Bill of Rights in Australia
I think it's great that the United Kingdom have legislated a British version of the 'Bill of Rights'. I think Australia is well overdue for a similar change. Why? Because the current and future Federal Governments need a 'gentle reminder' whenever they propose any new laws that are likely to have a negative impact on our civil liberties.
As Tony Blair has pointed out, the British Parliament's sovereignty is not diminished in any way by the existence of this new law. The Parliament can even abolish that law altogether if it chose to. But that might create a public backlash that might then lead to a change of government at the next election.
So what is the purpose of a law that can so easily be changed? It's function is to keep parliamentarians aware that proposed bills (a 'proposed bill' is a term used for a law before it is passed) have to be scrutinised even more before they are voted on.
So this law in effect acts as a kind of 'checklist' for parliamentarians. If they think that a proposed bill doesn't in any way defeat any element of these protected civil rights then they can go ahead and vote on it.
Australia needs a referendum to ensure that even the States observe these protected civil rights. As things stand, the Commonwealth Parliament has limited capacity to enact a 'Bill of Rights'. The Commonwealth Parliament's powers in respect of its ability to enact a law to protect civil rights are scattered all over the Constitution. There is no single section that specifies what the Commonwealth Parliament can and cannot do to protect civil rights.
If this law was to ever be challenged in the High Court then the Solicitor General and Queen's Counsel would have their hands full trying to point out to the High Court Justices what sections the Commonwealth Parliament is 'pursuing' when it claims to have jurisdiction.
The most effective (and safest) option is to have both the House of Representatives and the Senate propose an amendment to the Constitution and then have the people vote on it at an upcoming election. Once it is approved by a majority of the people (in a majority of States) then even the States will be bound by it.
Are you in favour of a 'Bill of Rights' or are against the idea. Please post any comments you have about this.