(Sydney) – The Australian government should introduce a national Human Rights Act to better protect the fundamental rights of everyone in Australia, Human Rights Watch said in a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.
“Existing laws in Australia protect against discrimination and other human rights violations, but many rights protections are inadequate,” said Daniela Gavshon, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “This patchwork of laws leads to people and groups – particularly society’s most vulnerable – slipping through the cracks.”
An Australian Human Rights Act should reinforce commitments that Australia has already made under international law and serve as an enforceable human rights standard to enable individuals to seek redress for rights violations, Human Rights Watch said. People whose rights have been violated should be able to take action without extensive cost or delay.
Australia is currently the only Western democracy without a national human rights act or charter. Canada, the United States, and South Africa have a bill of rights in their constitutions. The United Kingdom and New Zealand have human rights acts, while countries such as India, Timor-Leste, and Argentina have comprehensive constitutional guarantees of human rights. The European Convention on Human Rights binds 47 countries.
“The Australian government should introduce a Human Rights Act to build a stronger framework that protects the fundamental rights of everyone in Australia,” Gavshon said. “A national Human Rights Act would ensure a consistent approach to human rights throughout Australia.”