UN Human Rights Council – 23rd Session
Panel on the contribution of parliaments to the work of the Human Rights Council
and its Universal Periodic Review
Statement by Australia, 29 May 2013
Australia welcomes the opportunity to participate in this event. We thank the speakers and panellists for sharing their views and experiences, which provided a valuable insight into the role and impact of parliaments and parliamentarians in promoting and protecting human rights.
Parliaments, together with National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), are key drivers of action to promote and protect human rights at the national level – holding governments to account, empowering individuals to understand and exercise their human rights, and playing a vital role in ensuring transparency and the development of a democratic society.
In Australia, Parliamentary Committees have an important role in scrutinising government activity and proposed laws. Indeed, the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 requires that human rights are explicitly taken into account in the development of national policy and legislation.
The Act introduced two key mechanisms to ensure that policy and legislation is consistent with human rights obligations: a requirement for a Statement of Compatibility with human rights to be prepared for all new legislation; and the establishment of a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has responsibility for examining and reporting to the Parliament on the compatibility of bills and legislative instruments with Australia’s international human rights obligations. It can also examine existing legislation or any matter relating to human rights referred it by the Commonwealth Attorney-General. The committee reports regularly to Parliament on the outcomes of its examinations of legislation which assists in fostering parliamentary debate and consideration of Australia’s human rights obligations.
Australia also recognises and welcomes the role of parliaments in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, including in the implementation of UPR recommendations.