1. The Committee
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considered the third periodic
report of Australia on the implementation of the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/1994/104/Add.21) at its
45th, 46th and 47th meetings, held on 24 and 25 August 2000, and adopted,
at its 55th meeting, held on 31 August 2000, the following concluding
2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the third periodic report
of Australia, which has been prepared in conformity with the revised
reporting guidelines established by the Committee. The Committee expresses
its appreciation for the readiness of the State party to advance the
date of the presentation of its third periodic report, which is indicative
of the State party's willingness to cooperate with the Committee.
3. The Committee
welcomes the constructive dialogue which took place between the delegation
of the State party and Committee members. The Committee regrets, however,
that, owing to the unexpected advance of the consideration of the
State party's report, the written replies to its list of issues were
not available to Committee members before the dialogue. The Committee
also regrets that a number of questions were not answered to its satisfaction.
B. Positive aspects
4. The Committee
acknowledges that, in general, the majority of Australians have a
high standard of living and that the State party is continuing efforts
to maintain this high standard of living in the country. This is supported
by the fact that Australia is ranked fourth on the UNDP Human Development
Index for the year 2000.
5. The Committee
notes the introduction by the State party of policies for streamlining
business regulation and the delivery of government services, in particular
the implementation, beginning in July 2000, of the Goods and Services
Tax, aimed at the reduction of income tax for the majority of working
6. The Committee
commends the State party's contribution to resolving the recent Asian
7. The Committee
notes with appreciation the State party's leadership role in maintaining
peace and stability in the region, inter alia by providing
economic and humanitarian assistance, particularly in East Timor.
8. The Committee
notes that, in August 1999, the Parliament passed a motion expressing
commitment to reconciliation with the indigenous populations of Australia
as an important national priority, and a "deep and sincere regret"
for past policies that have negatively affected them. The Committee
also notes that, in May 2000, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation
presented to the Australian people its final proposals for a Document
of Reconciliation towards the development of measures to improve the
position of the indigenous populations of Australia.
9. The Committee
notes that the State party has allocated 2.3 billion Australian dollars
for giving priority to indigenous programmes.
10. The Committee
welcomes the partnership between the State party and indigenous communities
in initiatives aimed at providing greater access for indigenous peoples
to culturally appropriate health services and allocating significant
resources for the improvement of indigenous health in general.
11. The Committee
notes that, despite the persistence of disparities between men and
women in the field of employment, there has been an increase in the
percentage of women employed at higher levels.
12. The Committee
welcomes the various programmes established by the State party to
address domestic violence, among them "Partnerships against Domestic
Violence", the "Rural and Remote Domestic Violence Initiative", the
"Gender and Violence Project" and "Crisis Payment".
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the
13. In spite
of existing guarantees pertaining to economic, social and cultural
rights in the State party's domestic legislation, the Covenant continues
to have no legal status at the federal and state level, thereby impeding
the full recognition and applicability of its provisions.
D. Principal subjects of concern
14. The Committee
regrets that, because the Covenant has not been entrenched as law
in the domestic legal order, its provisions cannot be invoked before
a court of law.
15. The Committee
expresses its deep concern that, despite the efforts and achievements
of the State party, the indigenous populations of Australia continue
to be at a comparative disadvantage in the enjoyment of economic,
social and cultural rights, particularly in the field of employment,
housing, health and education.
16. The Committee
notes with regret that the amendments to the 1993 Native Title Act
have affected the reconciliation process between the State party and
the indigenous populations, who view these amendments as regressive.
17. The Committee
notes with concern that the Workplace Relations Act of 1996 favours
individual negotiation with employers over collective bargaining,
thereby reducing the role of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
The Committee is also concerned about the restrictions resulting from
the Act with regard to the protection of wages, job security and temporary
18. The Committee
notes with concern that homeworkers, who are predominantly women,
do not enjoy any form of social protection and are paid substantially
lower wages than the minimum wage, which compels them to work excessively
long hours in order to earn enough to ensure the daily subsistence
of their families.
