(New York) - Newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should make human rights a priority for the new government’s policies at home and abroad, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today.

The letter provides the Rudd government with specific recommendations on human rights concerns in Burma, China, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, as well as on some domestic issues.

“Australia should put its influence to good use by raising human rights concerns alongside trade issues when dealing with countries like China.” said Elaine Pearson, deputy director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. “The new government is flexing its muscles on the environment and it should do the same on human rights, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region where Australia plays a crucial role.”

On Australia’s domestic policies, Human Rights Watch urged the new government to review laws and policies concerning refugees, indigenous issues, counterterrorism, and discrimination against people in same-sex relationships.

“Rudd should be concerned about Australia’s own human rights record on refugees and asylum seekers, indigenous Australians, and same-sex couples,” Pearson said. “The new government has a golden opportunity to reverse the harmful policies and practices of the past decade.”