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 Strategic Priority 5 - Rights

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Enable a free society with balanced rights, freedoms and responsibilities

Our government is responsible for promoting and protecting people's rights within Australia. We provide advice, policies and laws to help people enjoy a life in which their rights are respected and protected.

Stakeholders including Australian agencies, legal service providers, non-government organisations, research institutions and private industry provided feedback on our delivery of activities. Stakeholders remain satisfied with the ‘professionalism and commitment of our staff in enabling a free society' (86 per cent).

Australia's regional and global position on fundamental rights (Factor 4) in the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index is used to benchmark our impact on the community. Factor 4 measures how the protection of human rights; the enforcement of laws that provide equal protections; the right to life and security; the due process of law and the rights of the accused; freedom of opinion and expression, belief and religion, assembly and association; the rights to privacy; labour rights and the elimination of discrimination is experienced by the public. The 2017 Rule of Law Index used its research data for Australia from 2016. The 2017 Index noted the greatest decline globally over the past 12 months is in Factor 4, with 71 of the 113 countries that are included having a lower rating. Australia's ranking remains at 13 of 113 countries.

We also conducted evaluation and design reviews for all major projects. Table 10 provides results of the client survey against each of our performance measures.

Table 10: KPI performance statement for Strategic Priority 5: Rights
KPI Performance criterion (a) Target Result
Effectiveness Stakeholder and client satisfaction with the departments' effectiveness in enabling a free society 80% 75%
Efficiency in meeting goals Policy advice, program, work and legislation Work is completed on time, within budget and in compliance with relevant guidelines 79%
Professionalism, skills and commitment Stakeholder and client satisfaction with the professionalism, skills and commitment of staff involved in enabling a free society 80% 86%
  Evaluation and design review processes For all major projects Met
Community impact Australia's regional and global position on fundamental rights (Factor 4) in the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index Position 10 or above 13
(a) Performance criteria as per Corporate Plan 2017–21, p. 15 and Portfolio Budget Statements 2017–18, Program 1.1, p. 13, Program 1.4, p. 15, Program 1.5, p. 16 and Program 1.6, p. 16.

The key activities under this strategic priority and a summary of relevant progress are provided in Table 11. Further information about progress of achievements follows in the Analysis section.

Table 11: Activity performance statement for Strategic Priority 5: Rights
Key activity Result
Advice on human rights matters and implement the Australian Government's human rights agenda, including developing measures to protect the rights of older Australians ONGOING
Advice to government on policy proposals and draft legislation
Consultations on the National Plan on Elder Abuse
A knowledge hub and research on elder abuse
Harmonising enduring powers of attorney, particularly financial powers
Administer the Privacy Act 1988 to protect personal information in the federal public sector and in the private sector ACHIEVED
The Notifiable Data Breaches Scheme under the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act 2017
Government agreement to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Cross-Border Privacy Rules system
ONGOING
Privacy Amendment (Re-identification Offence) Bill 2016 reform
Review of financial hardship arrangements
Assist the Australian Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment ACHIEVED
Ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT)
ONGOING
Work with states and territories on the implementation of OPCAT

Analysis

Protecting human rights and older Australians

Trust is critical to community confidence in Australia's government institutions and processes. Our activities promote transparency and accountability and help ensure that government acts legally and with respect for human rights.

We provide advice on the human rights implications of government policy proposals, draft legislation and submissions to Cabinet, and advise on drafting statements of compatibility with human rights.

In February 2018, the Council of Attorneys-General agreed to the development of a National Plan on Elder Abuse, implementing a key recommendation of Australian Law Reform Council 2017 Report 131, Elder Abuse – A National Legal Response. We worked closely with the states and territories and released a consultation paper to guide discussions with stakeholders about the Plan's priorities. A draft of the National Plan on Elder Abuse is due by the end of 2018.

Financial security for older people is an important area for protection. A significant body of anecdotal evidence indicates that arrangements for enduring powers of attorney, which allows a designated person to access and manage another person's financial arrangements, may lead to abuse. We have partnered with state and territory governments to investigate harmonising enduring power of attorney laws, with a particular focus on financial arrangements to safeguard the finances of older people.

It is important that advice and decisions about the abuse of older people be based on evidence of the situations and causes. We are working with research organisations to examine available data on the lived-experience of older people and research to measure the prevalence of elder abuse.

Administering the Privacy Act 1988

In 2017-18, we finalised work on the Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act 2017. The Act introduces the Notifiable Data Breaches Scheme, which requires that government and businesses subject to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)notify individuals of data breaches that may cause them serious harm. In the first six weeks of the scheme, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner received 63 data breach notifications under the scheme.

As our environments evolve, the changing use of technology has implications on the effectiveness of Australia's privacy structures. In November 2017, Australia announced its participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Cross-Border Privacy Rules (CBPR). The CBPR allows the flow of personal information across borders while providing effective protection. This is essential to maintain trust and confidence in digital information transfers.

Our work on the Privacy Amendment (Re-identification Offence) Bill 2016 has progressed and is before the Senate. The Bill amends the Privacy Act 1988 to improve protections of anonymised datasets published by the Australian Government. In this way, we are improving privacy protections for people to give greater confidence in how personal information is handled.

In March 2018, we commenced a review of existing financial hardship arrangements and how they work within Australia's consumer credit reporting framework. The review stems from concerns about how hardship arrangements are treated in the consumer credit reporting system. A discussion paper was released and submissions were received during June 2018. We expect to finalise the review later in 2018.

Ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture

In December 2017, the Australian Government, with our assistance, ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). OPCAT is an international treaty aimed at preventing torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in places where people are deprived of their liberty. OPCAT entered into force in Australia in January 2018 and demonstrates Australia's commitment to preventing torture and mistreatment in places of detention.

Following ratification, we are working with the Commonwealth Ombudsman and state and territory governments to establish Australia's National Preventive Mechanism. This will be a cooperative network of government oversight bodies coordinated by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Human Rights Commissioner is leading civil society consultations on the implementation of OPCAT.

Other work

We lead Australia's engagement with the United Nations human rights treaty body system. We appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Committee regarding Australia's implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and submitted Australia's report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. In partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we prepared comprehensive briefing for the Australian delegation that appeared before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This work demonstrates Australia's strong commitment to the United Nations human rights system, and to international scrutiny.

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