The Human Rights Act 2004 (HRA) came into force on 1 July 2004. Its purpose is to respect, protect and promote human rights in the ACT. The HRA aims to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that all Territory statutes and statutory instruments are interpreted in a way that respects and protects human rights. The HRA also creates a duty on public authorities to act consistently with human rights. Under the HRA, it is unlawful for public authorities to act in a way that is incompatible with human rights. It is also unlawful for public authorities to fail to give proper consideration to relevant human rights when making a decision. If a public authority fails to act in accordance with relevant human rights, a person may start legal proceedings in the ACT Supreme Court against the public authority.
Human Rights Act – legislative scrutiny
The Directorate engages in regular consultation with the Human Rights and Regulatory Policy Unit in the Justice and Community Safety Directorate on proposed Bills and legislative amendments. During 2013–14, the Directorate consulted with the unit on the following legislation:
- Construction and Energy Efficiency Legislation Amendment Act 2013 (No. 2)
- Planning, Building and Environment Legislation Amendment Act 2013 (No. 2)
- Construction and Energy Efficiency Legislation Amendment Act 2013
- Gas Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2014
- Utilities (Technical Regulation) Bill 2014
- Planning and Development (Symonston Mental Health Facility) Amendment Act 2014
- Planning and Development (Extension of Time) Amendment Act 2014
- Planning, Building and Environment Legislation Amendment Act 2014
- Planning and Development (Project Facilitation) Amendment Bill 2014
- Construction and Energy Efficiency Legislation Amendment Bill 2014
- Electricity Feed-in (Large-scale Renewable Energy Generation) Amendment Bill 2014
A HRA Compatibility Statement was provided for the above Bills and Acts.
The Acts listed above at 2 and 8 were the result of a Government initiative to introduce a process of omnibus planning and building legislation amendment bills to enable more minor matters to be dealt with expeditiously and to make the amendment process more user friendly and accessible.
The omnibus Acts provide an efficient way of maintaining and enhancing the standard of ACT building, planning and environmental law. Principles of access to justice and human rights require legislation to be easy to read and understand. A well-maintained statute book ensures people are aware of their rights and responsibilities under the law.
Review and court cases
The Directorate continues to progress a number of reforms to significant Acts, including the Nature Conservation Act 1980, Environment Protection Act 1997 and Heritage Act 2004 in consultation with the Human Rights and Regulatory Policy Unit. The Directorate is also considering further reforms to other legislation, subject to Government consideration. The Human Rights and Regulatory Policy Unit will be consulted on these matters. There were no court cases involving the Directorate which have raised significant human rights issues.
Education and training
Directorate staff undertake training on the ACT Public Service Respect, Equity and Diversity (RED) Framework both through ‘in house’ training and via the ACT Government Shared Services Training and Development Calendar. The RED Framework aims to foster a workplace that values individual differences and is respectful, courteous and fair. RED training includes information on legislative obligations including the HRA.
This training is tailored for managers, staff and RED officers and is delivered through registered training organisations. Information on the RED framework is provided to new employees in induction sessions.