Now is the time to introduce a Human Rights Act in Queensland.

Dan Rogers, chair of the Society’s Human Rights Working Group and solicitor at Robertson O’Gorman.

This is an opportunity for the Labor government to show Queensland that they wish to protect the rights of individuals in the community.  It is a matter of high principle that can be achieved at almost no cost. I understand that the government’s priorities are pre-election commitments but at this point in time, there is a unique opportunity for Labor to show its capacity as a reformist government capable of big picture ideas.

Labor came to power in a historic landslide. This was achieved, in part, by what many saw as the excesses of the Newman government. This is fresh in people’s minds. Through a Human Rights Act, Labor has the capacity to show it is better than this. Labor can protect Queenslanders now and into the future.

What is a Human Rights Act?

A Human Rights Act is a statute.  It is not an amendment to a constitution.  It is therefore not entrenched.  It can be changed or appealed at a future point. Parliamentary supremacy is an important principle and it stems from the fact that members of parliament are elected individuals and, as such, best represent the views of the community.  A Human Rights Act does not impede upon the parliamentary supremacy in our democratic society.  It does not stop governments pursuing good policy.  It does not stop governments introducing laws that affect rights.

The reality is that all rights have limits and in most situations there are, in fact, competing rights.  A Human Rights Act is simply a statement by the government that it supports fundamental human rights and that those rights will be considered by government in the introduction of new legislation and in policies.

A Human Rights Act exists in the ACT, Victoria, the UK, Canada, and New Zealand. In those jurisdictions, the sky has not fallen. Rather, people’s lives have improved. The temptation for those in Government with this issue would be to dismiss it on the basis that existing safeguards are already in place. This would be a disservice to our community. There are numerous human rights issues in Queensland – among them the lack of mental health services in rural and remote areas, the availability of appropriate public housing, the treatment of older people in nursing homes, domestic violence and the ability of children with disability to access education.

If you believe that Queensland would benefit from human rights protections, please voice your support for this reform by contacting your local Member of Parliament.