Human Rights Act Myth Busters


On 8 October 2009, the National Human Rights Consultation Committee, which had been commissioned by the Rudd Government to consider human rights in Australia, handed down its report recommending the adoption of an Australian Human Rights Act. This was a landmark moment, representing Australia’s best chance to become the last western nation to adopt comprehensive human rights legislation.

At the time, the Government accepted the report but delayed its response, creating a vacuum which has been filled by a spirited debate. In the course of the debate, we believe that some of those opposed to a Human Rights Act for Australia have perpetuated myths about human rights legislation.

Since then, one state and one territory have adopted their own Human Rights Acts. Victoria adopted its Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities in 2006 and the Australian Capital Territory adopted the Human Rights Act in 2004. The absence of a Human Rights Act is still felt in the rest of Australia. However, in December 2015 the Queensland government announced an inquiry into the potential adoption of a Human Rights Act. While this is a preliminary step, it is a step in the right direction.In response to the myths and misconceptions that surround the idea of a Human Rights Act, the Castan Centre has prepared a number of “myth-busters”.


Myth 1: The proposed Human Rights Act would shift decision making to unelected judges

Myth 2: Judges would be able to effectively change the law under a Human Rights Act

Myth 3: Judges would use a Human Rights Act to bully politicians into changing laws to comply with human rights

Myth 4: Human rights are too political for judges

Myth 5: Human rights are too vague for judges

Myth 6: A Human Rights Act would be a lawyers’ feast

Myth 7: Our human rights are adequately protected already

Myth 8: The Report recommending a Human Rights Act is not reflective of the majority of Australian views

Myth 9: The Human Rights Act would be a "rogues' charter" that protects terrorists and criminals

Myth 10: The introduction of a Human Rights Act will only protect minorities to the detriment of the majority

Myth 11: A Human Rights Act would be nothing more than the fulfilment of the Left's agenda

Myth 12: A Human Rights Act will be too costly

Myth 13 – We need a referendum before enacting a Human Rights Act

Myth 14:  A Human Rights Act will mean that same sex marriage will be legalised

Myth 15: A Human Rights Act will impinge on Religious Freedom