Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Bill of rights to rein in Parliament?

Australia was the only [alleged] democratic nation not to have a charter of rights.

Australia is [allegedly] a step closer to getting a bill of rights, which could [allegedly] enshrine rights to free speech and non-discrimination. The Federal Government is set to begin a consultation process into what the document should look like next week.

The charter would outline a set of rights and require the Parliament to ensure legislation complies with them. It is unlikely to be a US-style constitutional document - which allows courts to declare laws invalid - but will probably be based on those in Victoria, the ACT and Britain.

The cabinet agreed on the nationwide consultation process on Monday.

The Government will use the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, next Wednesday, to call for options on a human rights charter.

Kevin Rudd threw his support behind the principles enshrined in the declaration yesterday in a speech to Parliament marking the anniversary. "As a middle power we believe in a creative use of diplomacy to build stronger human rights protection in every part of the world," the Prime Minister said.

The Australian National University's Professor Hilary Charlesworth said the bill of rights would probably include civil and political rights such as the right to free speech and protection from discrimination. What was less clear was whether economic, social and cultural rights would be included, such as the right to education, to a high standard of health care and the right to work.

"I think [the Government] will leave it open," she said.

The move is sure to attract its critics, with the Coalition having already declared its opposition to a bill of rights. The shadow attorney-general, George Brandis, has previously said a rights charter was unnecessary and unwise, and would concentrate too much power in the judiciary.

George Williams, a constitutional expert who helped to draft the Victorian charter, said Australia was the only democratic nation not to have a charter of rights. He said the Government should consult as widely as possible and avoid including potentially contentious rights, such as a right to abortion. "A charter is not about foisting new agendas on to people," said Professor Williams, of the University of NSW.

"I would not put divisive things there. I would stick to things like freedom of speech - that we know we believe in and that have overwhelming public support … The process should be very open. It should not just involve legal and human rights groups. Any Australian who wants to should have a say."

Professor Williams said charters in Britain and Australia had led to almost no increases in litigation but could prevent the passing of laws that impinged on rights, such as the federal sedition laws.

Quote: 1. The very idea that we live in a democracy in Australia is highly controversial. 2. There have been many complaints about the Victorian bill of rights not preventing judges from denying claims lodged in the courts.


Activists target Rudd's net censorship plans
The political activists who helped free David Hicks and abolish Work Choices have now set their sights on the Government's plan to censor the internet, which is already facing a major backlash and a lack of political support. GetUp says it plans to run mainstream ads and offline action that will be as elaborate as its free Hicks campaign. In just a day, a petition on its website has attracted over 22,000 signatures; GetUp said it had received more emails urging them to act on this issue than "any other campaign in recent history".

David Hicks breaks his silence
Former Guantanamo Bay [prisoner] David Hicks has broken his silence, saying a court-imposed control order makes it hard for him to get on with his life.

ASIO officers should be prosecuted
Two ASIO officers should face prosecution for their role in the abduction of a Sydney medical student.

Disability group: review migration laws
The Down Syndrome Association of Western Australia says the Commonwealth must review legislation which makes it hard for people with children with disabilities to migrate to Australia.

Failures show need for bill of rights - Kirby
High Court Judge Michael Kirby says government failures on law reforms justify enacting a charter of rights.

Judge attacks disparity in laws
Australia has a long way to go in protecting the rights of women, Aborigines, migrants and homosexuals, High Court judge Michael Kirby said yesterday.

Some Risdon inmates in solitary confinement for years: reports
Risdon's solitary confinement unit is under investigation. The Tasmanian Ombudsman has begun an investigation into the unit after hearing inmates have not had access to enough sunlight or fresh air.

Black Australia's doing fine, says G-G
The Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson said the head of state's remarks were superficial and suggested that all that was needed was to "force these [remote] people out of their communal ways …

Women's battle for equal pay continues
ALMOST 40 years after it became unlawful to pay women less than men for equal work of equal value, women are still earning on average $196 a week less than men.

Push for federal charter of human rights
High Court Judge Justice Michael Kirby has again called for Australia to adopt a charter of human rights.

QLD judge-only trials 'not the answer'
Civil libertarian Terry O'Gorman says judge-only trials are not the answer. Laws to go to Parliament next week will allow the prosecution or the defence to apply for a trial to be heard by a judge-only in some complex or notorious cases.

Planned phone-tapping laws in Qld
Council for Civil Liberties..These new laws involve a considerable intrusion into the privacy of people's lives. Queensland Council for Civil Liberties says the public has a lot be concerned about.

Australia: Concerns of a police state
Cameron Murphy...a massive reduction in police accountability to the community. NSW police now have special emergency powers to bug or track people for up to four days without a warrant. Under the biggest shake-up to the state's surveillance laws, police will have up to four days to monitor people before needing to apply retrospectively for an emergency warrant from a Supreme Court judge. NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said the new police powers flowed from an inter-governmental Australian terrorism summit in 2002.

Australia to sign up to anti-torture treaty
Australian complicity in War Crimes in the Middle East, Torture, Rendition. In Australia Draconian Laws, Indefinite Solitary Confinement of prisoners at places like the HRMU at Goulburn Correctional Centre.

UN Torture Committee Blasts Australia
In its report on Australia, the Torture Committee was critical of Australia's prisons, counter-terrorism laws, mandatory immigration detention and of the way Australian officials have ignored torture and mistreatment overseas in places like Abu Ghraib.


“Patients under state control have had their social interaction reduced, and right to smoke removed. These vulnerable and isolated citizens, to whom the state owes a special obligation, are extremely distressed and have asked for community assistance,” said JA spokesperson Michael Poynder.

Faheem Lodhi - another non-terrorist jailed under Australia's 'anti-terror' laws? Jack Thomas, a non-terrorist, has been jailed under Australia's anti-terror laws. Now Faheem Lodhi has been convicted under the terror laws on flimsy, circumstantial evidence. It is likely he is another non-terrorist jailed for political purposes under the terror laws.

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