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.