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Unhelpful

December 12th, 2008

I was unimpressed by this story on the ABC website, headlined Bill of rights not likely to be supported: Law Society The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad psp . The story quotes Hugh Macken from the Law Society (I think he is in fact the president) as saying

A bill of rights in terms of constitutional change is probably too far down the track to consider at this stage,” he said.

“It is likely to be quite divisive and as history has shown any divisive referendum which goes up invariably fails, so it tends to be costly failure.”

While literally correct, this remark totally obscures the point that no-one is currently talking about a constitutional change. For some years discussion has focused on the idea of a legislated bill of rights which governments could amend if they chose to wear the consequences of openly acting against human rights. This has already been introduced in Victoria and the ACT, not to mention the UK.

The legislative proposal overcomes the main objectives to a constitutional bill of rights that it would remove parliamentary sovereignty. The objections now coming from, for example, Janet Albrechtsen and other rightwingers have nothing to do, in most cases, with such issues. The problem is rather that they are opposed to the human rights that would inevitably be included in a legislated bill, such as freedom from arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention without trial and torture. We can thank the Bush and Howard Administrations for clarifying these issues.

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  1. charles
    December 12th, 2008 at 21:27 | #1

    But in the end, Howard and Bush did get thrown out on their ear.

  2. TerjeP
    December 13th, 2008 at 05:54 | #2

    I don’t support a bill of rights that is undefined because doing so would be a blank cheque. However there are certain rights that I would like codified in the constitution including “freedom from arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention without trial and torture”. I’d also like to see us ditch the racist aspects of the constitution relating to different laws for different races and instead have a guarantee that all Australian laws apply equally to everybody.

    If they try to codify positive rights such as education, health care and the like into the constitution then I’ll be amoungst those voting against any such package. I don’t think our constitution needs more pollution.

  3. December 13th, 2008 at 08:36 | #3

    But that approach is pointless, because you wouldn’t get “a legislated bill of rights which governments could amend if they chose to wear the consequences of openly acting against human rights” but rather a legislated bill of rights which governments could ignore if they chose to wear the consequences of openly or covertly acting against human rights. There are more ways of killing a cat, the policing of it would be under some system which they themselves set up and operated, and so on. Not only would it be worthless, it could even cause harm by inducing a spurious sense of safety; people might think of it as their safeguard and fail to prevent things coming to pass themselves.

  4. Marginal Notes
    December 13th, 2008 at 12:19 | #4

    I would see a legislated bill of rights as analagous to the Racial Discrimination Act, which does have to be taken into account in subsequent legislation and stands as a safeguard against discriminatory actions. A bill of rights, while more extensive, could be as effective.

  5. Michael of Summer Hill
    December 13th, 2008 at 14:30 | #5

    John, whilst the majority of Australians would agree with the general thrust put forward by The Hon Kevin Bell Justice, Supreme Court of Victoria & President, Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal that “At the level of society, the idea is that, when the relationship between government and the community is made by a charter to reflect human rights values, society is encouraged to become more rights-respecting and tolerant. This is a fundamental objective of a charter, one which gives effect to an evolved concept of democracy” there will be forces at work who will try to undermine the introduction of a Bill of Rights. The sooner Australia has a Bill of Rights the more tolerant society becomes.

  6. Nick K
    December 13th, 2008 at 15:59 | #6

    I think Janet Albrechtsen has consistently said that she believes that it should be up to parliaments to legislate for various rights, rather than having a bill of rights in the constitution.

    Yet on other occasions she has criticised laws such as Victoria’s religious villification laws for infringing free speech. It seems to me she can’t have it both ways. If you want to leave it up to the legislature to determine these things, then you can’t complain when the legislature passes measures which infringe on the rights you would prefer were upheld. If the constitution contained an explicit right to free speech, then maybe there would be more legal grounds for overturning these kinds of laws. But if you don’t want the constitution to guarantee rights, then you will inevitably have less authority to appeal to.

    While I have some regard for some of what Albrechtsen writes, she has a tendency to lapse into cheap populist posturing at times.

  7. Nick K
    December 13th, 2008 at 16:11 | #7

    The arguments being put forward about diminishing parliamentary sovereignty seem to be something of a red herring. Generally speaking, parliaments aren’t sovereign. Nation-states are.

    It is the role of a country’s constitution to divide up the sovereign powers of the nation between various levels of government. This includes limiting the powers of the executive and legislature to infringe on certain basic rights.

