Give up, David Marr
There won’t be a human rights act in Australia, David Marr. Because Australia is freer than many countries with one. Because there is no crisis of rights in Australia. Because our mix of judge-made law, parliamentary democracy and an uninhibited media works better.
Because the recent slew of decisions out of the High Court show courts have quite enough power as it is.
Because a conservative government could load up a charter with things that many of us would dislike – right to work powers that would hurt what remains of the trade union movement or right to property that would limit environmental protection. Because a right to privacy, to give another example, would put paid to much freedom of the media. Because it’s fallacious to imagine that the only rights that will get a look in are those liberals and progressives want and that the judges of the future will all be Michael Kirbys and not Garfield Barwicks.
And because, as Marr himself acknowledges in his lecture, the Australian people do not want one and it is bit sneaky to look at slipping one in behind their backs as Father Brennan was trying.
There is a trash button on most computers and both sides of politics have pressed it.
America had a Bill of Rights for over 150 years before blacks in the South could vote and even then it wasn’t the constitution but their own mobilisation that did it. Stalin’s constitutional bill of rights was one of the most eloquent. In the end it is a country’s ethos and political culture – the instincts of its people – that determine its freedoms.