ALHR writes to new WA Premier and Attorney General offering support for Western Australian Human Rights Act

March 31, 2017 HRAbig-2-3

ALHR has written to the new Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan and WA Attorney General John Quigley congratulating them on their very successful election result and offering our support for the introduction of a Western Australian Human Rights Act.

Australia remains alone amongst western liberal democracies and common law legal systems as bereft of a constitutional bill of rights or a federal legislated Human Rights Act. A Constitutional bill of rights was debated at the Constitutional conventions in the 1890s and received significant support but ultimately the majority voted against adopting a bill of rights for Australia on racist grounds: that is, our founding fathers did not want to afford migrants and Chinese workers on the goldfields due process at law.

Although times have changed, unfortunately we are still facing a raft of significant and systemic unsolved human rights violations throughout Australia. Whilst not a panacea, ALHR strongly believes that legislating for the legal protection of basic universally-recognised standard of human rights, which form the backbone of our way of life in this country, via a Human Rights Act, will be a strong step to progress the protection of the Australian peoples’ basic rights and fundamental liberties.

The Australian Capital Territory was the first Australian jurisdiction to implement a Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) and Victoria soon followed in 2006 with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. ALHR has been involved in a strong successful civil society campaign over the past two years to a secure a Queensland Human Rights Act. Excitingly, in late 2016, we secured a promise from Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk and Qld Attorney General Yvette D’Ath that a Qld Human Rights Act will be implemented in the coming months and that the QLD ALP Policy Platform has been amended to support the adoption of a Qld Human Rights Act based upon the Victorian Charter Model. ALHR is now launching campaigns in Tasmania, New South Wales and Western Australia for each of those states to pass a Human Rights Act legislation before focussing on a federal Human Rights Act. We note that from our recent conversations with federal Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, he is a strong supporter for the passage of a federal Human Rights Act.

In 2008-2009, the Rudd government had the vision to institute a national human rights inquiry under the leadership of Father Frank Brennan AO. This became one of the largest public consultations in Australian history with over 35,000 submissions received (over 85% of them in favour of a federal Human Rights Act) and over 62 public consultation roundtables held in urban and regional locations around the country. However, whilst the final Brennan Report recommended the passage of a federal Human Rights Act, Prime Minister Rudd declined to implement the Committee’s recommendations. Instead the very weak and impotent “National Human Rights Framework” was established, including the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, which in its six years of existence has achieved very little in the way of securing human rights protections for the Australian people.

ALHR notes that in 2007 the former Western Australian government held a public inquiry chaired by Fred Chaney AO, into whether the Western Australian government should legislate a Human Rights Act. The Consultation Committee received 377 submissions and has recommended that additions be made to the original draft Human Rights Bill 2007 to include the right to an education and adequate housing. The Consultation Committee’s final report entitled “A WA Human Rights Act” (enclosed and marked ‘Annexure 1’) was published on 16 November 20071 and recommended, inter alia, as follows:

The Committee concluded that a WA Human Rights Act which was an ordinary Act of Parliament would contribute to an increased awareness of, and concern for, human rights in Western Australia. If a WA Human Rights Act was binding on Government and the way it treated people it could meet many of the concerns raised with the Committee. We therefore recommend that a Human Rights Act be enacted in Western Australia.

You can read our letters and annexes attached below.

If you are a member of ALHR and would like to get involved in ALHR’s Human Rights Act(s) Subcommittee please email hra@alhr.org.au