Committing to the promotion and protection of human rights without pursuing a Human Rights Act is a welcome move, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has said.
In the wake of a wave of criticism from legal and human rights bodies, the ACCI openly welcomed the Federal Government's decision not to implement a national Human Rights Act.
"Today's decision is well balanced and targets our human rights activities towards areas where a meaningful difference can be made, and away from the legal ambiguities and divisiveness that would have accompanied a Charter or Bill of Rights," said chief executive Peter Anderson.
"A legislative Charter or Bill could have also led to counterproductive or unintended consequences for industry and citizens going about their lawful business and thus impinged on rights that are currently not in contest."
Anderson said the human rights review process had not yielded any compelling reasons for an Act to be adopted, nor provided any evidence that parliament was unable to address perceived shortcomings in the human rights arena.
Anderson also argued that an Act would impede business and potentially create unworkable uncertainty for employers.
"Business requires legal certainty to meet obligations to employees, customers and the broader community. That certainty is compromised by Charters or Bills of Rights open to myriad interpretations and appeals," he said.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) also welcomed the Government's decision, saying the adoption of an Act would merely "hand unelected judges unprecedented power" whilst not actually doing anything to benefit human rights.
"This issue was never about whether human rights should be protected," said managing director Jim Wallace, "but how best to protect them."
"We strongly believe that [an Act] was not the way to go, and that the best way to protect human rights is through specific tailored legislation relevant to the right in question which is debated robustly in the democratic forum of parliament."
ACL did, however, acknowledge that numerous human rights issues in Australia need to be addressed, though was adamant that an Act was not necessary for this to occur.
"We strongly welcome the Government's plan to provide greater parliamentary scrutiny of legislation in terms of human rights, as well as their plan to establish a national education campaign on human rights," said Wallace.
"Australia's free press, parliamentary democracy, common law and independent judiciary have helped ensure Australia's human rights record is the envy of people all over the world. Let's now build on that record to ensure that vulnerable people aren't falling through the cracks."
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