“The SCA notes that the recent amendments to the Australian Human Rights Commission Act (AHRC Act) did not address its recommendation to provide for an explicit reference to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) or the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in the mandate of the AHRC. 

The SCA notes that despite the lack of explicit reference, the AHRC considers that some rights contained in CAT and ICESCR are covered in the other human rights instruments scheduled to the AHRC Act. The SCA also acknowledges that the AHRC continues to broadly interpret its mandate to encompass all human rights and conducts work directly in relation to instruments that are not scheduled to its legislation. 

The SCA notes that the AHRC has conducted research and advocacy on Australia’s ratification of OPCAT, conducts immigration detention inspections, handles complaints under the AHRC Act that relate to torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and reports to Parliament on these matters. 

Further, that the AHRC handles discrimination complaints and has conducted advocacy related to economic, social and cultural rights, which has included submissions to the Federal Parliament on welfare reforms, social support for children and Indigenous peoples, exploitation of peoples with disabilities, domestic and sexual violence, and mental health. 

The SCA encourages the AHRC to advocate for the CAT, ICESCR and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to be scheduled to the AHRC Act to ensure all core international human rights instruments and standards are provided for in the AHRC’s mandate. In this context the SCA acknowledges the AHRC’s recent advocacy for a national Human Rights Act. 

The SCA also encourages the AHRC to continue to advocate for the Federal Government to implement the recommendations of the Commission’s Free and Equal project to modernise federal discrimination laws and introduce new human rights protections. Such implementation will further strengthen the Commission’s mandate to promote and protect human rights. 

The SCA refers to Paris Principles A.1, A.2, and A.3 and to its General Observation 1.2 ‘Human rights mandate’.”