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The Australian National University

The Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth) and the Courts

Dan Meagher (2014) 42 (1)

The Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth) ('the Act') has established a new model of pre-legislative rights scrutiny of proposed Commonwealth laws. This is undertaken by the political arms of government and involves: (1) the requirement that a statement of (human rights) compatibility must accompany proposed laws and certain legislative instruments when introduced into Parliament; and (2) the establishment of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights ('PJCHR') which regularly reports to the Parliament on the compatibility of its proposed laws with human rights.
This article looks at the relationship between the Act — and these two new mechanisms — and the interpretive role of the courts. It does so by first considering the (possible) direct use of statements of compatibility and PJCHR reports by Australian courts in the interpretation of Commonwealth laws that engage human rights. It then assesses whether the Act may exert an indirect influence on the content and scope of the common law interpretive presumptions that protect human rights.

Vol 42, Issue 1, 2014

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