Picture: scales of justice"Human rights are the basic freedoms and protections that people are entitled to simply because they are human beings." Amnesty International Australia

Victoria's Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (the Charter) enshrines some rights in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Victorian law. The Charter allows human rights considerations to be at the forefront of dealings with public authorities and increases public recognition of human rights.

On 14 March 2012, the Victorian government responded to the important 2011 Parliamentary committee review of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act.

See the government response and Sue Pennicuik's media release following the government response

 

The Victorian Greens policy on the Charter and human rights includes:

  • Supporting, ensuring the realisation of, and strengthening the continued operation of the Charter.
  • Gaining the acceptance by Victorians of a right to self-determination for inclusion in the Charter.
  • Supporting the extension of the Charter to include economic, social and cultural rights.
  • Ensuring that any decisions affecting human rights in Victoria are necessary, reasonable, proportionate, and consistent with international human rights law and imposed in a transparent and accountable manner.
  • Ensuring that non-government entities, including individuals and corporations, respect human rights and are held accountable for human rights violations.
  • Creating an avenue for individuals to make a complaint of violation of their human rights, for the complaint to be impartially adjudicated, and for a binding and meaningful remedy to be applied if the complaint is upheld.

The Greens support full international co-operation on human rights, including encouraging the United Nations Human Rights Council and other international human rights monitoring bodies to investigate alleged and potential human rights abuses within or connected to the state of Victoria.

See the complete Victorian Greens Human Rights Policy.

An uncertain future for the Charter

When Victoria's Charter was enacted, it included a requirement for a review and report on its operation after four years. On 14 September 2011, the Victorian Parliament’s Scrutiny of Acts and Regulation Committee (SARC) reported on the first four years of the Charter. This followed a review involving over 300 substantial public submissions and 5 days of hearings.

The SARC majority, at Recommendation 35 of its report, said that the government should wind back the obligations of public authorities to protect human rights, and remove the ability of individuals to take action for infringement of their rights under the Charter (under Part 3, Divisions 3 and 4 of the Charter).

See the SARC Charter review page for SARC's final report, submissions received and transcripts of hearings

The SARC majority recommendation was widely criticised by legal groups including the Human Rights Laws Centre, Law Institute of Victoria and Liberty Victoria.

Victorian Greens Justice spokesperson Sue Pennicuik MLC expressed concern at the prospect of a watered-down Charter and urged the government to uphold human rights.

See Sue Pennicuik's media release and statement in Parliament on the SARC report

On 14 March 2012, the Victorian government responded to the SARC review of the Charter, saying it needed further legal advice to decide the future of the Charter.

See the government response to the SARC report and Sue Pennicuik's media release

What are the Greens doing?

On 13 October 2011, Sue Pennicuik released an independent summary of the issues emerging from 99 key submissions to the SARC review. It found that three in four key submissions supported a continuing and strengthened Charter of Rights for Victoria.

See Sue Pennicuik's media release and read Sue Pennicuik's report: Summary of selected submissions to the SARC review of Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act

The Greens will oppose any moves in Parliament to weaken the Charter and any other human rights protections in Victoria.

What’s next?

Advocates who support the Charter continue to urge the government to maintain and ultimately strengthen human rights protections in Victoria.

The government has distanced itself from the SARC majority recommendation to scrap all provisions that give a legal avenue for the enforcement of human rights.

The government is seeking further legal advice after its initial response to the SARC report.

Find out more

These bodies specialise in human rights:

The Law Institute of Victoria released a Charter Case Audit in August 2011, analysing all court cases where the Charter has been raised.

What you can do

Tell your elected representatives that we need the Charter to keep protecting Victorians

You could let them know:

  • Victoria should never become the first developed western jurisdiction in the world to wind back human rights protections
  • The Charter helps protects the most vulnerable in the community (like people in public housing who could become homeless if evicted and other disadvantaged people)
  • Victorians deserve strong, practical human rights protections, not weak statements of aspirations

Premier Ted Baillieu is leading the government’s response to SARC’s report on the Charter:

The Hon Ted Baillieu
Level 1, 1 Treasury Place, MELBOURNE VIC 3000

Email: ted.baillieu@parliament.vic.gov.au
Phone: (03) 9651 5000
Fax: (03) 9651 5054

Attorney-General Robert Clark is the Minister responsible for the Charter:

The Hon Robert Clark MP
Level 26, 121 Exhibition Street, MELBOURNE VIC 3000

Email: robert.clark@parliament.vic.gov.au
Phone: (03) 8684 1101
Fax: (03) 8684 1100

Shadow Attorney-General Martin Pakula is the Labor MP responsible for Charter issues:

The Hon Martin Pakula MLC
231 Hyde Street, YARRAVILLE VIC 3013

Email: martin.pakula@parliament.vic.gov.au
Phone: (03) 9689 6536
Fax: (03) 9689 5832

Or write to your local Member of Parliament – you can find their details here.