Victoria’s lockdown renews calls for national human rights charter
Victoria’s human rights charter raises “serious” and justified concerns about the curfew restrictions and has renewed calls for a national charter, a human rights body has said.
Amid ongoing controversies surrounding Victoria’s current curfews, the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) has called for the federal government to implement a human rights charter at the national level to ensure the values of “fairness, dignity and compassion” are at the centre of all government action impacting Australian residents.
HRLC executive director Hugh de Kretser said the government responses to the global coronavirus crisis have saved thousands of lives but it was important to test its response against human rights laws to ensure restrictions are no wider than necessary.
“Whether it’s about curfews, quarantine, border closures or masks, human rights have provided a compass to guide governments in making the right decisions to respond to this pandemic,” Mr de Kretser said. “They help us all assess whether our governments are doing enough, getting it right or [are] going too far.”
Victoria’s human rights charter has assisted the government to balance rights decisions and requires the government to respect people’s human rights. It also allows those in power to restrict rights if it is genuinely necessary to achieve a proper purpose and the restriction is no wider than needed for that purpose.
Mr de Krester said human rights obligations should be balanced appropriately against rights to freedom, privacy, movement and the right to equality.
“A curfew is a very serious restriction on human rights. It must be justified on the strong public health evidence. Reports that the chief health officer did not ask for the curfew and that Victoria Police were not consulted raise questions about the justification for the curfew under Victoria’s human rights charter,” said Mr de Krester.
“The Victorian government should urgently review the need for the curfew against the standards in these laws.”