Human Rights (Workers Rights) Amendment Bill 2019 (ACT)

February 10, 2020

ALHR has made a submission and provided oral evidence to the ACT Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety’s public inquiry into the Human Rights (Workers Rights) Amendment Bill 2019 (the Bill)

We commend the provision of explanatory material accompanying the exposure draft Bill that has been released for public consultation.  The Bill seeks to include a new section 27B into ‘Right to work’ in Part 3A ‘Economic, social and cultural rights’ of the Human Rights Act (the Act). The Explanatory Memorandum identifies the Bill’s objective to recognise workers’ rights as enshrined in the International Covenant On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (‘ICESCR) ).

ALHR has long supported the inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights (ESC Rights) in the Act. We commend the Bill for expressly recognising workers’ rights, and we support the inclusion of section 27B. However, we endorse the concerns raised by the ACT Human Rights Commission in their submission of 26 November 2019 regarding the prioritisation of workers’ rights over other economic, social and cultural rights, given that rights should be treated as equal and indivisible. The real-world protections offered by the proposed section 27B are limited if not accompanied with protections for associated rights which enable people to work – for example, a right to adequate housing.

We endorse the recommendations of the The ‘Australian Capital Territory, Social and Cultural Rights Research Project’ which call for amendments to the Act to enshrine ESC Rights. Specifically, Recommendation 2 states:
The ESCR [ESC Rights] to be included in the HRA should be based on those rights protected by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). These include the following rights:

  • the right to housing
  • the right to health, including food, water, social security and a healthy environment;
  • the right to education;
  • the right to work, including the right to enjoy just and favourable work conditions and the right to form and join work-related organisations; and
  • the right to take part in cultural life.

While it is our position that all ESC Rights should be included in the Act; we endorse the recommendation of the ACT Human Rights Commission that, if an incremental approach is to be taken to amending the Act, the Bill should be amended to include a review, for example. after two years, to assess the effectiveness of the reforms and what further action is required to protect the human rights of ACT residents

Read the submission in full here