May 21

A Bill of Rights?

I am often asked about a bill of rights. ACM has taken no position on this.

A new book on a bill of rights is to be launched at the Public Library in Macquarie Street Sydney on Monday at 11:00 am by General Peter Cosgrove AC, MC.

This is “Don’t Leave Us with the Bill:  The Case Against an Australian Bill of Rights. “  A series of essays in opposition to the Bill, the book is edited by Julian Leeser and Ryan Haddrick.



When we think of a bill of rights many will think of the USA.  But theirs was not adopted to give individual rights. Following the terms of the British Bill of Rights, it was adopted to restrain the new federal entity. Without it some states would not have joined the Union, and there might not have been a United States. Its present legal reach is a result of the intepretation of the Bill by the Supreme Court.

Most current Australian proposals do not now envisage any constitutional change.  This book is about a legislated bill of rights.

Julian Leeser, a contibutor and one of the editors  was the youngest delegate at the Constitutional Convention and was a member of the Vote No Committee. He is now the director of the Menzies Research Centre.

The book promotion points out that five current or former governments (ACT, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, and now the Commonwealth) have established and funded pro-bill of rights inquiries. It argues that there has been little organized intellectual opposition to these proposals.

The stated purpose of this book is to join the debate and to make the case that a bill of rights is not an appropriate response to the issues facing Australia at this time. It says that those pressing the case for change have the burden of proving, not only that the current system is not working, but that their model for reform provides the best method of making the system work better.

The authors in this book are sceptical about whether a bill of rights can discharge these burdens. The foreword is written by former Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen, and the contributors include the Queensland Chief Justice Paul de Jersey, Senator George Brandis,  former Prime Minister John Howard, former High Court Justice Ian Callinan, Professor James Allan, Alan Anderson, Justice Kenneth Handley, Dr. David Bennett, Dr Helen Irving, former Keating government minister Professor Gary Johns, AJ Molan, Professor Geoffrey Blainey, Dr John Hirst, Bronwyn Bishop MP, Cardinal George Pell, Rabbi John Levi, and Brigadier Jim Wallace.

Further information about the book and the launch may be obtained from the Menzies Research Centre.

The book follows the release and extensive promotion of Geoffrey Robertson’s latest publication, The Statute of Liberty. In a critical review in Quadrant Online, John Izzard argues that every Australian should read this book. “Their future liberty may just depend upon their doing so.”



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