VICTORIA IS set to become the first state in Australia to introduce a charter of human rights, with plans to act on recommendations made by an independent panel late last year.
In a charter aimed at simplifying laws and bringing together current human rights that are “scattered across the statute books haphazardly”, the state’s Attorney-General Rob Hulls has announced the government will examine the panel’s recommendations and finalise the details of legislation early this year. “This is a common sense move that will simplify our laws and bring together our human rights in one piece of legislation.”
Noting that Australia is the only western democracy with no clear human rights protections, Hulls said a charter of human rights and responsibilities will “strengthen and support Victoria’s democratic system”.
The panel was chaired by Professor George Williams and includes Olympian Andrew Gaze, Rhonda Galbally and former Victorian Attorney-General Haddon Storey. The panel undertook seven months of consultation, said Hulls.
“It received an unprecedented number of submissions showing overwhelming support for human rights to be better protected by law. The panel has recommended a way forward using the experiences of countries with similar systems of government, such as the UK and [New Zealand]. It has not recommended a US-style bill of rights.”
“By enshrining our human rights in legislation, we can ensure future governments continue to value the rights of all Victorians.”
The Equal Opportunity Commission of Victoria welcomed the state Government’s announcement. “Generally, it is the human rights of minorities that are the most vulnerable; however, governments are elected by majorities, and if the majority is unconcerned about the impact of legislation, policies and practices on minorities, issues concerning rights can vanish from the political landscape,” said Commission Chief Executive Officer Helen Szoke.