The Wrongs of Rights

Tim Dunlop muses about the need for an Australian Bill of Rights, in light of some comments by the head of the federal Attorney-General’s Department, Robert Cornall, to the effect that perhaps some individual rights might need to take second place to the collective/community right to take measures to enhance safety and national security in an age of terrorism.

Tim regards such statements as profoundly worrying and potentially threatening to basic, hard won individual rights and freedoms. I agree. But it’s also understandable that many people occasionally feel personally threatened and insecure, especially if they live in Washington as Tim does. That provides a willing constituency for those who favour enhanced police and intelligence agency powers at the expense of individual rights. And arguably there is an extent to which some limited accommodation is rationally required to guard against major terrorist acts. But to what extent and with what safeguards?

Tim’s answer is to tout the desirability of Australia enacting a Bill of Rights enshrining some key (non-contentious?) basic rights protections like speech, association, religion etc. But in fact all Bill of Rights proposals are intensely contentious almost by definition. They set boundaries on power; the conferrral of rights imposes duties that may be resented by some; and they transfer power from elected politicians to unelected judges. There is no such thing as a set of rights so “basic” that they would be anything other than deeply controversial and divisive at least in the proposal and implementation stage. And there are a couple of other obvious problems. The biggest one is the inherent improbability of any major political party embracing a Bill of Rights push given Australia’s political history and culture.

As Brian Galligan observed in a 1989 paper detailing the history of efforts to engraft rights protections on the Australian system:

The defeat of the 1988 referendum proposal for extending the modest guarantees of rights already in the Constitution and of all three Commonwealth statutory bills of rights, each one milder than its predecessor and the third one not intending to bind the States, has ensured categorically that there will be no Australian bill of rights. Unfortunately, such an important national decision was not taken after measured assessment of the adequacy of the existing regime for protecting rights nor reasoned public debate. To an extent, this did occur in the work of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and the Constitutional Commission, both of which endorsed an entrenched bill of rights. However, the reports of both bodies were swamped by partisan polemics in the ongoing battle between federal Labor Governments and their political opponents.

Nor were Labor’s successive initiatives well executed politically, or for that matter even strongly supported by Labor leaders other than the Attorney-General at the time. Supporters of a bill of rights have good reason to feel cheated by the inept manner in which all the attempts have been handled. Nevertheless, both the strident opposition of the non-Labor parties and the half-hearted commitment of Labor Governments seem to be rooted in an antagonism or indifference to a bill of rights among the general public. While there is no systematic survey evidence of what Australians think about rights, it
does seem that there is little grass roots support for a bill of rights. In this respect, the Australian situation is quite different from the Canadian where Prime Minister Trudeau was able to tap strong popular support for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in his tussle with opposing provincial premiers. Although the Australian Labor Party changed its official platform to endorse an entrenched bill of rights during the 1960s under the leadership of a new breed of Labor lawyers, that did not reflect, nor has it produced, a groundswell of support from the broader Labor movement let alone the community at large. Australia does not have a rights culture, so it is hardly surprising that the various ill-contrived initiatives for a bill of rights have been defeated in its boisterous system of federal parliamentary democracy where political partisanship and Commonwealth-State rivalries are such potent forces.

Despite Tim’s fond hopes, I doubt that anything has happened since 1989 to change that evaluation or give it less force. Major party politicians view bill of rights proposals as pointless and time-wasting distractions, and that isn’t likely to change in the foreseeable future.

The other big problem with Tim’s proposal is that the specific rights provision that would actually be needed to inhibit authoritarian laws, of the sort Robert Cornall apparently has in mind, is a guarantee of due process along the lines of the 5th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution. They provide that neither the federal nor state governments or legislatures may “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

Far from being a relatively uncontentious right of the sort Tim apparently imagines to be politically manageable for enactment in contemporary Australia, the Due Process Clause has been (and remains) if anything the most contentious provision of the American Constitution. It has been under this clause that the US Supreme Court has enacted constitutional protection of the right to abortion in Roe v Wade, and much more recently protection of gay rights in Lawrence v Texas in 2003. Can you imagine the apoplexy in Australian conservative and religious circles if a Due Process clause was proposed here?