    So long as the constitution can be reasonably amended, there is no infringement on national sovereignty.

  8. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2008 at 17:09 | #8

    The right-wingers are consistent in their opposition to anything that would assist 98% of the human race. It’s always the wrong time or too soon to act on things like human rights or climate change or social disadvanage. However, when it comes to special deals, special laws, special bailouts, corporate welfare etc that assists the elite 2% (themselves), boy don’t they act fast then!

  9. jquiggin
    December 13th, 2008 at 18:00 | #9

    Marginal Notes, I agree on the RDA. I was going to write something, but didn’t have time to check on it.

  10. nanks
    December 13th, 2008 at 18:08 | #10

    #7 I agree Nick K. If anything, I’d like to see further distribution of power through greater independence of the state media (ABC, SBS) and the higher education system.

  11. December 13th, 2008 at 19:02 | #11

    Ikonoclast,
    Oooh, another strawman, bald opinion (and, IMHO, wrong anyway) but you can just keep painting those horns on “right-wingers” all you want.
    Just do not expect that type of bs to be any use in the real world.

  12. Marginal Notes
    December 13th, 2008 at 20:40 | #12

    See Paul Kelly’s diatribe on this in the Weekend Oz. Some very emotive language about pushing for a bill of rights unleashing “a powerful genie that threatens the very fabric of our democracy”!! The use of “judicial activism” as the bogeyman/woman seems to me to be the flaw in his argument. A legislated bill of rights would spring from the parliament and be upheld by the courts. If genuine anomalies arose these could also be rectified by parliament.

  13. gerard
    December 13th, 2008 at 22:00 | #13

    Speaking of the Weekend Oz, today I saw my mum reading, and I hadn’t read it for ages, so I had a look. It was the biggest load of crap, I don’t know how anybody can take it seriously. I can’t believe I used to read it every weekend (like, ten years ago). Thank god for the internet.

  14. December 14th, 2008 at 00:14 | #14

    The problem is rather that they are opposed to the human rights that would inevitably be included in a legislated bill, such as freedom from arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention without trial and torture. We can thank the Bush and Howard Administrations for clarifying these issues.

    Yes we all know over the past few years how the (strongly constituted) US Bill of Rights prevented the Bush administration from engaging in “arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention without trial and torture”. Whilst in Howard’s Australia, without even a legislated bill of rights, we right wingers were arbitrarily arresting, indefinitely detaining (without option of release) and torturing people to our hearts content.

    Oh wait a minute, that was reality in the bizzarro alternative universe of Howard-hating liberal legalists. In our actual world the opposite happened. I guess inconvenient facts dont really matter so long as the two-minute Howard-hate lasts forever.

  15. December 14th, 2008 at 00:21 | #15

    And of course all liberal rights lawyers remember with gratitude the USSR’s bill of rights (drafted by Stalin in the thirties) which did so much to cement the Soviet Unions reputation as a bastion of liberal democracy. Whilst the UK, so-called “mother of parliaments”, did not have a Bill of Rights at all at that time. So Stanley Baldwin was able to set up a network of forced labour camps run by MI6, which slaughtered all the Tories including Churchill.

    Oh wait a minute…bizzarro world…never mind [bangs head against wall]

  16. December 14th, 2008 at 00:51 | #16

    Pr Q says:

    For some years discussion has focused on the idea of a legislated bill of rights which governments could amend if they chose to wear the consequences of openly acting against human rights.

    Pretty much all of Howards “repressive” legislation (in areas such as anti-terrorism, mandatory detention and indigenous intervention) were enacted to deal with situations where ordinary civil rights did not and cannot really be enforced as they might be for normal citizens.

    The controversial laws were directed at non-citizens, agents of foreign powers or at citizens for which the Commonwealth had special responsibilities living in jurisdictions over which the Commonwealth had special powers. Child rapists out-back, people smugglers off-shore and globalised terrorist enemies-within were posing a genuine threat in areas where the due writ of government cannot properly extend.

    Howard’s actions in these areas were very popular amongst the vast majority of the populace. I dont think any government of that ilk would be too worried about “wearing the consequences” of restoring law and order against that lot.

    Playing the civil rights violin over that lot hasnt done the Left-liberal cause much political good has it? But at least this latest example of ideological hood ornamentation gives us a chance to can “thank” Left-liberals for “clarifying” their position on “these issues”.

  17. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    December 14th, 2008 at 05:46 | #17

    Jack

  18. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    December 14th, 2008 at 05:47 | #18

    is

  19. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    December 14th, 2008 at 05:47 | #19

    back.

