Page 393 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 4 March 2008

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As members have pointed out, the legislation does not create any new remedies. It does not give the Supreme Court powers it does not already have. The court can only grant a remedy which is already within its power. For example, it may quash an unlawful decision or order a public authority to take or not to take proposed action. It cannot, however, awards damages for a breach of human rights. The government does agree with the committee’s comments on this point. There is a lack of consensus on whether damages should be awarded for a breach of human rights. The government believes it would not be appropriate, however, given this divergence of views, for the court to be permitted to award damages for a breach of duty to comply with human rights.

The commencement date of 1 January 2009 is designed to ensure that all public authorities are fully prepared and will have the opportunity to review their existing policies and procedures so that they comply with human rights standards. It is not a revolution when it comes to human rights but it is an evolution. The step we have taken today and that we will take shortly in passing this legislation is an important one. It provides for that next evolutionary step in developing a human rights culture here in the ACT. It will bring the ACT into line with comparable human rights jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada and, most notably in the Australian context, to Victoria, which is the second jurisdiction to adopt a human rights framework.

Other jurisdictions are watching closely what we and Victoria do. Indeed, my colleague attorneys in Tasmania and Western Australian in particular are having very close regard to the steps that we are taking. I am very proud to say that the provisions in this act, particularly the provision permitting private sector entities to opt in, are being watched with much interest. These amendments and this bill reflect the government’s continued commitment to human rights and the ongoing process of building a human rights culture here in the ACT. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Detail stage

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (12.14): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 471]. This amendment is consequential to later amendments to clause 7.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.14): This first amendment is the only amendment that I can agree to. That is because it requires, I believe, the act to commence the day after its notification day. In my speech during the in-principle debate I did say that it was a pity that the date of commencement was put off to 1 January. I indicated that a new Assembly, given its configuration, could, unless something was actually embedded,

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