Readers might well ask how a constitutional right to mere due process of law could possibly be interpreted as providing a substantive guarantee of rights like abortion or homosexuality? Well, the answer is that the Supreme Court, at least in its most recent explanation of the jurisprudential basis for so-called “substantive due process” protection of rights, reasons that laws which infringe fundamental liberty interests which are “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental” must be subjected to “heightened scrutiny” of such intensity that in practice no significant infringement of such rights is constitutionally possible. Thus, in Washington v Glucksberg (the case that most clearly and recently enunciated the doctrine) the Supreme Court held that assisted suicide/euthanasia is not a right so deeply rooted in the traditions and conscience of the American people as to merit “heightened scrutiny” protection under the Due Process Clause. However, as conservative Justices like Scalia J argue, how can it plausibly be said that abortion or homosexuality are any more deeply rooted in the traditions and conscience of the American people than euthanasia?

It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the US Supreme Court has simply enacted the majority Justices’ personal notions of social justice under the guise of “due process”, and by so doing placed those notions beyond the reach of elected governments. Now this sort of judicial activism might not be a major concern for classical liberals (like me, for instance) if we could always be assured that these unelected judges would adopt a liberal/libertarian approach in their creative interpretations of constitutional rights. But in fact, as Galligan points out:

Regarding effectiveness, the American Bill of Rights was not of major significance for most of America’s more than two hundred years of political history. And certainly for most of that time it was not the progressive reformist instrument of national government that it became in the 1950s and 1960s. That was partly because the states had their own bills of rights and systems of common law, and the national Bill of Rights applied only to national government until its application was progressively extended to the states by the Supreme Court in the twentieth century. It was also because for long periods of time the American Supreme Court was dominated by political and social conservatives. The point can be illustrated graphically with two examples: first, the existence of slavery in the Southern states until the Civil War; and second, the persistence of extensive public discrimination against blacks until the antidiscrimination cases of the 1950s. Thus, only for a relatively short period of modern history has the American Bill of Rights been a progressive instrument of national reform.

Moreover, and somewhat ironically, the Due Process Clause itself was interpreted until the 1930s as providing a substantive guarantee of the laissez faire economic rights of corporate America to be free from pretty much any legislative restriction of their economic freedom. This frustrated almost all attempts at regulation of wages, work conditions or consumer protection until Roosevelt intimidated the conservative Supreme Court into abandoning its economic “substantive due process” doctrine under the threat of appointing as many additional Justices as were needed to gain a liberal majority.

In light of this dark history, it has always intrigued me how so many left-leaning Australian political afficionados (e.g. Tim Dunlop) seem to think a constitutional bill of rights is such a magic bullet solution for threatened authoritarian infringement of basic freedoms. Even the current US Supreme Court majority in favour of a relatively socially liberal interpretation of the Bill of Rights is quite fragile. There is already a conserative majority, but a couple of Republican appointees mostly vote with the liberals on social justice/rights issues. One would suspect that this mildly liberal judicial status quo won’t survive another three and a half years of George W. Bush. Court interpretations of bills of rights will always ultimately reflect prevailing political orthodoxy in any system where judges are appointed by the government of the day (e.g. Australia and the US). But judicial tenure results in that prevailing orthodoxy being reflected only after a time lag (as supporters of a previous orthodoxy retire and get replaced). That certainly provides a certain degree of democratic checking and balancing, but the lag effect operates in both directions. That is, if and when we see a more liberal Democrat President in the US or a Labor government here, it will take quite a few years to restore a liberal majority on the Bench.

