Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More on an Australian Bill (or Charter) of Rights

The Federal Attorney-General, The Hon. Robert McClelland M.P. has appointed Rev. Fr. Frank Brennan S.J. A.O. to head the Federal Government’s public consultation on the prospect of an Australian Bill or Charter of Rights. The Sydney Morning Herod notes that Fr. Brennan “calls himself a "fence-sitter" in the bill of rights debate”, but a report in The Australian points out that Fr. Brennan “is on the record as a supporter of "legislating for the federal protection of human rights " - which is code language for a charter”.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Janet Albrechtson has a very good (but very cynical) opinion piece on the whole topic in today’s The Australian. She writes that

ANALYSING calls for so-called reforms should always start with a few golden rules. Follow the money. And follow the power. This week both paths lead you straight to the legal profession and to the heartland of politically driven activists. Like pigs sniffing for truffles, lawyers can smell the enticing waft of money and power in the air as they push open new legal industries. For the activists, it’s about influence as they seek to move from the irrelevant fringe of political life to the centre of the action.

[…] If you doubt that a charter of rights will involve a fundamental transfer of power to lawyers, judges and activists, ask yourself this. Would these champions of a charter be so energetically supporting a charter if it didn’t transfer power to them? Would High Court Justice Michael Kirby be eager for a charter if it did not boost judges’ ability to socially engineer a better society according to them? Likewise, the activists. Their glee is driven by the new power they will wield as they seek out like-minded judges only too willing to cement their political agendas into law.
I recommend that you read the whole thing; it is a trenchant and timely analysis of this latest outbreak of ‘human rights’ mania.

Perhaps the last word, though, should go to Prof. Helen Irving in yesterday’s Herald. She points out that

Paradoxically, the very attempt to protect parliament by empowering the courts to make "declarations" may itself prove unconstitutional. The commonwealth constitution prevents the High Court from giving advisory opinions. The court may only rule on actual legal disputes.

This hurdle may prove fatal. It will require close attention by the government.
May prove fatal? It sounds to me like a total demolition of the very foundation of a potential statutory charter of rights. And given the historical reluctance of Australians to vote in favour of Constitutional amendments, there’s no chance of human rights (whatever they might be) being enshrined in the Constitution. What a mess this is shaping up to be.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Melchiades, Pope, Martyr, 2008 A.D.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Albrechtson is not cynical, she is right. She'd be cynical if she could see no good anywhere.

The whole thing stinks out loud.