Human Rights Charters Around Australia

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The state of Victoria and the ACT each has its own Charter. Other states have followed suit in working toward creating their own charter. We hope that each of the states will replicate Victoria's lead in enacting a state-based charter. We believe this will eventually pave the way for a nationally-based Charter of Rights.

VIC

Current status

Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities came into effect on the 1 January 2007. You can read the full text of the Act here . You can also read the Explanatory Memorandum and the Second Reading Speech in Parliament.

Some of the rights enshrined in the Charter include:

  • right to equality before the law
  • right to protection from torture
  • freedom of movement
  • freedom of assembly
  • right to privacy
  • right to a fair hearing
  • cultural rights

There are 6 levels at which the Charter protects human rights:

First, Section 28 of the Charter provides that all new Bills in Parliament must be accompanied by a Statement of Compatibility. The Statement must outline whether or not the Bill is compatible with the Charter and to what extent.

 

Second, all legislation must be considered by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee to check whether it is compatible with human rights.

Third, public authorities must act compatibly with human rights.

Fourth, courts and tribunals must interpret and apply the law consistently with human rights.

Fifth, the Supreme Court has the ability to declare that a law is not compatible with human rights and can then issue a Declaration of Inconsistent Interpretation. Parliament must respond to this within 6 months.

Finally, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission have responsibility for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Charter.

Resources

The Human Rights Law Resource Centre aims to promote human rights in Victoria and Australia. They are closely following the progress of the Victorian Charter. Their website includes a guide to the Charter, recent case-law as well as articles and commentary on the Charter.

 

Department of Justice Website - Human Rights section.

Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission

Read the Human Rights Consultative Committee's report .

Read Carlo Carli's article about how the Charter functions here .

ACT

Current status

The ACT Human Rights Act 2004 came into effect on the 1 July 2004. The HRA gives legal effect to individual civil and political rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and recognises those rights as part of domestic law.

The Act has been applied in a number of areas including strict liability offences, scrutiny of bills, housing affordability, healthcare, industrial relations and freedom of information.

A 12 month review of the Act was published in August 2006. The report found the Act had been well received and had contributed to a greater awareness of human rights in the ACT. The Attorney-General ruled out including economic and social rights in the Act for the time being.

Campaigns & How to get involved

 

The ACT Human Rights Act Research Project (part of ANU) has been tracking the progress of the Act and how it has been implemented in the courts. Their website contains everything you could possibly want to know about the Act and includes case-law, press releases and publications. You can access their website here.

Resources

ACT Human Rights Commission

Bill of Rights Unit


NSW

Find out about the current progress of a Charter for New South Wales as well as related campaigns and resources.

Current status

Former NSW Attorney-General, Bob Debus, was very open to the idea of a Charter of Rights for NSW. However, he resigned at the last election and has been replaced by John Hatzistergos, who has rejected calls for a Charter, believing it to be unnecessary.

Hatzistergos comes from the right faction of the NSW Labor Party which has consistently opposed a Charter of Rights being introduced.

Campaigns & How to get involved

NSW now has its own Charter Group. They are advocating for the NSW government to adopt a Charter of Rights. You can access their website here.

The NSW Bar Association has supported a Charter of Rights for the state. Their Human Rights' Committee published an options paper on how the Charter could be structured - you can read it here .

Resources

Media Reports and Opinion Pieces on a NSW Charter of Rights -

Horror stories unfairly bedevil charter of rights

Shining right to liberty corroded

Attorney-General rejects charter of rights for NSW

 

SA

Find out about the progress of a Charter of Rights for South Australia here.

Current status

On the 28 July 2004, the University of South Australia hosted a forum entitled: “Protecting Human Rights: a renewed challenge in an age of fear?” One of the topics of the forum was “What would be the advantages and disadvantages of a Bill of Rights for South Australia and/or Australia?” It was hoped that this would be the first in a series of seminars on the issue. However, little progress seems to have been made in SA towards a Charter of Human Rights.


In 2004 a Human Rights Act was introduced as a Private Members Bill by Sandra Kanck in the Legislative Council but failed to be implemented. You can read the bill here

Campaigns & How to get involved

The Human Rights Coalition has prepared a draft Human Rights Bill for South Australia. You can read it here .

Resources

You can access the Human Rights Coalition's website here .

TAS

 

Find out about the progress of a Charter for Tasmania as well as related campaigns and how to get involved.

 

Current status

The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute launched an enquiry last year at the request of the Tasmanian government to look into the possibility of enacting a Human Rights Charter for Tasmania. The Institute invited submissions from the public about their views on whether Tasmania should adopt a Charter of Rights, and what it would look like.

