As Australians, we can breathe a sigh of relief, link arms and celebrate the “implied right to political communication”.

Who knew freedom, respect, equality and dignity could be so heavy?

This is our version of free speech, a fundamental value of democracy. So what if it’s a little foggy, subject to wide interpretation, and not officially safeguarded in the Constitution. I’ll have you know the word “implied” is as good as gold – take it from me.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary its core verb “imply” means to “comprise as a necessary logical consequence …To express indirectly; to insinuate, hint at.”

Just knowing that such an important, yet unstated principle exists in at least some ideological form, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 

So yes, being an Australian entitles you to the freedom of political debate, something that was decided at the High Court in 1992 with its Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd and New South Wales v Commonwealth ruling.

The judges concluded that free political communication was required for the proper operation of a democracy. Let the mud-slinging continue! But how about artistic and academic expression, assembly and demonstration? No sorry, these didn’t make the cut. 

In fact, none of the cherished and fundamental human rights that we often assume have been safeguarded behind plate glass, have any Constitutional weight, save a few. 

The treasured provisions that do exist within the Australian Constitution are S.80, which guarantees a trial by jury, S.116, which recognises the freedom of religion and S.117, which ensures the equal treatment of Australians regardless of state. 

The rest are subject to an evolving judicial legacy of Common Law, which is bolstered by a few statutes. But hang on. What about that international agreement we signed? Yes, in 1980, we ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This means we join our international counterparts in theory and spirit, but it has no bearing on domestic practice. Remember how well our proposed asylum seeker solution chalked up?

For years, the movement for a Charter of Rights and Freedoms has lain dormant.

Introducing a national Charter into the Constitution would not be about entrenching lofty ideals that never touch the ground. Instead, it would protect us from discrimination and unreasonable persecution. The human rights struggle is not just about supporting those who do speak up, but about empowering those who can’t speak up. 

It’s about striving for a more egalitarian society by recognising and condemning discrimination and unjust treatment collectively. 

To clarify, having a Charter would not serve as a rule book for public interactions. We naturally moderate open debate as seen with the latest Alan Jones outcry, Destroy the Joint campaign, Kyle Sandilands and Andrew Bolt. 

A Constitutionally entrenched document would prevent the government from pulling a fast one, by passing Counter-Terrorism or Sedition laws that go against fundamental freedoms like the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom from arbitrary detention and the right to not be tortured.

The ACT adopted something similar in 2004 called the Human Rights Act. And even our Attorney-General Nicola Roxon is on board promising greater efforts in this area.

At the NGO Forum for Human Rights on August 14, she began her speech by saying: “Australia has a solid human rights record … I think it’s fair to say that this leads to many Australians questioning whether we need a human rights debate at all in this country.” 

Then she proceeded to list five areas that needed attention, funding and execution including the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), legal aid and the NBN. She also cited a commitment to enhance pay equity for 150,000 of Australia’s lowest paid workers by enabling pay rises of above 20 per cent.

Ms Roxon assured her audience of rights advocates that all new legislation must first pass a gruelling Statement of Compatibility. Hmm, the bill was drafted in January but takes effect in September. How do Aquarius and Virgo match up? 

She explained: “Statement of Compatibility are more than a piece of paper - they ensure that the Government of the day and each Minister is focussed is on ensuring that key principles of freedom, respect, equality, dignity and a fair go for all Australians are considered in everything the Commonwealth Parliament does.”

I’m sorry but I’m picturing a slip of paper with the heading “Key Australian Principles” and little boxes next to this list:

Freedom (all that mumbo jumbo about free speech, assembly, etc.)

Respect (you know, for the Aborigines, women, disabled, ethnics, elderly, etc.)           

Equality (to keep the Feminists quiet)                                           

Dignity (for the retirees and wheelchair-bound)                                 

Fair Go (all that about living the “Australian dream”)                   

Having such a Charter would do exactly as Ms Roxon proposes, it would guarantee that no individual minister or government of the day could pass a law that would fundamentally contradict Australian values. 

As the system stands, society’s marginalised and vulnerable must wait for incremental judgments on cases that really kick up a stink, instead of automatically being entitled to certain rights and freedoms. This means we are constantly on the back foot, defending our claims to implied protections instead of blowing the whistle on governments that overstep their bounds.

It’s time to lock this down. It’s time to put some legal muscle behind what it means to be Australian and design our own supreme contract for human rights.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

Most commented

90 comments

Show oldest | newest first

    • Don says:

      05:08am | 22/10/12

      This article reminds of my various interactions with used car salesmen over the years. Needless to say that I am not interested.

    • acotrel says:

      05:48am | 22/10/12

      @Don
      Democracy is the only thing on this planet worth fighting for.  Our solduers fought and died in two work wars so that you would be able to determine your own future, and not be subjected to authoritarianism.  At some time in your life you will probably have to stand up and be counted.  Will you be found wanting ?

    • Don says:

      06:16am | 22/10/12

      You may have gathered that I am not too enthusiastic about the prospect of handing more power over to our beloved lawyers and intend to “stand up and be counted” at the next election and in my democratic discussions with my peers regarding such a prospect.

      Please spare me the rhetoric of the sacrifices that our troops have made in establishing and maintaining our democracy. I am fully aware of the situation and as stated intend to honour their sacrifice by expressing my opinion fully and uninhibited where called for. Not everyone has a woody for the prospect of a human rights charter and all the ramifications so get over it.

