AUSTRALIA should introduce a human rights act to prevent discrimination, enshrine individual freedoms and ensure Federal Parliament remains committed to ”the fair go”, according to a historic review of the nation’s commitment to civil rights.
The review committee, set up by the Rudd Government and chaired by Frank Brennan, found that existing protections were a ”patchwork quilt” that could be improved with an act setting out the rights of individuals and protecting groups such as indigenous people and the mentally ill.
The act could potentially result in courts declaring Parliament had breached human rights in areas such as mandatory detention, counter-terrorism and the Northern Territory intervention.
However, the committee did not support a US-style bill of rights, instead recommending a ”dialogue model” that would allow judges to send laws back for redrafting. Under this model, judges could not strike down laws and politicians could breach the list of human rights but would be required to justify their actions.
The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, would not say if he supported an act but promised to provide a response this year. The review is set to trigger lively debate within cabinet and is not assured of approval, despite the tacit support of Mr McClelland.
”The key debate is not about whether we protect human rights – it is about how we protect human rights,” he said.
”There are times when individuals, especially those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, miss out, including the homeless, people with disabilities, children at risk, and indigenous Australians.”
You may recall that I wrote about this in the June South Sydney Herald.
You may read the whole report at the first link in this entry, but here is the summary: NHRC+Report+(Summary).