March 20, 2019

Human Rights Act 2019 (Queensland)

The Human Rights Act 2019 became law on 27 February 2019 after the Human Rights Bill 2018 was passed in Parliament.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the legislation is about protecting people’s rights and creating the Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) to educate and help people.

“Queensland’s Human Rights Act is about a better Queensland – modern, fair and responsive,” she said.

“The primary aim of the legislation is to ensure that respect for human rights is embedded in the culture of the public sector, and that public functions are exercised in a principled way that is compatible with human rights.”

There are two stages to implementation of the Act. The first is the re-naming of the Anti-Discrimination Commission to the Queensland Human Rights Commission, which will occur on 1 July 2019. The second stage (obligations and dispute resolution functions) will commence on 1 January 2020.

The objectives of the Bill are to:

  • establish and consolidate statutory protections for certain human rights;
  • ensure that public functions are exercised in a way that is compatible with human rights;
  • promote a dialogue about the nature, meaning and scope of human rights; and
  • rename and empower the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland as the Queensland Human Rights Commission to:
  • provide a dispute resolution process for dealing with human rights complaints; and
  • promote an understanding, acceptance and public discussion of human rights.

The Act protects 23 human rights. While these are primarily civil and political rights drawn from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Act also includes two rights drawn from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and one from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Act explicitly recognises the special importance of human rights to the Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Queensland and their distinctive and diverse spiritual, material and economic relationship with the lands, territories, waters and coastal seas as well as the particular significance of their right to self-determination.

The Act requires public entities such as government departments, local councils or other organisations providing functions of a public nature (including BYS as a ‘functional entity’) to make decisions and act compatibly with human rights. Functional public entities are entities that fall within the definition of ‘public entity’ only when they are performing public functions.

On 31 October 2018, the Hon. Yvette D’Ath MP, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, introduced the Human Rights Bill 2018.

In the Introductory Speech, the Hon. Yvette D’Ath MP said,

“This bill recognises the inherent dignity and worth of human beings. It recognises that the equal and inalienable human rights of all persons are essential in a democratic and inclusive society that respects the rule of law.”