Federal Human Rights Charter
17 November 2020
The Law Council of Australia considers that more effective legal protection of human rights in Australia at the Commonwealth level is urgently needed. Australia is the only democratic nation to not have a constitutional or statutory bill or charter of rights.
The Law Council’s longstanding position has been that guarantees of human rights should be included in the Commonwealth Constitution, as this would provide more effective protection against legislative infringement of those rights. The Law Council continues to adhere to that view.
The Law Council notes that many of the United Nations human rights treaty bodies have consistently called for the incorporation into Australian law of the guarantees contained in the principal United Nations human rights treaties. The Law Council considers that, pending the adoption of constitutional guarantees, the introduction of a statutory charter of human rights would be a positive step towards better protection of human rights and may help pave the way towards their constitutional protection.
The Law Council therefore supports the enactment of a Human Rights Act by the Commonwealth Parliament. The Act should give effect to Australia’s international human rights obligations and should draw on but not be limited by the experience to date of similar human rights legislation in Australian jurisdictions and in other comparable jurisdictions.
Australia has obligations to respect, protect and fulfil all of the human rights in the international human rights treaties to which it is a party.