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Australia delays signing new protocol for protecting children’s rights

The Australian Greens have called on the government to make children's rights a priority and sign a new UN treaty on children and young people which has yet to take effect because of an insufficient number of signatories.

"Australia has no excuse for not signing the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which opened for signatures in late February," Greens' human rights spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said today.

"The protocol gives weight to the ability of children whose rights are being violated to take their action directly to the UN. This means children or their advocates can report treatment or violations of their rights to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

"I have a motion in the Senate to be voted on today which calls on the government to pick up the pen and take seriously its obligations towards children.

"Signing would also mean the government would be on notice over their treatment of children in detention and whether the Immigration Minister is upholding his duty of care to those children under his legal guardianship.

"Mandatorily detaining children breaches the Convention of the Rights or the Child and it is time that the Federal Government addressed it.

"There is also the matter of a conflict of interest of the Immigration Minister being both jailer and the person who is charged with looking after the welfare of unaccompanied children. He must stand up for their best interests.

"Australia must not merely pay lip service to children's rights. Groups such as Unicef and Save the Children say signing the protocol would ensure Australia measures up to its international obligations and, more importantly, the obligations of children."

Audio from Sarah's Parliament House door stop on media access to detention centres based on those drafted for Guantanomo Bay. She also spoke on her motion on Australia delaying signing the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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