Rights in Rough Times

Rights in Rough Times

About 4 years ago, I was involved in consultations with more than 100 homeless or formerly homeless people across Melbourne about whether a Charter of Rights could make Victoria a more inclusive and rights-respecting community.  The terms of reference for that consultation were limited to considering civil and political rights and not economic and social rights.  While this may have made some (limited) sense to me as a lawyer, I was struck by how little sense it made to the homeless, to the rights-holders. 

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A National Charter of Rights:Some Reflections from the United Kingdom

A National Charter of Rights:Some Reflections from the United Kingdom

I have been asked to give an assessment of the British Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), now in its eighth year, and to suggest some lessons that Australia might draw from the British experience.  Inevitably, the latter leads one to focus on the more negative aspects of our experience, so I want to start with the good stuff before dwelling at greater length on the problems that you might want to avoid.

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A Fair Go for the Poor, Homeless and Unemployed

Earlier this year, the Victorian Government passed the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, becoming the first state to enact comprehensive legislative protection of civil and political human rights. The right to freedom and protection from discrimination, an integral component of the international human rights framework, is enshrined in s 8 of the Charter. Regrettably, however, the right is limited to protection from those forms of discrimination that are already prohibited by Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act. This calls for urgent reform

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The Value of the Legislative Entrenchment of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The Value of the Legislative Entrenchment of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

On a recent visit to Australia, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Paul Hunt, reflected on the global trend towards the legislative entrenchment and judicial recognition of economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to education, adequate housing and health care. Increasingly, he said, domestic legislatures and courts are recognising that economic, social and cultural rights are as concrete and important as their civil and political cousins.

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