The Queensland Parliament has launched an inquiry into whether the state should enact a human rights act and, if so, in what form. If Queensland does pass such a law, it will become the third jurisdiction in Australia to do so, following on from the ACT in 2004 and Victoria in 2006. Queensland can learn from the many years of experience of those regimes, which show that a well-functioning human rights act needs a stand-alone cause of action, comprehensive and timely parliamentary scrutiny, and intelligible duties of judicial interpretation. If Queensland embraces these lessons in enacting a human rights act, it will advance to the vanguard of human rights protection in Australia.The Report [PDF] of the Queensland Parliamentary Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee inquiry into such an Act notes that the Committee's Terms of Reference were -
1. That the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee inquire into whether it is appropriate and desirable to legislate for a Human Rights Act (HR Act) in Queensland, other than through a constitutionally entrenched model.
2. That, in undertaking the inquiry, the committee consider: a. the effectiveness of current laws and mechanisms for protecting human rights in Queensland and possible improvements to these mechanisms; b. the operation and effectiveness of human rights legislation in Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and by ordinary statute internationally; c. the costs and benefits of adopting a HR Act (including financial, legal, social and otherwise); and d. previous and current reviews and inquiries (in Australia and internationally) on the issue of human rights legislation.
3. That, if the committee decides it would be appropriate and desirable to legislate for a HR Act in Queensland, the committee consider: a. the objectives of the legislation and rights to be protected; b. how the legislation would apply to: the making of laws, courts and tribunals, public author ities and other entities; c. the implications of laws and decisions not being consistent with the legislation; d. the implications of the legislation for existing statutory complaints processes; and e. the functions and responsibilities under the legislation.
4. That the committee invite public submissions, consult with the community and key stakeholders and report to the Legislative Assembly by 30 June 2016The Committee Chair comments
The committee has undertaken this inquiry over several months, and received almost 500 submissions.
The committee invited consultation with stakeholders in jurisdictions with statutory human rights legislation, namely the ACT, Victoria and New Zealand. The committee conducted public consultation with community and Indigenous groups in North Queensland and with selected stakeholder representatives in Brisbane.
We have identified key issues raised by those who made submissions, and considered features of human rights legislation in other jurisdictions.
In this instance the committee was unable to agree on whether it would be appropriate and desirable to introduce human rights legislation to Queensland.
Government members of the committee concluded that it is appropriate and desirable to have a human rights act in Queensland.
Non-government members were of the opposite view.
Given the above and the wording of the terms of reference at point 3, the committee as a whole has not considered the various aspects set out under point 3.