Federal human rights charter needed to balance conflicting rights in a crisis

9th Dec 2021

A federal human rights charter is needed to help balance the competing rights that have come into conflict in the management of the pandemic, and ensure these rights are protected in future, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“It has become apparent that Australia lacks a legislative framework to provide a guide to balancing human rights when they are in conflict with each other and with other important public interests such as health,” said Mr Graham Droppert SC, National President, ALA. 

“The pandemic has made us all much more aware of our rights, as our individual freedoms have been restricted in such an unusual and extreme manner to manage the health crisis.

“A human rights charter would provide an agreed formula to balance human rights against each other and against other competing public interests, and it would ensure that governments do not use their powers to limit our rights unreasonably.”

The ALA today released a discussion paper ‘Do Not Enter: Balancing and protecting human rights in a health crisis’ which reflects on the processes used to impose restrictions on our right to travel in and out of Australia, and considers whether the Government has reached the appropriate balance. 

“The limits that have been placed on our rights to move freely in and out of Australia are very confronting and this has been particularly distressing for many families that have been separated for a very long time,” said Mr Droppert SC.

“In closing our borders several human rights have been infringed, including the freedom of movement and the right to family life. However, these rights have been restricted so that we can enjoy the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the right to life.

“A federal human rights charter would provide a guide to help manage this tension and ensure that any restrictions placed on human rights are only those which are proportionate, reasonable and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Read the complete discussion paper here.

Tags: Human rights COVID-19