Australian Human Rights Commission Chair Rosalind Croucher has advocated for federal human rights legislation to have a stronger legal architecture.
“We’re like a donut – with a hole in the middle,” Croucher said. in a speech to the Samuel Griffith Society.
Croucher mentioned his own past hesitation for a human rights law in Australia, referring to ongoing litigation in the United States over the interpretation of its own constitution. Recently, a leaked draft decision, obtained by Politicoof the Supreme Court of the United States to strike down Roe vs. Wade led to strong tensions.
The president gave three reasons why a human rights law would be the right choice for Australia, naming the limits of the common law system, the current definition of rights like what a person cannot do and the effectiveness of the complaints handling process.
Croucher estimated that 2-4% of all complaints end up in court, with 2,000 people pursuing the commission’s formal complaints process.
There are international human rights treaties that Australia has ratified – Croucher specifically mentioned the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – but they are not enforceable by Australian law.
Croucher noted that human rights language had been a topic of debate during the pandemic, referring to protests from anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine groups. One of these groups set fire to the gates of the old parliament as reported in Mandarin.
“People talk about rights,” Croucher said. “People are demanding their rights. Governments defend their incursions into people’s freedoms in terms of rights.
This increase in human rights language in Australia has been touted as positive, with Croucher suggesting it will move the discussion of human rights forward.
“The checks and balances that usually exist are an integral part of our democracy. Australians have been, and continue to be, exposed to potentially unnecessary restrictions on their rights and freedoms, due to lack of transparency and accountability.
“Decisions can be justified, but how can we know that without proper democratic oversight and accountability? asked the president.
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