Queensland Law Society

Member feedback

  • There are already federal and state racial discrimination and sexual discrimination acts.
  • Legislation passed would be capable of repeal and have no greater degree of entrenchment than other acts passed in Queensland’s unicameral system.
  • There are nations with a Bill of Rights who continue to have poor human rights records.  
  • Benefits of relevant statutes in other Australian jurisdictions are unclear.
  • A focus on Community Legal Centre work and access to justice (including pro bono work to which all legal practitioners, as officers of our courts, are charged to contribute) combined with law enforcement, would impact vulnerable and disadvantaged Queenslanders more meaningfully than legislation for human rights.
  • There is doubt around the impact human rights legislation would have on conduct already prohibited by existing laws.
  • 'Gaps' in the common law make it an unreliable mechanism for comprehensive human rights protections. Enacting legislation is an ad hoc, reactive manner in which to protect rights. Legislation and the common law cannot provide the broad protections that a human rights act can.
  • The absolute nature of some rights (such as the right to life) discounts consideration of other ‘competing’ rights.  Issues such as domestic violence involve fact scenarios that are not appropriate to the current dialogue around the potential for human rights to impact them.
  • A human rights act is a clear statement that the government will take action to respect and protect all Queenslanders’ basic rights.  It would implement in Queensland law the obligations to which Australia has already agreed by signing and ratifying conventions and treaties.  Current legislative gaps impact in a disproportionately severe way on vulnerable and disadvantaged Queenslanders.  Further, Queensland’s unicameral state parliament (lack of an upper house) leaves us more exposed than other Australian states and territories to abuse of government power and process. 
  • A human rights act would be an ordinary act of parliament, not a constitutionally-entrenched model, preserving parliament’s power to amend the Act to ensure its optimal operation.
  • Some of the rights of people with disability that would be protected by a Human Rights Act could include their right to not be treated in a cruel, inhuman and degrading manner, their right to liberty and their right to choice with respect to their accommodation and support. The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities has protected these rights for many people with disability in circumstances where there is no equivalent protection in Queensland. This is inequitable and challenges Queensland’s image as an egalitarian and humanitarian state.
  • Increased focus is called for on key issues such as the right to live with dignity for people who are terminally ill, organ donation, subsidies for access to medical assistance and same-sex marriage.
  • An enforceable right of privacy against private agents such as companies and private individuals should be considered as part of a human rights act.
  • The principal benefit of legislation on this topic would be to collate and identify human rights which currently exist into statute in order to draw attention to and emphasise their existence and status.