Thursday, November 24, 2011

Human rights - a quite serious post with no flippancy for a change

Some of you might be interested to hear that the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010 passed Parliament today. It was introduced into the House of Representatives in September 2010.

If you read Hansard, you will see that the Opposition tried to move amendments so that 'human rights' was defined as rights in the Constitution and common law rights.  I would interpret this myself as trying to make sure that certain sorts of humans could protect their property rights, rather than an interest in human rights as universal and indivisible and as found in international human rights covenants that Australia has signed up to, but that is my personal view only and one not shared by, say, George Brandis.

If you read Hansard you will also find some fairly vitriolic personal attacks, but I guess that's to be expected.

Anyway, the new legislation (once it receives Royal Assent) means that any new bills or legislative instruments introduced into Parliament must be accompanied by a statement of compatibility, which tells Parliament (and the world at large because they will be publicly available documents) if a bill is consistent with the human rights obligations under 7 key human rights treaties. Or not. The Bill also establishes a new parliamentary committee to look at bills and the statements and to have a good think about it all.

I understand that the Opposition also tried to make an amendment to remove the requirement for statements of compatibility, but perhaps I am wrong about that. 

I am looking forward to seeing what the statements are like, and what the new committee says about them.


Roger Parkinson said...

Human rights are good, esp for humans (someone had to add some flippancy).

Sounds like a good thing. We have something similar here, though possibly watered down a bit. There is a 'Bill of Rights' that kind of overrules anything else. So if you get done for some law and you can argue the aforesaid law is incompatible with the BoR then you win. (note my use of 'aforesaid' there, that's lawyer talk). It doesn't tie in with international treaties we've signed up to though, as yours does.

Penthe said...

I think yours is based on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whereas ours is based on a whole bunch. But ours are not binding on courts or Parliament, just a way of making governments honest if they want to trample all over someone's rights. It's like Jiminy Cricket, actually. With Parliament as Pinoccio and the Governor-General as Gepetto? I think my metaphor is failing.

GMT+10 said...

Well, this sounds like a very good thing - although the proof of the pudding is in the eating (to be seasonal) and we are yet to see who has to eat what, by the sound of it?
Can we put this on a list of things that the government is achieving, but not many people are talking about?

Penthe said...

Yes, you can put it on that list. People are not talking about it because they wanted a human rights act proper, or constitutional change. Better than nothing, says I. Look on the bright side, etc, etc.

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