Page 387 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 4 March 2008

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application in the interpretation of ACT legislation. This provision clarifies the dialectic interplay between the purposive and the interpretative rules, and, at the very least, it will mean that lawyers have to argue cases on their merits and avoid costly and wasteful legal argument over the existence of ambiguity and other technical interpretative principles that really serve no good purpose. I am also glad that this provision takes effect on notification and does not wait until next year before it commences.

Is it merely a coincidence that 1 January next year is after the next ACT election? Have the public service not had over three years to prepare for their obligations to act in ways compliant with human rights? It will be easier for a Liberal government, supported by a right-wing cross-bench—which is one possible post-election scenario, but not the best—to wind back legislation that has not taken effect than it would be to repeal an act for legislation that had already commenced. I think the government is being overly cautious in this instance. This is a problem partly of the government’s own making as it has put too little effort into entrenching human rights principles and educating the public and the public service in ethical reasoning in the benefits of having the human rights safety net.

It is undoubtedly the case that the ACT Human Rights Act was instrumental in convincing Victoria that it was politically safe to enact its Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act. Hopefully, this momentum will carry over to the federal sphere, and I look forward to seeing a federal human rights act in the term of the Rudd government.

I will be supporting the bill, and I look forward to the tabling of another bill to enact civil and political rights, as these are necessary components in any fully functioning human rights compliant regime. I still have doubts that the Human Rights Act is considered in the development of legislation. Indeed, we have some JACS legislation coming before us today which I will take some issue with regarding the impact that it does have on the human rights of some people who wish to bring cases before the AAT.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (11.51): I will be supporting this bill. I was not in the Legislative Assembly when the original act was passed in 2004 and so was not involved in the decision of my former party to oppose the legislation when it was originally presented. I do not have a philosophical objection to recognising human rights under legislation, although, as I will discuss shortly, I do not believe that its creation or maintenance should be the priority of government in the ACT. Many of the issues that were raised by the opposition in 2004 have not been borne out. There has not been a glut of litigation as a result of the Human Rights Act. Indeed, the world as we know it has certainly not collapsed.

But that said, I do question the need for legislation of this type. The civil and political rights listed in the original legislation are, without exception, fundamental rights that have been long protected by existing law. The relatively small number of cases that have turned on the Human Rights Act could mean a number of things. The minister argued in his presentation speech that the trickle of cases will grow as a result of “the growing awareness of human rights in this jurisdiction and the strength of the

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