A Difficult Dialogue: Statements of Compatibility and the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act
As a ‘third-wave’ Bill of Rights, the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act is premised on the twin goals of creating a ‘culture of rights’ within the bureaucracy and the emergence of a rights-based dialogue between Cabinet and the Parliament of Victoria through statements of compatibility. The first objective has been advanced through a revised policy process within the bureaucracy, but a dialogic engagement between Parliament and the Cabinet has yet to emerge in a substantive way. A number of factors account for this modest parliamentary dialogue: first, the functioning of a statutory Bill of Rights in a moderately sized Parliament with a strong partisan orientation; second, the general reluctance of the Cabinet to alter legislation once introduced into Parliament despite compatibility disagreements identified by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee; and finally, the approach by both the Cabinet and backbenchers to statements of compatibility that limit their ability to facilitate rights-based parliamentary scrutiny. This article explores the contemporary difficulties of a parliamentary dialogue emerging in Victoria that are, in large part, the result of an unintended tension between pre-introduction scrutiny by the bureaucracy on behalf of the Cabinet, and secondly, the weakness of post-introduction scrutiny facilitated by Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee via statements of compatibility.
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