Membership of the committee

© Commonwealth of Australia 2015

ISSN 2204-6356 (Print)

ISSN 2204-6364 (Online)

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This document was prepared by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and printed by the Senate Printing Unit, Department of the Senate, Parliament House, Canberra.

Membership of the committee

The Hon Philip Ruddock MP, Chair Berowra, New South Wales, LP
Mr Laurie Ferguson MP, Deputy Chair Werriwa, New South Wales, ALP
Senator Carol Brown Tasmania, ALP
Senator Matthew Canavan Queensland, NAT
Dr David Gillespie MP Lyne, New South Wales, NAT
Ms Cathy McGowan AO MP Indi, Victoria, IND
Senator Nick McKim Tasmania, AG
Senator Claire Moore Queensland, ALP
Senator Dean Smith Western Australia, LP
Mr Ken Wyatt AM MP Hasluck, Western Australia, LP


Mr Ivan Powell, Acting Committee Secretary
Ms Anita Coles, Principal Research Officer
Mr Matthew Corrigan, Principal Research Officer
Ms Eloise Menzies, Senior Research Officer
Ms Jessica Strout, Senior Research Officer
Ms Alice Petrie, Legislative Research Officer

External legal adviser

Professor Simon Rice OAM

Functions of the committee

The committee has the following functions under the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011:

  • to examine bills for Acts, and legislative instruments, that come before either House of the Parliament for compatibility with human rights, and to report to both Houses of the Parliament on that issue;
  • to examine Acts for compatibility with human rights, and to report to both Houses of the Parliament on that issue; and
  • to inquire into any matter relating to human rights which is referred to it by the Attorney-General, and to report to both Houses of the Parliament on that matter.

Human rights are defined in the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 as those contained in following seven human rights treaties to which Australia is a party:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);
  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD);
  • Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW);
  • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT);
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); and
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The establishment of the committee builds on the Parliament's established traditions of legislative scrutiny. Accordingly, the committee undertakes its scrutiny function as a technical inquiry relating to Australia's international human rights obligations. The committee does not consider the broader policy merits of legislation.

The committee's purpose is to enhance understanding of and respect for human rights in Australia and to ensure appropriate recognition of human rights issues in legislative and policy development.

The committee's engagement with proponents of legislation emphasises the importance of maintaining an effective dialogue that contributes to this broader respect for and recognition of human rights in Australia.

Committee's analytical framework

Australia has voluntarily accepted obligations under the seven core United Nations (UN) human rights treaties. It is a general principle of international human rights law that the rights protected by the human rights treaties are to be interpreted generously and limitations narrowly. Accordingly, the primary focus of the committee's reports is determining whether any identified limitation of a human right is justifiable.

International human rights law recognises that reasonable limits may be placed on most rights and freedoms—there are very few absolute rights which can never be legitimately limited.[1] All other rights may be limited as long as the limitation meets certain standards. In general, any measure that limits a human right must comply with the following criteria (the limitation criteria):

  • be prescribed by law;
  • be in pursuit of a legitimate objective;
  • be rationally connected to its stated objective; and
  • be a proportionate way to achieve that objective.

Where a bill or instrument limits a human right, the committee requires that the statement of compatibility provide a detailed and evidence-based assessment of the measures against these limitation criteria.

More information on the limitation criteria and the committee's approach to its scrutiny of legislation task is set out in Guidance Note 1, which is included in this report at Appendix 2.

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