  20. MH
    December 14th, 2008 at 10:08 | #20

    The framers of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights sought to properly frame people’s right to dignity and respect and freedom from the abuse of power by the State. Their constitution properly frames the separation of powers in a way the Australian Constitution never did being a way of tethering together in a Federation a group of sovereign states. We have relied upon the legal system and the common law to protect citizens from the abuse of state, unfortunately the courts and the judiciary always remain subservient to Parliament as it is Parliament that passes the law and the judiciary has no such power to create law merely interpret, although interpretation may create a vacuum in legislative terms, aka Mabo, the recourse to the Common Law has always been a sensible process relying on precedent, the notion of a reasonable man and current social structures and mores. It is curious that our Parliament which has a framed copy of the Magna Carta pretends that the import of that document that the sovereign would acknowledge the broader populace (or the feudal Lords)is somehow sufficient. A Parliament without checks and balances has a nasty habit of passing laws that seek to deny people their rights, either to communicate or dissent or to expect fair treatment.

    I have always supported a constitutional change that properly provided for a separated judiciary and a bill of rights that provided such a check. A Bill of Rights can always be repealed or overridden by other legislation (when was the last time the courts in Australia were allowed to consider a writ of habeas corpus?. The use of corporations powers and the anti-terrorism legislation or excesses of the past decade should have been a wake up call to everyone as to how easily under our constitution we could have slipped into a facist or tyrannical state. The key problem is to achieve a Charter of Rights we need to significantly amend the Constitution in such a way that it would bear little resemblance to the current constitution.

    Kelly’s article in the Australian basically said it all, you cannot have a Bill of Rights because then Parliament would not be able to abuse citizen ‘s rights (illegal immigration, terrorism etc.) It would only take a slightly more demented and egotistical figure than Howard to push us into a Tyranny in the future. It is an ever present spectre without significant constitutional change.

  21. gerard
    December 14th, 2008 at 10:50 | #21

    aboriginals are citizens, but being guilty of child-rape until proven innocent, civil rights needn’t apply to them. asylum seekers are all people smugglers, just like that nefarious people-smuggler Cornelia Rau, so international refugee law need not apply to them. Globalized terrorist enemies-within sound absolutely terrifying, thank God these laws were there to protect us from Haneef, or we might all be dead. too bad Howard buckled under the pressure from the Left-liberals on David Hicks, I’m sweating every time I go outside knowing that he’s out of Guantanamo and ready to behead me at any moment.

  22. December 14th, 2008 at 11:09 | #22

    Pr Q says:

    For some years discussion has focused on the idea of a legislated bill of rights which governments could amend if they chose to wear the consequences of openly acting against human rights. This has already been introduced in Victoria and the ACT, not to mention the UK.

    This “unhelpful” construction begs the question of what are “human rights”. An unsettled one, especially when the rights of victims (actual or potential) are concerned.

    All the nasties, devos and rat-bags will be crawling out of the woodwork armed with new-found rights to get away with mischief. And attention-grabbing lawyers eager to get a media profile will be rubbing their hands with glee.

    Once a Bill of Rights gets passed it tends to get “constitutionalized” and becomes another civic institution available for white-anting by undemocratic liberal elites. Already high-profile former proponents of the lawyers human rights agenda such as Greg Craven and Jack Straw are ruing their legislative deed:

    The former home secretary of the UK, Jack Straw, who introduced that country’s Human Rights Act, this week said he understood why it was often referred to as “the villain’s charter”. British police have claimed the act is being used by murderers and rapists to give themselves a better life. One convicted rapist was given a council house against the wishes of a local housing authority because failing to do so would have breached his human rights. He went on to murder a 14- year-old neighbour.

    The head of Yorkshire’s police team has said, “One of the most frustrating things is when killers who have shown not one ounce of compassion for their fellow human beings start trying to have the shield of human rights drawn around them. It is callous, heartless and deeply offensive.”

    In Victoria, a pedophile has used the state’s new charter of human rights to challenge a supervision order placed on him after he left jail. He had served 10 years for having abused his daughter and another girl, and authorities wanted to be able to monitor him, dictate where he lived and make sure he was “escorted” on any excursions.

    There has been no decision in that case yet but Justice Mark Weinberg, in the Court of Appeal, said there was a question about whether parliament had put the prevention of harm to the community above an individual’s human rights.

    Murderers, rapists and pedophiles. Poster children for post-modern liberal legalists.

