The Human Rights Law Resource Centre, in conjunction with leading Australian law firm Allens Arthur Robinson, has produced a comprehensive report to enable individuals and organisations to participate in the National Human Rights Consultation in an informed and evidence-based way. The report is not intended to be a position paper or submission, but rather to provide information, evidence and background material. The report, entitled The National Human Rights Consultation: Engaging in the Debate [PDF] [Word], begins by outlining the arguments for and against a Federal Charter of Rights (or Human Rights Act). The report then addresses the central issues in the debate by discussing three broad questions:
- Is a Federal Charter necessary? - This includes a discussion as to the current state of human rights, and the legal protection of rights and freedom, in Australia.
- What would a Federal Charter do? - This includes a discussion as to what rights might be protected, whether those protections should be subject to limitations, whose rights would be protected and who would have to comply with a Federal Charter.
- How would a Federal Charter work? - This section considers the mechanics of a federal human rights law, and the principal issues that may arise in its drafting and implementation, including whether such a law would be part of the Constitution or an ordinary piece of legislation, the role of the courts, the impact on parliamentary sovereignty and democracy, potential constitutional issues, and what remedies might be available for people whose rights have been breached. The section also looks at the existing models for human rights laws in Victoria, the ACT, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States of America.