The Queensland Government has enacted the Human Rights Act 2019 (“Act”) which, from 1 January 2020 will commence in its entirety and form part of the administrative law obligations that hold Governments, to account. It is an Act to respect, protect and promotes human rights. The legislation has been drafted to “rebuild the culture in the Queensland public sector” that respects and promotes human rights and promote a dialogue about the nature, meaning and scope of human rights.
There are 23 fundamental human rights drawn from the International Human Rights Law and the Act will require Government to consider human rights in all decision-making actions. These are as follows:
- Recognition and equality before the law
- Right to life
- Protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
- Freedom from forced work
- Freedom of movement
- Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief
- Freedom of expression
- Peaceful assembly and freedom of association
- Taking part in public life
- Property rights
- Privacy and reputation
- Protection of families and children
- Cultural rights—generally
- Cultural rights—Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Right to liberty and security of person
- Humane treatment when deprived of liberty
- Fair hearing
- Rights in criminal proceedings
- Children in the criminal process
- Right not to be tried or punished more than once
- Retrospective criminal laws
- Right to education
- Right to health services.
As a public service officer, it is important that you understand these rights and how they will apply when delivering services, developing policies and procedures, making decisions and handling complaints.
Complaints against Officers
From 1 January 2020, if a party feels that there has been a breach of the obligations of Government under the Human Rights Act 2019, the individual must, in the first instance, make a complaint directly to your organisation. It is essential that your organisation has a complaints process in place to handle these concerns as you must respond to the complainant within 45 business days.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the response, they can lodge their complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission (formerly the Anti- Discrimination Commission Queensland). The AHRC will conciliate the matter in an attempt to resolve the complaint. It is important to note that, under that Act, there is no financial compensation payable for a breach of human rights however an aggrieved party may be entitled to relief or remedy in some other way.
The human rights protected under the Act are not absolute. This means that rights must be balanced against the rights of others and public policy issues of significance. It is intended to prevent the miscarriage of justice and to ensure that Governments approach their business in an equitable manner.
If you require further information or assistance in relation to the application of the Human Rights Act 2019 please contact our office for a free consultation.