Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 4 March 2008) . . Page.. 390 ..
through fair trading or it may be through heads of legislation such as the ones that I have cited. I do not believe that damages are appropriate. I know that that was a concern in past debates, that people may simply use this as a vehicle to run vexatious litigation. I do not think that is likely to be achieved given the way in which the act and the subsequent changes have been constructed.
I have already said that I broadly support this legislation. I believe that the Assembly has more pressing tasks and matters that are significantly more important to the people of Canberra. However, I also believe that public authorities should act in accordance with fundamental human rights. This legislation will serve to spell out this requirement and ensure that the duty of public authorities is adhered to.
I had not seen any advance notification of Mr Seselja’s amendments; I am studying them as we speak. He made some reference to them in his remarks before, but I will be interested to hear him expand on the justification for them. There are people in the Assembly today who have taken a strident and active involvement in advocating human rights in the ACT, and their initial opinion advised to me is that they do not support these changes.
It seems to me that the amendments essentially gut the legislation. I think that if you are totally opposed to human rights legislation, it would be best to stand up and say that you are totally opposed to it and live with that. I think that to emasculate the legislation without taking that position seems to be a bit futile. But I am keeping an open mind and I will be interested to hear the arguments put forward to support those amendments.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (12.00), in reply: I would like to thank those members who have indicated their support for this bill, and I refer to Mr Mulcahy and Dr Foskey. I should place on the record my disappointment at the continuing refusal of the Liberal Party to accept what is increasingly conventional law in a large number of jurisdictions internationally and growing here in Australia.
I would share the sentiments expressed by Mr Mulcahy, who said that if you do not like the Human Rights Act, then just say so and oppose it accordingly, but do not try to strip the guts out of this amending bill and try and fluff your way around the issue. I think it shows a distinct lack of leadership and, clearly, a tension within those opposite between those who support the human rights culture and those who do not. It is also interesting that a former Liberal member is prepared to endorse and support improvements in human rights law whereas previously, as a member of his political party, he did not.
That said, I think it is worth also responding to the comments from Dr Foskey in relation to the dialogue model and her concerns about compatibility statements. There are a couple of things to say on that. The first is that some legislation that comes before this place does not have any significant human rights considerations whatsoever, and I draw your attention, for example, to the changes to the payroll tax regime that we have just debated. That piece of legislation is an example of where human rights considerations are minimal. That is the case for many pieces of