In many respects, this lagging check and balance mechanism is indistinguishable from the role of the Senate in the Australian system. The major real world reason why Tim Dunlop and I hold real fears of authoritarian legislation flowing from the sentiments of an influential bureaucrat like Robert Cornall is that the Coalition is about to gain control of the Senate. And the reason for that is that Labor has performed so ineptly for two electoral cycles in a row that Howard has managed to beat the lag effect of our constitutional system and gain a Senate majority. And Labor incompetence has been exacerbated by the fact that the Australian Democrats imploded and then began competing with the Greens for the mung bean left vote instead of providing a centrist alternative for mainstream voters disillusioned with both major parties. Classical liberals and social democrats would do far better to concentrate their efforts on the political task of regaining a Senate balance of power, and forget the chimera of a constitutional bill of rights.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Stan
Stan
2021 years ago

From a research paper at the Parliamentary library:

New South Wales Premier Bob Carr stated that under the Australian tradition parliaments are elected to make laws involving judgments about the rights and interests of the public. If their decisions are unacceptable, ‘the community can make its views known at regular elections’. In his opinion:

“A bill of rights is an admission of the failure of parliaments, governments and the people to behave in a reasonable, responsible and respectful manner. I do not believe that we have failed.”

http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rb/2004-05/05rb01.htm#towards

Scott Wickstein
2021 years ago

Classical liberals would be far better off driving the conservatives out of power in the Liberal Party. I fear Dr Hewson’s leadership was a once off, however.

I agree with your main point that a ‘Bill of Rights’ is basically not workable in the political climate we have. I would go further and suggest that such a radical amendment is basically impossible. It is notable that the original Bill of Rights was introduced in 1790 or thereabouts, when the Big Bang of the US constitution had only just happened- by 1830 or so, the US system would have been too set in its ways to allow such radical tinkering.

I would suggest that such tinkering is beyond the ability of the Australian polity to cope with as well; and you just have to look at the angst that the move to a Republic caused. The minimalist change was still too huge for the system to cope with.

Alan
Alan
2021 years ago

Ken

Your criticisms of the US Bill of Rights are dead accurate. They’re also desperately obsolete. The US bill was written over two centuries ago.

Can we please recognise that and move on to contemporary rights instruments like New Zealand and the ACT?

Ender
2021 years ago

I like Robert Cornwall’s idea. We could call it the Australian Enabling Act. He is absolutely right. “individual rights might need to take second place to the collective/community right to take measures to enhance safety and national security in an age of terrorism.”

He could say that “The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures…The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one.”

See if you can find who said this the last time.

harry
harry
2021 years ago

Hitler. Smartarse:-)!

It’s hard to see a situation such as the US Bill of Rights being applicable here. Essentially they were redefining a new social order.
Ours is currently defined with the added gravity of centuries of baggage. The Rights would have to be extracted from whatever current laws we have and put in a new basket. I’m assuming a whole new branch of law would have to be constructed – I mean we have Constitutional law, Business law etc etc. or would the Bill fit into Constitutional law? It fits in with ‘the vibe’…

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Alan

No matter how contemporary the wording, it isn’t readily going to overcome political and community disinterest. And although one could certainly draft a due process provision that makes it even clearer that it isn’t intended to enshrine substantive rights, that wouldn’t stop an activist bench from doing precisely what the US Supreme Court managed in the 19th and early 20th century in a laissez faire direction and sice the 1950s in a social justice direction. The fact is that the US provisions are very clearly worded, 200 years old or not.

Equally, you could certainly opt for a legislated rather than constitutionally entrenched model, and that would largely overcome the objection of transferring power from parliament to judiciary while hopefully still achieving a degree of normative influence. I’m not necessarily opposed to the latter sort of measure, but it’s hardly going to restrain a government like Howard’s that controls the Senate and is determined to introduce draconian anti-terrorism measures. As I said, it isn’t a magic bullet and we’d be better off devoting energies elsewhere given the improbability of overcoming political and community resistance.

mark
2021 years ago

Alan, I know nothing of the NZ system, but the ACT’s Bill of Rights is pretty bloody useless.

