Leading Australian human rights lawyers congratulate the Queensland Government for passing the Human Rights Bill. The Act will protect a broad range of human rights, including fundamental civil and political rights, the economic, social and cultural rights to education and health services and the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It establishes responsibilities by public entities making decisions that impact on the rights of all Queenslanders.
“This is a significant milestone in Australian history,” Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) President Kerry Weste said. “We now have three Australian states and territories – the ACT, Victoria and Queensland – that have enacted legislative protection for human rights.”
Dr Emma Phillips, Chair of ALHR’s National Human Rights Act Subcommittee, has been actively involved in the Queensland campaign for a Human Rights Act and has welcomed the legislative reform. “The passage of the Human Rights Bill will be instrumental in the development of a human rights culture in Queensland.”
“This is the strongest model of human rights protection we have seen yet in Australia,” Dr Phillips explained. “The inclusion of an accessible complaints mechanism, which allows anyone who considers their human rights have been infringed by a public entity to go directly to the rebranded Queensland Human Rights Commission to have their issue heard and responded to is really important. In developing this complaints mechanism, the Queensland Government has taken heed of the recommendations of the review of the Victorian Charter which noted the importance of an accessible complaints mechanism. This is landmark law reform and we anticipate that this will set a positive precedent for human rights law reform in other Australian jurisdictions.”
“Australia is the only western liberal democracy without a federal Human rights act or charter of rights,” Ms Weste stated. “Australia has committed to respecting and protecting a broad range of human rights by signing and ratifying relevant international human rights treaties and conventions – it is vitally important that we honour this commitment (and offer Australians the protection people in comparable countries enjoy) by enacting appropriate legislation at both a state and federal level.”
ALHR hopes that the enactment of human rights legislation in Queensland, which complements the human rights legislation already existing in the ACT and Victoria, will be the impetus needed to prompt remaining states and territories to introduce state human rights legislation and the Australian Government to introduce a federal Human Rights Act or Charter.
The 2008/2009 National Human Rights Consultation Committee inquiry headed by Father Frank Brennan recorded extremely high levels of public support for the enactment of a federal Human Rights Act, yet to date, the Committee’s recommendation to enact a Federal Human Rights Act has not been realised.
ALHR calls on the Federal Government to enact a Federal Human Rights Act as an urgent priority.
Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.
ALHR was established in 1993 and is a national association of Australian solicitors, barristers, academics, judicial officers and law students who practise and promote international human rights law in Australia. ALHR has active and engaged National, State and Territory committees and specialist thematic committees. Through advocacy, media engagement, education, networking, research and training, ALHR promotes, practices and protects universally accepted standards of human rights throughout Australia and overseas.