Media release: UN report says fixing prisons in Australia is the Federal Government’s responsibility and it’s failing to act


The report following the UN torture inspectors’ failed visit to Australian prisons in October 2022 has finally been released and shows a pattern of disrespect and obfuscation from multiple Australian jurisdictions. 

The Federal Government’s response was also released today, just days before Christmas, in an obvious attempt to hide the brutal findings of the UN report and the lack of any credible response by the Federal government. 

The Federal Goverent’s response fails to accept any responsibility for making Australia compliant with its international obligations to prevent torture in prisons and instead simply references the patchwork of largely non-compliant actions taken by the States and Territories. 

Greens NSW Senator and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said: 

“For too long the Federal Government has danced around its responsibility to ensure compliance with international torture prevention laws but this report shows what we always knew: as the ones that signed the treaty ultimately the buck stops with them. 

“The report clearly identifies the Commonwealth Government as the body with the responsibility to ensure compliance, an obligation they are failing to meet. 

“You know a Government response is going to be pathetic when they drop it a few days from Christmas and this is no exception. 

“The UN report paints a damning picture of aggressive treatment by some government authorities which it describes as “discourteous” and “hostile.” 

“A key recommendation from the report is the need for overarching national legislation to ensure there is an effective National Preventative Mechanism as required under the treaty rather than a grab bag of ineffective state and territory approaches. 

“The attempt by states and territories to stretch existing bodies to fulfil the mandate of the Optional Protocol on Torture is also found to be insufficient without significant legal and funding gaps that prevent them exercising effective oversight. 

“The age of criminal responsibility being 10 in many jurisdictions is singled out for criticism as being out of step with international standards as is the use of spit hoods, excessive restraints, excessive surveillance and routine refusal of bail.  

“The response though from the Federal Government seeks at every step to avoid responsibility for what has gone so wrong, despite the UN making it 100% clear that it is the Commonwealth's job to fix the mess. 

“We need the Federal government to be more than a post box and excuse machine, it needs to accept responsibility to prevent torture in Australian detention centres and it needs to do that now,” Senator Shoebridge said.