The role of Parliament
The Human Rights Act requires the parliament, the courts and the executive to act compatibly with the Act.
In order to act compatibly with the Human Rights Act, the parliament must scrutinise all proposed laws for compatibility with human rights. This includes through accompanying all new bills introduced into Parliament with a statement of compatibility and requiring portfolio committees to examine bills and report to the legislative assembly about any incompatibility with human rights.
The parliament’s obligation is to consider the impact of new laws on human rights. It continues to be able to pass laws that are not consistent with human rights.
The ‘dialogue model’
The Act is based on a ‘dialogue’ model of human rights. It aims to promote a discussion between the different arms of government – the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive.
In a dialogue model of human rights, parliament is still responsible for making and passing laws. Courts cannot overrule legislation because it is not compatible with human rights.
Statements of compatibility
All legislation introduced into parliament must be accompanied by a statement of compatibility. The statement has to be written by the Member of Parliament introducing the bill. It has to state clearly whether or not, in the Member’s opinion, the bill is compatible with human rights and the nature and extent of any incompatibility.
The parliament can still choose to pass a law even if it is accompanied by a statement that says it is incompatible with human rights.
Committees play an important role in Queensland’s parliament. Unlike every other state and territory, and the federal parliament, Queensland does not have an upper house. Parliamentary committees take on some of the work an upper house would usually do. This includes monitoring or investigating particular issues and scrutinising proposed laws.
There are seven portfolio committees in Queensland Parliament. They are made up of members of parliament and it is their job enquire into proposed laws before they are debated by parliament. You can find information about the committees and their functions on the parliament website.
Under the Human Rights Act, a committee examining a piece of proposed legislation will need to report to the parliament about any incompatibility with human rights.
In exceptional circumstances the Human Rights Act allows parliament to make an ‘override declaration’ about a law, or part of a law. If an override declaration is made, the Human Rights Act does not apply to the law or part of a law the declaration has been made about. It is only for use in exceptional circumstances.