Human Rights mean everyone gets a fair go.
Human rights are the tools we use to fight for the basic rights and freedoms that should be protected in relation to every person in the world, from birth until death, no matter our race, gender, religion, abilities, political belief, sexuality, age or any other characteristic.
Protecting our human rights ensures that we are treated fairly and equally.
Human rights are only enforceable when they are protected in law.
A Human Rights Act is the tool we can use to ensure people treat others as they wish to be treated, or face meaningful consequences.
Although Australia has signed up to the UN Convention of Human Rights and other UN treaties outlining human rights, this does not mean those rights are enforceable in our domestic legal system.
Unlike every other Western democracy in the world, Australia has no Human Rights Act or Bill of Rights to protect human rights in a single document. States like Victoria, the ACT and most recently Queensland have passed Human Rights Acts to address this.
However, here in New South Wales the basic rights that many of us take for granted – the right to be free from torture and everyone’s right to equality before the law – are not currently protected by legislation.
When human rights are expressed and guaranteed by law, those laws help to ensure that we are all treated fairly, and with dignity, equality and respect.
When people in New South Wales are treated unfairly they should be able to get a remedy.
A Human Rights Act makes human rights enforceable in New South Wales. It means that generally when we're not treated fairly we can complain, make the unfair treatment stop and feel confident that there will be a consequence when our human rights are denied or ignored.
If we had a Human Rights Act, parliament would be required to consider how laws impact on human rights and our politicians would need to respect human rights when developing policy.
The New South Wales Government has a responsibility to protect all NSW residents.
In New South Wales we have seen governments introduce laws that limit our basic rights and push through legislation without adequate scrutiny regardless of whether the laws violate our human rights.
The best way to protect against future governments who try to trample all over our rights is a Human Rights Act for New South Wales.
A Human Rights Act for NSW will provide all of us - young and old, rich and poor - the tools to demand we are treated as equals in our society.
What is a ‘Human Rights Act’?
A Human Rights Act is an ordinary piece of legislation.
A Human Rights Act is a legislative, rather than constitutional, charter of rights, which means it is created by parliament. If we had a Human Rights Act, the NSW parliament would be required to consider how laws impact on human rights and our politicians would need to respect human rights when developing policy. Courts would also have the ability to assess whether laws are compatible with our human rights standards.
A Human Rights Act will make it easier for our politicians to be held to account for the decisions they make which affect our human rights. In the long term, this could encourage more robust debate, promote a more open and transparent government, and help strengthen our democracy in New South Wales.
Why do we need a Human Rights Act?
Some of our rights are protected in law, but many – if not most – human rights are not adequately protected under our current system.
While many people in New South Wales enjoy a relatively high standard of living, we should not be complacent about our rights.
When human rights are not protected in law, they are always in danger of being eroded. A Human Rights Act would provide a safeguard so that our politicians can’t simply overlook human rights considerations when making laws. Whether it was making laws regarding police accountability, voting, workplace relations, privacy, freedom of speech, censorship, the rights of Indigenous people or counter-terrorism, the parliament would have to take into consideration how the proposed laws would impact on people’s human rights.
A Human Rights Act would be a powerful tool for protecting the human rights of everyone in New South Wales and for ensuring a more responsive and accountable government.
Who will be protected by a Human Rights Act?
A Human Rights Act will help to create a fair, just and equal society for everyone.
A Human Rights Act will protect everyone in New South Wales against the unjust or arbitrary exercise of public power. This means people from all walks of life – from a young mother seeking to escape domestic violence without a safe place to live, to people in remote locations without access to adequate health-care or education – could potentially utilise a Human Rights Act to improve their lives. Human rights protection will also have particular relevance for people in New South Wales who are vulnerable, marginalised or disadvantaged.
A Human Rights Act would help to defend the rights of minority groups, such as children and young people, people with a disability or mental illness, or those at risk of homelessness. Human rights are only properly protected when we all can enjoy them – after all, human rights belong to everyone. By enshrining human rights in law, a Human Rights Act would help to make sure we all have a chance to live in fair, just and equal society.
How will a Human Rights Act help me if I think my rights have been violated?
A Human Rights Act can provide a range of enforceable remedies if our human rights have been breached.
One of the strengths of a Human Rights Act is that it can provide everyone in New South Wales with an avenue to seek justice if our rights have been violated. If our human rights have been breached, we should have access to appropriate remedies.
A Human Rights Act is also likely to be educational. By clearly stating the human rights that will be protected in New South Wales, a New South Wales Human Rights Act will promote a greater awareness of, and respect for, human rights within government and throughout the community. If we have a strong human rights culture in New South Wales, human rights problems will be more easily prevented.