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Human Rights Bill fundamentally flawed



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No.33/97

26 June 1997

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SENATOR THE HON NICK BOLKUS SHADOW ATTORNEY GENERAL SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

HUMAN RIGHTS BILL FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED

Shadow Attorney-General, Senator Nick Bolkus, today attacked the Government's proposed changes to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Government's decision to cut 43 percent from the Commission's budget.

"The changes proposed in the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill and the cuts to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission will make it extraordinarily difficult for Australians to protect their rights," Senator Bolkus said.

A Senate Committee Report on the Bill was tabled in the Senate today.

"Whilst we support a mechansim that will allow human rights complaints to be determined by, and enforced in, the Federal Court, we do not support the changes that will require the average complainant to spend over $3,200 in court fees to enable them to do so. And that's before they even pay a cent to their lawyer."

"We oppose the changes that will prevent the specialist Human Rights Commissioners from conciliating disputes, when they are the experts in doing so."

"We oppose the changes that will require citizens to take the Government to court to make sure it complies with its own human rights laws when a cheaper, quicker, more efficient and more effective administrative law system is currently available."

"And we oppose the 43 percent cut to the budget of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission that will seriously impede the ability of the Commission to protect the human rights of ordinary Australians."

"The Government has been misleading Australians about the effect of these cuts. On 9 June 1997, the Acting Attorney-General, Mr Ruddock, said:

"Reports in the media today contain incorrect claims that changes to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission will have a negative impact on disabled people."

"But the Comrnssion has admitted that all areas of the Commission, including the operations of the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, will be wound back as a result of these cuts.

"The Government is refusing to tell Australians living with a disability, and other Australians living with discrimination, the truth. It is about time that this Attorney and this Govenu-nent admitted that they simply don't care about protecting our human rights."

Contact: Simon Banks Pb: (06) 277 3388 (bh) or 0419 63 85 87 (m) Fax: (06) 277 3062