The human rights Queensland is set to enshrine in law
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The human rights Queensland is set to enshrine in law

Queenslanders will have protections for 23 human rights enshrined in law, such as freedom of expression, religion and privacy, and a right to education and health services.

Australia does not have a national bill of rights like the US, but Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have introduced human rights laws.

Queensland Parliament looks set to pass its human rights bill.

Queensland Parliament looks set to pass its human rights bill.Credit:Robert Rough

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath on Wednesday introduced the long-awaited human rights bill into the Parliament.

Ms D'Ath said it was about changing the culture of the public sector.

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"The primary aim of this bill is to ensure that respect for human rights is embedded in the culture of the Queensland public sector, and that public functions are exercised in a principled way that is compatible with human rights," she said.

"The bill will require departments, agencies and public entities to make decisions and act in a way that is consistent with human rights."

It will also apply to private companies managing prisons, applying to decisions about segregating convicted and non-convicted prisoners and situations where inmates did not have their own rooms, and non-government organisations providing public housing.

The Queensland bill is heavily modelled on the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, but goes further, by including the additional rights to education and healthcare, and explicitly recognising the cultural rights of Indigenous people.

The bill protects:

  • 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 people and Torres Strait Islanders
  • 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

Ms D'Ath said the bill would require courts to interpret legislation in a way that was compatible with human rights and require Parliament to consider human rights in drafting bills, however, politicians would still be allowed to pass legislation that did not match up with human rights.

The Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland will be rebranded as the Queensland Human Rights Commission and will be responsible for promoting discussion of human rights and dispute resolution for complaints.

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath speaks about the human rights bill.

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath speaks about the human rights bill.

Ms D'Ath said the dispute resolution function of the commission would provide an accessible and independent avenue for members of the community to raise human rights concerns with public entities.

The current Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Scott McDougall, would become the Human Rights Commissioner.

There would be no right to monetary damages on the basis of a breach of the human rights bill alone, which would instead be about discussion, awareness raising and education about human rights.

Human Rights Act for Queensland campaign co-ordinator Aimee McVeigh.

Human Rights Act for Queensland campaign co-ordinator Aimee McVeigh.

Ms D'Ath said every statute on the Queensland books would be reviewed to check compatibility with human rights.

The bill is almost certain to pass, as Labor has a majority in the Parliament, and would take effect in January 2020.

Human Rights Act for Queensland campaign co-ordinator Aimee McVeigh, Caxton Legal Centre and Community Legal Centres Queensland were among the groups to support the introduction of the bill.

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said it was a "significant weakness" that the bill did not include a right to sue for financial compensation for breaches of human rights.

The arguments against a need for a human rights act include the fact many rights - such as those not to be tortured, and property rights - are already protected by Queensland law.

The issue of a human rights act for Queensland has been debated for decades.

Premier Frank Nicklin introduced a bill in 1959, which lapsed with the 1960 election, while a parliamentary committee considered the issue in 1998.

Former independent MP Peter Wellington called for a human rights act during the Newman government years in the wake of anti-association bikie laws, and investigating a bill of rights was one of the things the Palaszczuk government agreed to with Mr Wellington in 2015 in exchange for his support on confidence motions.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced cabinet had agreed to introduce a human rights bill in 2016.