Human rights check for new laws

The Attorney-General’s department has posted a fact sheet online about the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 that came into effect on 4 January.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said human rights will be bought into sharper focus in the Parliament this year with all new laws to be checked to see if they stack up against human rights obligations.

"Our focus is on ensuring that key principles of freedom, respect, equality, dignity and a fair go for all Australians are considered in everything the Commonwealth Parliament does," Ms Roxon said. "Ensuring that new laws have considered the protection and promotion of human rights is long overdue.”

The Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 requires all new bills and disallowable legislative instruments to be accompanied by a 'Statement of compatibility with human rights'. Statements will assess compatibility against the seven main United Nations human rights treaties to which Australia is a party.

The Act also establishes a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights-the first Commonwealth Parliamentary Committee dedicated solely to human rights scrutiny - which will be established by a resolution of appointment in the Autumn 2012 Parliamentary sittings.

The HRLC said the new laws, passed by the Federal Parliament on 25 November, will provide a modest but critical contribution to the legislative and institutional protection of human rights, and will play an important role in human rights education and acculturation

“The Federal Parliament has taken a critical step in respecting and promoting human rights,” said Ben Schokman, the HRLC’s Director of International Human Rights Advocacy, “Although it falls short of enshrining human rights in a national charter or bill of rights, it is an important step in the right direction. It will ensure the Federal Parliament will be more accountable and transparent about the human rights impacts of new legislation.”