Simple fixes can strengthen Queensland’s human rights law

Simple fixes can strengthen Queensland’s human rights law

Queensland’s proposed Human Rights Act should be improved with some simple amendments, the parliamentary committee reviewing the Palaszczuk Government’s legislation has been told today.

Lee Carnie, a Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said as it stood, the legislation will make the Queensland laws better than Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights, but that a few gaps still need to be addressed.

“It’s fantastic to see Queensland moving to better protect everyone’s human rights in law, but we need to ensure that people have a simple, accessible way to take action if their rights are breached. Without this, Queensland’s Human Rights Act will not be as effective as it should be,” said Carnie.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s submission argues that the bill should be amended to give people the power to take direct legal action without having to ‘piggyback’ a legal argument based on existing laws and that compensation for a breach of rights should be available as a remedy.

 The submission also argues for:

  • greater clarity around when a non-government organisation performing public services will be required to comply with human rights;

  • removing the exemption for religious bodies;

  • expanding the number of protected rights to include rights like housing;

  • removing clauses which limit human rights in certain prison and youth justice situations;

  • ensuring sufficient funding for education to foster a strong human rights culture in Queensland.

“Protecting human rights is about things like ensuring that when our kids are sick we can take them to the doctor regardless of our bank balance, or making sure that we don’t evict people into homelessness. A Queensland Human Rights Act will be a win for all Queenslanders, but particularly those whose rights are most at risk, including people with disabilities, people facing homelessness, vulnerable kids and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” said Carnie.

The Committee will hold public hearings in the coming weeks, but isn’t expected to hand down its recommendations until the new year.

Carnie said other States and the Australian Government should be exploring how they can follow Queensland’s lead in protecting human rights in law.

“People know that we can’t always rely on politicians to do the right thing. That’s why it’s important that we better protect the values we all hold dear, like equality and fairness, with Human Rights Acts and Charters of Rights. Australia is the only western democratic country without a national Charter of Human Rights. We need to fix this,” said Carnie.

A copy of the Human Rights Law Centre submission can be downloaded here.

For more information, please contact:
Tom Clarke on 0422 545 763 or via tom.clarke@hrlc.org.au