Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Human Rights Council - 26th Regular Session

Item 3
Clustered Interactive Dialogue with SR on Right to Freedom of Expression and SR on Peaceful Assembly and Association

Statement by Australia
10 June 2014

Australia strongly supports protection of and respect for the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and the rights of peaceful assembly and association as outlined in the reports of the Special Rapporteurs.

Although international recognition of these universal principles is long standing, they are rights that cannot be taken for granted. Upholding them provides a channel for dialogue, pluralism and tolerance, where minority or dissenting views or beliefs are respected.

Australia is a vibrant constitutional democracy and is committed to upholding the fundamental freedoms that are a cornerstone of our democracy, including freedom of opinion and expression.

On 17 February 2014, the Australian Government appointed a new Human Rights Commissioner to our national human rights institution, the Australian Human Rights Commission. The new Human Rights Commissioner will promote civil and political rights including freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of association.

In addition, the Australian Government has tasked the Australian Law Reform Commission with conducting a critical examination of Australian laws that encroach upon a range of traditional rights and privileges, including freedom of speech. The review will consider whether encroachments on these freedoms are appropriately justified. The review will be a significant undertaking and may inform potential legislative amendments to enhance these individual civil liberties for the Australian community.

Australia particularly welcomes the reporting by the Special Rapporteur for freedom of peaceful assembly of recent disturbing developments which undermine the rights of those who promote the human rights of LGBTI people, including in the Russian Federation. Australia is deeply concerned by these developments. We continue to urge governments to uphold the human rights of LGBTI people in accordance with their obligations under international law.

Australia will address the issues of safety for journalists in more detail in the HRC’s panel discussion on 11 June but would be interested in the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion’s views on measures states could take to guarantee the protection of journalists in electoral contexts.