(Which hasn’t stopped Janet Albrechtsen, everybody’s favourite lying hack, from asserting that with a BoR in place we would immediately start setting child molestors free and God knows what else…)

Cristy
2021 years ago

Ken, I used to feel that Bills of Rights were not only useless, but potentially very undemocratic and elitist (in that it tends to be those with power who are able to use the courts to exercise their rights – hence the disproportionate amount of males in Canada who enforce their ‘equality’ rights under the Charter, or Corporations in Canada and the US who enforce their Constitutionally entrenched ‘right’ to freedom of expression/speech). In fact, I spent an entire semester at UBC law school arguing passionately for this point of view with classrooms of Canadian law students who are utterly devoted to their Charter… and wrote my honours thesis on the need to restrict the breadth of the interpretation of the Implied Freedom of Political Communication under the Australian Constitution (a little before this became irrelevant due to a fundamental change in the composition of the court).

However, I am really starting to change my mind. The introduction of Bills of Rights into countries frequently has the effect of creating a “rights culture” and engaging the citizens of the country to place a higher value on the promotion of human rights in their country. This can have an extremely positive rather than negative impact on democracy in those countries, and can serve to engage people on issues over which they never felt any real ownership over in the past. This may not be so evident in the USA, since their Bill of Rights is a bit old and stale. However, Canada is a classic example of this – and it wasn’t as though Trudeau didn’t have enormous obstacles to overcome in promoting the Charter and Constitutional Patriation. We might be apathetic and love to vote NO to referendums, but at least we are not as divided as Canada.

However, unlike Tim Duncan, I think that any Bill of Rights introduced should include economic, social, and cultural rights – like the Constitutions of South Africa, India, and Argentina do. I then have to acknowledge that no parliament in present-day Australia is every going to contemplate such a move… and so I must place my hopes on the introduction of the proposed Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (and Australia ratifying it one day”

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2021 years ago

“The introduction of Bills of Rights into countries frequently has the effect of creating a “rights culture” and engaging the citizens of the country to place a higher value on the promotion of human rights in their country.”

Perhaps. Trouble is we just know what they mean by “human rights” – bullshit lifted straight out of Radio National transcripts. [Note to self: vote No if it comes up.]

Ender
2021 years ago

Sorry Harry – I was not trying to be a smartarse I just get annoyed every time someone wants to put yet another lock on the door of freedom. :-)

A bill of rights is something we lack however it did not stop the US patriot act going ahead. Some have compared the Patriot Act with the Enabling Act of 1933. Our Patriot Act slipped by without a name and without hardly a word.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

That’s right, James.

Like the “Republic” proposal, anything we get from the self-proclaimed guardians of human rights is likely to be a load of crap.

It will simply attempt to entrench the ideas popular with the chattering classes of the day as a compulsion on all future generations.

I wouldn’t trust the “human rights” mob with my lunch money, let alone the framing of a Constitution.

Griffin
Griffin
2021 years ago

The promotion of a ‘rights culture’ ain’t a good thing. Rights are abstract social constructs, some of which are more important than others, but always which seek to impose a one-sided approach to the individual and society. They should go hand in hand with responsibilities. Only then can they actually have any grounding in common sense, and actually achieve a balance between society and the individual.

Alan
Alan
2021 years ago

We’re now the only advanced democracy without a statutory or constitutional bill of rights. We should change that.

Among other things, it’s hard to argue that certain rights are universal when a country like Australia refuses to recognise them. And while I know this will revive the black armband debate, it is impossible to look at the way Australian governments and parliaments have deal with indigenous Australians and still claim there is no need for an entrenched right against discrimination.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

See? There’s an example of what would happen if we got a Bill of Rights thing started. The black armbands would be out, every sectional group in society would demand special “rights”, and the lefties would try to cement their ideology into the legal framework.

No thanks.

