Charter of Rights: A Matter of Fashion
This is the view of Dr Margaret Kelly of Macquarie University speaking at the Samuel Griffith Society conference (see below). Her focus is the Victorian Charter of Rights which the Liberal government has the opportunity to repeal.
There is a review of the charter currently taking place.
I agree with her remark about fashion. I also think the tide is running against judge-made law through charters. Apart from plucky little Tasmania no other state is remotely interested in striking out in this direction. Federal Labor came down against a charter even when Father Brennan’s inquiry recommended one.
I spoke to one former Victorian public servant here, a former Labor adviser, who told me of the waste of resources involved as Victorian public servants exhaustively seek to satisfy the process of establishing compatibility with the charter. “Better if the resources went into increased child protection,” was her view.
Here’s an observation from me on this: we were told by Geoffrey Robertson and others that rights in Australia were insufficiently protected compared with those in the UK which is covered by the European charter. Our police, argued Robertson, are not being educated in human rights as they are under the much more enlightened human rights regime in the UK.
I wonder how much of this stacks up after recent revelations about UK policing?
If any of the abuses that preceded the riots in the UK had occurred in Australia Robertson and others would have been saying they were proof positive of the need for Australia to get itself a charter quick smart.
If Australia had experienced riots like those of the UK then you can bet that Michael Kirby would have argued they showed the need for a charter to elevate social and economic rights. But they occurred in a jurisdiction covered by what Michael Kirby has argued is an exemplary charter of rights.
The Victorian government could peel their charter off the statute books without any serious criticism given the skepticism about a charter – even outright opposition – that resides in the ALP, even in Victoria.