Human Rights Lecture - Australian Exceptionalism: International Human Rights and Australian Law

Presented by Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Australia is unique among comparable legal systems in that it has very few constitutional or legislative protections for most human rights, and has no bill of rights or rights charter. Rather, Australia has developed an ad-hoc approach to the protection of human rights through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, administrative law, common law and through normative culture. This fragmented approach to human rights has produced a significant gap in legal protections placing particular groups, such as asylum seekers, at risk.

During the 2013 election the Coalition Government outlined its intention of placing greater emphasis on fundamental freedoms, and restore what it sees as an imbalance of human rights in Australia. One way the Government hopes to achieve this is by amending the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. The ensuing ‘freedoms debate’ has shone a spotlight on how human rights are protected in Australia, revealing that there are very few protections for the freedoms most Australians take for granted.