The ACT Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ACT ESCR) research project, subtitled ‘Protecting Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the ACT: models, methods and impact’, assessed whether the ACT Human Rights Act 2004 should be amended to include economic, social and cultural rights. It was supported by an ARC Linkage Grant.
The project combined a comprehensive literature review, comparative legal analysis, and consultations with international and national legal experts and ACT stakeholders through a series of workshops and roundtables to consider whether the ACT should include economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights in the ACT Human Rights Act (HRA).
Project background and framework
The ACT ESCR research project was undertaken at the request of the ACT Government and followed from the government’s 12-month review of the Human Rights Act (PDF 2.73MB), which recommended that the issue of economic, social and cultural rights be revisited as part of the five-year review of the legislation. At the time, the project represented the first comprehensive Australian study of the potential impact of the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in a legislative bill of rights.
The framework objectives of the project included:
- assessing the adequacy of the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in the ACT
- examining the possible mechanisms for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights, and the appropriateness of those mechanisms in the ACT
- analysing the potential impact of the enforcement of economic, social and cultural rights and the effect on policy-making, service delivery and decision-making processes in the ACT.
Community consultation, July – August, 2011
On 9 December 2010 the Attorney-General, Mr Simon Corbell, introduced the ACT ESCR Project’s final report (PDF 3.22MB) into the Legislative Assembly, noting that
“the question of whether to incorporate economic, social and cultural rights into ACT law is a complex one that raises many issues for all parts of our community, not just government. These questions will need to be considered in detail by the government, in consultation with the community.”
A background paper (PDF 2.68MB) for consultation was provided.
ACT government response
The ACT government has prepared a response (PDF 394.11KB) to the independent research report, Australian Capital Territory Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Research Project Report. In its response the government addresses the Report’s 15 recommendations, suggest that the Human Rights Act 2004 (HRA) be amended to include the rights to education, housing, health, work and to take part in cultural life.
On 29 March 2012, the ACT government tabled the Human Rights Amendment Bill 2012 that will include the right to education in the Human Rights Act. Further details can be found in the [transcript of the relevant debate of the ACT Legislative Assembly] (/sites/default/files/uploads/2015-05/Leg.assembly_ACT.pdf) (PDF 290KB) and the explanatory statement presented by the Attorney-General, Mr Simon Corbell MLA, in relation to the Human Rights Amendment Bill 2012.
The ACT Legislative Assembly passed amendments to the HRA on 23 August 2012 to insert a right to education. See the history of the amendments.
The controversy surrounding the bill is discussed by Lisa Cox in The Canberra Times and Anna Morozow on ABC News. Media Release Right to education enshrined in human rights law (PDF 253.18KB).
The project commenced in May 2009 and concluded in September 2010 with a final report – ACT Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Research Project – Australian Research Council Linkage Project LP0989167 – Report (PDF 3.22MB) submitted to the ACT Government.
The final report was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly by the Attorney-General, Mr Simon Corbell, along with a letter of advice (PDF 9.43MB) from the ACT Government Solicitor. The Attorney-General’s statement at the ACT Legislative Assembly is available on the ANU ACT Human Rights Act Portal.
Publications and other academic outputs
Byrnes, A. 2010 ‘Second-Class Rights Yet Again? Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Report of the National Human Rights Consultation,’ UNSW Law Journal, Vol. 33 (1), pp.193-238.
Charlesworth, H. 2010, ‘Protecting human rights in Australia: A long and winding road’, Australian Review of Public Affairs, Digest, April 2010.
Young, K. 2010, ‘A Typology of Adjudication of Economic and Social Rights’, International Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 8, pp. 385-420.
Zeffert, H. 2011, ‘Time to expand the ACT Human Rights Act 2004? Report of the Australian Capital Territory Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Research Project’ (PDF 267.79KB), Australian Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 17 (2), pp. 215-242. Book chapters
Harris Rimmer, S. 2010, ‘Assessing the relevance of the international legal framework in claiming economic and social rights’ in Ann Nevile (ed.), Human Rights and Social Policy: A Comparative Analysis of Values and Citizenship in OECD Countries (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Pub, 2010), pp. 20-46.
Perelman, J. & Young, K., 2010 ‘Rights as Footprints’ in White, L. & Perelman, J. (eds.), Stones of Hope, (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press), pp. 122-148.
Young, K. 2010 ‘Securing Health through Rights’ in Thomas Pogge, Matthew Rimmer & Kim Rubenstein (eds.), Incentives for Global Public Health, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 357-380.
Byrnes, A. ‘The protection of human rights in NSW through the Parliamentary process- a review of the recent performance of the NSW Parliament’s Legislation Review Committee’, paper presented at Protecting Human Rights Conference 2009, Sydney, 2 October 2009,  UNSWLRS 43.
Charlesworth H. and Thilagaratnam R., ‘Update on the ACT Human Rights Act’, paper presented at Protecting Human Rights Conference 2009, Sydney, 2 October 2009.
Jacobs C. ‘Demystifying the progressive realisation of socio-economic rights in South Africa’, paper presented at public seminar on Monitoring ESC Rights, ANU, 19 October 2009.
Charlesworth, H., 2009, panelist, ‘Economic, social and cultural rights as public values’ Centre for public policy at the University of Melbourne Conference - Values and public policy: Fairness, diversity and social change, Melbourne, 27 February 2009.