    • acotrel says:

      06:24am | 22/10/12

      @Don
      If we passed a law saying that you are the only one with any rights, would that give you a woody ?

    • nihonin says:

      06:39am | 22/10/12

      No prizes for 2nd acotrel, in the woody stakes.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:41am | 22/10/12

      “f we passed a law saying that you are the only one with any rights, would that give you a woody ? ” (acotrel)
      Sadly that is what most rights ultimately turn out as- the right of a person to do one thing at the expense of the other person’s right to be free of that thing.
      Developer rights state the right of the developer to build on land they purchased trumps the right of people who actually live around there being adversely affected.
      Even our jury system states that the right of an accused to a (theoretically) ‘more egalitarian’ system trumps the right of 12 innocent (by definition) people to liberty, work, and not being held against their will (without charge).

      As for democracy- we could use a LOT more of that than the weak trickle of accountability we currently have.

    • acotrel says:

      05:11am | 22/10/12

      I wonder why Australians accept subversion of their democracy so easily ?  When the Iraq war started, and John Howard decided our troops must be involved, there were people on talkback radio immediately talking about conscripting our youth to go and fight it.  There was one young navy person who complained that he joined the navy for a job, not to fight a war.  For him, I have little sympathy as he took ‘the KIng’s shilling’.  But to conscript our kids again after what happened when the Vietnam veterans returned would be really appalling ! When the Vietnam War started there was not even a call for volunteers.  The conscription bullshit was up and firing straight away -  blatant coercive authoritarianism, yet it was blithely accepted by all and sundry - and the kids went and got killed or returned as loonies.

    • Don says:

      06:19am | 22/10/12

      I missed it - did we vote conscription in again? It’s a big difference people talking about it and then government putting it in law. You hear talk and immediately start squawking as if it has suddenly been enshrined in legislation. Calm down and carry on.

    • acotrel says:

      06:29am | 22/10/12

      It didn’t get ‘voted in’ last time.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:15am | 22/10/12

      What acotrel pointed out is what is sorely lacking in all ‘bill of rights’ debates, as opposed to the cosmetic ‘rights’ the author quite rightly criticised.
      I am not going to be interested in any ‘rights’ proposal until

      -War and conscription proposals MUST be put to a public vote (strangely, the only country that does this has not joined a war in centuries)

      -Privatization and construction projects cannot go ahead without a referendum of all relevant stakeholder electorates and localities. (In fact, BCIR in general must be included)

      - Most importantly, some considerably better policies to ensure Indigenous Australian localities aren’t subjected to another Northern-Territory Invervention- until we declare martial law for corresponding crimes committed by any other Australian, it’s silly to say it only needs to happen for Aborigines.

      If these are not included as binding proposals, AND/OR the rubbish from the Brennan proposal are included, I will happily vote it down.

    • PeterH says:

      05:15am | 22/10/12

      I’d prefer we have a charter of Responsibilities first.

    • acotrel says:

      05:25am | 22/10/12

      Certain politicians should accept responsibility for their garbage, especially misogynists.

    • Mouse says:

      06:38am | 22/10/12

      acotrel, when you use the word “misogynist”, are you referring to the old version or the new version? It’s very confusing to understand what people actually mean when they use that word now, isn’t it?  Funny, but it seems to have only come into prominence very recently, being used incorrectly by a few people to demean one particular person. Doesn’t say much for their character really!  :o)

    • nihonin says:

      06:42am | 22/10/12

      ‘Certain politicians should accept responsibility for their garbage, especially misogynists.’

      Agree with you acotrel, so should the parties that support or assist them remain in positions of power within the Parliament, damn misogynistic hypocrites.

    • Mahhrat says:

      06:53am | 22/10/12

      @PeterH:  +1 internets to you.  The Charter of Rights & Responsibilities.  I love that.

    • Gregg says:

      07:10am | 22/10/12

      Perhaps one responsibility ought to be for people to keep their inane views to themselves rather than tainting days for many others.

    • Michael says:

      07:54am | 22/10/12

      Gregg, you would have to couple that with your being responsible for your reaction to their inane comments, if you keep your comments about their comments etc etc so on and so forth lol the taint in your day is the one you have placed there as a reaction to someone elses point of view….potentially.

      Free speech, so long as you say what i agree with or i’ll blame you for ruining my day, is what i took from your post. smile

    • Stephen T says:

      09:22am | 22/10/12

      @mouse: Its all awfully confusing for me, I now have a library of legal precedents and psychological treatise that set the context of the word in a specific sense.  I suspect many others are finding themselves in the same circumstance, I’m afraid for myself I’ve specified all references must now be made to Oxford Dictionary definition.  So with due deference to Macmillan Publishers and the University of Sydney I would suggest that they continue to focus their attention on the collection of Australian colloquialisms and refrain from mangling that which is not within their area of competence.

    • Liz says:

      09:51am | 22/10/12

      Yes acotrel, Gillard should accept responsibility for her slander that she will not repeat outside of coward’s castle, proving that she knows her slander will not stand up in court. She should also accept responsibility that this was the culmination of her defence of Slipper by distracting the gullible when Labor could no longer hide the text messages. She has been preparing this slander campaign since May.