    And lets not forget all the diversity-crats who, mobbed up with a liberal media, academia and judiciary, will be able to hamstring efforts by populist governments to address unruly minorities in our own backyards. There is no way that the intervention in remote indigenous communities could have got off the ground if the feds had their hands tied behind their back with spurious human rights red-tape.

    Tough luck for the little kids at the mercy of monsters. But nothing must stand in the way of piling up more moralistic-legalistic “stuff that white [post-modernist liberals] like”. Apologies, 20-20 conferences, treaties, the list just goes on. For. Ever. More.

    Well, I’m all “broken up” about that man’s rights.
    Inspector “Dirty Harry” Callahan:

  23. December 14th, 2008 at 11:43 | #23

    # 21 gerard Says: December 14th, 2008 at 10:50 am

    aboriginals are citizens, but being guilty of child-rape until proven innocent, civil rights needn’t apply to them.

    Yeah, the Left-liberal civil rights lawyers – who tirelessly promoted land rights and opposed the intervention – were really on the job all those years protecting the rights of indigenous children, werent they?

    gerard says:

    asylum seekers are all people smugglers,

    Assylum-seekers, whatever their status, are not lawful entrants or citizens. People smugglers dont seem to care much for their customers rights when they send them off to a watery fate in Davey Jones locker, do they? And what about the rights of citizens who dont want their borders violated?

    gerard says:

    just like that nefarious people-smuggler Cornelia Rau, so international refugee law need not apply to them.

    THe poor woman was nuts for a good part of the time. She spent alot of her time shuttling from one assylum to another. No system can be designed to fit in with mis-fits.

    gerard says:

    Globalized terrorist enemies-within sound absolutely terrifying, thank God these laws were there to protect us from Haneef, or we might all be dead.

    Ask the tube-travellers who made victims by the 07/07 London bombings if they are inclined to be facetious about being blown up or incinerated. I dont want plod to take any chances given that excessively liberal laws made the the massacres in the WTC, Bali, London and Mumbai that much easier.

    Andrews did the right thing to detain Haneef. The suspect provided material assistance to terrorists, lied about his flight and had jihadist literature on his premises. More than enough for a reasonable suspicion for the authorities to lock him up.

    gerard says:

    too bad Howard buckled under the pressure from the Left-liberals on David Hicks,

    A terrorist, traitor and dead-beat dad. Of course Left-liberal legalists elevated him into secular sainthood. In more civilized times we would have locked him up for the duration, pour encourage l’autres.

    Its absurd to makeover the legal system just because a handful of hard-cases fall through the cracks. But manifest absurdity never stopped Left-liberals in their endless quest to collect ideological brownie points.

  24. gerard
    December 14th, 2008 at 12:09 | #24

    Jack, you said:

    Child rapists out-back, people smugglers off-shore and globalised terrorist enemies-within were posing a genuine threat in areas where the due writ of government cannot properly extend.

    I was just pointing out that this implies that aboriginals are all child rapists, refugees are all people smugglers, and saying that “globalised terrorist enemies-within” poses a threat beyond the “due writ” of government is just hysterical, bed-wetting McCarthyist balls. But you’re entitled to your reactionary opinions.

  25. Benjamin O’Donnell
    December 14th, 2008 at 12:44 | #25

    John,

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with your statement that a legislative bill of rights “overcomes the main objectives to a constitutional bill of rights that it would remove parliamentary sovereignty.”

    The authorisation for judicial legislation in the “interpretative clauses” is potentially very damaging to parliamentary sovereignty – and in a way that social democrats used to (rightly) decry when it was Sir Garfield Barwick playing funny buggers with the tax legislation.

    I’m in the unusual position of being a staunch supporter of constitutional bills of rights (particularly of the Canadian Charter model with its override clause) but a profound sceptic of legislative bills such as the UK Human Rights Act. Some of the UK judicial decisions have been disgraceful in their naked contempt for what parliament clearly intended when it passed the relevant legislation. When it’s clear parliament intended to legislate in a manner that the court views as contrary to human rights, the appropriate response under the Human Rights Act (HRA) is a declaration of incompatibility. Instead, the UK courts have done their Barwick-ian best to twist the words of the relevant statute to make it consistent with the HRA – and have even gone so far as to admit that’s what they’re doing! Little could be more corrosive of the integrity of the rule of law. And this has the potential to derail the cause of human rights by playing into the hands of the likes of Janet Albrechtsen.

