Defiance and Compliance: Australia and the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
An analysis of Australia’s level of compliance with the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Convention) according to theories of compliance, suggests that no single compliance theory can adequately explain both instances of violation and instances of compliance. Much of Australia’s violation of the Convention, and subsequently other international human rights treaties, stems from more recent legislative changes though Australia’s offshore processing initiatives. Collectively theories of compliance are useful for identifying the driving factors which govern Australia’s handling of international obligations under the Convention. Liberal compliance theory indicates civil society and non-state actors are the most influential drivers ensuring the state is held accountable for upholding its obligations and responsibilities. Constructivist compliance theory suggests the greatest pull towards non-compliance is Australia’s notion of national identity which has influenced discriminatory policies throughout its history. National identity remains an influential driver as evidenced by current politicisation of discussion surrounding refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and subsequent legislative agendas.