In brief - Affected entities should have appropriate complaints handling procedures to deal with human rights complaints

The Human Rights Bill 2018 was introduced into the Queensland Parliament on 31 October 2018. While the Bill is broadly consistent with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 and the ACT Human Rights Act 2004, if passed the law will go further with additional rights for Queenslanders, including the right to health and education, and the introduction of a complaints mechanism allowing people to complain about human rights issues.

Who will it affect?

The obligations imposed by the Bill apply to the Queensland Parliament, courts and tribunals, government departments, and public service employees and executives. 
 
They also extend to entities including:
  • local governments, councillors and local government employees
  • public universities and vocational education providers
  • hospital and health services 
  • government-owned corporations 
  • registered NDIS providers when they are performing functions of a public nature in Queensland 
  • private companies engaged to deliver services to the public on behalf of the government such as public transport, housing and corrective services
Private schools will not be affected. The Bill provides an example of private schools, which, although performing functions of a public nature in educating students, are not doing so for the state. This is consistent with the Victorian Charter

Human rights to be protected in Queensland

The human rights protected by the Bill are: 
 
  1. Recognition and equality before the law
  2. Right to life
  3. Protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  4. Freedom from forced work
  5. Freedom of movement
  6. Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief
  7. Freedom of expression
  8. Peaceful assembly and freedom of association
  9. Taking part in public life
  10. Property rights
  11. Privacy and reputation
  12. Protection of families and children
  13. Cultural rights—generally
  14. Cultural rights—Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders
  15. Right to liberty and security of person
  16. Humane treatment when deprived of liberty
  17. Fair hearing
  18. Rights in criminal proceedings
  19. Children in the criminal process
  20. Right not to be tried or punished more than once
  21. Retrospective criminal laws
  22. Right to education
  23. Right to health services
The Bill recognises that human rights are not absolute and may be subject to limits set by laws that are reasonable and justified. 

Complaints mechanism to be introduced and Human Rights Commissioner to be granted broad powers 

The Bill goes further than the Victorian and ACT laws by including a complaints mechanism for human rights issues. The Bill proposes to rename the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland as the Queensland Human Rights Commission, and to give broad powers to the Human Rights Commissioner to compel parties to attend mediation, publish the outcome of complaints and make recommendations about complaints. 
 
The Bill requires a complainant to satisfy certain requirements before making a complaint to the Queensland Human Rights Commission. A complaint will not be accepted unless: 
  • the complainant has made a complaint about the alleged contravention to the entity which is the subject of the complaint
  • at least 45 business days have elapsed since the complaint was made
  • the person has not received a response to the complaint, or has received a response but considers it to be an inadequate response
The Bill provides that the Human Rights Commissioner must refuse to deal with a complaint that is frivolous, trivial, vexatious, misconceived or lacking in substance. The Commissioner also has discretion to refuse to deal, or continue to deal, with a complaint where the Commissioner considers:
  • there is a more appropriate course of action available
  • the matter has been appropriately dealt with by another entity
  • the way in which the complaint is made does not comply with the complaint requirements 
  • the complaint is made more than one year after the alleged contravention

Legal claims and compensation 

There is no stand-alone legal remedy for a contravention, but if a person has a separate cause of action against an entity covered by the Bill (for example, a judicial review application) a claim under the Bill can be added to the existing claim. This is similar to the position under the ACT's Human Rights Act
 
As it stands, monetary damages will not be available for a contravention of a person's human rights.

Timeline of Human Rights Bill review and deadline for written submissions 

The Bill is being reviewed by the Parliamentary Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee for inquiry and report by 4 February 2019. 
 
The Committee will be considering written submissions. The closing date for written submissions on the Bill is Monday, 26 November 2018. Private sector entities with responsibilities under the proposed laws should consider making written submissions. 
 
Entities should also ensure they have in place appropriate complaints handling procedures to deal with human rights complaints and resolve them promptly where possible.

This article has been published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for information and education purposes only and is a general summary of the topic(s) presented. This article is not specific legal or financial advice. Please seek your own legal or financial advice for any questions you may have. All information contained in this article is subject to change. Colin Biggers & Paisley cannot be held responsible for any liability whatsoever, or for any loss howsoever arising from any reliance upon the contents of this article.​

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