An Australian Bill of Rights

The SMH is reporting that the federal government is going to start a consultation for what an Australian Bill of Rights should contain.

I think this is great news!

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39 Responses

  1. Great news indeed, I wonder if it will actually happen

  2. Yes indeed. Greata news if it happens.

  3. The religious right will oppose it.

    When people start talking about equality, they start squealing about their god given right to discriminate against “sinners” and non-believers.

    Christians. They’re all a pack of ***ts.

    Not that I’m one to make wide-sweeping, unjustified, illfounded generalisations…

  4. OK, looks like I’m going to have to be the devil’s advocate here.

    Why exactly do we need this? Are people being denied basic human rights – such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law – in our current system?

    Or do the advocates of a bill of rights want to expand the list of rights, to include such things as the right to an abortion, for example?

  5. “Christians. They’re all a pack of ***ts. ”

    Had to fill in some hospital admission forms this week and for the second time for religion I put ‘none’ instead of the old standby of Anglican (my old religion by way of birth).

    The first time was the last census.

    It feels good to be unshackled by religious belief in the later years of my life.

  6. “unshackled FROM religious belief”

  7. “do the advocates of a bill of rights want to expand the list of rights, to include such things as the right to an abortion, ”

    Yes I would and same-sex marriage too.

    And why not? Neither would be compulsory.

  8. Dear Editor

    Why do you think this is great news???

    People can do most things in this country.

    What is the motive for having a Bill of Rights???

    Also, in most things, if you leftoids are for it, I am generally against it.

    Sincerely yours

  9. Why exactly do we need this? Are people being denied basic human rights – such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law – in our current system?

    Well Tony, under Howard David Hicks was denied his basic human rights for 5 years, the current anti-terror laws are somewhat anti-freedom eg. IR as sedition, and the BCII Act and the ABCC definately infringe on the rights of building and constructions workers.

    Then there is the treatment of asylum seekers, the demonisation of muslims and disadvantaged people in the community.

    Let’s not forget the undemocratic way the NSW Govt denied people their basic right to express their views during WYD, and the ridicule and/or silencing of dissenters, protesters etc during Howards reign (of terror).

    I would say a Bill of Rights may be in order.

  10. Well Tony
    9. TracieofFNQ | December 3, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Who the hell is Tony???

    Actually we have a Bill of Rights. Its one of the great documents from English history. The English king james was up to no good. he did 13 wrong things. The English parliament responded with 13 good things. Some of these are

    “That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;

    That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;

    That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;

    That election of members of Parliament ought to be free;

    That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;

    That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;

    That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders;

    That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void;

    And that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.”

    The 1689 English Bill of Rights is one of the great documents in English and world history.

    Most of the American Bill of Rights is a copy of the English bill of Rights.

    Since we are English we already have one.

  11. English??? OMG are your for real???

    BTW, Tony is the person I was responding to. Do you actually read these things, or just stalk individuals?

  12. BTW, Tony is the person I was responding to. Do you actually read these things, or just stalk individuals?
    11. TracieofFNQ | December 4, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Sorry I made a mistake. I was not stalking. I made a mistake. I thought you were talking about me.

    What is wrong with the EBOR?? Its the world standard.

    The American BOR is very similar to the EBOR.

  13. Are people being denied basic human rights in this country? – Yes.

    Does Australia Violate Human Rights?

    Yes, it does. The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has found on several occasions that Australia has breached the fundamental human rights of people living in Australia.

    What is wrong with the EBOR?? Its the world standard.

    The American BOR is very similar to the EBOR.

    According to the NSWCCL, the EBOR and the ABOR are weaker than the Canadian BOR which is what we should aspire to.

    Both dialogue models respect parliamentary sovereignty, but the Canadian model more successfully protects the individual. Despite the ACT and Victoria choosing the weaker UK model, a federal Bill of Rights should adopt the stronger, more democratic and egalitarian Canadian model.

    The crucial difference between the Canadian and British models is highlighted by what happens if Parliament chooses to do nothing…
    http://www.nswccl.org.au/docs/pdf/new%20matilda%20submission.pdf

    I don’t know about you guys, but i would like my rights and freedoms to be enshrined in a BOR. Living under John Howard’s reign of terror over the last decade and the advent of the draconian anti-terror laws has convinced me of it even more. Our parliament does not represent the people as democratically as it should. Look at the MP’s, a majority of white, wealthy, christian males – how representative is that? I would rather see fundamental human rights protected by the judiciary and not MP’s with vested interests and ideologies who also adhere to party discipline and loyalty.
    I want to have enshrined in a BOR freedom from religion as well as freedom for religion and I want religion seperated from the state – which is currently not the case in our constitution.

    As well as the protection of civil and political rights I would like to see a BOR enshrining economic, social and cultural rights.