Stan
Stan
2021 years ago

Alan,

“The Australian Constitution, as a plan of government for a federal union, is largely concerned with pragmatism rather than ideology. It does not take the form of a Bill of Rights. Yet it would be a mistake to think that it does not contain guarantees of rights, freedoms and immunities.
[…]
There are important guarantees in express provisions in the Constitution. There are prohibitions against certain forms of discrimination.5 There is a prohibition against making a law to establish a religion, or imposing a religious test as a qualification for public office.6”

– Chief Justice Murray Gleeson (in a Boyer Lecture)
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/boyers/stories/s222137.htm
(Not a bad read, but not specifically all about a Bill of Rights)

I’m not sitting myself up as an expert here, because I’m not, but I think it’s disingenuous to suggest that somehow because we do not have a Bill of Rights our “advanced democracy” is somehow lacking basic rights. It’s far more complicated than that, and the arguments are going to have to rise above the level of polemic. New Zealand, for example, lacks a Constitution. So it’s difficult to even compare their situation to ours.

Stan
Stan
2021 years ago

Actually, my New Zealand reference (to a lack of a Constitution) isn’t strictly correct either.

http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/nz__indx.html

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that our various collections of constitutional documents are not very similar, and direct comparison to our system of laws is very difficult. (For the pedants)

Alan
Alan
2021 years ago

Stan

Actually it would be a lot more accurate o say that New Zealand and Australia have extraordinarily similar systems of law and a common history. The parliamentary institutions are different, but that that has not not made for large divergence in actual law. The NZ bill of rights caused a brief surge in litigation. the same thing happened in Canada and the UK. It’s now over in the firs two and dying off in the UK.

There is no need to be terrified of lefty special rights. There is a fairly good international consensus on what the content f a bill of rights should be. You do not need to find a bed to leap under.

It is hard to argue that Australia maintains a high level of proaction for human rights after he Rau and Sollon incdents. It is hard to see good arguments against a bill of rights in ancient history about the US bill.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

The Rau and Sollon incidents don’t say anything bad about Australia’s human rights record. In fact, there are more human rights in Australia than in most of the rest of the world. Since the system is working, it doesn’t need to be “fixed”.

My experience with leftist versions of “human rights” is that they are inevitably racist, sexist, and suppressive of free speech and individual rights.

There are too many instances of leftist “human rights” authorities already supporessing freedom in Australia. We certainly don’t need to encourage more of them.

Cristy
2021 years ago

Exactly what is “your experience” EP?

I can understand your earlier point that Constitutionally entrenched Bills of Rights have the potential to freeze a time-bound consensus on human rights and impose this consensus (or partisan view) on current and future generations. However, to argue that they are “inevitably racist, sexist, and suppressive of free speech and individual rights” is just off the wall.

Most Bills of Rights are actually overly skewed in favour of freedom of expression and individualistic concepts of rights – without any recognition of the requisite responsibilities or duties of communities to uphold and respect the rights of more vulnerable citizens. They act as a limit on the power of government, but rarely as a limit on the power of individuals or corporations – all problems from my perspective, but elements that I would have thought you would be in favour of.

Historically, Liberal Bills of Rights have been used to protect property rights, civil liberties, and the fredom of capital – and to me that is a lesson to learn from history when considering the introduciton of a Bill of Rights. However, if the values that you appear to be promoting are your main concern, then this history should endear you to human rights.

Basically, I am confused by your argument – it appears to be very contradictory from where I am sitting. (I’m sure that you will set me right)

Stan
Stan
2021 years ago

Alan, I guess I am just saying that I think it would be more helpful to illustrate examples of where you believe Australia lacks basic human rights rather than refer to the overseas legislation where the relevance is often questioned. It should be easy to do. Then, we can examine this list to collectively decide whether we believe they are universal, fundamental or whatever other criteria requires them to be codified in a Bill of Rights. Remember, there will be a case for some things to be left for the parliament of the day to decide.

