26 September 2023

AHRC calls for tighter appointment rules

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The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is urging all federal parliamentarians to support the passage of a new Bill requiring statutory appointments to the Commission to be merit-based and publicly advertised.

Throwing her support behind the Australian Human Rights Commission Legislation Amendment (Selection and Appointment) Bill 2022, President of the AHRC, Rosalind Croucher said the reforms would remove the possibility of direct appointments to the eight statutory offices at the Commission without competitive processes.

“I now urge all federal parliamentarians to support the passage of the Bill to ensure the integrity of the Commission is strengthened and that Australia’s global reputation as a human rights leader remains intact,” Professor Croucher said.

She said the existing legislation had been criticised by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) following a five-yearly review of AHRC, which threw the Commission’s status as an A-Status national human rights institution into question.

“This is the first time in its history that the Commission has been at risk of our status being downgraded,” Professor Croucher said.

“Moreover, this has the potential to significantly undermine Australia’s reputation as a global human rights leader,” she said.

In its report earlier this year, GANHRI’s Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) raised concerns with the Australian Attorney-General’s ability to bypass the Commission’s requirement for an open and merit-based selection process.

It said such appointments would “have the potential to bring into question the legitimacy of the appointees and the independence” of the Commission.

“It is critically important to ensure the formalisation of a clear, transparent and participatory selection and appointment process for a National Human Rights Institution’s decision-making body, and the application of established process in all cases,” the SCA said.

Professor Croucher said the outcome of the review had been deferred until October 2023 to provide the Australian Government with time to address deficiencies in the appointments process for Commissioners.

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