29 July 2011
This week, the ACT Attorney-General, Mr Simon Corbell, launched community consultation and called for submissions on the question of whether the protection of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) should be included in the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT).
The consultation process forms part of the ACT government’s response to the research report, Australian Capital Territory Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Research Project Report a project conducted by Hilary Charlesworth, Renuka Thilagartnam and Katie Young from ANU and Andrew Byrnes from the University of New South Wales.
The report made 15 recommendations and supported the inclusion of ESCR in the Human Rights Act 2004. These rights are enshrined the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Australia is a party to. The research project recommends that the “right to housing, the right to health, the right to education, the right to work and the right to take part in cultural life” should be included in the Human Rights Act 2004.
The ACT government had considered introducing economic, social and cultural rights within the original human rights act in 2004 but decided it would be more suitable to introduce civil and political rights first with an assessment process conducted every 12 months and 5 years to consider the inclusion of other rights.
Following the tabling of the research project report in 2010 in the Legislative Assembly, Mr.Corbell noted that the “question of whether to incorporate economic, social and cultural rights into ACT law is a complex one that raises many issues for all parts of our community, not just government. These questions will need to be considered in detail by the government, in consultation with the community.”
Co-author of the report Professor Hilary Charlesworth highlighted the impact that the Human Rights Act 2004 has had on the ACT since its introduction seven years ago, with the ACT government and the courts giving more attention to human rights issues raised by “specific laws, politics and proposals.”
The inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights in the Human Rights Act would “represent a further evolution of human rights protection in the ACT” according to Professor Charlesworth, with the potential to protect and assist the most vulnerable and marginalised in the community.
To assist those wishing to participate in the consultation, the ACT government has put together a background paper entitled “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – A Good Idea for Inclusion in the ACT? “ and a 5-minute online survey canvassing views on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The full report of the ACT Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Research Project can be accessed here.
The consultation period ends on Friday 19 August 2011.