A bill of rights is now tantalisingly close

Jun 12, 2024
This is a copy of the cover of the U.S. Constitution.

Australia is the only western liberal democracy without a mandated charter of human rights. It’s now closer than at any time in 40 years.

There are certain basic rights that are essential in any liberal democracy and, without them, a country is neither liberal nor a democracy. They include habeas corpus, free speech, the right to peaceably assemble, to form organisations (including unions), and the right of access to healthcare, shelter, education and personal safety.

But in Australia, those rights rest on a legal and constitutional framework that is unclear, tentative and potentially ambiguous. We depend instead on a set of legal precedents, international documents and unwritten conventions, few of which are effectively binding.

That could be about to change. A joint parliamentary committee has just released a draft bill for a Human Rights Act that would allow Australia to become, finally, a full member of the club of western democracies.

Read the full article.


For more from Pearls and Irritations on this topic:

Our human rights are fundamental to our chances of peace

A Human Rights Act for Australia

FRANK BRENNAN. We need a Bill of Rights

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