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Complaint against Commissioner subject to HR Act

Media Release
12 March 2003

Complaint against Commissioner subject to provisions of Human Rights Act

A complaint made against the Race Relations Commissioner is barred from proceeding to the Human Rights Review Tribunal by Section 130 of the Human Rights Act. This does not preclude the complaint from being considered as part of a disputes resolution process.

Provisions ensuring Commissioners and other statutory officers from a number of organisations are able to carry out their duties effectively are contained in several legislative Acts, including the Human Rights Act.

The complaint to the Human Rights Commission was made under Section 61 of the Human Rights Act by Murray McCully MP following a speech the Commissioner gave in December last year.

The Commission sought external legal advice. This advice confirmed that the Section of the Act bars the Tribunal hearing any complaints made against Human Rights Commissioners in relation to any statement “made in good faith in the exercise of his or her duty as a Commissioner.” Section 130 of the Act also applies to Commission staff.

The Section does not appear to allow for this immunity to be waived either by the Race Relations Commissioner or the Commission on his behalf.

Human Rights Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan says this provision of the Act exists to ensure Commissioners can effectively carry out the requirements of their role. The role of Human Rights Commissioners is defined by Section 5 of the Act.

“Parallel provisions relating to statutory officers and officials can be found in a number of other Acts.” Other bodies affected by these provisions include the Commerce Commission, the Commissioner for Children and the Office of the Ombudsmen.

“The Commission has offered to appoint an independent mediator to consider the complaint through a dispute resolution process. Mr McCully has declined this offer,” Ms Noonan said.


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