Legislation to face human rights test

Australian Government policies and their compatibility with international human rights obligations will come under scrutiny, Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, has announced.

The Government has introduced legislation to establish a new Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights to examine legislation for consistency with human rights obligations.

These obligations are contained in the seven core international human rights treaties to which Australia is a party: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; the Convention against Torture and Cruel and Inhumane and Unusual Punishment; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Mr McClelland said the Committee will have representation from both Houses of Parliament and will have the power to initiate inquiries into Bills, existing Acts and delegated legislation as well as conduct broader human rights inquiries. It will also be empowered to conduct public hearings.

“This will be the first Parliamentary Committee, at a federal level, dedicated to human rights scrutiny,” Mr McClelland said.

Under the changes, each new Bill introduced into Parliament must be accompanied by a Statement of Compatibility with international human rights obligations.

“The Statements will assist in explaining the purpose and intent of legislation, to contextualise human rights considerations, and where appropriate, justify restrictions or limitations on rights in the interests of other individuals or society more generally,” Mr McClelland said.

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