Aust ready for next UN prison inspection

Australia has told a United Nations committee against torture it "regrets" the suspension of a visit by a delegation of prison inspectors last month and would welcome a second attempt.

A UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture delegation was forced to suspend a 12-day tour of Australian detention facilities in October, saying Queensland and NSW hadn't cooperated.

NSW prevented access to court cells and prisons while Queensland stopped delegates inspecting mental health wards.

Addressing the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva on Tuesday, Attorney General's Department Deputy Secretary Simon Newman said the outcome was regretful.

He pointed to Australia's commitment to the issue as one of the original signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a recent three-year stint on the UN's Human Rights Council, and said it was keen to try again.

"We regret the decision to suspend," Mr Newman said.

"They did conduct a number of successful visits ... we actively supported the visit and we are very keen to see it resumed.

"The suspension does not change Australia's commitment to protecting human rights."

Mr Newman said the federal government was working with all states and territories to prepare for another "cooperative, preventative, rather than investigatory-type" visit.

Queensland has already introduced new legislation to enable better access, he said.

"(We are) constantly considering whether existing protections are adequate, fit for purpose and whether they require reform," he said.

"Australia remains highly vigilant to its commitments under the 33 articles of the convention to prevent torture and ill treatment and provide redress for victims."

Committee rapporteur Erdogan Iscan said there was evidence of "highly encouraging and appreciated" efforts being made by Australia.

"Noting Australia's stated commitment as well as its endeavours in enhancing human rights ... this morning we have taken note with appreciation of the strong reaffirmation of this commitment."

Ilvija Puce, of Latvia, raised questions as to the disparity of how international law was being rolled out across Australia's different jurisdictions.

"This aspect all of a sudden appears unclear to us in the light of the suspended visit to Australia by our colleagues," she said.

"We know that Australia has incorporated the definition of torture into its legal system and has criminalised it...

"However, the committee still needs updated information on the extent to which this is mirrored in various territories and states and how the system functions altogether."

She also asked Australia to provide information how psychological torture - not just physical - was being incorporated into Australian law.

Mr Newman said Australia was committed to complying with its international obligations under the convention and had already made progress in areas like violence against women and children, the over-representation of First Nations Australians in the prison system and protecting the rights and dignity of Australians with disabilities.

"We recognise there needs to be opportunities for improvement by Australia... we acknowledge the process is never without challenge and we welcome the opportunity to engage in a cooperative dialogue with the committee," he said.

It was the subcommittee delegation's first visit to Australia since it ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture in 2017.

Under its mandate, the subcommittee can carry out unannounced visits to all detention facilities and conduct private interviews with people deprived of their liberty without witnesses.