Mornington Peninsula Human Rights Group

Promoting the understanding of, and respect for human rights

Commonwealth human rights legislation

Human rights consultation

The promotion of human rights legislation is central to the life of our Group. After the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities was enacted in July 2006, which we strongly supported, we began to think about a National Charter. The Mornington Peninsula Human Rights Group

  • Met with Professor Spencer Zifcak to examine his draft legislation for a national Act;
  • Wrote to parliamentarians urging action;
  • Organised a special Roundtable in Mornington for people to meet with Frank Brennan, chair of the National Human Rights Consultation; and
  • Made a submission to the Consultation (see Newsletter 13).

The report of the Consultation Committee

We welcomed the Report of the Consultation Committee (see Newsletter 15), which recommended the adoption of a Human Rights Act. We wrote to parliamentarians and organised a petition to the House of Representatives supporting such legislation.

To our great disappointment, the Rudd Government declined to enact a national Human Rights Act. Labor was so divided on the issue that there was not enough support even to bring the question of an Act to cabinet, and the Coalition parties are opposed to such legislation. It seems likely that we must prepare for ten years or more of building a consensus in support of an Act. For a small local organisation such as ours this prospect is not encouraging, in fact it is extremely daunting.

Human Rights Framework

The Labor Government did promise, however, a Human Rights Framework, which we welcome as second best. Its principal legislative feature, the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010 is currently before Parliament. If it is passed, then each new Bill introduced into Parliament will have to be accompanied by a statement of compatibility with our international human rights obligations.

However, there is no provision for an aggrieved person to sue because of a breach of their human rights. Until such a provision exists no dramatic change in the culture of governments or public administration can be expected.

We must press on.

Interesting reading

The following are articles of interest on this subject:

The Rule of Law Is Essential for Human Progress by Malcolm Fraser

Draft for a National Human Rights Bill by Professor Spensor Zifcak, 2006

Human Rights and the Northern Territory Intervention by Alistair Nicholson