Australia has been voted onto the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council. For the three-year term of its office, Australia will strengthen the hand of fellow member, US imperialism, in using the issue of human rights to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign nations.
Let us be clear: there is the human rights perspective of proletarian internationalism whereby the workers and oppressed peoples of all nations support each other’s struggles for liberation, and there is the “human rights” of imperialism, which is the right of imperialism to carry out provocations against its rivals and those who resist its drive for full spectrum domination. The old cover for its aggression was “freedom” and “democracy”. In the last decade or more it has increasingly covered its aggression with the deception of “humanitarian assistance” and “intervention to prevent human rights abuses”.
Historically, the Australian ruling class has shown little concern for the human rights of any but the biggest exploiters of the Australian people. There were no “human rights” concerns when the colonialists unsettled the First Nations communities, stealing their lands and imposing genocidal practices on them.
There have never been champions from the bourgeoisie for the human rights of workers. Whenever workers or their leaders challenge the interests of the bosses, they are fined, jailed and can now have their assets seized. The human rights of Australian workers to organise collectively and to fight for wages and conditions improvements are so circumscribed and to be on a par with workers in, say, Turkey or Indonesia.
The 1901 Australian Constitution is concerned only with how to make capitalism a workable system, balancing the interests existing at the turn of the 20th century, namely, those of Britain, the separate colonies and the new federal authorities. It is an unreadable and dated document. Its creators made no provision for a Bill of Rights or of any definition of personal rights and liberties. It “disappeared” the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples completely, assuming the absolute correctness of their dispossession and genocide.
The Australian bourgeois state has been a pioneer in the move by developed capitalist countries to renege on the commitments they made to refugees and asylum seekers post-WWII. It has outsourced the concentration camps into which refugees and asylum seekers are placed to compliant regional states such as New Guinea and Nauru. Ironically, in 2016, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruled that Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was illegal and unconstitutional. Its Constitution contains a select number of human rights:
* the right to life, liberty and security of person and protection of the law
* the right to take part in political activities
* freedom from inhuman treatment and forced labour
* freedom of conscience, expression, information, assembly and association
* freedom of employment and movement
* the right to privacy and property
Elected alongside Australia is Spain whose “human rights” abuses of Basques and Galicians must now rank alongside its violent suppression of the Catalan independence referendum.
With terms yet to expire are such “human rights” defenders as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines and the US imperialists.
So-called “universal human rights” in the hands of states such as these have their “universality” trampled on a daily, hourly basis. In any class society, the question of human rights is basically a class question. Human rights for working people require the elevation of the working class to leadership and control of the state – not as it exists now, but as it will be redefined and restructured to ensure that there will be no going back once independence and socialism are in place.