Skip navigation

Question: Charter of Human Rights

30 May 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:50): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of a human rights charter.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS:
On International Human Rights Day last year, over 150 organisations and individuals signed a statement calling for a parliamentary inquiry into a human rights act in South Australia. The call was led by the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS), the Rights Resource Network of South Australia and Australian Lawyers for Human Rights. The signatories stated that, and I quote from their document: We want to help build a society based on a culture of respect for human rights across government, parliament, the courts and our communities.

Those 150 signatories called for a framework to protect human rights that requires the South Australian government to consider everyone's basic rights when it designs new laws, regulations or policies. On 17 May 2023, following the protest actions of Extinction Rebellion, the police commissioner, Grant Stevens, told FIVEaa that, and I quote: We can't just, as much as we might like to, cut the ropes and let them drop.

Just a few days later, on 21 May, opposition leader David Speirs stated in a media conference, and I quote from his remarks to the ABC: If you…march down King William Street in a planned protest supported by the police…I think we're doing pretty good. There are some countries where your head would be cut off for doing that sort of protest.

My question to the Attorney-General therefore is: is the Attorney-General concerned by these comments? In particular, does he share the opposition leader's belief that being able to walk down the street without being beheaded is a sign of 'doing pretty good'? Does the Attorney-General think it is acceptable for the Commissioner of Police to refer to cutting the rope on protesters, and would the Attorney-General support a charter of human rights to ensure that the basic human rights of all South Australians are protected?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:52): I thank the honourable member for his questions. In relation to the first two questions and comments that others have made, I will leave that for them to talk about the comments they have made and why they have made them. In relation to the third question, in relation to a human rights charter, it certainly is something that has been raised, and a number of the groups mentioned by the honourable member have made representations to the government about this and a whole range of other matters—particularly recently—not just from our just over 12 months in government but our time in opposition.

Protecting human rights is an important thing that governments should be concerned about. We have, since 1975, federal racial discrimination laws. We have an Equal Opportunities Act that applies in South Australia. In relation to legislation for human rights, we are open to receiving representations, but we don't have a policy to advance legislation on that matter at this time.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:53): Supplementary: does the Attorney-General not want to use this opportunity to disavow the comments of the Leader of the Opposition?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:53): I think the Leader of the Opposition is big enough to defend any comments he makes himself. I might say that it is not language I would choose to use.