Do we need a A Bill of Rights for Australia?

Adelaide, Australia
August 19, 2011 12:48am CST
I didn't know about this until I heard about it: we're only one of three countries in the world that have no Bill of Rights! We share the situation with Burma & Borneo! Sure, we're protected by English Common Law, but...? Even though Australia has signed all five international treaties that make up the the International Bill of Human Rights, none of these treaties are legally binding in Australia. Nor is there is a Bill of Rights in the Australian Constitution. This means that the fundamental rights and freedoms of everyone living in Australia are not protected by the law! The omission of a Bill of Rights from our Constitution is one of the elements which marked it as different to the United States Constitution from which a number of principles were derived. It was not however an omission by accident. The inclusion of a Bill of Rights was proposed and debated at the Constitutional Conventions which lead up to the drafting of the Australian Constitution. Its inclusion was defeated, somewhat ironically, on the basis that a 'due process' provision would undermine some of the discriminatory provisions in place at that time, including those laws which were enacted to the detriment of Aboriginals and Asian immigrants. So what's stopping us? Is it because any changing the system now will cost an exorbitant amount of money, which we don't have because our lovely Prime Minister has already spent it all, & then some, & then some more...? Or should we look overseas & see what happened with the chaos caused in Europe by the UK becoming signatory to the various human rights legislation, then would we understand why we need to be VERY wary of introducing a Bill of Rights Down Under? For a country that promotes an image of an advanced democracy that values the human rights of its citizens, Australia remains side-by-side with Brunei and Burma that have yet to adopt such a protective mechanism. We can achieve social justice, increase the human rights of EVERY Australian citizen and EVERY person residing in Australia (refugees), improve equality, and put and end to the covered up human right breaches that is so frequently occurring in Australia and in some cases even supported by the courts & the law if we introduced such a Bill. Now, Australia can take political prisoners, silence people’s freedom of speech;including that of journalists, and in particular do little to protect innocent victims of police harassment, violence, verbal abuse, and violate of human rights. There may well be statutory instruments in place that cover the above concerns, but it is laws that have been passed by the parliament we elected to protect our human rights and civil liberties. If a persons rights have been breached, there should be a human rights commission established where a citizen can first take his or her complaint to. This should be a body independent from the government and the courts, and even be able to arbitrate cases resulting from alleged human right breaches from government departments and institutions. They should also have a formal role in reviewing certain bills before being able to be granted royal assent. If a bill in question is in breach of the Bill of Rights, it can make recommendations to the government and order for amendments to be made. One of the features of a democracy is a voting process, others include separation of powers (ie. parliament cannot bug courts & vice versa). High Court Judges are appointed, in effect, by the Attorney General (also, the PM is appointed by the party in government). One shouldn't be so hasty as to say that just because someone isn't nominated by its constituent, that it means there are undemocratic. A Bill of rights, by nature, as opposed to legislation, is entrenched. The Australian Constitution is an entrenched document such that parliament cannot amend it without popular approval (in the form of a referendum). While many rights are granted legislatively, they can easily be taken away. As such, the whole point of a Bill of Rights is to safeguard the nation from a radical government who is zealous in eroding human rights. A Bill of Rights is not necessarily broad and unspecific. That is a matter of construction and then subject to interpretation by the courts. So, what's your take on it? Do we really need one in this day & age anyway? What are some more drawbacks or positives you can see?
2 responses
@RawBill1 (8542)
• Gold Coast, Australia
23 Aug 11
Wow! I had no idea that we did not have this in place! To be in the same box as Brunei and Burma is not a good thing. Brunei is a relatively safe place, but it is not what I would class as a normal country, more of a sovereign state similar to Monaco. It is a tiny area with plenty of wealth and few citizens. Burma on the other hand has a pretty bad track record when it comes to human rights! I can understand why the government did not bring this legislation into being back when the country was formed. They treated Aboriginals horribly back then, in the years beforehand and even afterward too. They would have been exposing themselves to a lot of problems if they had. More so than the repercussions from what they did that have unfolded in recent years. I think we need to do this now. Really, this is morally wrong not to have a Bill of Rights in place. You are right, it will be an expensive exercise and one that the government can probably not afford, but they will just have to create more debt to pay for it. Or another bloody tax!
1 person likes this
• Adelaide, Australia
23 Aug 11
Another tax? Your Queensland Government is still having problems with the last one the fed's put on 'em! The headline just came out: "The Queensland Government says economic growth and job creation will not be held back by a federal carbon tax." Yikes! Whaddaretheygunnado? I can still remember Bob Hawke's comment at the time... "awww, strewth! We'll go broke! Arghw..." I'm not sure if we can afford to service more debt, Bill. Our PM has also spent the $96 billion dollar futures fund that Little Johnny set up for occasions such as this.
@RawBill1 (8542)
• Gold Coast, Australia
23 Aug 11
You know how Australia will service new debt. The same way that the rest of the world does. By creating a new debt to pay the old one. That is how money is made. Not in printing presses!
• Adelaide, Australia
23 Aug 11
Oh! I thought it was serviced by riding on the back of a booming China! I thought it was only the USA that could service debt by printing more money? Either way, I reckon we're stuffed, Bill. What do you reckon it's going to take to get us out of all this? Do you really think the government would even bother to stick up for human rights when they're doing just fine? I think RawBill1 should run as an Independent in the next election - I'll vote for ya!
@urbandekay (18312)
19 Aug 11
Hmmm, I am not so sure, Britain has no specific Bill of Rights. And whilst in America you are free to do anything the Bill states here in UK we are free to do anything unless there is a law against it. I know which system I prefer! all the best urban
• Adelaide, Australia
19 Aug 11
Thanks, Urban. I was reading your responses to a discussion on the American Bill of Rights just now. Interesting reading! This topic has been a fairly recent issue here. It seems a lot of different groups of people don't have any rights at all here & the government can do as they please with them - mostly natives & refugees at present. Some believe we are losing human rights gradually & unbeknown to us & worry that we will soon become a communist country! Others say the reason why Stephen Conroy is even thinking of imposing a internet filter on us which, from past experience, will block websites of non-mainstream religions, homosexuals, miscellaneous dentists and travel agencies, etc, is because we do not have a constitutionally protected right to free speech. In other countries his plans would be unconstitutional. There are many other aspects of Australian society which are totally backwards due to our lack of constitutional protections. All the Best
@urbandekay (18312)
19 Aug 11
"Stephen Conroy is even thinking of imposing a internet filter on us" all the best urban
• Adelaide, Australia
19 Aug 11
That's exactly right, Urban. We're worried we will become another China! Unfortunately, down here, they can do that to us "for our own protection"! This is just one example. Sorry - that was bad English... "Stephen Conroy is even thinking of imposing an internet filter on us". I take it you were more shocked by the implications of this statement than my typo?