Despite "a couple of gold stars", Australia is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to human rights, especially for Indigenous, disabled, and LGBTI people, human rights lawyers say.
The report card from Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR), an association of solicitors, barristers and legal academics and students, identified areas for improvement for the rights of Indigenous, disabled, female, and LGBTI Australians, as well as refugees and asylum seekers.
The ALHR gave Australia an F– for Indigenous rights, and an F for the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers due to offshore processing policies, boat turnbacks and proposed changes to the Citizenship Act.
Australia scored an F for women's and girls' rights, partly because of the nation's patchy record on reproductive rights. Abortion is still a crime in two states and the minister for women, Michaelia Cash, recently crossed the floor to vote in support of Cory Bernardi's anti-abortion motion. The federal government also dropped domestic violence off the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) agenda.
Despite the passage of marriage equality in December, Australia earned a D– for LGBTI rights for causing the community "enormous harm" with the postal survey which involved "public hate speech from conservative and religious quarters", the ALHR said.
The organisation was also critical of the Australian government’s approach to LGBTI refugees seeking asylum because of the significant threats posed by the countries of origin.
For disability rights Australia scored a D, despite the roll out of the NDIS, as the government is yet to implement an "Australia-wide solution to allow the full integration of children with disabilities into regular classrooms".
Here's how each state and territory scored, from best to worst.
Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory: B
WA and the ACT had the best records for human rights.
The biggest contributor to WA's good grade was the fact the Labor government introduced a bill to remove the limitation periods in respect of civil actions for child sex abuse claims. This will assist victims who are often reticent to come forward with their stories until many years after the abuse has occurred.
The WA government also introduced legislation to expunge historical criminal convictions for homosexuality in October.
But the state lost points because people who are unable or who refuse to pay fines issued by the courts can have additional penalties applied in order to “pay out the balance” of their fine, including a term of imprisonment.
These rules disproportionately affected Indigenous Australians and needed to be addressed, ALHR said.
The ACT was commended for improvements to its Discrimination Act; making sharing of intimate images illegal; and for recognising same-sex marriages that had taken place overseas.
The ACT lost marks because its inquiry into housing, which would have looked into whether there should be a right to housing, was cancelled; the government did not raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 in line with the UNHCR; and the territory was continuing with its taser rollout, despite the death of a man after a taser was used on him by local officers.
The report card praised the Victorian government for passing voluntary assisted dying legislation; electing the first Indigenous woman to its parliament; providing $600,000 in support for asylum seekers; and giving the green light to an 18-month trial of a safe and medically-supervised injecting room for drug addicts in inner Melbourne.
But the state, where a quarter of Australians live, was penalised because the Victorian government had been "persistent in sending young people to adult prisons regardless of numerous judicial orders against its policy", the organisation said.
Victoria was also marked down for the "excessive force" used by "heavily armed police" outside the Melbourne venue where Milo Yiannopoulos gave a speech last month.
Queensland was marked down because it failed to decriminalise abortion when it had the chance.
The legislation to remove abortion from the state's criminal code — introduced by independent Cairns MP Rob Pyne — was unlikely to pass last February, when it was due to be debated in Queensland's parliament. After a party meeting held two days before this debate, the leader of the LNP Tim Nicholls said that although MPs would be given a conscience vote on the issue, they would vote the bill down.
The bills were referred by the state's Labor government to the Queensland Law Reform Commission, which will report back later this year.
South Australia: D
The treatment of prisoners in SA contributed to the state's low score. The Department for Correctional Services only recently made the move to using soft shackles for prisoners receiving medical treatment, despite a number of complaints that prisoners had been inhumanely restrained.
The state's Freedom of Information legislation required reform, ALHR said, to ensure people were able to access digital data and audiovisual recordings.
If SA was to improve its report card, it would also need to amend bail and parole laws to remove the presumption against bail and parole for ''terror suspects''.
New South Wales: E+
The most populous stated earned this low score due to the failure to decriminalise abortion in May, and anti-terrorism measures (detaining people after they have completed their sentence for terrorism offences) that were an "affront to the rule of law".
Northern Territory: E
The NT earned the bottom spot for consistently having the highest incarceration rates in the country, disproportionately so for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children, and for the "serious and repeated breaches of the fundamental human rights of children in detention".
The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory prompted what chief minister Michael Gunner claimed would be the "most comprehensive overhaul" of youth justice and child protection in the territory's history.
The annual report into the NT's child protection agency, Territory Families, revealed the number of Aboriginal children in care continued to grow, while the number of Aboriginal children placed with Aboriginal carers continued to fall.
The ongoing housing crisis in remote communities also contributed to the low score.
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at email@example.com.
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