On 3 December 2009, the Centre made a Submission in response to the Australian Government's Green Paper on electoral reform. The submission argues that Australia's electoral system should reflect and implement Australia’s international human rights obligations, in particular by protecting and promoting the right to vote, freedom of expression, the right to participate in public affairs and the right to equality and non-discrimination. This approach will both strengthen Australia’s democratic institutions and culture and enhance our international and regional standing in regard to human rights.
On 20 November 2009, the HRLRC made a submission in relation to implementation of the Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations on Australia’s compliance with the ICCPR. The Attorney-General’s Department sought input from civil society on the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations made in March this year.
The Joint Standing Committee on Migration is conducting an inquiry into the health requirements undertaken for Australian visa processing. The current rules prevent many individuals and families from accessing visas because the applicant or a member of their family has a disability. The Centre made a submission to the inquiry arguing that that decisions to grant or refuse a visa must comply with Australia’s international human rights obligations – particularly those contained in the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities– and the standards of non-discrimination set out in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
The Victorian Government has introduced the Summary Offences and Control of Weapons Acts Amendment Bill, which will provide police with broad new powers to randomly search people in designated areas without any requirement that police officers have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing; to strip search people pre-arrest; and to move people on the basis of a suspicion that a person might do an illegal act in the future.
On 20 November 2009, the Human Rights Law Resource Centre made a Submission to the Victorian Parliament's Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee.
In November 2008, the Centre was granted leave to appear as amicus curiae in a matter concerning the meaning of ‘public authority’ under the Victorian Charter. This is a question of great significance, as it is public authorities who are bound to act compatibly with and give proper consideration to human rights. The issue arose in the context of an application by Metro West Housing Services Ltd, a private non-profit company, for orders of possession against two groups of vulnerable tenants. Section 4(1)(c) provides that, for the purposes of the Charter, a public authority includes ‘an entity whose functions are or include functions of a public nature, when it is exercising those functions on behalf of the State or a public authority (whether under contract or otherwise)’.
The Centre submitted that while ‘there cannot be a single litmus test of what is a function of a public nature’ (see YL v Birmingham City Council  1 AC 95 at  per Baroness Hale), a number of principles should guide the Tribunal’s consideration of s 4(1)(c).
In a submission to the Indigenous Affairs Minister, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, the Human Rights Law Resource Centre has strongly urged the Minister not to exercise her discretionary power to compulsorily acquire Aboriginal town camps in Alice Springs. In August this year, the Minister wrote to Alice Springs town camp residents giving notice of her proposal to compulsorily acquire their land. For over 12 months the Minister has been seeking to acquire 40-year subleases over the town camps. When these negotiations broke down, the Minister threatened the exercise of her compulsory acquisition power. Under the Minister’s power, if the Commonwealth acquires the land of the town camps then all existing rights over the land held by Aboriginal people will end.
The ACT Government conducted an inquiry into the operation of the ACT Human Rights Act (the HR Act), and particularly sought input into the debate on protecting economic, social and cultural rights (ESC rights) within the HR Act. The HRLRC made a submission to the inquiry, arguing that all ESC rights in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) should be protected in the HR Act.
Earlier this year the Federal Minister for the Status of Women announced a Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace and Agency (EOWA) and its underlying legislation (EOWW Act). The review comes at a time when indicators show a decline in women’s workplace equality. Currently, only 8.3% of Board Directorships are held by women and the pay gap between male and female full-time earners has increased to 17.2% cent.
The Centre’s submission to the review, A Human Rights Approach to Equality for Women in the Workplace, argues that the EOWW Act would be a more effective and powerful instrument if it were to reflected international human rights standards.
The Human Rights Law Resource Centre and Amnesty have made a Joint Submission to the Federal Attorney-General's National Security Legislation Discussion Paper, which sets out the measures that the Government proposes to take to respond to a number of recent reviews of counter-terror laws. Amnesty and the HRLRC acknowledge that governments have a duty to protect the rights, lives and safety of people within their territory. We do not question that perpetrators of violent or terrorist acts should be brought to justice. However the measures put in place to bolster national security, protect lives and prevent terrorist attacks should not unduly infringe on people's human rights.
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is conducting an inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Complementary Protection) Bill 2009. Complementary protection is the protection owed by a State that falls outside the scope of the Refugee Convention. Complementary protection obligations are found in the non-refoulement provisions of various human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
On 28 September 2009, the Human Rights Law Resource Centre made a submission to the inquiry, entitled The Right to Protection and the Obligation of Non-Refoulement.