A Human Rights Act for the Sunshine State?


A Human Rights Act has the potential to provide an additional safeguard for people with disability when accessing services. An issue that is being given attention by the National Disability Insurance Agency writes Aimee McVeigh in an opinion piece in the Brisbane Times...

Human Rights Act 'not all lollipops and rainbows'

At the launch of the campaign for a Human Rights Act for Queensland, Rob Hulls (former Attorney General of Victoria) told us that although their Charter of Rights had "made the world of difference to some people", Victoria still isn't "the land of lollipops and rainbows." However, after the announcement that the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has signed an agreement with our new Prime Minister to roll out the NDIS, the sun is sure shining brighter for people living with disability in Victoria.

Victorians with disability can look forward to the full implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) with the assurance that their Charter of Rights will continue to provide a safeguard that the services that are delivered to them by public authorities will be done in accordance with a human rights framework.

The Queensland Government committed to an early 2016 launch of the NDIS in this year's budget. This commitment is subject to Commonwealth Government agreement, which will be included in the Bilateral Agreement that will have the details of when and where the NDIS will be launched in Queensland.

On Monday night the Queensland Government committed to a parliamentary inquiry about a Human Rights Act for Queensland.
The introduction of a Human Rights Act for Queensland has the potential to ensure that services delivered in connection with the NDIS are consistent with the human rights of people with disability.

Over the last 30 years inquiries have demonstrated the levels of abuse and neglect that people with disability have been subjected to in connection with service providers. The National Disability Insurance Agency is grappling with the issue of how to develop a national quality assurance framework to ensure that, in an open market that includes many new businesses, this doesn't continue to occur.

Human rights legislation exists in jurisdictions including the ACT, Victoria, the UK, New Zealand and Canada. This legislation protects rights such as the right to be free from inhumane and degrading treatment and torture, the right to liberty and security of person, the right to freedom of movement, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of expression and the right to participate in public life.

In Victoria the Charter of Human Rights provides that public authorities must act compatibly with human rights and take human rights intoACCOUNT when making decisions. It provides that public authorities must consider whether their decisions and actions limit human rights and whether any limits are necessary and the least restrictive possible.

If we had a Human Rights Act in Queensland that imposed a similar duty on public authorities and defined public authorities broadly enough to include all private and not-for-profit organisations providing disability support services, all disability service providers would be required to deliver their services compatibly with human rights. This would contribute to ensuring that the services that are delivered to people with disability are of a high quality.

It is serendipitous that a Human Rights Act for Queensland is on the agenda at the same time that the Queensland Government is negotiating our state's launch of the NDIS – it could mean that Queenslanders with disability will finally have access to services delivered according to a human rights framework and that individuals will have access to remedies when their rights are not considered. It may not fill our state with lollipops and rainbows but it should mean that people with disability actually feel that they live in the sunshine state.


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