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Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Page: 3922

Senator STEPHENS (New South Wales) (16:47): On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, I present a statement on the work of the committee and move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave granted.

Senator STEPHENS: This statement has been presented as well in the House of Representatives this morning by the Chair of the committee, Mr Harry Jenkins. Senators will recall that the committee was estab­lished under the Human Rights (Parlia­mentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 as part of a concerted effort to enhance the understand­ing of, and respect for, human rights issues. It is the intention of the committee to report regularly to the parliament on its work. Today I want to draw the attention of senators to two pieces of work that are currently before the committee. They are in reference to the role of the committee in examining and reporting to parliament on the compatibility of bills and legislative instruments with Australia’s human rights obligations under the seven core human rights treaties specified in section 3 of the act. In accordance with that responsibility the committee has received two pieces of correspondence, asking it to examine particular bills currently before the parliament.

The first is correspondence from the Australian Council of Social Service, together with a number of co-signatories, asking the committee to examine the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Bill 2012. The committee has decided, as a first step, to invite ACOSS and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to attend a hearing to provide evidence in relation to the concerns raised by ACOSS and, following that hearing, the committee will meet to consider the evidence raised and determine its next steps.

The second piece of correspondence is from the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, asking the committee to examine the stronger futures in the Northern Territory bills. Before determining how the committee will proceed with this request, the committee has written to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs seeking her advice on the compatibility of the bills with human rights. Although the bills were introduced prior to the requirement for a statement of compatibility, the committee would like to afford the minister the opportunity to provide her assessment of the policy objectives of the bills against Australia's human rights obligations and clarify for the committee the justification for any limitations on rights that the bills will impose.

I commend this report to senators, and, as I say, it is the intention of the committee to regularly report to both houses of parliament on its work.