Queenslanders are one step closer to having their human rights protected in law, following confirmation from the Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath that the Queensland Government is moving ahead with establishing a Human Rights Act.
Hugh de Kretser, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, welcomed the news from the Palaszczuk Government which was re-elected in November last year.
“It’s great to see the Queensland Government making good on its commitment to better protect human rights in law. At a time when many rights in Australia are being steadily chipped away, it’s welcome to see a government draw a line in the sand and move to guarantee some of our fundamental rights in legislation,” said Mr de Kretser.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk committed in 2016 to introduce a Human Rights Act, but the introduction of the legislation was delayed. It is understood the legislation will be modelled on Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights.
“Human Rights Acts help to ensure everyone’s rights are protected. They lead to better laws and policies and stronger, fairer communities. It will mean that Queensland politicians and public servants must consider human rights when making laws and policies and that government bodies like schools and hospitals must uphold them. This a good move by the Queensland Government and we look forward to seeing the legislation introduced in Parliament as soon as possible,” said Mr de Kretser.
Mr de Kretser also said Queensland should learn from the Victorian experience and make sure that people’s rights under the Human Rights Act are easily enforceable.
“Most of the work of Victoria’s Charter has been done behind the scenes in government and parliament, but it’s important that when governments violate human rights, people affected can take action in court. There’s not much point having your human rights nicely articulated if you can’t actually do anything when they are violated,” said Mr de Kretser.
In Victoria, people essentially have to tack their human rights claims onto other legal cases in order to have them heard in court. A 2015 review of Victoria’s Charter recommended that this be simplified to allow people to directly enforce their rights in the local civil tribunal.
A coalition of legal and community groups – including the Human Rights Law Centre – has been calling for creation of a Human Rights Charter in Queensland for a number of years and is currently running a fundraiser for the public campaign now focused on getting the policy over the line.
“It’s important the Queensland Government moves ahead with the process without delay, so the legislation can be passed this term,” said Mr de Kretser.