Another beat up about a Rights Charter by, yes, you guessed it, the Australian

May 23, 2009 |

The one critisism that should never be levelled at the Australian and that is consistency of purpose.  Through Albrechtson and Merrit it bangs on and on and on about the evil of a bill of rights or its less effective cousin, a Charter of Rights. Every so often it brings the tedium by “reporting” in breathless terms on another fault or twenty by one of the anti chartists.  Today’s Legal Affairs section has such a report, this time from the heart of intellectual analyis, the Police Federation of Australia.  Rights charter opens police to ‘legal risks’  is another run at the same theme.  This time the boys in blue are afeared of new risks…… Oh c’mon!  Police forces in the US have to deal with a Bill of Rights and somehow manage to work their way through that hell.  Same as in England.  And in Victoria and the ACT for that matter.      

The constant sub theme is that this pandora’s box is owned and operated by unelected judges who will become de facto legislators.  And it shows its face in this screed with:

It argued that an enunciation of individual rights could clash with provisions in existing laws, leaving courts, rather than parliaments, with the job of determining whose rights should hold sway. “For example, coercive powers in national security laws requiring alleged suspects to answer police questions may be found to be incompatible with the right to silence or privacy,” the federation said.

The courts consider the balancing exercise every week of the year.  Sometimes the bench makes rulings which enhance rights, sometimes it restricts.  It is called the common law.  Somehow the courts have been able to steer a path through these difficult situations for almost a millenium.  

I am not a supporter of either cause thus far.  I can see the benefits in a Bill of Rights, especially in political system which is relatively inflexible and given to rule by executive fiat.  With less party discipline I would have more faith in Parliament to debate issues going to our rights and responsibilities.  But a Charter or Bill of Rights is what the framers make of it.  It is not evil per se

Time for a more sensible and nuanced debate.  And something a bit less predictable from the OZ.       

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