The Queensland government insists the state needs more laws to protect human rights, but its opposition says there are enough already.
Legislation proposing to enshrine 23 entitlements in law including the right to privacy, protection from degrading treatment and a fair hearing have passed state parliament.
Australia does not have a national law that guarantees rights for citizens, and advocates say the government’s new law will bring Queensland into line with international treaties.
In its argument against the bill, the Liberal National Party said it wasn’t necessary.
One of its MPs, Sam O’Connor, said the government was grandstanding on a bill that will not tangibly improve the lives of people in his Gold Coast seat.
“This does not help them find a job. This does not give them better access to education, to university, or any other studies. This does not help them buy a house to stop renting,” he told Parliament on Wednesday.
“It is merely a feel good piece of legislation that has wasted time and taxpayers money.”
However, Multicultural Affairs Minister Stirling Hinchliffe urged his peers to vote in favour of making the community fairer.
“Support the fundamental dignity that this legislation will provide to each and every one of our fellow Queenslanders no matter what their background, no matter how and why they live their lives,” he said.
Sandy Bolton, the independent Member for Noosa, pointed to its limited capacity to offer practical protections.
“Some advocacy groups are concerned on certain clauses and wording, including education appropriate to a child’s need, which could again lead to segregation and discrimination, not the inclusion sought,” she said.
Meanwhile, letters written by medical professionals detailing allegations against a Brisbane surgeon are now in the hands of Queensland Health after being made public.
A dossier of claims tabled by the LNP’s Ros Bates on Tuesday have been referred to the department, Health Minister Steven Miles said on Wednesday.
The bundle includes claims the surgeon asked his female colleagues to engage in sex acts with him, verbally abused medical staff, and inappropriately touched women he worked with.
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons says it has received complaints against him but could not take them further because of a lack of evidence.
Comment has been sought from the surgeon.