    • Mouse says:

      01:34pm | 22/10/12

      StephenT, it is becomiong a bit of a verbal minefield isn’t it! lol

      As to refraining from mangling that which is not within their area of competence, not much we can do about that now until the next election, aside from a real, out and out revolution. Vive australie!  LOL ;o)

    • DOB says:

      02:26pm | 22/10/12

      Hmmm, Liz’s comments sound awfully like the silly comments that “joan” comes up with. Is there a sock puppet infestation going on here?

    • Craig says:

      05:27am | 22/10/12

      Australians largest equate democracy and freedom with getting to vote every few years.

      Voting is a process supported in a range of nations from rightwing dictatorships through to communists.

      To change this belief we need education for citizens first, to make it clear how few rights and how weakly they are protected in Australia.

      However which institution is the major education funder?

    • FINK says:

      07:41am | 22/10/12

      “Australians largest equate democracy and freedom with getting to vote every few years.”
      The problem with this so called voting for democracy is that it absolves those in charge from any kind of responsibility. The worse that happens to these so called leader who erode our standard of living and rights is that they go into opposition for a couple of years. still collecting a nice salary or pension for life while the destruction they leave is dismissed as untidy policy.
      I propose a “charter of political treason” for those in charge are so inept they introduce a carbon tax.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:21am | 22/10/12

      Even our voting rights are hardly extensive compared to some other countries;
      After all, I dont’ recall being given a say in;
      -The Iraq War
      -The Afghanistan War
      -Privatization of Telstra and Qantas (partially)
      -Closing Sydney for APEC and WYD
      -Development of second Sydney Airport
      -Asylum seeker standards and migration policy (for either result, it would stop being a political football and a more efficient policy would be in place)

      Plenty of people with differing opinions would deserve a lot to say in each of these, as they affect us all quite significantly.

    • cheap white trash says:

      05:29am | 22/10/12

      Forget a charter Rights, I want a Revolution.

    • Mark says:

      07:57am | 22/10/12

      viva la

    • Super D says:

      05:29am | 22/10/12

      Andrew Bolt wasn’t “naturally moderated”. He was hauled before a court. I think it was the racial discrImination act.

      I would only ever support a charter of rights if it guaranteed the right to offend people and indeed the right to vilify them. That’s the only guarantee of any so called right to free speech.

    • fml says:

      07:43am | 22/10/12

      You would support the right to vilify? that’s great. Yep, you should have the right to make baseless allegations and ruin another persons life, because that exactly epitomises freedom of speech. You would think it’s all fun and games and democracy until people started attacking you and your family, then you will realise how silly a statement that is.

    • LC says:

      08:24am | 22/10/12

      Sorry, FML, while when it comes to encouragement or threats of violence the line can be drawn, there is no such thing as the right not to be offended. But free speech does not guarantee one an audience. If you’re offended by something, tune out. Stop listening.

    • Achmed says:

      08:37am | 22/10/12

      With any freedom of speech comes a responsibility.  Many rant about their “right” to say what they like because they have that “freedom”.  But we hear none them rant about their “responsiblity” to use that freedom in a manner that does not cause “harm”.
      Australias defamation laws do not protect people from unreasonable/lies etc about their character etc.
      Perhaps if people could sued for making incorect or for lying about a person we might see them think about the outcome and realise they do have a responsibility.

    • fml says:

      08:46am | 22/10/12

      Sorry LC,

      I am not talking about the right to be offended, I am talking about vilification. Offending someone and vilifying them are two separate issues, deliberately trying to conjoin the two causes confusion.

      “If you’re offended by something, tune out. Stop listening. ” What has that got to do with vilifying someone? Super D says it is his right to vilify, I said he has no such right and should never have. I don’t understand what that has to do with being offended.

    • andye says:

      10:16am | 22/10/12

      @Super D - If Bolt hadn’t flat out lied about the people he probably would have been fine. He is lucky he didn’t get sued for defamation.

    • LC says:

      10:41am | 22/10/12

      Sorry FML, I left this part out because I’m an idiot :/ :

      “When it comes to vilification, that’s why we have defamation laws, and no-one is except from them. If they need to be expanded to allow a clearly defined body who represents an ethnic group to sue in cases of racial abuse, then make it so. Just don’t make a civil matter a criminal one, allowing governments to prosecute things like this is a problematic path to tread, especially so when it comes to free speech.”

      Personally, I think it’s better for the racists to have their opinions out in the open without fear of criminal prosecution. Then their views can be debated against with evidence, and maybe their prejudices will be lifted, and others discouraged from following that path. Failing that, they’ll come across sounding like a moron and people will tune out, and will continue to in the future when they open their mouths. This has resulted in many notorious shock-jocks in the US ending up with trashed reputations, similar to what happened when Mr. Jones crossed the line in many people’s books a few weeks back. Prosecute it, and you’ll make them validate their beliefs and you risk feeding the “the gummint is infiltrated by <insert ethnic group here> and they’re out 2 get meh!!” line of thought I’ve seen in many racists. This is a problem because if such a situation genuinely was occurring, violent revolution becomes justifiable.

    • fml says:

      10:50am | 22/10/12

      LC,

      I agree a civil issue shouldn’t be made into a criminal issue. I also agree and think it is great that the population takes it upon themselves to regulate shock jocks, that is the way it should be. People have a right to be offended but I think we should be clear and make sure it is known that it should not a legal right.

