Page 3231 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 18 August 2009

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The success of the territory’s Human Rights Act is a demonstration to the rest of Australia that the system of government that we enjoy, including the rule of law and the separation of powers, will not collapse by enacting principles that nobody can legitimately deny, that should be, indeed, part of responsible and accountable government. This is so, even if we do not always agree on the mechanism for delivering this.

As a member of the government, I have found that the translation of our policies into law has sometimes required modification to meet the necessary human rights standards and to achieve a high level of compatibility with human rights principles. This is how it should be.

The enactment of a human rights charter has demonstrated that, even in a nation such as Australia, which is relatively alert to the protection and promotion of civil and political rights, governments should be accountable and test legislation against international human rights standards. The charter of rights, like our Human Rights Act, ensures that the actions of government do not unnecessarily or unreasonably place limitations on human rights.

Section 44 of the Human Rights Act requires that, after five years of the act’s operation, a review of the act must be undertaken and a report presented to the Assembly. Today I am tabling that report.

The report that I am tabling is an assessment of the first five years of operation of the act and makes recommendations in relation to the human rights regime against the original policy direction of the government when first implementing the act. The report is not merely a snapshot but the product of five years of research.

The research that produced this report has also contributed to many academic and learned works on the ACT’s human rights regime. The research was made possible under an Australian Research Council linkage grant and the work carried out under a partnership agreement between the Australian National University and the Department of Justice and Community Safety.

The ACT Human Rights Act research project was led by Professor Hilary Charlesworth, a renowned human rights lawyer and academic, and Professor Andrew Byrnes, currently a professor of international law at the University of New South Wales and formerly of the ANU. Professor Charlesworth, as many members will know, was the chairperson of the ACT Bill of Rights Consultative Committee which was established to inquire into the question of whether the ACT should adopt a bill of rights and what form it might take. She and her colleagues are highly qualified to examine and assess where we are now as a human rights jurisdiction of five years standing.

I am particularly pleased to table this report which recognises the significant research undertaken by the ACT Human Rights Act research project team over the last five years. Most particularly, the report represents an independent but informed view on the implementation of human rights in the territory.

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