Passage of Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act an important step in respecting and promoting human rights in Australia

The passage of important legislation which requires the Federal Parliament to consider international human rights obligations when passing new laws has been warmly welcomed by the Human Rights Law Centre. “The Federal Parliament has today taken a critical step in respecting and promoting human rights,” said Ben Schokman, the HRLC’s Director of International Human Rights Advocacy.

The new laws, passed by the Federal Parliament today, 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.

“Although it falls short of enshrining human rights in a national charter or bill of rights, this 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,” Mr Schokman said.

“These important new laws will benefit all Australians, but particularly groups such as the homeless, elderly persons, people with disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, all of whom were identified by the National Consultation Committee as particularly vulnerable to breaches of their human rights,” Mr Schokman said.

The Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 and the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) (Consequential Provisions) Act 2011 comprise key elements of the Federal Government’s “Human Rights Framework”, which gives effect to some of the key recommendations of the 2009 National Human Rights Consultation. The new laws:

  • require that each new Bill introduced into Federal Parliament is accompanied by a Statement of Compatibility of the proposed law’s compliance with Australia’s international human rights obligations; and
  • establish a new Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights to provide greater scrutiny of legislation for compliance with the seven core international human rights treaties to which Australia is party.

The HRLC congratulates the Attorney General, the Hon Robert McClelland MP, for his leadership in seeing these laws through parliament.