  14. Living under John Howard’s reign of terror over the last decade
    13. kittylitter | December 4, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Please!!! Keep comments like this when something like this really happens. This is what you would like to believe- not what actually happened.

    Actually it is good to see that you acknowlege that the English have a BOR. Most people do not know about it.

    But do not tell the Americans!! They get very upset when they find out that at least 8 of their amendments are modeled on the 1689 EBOR.

    This from the 1689 EBOR

    “That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;
    That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders”

    Have a look at the American BOR which was written 100 years later. It was copied word for word.

  15. TracieofFNQ | December 3, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    under Howard David Hicks was denied his basic human rights for 5 years

    Hicks was detained by the US, a country which has a constitutional bill of rights. (Which goes to show, a written declaration of the American kind is only a guarantee of rights when it can be upheld.)

    the current anti-terror laws are somewhat anti-freedom…IR as sedition, and the BCII Act and the ABCC (etc)

    Your elected government should change the law if that’s what we the people want. If they won’t, kick them out at the next election. On the other hand, if the majority approve of a particular law, that’s democracy.

    the demonisation of muslims and disadvantaged people in the community

    Surely you’re not suggesting curtailing freedom of expression, even if that also means the freedom to offend?

    It’s worth remembering too that the American and French bills of rights were considered necessary and enacted in a period of great upheaval – at the time of their respective revolutions.

    As for our country, customary procedures – an independent judiciary, the priority of equity over common law and statute, and disapproval of retrospective legislation – have traditionally guaranteed our rights and ensured parliamentary despotism is practically impossible.

    I say: If it aint broke, don’t fix it.

  16. kittylitter | December 4, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Our parliament does not represent the people as democratically as it should. Look at the MP’s, a majority of white, wealthy, christian males – how representative is that?

    And yet you would rather transfer power to a less democratically representative group in the judiciary. How many of them do you think are white, wealthy, Christian males?

    I would rather see fundamental human rights protected by the judiciary and not MP’s with vested interests and ideologies who also adhere to party discipline and loyalty.

    At least with elected representatives you get to ask what their vested interests and ideologies are. The same can’t be said for the judiciary. (You think they dont have vested interests and ideologies?)

  17. David Hicks did not happen?

    Mandatory detention did not happen? Men, women & children who had committed no offences imprisoned for many years. Another 247 people wrongly detained in which compensation is to be paid.

    Tampa?

    Children Overboard?

    Industrial Relations? The attack on the union movement and their legitimate role.

    Indigenous takeover?

    Anti Terror Laws?

    Dr Haneef?

    Vivian Alvarez?

    Cornelia Rau?

  18. Re #15: “the priority of equity over common law and statute”:

    Michael Kirby on equity.

  19. kittylitter | December 4, 2008 at 2:27 am

    You have listed the whole gamut of popular criticisms of the Howard government. I’m just not sure I see how a bill of rights would have been applied to many of these.

    “The attack on the union movement”, for example? IR? You got what you wanted, did you not? Labor won the election and are in the process of changing the law. That’s the way democracy works. It really is a beautiful thing.

  20. At least with elected representatives you get to ask what their vested interests and ideologies are. The same can’t be said for the judiciary. (You think they dont have vested interests and ideologies?)

    “…A statutory charter should not allow Courts to strike down laws that are incompatible with human rights. However, if we are serious about implementing our international obligations, we should give Courts the power to provide meaningful remedies to individuals who are victims of human rights violations.

    The suggestion that these kind of arrangements will encourage judicial activism is simply scaremongering. The interpretation of human rights by the judiciary will not be an imaginative exercise. Instead, it will occur in accordance with the predictable traditions of legal reasoning. Human rights are not new in Australian legal jurisprudence, just fragile and fragmented…” (John von Doussa, President AHREOC and former judge).
    http://www.hreoc.gov.au/about/media/media_releases/op_ed/20081009_billrights.html

    Lemme see now, would I rather have Justice Kirby, Julian Burnside, Peter Russo, Major Michael Mori or John Howard, Philip Ruddock, Andrews, Downer, Abbott & Costello or Fielding? It’s a no-contest for the former.

  21. You got what you wanted, did you not? Labor won the election and are in the process of changing the law. That’s the way democracy works. It really is a beautiful thing.

    The public should not need to rely upon a new govt. to change undemocratic laws to give people back their human rights, they should be in principle and unalienable. If we had an existing BOR then Howard’s mob would not have been able to violate them in the first place. All those people would have been protected from his reign of terror.

    The freedom to join a union is recognised internationally as a fundamental human right. You know, freedom of association, which the United Nations recognized as a human right in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    When you suppress the unions freedom to organise, you violate workers basic human rights.

