Late last year, the government promulgated some new regulations under the Charter, excluding all three of Victoria’s parole boards – the Adult Parole Board, the Youth Residential Board and the Youth Parole Board – from the definition of ‘public authority’ and, hence from the conduct mandate. They would otherwise have easily been within the definition under Charter s. 4(1)(b), which covers entities established by Victorian legislation that have public functions. The exclusion (under Charter s. 4(1)(k)) operates until the end of this year.
According to the HRLRC, ‘[t]he Regulations were made to enable the Boards to undertake further activities to ensure the compliance of their policies and operations with human rights before such compliance becomes a legal obligation’. So, apparently, the nearly eighteen months since the Charter was enacted weren’t enough to do this (even though they were enough for, say, government departments, Victoria Police, local councils and the courts, amongst many others.) This is especially odd, because the Charter’s difficult criminal process rights don’t apply to parole board decisions; they all expire on sentencing at the latest. So, instead, the parole boards only have to get up to speed on basic rights like equality, humane treatment, privacy and freedom of expression. Hardly burdensome, I would have thought. Actually, it’s the interpretation mandate that would be more stressful for them, as it potentially changes the meaning of the two acts that govern them. The regulations can’t solve that problem; that would require an override declaration.
This smacks of base politics. Either a turf fight between corrections and justice or the Brumby government trying to head off a Herald Sun beat-up that the Charter will require the release of dangerous criminals into the streets. Not a good start.