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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (23 October) . . Page.. 4031 ..



considerations will flow up through the policy development process, through the legal system and into all areas of the law.

Finally, let me acknowledge that there are those who do not believe that human rights need legislative protection. Many opponents of the human rights act for the ACT believe that fundamental human rights are protected by the common law and in existing statutes. I respect everyone's right to express an opinion but, in my view, this misunderstands the purpose of a human rights act.

This government has sought to improve protection of rights through a variety of legislative measures. A bill of rights is part of the commitment. It is a statement of our commitment as a community to the fundamental values that are part of our culture and our democratic system of government. It will set out in a clear and transparent way the principles that govern how we relate to each other. This is not a radical step; it is just a simple matter of good governance.

In concluding, I quote Lord Irvine in his speech at Durham University in November 2002, marking the second anniversary of the UK Human Rights Act:

One commentator asked recently why the Human Rights Act is still disliked. It is a good question. Is it that Parliament has explicitly recognised the role played by the judiciary in our constitution? Surely not. In giving greater responsibility to our Judges, we are merely confirming that ours is a society governed by the rule of law. Is it that the Act has given rise to an uncontrollable flood of absurd or mischievous litigation? It cannot be-because it has not. Or is it simply that individual decisions have been unpopular? Perhaps-because in almost all litigation, there must be a winner and a loser. We ask our Judges to decide many difficult cases. Some are between private citizens. Some are criminal appeals. Others are against Ministers; and of these, some are lost and some are won. That is neither avoidable nor unconstitutional. It is simply proof that "be you ever so high, the law is above you".

A human rights act for the ACT, like the Human Rights Act in the United Kingdom, is part of our constitutional heritage-from Magna Carta through to the 1688 Bill of Rights. In our contemporary and multicultural society, human rights are the inheritance of everyone in our community. Australia has played a proud role in contributing to the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A human rights act for the ACT carries on that tradition.

In Australia, individuals can already take a case to the UN Human Rights Committee if they believe that their rights under the ICCPR have been violated, but they cannot have those rights adjudicated in an Australian court. A human rights act for the ACT is an exciting step towards bringing rights home for the people of the ACT. As Lord Irvine further said about the UK Human Rights Act:

...the Act represents one small manageable step for our Courts, but it is a major leap for our constitution and our culture. It has transformed our system of law into one of positive rights, responsibilities and freedoms, where before we had only the freedom to do what was not prohibited. It has corrected a 50-year long anomaly, by which British people had rights but could only access them in Europe, not at home. In doing so, it has moved public decision-making in this country up a gear, by harnessing it to a set of fundamental standards. And it has breathed new life into the

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