Human Rights Lawyers congratulate the Queensland Government for historic human rights law reform

October 31, 2018

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) congratulates the Queensland Government for introducing a Human Rights Bill. The Bill, which was tabled in Parliament by the Attorney-General today, protects a broad range of fundamental human rights and holds public entities responsible for protecting those rights when making decisions that impact on the rights of all Queenslanders.

“This is a really exciting day for human rights in Australia,” Chair of ALHR’s National Human Rights Act Subcommittee, Dr. Emma Phillips, said. “While a Human Rights Act is never a panacea, it can offer important protection against some of the most flagrant human rights breaches, particularly those that infringe the rights of very vulnerable and disempowered people.”

“Australia remains the only western liberal democracy without a federal human rights act or charter of rights”, Dr. Phillips stated. “Australia has committed to protecting human rights by signing and ratifying a range of international human rights conventions, so the enactment of legislation which gives effect to those conventions is of both symbolic and practical importance.”

“The introduction of the Human Rights Bill represents significant progress in Queensland,” Dr. Phillips said. “With this landmark reform, the Queensland Government is making a strong statement about the importance of human rights protection for all Queenslanders. Once enacted, this legislation will be instrumental in the development of a human rights culture in Queensland.”

“While a Human Rights Act will provide baseline protection for all Queenslanders, we anticipate that it will have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable and disempowered members of our community,” Dr Phillips explained. “For this reason, we are particularly pleased to see the inclusion of an accessible complaints mechanism, which allows people who consider that their human rights have been violated by a public entity to lodge a complaint directly with the rebranded Queensland Human Rights Commission. We are also gratified by the leadership the Queensland Government has shown in protecting not only core civil and political rights, but also the economic, social and cultural rights to education and health services without discrimination, and the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This is landmark law reform and we anticipate that this will set a positive precedent for human rights law reform in other Australian jurisdictions.”

ALHR strongly supports the passage of the Human Rights Bill in Queensland. ALHR considers that the Bill, while proposing the strongest model of human rights protection in Australia to date, could be strengthened by the inclusion of a broad range of remedies for breaches of the Act. This would not only create remedies for those whose human rights have been violated but would also ensure the Act is effective as a deterrent against potential violations. ALHR also considers that the Act should not be limited in any way in its application, to ensure it offers full protection to all Queenslanders.

ALHR is hopeful that the enactment of a Human Rights Act in Queensland, which complements the human rights legislation already existing in the ACT and Victoria, will be the impetus needed to prompt 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.