I’d like to think I still have an open mind on this, but so far, the only Australian specific example I’ve seen which seems credible is the discussion about mandatory detention for asylum seekers and the possibility of indefinite detention without trial. Even then, it’s important to remember that that particular policy has bipartisan support (so it seems) and could be changed with simple legislation, or even a change in policy. Apart from that, I remain to be convinced that we have a problem. Convince me.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

Where’s my right to vote?

Where’s my right to a lawyer?

Where’s my right to be released if I am not charged?

Where is my right to free assembly?

Where is my freedom from snooping?

Where is my freedom to speak out?

Where is my right to medical care?

In Acts of Parliament. Trusting lot, aren’t you?

David Tiley
2021 years ago

Bloody hell, that was a bit strident. Must. not. blog. while. waving. arms.

The point surely holds though – there’s a bunch of fundamental rights that are only linked to Acts of Parliament, which are a bit easy to dismantle. And our security conscious friends don’t seem to respect them.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

David

Some of the rights you list ARE constitutionally protected, at least partially:

Where’s my right to vote?

Several High Court judgments have suggested (albeit in obiter) that universal suffrage could not constitutionally be removed by Parliament. The reasoning is similar to that supporting implied freedom of political speech (i.e. primarily based on Constitution sections 7 and 24).

Where’s my right to a lawyer?

See Dietrich v R (1992) 177 CLR 292. Legal representation when being tried for a serious crime is a fundamental aspect of a fair trial, and the High Court held that any court had a power (and duty) to stay the trial if a defendant who couldn’t afford a lawyer through no fault of their own did not have one provided at public expense.

Where’s my right to be released if I am not charged?

I suspect that the High Court (even with its current conservative makeup) would articulate a principle against arbitrary imprisonment, again flowing from the nature of judicial power and in particular Constitution section 75(5)) if Parliament attempted to provide for imprisonment without trial in any more than the current extremely limited manner.

Where is my right to free assembly?

The High court says there is a constitutionally protected right to free assembly flowing from the right to political free speech i.e. assembly for political purposes to the extent necessary to exercise constituionally gauranteed political free speech.

Where is my freedom from snooping?

See http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rn/2004-05/05rn37.htm . Privacy isn’t constitutionally protected, but the High Court has suggested that there might be a common law right to privacy, and a single judge Supreme Court decision has applied it. It would be quite difficult to articulate the limits of a constitutional guarantee of privacy, given all the obvious and legitimate grounds for its infringement e.g. if you’re manufacturing crack cocaine or nuclear weapons or Bali-style car bombs in the privacy of your own home, should that privacy remain sacrosanct? No doubt the High Court could articulate the limits in piecemeal decisions on a broadly worded constitutional guarantee, but is it really appropriate that we be governed by judges in such a critical area?

Where is my freedom to speak out?

There IS a constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech on poliical subjects in Australia, and “politics” is fairly broadly defined. IMO this is as wide a constitutional guarantee as we need. Free speech on non-political topics frequently runs foul of equally important fundamental freedoms e.g. the right to privacy you raise immediately above. Which right should take precedence?

Where is my right to medical care?

Given inter-generational issues arising from the coming wave of baby boomer retirements, how could we possibly constitutionalise a right to medical care? Again it would simply transfer to the High Court the power to decide about fundamental issues of resource allocation, anbout which reasonable minds may differ. These are inherently political decisions not fit for exercise of judicial power. Should the High Court be able to decree that the dwindling class of working Australians must pay crippling rates of taxation in order to support the inalienable consitutional right of comfortably retired baby boomers to access medical care no matter how extravagantly expensive or unnecessary?

Cristy
2021 years ago

Many of those rights aren’t even provided for in Australian Acts of Parliament. Even that would be a start in this country…

We are due to report to the UN High Commission on Human Rights in June this year on our compliance with the two International Coventions (ICCPR & ICESCR) – including what we have done in order to domestically enforce/protect the rights contained in the coventions (both of which we have ratified). Shadow reports are then due in January 2006.

