COVID-19 pandemic highlights urgent need for Australian human rights charter

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for an Australian charter of human rights to protect all citizens from the impact of arbitrary and unfair government decisions, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“Australians in India, or any Australian currently stranded around the world, would have their right to return home much better protected if Australia had a human rights charter in place to direct the Government’s decision-making,” said barrister and ALA spokesperson, Ms Melia Benn.

“The current ban on travel from India is a stark reminder of the gaps in our legislation and the limited protection of our rights provided by the constitution.

“Enormous power has been handed to the Government to manage the COVID-19 crisis. A charter of human rights would provide the legal framework we need to ensure that the restrictions the Government imposes to keep us safe do not unfairly or unnecessarily undermine our rights.

“There is a real risk that the pandemic will have the biggest impact on our most vulnerable communities including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with disability and asylum seekers.

“A national charter of human rights would give us confidence that values like equality, dignity and respect would guide our Government’s decisions in relation to these vulnerable communities.”

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