indecent acts with children on the part of 
Australians who are visiting other countries.  Offenders, as 
well as organizers of travel for such purposes, may be 
prosecuted in Australia.  The maximum penalty is 17 years' 
imprisonment.  By year's end, no prosecutions under this law 
had taken place.

     Indigenous People

The Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination 
on grounds of race, color, descent, or national or ethnic 
origin.  In practice, however, the community services provided 
to Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders tend to be 
distinctly inferior, and Aboriginal spokespersons charge that 
police are less responsive to requests for law enforcement 
services which originate in Aboriginal rather than in other 
communities.

Even though Aboriginal Australians constitute about 1.6 percent 
of the population at large, Aboriginal prisoners exceed 15 
percent of the overall total.  In May Minister for Aboriginal 
and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Robert Tickner criticized 
the states' lack of action on various recommendations put 
forward by the 1991 report of the Royal Commission on deaths in 
custody.  "Across Australia," Tickner said, "There has been an 
abject failure by state and territory governments to tackle 
this deplorable overrepresentation" of Aboriginals in prison.  
He called for a "radical reassessment" of criminal justice 
policies.

In much of Australia, the incidence of arrest of Aboriginals 
and Torres Strait Islanders for minor street crimes is 
disproportionately high.  Public drunkenness remains a criminal 
offense in three states (Queensland, Victoria, and Tasmania), 
even though decriminalization was one of the 1991 Royal 
Commission's key recommendations.  Drunkenness is no longer an 
offense in New South Wales.  However, instead of being charged 
with drunkenness, disproportionate numbers of indigenous 
Australians are arrested for violating a provision of the 
state's criminal code which proscribes "conduct ... in an 
offensive manner in ... a public place."  New South Wales is 
conducting small-scale trials of an alternative procedure that 
would not require arrests under such circumstances.  In effect, 
a court summons that would resemble a traffic ticket would 
direct the offender to appear in court and answer charges on a 
specified date.

The states have established racial-sensitivity training 
programs for police officers, as well as advisory bodies and 
other outreach programs which seek to improve police relations 
with Aboriginal communities.  In spite of notable and 
praiseworthy improvements in particular localities, there is no 
evidence to suggest that current approaches have been effective 
in reducing arrests nationwide.

Because Aboriginals are the most disadvantaged group in 
relation to education, housing, health, and employment 
(unemployment is three times the national average), the federal 
and state governments provide special services which supplement 
the broad range of programs that are available to all 
Australians.  These special services are aimed at improving 
socioeconomic conditions among indigenous Australians.  The 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission gives 
indigenous Australians control over many government programs 
intended for their benefit.  The Council for Aboriginal 
Reconciliation is coordinating a 10-year program to promote 
better understanding between indigenous Australians and others.

Aboriginal spokespersons generally support federal and state 
programs but often describe them as underfunded.  They note 
that much of the underlying problem of racial discrimination 
stems from deeply rooted personal attitudes and views and 
express doubt that government programs will produce notable 
results in the short run.  In addition, they question whether 
federal and state police authorities have shown sufficient 
diligence and energy in pursuing police reform.

Most Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders welcomed landmark 
legislation (December 1993) which established federal tribunals 
to adjudicate claims to land ownership by groups of indigenous 
Australians who can demonstrate active association and 
uninterrupted use (native title).  But most indigenous 
Australians cannot meet this test, and Parliament is 
considering draft legislation that would establish a national 
trust fund to purchase land for them.

     People with Disabilities

The Disability Discrimination Commissioner, a member of the 
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, promotes 
compliance with federal law prohibiting discrimination against 
the disabled.  The Commissioner also promotes more energetic 
implementation and enforcement of state laws that require equal 
access and otherwise protect the rights of disabled persons.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Australian law and practice provide workers, including public 
servants, freedom of association domestically and 
internationally.  Approximately 40 percent of the work force is 
unionized.