    There is some hope in the different form of the interpretation clauses in the ACT and Victorian Human Rights Acts. Both make it clear that the obligation to interpret legislation consistently with human rights must be subject to a good faith assessment of legislative intent. But Higgins CJ in the ACT has nevertheless adopted the UK approach. On the other hand, Spigelman CJ of NSW has made it clear in speeches and academic papers that he thinks the UK approach is beyond the pale.

    If Australian courts take the conservative Spigelman approach, then I’ll happily say my worries were excessive. But if a left wing version of the ghost of Sir Garfield Barwick rises in the soil of the Human Rights Acts, I think things may end badly for those who (for good reason) want to see greater protection for human rights.

  26. December 14th, 2008 at 12:54 | #26

    # 24 gerard Says: December 14th, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    I was just pointing out that this implies that aboriginals are all child rapists, refugees are all people smugglers, and saying that “globalised terrorist enemies-within” poses a threat beyond the “due writ” of government is just hysterical, bed-wetting McCarthyist balls. But you’re entitled to your reactionary opinions.

    Can you quote where I said or implied that are “all aboriginals are child rapists, refugees are all people smugglers”. Since you didnt we are entitled to presume your comment is premised on falsity or derived by fallacy.

    Try to familiarize yourself with the difference between logical modifiers such as “some” and “all”. In the meantime “you’re entitled to your” illogical inferences.

    It is enough that these classes of person present with abormally high risks to justify civil authority being granted with extra powers to deal with such risks. Such powers would be voided by absolutist rights agenda. Thereby rendering actual or potential victims powerless to protect themselves or be protected.

    I dont think that the outraged next of kin of the people massacred in WTC, Bali, Mumbai or London would appreciate being characterised as “hysterical, bed-wetting McCarthyists” just because they want to give the authorities the power to deter or pre-empt such massacres in the future.

  27. gerard
    December 14th, 2008 at 13:10 | #27

    you said

    “The controversial laws were directed at non-citizens, agents of foreign powers or at citizens for which the Commonwealth had special responsibilities living in jurisdictions over which the Commonwealth had special powers. Child rapists out-back, people smugglers off-shore and globalised terrorist enemies-within were posing a genuine threat in areas where the due writ of government cannot properly extend.”

    The laws actually affect aboriginals and asylum seekers in general – not just child rapists and people smugglers – unless you think there’s no distinction (you probably do realize there’s a distinction, but believe it to be unimportant).
    you may believe that making every Australian citizen potentially subject to indefinite detention without any charge is necessary. well it isn’t an “absolutist rights agenda” to take issue with that.

  28. December 14th, 2008 at 14:06 | #28

    “posing a genuine threat in areas where the due writ of government cannot properly extend”

    “just because a handful of hard-cases fall through the cracks”

    From a submission to the Inquiry into Detention:

    “My tourist visa lapsed without my knowledge before I left the country.
    I was golfing and had my camera and my Pennsylvania driver’s licence in the pocket of the camera case and the camera fell out of the golf bag. The next day the police station rang to tell me that they had found my missing camera and I should come at my earliest convenience to pick it up.
    I said, ‘I’m here to pick up my lost property,’ and the police officer comes back five minutes later and says, ‘we’re just trying to get the paperwork in order, I just need to take you out the back to sign the papers,’ and he led me straight into an interrogation room. He said, ‘I regret to inform you that you are an illegal noncitizen and you have no legal rights whatsoever.’ I’m not allowed to contact a lawyer, I’m not allowed to do anything except go with these people.”

    That lucky American only spent three days in Maribyrnong before being deported. The immigration officer said: “Calm down, we’ll sort this out. Everybody knows that this place wasn’t built for people like you.”

    It’s only one example but it shows how things go when rights and rule of law and respect for legal process are trampled by hysteria and panic.

  29. December 14th, 2008 at 14:44 | #29

    # 27 gerard Says: December 14th, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    The laws actually affect aboriginals and asylum seekers in general – not just child rapists and people smugglers – unless you think there’s no distinction (you probably do realize there’s a distinction, but believe it to be unimportant).

    They affect everyone in general, not just “aboriginals and assylum seekers in general”. They do not deprive such persons of legal redress or political petition. There is a “distinction” between the words “affect” and “deprive”. Although its not one that Left-liberal legalists “believe to be…important”.

    The “repressive” laws protect the public interest. They give the democratically elected parliament the fist and final say in the matter. Without having to jump through a new set of legal and legislative hoops just to get its job done.

