The Human Rights Law Centre says Australia has scored an own goal with the postponement of a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants.
Francois Crépeau had planned a two-week visit to obtain information about detention of asylum seekers.
But he said Australia's new Border Force Act, which threatens detention staff who disclose information about the centres with imprisonment, would impact his work.
The Law Centre's executive director Hugh de Kretser says he would have hoped for a more constructive rights engagement by Canberra with the UN.
"Yet what's happened with the cancellation of this visit is that Australia is really kicked an own goal at a time when we need to be building up our international reputation because it is in our national interest for there to be global human rights, global democracy, global security and stability, yet we are compromising our ability on the world stage to achieve those things."
Australia is currently seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council, and will have its rights record reviewed by the UN in November.