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Strategic Priority 5 - Rights

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Enable a free society with balanced rights, freedoms and responsibilities

The department protects and promotes rights, freedoms and responsibilities to enable participation in and contribution to Australian society.

This year we continued to provide legal and policy information to the government on domestic human rights matters and to provide advice on international human rights, including human rights treaties to which Australia is a party. Our role is pivotal in coordinating the implementation of legislative changes and committee recommendations.

Clients and stakeholders surveyed in 2017 expressed good levels of satisfaction and we achieved higher-than-targeted overall results. Survey results show 91% of stakeholders and clients were highly satisfied with our effectiveness and 90% rated our efficiency highly. Our interactions with stakeholders ranked very highly with staff professionalism and commitment achieving a 96% satisfaction level (see Table 10).

To benchmark our community impact we look to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index (Factor 4) and measure performance by the maintenance or improvement of Australia’s global position. Factor 4 measures the protection of fundamental human rights, including effective enforcement of laws that ensure equal protection, the right to life and security, due process of law and the rights of the accused, freedom of opinion and expression, belief and religion, assembly and association, the right to privacy, labour rights (including the right to collective bargaining), the prohibition of forced and child labour and the elimination of discrimination. The 2016 Index showed an increase in the number of countries listed from 102 to 113. Australia achieved a ranking of 13.

Table 10 : KPI performance statement for Strategic Priority 5: Rights

KPIs Performance criterion(a) Target Survey result
Community impact Australia's regional and global position on fundamental rights (Factor 4) in the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index measuring how the rule of law is experienced by the public of countries around the world Position of 10 (maintain or improve current position) Position 13
Effectiveness in achieving objectives Stakeholder satisfaction with the department's effectiveness in enabling a free society 80% 91%
Efficiency in meeting goals Policy advice, program work and legislative changes Work meets all requirements 90%
Professionalism, skills and commitment Stakeholder satisfaction with the professionalism and commitment of staff involved in enabling a free society 80% 96%

(a) Performance criterion as per Corporate Plan 2016–17, p. 17 and Portfolio Budget Statements 2016–17, Program 1.1, p. 24, Program 1.4 , p. 26 and Program 1.6, p. 27.

The key activities under this strategic priority and associated results are detailed in Table 11.

Table 11: Activity performance statement for Strategic Priority 5: Rights

Key activity Result
Administer the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) to protect personal information in the federal public sector and in the private sector ACHIEVED
Consultation with stakeholders on the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Bill 2016 was completed.
ONGOING
Work is ongoing on the Privacy Amendment (Re-identification Offence) Bill.
Develop measures to protect the rights of older Australians ONGOING
Contributing to the implementation of recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission's inquiry into laws and frameworks that safeguard older people from abuse. The department will develop a practical plan of action to address elder abuse across Australia, in consultation with governments and civil society organisations.
Assist the government to progress ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture ONGOING
Consultations with states and territories on the model for ratification and implementation of the protocol.
Provide advice on human rights matters and implement the government's human rights agenda ONGOING
Passage of the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (Cth) and advice to Australian Government departments on the human rights implications of policy proposals, draft legislation and submissions to Cabinet.

Analysis

Administering the Privacy Act 1988

We consulted with stakeholders on the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Bill 2016 before the Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on 19 December 2016. The Bill requires Australian Government agencies and businesses subject to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) to notify affected individuals following a data breach that carries a likely risk of serious harm. The Bill passed both Houses of Parliament on 13 February 2017 and will commence on 22 February 2018.

On 12 October 2016, the government introduced the Privacy Amendment (Re-identification Offence) Bill 2016 into the Senate. The Bill amends the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) to improve protections of anonymised1 datasets published by the Australian Government. The Bill was before the Senate on 30 June 2017.

Protecting the rights of older Australians

We commenced the implementation of the government's policy on protecting the rights of older Australians.

The Attorney-General commissioned the Australian Law Reform Commission to undertake an inquiry into laws and frameworks to safeguard older Australians from abuse. The inquiry considered laws and frameworks that safeguard and protect older people from misuse or abuse by carers, supporters and others. The final report, Elder Abuse–A National Legal Response, was finalised on 31 May 2017. The department also co-chaired the LCCSC Working Group to consider the recommendations of the report. We are working across government to develop a national, coordinated action plan with:

  • measures to build the evidence base relating to the nature and prevalence of elder abuse
  • measures to coordinate, communicate and share practices
  • options for a national elder abuse hotline
  • pilot training to educate frontline staff
  • a national awareness campaign about elder abuse and the rights of older people.

The initial action plan will be developed between 2017 and 2019, setting the foundations for a future platform of ongoing measures to address elder abuse.

Ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture

On 9 February 2017, the Australian Government announced its intention to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) by December 2017. This is subject to consultation with states and territories. The protocol requires independent monitoring of places of detention by domestic bodies (known as ‘National Preventive Mechanisms') and the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

We played a lead role in advising departments and ministers in advance of the announcement of the intention to ratify OPCAT. Since the announcement, we have collaborated with states and territories on the model for ratification. We also worked with the Human Rights Commissioner who is leading public consultations.

Protecting human rights

We advised the government on the development of the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (Cth). We have also provided advice to other Australian Government departments on the human rights implications of their policy proposals, draft legislation and submissions to Cabinet to protect and promote human rights in accordance with Australia's international human rights treaty obligations.

We administer human rights scrutiny processes under the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth). As part of this responsibility, we provided policy advice to Australian Government officers charged with drafting statements that assess the compatibility of Bills and disallowable legislative instruments. This advice is crucial to policy development as it covers the rights and freedoms recognised in the seven core international human rights treaties that Australia has ratified.

Under an agreement with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the department responded to the List of Issues announced by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. We also prepared comprehensive briefing for Australia's delegation to appear before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to report on Australia's implementation of rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


1The removal of identifying particulars or details for statistical or other purposes.

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