    A job that includes protecting:

    – our citizens from being massacred by terrorists (Bali or its home-grown copy-cat),

    – aboriginal children being raped by pedophiles (“permit protected” remote communities)

    – our borders being violated by unauthorized arrivals likely to drown in unseaworthy vessels.

    The HOward govt actually got those jobs done effectively. It would not have been able to do so with hands tied behind back by a gang of lawyered-up special interests with dubious private agendas.

    gerard says:

    you may believe that making every Australian citizen potentially subject to indefinite detention without any charge is necessary.

    Cripes, a few misfits get inadvertently locked up for a short while and you want to overhaul and override the entire democratic political system. Talk about “hysterical bed-wetting” responses!

    No system has 100% reliability. Sh*t happens to people sometimes, whether the onus is put on the individual or the institutional. This is hardly putting “every Australian citizen” at risk of “indefinite detention”.

    In an age where unregulated individuals can do extraordinary damage, it is better to err on the side of institutional authority rather than individual autonomies. That is if you care about the greatest good for the greatest number. A noble ideal that seems to go missing whenever Left-liberal lawyers appear on the scene.

    Cant Left-liberals find something more valuable to do with their time than cooking up yet another bit of “parchment politics” entitling their “clients” to make nuisances of themselves authorities trying to do their jobs? Its hard enough already for teachers and nurses and cops to restore order in over-crowded schools, over-flowing hospital waiting rooms and over-patronised pubs and clubs.

    I happen to be married to a nurse and shes fed up to the back teeth with patients and relatives whining about their rights all night long. Ditto with all the cops in my reserve regiment having to deal with argy-bargy from aggro patrons. And every teacher I have met complains of being burnt out by pesky parents and their little monsters. The screws I’ve met are amazed at the skill of penitentiary lawyers when they think they can game the system. No wonder its so hard to keep teachers, nurses and cops.

    Now you want to give little johhny a sharp legal instrument which he can use to clog up the courts with vexatious litigation everytime he gets bounced by the harassed person in charge. You Left-liberals safely ensconced in academic ivory towers or oak-panelled legal chambers just have no idea what its like at the front line of social control.

    And now McClellands mate Evans wants to bring in another 300,000 people in per year and give them the full Left-liberal Monty just to make a difficult enough situation absolutely impossible.

  30. gerard
    December 14th, 2008 at 15:41 | #30

    I’m flattered that you think I’m worth such a lengthy response. My dad’s a teacher and my mum’s a nurse for what it’s worth, and I have some idea of what these jobs are like.

    Cripes, a few misfits get inadvertently locked up for a short while and you want to overhaul and override the entire democratic political system. Talk about “hysterical bed-wetting” responses!

    actually, the post 9-11 ‘anti-terrorism’ bills make it legal for citizens to be locked up permanently without charge on the AG’s whim.

    Is that reasonable? I think that’s closer to overhauling our democratic political system than anything I’ve proposed (I haven’t actually proposed anything btw).

    admittedly Howard’s war-crimes probably did make us more of a target, but let’s keep things in their proper perspective – the closest thing to a terrorist attack on Australian soil has been ASIO’s Hilton bombing.

    I’m quite sure that the existing laws were quite sufficient to deal with any threat.

  31. nansk
    December 14th, 2008 at 15:53 | #31

    jack, if you have any evidence about Haneef to support your claim that “The suspect provided material assistance to terrorists” then you should make it available to the AFP. That sort of evidence would have been extremely important to their case aginst him. As you know, the AFP did not have evidence of that nature, nor did ASIO. I can’t understand why you didn’t come forward before, or is this new evidence?

  32. December 14th, 2008 at 17:15 | #32

    # 31 gerard Says: December 14th, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    actually, the post 9-11 ‘anti-terrorism’ bills make it legal for citizens to be locked up permanently without charge on the AG’s whim.

    No.The Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 does not abolish the common law right of Habeas Corpus. Preventive Detention lasts for a maximum of 14 days. Control Orders last for a maximum of one year. The federal court has oversight over the AG in this matter.

    The A-T laws just gives the authorities some temporary breathing room to deal with suspects or perps who might be roaming around and cooking up trouble without actually having a bomb strapped to their waist.

    Look, if these laws are considered too draconian then the remedy is simple: amend or repeal the laws. The ALP have already softened mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals. They can do the same for detention of suspected terrorists. And wear the consequences if terrorists get away with mass murder or emboldened people smugglers start turning up (or letting their clients drown) in large numbers.

