THE peak body representing Australian lawyers has welcomed today's release of the National Human Rights Consultation report, which recommends the adoption of a Human Rights Act.
The new report, developed by the National Human Rights Committee, including Father Frank Brennan, Mary Kostakidis, Mick Palmer and Tammy Williams, makes 31 recommendations and will inform Government policy, the Federal Attorney General Robert McClelland said today.
"Australia has a 'patchwork quilt' of protection for human rights," McClelland told media in Melbourne this morning.
"For most of us the 'patchwork quilt' is working well. But, as the Committee's report highlights, there are times when individuals, especially those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, miss out," he said.
The Attorney said the report shows there are many ways to protect and promote human rights, including via enhanced parliamentary scrutiny.
The Law Council of Australia applauded the report, and the extensive consultation that has taken place around it.
Law Council president John Corcoran said today he welcomes the report's recommendations reflecting elements of a Human Rights Act, including Compatibility Statements for draft legislation as well as Human Rights Action Plans and annual reporting on their implementation by government departments.
But Corcoran urged the government to address human rights protection through legislation, so that it is no longer the only western democracy without one.
"The Law Council strongly supports a Human Rights Act and will examine the report in greater detail in the coming weeks to make further submissions to Government to achieve this result," he said.
"A Human Rights Act would provide the best benchmark for the assessment of the human rights of all Australians and the best means of protecting them," Corcoran said.
The Attorney today said the debate is not about "whether we protect human rights, its about how we protect and promote human rights". He said there are strong views held on the merits or otherwise of a Human Rights Act.
The Committee conducted the most extensive consultation on human rights issues in Australia’s history, and it received more than 35,000 submissions and conducting over 65 community roundtables and public hearings across more than 50 urban, regional and remote locations.