The Law Reform Institute has released its report and recommends that Tasmania adopt a Charter of Rights. The Institute received 407 submissions, 94.1% of which supported a Charter of Rights for Tasmania.

Campaigns & How to get involved

There is a new group called "Tasmanians for a Healthy Democracy" which calls for more transparency and accountability in state government activities. It also supports a Charter of Rights. You can find out more about them and where their events are being held here.

The Tasmanian Greens prepared a draft Bill of Rights which was tabled in Parliament by Senator Peg Putt in October 2005. The Greens have continued to refine their draft and invite the views of the public on possible changes. The Greens have strongly supported the Law Reform Institute’s research. You can read more about the Tasmanian Greens’ campaign at this link.

The Tasmanian Branch of the Young Labor Party has put forward its support for a Charter. Australian Young Labor Secretary Kevin Midson said a charter of rights would give Tasmanians a clear statement of their rights and allow them to be protected.

Resources

 

You can view the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute's final report recommending a Charter be implemented here .

Read the issues paper the Institute published in August 2006 here .

Read the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission's Submission to the Reform Institute here

Media Reports on a Tasmanian Charter of Rights -

Read the Law Reform Institute's media release on the report here .

Read the transcript from a discussion on ABC's Stateline about the Tasmanian Charter.

Read a news article from the Hobart Mercury about the Charter.

WA

Find out about the progress of a Charter for Western Australia as well as related campaigns and resources.

Current status

The W.A Attorney-General, Jim McGinty, announced on 3 May 2007 a proposal to develop a WA Human Rights Act. A consultation committee was set up, chaired by Fred Chaney (a director of Reconciliation Australia and former Chancellor of Murdoch University) to investigate the community's interest in having an Act.

The closing date for written submissions was the 31st of August. The committee's report is now available for viewing.

The committee held over 40 public hearings and received almost 400 submissions. From the submissions and the opinion poll, there was a clear majority in favour of a Human Rights Act. Of the 401 people surveyed, 89% were in favour of laws to protect human rights in WA.

However, the WA Attorney-General, Jim McGinty, has put plans for a state charter on hold pending the outcome of Federal Attorney-General Robert McLelland's community consultation on a national charter of rights.

Campaigns & How to get involved

Resources

You can access Jim McGinty's press release following the outcome of the report here.

You can access the committee's report, as well as a selection of submissions from the WA Human Rights Act website.

Media Reports and Opinion Pieces on a WA Charter of Rights -

Concern at Human Rights Charter

McGinty urged to push Charter

States rights bill falls to Federal Bill

McGinty shelves Human Rights Bill

QLD

Current status

In 1998 the Queensland government formally rejected introducing a Charter of Rights. However within the community there has been support for a Charter being adopted.

Campaigns & How to get involved

The 'Just Rights' group has started up a People's Charter project. This project will work with other organisations and conduct a community engagement process to develop a human rights act for Queensland.

The People's Charter Project will have discussions with the community to try and achieve a consensus on what goals, values and principles are important to Queenslanders. The Project will then use these findings to lobby the state government to implement policies that reflect these values; including a Human Rights Charter.

The Project aims to have cross-partisan support for a People's Charter by the next state election at the end of 2009

You can find out more about the People's Charter project here . Or about the Just Rights group at their website .

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties also supports the adoption of a Human Rights Charter for Queensland. You can access their website here .

Resources

Read about the agitation in Qld for a Charter.

Read the 1998 report by the Legal, Constitutional and Administrative Review Committee recommending against a Charter for Queensland.

Media Reports on a QLD Charter of Rights -

Where is our rights Charter?

Call for Human Rights Charter

High cost of battle for free speech

NT

Current status

The Northern Territory Statehood Steering Committee has published a discussion paper which floats the idea of including a Charter of Rights in the Territory's new constitution.

On the 10th of May 2007 Charles Darwin University in partnership with the Northern Territory government held a Symposium entitled - Securing Territorians' Rights - Statehood and a Bill of Rights? The Speakers included- Professor James Allan, Sue Bradley, Commissioner Tom Calma, Professor David Carment, Leon Compton, Professor Ravi De Costa, Dr Annemarie Deveruex, Associate Professor Simon Evans, Ken Parish, Professor Allan Patience and Professor George Williams. You can access audio and discussion papers from this event here .

Campaigns & How to get involved

The Northern Territory branch of the Australian Democrats has supported the call for a Charter of Rights.

Resources

Read George Williams' Article from the 2007 Charles Darwin Symposia on whether NT should have a Charter of Rights.

Media Reports on a NT Charter of Rights -

'Call to help shape future of the Territory',

'Academics Urge Territory to consider Bill of Rights',

State of Confusion