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Report states that Australia should have human rights act...


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AUSTRALIA should adopt a Human Rights Act and give the High Court the power to issue "declarations of incompatibility" over federal laws, according to the report on human rights released today.

The Human Rights Consultation panel, headed by Jesuit priest Frank Brennan has also urged the government to conduct an audit of “all federal legislation, policies and practices” and make changes to ensure they comply with Australia's international human rights obligations.

And it says a “statement of compatibility” should be required for all Bills introduced into the Federal Parliament and new Joint Committee on Human Rights to increase scrutiny of legislation.

The report said Commonwealth Solicitor-General Stephen Gageler SC had allayed concerns that federal courts could not issue declarations of incompatibility under the Constitution. The Government’s top lawyers said it would be “consistent with the exercise of judicial power, provided it is made in proceedings for some other relief or remedy, provided the court is satisfied that a Commonwealth law is incompatible with a right or freedom set out in the Human Rights Act.”

All up there are 31 recommendations, from more modest proposals concerning education through to support for the model which operates in the ACT and Victoria.

The findings will delight the human rights lobby, which has argued this system preserves the sovereignly of parliament because it allows parliament to reject any “declarations of incompatibility' that might be made by the courts.

However, it divides the issues that are suitable for scrutiny by the courts. It says “economic and social rights” should be excluded and recommends that only “civil and political rights” be covered.

These included the right to life and freedom from torture or punishment that is “cruel, inhuman or degrading”.

Its says that “under any federal Human Rights Act an individual be able to institute an independent cause of action against a federal public authority for breach of human rights and that a court be able to provide the usual suite of remedies including damage”.

This would not be available in relation to economic, social and cultural rights.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland made no comment on any possible role for the courts saying only that the consultation had “demonstrated that there are many views on how human rights and responsibilities should be protected, promoted and realised, including on the merits of a Human Rights Act”.

“Importantly, it has also shown that there are many other important ways to protect and promote human rights including, for example, through enhanced education and improved parliamentary scrutiny,’’ he said..

The Law Council of Australia welcomed the report saying the Government “must address better human rights protection as comprehensively as possible”.


R.I.P Spooky 2004-2015

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