ALRC to conduct freedoms audit of Commonwealth laws

Attorney-General George Brandis has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to audit Commonwealth laws to identify laws that “encroach upon traditional rights, freedoms and privileges” and assess whether the encroachment is justified.

Announcing the inquiry, Senator Brandis said that the review will be one of the most comprehensive and important ever undertaken by the ALRC.

“This is a major instalment towards the commitment I made to restore the balance around the issue of human rights in Australia,” said Senator Brandis.

“For too long we have seen freedoms of the individual diminish and become devalued. The Coalition Government will strive to protect and restore them.”

The Human Rights Law Centre welcomed the inquiry but questioned the scope of the terms of reference.

“It’s a good move by Senator Brandis to ask the ALRC to undertake this audit” said HRLC Executive Director Hugh de Kretser. “But it’s concerning that the ALRC’s terms of reference define traditional rights, freedoms and privileges so as to exclude basic human rights like freedom from arbitrary detention, equality and privacy. You can’t get a more traditional freedom than the right not be locked up without just cause.”

Senator Brandis has asked the Commission to focus in particular upon commercial and corporate regulation, environmental regulation and workplace relations.

“The focus on corporate and environmental regulation and workplace relations must not come at the expense of reviewing violations of rights at the sharp end of legislative action in policy areas like asylum seekers and counter-terrorism,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Commission has been asked to report by 1 December 2014.