Page 383 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 4 March 2008
commission for this initiative, I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that it demonstrates that the government’s Human Rights Act is not well understood in some and perhaps many areas of government. We have seen, of course, some of the consequences of that. We have had in the past human rights compatibility statements where clearly the Human Rights Act was breached. We saw that with some of the health tribunal things in the last 18 months or so.
Mr Speaker, it also demonstrates this government’s lack of ability to properly consult on matters that have such a profound impact not only on the government’s agencies but also on individuals and the private sector. I note that the Human Rights Act is due for a full review on 1 July 2009. The opposition looks forward to that review and will follow it closely with considerable interest. We believe it would have been more appropriate to have waited for that review and its outcome prior to expansion of the Human Rights Act.
We will take an open mind to that review, and, hopefully, that will be done in a reasonable way that looks at the actual impact of the Human Rights Act, whether or not it should be expanded or whether it should be contracted, amended or repealed. All of those things should be on the table, and we should not be pre-empting that review, which is due to take place in 2009. It is primarily for that reason that we will be moving amendments that take out some of the substantive changes which we believe would be better done after the review in 2009.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.36): I welcome this bill as a sensible and overdue, rather than precipitative, piece of legislation. Those who would oppose creating a right of action with this bill are, in effect, saying that public officials should not be bound to consider human rights when they make official decisions. That is a remarkable proposition. A generous interpretation would be that they feel that the good sense and decent dispositions of public servants will mean that everyone gets a fair go already, and that adding more red tape in the form of politically correct prescriptions is an unnecessary waste of resources.
Australia is virtually alone amongst so-called developed Western world countries in not having a bill of rights or its equivalent. Surely, recent events have made it obvious that we must be on our guard against politically driven and/or arbitrary decision making by public officials. It was deeply disturbing to see the extent to which state, federal and territory governments were willing to abandon long-held rights and conventions which underpinned the rule of law when they were stampeded by a terrorist fear campaign orchestrated and finely tuned by the previous federal government and self-serving security services.
It should be noted that at that time only the ACT had a Human Rights Act, and it was only the ACT that quibbled at all about some of those provisions that they were being asked to implement. I am not saying that religious and/or ideologically inspired criminal violence is not a real threat. But it should be obvious that our representatives’ responses undertaken in the name of responding to such threats have largely been, at best, misguided and, at worst, counterproductive—perhaps both.
To their shame, the opposition in this Assembly criticised the Chief Minister when he made the Australian public aware of the federal government’s intentions by