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Constitutional Amendment: Anti-Discrimination Won’t Make It

February 6, 2012

Nobody in Australia can write an interesting article about federalism – except Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of Australian Catholic University. He also produces refreshing good sense when it comes to constitutional reform. His article in today’s Financial Review is no exception.

His counsel is that we simply “forget the one-line Bill of Rights against discrimination.” That is, the proposal from the so-called Expert Panel that we lift anti-discrimination laws that affect indigenous Australians out of statutory law and plant them in the constitution.

The people are not going to vote for it because they will see straight away it raises too many questions. As Craven says, “the sweeping guarantee against discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity or colour is a one-clause Bill of Rights.”

He says:

At the crudest level, what on earth does it mean? The answer is, whatever the judges say. The examples of negative potential that will be used by the “No” case are so hideous they cannot even be responsibly canvassed, but they will be deployed to devastating effect.

If the Australian people have doubts about what it means and, more specifically, how judges might interpret it, they will vote no. As Craven says, that would be a tragedy because “it will look like a repudiation of every step of progress over the past 50 years. It will be the final insult to our indigenous people.”

He says “this is not some Carlton cocktail party debate, where the ultimate prize is to call your opponent a racist but no one actually gets hurt.” It’s more serious than that.

5 Comments
  1. February 6, 2012 9:08 pm

    Of course they will vote NO to such an addition to the constitution and they will be right to do so. And of course some commentators will use it as an opportunity to declare Australians racist even though they will be wrong to do so.

    We should amend the constitution to remove racism. Not by adding anything to the constitution but by simply dropping the race powers.

    • S(r)ambo permalink
      February 9, 2012 1:09 pm

      we have the chance to redesign our constitution to actually reflect the modern society we now live in, its very different to 100 years ago and dont know why aussies want it kept the same? what will we lose? im all for understanding all sides of the story but im failing to understand what information or what evidence is out there to assume we only need to remove racist parts, seems its a no because you can type of decision lacking any actual issue with adding things, is it fear once again manipulating the public opinion, aussies have strong feelings about adding any new measures and Im wondering how they come to that conclusion when so many australians dont even understand the document, fear is a reasonable asumption, this is only half of the battle, we also need a bill of rights before I as an Aboriginal feel safe, I want human rights enshrined for ever, we do need to address the imbalance between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal and keeping things the same will do just that, keep things the same! the scales are fully tipped to one side, we cant leave it there, we need to counter balance or the issues will remain, funny that since the tent embassy event not one aussie has picked up on why did it happen, with no treaty, terra nullius debunked in our highest court, never declared war, english common law never protected or counted Aboriginal people (although they counted cattle) so the question is/was just how legal is this colony? no one will talk about it so im confident we will have more and more protest and with good reason, I understand ignorance is bliss but Australia are taking it to a new level, the world are watching to see if Australia talk about it and deal with it, you make your bed you lay in it, I am copping alot of racism but noone is willing to engage in real debate, Aborignials couldnt prove their side of the story any better

      • Bob Carr permalink
        February 9, 2012 9:09 pm

        The Australian people will not vote for a major rewrite of their constitution.

      • Sam permalink
        February 14, 2012 11:59 am

        No reasoning which is the baulk of the question?, your answer confirms my understanding of the matter, voting no will elevate the Aboriginal cause on an internation stage, like any grown up we must take on board any critcism for our choice of action

  2. ian permalink
    February 7, 2012 10:20 am

    Exactly Mr Carr, which is the reason this will never pass

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