The $2M charter

No-one quite knows how much Victoria’s Charter costs. But there’s now a price on the road to the federal charter. The eagle-eyed folks at ACTHRA noticed the answer in the Attorney-General’s portfolio overview.

Here are the thrilling details:

First, of the three ‘outcomes’ that the A-G’s department has (civil justice, criminal justice and ‘regions’), the relevant one is ‘An equitable and accessible system of federal civil justice’, the ‘priorities’ for which in 2008-9 include:

coordinating changes to Commonwealth laws to remove discrimination against couples in same-sex relationships and supporting national community consultation on the most appropriate methods of protecting human rights

Hmmm. First off, there’s no mention of a charter, just ‘the most appropriate methods’ of protecting rights. Second,interesting that this broad issue is bundled with the much more specific same-sex issue. The overlap in principle is clear enough, but is this a good political link? Third, why is rights protection (only) a ‘civil justice’ goal?It kinda matters to criminal justice and the regions too, I would have thought (although I guess that trial process, at least, remains a state matter.) Weirdly, the criminal justice goal isn’t an ‘equitable and accessible system’ but rather a ‘coordinated’ one for a ‘safer Australia’. Oh well. There is talk in the crim discussion of ‘progressing enhancements to the criminal justice system by leading new community consultation processes on the development of federal criminal laws’. Sounds greeaaaat.

Second, in the ‘outcome 1 resource statement’, this administered item appears in ‘Output Group 1.3’:

Administered item: National consultation into human rights and responsibilities

2008-9 total estimate available resources ($’000): 2,099

2007-8 estimated actual ($’000): 35

So, they’ve already spent $35,000 and plan to spend $2.099M! A note informs us that ‘The measure was announced in the 2007–08 Additional Estimates with almost all funding now provided in 2008–09.’ Also note the blasted reference to ‘responsibilities’.

Third, the document also provides more info on the mysterious ‘Output Group 1.3’. We’re told that this group ‘provides administration of the National Classification Scheme and policy and legal advice on classification, human rights, copyright and electronic transactions laws.’ Alright, so they are in charge of censorship and money laundering. And, now, human rights. Synergy! Specifically:

The output group administers one program for the national consultation into human rights and responsibilities. The output group also coordinates the Commonwealth’s participation in the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General and provides the secretariat for the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (Censorship). It also administers the Commonwealth’s responsibilities as an owner and user of copyright materials.

I wonder if human rights are going to be a SCAG matter. I also wonder if the Commonwealth will take the same approach to copyright in its bill of rights as Victoria.

Finally, there’s actual outcomes. Everyone has performance appraisal these days. The good folks (or is it just one folk?) at Output Group 1.3 will be assessed – and presumably have their Christmas bonusses set – according to a variety of outcomes: censorship boards must be satisfied, positive feedback must be given from copyright stakeholders. The only test relating to human rights is this generic one:

Advice provided in relation to classification, human rights, copyright (domestic and international), discrimination law, and electronic transactions issues is accurate, timely and efficient.

How will this be assessed?:

Ministers and key agencies express a high degree of satisfaction as to the quality, effectiveness and timeliness of advice as measured by periodic feedback.

All the best Output Group 1.3

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