    • Super D says:

      03:48pm | 22/10/12

      @FML - I’ve not noticed you complaining about the ongoing program of vilification directed at Tony Abbott.  I guess its just bad luck for him that he doesn’t belong to any of the sanctioned victim classes. 

      Also vilifiction is just a word.  A very strong one at this stage but then last week so was misogyny.  Whats to say in ten years time a second definition of “being a big meanie” isn’t added to vilification?

    • John says:

      05:42am | 22/10/12

      You can have freedom of speech as long as it’s deemed exceptable by the government. It’s not freedom of speech, it’s government allowed speech. Western society is basically like commie leftist Russia, but instead of 9mm being the punishment device, we have incarceration and jail cells, instead of commissars, we have judges and their magets lawyers.

      The west has basically created Bolshevism 2.0, incrementally.

    • acotrel says:

      06:22am | 22/10/12

      What are you trying to say ?

    • Don says:

      06:22am | 22/10/12

      The punishment is not the ultimate penalty but the process. You may not end up going to jail but the costs and time of defending yourself can be far more damaging as Canada found out.

    • David V. says:

      06:42am | 22/10/12

      John is saying, as we all know, that the Left has imposed itself in a more subtle way through PC thought control and attempts to stifle freedom of expression and diversiy of opinion.

    • fml says:

      07:52am | 22/10/12

      If you wanted to protest against the government, you have the right to do so. If you wanted to make baseless allegations against someone based on race, color or creed, you cannot do this. I do not see the problem with this.

      You have the freedom to change the government if you want, and most people are equating freedom of speech to not being able to deride minority groups legally and somehow that is akin to communism.

    • Al says:

      08:14am | 22/10/12

      fml - however we are also not able to make VALID allegations based on race, color or creed without being denounced as being racist or inciting violence.
      It is the removal of the ability to express the VALID concerns and objections that is the issue and what needs protecting, not the invalid and baseless.

    • Achmed says:

      08:45am | 22/10/12

      @John - perhaps instead of just reading about “bolshevism” and the suppression of freedoms you should go a live in a countyr that really does not allow those freedoms.
      In the country that my family escpaed from and came to Australia there is no ‘comments column’ in the papers etc.  People are not permitted to express their views.  IF there was and people subscribed to it, there would be a knock on the door from the authorities and a re-education program, prison, torture and death before the ink was dry on the paper.

      Living in Australia, a great democratic country, of which I consider myself (and my family) as belonging to the luckiest 22 million people in the world.

    • fml says:

      08:51am | 22/10/12

      Al,

      Allegations are by definition not valid, they are an unproved statement. You are allowed to voice VALID concerns in a reasonable manner. You are not allowed to make unfounded statements concerning a persons character in a public forum which may ruin a persons reputation.

      E.g. If you made a statement on the radio that ALL <group of people> are unemployed bums and are a drain on society, that would be unacceptable.

      Alternatively, if you said there is evidence of high levels of unemployment in <group of people> and this is an issue we as a nation need to address, it would be considered acceptable.

      Freedom of speech is not an excuse for people who are not able or unwilling to articulate statements with elegance.

    • Al says:

      10:17am | 22/10/12

      fml - Allegations are actualy neither valid or invalid untill investigated and proven or not proven. It is the proving or not proving of the allegations that make them valid or invalid.
      I say let them say what they like and be held accountable (and punished where neccasary) for what they say.
      If someone said ‘xxxxx group are all unemployed bums’ the proven of the falsehood (find 1 person in xxxxx group who is not an unemployed bum) and they could then be prosecuted for slander by every individual within xxxxx group.
      Say what you like, but be prepared to back up what you say or be called out on the falsehood.

    • fml says:

      10:59am | 22/10/12

      al,

      If by accountable you mean as per alan jones the venting of public disaproval and the removal (by choice of the private company) of sponsorship, I am in agreement. I do not think that it should be a criminal issue. Civil laws may come in useful in holding people accountable for their actions of speech, especially in cases of defamation. For example if someone has a blog and has mentioned person ‘X’ and said something untrue about that person, e.g. claimed an adulterous affair which could ruin that persons marriage or public image then it will be useful to have those laws to protect that persons name. But, yes I agree people should be able to say what they like and they should be under no illusion that they may face some form of public backlash, this along with a mixture of civil laws provide the maximum level of freedom of speech and protect individuals from malicious unproven attacks on their character.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      01:40pm | 22/10/12

      “E.g. If you made a statement on the radio that ALL <group of people> are unemployed bums and are a drain on society, that would be unacceptable.”

      That would be a stupid and racist thing to say, but one should still have the right to say it.

    • fml says:

      02:01pm | 22/10/12

      “That would be a stupid and racist thing to say, but one should still have the right to say it. “

      And people should have access to civil recourse to counter the allegations or use public support to show distaste for the comments and if that means the individual losing sponsorship, so be it. Free speech comes with consequences, as long as people realise that, all is good in the world.

    • fml says:

      02:50pm | 22/10/12

      And by consequences I am talking about the context which I have described, In which baseless allegations are made against individuals. Even then, not legal consequences but rather recourse to counter the allegations.

