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Vic rights charter in spotlight

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Finally! Time to move to Victoria?!



From today, Victorian citizens will have basic human rights, like freedom of speech and freedom of religion, protected under a new charter.

The Victorian Government says it hopes its charter of human rights, which officially comes into force today, will be taken up by other states.

But while the state's Attorney-General says the charter enshrines the rights of citizens, critics say it gives too much power to the judiciary.

The ACT became the first jurisdiction to introduce a human rights act in 2004, but Victoria today becomes the first state to introduce such a charter.

The new charter of human rights is designed to ensure public authorities comply with basic conditions.

The charter sets out the rights and freedoms the State Government and all public bodies, such as police and councils, must observe when they develop policies or provide services.

Victoria's Attorney-General Rob Hulls says the charter is based on the principles of freedom, respect, equality and dignity.

"[The charter covers] some basic and important rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom from forced work, freedom from degrading treatment," he said.

"The human rights charter is a form of insurance to ensure that human rights are a priority for governments, both now and in the future, when they make decisions, when they make laws and provide services, whether it be health care, education, law enforcement and the like.

"We believe that the charter is not just about providing legal protection of our human rights, it also ensures transparency and accountability in government, and I think, in itself, is a symbolic statement of the values and principles which we want to live by."

Victorian citizens will not be able to seek damages under the charter, but the Supreme Court will now be able to demand changes to any legislation that does not comply with the charter's provisions.

That means that while the court system will not have the power to strike down legislation, it will be able to interpret statutory provisions.

But Mirko Bagaric, professor of law at Victoria's Deakin University, does not agree it is a good move.

"It actually transfers power to the judiciary from the politicians, and hence the community, in terms of making decisions regarding what happens when rights clash, either with other rights, or the common good," he said.

"The reason it's a bad thing is because it actually transfers really important social engineering power to the only group in the community that are unaccountable for their decisions.

"If judges get it wrong, they can't be sacked. They effectively are rarely criticised.

"[Politicians] often make bad decisions as well, but the really good thing about politicians, we get to sack them every four years if we don't like them."

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does this allow room for provision for legal religious/ceremonial Ayahuasca and Peyote usage?

Regarding Victoria's imitation recent Lophophora prohibition I'm guessing not.

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My guess is that if a true traditional religious group using any entheogens would probably be immune to prosecution in the same way that NAC and UDV got off in the US, but this is probably the case regardless of this human rights charter.

The key issue there is sincerity and being able to show some traditional use, I doubt this charter is going to protect 20-something suburbanites with notions of shamanism from prosecution, just as the US bill of rights doesn't work for 'cannabis churches' etc.

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