Hollow Avowals of Human Rights Protection - Time for an Australian Federal Bill of Rights?

Julie Cassidy

Abstract


Unlike the constitutions of many nations, such as the United States of America and the Republic of South Africa, the constitutions of the Australian States and Territories and the Commonwealth Constitution Act 1901 (UK) contain no bill of rights. Australia is the only western democracy without a federal bill of rights. The debate regarding the need for a bill of rights necessitates an understanding of what human rights the people of Australia already enjoy. If sufficient protection can be found in existing sources, does Australia really need a federal bill of rights? Opponents of a bill of rights state that we have sufficient protection from arbitrary government intervention in our personal affairs and thus a bill of rights is
unnecessary. There are a number of potential sources of human rights in Australia that might provide the suggested existing protection, including the common law, specific domestic legislation, international law and constitutional law. Each of these sources of human rights has, however,
important limitations. The focus of this article is on the inadequacy of the Australian constitutions as a source of purported protection. This in turn suggests that an alternative source of rights is needed – a federal bill of rights? In the course of this analysis the author makes suggestions for
reform; specifically how a federal bill of rights may address the paucity of constitutional protection.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21153/dlr2008vol13no2art162

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