Major report calls for Federal Human Rights Act and overhaul of Australia’s Human Rights Framework

December 8, 2023

A major new report tabled yesterday by Commonwealth Attorney-General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP in Federal Parliament, calls for an overhaul of Australia’s Human Rights framework and a Federal Human Rights Act to better protect the rights of all Australians.

Ms Kerry Weste, President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR), said, “We welcome the Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) Free and Equal Inquiry Report and its overarching finding that Australia can, and should, do better at protecting human rights.”

 “Human rights are inalienable, universal – meaning they are for everyone, everywhere, all of the time,” Ms Weste said.

 “Australia was a founding member of the UN and one of eight nations involved in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) yet 75 years later we remain the only Western democracy without a federal Human Rights Act or bill of rights.”

 “Because of our failure to recognise and articulate human rights in law, all too often we fall well short of protecting people’s dignity and security. Australians are powerless in the face of populist knee-jerk law-makers who rush draconian measures through parliament with little to no scrutiny. Everyday we are subject to decisions of government authorities that have no obligation to act consistently with our fundamental human rights. When our human rights are breached, we don’t have a framework for taking accessible action for a just solution.”

“A Human Rights Act will address these systemic issues so that we can all live with dignity, equality and respect.”

It has been over a decade since the Brennan Inquiry indicated overwhelming public support for the enactment of federal human rights protections. The AHRC’s Report, which is the product of a major, in-depth five-year Inquiry, sets another high-water mark for our Federal Government and outlines a clear agenda for building a stronger human rights culture in Australia.

 Other key recommendations include reform of federal discrimination laws and the introduction of a National Human Rights Indicator Index that can measure progress on human rights over time.

 “In just two days we celebrate Human Rights Day and the 75th anniversary of the UDHR. This report confirms that it is time for Australia to walk the talk on human rights,” said Ms Weste.

 Contact: Michael Salmon, ALHR media manager: 0417 495 018

Read ALHR’s 2019 Submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Free and Equal Inquiry here

Read ALHR’s submission to the 2023 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into Australia’s Human Rights Framework here