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Contact details

Human rights scrutiny

Under the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (the Act) all new Bills and disallowable legislative instruments must be accompanied by a Statement of Compatibility assessing the compatibility of the legislation with the rights and freedoms recognised in the seven core international human rights treaties which Australia has ratified.

The Act also requires the establishment of a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. The Committee has functions to:

  • examine Bills, Acts and legislative instruments for compatibility with human rights
  • examine Acts for compatibility with human rights, and
  • inquire into any matter relating to human rights which is referred to it by the Attorney-General.

These human rights scrutiny processes are designed to encourage early and ongoing consideration of human rights issues in policy and legislative development. They also aim to improve parliamentary scrutiny of new laws for consistency with rights and freedoms in the seven core international human rights treaties to which Australia is a party.

Further information for policy and legislation officers developing Bills and disallowable legislative instruments on preparing Statements of Compatibility with Australia's human rights obligations is on the Statements of Compatibility webpage.

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights

What is the composition of the Committee and how does it operate?

The Committee is composed of ten members—five from the House of Representatives and five from the Senate. The powers and proceedings of the Committee have been determined by Parliamentary resolution.

Scrutiny of Bills and legislative instruments for compatibility with human rights is the major activity of the Committee. The Committee is also able to inquire more thoroughly into Bills and legislative instruments including calling for submissions, holding public hearings and calling for witnesses, when it considers this appropriate.

In addition to the scrutiny function, the committee will be able to review existing Acts and conduct broader inquiries on matters related to human rights referred to it by the Attorney-General. In performing these functions, the Committee will be able to call for submissions, hold public hearings and call for witnesses.

The Committee's webpage contains all of its reports.

More information

For more information contact the Civil Law Unit at humanrights@ag.gov.au or 02 6141 3413.