Victoria is seeking legal advice on whether to roll back its controversial Charter of Human Rights.
The government today released its response to a parliamentary report that last year recommended removing courts and tribunals from a charter’s reach.
It said in the response that on the matter of whether to remove the courts and tribunals from the Charter, as well as repealing the obligation placed upon public authorities that they act compatibly with the Charter and consider rights when making decisions, the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC) could not reach a unanimous decision.
The government said it believes there is ongoing place for the courts in protecting rights in relation to the Charter, but said the issues raised by the Committee on these particular questions have generated controversies that need to be considered with clear evidence.
Attorney-General Robert Clark said that at the time SARC was finalising its report, and subsequently, there have been major court decisions handed down in the High Court and in the Court of Appeal about the operation of the Charter Act in the courts.
"There has been limited opportunity to observe the practical effect of those decisions on the various roles of the courts and VCAT in relation to the Charter.
Clark said the government would consult with key stakeholders involved with the legal aspects of the Charter Act's operation, including the Bar Council, Law Institute of Victoria, Victoria Legal Aid, DPP, Victoria Police, the Public Interest Law Clearing House and the Human Rights Law Centre.
The Law Institute of Victoria today enthusiastically welcomed what it said was the Government’s decision to retain Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
LIV president Michael Holcroft said it appeared that the Government had listened to the overwhelming evidence provided to support the benefits of the Charter for all Victorians.
Holcroft said that 95 per cent of submissions received by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee supported retention of the charter.
“We congratulate the Government for not bowing to pressure to abandon the Charter,” Holcroft said.
“The Victorian Government has shown that it accepts its responsibilities under the Charter to protect the rights of all Victorians,” Holcroft said.
Holcroft did acknowledge that a number of aspects of the Charter are still under review and the Government will be seeking further legal advice about certain key provisions.
“The LIV has undertaken a case audit which clearly demonstrated the fundamental role of the Courts under the Charter,” he said.
Holcroft said the LIV looks forward to working with the Government on the key provisions under review. The LIV called for a strengthening of the role of the Courts and notes that the Government has ruled out independent legal remedies or damages for breaches of the Charter. Currently there is no financial compensation under the Charter.
The LIV also submitted that the Charter should be extended to include economic, social and cultural rights, but Government has not opted to extend operation of the Charter into these areas.