Senator criticises own party over missing human rights info

THE Liberal chairman of parliament's human rights committee says the Attorney-General's department has "abrogated its responsibilities" in failing to explain the human rights implications of the government's new national security laws.

The first of three such bills passed with Labor's support on Tuesday, but could not be fully assessed for whether or not they breached Australia's international human rights obligations before being passed, as the department failed to provide enough detail about the laws to the committee.

Committee chairman, Senator Dean Smith, said most departments did a "good job" of meeting the "statements of compatibility with human rights".

But he said the failures in this instance were a "serious abrogation of one of their (the department's) most primary responsibilities".

"If the statement of compatibility was of a higher quality the committee could easily have concluded its examination of the human rights examinations and provided that to parliament," Sen Smith said.

Sen Smith said the lack of detail was particularly concerning, coming as it did from the department that sets the standards for such statements for every other government agency.

"It was very disappointing, alarming even, that given the obvious sensitivity of national security legislation, that the statement was not of a higher quality," he said.

Sen Smith has since written to Attorney-General George Brandis for more details of the new laws affecting human rights and said it was "not best practice" that the laws were not fully assessed before being passed by parliament.

The department has said it would comply with any further requests to give the committee information from the minister's office, but has not explained why it failed to provide the details in the first place.


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