Commission makes recommendation for an Australian Human Rights Act

Australian Human Rights Commission

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Australian Human Rights Commission has lodged its submission to the National Human Rights Consultation, formalising its key recommendation that the Australian Parliament should enact a national Human Rights Act.

Commission President, Catherine Branson QC said, “Australia needs a system of government which makes sure that all people, no matter who they are, what they do, or where they live, have a safety net to protect their fundamental human rights, and a Human Rights Act would assist achievement of this aim”.

President Branson said a Human Rights Act would work to prevent human rights problems before they occur because:

* Parliament would be asked to consider human rights when making new laws;
* the Australian Government would be required to respect human rights when developing policy, making decisions and delivering services;
* federal courts and tribunals would have to take human rights into account when interpreting laws;
* if a federal court found that a law was inconsistent with human rights, Parliament would be notified and required to respond; and
* individuals whose human rights were breached would be able to seek remedies.

In over two decades of experience consulting with people in Australia about their human rights concerns, Human Rights Commissioner, Graeme Innes said the Commission has clearly heard that people care about their fundamental human rights and think that there should be better protection of these rights.

“Human rights should be considered every time a government law, policy or other decision is made,” Commissioner Innes said. “A Human Rights Act would not only help promote the development of a culture of respect for human rights in Australia, it would also introduce greater transparency and accountability into our system of government.”

President Branson said a national Human Rights Act would be an extremely positive development for Australia.

“Not only would a Human Rights Act assist people in Australia to become aware of the human rights that the Australian Government has pledged to protect, but it would assist in awareness and understanding of their own responsibility to respect the rights of others.”

President Branson said a stronger human rights culture would further build respect for the human dignity, freedom and equality of all people in Australia.