Victoria Backpedals on Human Rights
14 September 2011 at 4:48 pm
Victoria could become the first state in the democratic world to wind back protection of human rights, the Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Centre has warned.
The warning comes after a parliamentary committee recommended that courts have a reduced role in the protection of human rights.
The Human Rights Law Centre says if the recommendations of a parliamentary committee on the future of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights are accepted, Victoria will become the first state in the developed, democratic world to substantially weaken the legal protection of human rights.
The Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee has tabled its review of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities in Victorian Parliament.
The Committee recommends against repealing the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, however it does recommend that courts have no role or a substantially reduced role in enforcing human rights and providing remedies when they are breached.
The Committee also recommended that government departments and public services have no or reduced obligations to act compatibly with human rights.
Phil Lynch, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, says the Committee’s report is profoundly astounding.
Lynch says the recommendations do not reflect the overwhelming evidence as to the value and benefits of Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights. These benefits include greater government accountability, more responsive public services, and a better deal for some of Victoria’s most vulnerable groups, such as people with disability, people with mental illness and the homeless.
Lynch says the review should have been used as an opportunity to strengthen the human rights of all Victorians, such as by amending the Charter to enshrine the rights to adequate housing, education and health care.
Instead, he says, if enacted the recommendations will reduce government accountability and Victorians’ access to a fair deal if their rights are breached.
The Victorian Government has six months to respond to the report.
The SARC report is available here: http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/sarc/article/1446.
The Human Rights Law Centre submission to the inquiry can be accessed here: http://www.hrlc.org.au/content/review-of-the-victorian-charter-of-human-rights/.