Session 1 - A National Consultation on Human Rights
The Hon. Robert McClelland
'Promotion and protection of human rights'
Abstract: The Attorney-General will speak on the promotion and protection of human rights.
Bio: Robert McClelland is the Attorney-General and the Member for Barton, an electorate based in the St George area of Sydney. Mr McLelland was elected to Parliament in 1996. Before becoming Attorney-General he served on several parliamentary committees, including as Deputy Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and the Joint Select Committee on the Republic Referendum. Before entering Parliament, Mr McLelland practised as a lawyer for 14 years, specialising in industrial and sports law. Mr McLelland was born on Australia Day in 1958. His interests include Australian history, surfing and rugby league.
Dr Ben Saul
Director, Sydney Centre for International Law, University of Sydney
'Towards an Australian Bill of Rights: Why politicians have too much power and judges have too little'
Abstract: The problem of human rights protection in Australia is that politicians currently have too much power and deserve less while judges do not have enough power and ought to enjoy more. A justiciable (statutory or constitutional) bill of rights would properly rebalance the constitutional distribution of power to better safeguard both individual and public interests. A justiciable bill is preferable to a weaker ‘dialogue’ model (such as that in the UK, Victoria and ACT) because those weaker models reconceptualise rights as mere political privileges – offering less protection for rights – and indeed provide little additional to the current level of rights protection in Australia. A justiciable bill of rights would not require judges to apply overly vague or political standards which would politicise the judiciary. Far from it: empowering judges to better protect rights would enhance the legitimacy of the judiciary and increase public confidence in the justice system.
Bio: Dr Ben Saul is Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law at Sydney Law School and a barrister. His book, Defining Terrorism in International Law (Oxford), is the leading work on the subject and his research has been cited in international criminal tribunals, United Nations bodies and the Australian High Court. He has taught law at Oxford, Sydney, UNSW, Calcutta, Hong Kong, and in Cambodia and Nepal. He is a member of the International Law Association’s International Committee for the Compensation of Victims of War, President of Refugee Advice and Casework Service, Vice-President of Sydney PEN (and writers’ organisation), and a Member of the NSW Legal Aid Commission’s Human Rights Committee. Dr Saul has been involved in human rights litigation in the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Israel, South Africa, Peru, Sri Lanka and Guantanamo Bay, and is currently involved in human rights training for the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights and of Nepalese police and prosecutors. He has a doctorate in law from Oxford University and double honours degrees in Arts and Law and two university medals from Sydney University.
Session 2 - A Health Check on the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities
The Hon. Justice Chris Maxwell
President, Court of Appeal
'The Victorian Charter so far: a judge's perspective'
Abstract: Although rights under the Charter have been justiciable since 1 January 2008, the flow of Charter litigation has been a trickle rather than a flood. The Court of Appeal has not yet had to rule on a Charter point, and the Trial Division has yet to consider a judicial review application raising a ground under ss. 38/39. Fears of judicial adventurism have proved to be unfounded.
Bio: Justice Maxwell came to the Bar in 1984 and took silk in 1998. He was President of Liberty Victoria from 2000-2002, during which time he appeared with Julian Burnside as counsel for Liberty when it brought the habeas corpus application now known as the Tampa case. Justice Maxwell was appointed President of the Court of Appeal in 2005.
Mr Alistair Pound
Barrister and co-author of 'An Annotated Guide to the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities'.
'The Victorian Charter so far: a lawyer's perspective'
Abstract: The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 has, to date, been the subject of relatively little consideration by Victorian courts and tribunals. This paper considers the reasons that may lie behind that state of affairs and looks at the guidance offered by the cases decided to date about how to approach cases raising Charter issues and how practitioners can apply the Charter to their clients’ advantage.
Bio: Alistair Pound has been a member of the Victorian Bar since 2005, practising in the areas of general commercial and administrative law. He is the co-author, with Kylie Evans, of a text on the Victorian Charter and a contributing author to Pizer’s Victorian Administrative Law looseleaf service. Since coming to the Bar, he has given advice in, and been involved in, several matters that have raised issues under the Charter.