    • Sync says:

      05:46am | 22/10/12

      No such things as Human Rights or Freedom Of Speech when you can be hauled before a court and asked to prove you did NOT intend to offend (ie you have to prove your innocence).

      No such thing as Equality when I (an Anglo-Saxon male) cannot talk down ethnic groups or females without being read the Riot Act, but they can slander me ‘til the cows come home.

      Equality comes when there is ONE law for ALL groups, and all groups are held accountable to the one law - with no exceptions. As soon as there are exceptions, or a separate law for a minority group, Equality vanishes.

    • acotrel says:

      06:33am | 22/10/12

      @Sync
      Pure bred German gentleman are not permitted to espouse nazism in Gernany either.  It’s a cruel world ?

    • Dave says:

      07:12am | 22/10/12

      It all depends what you are trying to achieve. If your goal is to have equal conditions under law for all, then what you state is correct.

      However, if you want to foster division, resentment and encourage people to blame their fellow man for being rich, for taking their opportunities, or for their nefarious influence in society, then the most effective way of doing this is with a caste-type system with speech codes, ‘anti-vilification’ laws, equality laws, etc.

      Not only can you ‘stick it’ to the most successful people in society, you can win a lot of power, respect and votes from those who are less successful.

    • fml says:

      07:49am | 22/10/12

      There is one law for all groups, I am unaware of the law which allows minorities to slander the white man. There may be different applications of the law, but there still is one law.

      Now, I think your second paragraph is an exaggeration. I think you are seeing what you are deeming to be examples being portrayed in the media. The only one I can think of is Andrew Bolt. I think there is a difference in perception between how we see the application of the law in the media and how it is applied in everyday circumstances, which is the personal injustice you are talking about.

    • Stephen T says:

      09:19am | 22/10/12

      @fml: Correct there is one law, I think that where Sync finds himself in contention is not with the law but with its interpretation.  I’d observe that the law is a living instrument supported by precedents, precedents that can be and frequently are open to interpretation by magistrate or judge.  To further confuse the issue there are the legal arguments based again interpretations,  and quite sadly you can also observe if you review the various determinations evidence of racist and reverse racist rulings, so while we do have one law we rely on the sometimes imperfect and sometimes biased interpretation of it.

    • fml says:

      09:30am | 22/10/12

      StephenT,

      That is right, there is a single law but different interpretations of it which set precedence. So, I do not think it is reasonable to say there are separate laws for minorities, because in all reality the same law can be used against minorities if needed, and they may even have been in the past. It is just that the media only seems to comment on high profile cases where the commentators are white. I’d suspect that the law has probably used in discrimination cases against people who are in the minority, it’s just probably that the minority groups have not had the platform to cause excessive damage, I.e. How many minority radio shock jocks do you see?

    • Stephen T says:

      10:15am | 22/10/12

      @fml: Most assuredly, there is bias both left and right and it can be said that precedent is also based on which solicitor can present their argument most effectively.  I would agree with your point on the law being used as an instrument of discrimination that’s all too evident where in certain instances the magistrate or judge demonstrates an existing bias, magistrate Pat O’Shea’s is one recent example that immediately springs to mind.  Just an opinion but I would suspect that while there may be cases of discrimination evident where the case is subject to state and territory criminal laws, the area of law most politicised and most frequently open to abuse is with in the Federal jurisdiction. 

      Sadly the Australian media are not governed by principles of procedural fairness; I now some endeavour to present reasoned argument but even reasoned arguments may fall foul when not deemed to be politically correct in presentation.  To be perfectly honest fml I believe that in the case of media we are our largely to blame for their bad behaviour.  Shock Jocks invariably understand their demographics philosophical and psychological needs and inevitably give their markets exactly what the market wants, the most worrying aspect is that they seem to resonate with sections of society external to their core markets. Sorry for being long winded in the reply

    • fml says:

      11:06am | 22/10/12

      No need to apologise, I am the king of long replies!

      I agree re: the media, it’s up to us to read multiple sources of information. we are lucky we live in a country that has multiple news sources (albeit a lot of biased papers) and everyone is free to start up their own paper if they want. Though, it does seem alot of people for example the people who listen to shock jocks only seem to get one source for their news, I am assuming this may largely be a result of convenience as opposed to any form of ignorance.

      I do think the resonance in groups away from their core markets is a consequence of our like of short catch phrases which are perpetuated by these news papers. One will have a headline of “Alan jones calls all ‘XXXX’ a bunch of bludgers” Some people might read on and form their own opinion, I think some people will just say, I agree with statement and then agree with everything alan jones says, i think this is what the external groups largely comprise of.

    • Stephen T says:

      11:33am | 22/10/12

      @fml: I would be more inclined to attribute it to selective perception, I’ve reviewed studies published by TASA and TBSA that offer convincing evidence that individuals perceive pretty much what they want to in media messages based on their particular frame of reference [hostile media phenomenon],and disregard the rest based on an array of cognitive, perceptual and motivational biases.  One thing that you can always rely on with humanity, partisan perception, reality will always be distorted by an abundance of cognitive, perceptual and motivational biases. smile

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      01:46pm | 22/10/12

      “because in all reality the same law can be used against minorities if needed”

      Which is rarely the case, and as such, is why we’re having this conversation to begin with. Imagine what would happen to a white male if they were to be photogrpahed in public holding a sign that called for people who did not agree with him to be beheaded.

