Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee; Reference
(1) The following matter be referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 1 July 2019:
The form and structure of a legislated Charter of Rights in Australia.
(2) That, in undertaking the inquiry, the committee consider:
(a) the effectiveness of current laws and mechanisms for protecting human rights in Australia;
(b) the operation and effectiveness of human rights legislation in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory;
(c) previous reviews and inquiries in Australia on the issue of human rights legislation;
(d) the objectives of the legislation and rights to be protected;
(e) how the legislation would apply to the making of laws, courts and tribunals, public authorities and other entities;
(f) the implications of laws and decisions not being consistent with the legislation;
(g) the implications of the legislation for existing statutory complaints processes; and
(h) the functions and responsibilities under the legislation.
As Labor's platform makes clear, the Australian Labor Party is committed to reviewing Australia's human rights framework and to considering whether it could be enhanced through a statutory charter of human rights or other similar instrument. However, the terms of reference of this inquiry would appear to prejudge that outcome. And with this government in its final months, we don't believe it is the time for a Senate committee to commence the kind of lengthy and detailed inquiry that would be required to properly consider the complex questions that the investigation of the broad terms of reference set out in this motion would require.
Australia is the only liberal democracy in the world that does not have some form of either legislated or constitutionally entrenched charter or bill of rights. It is extremely disappointing, given the over 200 pieces of legislation that have passed through state, territory and Commonwealth parliaments in this country in the last two decades, which fundamentally erode rights, freedoms and liberties, that we do not have such protections for our citizens either in our Constitution or in legislation.
The Australian Greens would far prefer to see constitutionally enshrined protections for rights in this country. We acknowledge that is a difficult and long-term project, so we would like to see this parliament work collaboratively to develop legislation so that we can legislatively entrench protections for fundamental rights, freedoms and liberties in this country, and we're very disappointing that Labor is not prepared to work with us on this.