Tuesday, July 12, 2005

CRITICAL INFORMATION: Bill of Rights for Victoria

Posted by AmishThrasher at 1:36 pm
Bill of Rights
Bill of Rights:
The time for action is now!
During the months of June and July, the Victorian Department of Justice is actively investigating the question of whether a Bill of Rights should be enshrined in our state constitution. The decision to safeguard your basic human rights, and the rights of those you love, is essentially being made in deciding whether or not Victoria should have a state Bill of Rights. The basic details of the human rights consultation are here, and the questionnaire is here. For all Victorians reading this, I strongly urge that you participate in making sure that the rights, freedoms and values we hold dear are protected from being undermined by government; and pass the message on to your friends and relatives. In addition, I want to encourage all the bloggers who may be reading this to repost information about how to participate on to your blogs.

Here are the basic details of what's happening (click this link to see the original page):
PDF and HTML copies of the community discussion paper are available at the bottom of this page under publications.

You can also post your submission online from 1 June - 1 August.

These questions are being explored by the Human Rights Consultation Committee (the committee) over the next six months:
  • Should Victoria have a Charter of Human Rights?
  • What should it protect?
Are there other ways human rights can be better protected as part of our democracy?
There are many views about the value of having a special law that sets out our human rights, just as there are many different experiences people have about what human rights means, and how best to protect and promote them.

The committee hopes these web pages will get you thinking about human rights, our democratic institutions and what the Victorian Government should do to encourage the development of a human rights culture in our community.

Follow the links below to read more about the Human Rights Consulation Project.
SOURCE: http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/CA2569020010922A/page/Resources-Human+Rights+Consultation?OpenDocument&1=0-Resources~&2=0-Human+Rights+Consultation~&3=~

To clarify why this decision is so importatnt, here is some background information on the decisions currently being made:
Well-known human rights include the right to vote, to freedom of speech and to be free from discrimination because of your age, race, culture, gender or because you have a disability. Human rights also include protection from things like arbitrary imprisonment or cruel or degrading treatment.

When rights such as these are set out in the law, such as in a Charter of Human Rights, they can protect people against the actions of government. They can also promote better government by providing an accepted standard for how government should operate in dealing with the community. Perhaps most importantly, human rights can promote respect for others and can change individual and community attitudes.

Australia has signed several international treaties that set out these and other rights. They include both economic, social and cultural rights, like the right to education, as well as the more well known civil and political rights, like the right to a fair trial. However, these treaties do not automatically form part of our law.

There are some important laws that do apply in Victoria to protect human rights. However, there is no Charter of Human Rights in Australian or Victorian law that provides a statement of what our human rights are as well as protection for them. Today, Australia is the only western nation without a national or State Bill of Rights.

Many attempts have been made to develop some form of Charter of Human Rights. Apart from 2004 legislation in the Australian Capital Territory, none of these attempts have led to a change to the law.

The Victorian Government is thinking about whether we need a new law on human rights. It has released a Statement of Intent and set up an independent committee to talk with all Victorians about whether change is needed, and if so, what that change might be. A Charter of Rights at the State level in Victoria could play an important role in promoting and protecting human rights in the areas for which the Victorian Government has responsibility. It could also fill many of the gaps in the existing protection.

The Government has asked the Committee to focus on the rights contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in considering whether to change the law. In doing so, it is helpful to look at the models adopted in other countries. More information about human rights laws in other nations is contained in the first part of the Discussion Paper at pages x to xx.

Looking at what has worked and has not worked in other places will help us to find out:
The best ways of making sure that any new laws meet human rights standards;
  • The role of Parliament, government, the courts and the wider community in protecting human rights;
  • Whether other organisations are needed to protect and promote human rights;
  • The best ways of educating and involving the community in promoting human rights and encouraging respect for others; and
  • What needs to be done now, and in the future.

We have prepared a list of ten questions that we hope you will help us to answer. There is further information about these questions in the second part of the Discussion Paper at pages 34 to 52. You can also answer the questions online at www.justice.vic.gov.au/humanrights.
SOURCE: http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/CA256902000FE154/Lookup/HR_Consultation_project/$file/communityconsultationpaper.htm

This is our chance to stop future reckless politicians from trampling on such rights as the right to your life, privacy, education, healthcare; as well as essential freedoms like free speech, freedom to pracice religion, freedom to assemble on public lands for the purposes of peaceful protest. Many of these essential human rights and freedoms can currently be over-ridden by the laws of power-mongering politicians; it's time we made them constitutional rights for all Victorian residents. The time has come get involved: pass on the message. Your great-grandchildren will thank you for it.