Following is a quick summary about issues which I thought were most interesting in the first session on Australia’s review before the CRC, for more detail, you can check out my live-blog of the first session.
The CHAIR of the Committee on the Rights of the Child reflected on the fact that quite a lot of time was spent in the first session on preliminary, or introductory issues, especially the significance of a Federal System of Government on the ability of the Government to implement nation-wide child rights protection policies. Whilst many of us in Australia would be familiar with this system, it was, obviously, very important to explain to the committee members, who made sure to note that they weren’t allowing the Australian Delegation to use this as an “excuse”, but, merely taking it into consideration in their recommendation.
Whilst the committee discussed many issues, they did bring up a few areas of questioning which I found extremely interesting, and quite progressive. Specifically, the Australian Government‘s complicity in child rights abuses by Australian Companies acting abroad with the help of Australian Government export credit agencies (a negative glance was cast on the Mining and Fisheries industries as grave offenders). Further, the Committee’s questioning on the Government’s implementation of Anti-Terrorist legislation, and whether or not the privacy implications (alleged offenders may be disclosed to the public before trial, apparently) would affect children (i.e. would children, who are charged under this act, have their identities publicly released before trial?).
Australia’s Ambassador WOOLCOTT, and the committee, both signalled that issues relating to Indigenous Australians, and “the gap” are continuing to be a problem. Some of the issues regarding first Australians were discussed yesterday (namely, steps taken to ensure non-discrimination, a Pillar of the Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrined in Article 2 of the Convention), but there are more issues to be discussed today, such as access to Education and Health within these marginalised communities. Today, then, we can hope for some more cutting questions, and, hopefully, some good answers by the government, on this issue.
One more topic which was recurrent was the participation of Australian Children in a Human and Child’s Rights discourse. The committee stressed the importance of educating young children of their rights, and of allowing them to participate in the creation of policies that affect them.
Further, the Committee was generally pleased with Australia’s creation of an independent review body for child’s rights, the Children’s Commissioner. To ensure that the commissioner fulfilled the requirements of their previous recommendations, they analysed the role from a Paris Standards perspective, and Ambassador WOOLCOTT repeatedly reassured them that the role would be sufficiently independent.
Finally, one more issue that I found interesting was the discussion of the “Great Firewall of Australia” and the delicate balancing act it poses: it must balance the rights of children to access information with their right to protection from “cyberbullying” and other online threats. Committee Member MAURAS PERES seemed to insinuate that the firewall wasn’t the best solution and that there were other solutions that provide protection without as drastically limiting access to information. I agree with Ms MAURAS PERES’s opinion.
Hopefully, Day 2 will bring some more answers, as the review of the second half of the CRC, and the review of the Optional Protocols gets under way (surprisingly, we expect to see some flack on Australia’s use of “cadets”, with regards to the Second Optional Protocol).