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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 30 June 2005 2005) . . Page.. 2540 ..


required under the legislation to have regard to the Human Rights Act in the decisions that they make. It has been a very significant task.

We are also engaged in broad community education. These are reasonably resource-intensive activities, as is, of course, the review by officers of the Department of Justice and Community Safety of all legislation introduced into this place to ensure that the legislation is indeed compatible with the Human Rights Act. I am sympathetic to the position you put. I think there is a very good case to be made for ensuring that the bases on which a compatibility statement is issued by me as attorney are clear and obvious and that the government is accountable.

The primary accountability measure that we have introduced into the process is, of course, the statutory requirement for all legislation to be reviewed by the scrutiny of bills committee in terms of its compatibility with human rights. So, in the context of whether or not a particular piece of legislation is compatible, that is a task that is pursued with vigour by Mr Stefaniak and his committee.

I think we are all aware of the very detailed reports that we receive from the scrutiny of bills committee, each and every one signed and reported on in this place by Mr Stefaniak. These reports go to the extent to which the scrutiny of bills committee believes that every piece of legislation is compatible with the Human Rights Act.

So it is a bit of a long bow to suggest that the government is not accountable, that there is not some transparency in relation to the claims or statements that we make. To date it is fair to say that the scrutiny of bills committee has not in any single instance suggested that any piece of legislation that has been introduced since its introduction is not compatible with the Human Rights Act.

At one level the concern that was expressed has been proven, through the scrutiny of bills committee, not to be warranted. Having said that, in the interests of a broader discussion on human rights, I understand the interest in being able to view a statement of reasons prepared by the Department of Justice and Community Safety in relation to compatibility. Indeed, for the first time that process has been pursued in the compatibility statement that Mr Corbell tabled today in relation to the mental health treatment bill and the application of electroconvulsive therapy. A compatibility statement with an attached statement of reasons has today been tabled. It is the first time this has been done. However, it will not be done on every occasion. I simply do not have the resources to apply to that task. But because of the importance of that piece of legislation, in this particular instance we have indeed done as has just been suggested by Dr Foskey.

In the future, where there is a very significant piece of legislation that raises significant issues in relation to human rights implications, we will follow the precedent that has been established today.

DR FOSKEY: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Given that there might be different ideas about which pieces of legislation are significant and given that human rights officers currently involved in the preparation of compatibility statements no doubt prepare something in writing, surely this could be presented with the bill or at least made available to the scrutiny of bills committee.


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