    “The introduction of such a bill is anathema to conservatives, largely because it has the potential to interfere with their exercise of power when in government.” (The Honourable Alastair Nicholson)
    http://www.safecom.org.au/nicholson-humanrights.htm

  22. I say: If it aint broke, don’t fix it

    Oh, it’s broke and it’s been broken for a long time.

    Did you know that a majority of the public have wanted a BOR for some time?

    http://www.nswccl.org.au/issues/bill_of_rights/australia.php
    In 1991-1992 the Research School of Social Sciences at ANU conducted a national survey of 1522 Australians and asked them about their attitude to rights. The report Rights in Australia 1991-1992 found that 70.6% of Australians want a Bill of Rights (7.4% were against and 21.8% were undecided). The Survey also found that 85.9% supported a referendum to determine whether a Bill of Rights should be put in the Constitution. The majority of Australians (57.8%) also believe that a Bill of Rights would strengthen our national identity.

    Nevertheless, Australia’s politicians continue to deny Australians a Bill of Rights to protect our rights and freedoms. Why? Is it simply because a Bill of Rights would be an effective check and balance on their power?

    I hope Rudd really p*sses off the Opposition and goes for the double – a BoR and a Republic!

  23. Lemme see now, would I rather have Justice Kirby, Julian Burnside, Peter Russo, Major Michael Mori or John Howard, Philip Ruddock, Andrews, Downer, Abbott & Costello or Fielding? It’s a no-contest for the former.

    Lol. You really must get over this obsession you have with the previous government: You don’t have Howard, Ruddock et al. You have Kevin Rudd, Robert McClelland, Chris Evans, Stephen Smith, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan to compare to your list of legal luminaries. So do I hear the same vote of no-confidence about them?

  24. When you suppress the unions freedom to organise, you violate workers basic human rights.

    If it’s actually happening – do you mean rules about entering a workplace under certain circumstances? – shouldn’t Rudd and co be doing something about it? Isn’t that whyt you elected them?

  25. In 1991-1992 the Research School of Social Sciences at ANU conducted a national survey of 1522 Australians and asked them about their attitude to rights. The report Rights in Australia 1991-1992 found that 70.6% of Australians want a Bill of Rights

    And here are some of the questions asked; they are clearly designed to get an answer in favour of the proposition:

    j1 Now I’d like to turn to a DIFFERENT topic.

    Have you heard about proposals to create a BILL OF RIGHTS for Australia?

    j2 As you may know, a Bill of Rights sets out certain basic rights and freedoms for citizens. It includes the sorts of guarantees we’ve been talking about, such as freedom of speech and religion; freedom from discrimination; and various legal rights.

    Generally speaking, are you FOR or AGAINST the idea of a Bill of Rights for Australia which provides these sorts of guarantees, or don’t you have an opinion either way?

    j3 WITHOUT a Bill of Rights, the government in [fill STAT] could pass laws limiting your basic rights and freedoms. Are you VERY concerned about that, SOMEWHAT concerned, or NOT AT ALL concerned?

  26. This is gonna run up against the usual reflexive hysteria from the likes of Albrechtsen (she’s already frothing over it) & other conservative panic merchants.

    Personally I think it’s high time & I’m yet to see a reasonable argument against it that doesn’t simply constitute “the sky will fall”, “the judges will rule us like activist mindcontrollers” etc.
    I don’t understand WTF is so scary about it.

  27. A lot of the problem is with Australia’s Constitution which was never envisaged to be a statement of rights of it’s citizens but was a simple (and boring) tool whose aim was amalgamation of the colonies in order to form a Commonwealth.

    Although we are protected somewhat by the judiciary, it is still up to the PM of the day make appointments to the High Court. Today’s very conservative HC reflects JWH’s choices.

    And re English. My husband is a 4th and 5th generation Australian but has not one scrap of English blood..Italian, German and Irish.

  28. And re comments from Tony and Tracie..under Howard David Hicks was denied his basic human rights for 5 years

    Hicks was detained by the US, a country which has a constitutional bill of rights. (Which goes to show, a written declaration of the American kind is only a guarantee of rights when it can be upheld.)

    Which is the reason for the establishment of the off-shore prison of Guantanamo Bay, so as to avoid US law and to avoid US legal obligations.

  29. I am a strong supporter of a Bill or Rights. But the chances of succeeding are practically nil.

    This is because there is a strong and articulate body of opinion that will say things like that rights are already well protected in Australia, and we have the High Court already protecting rights, that it would actually restrict rights, that is, to define a right is to limit it, that would be undemocratic to give unelected judges the power to override the judgment of parliament, and would be alien to our tradition of parliamentary sovereignty.

