HSV Submissions – July 2005

Human Rights Charter for Victoria

Submitted 29 July 2005 to the Human Rights Consultative Committee, Department of Justice, Victoria

On the proposal to have a Charter of Human Rights in Victoria, HSV submitted the following main points. These points are within the terms of reference and in response to set questions.

  1. Humanists, as strong proponents of human rights, consider that their implementation measures the degree of civilisation a society has reached.
  2. A Bill or Charter of Human Rights is of vital importance at present, when global and political forces undermine our basic rights, democratic structures and institutions.
  3. We deeply regret that this Charter is not intended to encompass the vital economic and social rights.
  4. The current protection of human rights is inadequate, poorly covered by the common law and in need of statutory power. Minority groups and the disadvantaged need to be protected by a specific statute, now absent.
  5. Such Charter will meet our obligations as signatories to International Covenants on human rights; ensure that human rights are respected by legislators; educate the public; and help to change the culture of disregard for human rights.
  6. The Charter should be reviewed at frequent intervals to be amended and augmented.
  7. It should contain all rights included in the Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Act 2004 and the right to silence, safe environment, education, information and a form of treaty with indigenous Australians.
  8. A nexus between rights and responsibilities should be established.
  9. All proposed Bills should be vetted for human rights infringements.
  10. Government policies should be developed and implemented, without breaches of human rights.
  11. Independent auditor to assess annually the compliance with the Charter and this report made public.
  12. We strongly support the introduction of a Human Rights Code of Conduct for government and public instrumentalities.
  13. The courts should have the power to declare a law incompatible with the Charter and annul it or order a redraft before it is returned to the Attorney-General.
  14. Local Governments should operate under the Human Rights Code of Conduct.
  15. Serious breaches of human rights should warrant compensation.
  16. Rather than litigation, we support a system of complaints with a Commissioner or Ombudsman with executive powers. Detailed annual report from this office should be made public.
  17. An educational campaign about human rights, as in the case of the UK, aimed at public servants, police, prison agencies, judges, health workers, the media, schools at all levels, remote and isolated communities, local governments, subcontractors, and private suppliers of human services. All media should help to inform the public in an engaging way.
  18. The outsourcing of human rights abuses via contractors and hidden under ‘commercial and in confidence’ claims needs attention in formulating human rights protection. Violations include the use of sweatshops and child labour for industry, abuse of inmates in privately-run prisons and detention centres. We strongly urge the Government to curtail the use of ‘commercial-in-confidence’ clauses, used to evade scrutiny.
  19. We express concern about the proposed increase in ASIO powers.

Published: Victorian Humanist, Sept. 2005: 4

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