With the Federal Government yet to respond to the National Human Rights Consultation Report, Australia is walking a tightrope with the credibility of the consultation and our international reputation at stake.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by countries who are signatories. The UNHRC has repeatedly criticised Australia for failing to fully incorporate its obligations as an ICCPR signatory into domestic law.
In April 2009 the Committee once again recommended that Australia adopt legislation implementing all ICCPR articles uniformly across all states and territories, and establish a mechanism to consistently ensure the compatibility of domestic law with the Covenant.
Similar to the UNHRC the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is an independent body that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. In May 2009 this Committee also recommended that Australia implement comprehensive national human rights legislation.
Both Committees have commended the National Human Rights Consultation and are no doubt eagerly waiting to see whether Australia will finally implement its international human rights obligations.
The latest United Nations expert to express concern about Australia’s failure to incorporate its international human rights obligations into domestic law was the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The Special Rapporteur commented:
"Australia’s failure to incorporate international human rights standards enshrined in treaties to which it is a party into domestic law remains an issue of great concern for me, as those rights need to be enforceable at the national level. I urge the Government to take necessary steps to incorporate international human rights standards into domestic legislation, all of which should be justiciable, including economic, social and cultural rights. This would provide an effective remedy to all those whose rights may have been violated."
The Federal Government must act now to respect the international instruments and mechanisms Australia has committed to upholding.