Human Rights

Human rights are inalienable and universal. They are based in centuries of common law and widespread international consensus.

After World War II, human rights became a priority for international law. This was revolutionary. Previously, a body of law that restricted its interest to relations between countries, international law, moved to regulating relations between governments and their people. The War had shown law-makers the horrors of what could happen if the powers of governments were not kept in check. Australia was at the forefront of these developments, as one of only eight countries involved in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Since this time, human rights have become well recognised as essential benchmarks for decency. Human rights treaties, and mechanisms to monitor their enforcement, have proliferated internationally, and it is well accepted that respecting human rights is good, both for individuals and their governments.

Human rights protect human dignity. They ensure that we are all treated fairly and, where we are not, that remedies are available. Remedies might include, an apology, release from detention, rehabilitation, or a combination of these. Remedies seek to put the person in the position that they would have been had their rights not been violated, to the greatest extent possible, and also create a disincentive to violating rights in the future.

Lawyers help individuals to protect their human rights by bringing complaints of government misconduct before the courts or other bodies.

Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) members regularly act to protect human rights. Whether they are acting for someone who has been injured in a car accident, unfairly detained, discriminated against or accused of a crime, they are fighting to protect peoples’ dignity, and seek justice for wrongdoing. However, without a Human Rights Act in Australia, most human rights remain largely unenforceable, and remedies for their breach unavailable. We are flouting centuries of legal traditions, as well as the international law that we were instrumental in drafting and have agreed to be bound by.

The ALA takes every opportunity we can to promote and protect human rights. We regularly contribute to parliamentary inquiries and participate in public debate to promote and enhance human rights protections. We appear before Parliamentary Committees and meet with Parliamentarians to voice our concerns.

It is a difficult battle, but we will never give up fighting for your rights.

Below is an overview listing of our human rights-related submissions to date:

Submission To Date
Australia's Compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): Australian NGO Coalition Submission to the Human Rights Committee United Nations Human Rights Committee September 2017
Australian Border Force Amendment (Protected Information) Bill 2017 Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee 28 August 2017

Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017

And subsequent appearance at public hearing, on 23 August 2017. (Dr Andrew Morrison and Anna Talbot, ALA Legal and Policy Adviser, can be read from p40.)

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee 21 July 2017
Open letter calling for Australia's ratification of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (signed with Australian Lawyers for Human Rights and other civil society organisations) Senator the Hon George Brandis QC and the Hon Julie Bishop MP 5 May 2017
Letter to the A-G advocating for a Queensland Human Rights Act Queensland Attorney General 5 May 2017
Australia: review of fifth periodic report United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 5 May 2017
Inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade 3 May 2017

Review of ASIO's questioning and detention powers

And subsequent appearance at public hearing, on 16 June 2017. (Anna Talbot, ALA Legal and Policy Adviser, can be read from p17.)

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security 26 April 2017
Women in Combat Duties - Reservation Withdrawal Joint Standing Committee on Treaties 20 April 2017

Design, scope, cost-benefit analysis, contracts awarded and implementation associated with the Better Management of the Social Welfare System initiative ('Robodebt')

And subsequent appearance at public hearing, on 18 May 2017. (Greg Barns and Anna Talbot can be read from p16.)

Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs 19 April 2017
Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill 2016 Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs 12 April 2017

Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors (redacted)

Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services 10 February 2017

Inquiry into Migrant Settlement Outcomes

Appendix (Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants' End of Mission to Australia Statement)

Joint Standing Committee on Migration 31 January 2017
Access to telecommunications data in civil proceedings: Response to Consultation Paper circulated by the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Communication and the Arts Attorney General's Department and the Department of Communications and the Arts 27 January 2017

Inquiry into the freedom of speech in Australia

And subsequent appearance at public hearing, on 1 February 2017. (Anna Talbot, ALA Legal and Policy Adviser, can be read from p27.)

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights 9 December 2016
Review into Victoria's Police oversight system Integrity Reform Team, Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet 8 December 2016
Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 [Provisions] Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs 14 November 2016

Serious allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of asylum seekers in relation to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, and any like allegations in relation to the Manus Regional Processing Centre

Appendix 1 and Appendix 2

And ALA's subsequent appearance before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, on 15 November 2016.

Supplementary submission:

Risk of child sexual abuse in offshore immigration detention (submitted on 16 March 2017)

Appendix to supplementary submission

Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs 7 November 2016
Joint Submission for the United Kingdom's Universal Periodic Review in 2017 United Nations Human Rights Council September 2016
Indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs 8 April 2016
A Human Rights Act for Queensland Queensland Parliament Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee April 2016

Vilification laws in NSW

NSW Department of Justice 8 January 2016
The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 (Cth): The dangers of unchecked ministerial power Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 16 July 2015
The Commonwealth has a duty of care in offshore detention centres Select Committee on the Recent Allegations relating to Conditions and Circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru, Inquiry into the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government in connection with the management and operation of the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru 27 April 2015
A proposed process for the introduction of a Charter of Rights in Queensland Correspondence to the QLD Premier, the Hon. Annastacia Palaszczuck 25 March 2015
Towards regulation of medicinal cannabis: The importance of providing access to treatment for chronically ill Australians Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Inquiry into the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014 (Cth) 13 March 2015

Rights and responsibilities 2014: Property rights and unlawful detention

Australian Human Rights Commission, Inquiry into Rights and Responsibilities 2014 19 December 2014

Human rights and Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory

Appendix A - Australian Lawyers Alliance submission on the legislation (2012)

Appendix B - Correspondence to the UN special rapporteurs on the legislation (released under FOI laws to the Australian Lawyers Alliance)

Appendix C - Assessment of non-compliance with human rights (2012)

Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Inquiry into the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory legislation 10 October 2014

The Foreign Fighters Bill

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Inquiring into the Counter-Terrorism Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014 (Cth)

3 October 2014

National security legislation: the need for further accountability

And appearance at public hearing on 18 August 2014.

Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security, Inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment (No. 1) Bill 2014 (Cth) 6 August 2014

United Nations Human Rights Committee Communication No. 1885/2009 (Horvath v Australia)

Victorian Parliament 24 July 2014

Redress and remedy: the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) Payment Scheme is not the answer

Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Inquiry into Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Bill 2014 and Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2014 23 July 2014

Redress and remedy: the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool (BSWAT) Payment Scheme is not the answer

Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Inquiry into Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Bill 2014 and Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2014 23 July 2014
The incident at Manus Island

And appearance at public hearing on 13 June 2014. Further detail can be seen here.
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Inquiry into the incident at Manus Island 5 May 2014

Proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act

Attorney-General's Department

30 April 2014

Crime and Misconduct and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (QLD)

Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee (QLD) 11 April 2014
Where waters meet: The breach of Indonesian waters and the need for a review of Australia's aggressive maritime policy Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, Inquiry into the breach of Indonesian territorial waters 20 March 2014

Migration Amendment (Regaining Control Over Australia’s Protection Obligations) Bill 2013 (Cth)

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, Inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Regaining Control Over Australia’s Protection Obligations) Bill 2013 (Cth) 23 January 2014

Migration Amendment Bill [Provisions] 2013 (Cth)

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, Inquiry into Migration Amendment Bill [Provisions] 2013 (Cth) 16 January 2014

Inquiry into sentencing in the ACT

ACT Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety, Inquiry into sentencing in the ACT 26 September 2013
ALA a signatory to CLC NSW Urgent appeal re the introduction of the Victims Rights and Support Bill 2013 in NSW Ms Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women 17 May 2013

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Older Persons (Age discrimination and elder abuse)

International Federation of Ageing 15 May 2013
Racial vilification in NSW NSW Law and Justice Committee, Inquiry into racial vilification law in NSW 7 March 2013

ALA submissions in response to the inquiry into same sex marriage in NSW

NSW Social Issues Committee, Inquiry into same sex marriage law in NSW 1 March 2013

The NDIS Rules: The missing core of the scheme

NDIS Secretariat, Consultation of the National Disability Insurance
Scheme Rules Consultation Paper
March 2013
NSW Disability Services Act review NSW Government, Disability Services Act review 23 February 2013

The National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012 (Cth): Towards a better scheme - certainty, accountability, empowerment, sustainability

Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs Inquiry
into the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012 (Cth)
January 2013
Health care of asylum seekers: Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing and Other Measures) Bill 2012 (Cth) Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee 18 October 2012

The Australian Lawyers Alliance signed the Open letter to the NSW Attorney-General, Victims Compensation Vital for Victims

Open letter to the NSW Attorney-General regarding proposed changes to NSW victims' compensation 25 September 2012

The right to silence

Department of Attorney General and Justice, Inquiry into Evidence Amendment (Evidence of Silence) Bill 2012 (NSW) September 2012

Eligibility and reasonable and necessary support

Select Council on Disability Reform’s draft descriptions of ‘Eligibility and
reasonable and necessary support’ within the National Disability Insurance
Scheme
September 2012

Fishing communities and maritime powers, where poverty meets policy: Maritime Powers Bill 2012 (Cth)

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Inquiry into the Maritime Powers Bill 2012 (Cth) 31 August 2012

Human trafficking in NSW: Inquiry into the exploitation of women through trafficking

NSW Community Relations Commission, Inquiry into the exploitation of women through trafficking August 2012

Asylum seekers in Australia: Towards a regional approach to asylum seekers and people smuggling

Addendum to ALA submission (re relevance of Montara oil spill to the issue)

Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers 19 July 2012

Human trafficking and a human rights response: Assessing recent legislative amendments

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Inquiry into
the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012 (Cth)
July 2012

Detention of Indonesian minors

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Inquiry into the detention of Indonesian minors in Australia 5 June 2012

Australian Human Rights Commission Amendment (National Children's Commissioner) Bill 2012 (Cth)

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Inquiry into Australian Human Rights Commission Amendment (National Children's Commissioner) Bill 2012 (Cth) 31 May 2012

Marriage equality: Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2011 (Cth); Marriage Amendment Bill 2011 (Cth)

House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs 19 April 2012

Migration Amendment (Removal of Mandatory Minimum Penalties) Bill 2012 (Cth)

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Removal of Mandatory Minimum Penalties) Bill 2012 (Cth) 5 March 2012

Age determination of minors - the need for procedural fairness

Australian Human Rights Commission, Inquiry into the treatment of individuals suspected of people smuggling offences who say that they are children 3 February 2012

Protect the child: Essential provisions to ensure procedural fairness: Crimes Amendment (Fairness for Minors) Bill 2011 (Cth)

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee 31 January 2012

Understanding complexities: People smuggling, deterrence and intersection with Australia's maritime regulation: Deterring People Smuggling Bill 2011 (Cth)

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee 10 November 2011
The Australia - Malaysia Agreement Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee 14 September 2011

Considering the Howells report: The need for greater protections on migrant workers: 'Report of the 2010 Review of the Migration Amendment (Employer Sanctions) Act 2007 (Cth)'

Department of Immigration and Citizenship 7 September 2011

Australia's immigration detention network

Joint Select Committee on Australia's Immigration Detention Network 12 August 2011