Pressure is mounting for the Federal Government to deliver on its promise to carry out a national consultation on human rights protection.
The Australian Human Rights Group (AHRG) has sent an open letter to the government calling for a national discussion on the issue. The letter has the endorsement of more than 50 organisations, including prominent human rights advocates such as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and Civil Liberties Australia.
“Australia remains the only democratic country without a national human rights law,” AHRG Chair Susan Ryan (pictured) said.
“Many countries with a shared history and similar values to Australia — including the United Kingdom and New Zealand — have improved their legislative protection of human rights in a way that has enhanced basic democratic values, improved public policy and services and maintained the sovereignty of Parliament.
“In Australia, Victoria and the ACT have now enacted human rights legislation to this effect, and community-based reports in Tasmania and Western Australia have recommended the same outcome.” Ryan said.
“The ALP National Platform commits the government to a national public consultation regarding the recognition and protection of human rights … we welcome your government’s allocation of substantial funds for the consultation in the 2008-09 Budget.”
Ryan said that the consultative process should be inherently democratic and enable Australians to decide how best their rights should be protected.
The letter also set a concrete deadline for government action, anticipating commencement of the inquiry by the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on 10 December 2008.
“The consultation should be an opportunity for us all to articulate our beliefs and values — to consider who we are as a nation and what we aspire to be. It would be a chance to bring our rights home,” AHRG campaign director Phoebe Knowles said.
Human rights protection was a key issue at the 2020 summit held earlier in the year, and the Rudd Government has since made a public commitment to the consultation process, allocating about $2.8 million dollars to this purpose in the Attorney-General Department’s budget. The budget papers noted that a national consultation was a priority for the government.