Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights will be retained following the tabling of a Baillieu Government statement on its future in parliament today. “The decision to retain the Charter is a victory for evidence-based policy, accountable government and a fair go for all Victorians,” said Phil Lynch, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre.
According to the statement, "the Government is strongly committed to the principles of human rights and considers that legislative protection for those rights provides a tangible benefit to the Victorian community".
Mr Lynch said that, “After five years, the evidence clearly shows that the Charter has substantial benefits, including greater government accountability, more responsive public services and more compassionate treatment for some of Victoria’s most vulnerable people. Its protections have been particularly important for people with disability, people with mental illness, children and the homeless.”
The evidence also demonstrates that predictions of adverse consequences arising from the Charter have been unfounded. The Charter has maintained the sovereignty of parliament and there has been no ‘flood of litigation’. “In the face of overwhelming evidence of the Charter’s benefits, and the complete lack of evidence of its supposed ills, continued opposition is not anti‑Charter, it's anti-human rights,” said Mr Lynch.
The Government statement was made in response to a parliamentary committee report last year. Despite 95% of submissions to that committee calling for the Charter to be retained or strengthened, it recommended stripping courts and tribunals of the power to hold government to account or to provide people with remedies when their human rights are violated. If accepted, the recommendations would have rendered the Charter completely ineffective.
The Government statement recognises that there is an “ongoing place for courts in protecting rights” under the Charter. The Government has committed to seeking further “evidence-based” advice on how courts and tribunals can best fulfil this role. They have also pledged to consider the inclusion of additional rights in the Charter in order to bring it into line with international human rights standards.
According to Mr Lynch, “If the government had accepted the recommendations of the parliamentary committee, Victoria would have become the first state in the developed, democratic world to weaken or repeal a human rights act.” He said that, “The decision of the government to further consider the role of courts and the inclusion of additional rights is an opportunity to expand the Charter and its benefits.”
The Human Rights Law Centre looks forward to working with the Baillieu Government to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights for all Victorians.
Click here for a copy of the Government's statement.
For further comments, please contact:
Phil Lynch, Executive Director, on (03) 8636 4450 or 0438 776 433
Ben Schokman, Director of International Human Rights Advocacy, on (03) 8636 4451 or 0403 622 810