I think that the extent to which Australia is in breach of many of its obligations under both coventions will surprise most people.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

The problem with a Leftist interpretation of human rights is that it isn’t about human rights at all — it’s about imposing ideological goals by way of legalistic force.

As I have said, such efforts are invariably used to discriminate against those who Leftists see as class enemies — white people, men, heterosexuals, Christians, and anyone who doesn’t belong to the latte-sipping elites.

The only sort of rights we need are those that limit the ability of governments to oppress us. The rest are just excuses for busybodies to rule, effectively as an unelected government.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2021 years ago

I think EP makes a very good point here. Attempts to institute radical civil rights reforms on an already egalitarian system generally seem to evidence themselves via the selective trampling of the rights of ‘unworthy’ social groups (EP’s class enemies).

As Andrew Bolt writes about vilification laws:

http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,15243082%255E25717,00.html

“..It’s the same happy story in Victoria, where the worst menace is not the racists but the zealots we pay and arm to hunt them down.

Check the hapless people being sued under our new racial and religious vilification laws — a Christian councillor who offended an intersex witch, a Salvation Army prison chaplain who miffed a pedophile witch in his Bible class, and a Pentecostal pastor who angered three Muslim converts, sent to monitor his church seminar, by quoting the Koran and making his fellow worshippers laugh.

I’m sure you’re grateful we have these stern new laws to save us from Salvos and laughing Christians…”

Why do I mention this example? Well it brings me to Cristy’s post above. I, for one, don’t want yet more fantastically ambiguous laws to find myself the victim of litigation under. The Boltster’s piece on selectively enforced laws in Victoria shows the result of paying too much notice to high-minded nonsense concocted by international A-listers and leafy ‘burbanites.

I wonder if Cristy would care to point out just what ‘obligations’ under the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights we’re breaching.

Better yet, point out which of the following shining beacons on the UNHCHR are doing a better job?

Zimbabwe?
China?
Swaziland?
Sri Lanka?
Gabon?
Paraguay?

After all, these are among the countries we’ll be answering to come June, no?

Civil rights legislation is always sold on the basis of vaguely worded feel-good stuff – ‘No imprisonment without charges’ ‘Equal rights for all’ etc etc. But we’ve already got a bevy of such laws. So what’s really on sale then?

Let me speculate. I reckon what’s really on the agenda is powerful but vague legislation, the sheer ambiguity of which will be exploited as a back door to pushing through undemocratic and unpopular social change as determined by our intellectual betters (see “Due Process”).

Close the IDCs: Check
Gay marriage: Check
Government enforced quotas on women and minorities in management: Check

I’m not taking sides on any of these issues (although I have strong reservations about the last). My point is that these things would struggle to get through the democratic process (referendum, anybody?). Having them slide through on the basis that existing laws are deemed contrary to some farcical bill of rights is, IMHO, illegitimate.

Those people who want such radical changes need to convince the voters. Not plan some sneaky-arsed, back door way of opening the gate for judicial activists to run wild.

mark
2021 years ago

EP, tone down the rhetoric a fraction. Sure, this goes to eleven, but it doesn’t *have* to.

You hate latte-sipping, white Christian men-hating, feminazis. Well, good for you. Guess what? Not everyone who disagrees with you fits into that mold (Why, some don’t even *like* coffee…). You’re doing yourself, and your ideas, a disservice by constantly making such idiotic comments.

Now I’ll step aside and allow another commentor to make an hilarious comment about sperm theft…

David Tiley
2021 years ago

Ken – thanks. I particularly appreciate the detail.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

I like posting at eleven. Jus be grateful they don’t allow the tag here.

Fortunately, the kind Al Bundy has come along and provided a lower-volume interpretation for those with sensitive ears.

Evil Pundit
2021 years ago

That should read “Just be grateful they don’t allow the BLINK tag here”.