Rights reassessed?

The 2014 Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) consultation on how ‘rights and responsibilities’ are protected has been followed this year by a review of statutory encroachment on ‘traditional rights and freedoms’ by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC). 

PIAC’s submission to the AHRC focused on the need for reform to better protect rights and freedoms in a number of areas including: anti-discrimination, conditions in detention, same-sex equality and freedom of information. The submission also urged the AHRC to tread carefully when discussing ‘responsibilities’, to avoid the risk of impinging more than is absolutely necessary on human rights and freedoms.

PIAC has also made a submission to the ALRC inquiry, which is due to report in November 2015. The ALRC will review when limitations on rights and freedoms can be justified, and identify where existing limitations are unjustified. The Terms of Reference for the ALRC’s inquiry are limited to ‘common law rights’.

Drawing on PIAC’s casework and other experience, as well as international human rights law standards, PIAC’s submission makes recommendations regarding the freedoms of speech, religion and association; discusses the impact of delegated legislation on rights and freedoms; and considers the impact on access to justice caused by the legislative and practical limitations in relation to judicial review. 

PIAC also recommends that a process be undertaken to establish a comprehensive but non-binding document setting out how human rights apply in Australia, how they should be protected in domestic law and how they can be justifiably limited. 

PIAC’s submission is available here.

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