Australia's human rights reputation damaged

AUSTRALIA'S human rights record has been damaged by engaging in "scare-mongering politics" at the expense of asylum seekers, an international report by Human Rights Watch claims.

The report, released on Wednesday by the United States-based group, hit out both the previous and current federal governments for their approach to human rights.

It said after the Labor Government reintroduced offshore processing, the Coalition Government "expanded these punitive resettlement policies", and "trumpeting" refusals to resettle refugees in Australia.

"Australia also has been increasingly unwilling to publicly raise human rights abuses in countries with which it has strong trade or security ties, fearing that doing so would harm its relations with Asian governments," the report reads.

"Such reluctance to speak out validates the stance of those who mistakenly view raising human rights as an act of diplomatic aggression rather than a normal part of principled diplomacy, making it all the more difficult to use foreign relations as a means of improving human rights protections globally."

The report also hit out at Prime Minister Tony Abbott's apparent "rationalisation of torture" in Sri Lanka, when he said "sometimes, in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen", referring to allegations of torture in the country.

It also hit out at meeting with Sri Lankan officials about asylum seekers, when the government gave the country two boats to help with border control, but Australia "downplayed" human rights abuse allegations.

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