Inadequate protection of human rights means legislation that provides a comprehensive framework should be introduced, argued President of the Australian Human Rights Commission Catherine Branson QC on Wednesday.
Delivering a speech at the Dame Roma Mitchell Memorial Lunch in Victoria, Branson said human rights protections in Australia were ad hoc and incomplete.
"A human rights act will not only change lives; it will change attitudes. It will help build a human rights culture in Australia - a culture of rights-based thinking; one in which everyone understands their basic rights and respects the rights of others," she said.
Branson also said an act may result in different decisions being made by the judiciary. She citied the High Court's ruling in relation to Ahmed Al-Kateb, a stateless Palestinian man who was refused a protection visa to stay in Australia, but who could be detained indefinitely in mandatory detention, as an example.
"If an Australian human rights act had been in force at the time Al-Kateb was decided, I think the judges in the majority may have been convinced to join the ranks of the minority," she said.
"However, the greatest achievement of an Australian human rights act may be to prevent human rights violations happening in the first place."
- Sarah Sharples