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Election Scorecard: Human Rights Act for South Australia?

The Rights Resource Network SA believes South Australia needs a Human Rights Framework, including a Human Rights Act, to secure the dignity and equality of all South Australians and to facilitate our active participation in the democratic life of our State. We’ve worked together to set out what a South Australian Human Rights Framework could look like. All the details are here in our Report.

We asked our elected Members of Parliament and Candidates for the 2022 South Australian Election this question: Do you support the adoption of a Human Rights Framework, including a Human Rights Act, for South Australia?

Here’s what some of our Human Rights Champions told us …

I can't express how strongly I support the development of a human rights framework for South Australia (and of course Australia as a whole). I am so pleased to learn of your organisation and mission. Lou Nicholson, Independent Candidate for Finniss

For many years I have been a huge advocate for the protection of human rights and ensuring all South Australians have access to their basic rights. As you demonstrate in your Expert Workshop ‘Designing a Human Rights Framework for South Australia’ some human rights are entrenched in legislation and others are enforced and upheld through the courts in a very limited capacity. Many South Australians – especially during the pandemic – have had at least one experience where they have felt their rights have been infringed. With no Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights in SA legislation is not reviewed to ensure rights are upheld.
The establishment of a Human Rights Framework – a Human Rights Act – will be supported. It is important such an Act has an enforceable capability – ensuring, for example, adequate and safe housing is provided to those who are denied this right. The Act must be set-up to allow complaints to be heard and actions to be taken – whether through a Parliamentary Committee or a separate body – to ensure the rights of all South Australians are protected and they have access to the means necessary to exercise their rights. Francis Bedford MP, Independent for Newland

From the outset, SA-BEST strongly supports the implementation of a South Australian charter of human rights and responsibilities or a human rights act. But we believe it must go much further than this. As chair of the Effectiveness of the Current System of Parliamentary Committee (‘the Committee’), Connie has championed the advancement of a human frights framework in South Australia. We are of the firm view our parliament should turn its mind to human rights impacts in every piece of drafted legislation, including subordinate legislation. In its final report tabled in August 2021, the Committee recommended the establishment of a Scrutiny of Bills and Delegated Legislation Committee (‘the Scrutiny Committee’) to absorb the work of the current Legislative Review Committee and perform new bill scrutiny functions, including consideration of whether a bill unduly trespasses on rights and liberties.

As soon as parliament resumes, Connie intends to introduce a private members bill consistent with the recommendations of the Committee. It will include the establishment of the Scrutiny Committee and the requirement for a human rights statement to accompany every bill introduced into parliament in addition to every disallowable instrument. Hon Connie Bonaros MLC , SA Best

[T]he absence of legislation around Human Rights in Australia and the state of South Australia was (and is) one of the main reasons for me joining the Greens and running as a candidate. Having grown up in Germany, I can testify what a cultural difference the pure presence of such legislation makes in broadly how humans look at and interact with their fellow humans if I compare the two countries. I am personally grateful for the work you are doing, and will also respond to your email with our response as a party, that I hope to represent in parliament one day. Steffi Medrow, SA Greens, State Candidate for Cheltenham

We certainly share your concerns about South Australia remaining as a State that doesn’t have comprehensive human rights legislation, or a consistent framework for promoting and protecting human rights. We recognise that this is absolutely vital for the ensuring equality and dignity for all South Australians, and allowing their full and active participation in our democracy.

The Greens are strongly committed to a Human Rights Framework for South Australia, and in particular to introducing a Human Rights Bill in our State. Human rights are at the core of our charter, as well as being one of our key policy principles country-wide. A human rights-centred approach is something we are not only committed to at a State level, but federally as well. When we have previously met with members of the Rights Resource Network SA, we have outlined our commitment to creating a Human Rights Bill that would be consulted on widely within the community. South Australian Greens (including Hon Tammy Franks MLC & Multiple Candidates)

I do support the notion of adopting a Human Rights Framework including a Human Rights Act for South Australia for two main reasons. Over the past parliamentary sitting I have been a member of the Legislative Review Committee. This committee is integral to the functioning of parliament and legislative agenda for the Government of the day. As such, it is of extreme importance that this committee function as intended and properly scrutinise the subordinate legislation as distinguished by the scrutiny principles. Currently this is not happening. As you may be aware from recent investigations into the function of parliamentary committees and dissenting reports on the legislative review committee, this committee does not function in a nonpartisan way, nor does it have adequate resources to undertake the current workload. If the committee was able to re-establish its intended function, this would go a long way to remedy current deficits achieving a human rights framework.

In my time in Parliament, I have seen many bills and subordinate legislation that prioritise efficiency and perceived public opinion rather than the best interests of the state and our constituents. I believe having a statement of compatibility which would require bills and legislative instruments to be introduced with explanation would assist with this. Although second reading speeches often give us background to the legislation, the specific justification regarding human rights would be necessary to ensure all legislative materials maintain integrity and accord with principles and values we all hold dear. Hon Irene Pnevmatikos MLC, Labour

Here’s what we heard from those who were keen to talk more …

Your report highlights how the pandemic has raised important questions about the tension between individual freedoms and restrictions on day-to-day activities – many of which seek to protect vulnerable people. The report also notes that marginalised members of our community experienced significant isolation or limits on their activities before the onset of Covid-19. These are just two of the many parts of the report that illustrate the dynamic nature of human rights discussions and the potential benefits of a broad framework to assist in progressing human rights over time.

SA Labor as a long history of promoting the rights and wellbeing of South Australians – starting with our formation in 1891 when workers united to demand a better deal. Improving rights, participation and self-determination for Aboriginal people are critical steps in repairing the harms of the past and, in 2019, we committed to a state-based implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. In 2022, Labor has also committed to additional legislation and funding for the Community Visitor Scheme to better protect the rights of people with disability who have experienced harm and even death due to neglect in recent years.

Whilst Labor has not adopted a formal election policy for a human rights framework or legislation, we would welcome further discussions after the election. Thank you again for your work in this area and I look forward to discussing this with you as Attorney-General in a Malinauskas Labor Government. Hon Kyam Maher MLC, Shadow Attorney-General, Labor

The AJP supports a better world for animals, the planet, and people. While our key business is campaigning for greater compassion and kindness towards animals, whether domesticated or wild, we also support a better world for people.

The AJP absolutely supports the dignity and equality of all people, as well as their participation in democracy. One of our core values is equality, which is highly relevant to these questions of human rights. Our position on Equality states that the AJP is committed to "protecting the human, political and socio-economic rights of all individuals". (For this position, and others, follow the link here).

If asked to vote on this question in Parliament, the AJP would always vote in the way that we believe best advances the cause of human rights and democracy. Whether the Human Rights Framework is the best mechanism to advance these values is a question that our elected representatives would need to consider in detail.” Animal Justice Party

Here’s what was on the mind of those still not sure …

Clearly, this is a complex area of law and policy. Accordingly, the Government will carefully consider the Report and its recommendations in due course. Treasurer, the Hon Rob Lucas MLC, Liberal


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