Page 728 - Week 02 - Thursday, 10 March 2011

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that there are unintended consequences that arise from the amendments that we need to safeguard against. Given the obvious difficulties of evaluating legislation that has been passed, this is something that the Greens are also keen to work with other members on, to find an effective and practical solution to address this issue. I should note that the scrutiny committee has now set up a process for members to submit their amendments for review. Of course, this is a very positive step and one the Greens very much support and undertake to avail ourselves of to the greatest extent possible.

I would like to take the opportunity to discuss economic, cultural and social rights. Mr Corbell, in his speech, noted that these issues are outside the scope of the report but reiterated the government’s 2006 commitment to consider the inclusion of such rights in the ACT Human Rights Act. I note that the human rights project that undertook the review has also completed a project evaluating the desirability of including economic, social and cultural rights, and recommended that we should expand the Human Rights Act to include these things in addition to the current protection for civil and legal rights. The Greens support the inclusion of such rights and the potential they have to improve the governance of the ACT and the lives of Canberrans.

The minister, in his speech, expressed some concern that no other jurisdictions had yet adopted such rights. I would like to express the Greens’ view that in itself this should not dissuade us from expanding our act. We are well aware that there are difficulties in developing an effective framework for the application of such rights. We are very pleased that significant research has now been undertaken that confirms that it is possible and desirable for the ACT.

The Greens have consistently expressed our support for the adoption of economic, social and cultural rights—ever since 2002, when the debate for a Human Rights Act first began in the Assembly. Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. To enact legislation adopting these rights and ensuring they are respected in the ACT would be a positive and progressive measure. I note that the adoption of these rights is supported by many community organisations, including the National Association of Community Legal Centres, the Human Rights Law Resource Centre, the Kingsford Legal Centre and the ACT Council of Social Service.

The history of human rights is fascinating and troublesome. The fact that the ACT has the opportunity to be a significant part of that history as a leading jurisdiction not just in Australia but throughout the world is something that I think we should all be exceptionally proud of. We have available to us considerable research and knowledge, and we live in an enlightened and progressive community that expects us to continue to develop our human rights framework.

The Greens welcome the report on the first five years of the operation of the act, and I would like to take the opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to all members of the ACT Human Rights Act research project, particularly Professors Hilary Charlesworth and Andrew Byrnes. The report provides an excellent opportunity for all members of the Assembly to evaluate the Human Rights Act and consider a range of initiatives for reform. Noting the particularly high quality of the report, we are also pleased to support the proposal for an ongoing requirement to undertake future five-yearly reports.

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