    There is no need to set up what is going to be another branch of government (“fourth pillar” according to McClelland) just to constrain some real or imagined tyranny. That is massive institutional over-kill for what are, at worst, a handful of contentious cases.

    Left-liberal legalists are very interested in jobs for human rights lawyers. This appears to be a hip new profession, going by the media “stuff that white [post-modern liberals] like” to watch (Bridget Jones, Constant Gardner).

    gerard says:

    admittedly Howard’s war-crimes probably did make us more of a target, but let’s keep things in their proper perspective – the closest thing to a terrorist attack on Australian soil has been ASIO’s Hilton bombing.

    You are right in this instance, but for the wrong reason. Howard’s govt did make us a target for terrorism. We were hit bad in Bali. Because Howard led the liberation of E Timor. Thats close enough to “Australian soil” to suit me.

    Sending a batallion of sappers in a Shiite backwater in southern Iraq to build schools, yeah, really puts Eichmann style war crimes into the shade doesnt it?

    I see by your fever-swamped references to conspiracy theories about ASIO that you are a probably expecting the black helicopters to begin hovering over your backyard any moment now. Stay calm. Paranoia about the malign intentions of the Australian govt is a delusion of grandeur cultivated by radicals. YOu dont matter that much.

  33. Alanna
    December 14th, 2008 at 19:29 | #33

    I agree. In the end Howard and Bush did get thrown out on their ear and I am still waiting for that heartless soul Janet Albrechtsen to be thrown out on her ear as well. As far as I know that woman is still on the board at the ABC although she has been more than a little muted of late but Im not impressed because I happen to think she a is a mere footsoldier for US right wing think tanks and their time has come and gone as well but as in a lost war they have left theirt loyal infantry behind. I dont forgive Janet Albrechtsen for her concerted, aggressive attacks on Australian tertiary institutions and anyone who happened to be an “academic” being labelled a “left wing academic” at the end of her vicious, derogatory and incorrect tongue. I didnt see too many real academics who did any decent factual analysis in the CIS either. Mostly just wrote to some hellish deadline, a deluge of media misinformation grabs (the war of words) – no numbers, no studies, no surveys – no anything except media, endless media grabs, financed well (obviously by some orgs) and published happily by our grovelling and supportive media. May as well have started each article with “we think therefore we know”. Saunders was another of the same ilk (the bad Saunders not the decent one). Where has he gone? Quiet also lately – probably trying to be paid by someone for espousing socially democratic views (how they turn their poison pens so quickly to the popular view).

    The mere mention of Albrechtsen is enough for me… cant stand empty propaganda merchants where it is really obvious they get paid to write divisive, biased inflammatory remarks. They still have to have it in them to write it and it isnt pretty.

  34. Jill Rush
    December 14th, 2008 at 20:50 | #34

    Jack,
    There are plenty of instances of people doing their job with no regard for the rights of others; who see others as inconvenient, sub humans.

    Whilst you worry about the authorities having to work within limits it is a good thing. We are just beginning to recognise that there is a strong underbelly of bullying in this nation. It reveals itself in horrid stories of abuse surfacing despite the best efforts of suppression.

    It happens to ordinary people who brush up against petty officials and/or those in high places. A Bill of Rights wouldn’t fix this but it would provide an avenue to highlight nasty secrets. It is not the rock spiders who will benefit but the ordinary person facing the systemic persecutions.

    It won’t suit those who believe that they have more rights than others and that there is a certain god ordained order of life. A Bill of Rights offers others some protection from those who have powers conferred through money, position or birth and believe they don’t have to live by the same rules as everyone else.

  35. charles
    December 14th, 2008 at 20:57 | #35

    Alanna

    For proof that the statement ” I write therefor I think” is rubbish look at the work of Janet Albrechtsen, however, something isn’t wrong just because Janet Albrechtsen writes it.

  36. December 14th, 2008 at 21:51 | #36

    # 34 Jill Rush Say December 14th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Jack, There are plenty of instances of people doing their job with no regard for the rights of others; who see others as inconvenient, sub humans. Whilst you worry about the authorities having to work within limits it is a good thing.

    Oh for God’s sake get a grip woman! You are talking as if Australia harbours a helpless minority of downtrodden “sub-humans”, languishing under the jackboot of fascism. Most Left-liberals, if they ever bothered to look at the stats, would be are surprised to discover that Australia under Howard experienced the biggest intake of diverse cultures in its history. Mostly successfully integrated because, not in spite, of stricter regulation.

