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section heading icon     Bills of Rights

This page is under development.

It covers -

section marker icon     introduction

Polemicist Mirko Bagaric fretted in 2007 that

The only guaranteed effect of the Victorian bill of rights is that the interests of the socially disadvantaged will be further eroded. Under the new system, decisions relating to the values we want to live by are taken from the people and given to judges. The main problem with this is that the only people who have the money to defend their rights in court are the rich and powerful.

The strongest defenders of rights are civil libertarians. They suffer from moral shortsightedness. Their moral horizons stop and start with themselves and the person immediately before them.

Humans don't need rights to flourish. What we need is a transparent moral framework within which difficult choices can be made.

One response might be that bills/charters indeed offer such a framework.

section marker icon     Australia

The Australian Constitution, very much a product of its time, says little about human rights and when adopted in 1901 did not explicitly address questions of discrimination relating to gender, ethnicity, disability or economic circumstances.

In contrast to many countries Australia also does not have a national Bill of Rights. Recurrent proposals for such a Bill or a Charter of Rights have gained little support.

There have however been moves to establish constitutional commitments to human rights at the state and territory level, with for example the -

  • ACT Human Rights Act 2004
  • Victorian Charter of Human Rights & Responsibilities

Explorations of an Australian Bill and of local human rights issues include Bede Harris' persuasive A New Constitution for Australia (London: Cavendish 2002), George Williams' Human Rights under the Australian Constitution (Melbourne: Oxford Uni Press 1999) and The Case for an Australian Bill of Rights (Sydney: UNSW Press 2004) and Hilary Charlesworth's concise Writing in Rights: Australia and the Protection of Human Rights (Sydney: UNSW Press 2002).

The Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Act 2004 (HRA) is examined in the Australia's First Bill of Rights: Assessing the Impact of the ACT Human Rights Act 2004 site. Background is provided by the ACT Bill of Rights Consultative Committee site, which features the 2003 Towards an ACT Human Rights Act report, and the 2004 Comparative Perspectives on Bills of Rights collection edited by Christine Debono and Tania Colwell.

section marker icon     New Zealand

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (here), arguably a reaction to concerns about executive overreaching under Robert Muldoon and 'Rogernomics', is discussed in The New Zealand Bill of Rights (Auckland: Oxford Uni Press 2003) by P Rishworth, G Huscroft, S Optican and R Mahoney.

section marker icon     Canada

Literature on the Canadian Charter includes Christopher MacLennan's Toward the Charter: Canadians and the Demand for a National Bill of Rights, 1929-1960 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Uni Press 2003), George Egerton's 2004 'Entering the Age of Human Rights: Religion, Politics, and Canadian Liberalism, 1945-1950' in 85 Canadian Historical Review 3 (451-479), Ross Lambertson's Repression and Resistance: Canadian Human Rights Activists (Toronto: Uni of Toronto Press 2005), Ruth Frager's 2001 'This is Our Country, These are Our Rights: Minorities and the Origins of Ontario's Human Rights Campaigns' in 82 Canadian Historical Review 1 (1-35).

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version of May 2007
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