    • fml says:

      02:09pm | 22/10/12

      “Which is rarely the case, and as such, is why we’re having this conversation to begin with.”

      Just because a particular law is rarely used it doesn’t mean that there are two separate laws. By all means go ahead and start a campaign informing individuals of their rights under this law. Make them more aware.

      “Imagine what would happen to a white male if they were to be photogrpahed in public holding a sign that called for people who did not agree with him to be beheaded.”

      Probably the same that would happen to the lady, there would be public condemnation and then they would apologise. The most probable explanation as to why most people think that it is a biased law is that the media is not reporting on all of the incidents where it is being used.

    • OchreBunyip says:

      06:46am | 22/10/12

      If it is a right, you have it; it is not given or permitted by governments of any stripe. As soon as you decide what rights your government has “given” you, you have accepted their chains.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:30am | 22/10/12

      I’d be inclined to agree in some respects; Many ‘rights’ take away an opposing ‘right’- and as far as I’m concerned, the last Bill of Rights proposal (Brennan) ultimately took away rights I consider more important in favor of rights religious extremists like Brennan consider themselves entitled to.

    • Shep says:

      07:47am | 22/10/12

      Are you sure that is the true definition of “implied”, coz from what I hear, if you’re crafty enough, and shrill enough, you can actually have the definition of words changed to suit your argument.

      I would re-check if I were you.  These things happen pretty quickly

    • philip says:

      07:53am | 22/10/12

      hahahaha seriously we dont need a charter of rights in australia as it would cause to much trouble if anything if we are to have one we also need a charter of responsibility that goes along side a charter of rights that way anyone that commits a crime also have to prove that theyu were acting responsible as well.

      besides too many people know their rights and not how to behave in society as well.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:35am | 22/10/12

      Sadly the attitude of most BOR advocates is that the Australian public are the very antagonists of people’s ‘rights’ and need to be restrained by ‘responsibilities’

      In fact, the Brennan proposal was nothing BUT a list of responsibilities to uphold X-group’s rights (down to rights of ‘conscience’) over my own fundamental rights (such as the right to medicine for the above example).

      So long as such attitudes continue to motivate BOR proposals, I will never support it when there are plenty of REAL rights Australians are sorely missing but aren’t being attended to (vetoing war and privatization, Binding CIR etc).

    • LC says:

      08:52am | 22/10/12

      We have those responsibilities already. It’s called criminal law, and it’s purpose is to stop people from harming others.

    • Achmed says:

      07:59am | 22/10/12

      There is no “freedom of speech”  clause in the Australian Constitution.  The High Court found that at best it is “implied”. 

      Of course any move the “legislate” freedom of speech would require a change to our defamation laws

      Too much US TV has people confused

    • LC says:

      08:32am | 22/10/12

      The US still has defamation laws, the only real difference being they refer to it as slander or libel.

      Perhaps you’re the one whose been watching to much US TV.

    • Achmed says:

      06:46pm | 22/10/12

      LC .. I’m not sure what to say…Defamation covers both libel and slander…........

      I’m sorry you went to school during the Howard years of education neglect.  Its not your fault, you are just a product of the environment you were educated in

    • iansand says:

      07:59am | 22/10/12

      “To clarify, having a Charter would not serve as a rule book for public interactions. We naturally moderate open debate as seen with the latest Alan Jones outcry, Destroy the Joint campaign, Kyle Sandilands and Andrew Bolt.”

      Here’s yer problem.  I rarely use latte sipper as an epithet, but I think we have a live one here.  How do we moderate?  Who moderates the moderators?

      The other problem with a Charter of Rights is that it entrenches rthe set of rights that seem important at the time it is enacted.  Like the right to bear arms.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      01:50pm | 22/10/12

      That’s easy iansand, the minority groups, feminists and socialists moderate anything they don’t agree with. Yay society!

    • Annoying Law Student says:

      08:03am | 22/10/12

      “The treasured provisions that do exist within the Australian Constitution are S.80, which guarantees a trial by jury”
      I hate to be that know-it-all law student, but well, I’m going to anyway.
      I’m not sure that I personally ‘treasure’ s.80, when all it guarantees is a right to trial by jury for indictable COMMONWEALTH offences, considering that nearly all crimes are covered by state Crimes Acts or Codes, this doesn’t offer much consolation, unless of course you’re worried about an upcoming treason trial. (And even then, all that would need to be down is to have your crime declared as a summary offence and that pesky s.80 once again doesn’t apply).

    • vox says:

      12:31pm | 22/10/12

      Relax, there is no such thing as a “know-it-all-lawyer”, let alone ‘student’.
      Have a quick look at Sec 109, which states that where there is an inconsistency between State and Commonwealth law the Commonwealth will prevail and to the extent indicated the State law will be invalid . Or words to that effect.
      Good luck with your studies.
      Remember that your upcoming great enemies are precedents and Presidents, and your best friend, Denning HCJ.

    • Louise says:

      08:09am | 22/10/12

      I don’t think the court case against Andrew Bolt was an example of how “we naturally moderate open debate”.  Quite the opposite. It was an example of how there’s far too much “legal muscle” behind what some people insist it means to be (certain kinds of) Australian.

      It would be nice if a magic charter could “protect us from discrimination and unreasonable persecution”.  I wonder if it would’ve protected Andrew Bolt from unreasonable persecution as a “racist”, or Tony Abbott as a “misognynist”/unlawful watch-watcher.

