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Vic lawyers set agenda for human rights
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Vic lawyers set agenda for human rights

Victorian lawyers have expressed, in no unclear terms, their views on a charter of human rights.

VICTORIAN lawyers have again expressed, in no unclear terms, their views on a charter of human rights. 

The body representing the state's profession has come forward about how the Law Council of Australia, the national body, is approaching discussions around the introduction of legislation around human rights.

But while the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) supports the Law Council's calling for a National Human Rights Act, it says the larger body does not go far enough. 

In a submission to the National Human Rights Consultation Committee this week, the Law Institute considers a range of remedies available for a breach of human rights should include damages and that a court's finding of incompatibility should make invalid a law that is found to be inconsistent with human rights. 

"We certainly support the LCA submission," Law Institute CEO Michael Brett Young said in an interview with The New Lawyer. 

"We don't have an issue with their submission, but ours goes further. For example the LCA doesn't suggest there should be damages flying from a breach of the charter. Which we say should .. We think it something that makes our charter something that we can move the country forward with.

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls has urged the federal government to adopt a national model similar to the Victorian Charter. Hulls labelled the state a frontrunner in human rights, having been the first Australian state to implement full legal protection of human rights in the Victorian Charter. 

But now Victorian lawyers are asking the nation to turn to the Victorian example. "The other difference with the Victorian-based charter is that we say the judge should be able to make the decision saying that it's a breach, and therefor there should be a period of time, perhaps six months, for the Parliament to either say it is a breach and that the law is invalid, or alternatively do something about it. If that were the case, we say once parliament makes that decision and it is a breach of charter, we say it should be the right of the court to award damages," said Brett Young. 

Pressed as to whether the Law Institute represents the state's legal profession in pushing for a charter of human rights, Brett Young said lawyers "as a whole believe in the rule of law". 

"I think what flows from that is that if you have a rule of law you've got to be able to maintain that rule of law. Part of that, I think, is the development of some form of charter. Most lawyers are certainly going to have differences about what that charter should be," he said. 

"I am not saying every lawyer is going to agree with the charter as put forward by the LCA or the LIV, but I think a large number of lawyers would see there is a responsibility to maintain the rule of the law. And I think the charter might be part of the arsenal to do that

"We have had diverse views from lawyers. There are lawyers who think we should have a strong charter and others who think there is no need for one in our current society. We'd like as much discussion as possible and canvas this so that what we come up with is strong, and supported by the community," he said. 

The Law Institute hopes its submission will be "taken very seriously" in the ongoing consultations. 

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