Queensland's all-too-slow human rights movement
Nick Bonyhady reports on what has happened to the proposed charter of human rights for bananabenders... A Labor government promise that is slow to materialise... Contention around what model to adopt... The next election will have arrived before the new law has properly taken effect.
THE Queensland Labor government seems to be slowrolling
its planned human rights legislation, with no Bill
presented to the parliament a year-and-a-half after
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk first unveiled the plan at
the Labor conference in October 2016.
Aimee McVeigh, a solicitor who has been leading the
campaign for a Queensland human rights charter,
recently told The Australian:
"I don't know what the holdup is, but the government has continued to reassure us,including since the election, that it will
Labor took the proposal to the election in 2017, which it
won decisively. That removed the need for the
government to have elaborate consultations to get crossbenchers
On two occasions in February this year, attorney general
Yvette D'Ath reiterated that the Queensland government
was moving ahead with establishing a Human Rights
Act, but did not provide a timeline.
As of April, a spokeswoman for D'Ath said that a
timetable for the legislation was "still to be determined".
To hurry the legislation along, former Labor Victorian
attorney general Rob Hulls, under whom Victoria's
human rights legislation was enacted, has gone into bat,
meeting with several Queensland Labor figures.
The implementation of human rights legislation in the
ACT and Victoria suggests that at least an 18-months
time-frame is needed after the passage of the Bill to get
departments and agencies compliant and ready to
implement the legislation.
Time is ticking away with the next Queensland state
election to be held on October 31, 2020, and rights
activists are concerned that there will not be sufficient
clear air to get the Act bedded down before the next
The Queensland Bill is set to be modelled on the
Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. However, unlike the Victorian
legislation, the Queensland law was touted as allowing
individuals to complain directly about human rights
violations, rather than having to tack human rights
claims onto existing causes of action.
A Queensland parliamentary committee had previously
recommended adopting a weaker form of human rights
protection, by which the government would merely have
to consider human rights when enacting legislation - i.e.
the insipid Commonwealth model.
Existing Australian human rights laws in other states
enumerate a set of basic rights, which inform statutory
interpretation and provide a grounds for appeal against
improper government decisions.
Demand for a Queensland law gathered pace in 2013,
after the Newman government took advantage of its
majority in the single chamber of the parliament to pass
several pieces of legislation that sacrificed basic
freedoms on the altar of law and order.
When the government's anti-bikie legislation was passed
in October 2013, Australian Human Rights Commission
president, Gillian Triggs said:
"We have concerns that the very manner in
which the Bills were passed rushed through without any form of public
consultation carries with it serious human rights ramifications, as does the fact that
they target people on the basis of who they
associate with, rather than for something
they have done."
For some, the Newman government's legislation
was an echo of the Bjelke-Petersen era. The infamous
premier once dismissed the whole concept of human
rights with a curt: "What's the ordinary man in the street
got to do with it?"
Advocates were delighted when Queensland Labor
agreed to the idea of legislated protection for rights.
Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human
Rights Law Centre, said:
"It's great to see the Queensland
government making good on its
commitment to better protect human rights
in law. At a time when many rights in
Australia are being steadily chipped away,
it's welcome to see a government draw a
line in the sand and move to guarantee
some of our fundamental rights in
Over $30,000 has been raised in a crowdfunding
campaign to assist in keeping pressure on the
Palaszczuk government to deliver the promised