      Would a charter protect us from the national dictionary “pulling a fast one” with arbitrary definitions to back up the government? Would there be a right to freedom from arbitrary definition?

      In these Orwellian times, I reckon the opposite of the following is true: “a Charter would not serve as a rule book for public interactions”.

    • LC says:

      08:13am | 22/10/12

      I would be very happy to see us getting our own charter of rights, but with the government in the state that it is, that’ll likely never happen. It appears politicians are to busy taking our rights and freedoms away to be bothered introducing one.

    • Anna C says:

      08:31am | 22/10/12

      It’s about time we had a Charter of Rights.  I certainly don’t trust politicians to protect my rights to things such as freedom of speech.

    • LC says:

      08:42am | 22/10/12

      Seconded.

      Look at what labor, the greens and Howard have been doing over the last few years, to name a few:
      - Sedition Laws
      - Internet filter
      - The Green’s media inquiry

    • AdamC says:

      08:35am | 22/10/12

      I would favour a charter of rights if I thought it would actually increase our personal freedoms and civil liberties. However, that would almost certainly not be the case. In Victoria, for example, all our charter has done is allow the judiciary to exapand welfare entitlements without the usual democratic process of debate and scrutiny. (In effect, the charter has actually been used an an anti-democratic instrument.)

      Likewise, many proponents of a charter of rights had no trouble in satisfying themselves that the Bolt decision was not anti-free speech, when that was practically its explicit purpose. (Nor, I should note, did Victoria’s charter do anything to protect Bolt’s rights.) So why should anyone support a charter which only serves a left-wing, statist agenda at the expense of the classically liberal principles it cloaks itself in?

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:52am | 22/10/12

      I’d be inclined to agree in some areas.
      There is an unfortunate amount of BOR advocates who’s attitude is that the Australian public are a ‘mob’ and the very thing ‘special’ people must be protected FROM, rather than people who are actually entitled to rights themselves (and there are many things we sorely lack to be healthy democracy).

      As long as that mindset permeates the next proposal like it did the Brennan model (which horribly skewed adherence to religious principles and ‘conscience’ above some of the most basic rights according to the UN), I will never ever support it and advocate everybody else does the same.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      01:56pm | 22/10/12

      “I would favour a charter of rights if I thought it would actually increase our personal freedoms and civil liberties. However, that would almost certainly not be the case.”

      I agree, because of this from the article: “Introducing a national Charter into the Constitution would not be about entrenching lofty ideals that never touch the ground. Instead, it would protect us from discrimination and unreasonable persecution.”

      Fair enough protecting people from persecution, but I would be skeptical about a Charter of Rights because it could easily just develop into a list of things we can’t do or say. Basically a rule book on not hurting peoples feelings or offending anyone. Drafted a certain way it could easily restrict freedoms as opposed to protecting them.

    • AdamC says:

      02:25pm | 22/10/12

      ACC, I do not see the Australian public as a mob, but would agree that, in some cases, people needed to be protected from the whim and caprice of public opinion. For example, the law should protect followers of minority religions such as Judaism and Islam (and, increasingly, Catholicism and other forms of Christianity) from persecution. However, it should not censor criticisms of trendy or well-connected minority groups either.

      The ‘tyranny of the majority’ has been recognised by liberal (used in the non-ironic, non-American sense) thinkers for a long time.

      Admiral Ackbar, excatly.

    • You look hot today Rhonda says:

      08:47am | 22/10/12

      Charter of rights?
      Meh, what we have seems to be working pretty well, we can put it down on paper if it helps.
      I’d’ rather see an independent media review body that holds Ltd News to account for the lies they publish. and the poison they put into society.

    • A Concerned Citizen says:

      08:48am | 22/10/12

      How nice of Nicola Roxon to advocate our ‘rights’ yet is comfortable with an internet filter and does nothing to help an Australian whistleblower overseas! Hardly comparable to her concern for Jihadis from the convenient position of the shadow bench. This couldn’t be a case of ‘saying one thing but doing another’ is it?

    • TheRealDave says:

      10:06am | 22/10/12

      I am all for a ‘Bill of Rights’ as long as you have a corresponding Bill of Responsibilities…..or just have a single ‘Bill of Rights and Responsibilities’.

      Each ‘Right’ must have ‘Responsibilities’, otherwise you end up with complete stupidity like the US system were people use unfettered ‘Rights’ to spew for absolute vile crap and be protected by the law.  So for example you might have a ‘Right to Free Speech’ but you have Responsibilities as to how you use that Right. As in no hate speech, no racial denigration, no inciting violence etc

    • LawScholar says:

      10:13am | 22/10/12

      The US has a Bill of Rights - it has been exploited and ignored throughout its history. It certainly didn’t stop the Patriot Act, the illegal imprisonment and trial of “unlawful combatants.”

      Canada has a specific bill of rights for Canadian Aborigines - they’re conditions are still very poor, it has had no practical effect.

      Here in Canberra, we have a bill of rights, and over 1500 people a night sleep on the streets. Walk through the City on any day and you’ll pass dozens of people begging, sleeping rough.

      A Bill of Rights is a mechanism for intellectuals to pat them selves on the back, not a mechanism for change, prosperity or the protection of liberty.

