C11 - Human Rights Act 2004

The Human Rights Act 2004 (HRA) came into force on 1 July 2004. Its purpose is to respect, protect and promote human rights in the ACT. The HRA aims to ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that all Territory statutes and statutory instruments are interpreted in a way that respects and protects human rights. The HRA also creates a duty on public authorities to act consistently with human rights. Under the HRA, it is unlawful for public authorities to act in a way that is incompatible with human rights. It is also unlawful for public authorities to fail to give proper consideration to relevant human rights when making a decision. If a public authority fails to act in accordance with relevant human rights, a person may start legal proceedings in the ACT Supreme Court against the public authority.

Human Rights Act – legislative scrutiny

ESDD engages in regular consultation with the Human Rights and Regulatory Policy unit of the Justice and Community Safety Directorate on proposed Bills and legislative amendments. During 2012–13, ESDD consulted with the Human Rights and Regulatory Policy unit in relation to the development of:

  1. Water Resources Amendment Bill 2013
  2. Construction and Energy Efficiency Legislation Amendment Bill 2013
  3. Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill 2013
  4. Planning and Development (Territory Plan Variations) Amendment Act 2013
  5. Planning, Building and Environment Legislation Amendment Act 2013.

A HRA Compatibility Statement was provided for the above Bills and Acts. No significant human rights issues were raised in the discussions on the development of this legislation.

The Acts listed above at 2 and 5 were the result of a government initiative to introduce a process of omnibus planning and building legislation amendment bills to enable more minor matters to be dealt with expediently and to make the amendment process more user‑friendly and accessible. The omnibus Acts provide an efficient way of maintaining and enhancing the standard of ACT building and planning law.

Well maintained legislation greatly enhances access to it by making it easier to find in an up‑to-date form that is easier to read and understand. Providing better access to high quality and up to date law is a means of protecting and promoting human rights.

 

Review and court cases

ESDD is currently reviewing the Building Act 2004, and Utilities Act 2000. It has recently completed reviews of the Environment Protection Act 1997 and Nature Conservation Act 1980. Consideration is also being given to further specific amendments to the Planning and Development Act, the Building Act in relation to standards for the operation of buildings and new legislation on resource management plans for government agencies. It is also reviewing the need for specific amendments to other Acts. The Human Rights unit will be involved in this ongoing work.

There were no court cases involving the Directorate which have raised significant human rights issues.

Education and training

ESDD staff undertake annual training on the ACTPS Respect, Equity and Diversity (RED) framework via the ACT Government Shared Services Training and Development Calendar. The RED framework aims to foster a workplace that values individual differences and is respectful, courteous and fair. RED training includes information on legislative obligations including the HRA.

This training is provided in compulsory sessions for current employees, and is delivered through workshops. Information on the RED framework is provided to new employees in induction sessions.