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A Human Rights Act could protect Queensland from a return to the "bad old days".

23-May-2016

A Human Rights Act could protect Queensland from the bad old days

On 18 May 2016, the ABC reported on the push for a Human Rights Act in Queensland. 

TONY EASTLEY: There's a push for a Human Rights Act in Queensland after the recent decision to extend state government terms to four years.

The legal identities say the lack of an Upper House of review in the state means more checks and balances are needed on government power.

A parliamentary inquiry is investigating whether extra legislation is necessary.

Here's Nance Haxton.

NANCE HAXTON: Queensland parliament is investigating whether a Human Rights Act is needed in the state.

The Legal Affairs Committee is in Far North Queensland this week to hear from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about their views.

Only Victoria and the ACT currently have a Charter of Human Rights.

But Queensland is the only state in the country with just one house of parliament.

Members of that one house, the Legislative Assembly make all the decisions about new laws and proposed changes to legislation, without a House of Review.

Legal consultant and Disability Law Queensland director Aimee McVeigh argues that means extra protections are needed for people's rights, with important lessons from other jurisdictions.

AIMEE MCVEIGH: One of the things I guess is to make sure that we have a clear course of action so that where and individual experiences a human rights issue that they're able to go to a court or tribunal to seek a remedy.

And so in the case of Victoria currently you have to piggy-back a human rights claim onto an existing claim, not the case in the ACT, you can bring an action to the Supreme Court just in relation to a breach of the Human Rights Act but it's to the Supreme Court.

NANCE HAXTON: Why does Queensland need this or is this just going to be more red tape?

AIMEE MCVEIGH: We're lacking a framework where people can clearly go to a court or tribunal and seek justice based on the fact that their human rights have been limited.

NANCE HAXTON: The people of Queensland recently voted in favour of extending parliamentary terms to four years.

Ms McVeigh says that has highlighted gaps in Queensland law that need urgent attention.

AIMEE MCVEIGH: Queensland is lacking in additional scrutiny and protections from the excess in government power.

NANCE HAXTON: The lack of an Upper House of review in Queensland also raises concerns for Griffith University Law School professor Pene Mathew.

She says a Human Rights Act would help make the Queensland Government more accountable.

PENE MATHEW: I think while the state has come a very long way, there are many people who would remember the bad old days when demonstrations for example were very tightly controlled and I think with some of the legislative overreach we've seen with the anti-bikie laws, there were many people feeling that perhaps there was a bit of a return to the bad old days.

And so if Human Rights Act could be really helpful there.

So in the Queensland context where we don't have an Upper House, I think that's a pretty practical reason to have a Human Rights Act that adds something, you know, another check and balance against untrammelled power on the part of government.

NANCE HAXTON: More than 470 submissions have been received by the parliamentary inquiry into whether a Human Rights Act should be implemented in Queensland.

Aimee McVeigh says it's crucial that people's basic human rights are protected.

AIMEE MCVEIGH: Queensland needs a human rights act to protect us from the excesses of the use of government power but also to give all Queenslanders the ability to hold their government accountable when their human rights are not considered.

NANCE HAXTON: The Human Rights Inquiry has to report its findings to parliament by June 30.

TONY EASTLEY: Nance Haxton with that report.

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