    • fml says:

      11:08am | 22/10/12

      “Here in Canberra, we have a bill of rights, and over 1500 people a night sleep on the streets. Walk through the City on any day and you’ll pass dozens of people begging, sleeping rough.”

      The politicians would like you to think its them! :p

    • LC says:

      12:23pm | 22/10/12

      Without a bill of rights, laws such as the PATRIOT act cannot be challenged. Without the (forth and fifth?) amendments, on what legal grounds could they possibly challenge it on? “I’m challenging the law because I think it’s bad” isn’t going to fly in the Supreme Court, it’d be clogged if it did.

      This is the issue we have here with sedition laws. There is no clearly defined free speech in our constitution, therefore we cannot challenge it. The only way it’s gonna go to it’s rightful place on the scrap heap is if either parliament passes a law that scraps it, or if the UN amends the UDoHR to give it some teeth.

      Oh and does the ACT’s bill of rights grant the right for everyone to live in their own home, unit or flat? If not, what is your point?

    • Carl Palmer says:

      10:51am | 22/10/12

      Justice Kirby stated that “Our country is now virtually alone in the world in failing to provide effective national laws for upholding the fundamental rights contained in international law.” If it is so bad here in Aust, why are people prepared to die whilst attempting to leave their country that have a bill of rights? And do we need one when the Freedom of the world reports Australia as one of the freest nations on the planet…. This sounds to me like someone is peddling this nonsense for their own personal gain or some flawed ideology.
      My vote is a resounding No.

    • K^2 says:

      03:43pm | 22/10/12

      Ok where to start…

      President Reagen made a speech during his term regarding “the law of the jungle” and “the rule of law”, it was quite veiled but it aluded to natural law (law of the jungle) and mans law (rule of law).

      Most of mans law (at least in Australia) are based in the tenets of natural law, some however go beyond this - like laws regarding detention. 

      I ask everyone that reads this, to have a read over “Natural Law” and consider what it actually means.  This is where a Charter should aim to build from - but there is no need for this to be acknowledged on paper - these rights are inherent, you are born with them, and no one can take them from you without your consent.  That is what “the law of the jungle” means.

      Interesting also, the icon shown in the picture with the caption “Who knew freedom, respect, equality and dignity could be so heavy?” - This icon is ancient roman - she is ALWAYS depicted with a two edged sword, a balance, a wreathe on her head (and is often blindfolded - but not in this picture).  This is an archetypal image, its chosen for a reason. Balance to show that weight is given to both sides before measuring out justice. (Innocent until proven guilty).  A double edged sword to show that justice can cut both ways. A wreathe or crown to show immortality, that justice can not be killed (because she is a natural phenomenon). And the blindfold to depict that justice is blind (non bias). 

      If more people understood Natural Law, we’d have less need for “rule of law” (mans law).  A charter of rights would be a great thing in Australia, but really its superfluous if people understand their inherent rights to begin with.

    • Swamp Thing says:

      04:53pm | 22/10/12

      More hot air for a change…. Too many people gobbing off from their ivory towers - like Stephen Fry’s character in ‘Black Adder goes Forth’.
      Windbags the lot of you. Blimps.
      How about making sure that every citizen of this country has a roof over his/her head if they want it?
      I’m sure one of you clever economic types could figure out a way for that to happen - given the proper motivation.

    • Kaiser says:

      06:26pm | 22/10/12

      Deborah—the best thing you could mull on is the concept that “Shit Happens”. That is to say, that you cannot legislate against things happening which you don’t like. I’m sorry but we don’t own infinite resources and we are a free society. You can’t make Governments be nice to everyone through your BOR. In a generation we’d be broke and we could all ruminate on the joy of our BOR while we munch on potato peelings and die of Cholera.

      Sorry no thanks. BOR is a great example of an idea which sounds noble and good, but is one of the most insidious dangerous things. Pretty much on the level of communism. There I said it.

      Rights are a flawed concept because they are almost always relative and not absolute. The best example is “freedom of speech”. We don’t have that in Australia and its bloody good too, because freedom of speech does not give you the right to incite violence. Now pick any right and I bet you can find an example where that can be taken too far. (OK if you say I have the right to not be sexually assaulted I’ll concede that one). The point being is that there must be interpretation. And that is best left to common law and not hopelessly complicated by a second paradigm to be considered concurrently.

      A BOR leaves it to judges to interpret what is fair. And you get activist judges setting the tone of our culture without any accountability. A great example is the Andrew Bolt case. OK he was being a bit of a tool BUT no way should people be censured for offending others. I agree with an earlier poster that there would be have to be a right to offend for me to agree on a BOR.

      A BOR will significantly increase the cost of Government, business and reduce our competitiveness… and for little benefit. Because this is one of the just countries in the world already!!!!

      A bill of responsibilities is the only solution for our society. Rights divide and create me-centred people who trumpet their offense. They embolden economically irresponsible bleeding hearts to great hubris.

      BTW, the UN Charter of Human Rights is a crock of #$%^. For example it says that we have a right to education. Baloney.

      By all means let’s have a NIDS because its a good idea. But not because of some phoney, concocted right that all parents of #*#$#$# have a right to the same amount of spare time as a single white male.

 

Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more

28 comments

Newsletter

Read all about it

Sign up to the free News.com.au newsletter