Policy Agenda

Protecting and Promoting Human Rights in Australia

While many Australians enjoy a high standard of living and the security that comes from living in a stable democracy, there are others who regularly experience fear, hunger, homelessness, powerlessness and discrimination.

For these people, lack of adequate human rights protection affects their ability to be free from arbitrary detention, to be treated equally before the law and to be treated with dignity and respect in the community.

The Law Council is of the view that a Human Rights Act is the most effective way to ensure that the rights of all Australians are adequately protected.

Working closely with its constituent bodies, the Law Council developed a policy in support of a federal Human Rights Act. The policy is aimed at ensuring that decision-makers take human rights into account when making and administering the law.

This policy formed the basis of the Law Council's contribution to the National Human Rights Consultation, run by an independent Committee, which took place in 2009. The National Consultation Committee's report recommended the enactment of a Human Rights Act, along with thirty other recommendations for reform, some of which do not require the existence of a Human Rights Act.

In response to the National Consultation Committee's report, the Attorney-General released Australia's Human Rights Framework (the Framework). While the Law Council was disappointed by successive Government's failure to adopt or implement all of the recommendations contained in the report of the National Consultation Committee, it has welcomed the positive initiatives contained in the Framework, such as the establishment of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights in January 2012.

The Law Council remains concerned that other initiatives, such as the implementation of a National Human Rights Action Plan and the consolidation of anti-discrimination laws, have not been progressed under the current Government. The Law Council continues to advocate on these issues, and the introduction of a Human Rights Act.

The Law Council welcomes the Government’s voluntary commitment at its Second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva on 9 November 2015 to work with the Australian Human Rights Commission to develop a public and accessible process for monitoring Australia’s progress against the UPR recommendations, including periodic statements from Government.

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