19. The Committee
notes with concern that paid maternity leave is not provided for in
law or in collective labour conventions, and that the State party
has not ratified ILO Convention No. 103 concerning maternity protection.
20. The Committee
regrets that the absence of an officially set poverty line in Australia
has deprived the Committee of the criteria it needs to determine the
progress achieved over time by the State party in its efforts to reduce
21. The Committee
is concerned that the current Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (in New
South Wales) does not provide adequate security of tenure and protection
against eviction and arbitrary rent increases, and that, consequently,
rents in Sydney have increased substantially and forced evictions
are reported to have taken place, especially in connection with the
forthcoming Olympic Games.
22. The Committee
expresses its deep concern that, despite the guarantees of coverage
for all under the Medicare system, the problem of long waiting periods
for medical services in hospitals, and in particular for surgery,
has not been sufficiently addressed.
23. The Committee
notes with concern that no steps have been taken to respond to its
1993 recommendation to strengthen human rights education in formal
and non-formal curricula. Furthermore, while the State party has given
information relating to the funding of private and public schools,
it has not provided sufficient information on the difference in quality
of schooling available to students in public and private schools.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
24. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party incorporate the Covenant
in its legislation, in order to ensure the applicability of the provisions
of the Covenant in the domestic courts. The Committee urges the State
party to ensure that no conflicts occur between Commonwealth and state
law in this respect. The Committee encourages the State party to follow
the High Court's position concerning "legitimate expectations" arising
from the ratification of the Covenant.
25. The Committee
encourages the State party to pursue its efforts in the process of
reconciliation with Australia's indigenous peoples and its efforts
to improve the disadvantaged situation they are in.
26. The Committee
recommends that the State party ensure that the legislative provisions
concerning job security are strengthened and effectively implemented,
especially for the most vulnerable groups, such as fixed-term contract
workers, temporary workers and casual workers.
27. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party undertake measures to protect
homeworkers and to ensure that they receive the official minimum wage,
that they benefit from adequate social security and that they enjoy
working conditions in conformity with the legislation.
28. The Committee
recommends that the State party consider enacting legislation on paid
maternity leave and ratifying ILO Convention No. 103 concerning maternity
29. The Committee
recommends that the State party limit its prohibitions on the right
to strike to essential services, in accordance with ILO Convention
No. 87, and, in the context of the civil service, to civil servants
who exercise functions of State authority.
30. The Committee
recommends that the State party ensure that labour in private prisons
is voluntarily undertaken and is properly remunerated.
31. The Committee
requests that the State party provide detailed information on the
work for dole scheme in its fourth periodic report.
32. The Committee
calls upon the State party to ensure that the two-year waiting period
for the receipt of social security assistance by new immigrants does
not infringe upon their right to an adequate standard of living.
33. The Committee
strongly urges the State party to establish an official poverty line,
so that a credible assessment can be made of the extent of poverty
in Australia. The Committee requests further that the State party
provide information on this issue in its fourth periodic report.
34. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party, at the federal level, develop
a housing strategy in keeping with the Committee's General Comments
No. 4 and 7, including provisions to protect tenants from forced eviction
without reasons and from arbitrary rent increases. In addition, the
Committee recommends that the State party ensure that all state and
territory governments establish appropriate housing policies in accordance
with this strategy.
35. The Committee
calls upon the State party to take effective steps to ensure that
human rights education is included in primary and secondary school
curricula and requests the State party to inform the Committee of
the measures taken in this regard in its fourth periodic report.
36. The Committee
requests the State party to provide additional, more detailed information,
including statistical data which is disaggregated according to age,
sex and minority groups, concerning the right to work, just and favourable
conditions of work, social security, housing, health and education,
in its fourth periodic report.
the Committee requests the State party to ensure the wide dissemination
in Australia of the present concluding observations and to inform
the Committee of measures taken to implement the recommendations contained
herein in its fourth periodic report, to be submitted by 30 June 2005.