Session 3 - Australian Re-engagement with International Law
The Hon Robert Hill
Former Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations
'Howard to Rudd: Australia's record of international engagement'
Abstract: This paper will draw on Mr Hill's experience as an ambassador under both the Howard and Rudd governments to compare their approach to international engagement in the area of human rights.
Bio: Robert Hill is the former Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a position he has held since March 2006. Mr Hill was elected as a Liberal Party representative of South Australia to the Senate in 1981 and has since held a number of significant positions such as the Minister for the Environment from 1996 until 1998, Minister for Environment and Heritage between 1998 and 2001, and Minister for Defence from 2001 until 2006. Mr Hill studied at the University of Adelaide, obtained his masters degree in law from the London School of Economics, and practiced as both a barrister and solicitor before beginning his political career with the Liberal Party. Mr Hill is about to move into the next phase of his career as he takes up his new role as an adjunct professor in sustainability at the University of Sydney’s U.S. Studies Centre.
Professor Hilary Charlesworth
Director, Centre for International Governance and Justice, Australian National University
'Assessing Australia on the world stage'
Abstract: This paper will examine Australia’s engagement with the international human rights system over the past decade.
Bio: Professor Hilary Charlesworth is the Director of the Centre for International Governance and Justice at the Australian National University (ANU), and is a Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the ANU College of Law. She has held visiting appointments as a professor at the Washington & Lee School of Law, New York University Global Law School, the University of Oregon, and at Université de Paris (Paris I), as well as a fellowship at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Military Law at the University of Melbourne. In 2006, Hillary was the co-recipient of the Goler T. Butcher Medal awarded by the American Society of International Law for ‘outstanding contributions to the development of international human rights law.’ Between 1997 and 2001 she was the president of the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law, and co-editor of the Australian Yearbook of International Law from 1996 until 2006. She has worked with various non-governmental human rights organisations on ways to implement international human rights standards in line with her interests in International Law, Human Rights Law, and Feminist Legal Theory.
Session 4 - International Law Update
Professor Chris Sidoti
Former Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Visiting Professor Griffith University, Visiting Professor, University of Western Sydney
'The UN Human Rights Council - The story so far'
Audio recording available here
Abstract: The Human Rights Council was established in 2006 as the successor of the Commission on Human Rights, widely described at the time as discredited. Its establishment was accompanied by great hopes, often naïve and unrealistic, that it would be an effective international promoter and protector of human rights. The Council has now completed its third cycle.
An initial assessment of the Council is now possible, weighing up what is positive and what is not. The Universal Periodic Review is shaping up as a positive development, the only thing completely new in the Council's mechanisms and program of work. However, the domination of the Council by hardline states and their accomplices is making progress difficult and may still destroy the credibility of the Council, leaving it as discredited as its predecessor.
Chris Sidoti was involved intensely in the first 'institution building' year of the Council. He returned to the Council for the first time in 18 months for its recent June session to assess its condition. The session marked the Council's third birthday. Whereas most three year olds can talk and walk, the Council at three does a lot of talking but it is yet to start to walk.
Professor Sarah Joseph
Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law
'International human rights cases 2008-2009'
Abstract: This paper will overview some of the major human rights events of 2008-09, focusing on international and comparative legal developments. Three major human rights cases from the past three months will then be analysed, concerning the human rights compatibility of measures taken to implement Security Council anti-terrorism resolutions, democratic rights in Fiji, and gay rights in India.
Bio: Sarah Joseph is Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law in the Faculty of Law at Monash University. She has published many books and articles on human rights, on topics such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, corporations and human rights, trade and human rights, terrorism and human rights, torture, and self determination. She is also an expert on federal constitutional law. She has taught human rights in many different contexts nationally and internationally, including undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and at professional training seminars.