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Rosalind Croucher (Australian Human Rights Commission)

Rosalind Croucher, the outgoing president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, has called for the creation of a national human rights act. Source: SBS News.

In an address to the National Press Club of Australia, Ms Croucher said that she had become increasingly convinced of the need for the act in recent years, arguing it would lead Parliament to “consider more directly how their lawmaking affects people’s freedoms and rights”.

There has long been a call from human rights experts for Australia to take this action as it is the only Western liberal democracy without a legislated human rights act.

Ms Croucher’s National Press Club speech follows the publication of a report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights in May.

Among its 17 recommendations was legislation to establish a human rights act.

Australia has laws that prohibit discrimination against people based on attributes such as age, race, disability and sex, but some human rights experts say that these laws are not comprehensive enough.

Ms Croucher said that the Robodebt case — in which hundreds of thousands of welfare recipients were wrongly issued debt notices — and evidence from the Disability Royal Commission have drawn the community’s attention to the need for better human rights protections.

The Australian Human Rights Commission says that Australia has a patchwork legal framework of human rights protections scattered through legislation, the Constitution, and common law, calling this approach “incomplete and piecemeal.”

While some people may believe that the Australian Constitution contains human rights protections, it only contains limited rights such as the right to vote, the right to trial by jury for certain offences, and some protection of freedom of religion and political communication.

While human rights acts have been passed in Victoria, the ACT and Queensland, the Australian Human Rights Commission says that having a single national act would “substantially improve access to justice and accountability for government decision-making”.


Why doesn’t Australia have a human rights act? (By Elfy Scott, SBS News)