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Human rights proposal still afloat

Human rights proposal still afloat

Recent comments in the media that the proposed human rights bill is "dead in the water" represent nothing more than unhelpful and self-serving speculation, according to director of the Human…

Recent comments in the media that the proposed human rights bill is "dead in the water" represent nothing more than unhelpful and self-serving speculation, according to director of the Human Rights Law Resource Centre Philip Lynch.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly today, Lynch slammed recent commentary on the state of the proposed bill, which referred to it as having virtually no public or cabinet support, and labeled such ideas as "misinformed and premature".

"Cabinet has not yet made a decision," said Lynch.

"I think [cabinet] will work carefully through a set of extensive and comprehensive recommendations and will announce its position in due course."

Lynch strongly refuted claims that the issue of human rights in Australia has failed to engage a largely disinterested public and stated that all one must do is look to the facts.

"Like many of the assertions made by some prominent anti-charter opponents, [these claims] are simply not supported by the facts," he said.

"Over 35,000 people made submissions to the national human rights consultation - the largest number of submissions ever made to any public enquiry. It was a huge exercise in participatory democracy."

Lynch believes antagonists of the proposed bill have attempted to foreshadow cabinet's decision, which he believes is imminent, in order to achieve their own ends.

"There are some heavily vested interests in this matter, with prominent opponents who will use any means and opportunity they can in order to seek to derail the move towards the improved legislative protection of human rights," he said.

"Certain opponents are seeking to pre-empt the outcomes of cabinet consideration in a way that is inappropriate and unhelpful ... they are trying to create self-fulfilling prophecies."

And Lynch remains hopeful that cabinet will, at least in relation to certain aspects of the proposal, reach an agreement that would be favorable to the strengthening of Australia's human rights framework.

"There are a number of recommendations that have bipartisan support which would go some way towards remedying the gaps in human rights protection," said Lynch. "Those steps and measures include improved human rights education, enhanced legislative and parliamentary scrutiny, and strengthening the mandate and increasing the resources of the Australian Human Rights Commission."

- Claire Chaffey

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