Unions carry out their internal functions free of government or 
political control, but most local affiliates belong to the 
state's branch of the ALP.  Union members must make up at least 
60 percent of the delegates to ALP congresses, but unions do 
not participate or vote as a bloc.

There are no restrictions on the right to strike.  Legislation 
which went into force on March 30 for the first time legalized 
what had long been a de facto right to strike.

Laws and regulations prohibit retribution against strikers and 
labor leaders, and they are effectively enforced.  In practice, 
employers tend to avoid legal remedies (e.g., secondary boycott 
injunctions) available to them in order to preserve long-term 
relationships with their unions.

Since 1992 the Federal Government has used its adherence to 
International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions to override 
state objections to new labor relations legislation.  Major 
provisions (right to strike, parental leave, pay equity, 
minimum wage, and protection from unfair dismissals and hiring 
discrimination) of the 1994 legislation referred to above were 
deliberately based on ILO conventions and recommendations, as 
well as on broader U.N. conventions and covenants.

However, the official employers' representative to the ILO, the 
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, formally 
complained to the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association in 
June that the new legislation actually restricts employers from 
bargaining freely with their employees without impediment 
because it contains vestiges of the old system, namely 
compulsory arbitration and centralized wage-fixing.  The ILO 
has not yet issued a ruling on this complaint.

Unions may freely form and join federations or confederations, 
and they actively participate in international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Australian law and practice give workers the right to organize 
and bargain collectively, and they protect them from antiunion 
discrimination.

Officials administer centralized, minimum wage awards and 
provide quasi-judicial arbitration, supplemented by 
industrywide or company-by-company collective bargaining.

The Government's 1994 legislation aimed to facilitate 
decentralized collective bargaining, keyed to individual 
enterprises, in order to relate wage increases more directly to 
gains in productivity.  Workers can trade fringe benefits for 
greater wage increases, but must register their agreement with 
the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, which insures 
that they suffer no net disadvantage.  The legislation also 
created an industrial relations court to adjudicate disputes, 
especially the failure to bargain in good faith, arising from 
the increased use of enterprise-level bargaining.

Export processing zones do not exist.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Although there are no laws prohibiting it, forced labor is not 
practiced in Australia.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

There is no federally mandated minimum age for employment, but 
state-imposed compulsory education requirements, monitored and 
enforced by state educational authorities, effectively prevent 
most children from joining the work force until they are 15 or 
16 years of age.  Federal and state governments monitor and 
enforce a network of laws, which vary from state to state, 
governing minimum school-leaving age, minimum age to claim 
unemployment benefits, and minimum age to engage in specified 
occupations.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Although a formal minimum wage exists, it has not been relevant 
in wage setting since the 1960's.  Instead, 80 percent of 
workers are covered by differing minimum wage rates for 
individual trades and professions, all of which are sufficient 
to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and his 
family.  However, cottage industry work has grown recently, 
especially in the clothing industry.  These workers, working at 
home and paid by piecework, commonly earn less than $1.50 
(A$2.00) hourly, not enough to maintain decent living 
standards.  The ALP, at its September 1994 Congress, noted that 
such workers are almost always women (frequently immigrants); 
it urged the Government to investigate this phenomenon and 
afford such workers the wide range of protections and 
entitlements found in the formal labor market.

Most workers are employees of incorporated organizations.  For 
them, a complex body of government regulations, as well as 
decisions of the applicable federal or state industrial 
relations commission, prescribe a 40-hour or shorter workweek, 
paid vacations, sick leave, and other benefits, including at 
least one 24-hour rest period per week.

Federal or state safety laws apply to every workplace.
The Occupational Health and Safety (Commonwealth Employment) 
Act of 1991 gives a federal employee the legal right to cease 
work if he or she believes that particular work activities pose 
an immediate threat to individual health or safety.  Most 
states and territories have laws that grant similar rights to 
their employees.  At a minimum, private sector employees have 
recourse to state health and safety commissions, which will 
investigate complaints and demand remedial action.

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[end of document]

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