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Law Council of Australia


Protecting Australians’ human rights

8 March 2023

More effective legal protection of human rights at the Commonwealth level is urgently needed and a Human Rights Act, as proposed by the Australian Human Rights Commission in its position paper released last night, would be an important step forward in rights protection for all Australians.

The AHRC’s Position Paper: A Human Rights Act for Australia is the culmination of extensive work and consultation, and the Law Council was pleased to contribute to its development.

Many of the proposals in the paper for the design of a Commonwealth Human Rights Act build on lessons learned from the introduction of human rights legislation in the ACT, Victoria and Queensland.

This paper tackles some very contemporary challenges for human rights law, including the rise of automation in government decision making and the protection of the rights of those outside our borders, but nonetheless under Australia’s ‘effective control.’

Another praiseworthy feature of the AHRC paper is its emphasis on ‘upstream’ consideration of human rights – that is, consideration by the Executive and greater Parliamentary scrutiny when developing new legislation and policies – so that rights breaches and complaints are minimised. This consideration would importantly be facilitated by a strong human rights education program for Government.  

Of course, strong rights complaints mechanisms, with the capability to prescribe effective remedies, remain a crucial feature of any human rights legislation; including a future Commonwealth Human Rights Act. Such effective remedies are currently the key missing piece in Australia’s human rights puzzle.

A Commonwealth Human Rights Act would be an important step forward in rights protection for all Australians.

The Law Council will consider the AHRC position paper in greater detail.  It also looks forward to the Australian Government’s response to the paper’s recommendations.

Contact: Kristen Connell, P. 0400 054 227, E.


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