    A few reffos got a bit of argy-bargy for a bit longer than average from some mean-spirited officials. Situation normal and as it should be if we want to remain on top of it. Especially after excessive laxity from previous administrations. We dont want to follow the example of other countries who have allowed Bill-of-Rights induced free-for-alls and are now counting the cost of “villains charters”.

    Jill Rush says:

    We are just beginning to recognise that there is a strong underbelly of bullying in this nation. It reveals itself in horrid stories of abuse surfacing despite the best efforts of suppression.

    Who are these great mass of oppressed peoples with their “horrid stories of abuse”, that are just waiting to be liberated by the enshrinement of a Bill of Rights? They would not be the same populace who voted Howard’s govt in four times running largely because he enacted “repressive” legislation.

    It is ludicrous to suggest that ordinary persons face “systemic persecutions” for want of enforceable rights to the higher levels of due process. Far more likely that ordinary persons are getting hurt because certain parties stand to forcibly on their “rights”. Various rat-bags, misfits and skivers who just make serial pests of themselves, a continual headache to the authorities.

    Not to mention the rock-spiders who are having their activities curtailed due to Howard’s abrogation of some civil rights.

    Jill Rush says:

    A Bill of Rights wouldn’t fix this but it would provide an avenue to highlight nasty secrets…A Bill of Rights offers others some protection from those who have powers conferred through money, position or birth and believe they don’t have to live by the same rules as everyone else. It is not the rock spiders who will benefit but the ordinary person facing the systemic persecutions.

    It is high-born cultural and political elites such as Malcolm Fraser who are making the running on a Bill of Rights. Their concerns are far removed from those of ordinary people.

    The strongest opponents of a Bill of Rights are ordinary folk, such as myself, who are typical members of the public. Not particularly powerful or prestigious or privileged in terms of “money, position or birth”. THe average Joe just wants democratic authority to run the place effectively without having to run the gauntlet of a battery of media-sluttish lawyers.

  37. nanks
    December 14th, 2008 at 21:59 | #37

    Surely this is satire.

  38. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    December 14th, 2008 at 22:08 | #38

    I don’t understand how people can support a bill or rights, legislated or consitutitional, without some indication as to what is going to be in the document. Some of the things I would like to see in a bill or rights might make others run a mile, and likewise I know that what some people might like in such a document would turn my stomach.

  39. Spiros
    December 15th, 2008 at 09:14 | #39

    Jack, as always, you miss the point totally. Yes, most people in Australia are not in need of an explicit bill of rights because the great majority do not have their implicit rights impinged on in any way.

    But there are people who are in need of such explicit rights, such as the stateless man, who was denied refugee status but who could not be deported because no country would take him, and who the Howard government wanted to bang up forever; all perfectly kosher according to the High Court.

    “it is better to err on the side of institutional authority rather than individual autonomies. That is if you care about the greatest good for the greatest number.”

    This was exactly the justification given by Stalin for the great purges of 1937-38, or has he put it, better that a hundred innocent men are condemned than one guilty man go free.

    It’s all very well taking comfort in being one of the greatest number, even if you care only about yourself, but it’s not so great if for whatever reason the authority you so admire turns against you. Like car crash deaths, some people think it can only happen to other people, never themselves. Mostly that is true, but sometimes it isn’t.

  40. Alanna
    December 15th, 2008 at 10:33 | #40

    Charles

    I beg to differ. Janet Albrechtsen is wrong in that she was and remnains blatantly extremist, divisive, generalist and a great employer of stereotypes, far more often than she is factually correct. She forms part of the voice of that strong underbelly of a bullying culture that Jill Rush mentions. This culture of bullying, insults and name calling came to the fore in both the media and in parliamentary communications over the past decade and was permitted to flourish at the expense of reasonable civility and decency. Individuals like Janet Albrechtsen and others being granted media exposure and favoured positions on public boards (despite their recognised hostility towards the public service) were a symptom of a much deeper malaise.

    The Howard years are now acknowledged as a Coalition government run by a core inner group. Albrechtsen manifested the “you are either with us or against us” attitude that came from that inner group. She employed the tactic of sterotyping groups of people into the “against us” category by virtue of the simple fact they were employed eg as academics in universities or in the arts at the ABC (in her narrow view all left wing extremists). Unfortunately Janet Albrechtsen and her political masters failed to notice the seachange swirling around them – that the majority of the electorate and the voices of reason in the coalition were no longer with them either.

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