Explanatory Memorandum(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck)
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011
Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019
This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.
Overview of the Bill
The purpose of the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (New Commissioner Functions) Bill 2019 (the Bill) is to transfer additional aged care regulatory functions to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner. These new functions include approving providers of aged care, and monitoring and enforcing their compliance with their aged care responsibilities.
The conferral of additional functions on the Commission will enable it to fulfil its role to protect and enhance the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of aged care consumers; promote confidence and trust in the provision of aged care; and promote engagement with aged care consumers about the quality of care and services.
Human rights implications
The Bill engages the following human rights:
- The right to an adequate standard of living and the right to health;
- The protection against arbitrary interference with privacy; and
- The right to a fair trial.
The right to standard of living and health
The Bill is compatible with the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to health as contained in article 11 and article 12(1) of the International Convention on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and articles 25 and 28 of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The right to privacy and reputation
Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) prohibits arbitrary or unlawful interference with an individual's privacy, family, home or correspondence, and protects a person's honour and reputation from unlawful attacks. This right may be subject to permissible limitations where those limitations are provided by law and are non-arbitrary. In order for limitations not to be arbitrary, they must be aimed at a legitimate objective and be reasonable, necessary and proportionate to that objective.
The Bill places obligations on participants in the regulatory scheme set up by the Bill that relates to monitoring and investigation powers (including entry, search and seizure) by triggering Parts 2 and 3 of the Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Act 2014 (Regulatory Powers Act).
By triggering the Regulatory Powers Act, the Bill protects against arbitrary abuses of power as the entry, monitoring, search, seizure and information gathering powers provided in it are conditional upon consent being given by the occupier of the premises or prior judicial authorisation. Where entry is based on the consent of the occupier, consent must be informed and voluntary and the occupier of the premises can restrict entry by authorised persons to a particular period. Additional safeguards are provided through provisions requiring authorised persons and any persons assisting them to leave the premises if the occupier withdraws their consent.
Further, by triggering the Regulatory Powers Act, the Bill specifies that an issuing officer of a warrant to enter premises for the purpose of monitoring or investigation must be a judicial officer. The Bill also provides limits on the issuing of a monitoring or investigation warrant. In the case of an investigation warrant, for example, an issuing officer may issue an investigation warrant only when satisfied, by oath or affirmation, that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is, or may be within 72 hours, evidential material on the premises. An issuing officer must not issue a warrant unless the issuing officer has been provided, either orally or by affidavit, with such further information as they require concerning the grounds on which the issue of the warrant is being sought. Such constraints on this power ensure adequate safeguards against arbitrary limitations on the right to privacy in the issuing of warrants.
An authorised person cannot enter premises unless their identity card is shown to the occupier of the premises. If entry is authorised by warrant, the authorised person must also provide a copy of the warrant to the occupier of the premises. This provides for the transparent utilisation of the Bill's powers and mitigates arbitrariness and risk of abuse.
These powers are reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate objective. Adequate safeguards and limitations on the use of regulatory powers in the Bill ensures that such lawful interferences are not arbitrary or at risk of abuse.
The right to a fair and public hearing
Article 14 of the ICCPR ensures that everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
By triggering the Regulatory Powers Act, the Bill provides questioning powers to authorised officers in certain situations. These powers are expressed in sections 24 and 54 of the Regulatory Powers Act, which make it an offence to fail to answer questions of an authorised officer. While these powers are expressed to be subject only to very limited defences and exceptions, the Bill relies on the common law presumption against abrogation of core rights to preserve the privilege against self-incrimination and legal professional privilege. Sections 17 and 47 of the Regulatory Powers Act are intended to make certain that the privilege against self-incrimination and legal professional privilege have not been abrogated by this Bill. These protections guarantee the fair trial rights protected in articles 14(3)(d) and (g) of the ICCPR by limiting the operation of the questioning powers provided by the Bill.
Sections 35 and 76 of the Regulatory Powers Act also provide for a reverse onus of proof with regard to proving an exception to an offence of strict liability. It is appropriate that the prosecution does not need to prove fault for the elements of this offence, on the basis that the state of mind of the defendant is not relevant, the elements of the offence are objective, and the offence is minor and deterrent in nature. It is reasonable that the defendant bears an evidential burden given the context of the exception and the minor nature of the offence.
The Bill promotes human rights to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognized and declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.