    Of course that is not true. But excuse my cynicism. Do we need to have a referendum on this if we want it? I can’t see it succeeding because all you need is enough doubts in people’s mind and many will vote against it. Especially considering the average voter has little motivation to change the status quo because they are likely not to be affected.

    It will join the long list of failed referenda in Australia.

  30. #28. Min | December 4, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Which is the reason for the establishment of the off-shore prison of Guantanamo Bay, so as to avoid US law and to avoid US legal obligations.

    But that didn’t apply to non-uniformed US citizens who fought against the US, they were allowed justice under the US Bill of Rights and the full constitutional legal system. It appears only foreigners aren’t good enough for American justice.

  31. Ah yes, of course Adrian. And therein lies the problem, if the US is all that it says that it is, the US would be wanting to extend the democratic principal/freedom, justice and The American Way to the entire world, that is non-citizens. Oh hang on, wasn’t that one of the reason that we invaded Iraq?

  32. Look at the MP’s, a majority of white, wealthy, christian males – how representative is that? I would rather see fundamental human rights protected by the judiciary and not MP’s with vested interests and ideologies who also adhere to party discipline and loyalty.
    I want to have enshrined in a BOR freedom from religion as well as freedom for religion and I want religion seperated from the state – which is currently not the case in our constitution.

    As well as the protection of civil and political rights I would like to see a BOR enshrining economic, social and cultural rights.

    Well said Kittylitter.

  33. Tony (15) the American constitution DID NOT apply to Hicks or any other non-US citizens, so is not really relevant. What is relevant was the Howard Govts inexcusable use of an Australian citizen as a political pawn. The Americans were protected because of their Bill of Rights (though this has been severly attacked by the Bush Admin).

    I agree that the ALP Govt should overturn the anti-terror laws. I disagree that the majority of the population agree with them. But then I don’t recall anyone asking. Like the Orwellian named ‘Patriot’ Acts, the anti-terror laws have diluted our freedom much more than any imagined terror attack ever could.

    Are you seriously positing that a Govt insidiously villifying a section of the community is freedom of expression? I guess when the Romans fed Christians to the lions they were only exercising freedom of expression, likewise Hitler in demonising the Jewish people. We all know where that led. I expect better from our leaders than to foster a climate of fear so they can introduce self serving laws which remove our freedom.

  34. Tracie of FNQ

    Are you seriously positing that a Govt insidiously villifying a section of the community is freedom of expression?

    Is that who is “demonising” muslims: the government? Well how can this be? Shouldn’t Mr Rudd and company be doing something about this, too?

  35. Tracie, can you explain how a Bill of Rights will save the Muslims from “demonisation” whilst at the same time protect the rights of people to harrass Christians? I’d be interested to see how that would be worded.

  36. Tony you know full well I was talking about the Right Dis-honourable ex PM.

  37. James I would hope that a Bill of Rights would allow us to be free FROM religion (as Sans Blog said), as well as allow for religious freedom.

    Religious freedom is fine, as long it is not used to dilute the rights of others.

    For this reason I also think the Lord’s Prayer should be dropped from use in Paliament. Why should Christianity be favoured above other religions (or atheism for that matter) in a so called secular state?

    Some Christians have a weird idea that they should have more rights, and favour simply because there are more of them than any other religion in Australia (though I suspect that many who would call themselves Christian are non practising).

    Silly argument really because that would also justify discrimination of non-Muslims in Islamic countries. At the moment such discrimination could not and would not be justified.

  38. The BORs shouldn’t be relied on a lot, but there have been instances where a BOR would indeed protect many individuals – particularly when a government responds/reacts negatively to a particular event/story. We have seen the knee-jerk responses from other governments around the world to terrorism (indeed even in Australia) and the courts would be a gentle reminder to the Parliaments that their knee-jerk responses actually clashes with the basic notions/rights and to reassess their responses. I’m sure this is more likely to happen in States than in the Federal government. Afterall, States are supposed to have more legislative power than the Federal Government (As our founding fathers had intended).

    I post a link below that shows an example of a case where a minority feels particularly singled out and in danger of being marginalised.

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Gay-group-demands-bill-of-rights/2004/12/08/1102182347491.html

    Hope this helps 🙂

  39. TOSY Lol. You really must get over this obsession you have with the previous government: You don’t have Howard, Ruddock et al. You have Kevin Rudd, Robert McClelland, Chris Evans, Stephen Smith, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan to compare to your list of legal luminaries. So do I hear the same vote of no-confidence about them?

    That’s the whole point, I don’t want the rights and freedoms of the Australian people to depend upon the current whim of a particular government. I want our human rights and freedoms to be inherent, unalienable and inviolate, no matter who the government of the day is. And if the government does, like Howard has, violate those essential rights of humanity, I want it to be challenged and exposed in the courts.

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