Human Rights within Australian Law

Essay by bz2000 March 2004

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Universally, human rights are fundamental privileges to which all people have claim. As they are automatic entitlements to each individual who is simply a member of humankind, governments cannot 'grant' or 'withdraw' human rights from anyone. Human rights are reflections of the values of society, with the focal purpose of human rights laws being to set the public standards of what is and what is not acceptable treatment towards individuals, as perceived by society on the domestic and international levels. Since the atrocities exposed in World War II, the need for a collective international instrument of human rights laws impacting municipal law was created, and through that an outlined protection of the inherent dignity of all individuals. Thus a unanimous decision was made, creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1946, obliging the law makers of the member states to consider human rights factors when enacting their laws, and implying that where human rights have been violated, the subjected authorities will carry subsequent remedial actions with the intent of rectifying the wrong.

So where does Australia fit in terms of the global human rights infrastructure? Well unlike other major developed countries, Australia has no concrete bill or charter of rights, however it still holds strong piecemeal protections found within the legal system, such as the Australian Constitution, Common and Statue law, and International obligations.

In terms of modern human rights, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 is fairly limited. However, one crucial element that it does contain is in section 51 of the External Affairs Power. Within Australia, human rights legislation is state (not federal) jurisdiction; as a result of this Commonwealth Government has no explicit legislative power over human rights. However, under section 51, federal legislation has the power to overrule any state legislation, so that any...