Human Rights Inquiry hears from experts

Human Rights Inquiry hears from experts

Last month the Human Rights Inquiry heard evidence from interstate experts that described how human rights legislation works in New Zealand and Victoria.

At a public hearing on 11 April the Committee conducting the Human Rights Inquiry heard evidence from Honourable Christopher Finlayson the Attorney General of New Zealand, Justice Weinburg of the Victorian Court of Appeal, David Wilson of the New Zealand House of Representatives and Professor Andrew Geddis of the University of Otago. These experts emphasised that aside from granting citizens specific rights, human rights legislation is pivotal in developing a ‘human rights culture.’

The Honourable Christopher Finlayson gave evidence that described the role of Attorney General as including a responsibility to ensure that human rights are considered in the development of new legislation. 

Justice Weinburg gave the view that the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities has created a rights-focused culture within the state, forcing the public service to take rights into account before making decisions. He provided information that Queensland can learn from in developing a more accessible and effective Human Rights Act than the model that exists in Victoria. 

Professor Geddis said that, “by its mere existence, the Bill of Rights imposes a disciplinary effect on the executive branch of government and others exercising public functions, powers and duties.” He also emphasised that although the courts have developed remedies to deal with breaches of rights, the existence of a Bill of Rights in New Zealand has not compromised parliamentary sovereignty. 

The transcript of the hearing is available here.

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