Bill of Rights in Australia
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Human rights have risen to occupy an important position within societies in the 21st century. However, debate rages in Australia whether the bill of rights should be adopted or not. Equally, an issue whether the bill of rights should be modeled along the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 has also drawn concerns in the country. In this paper, arguments in favor and against the adoption of the bill of rights are put into perspective. However, it is argued that the adoption of the bill of rights has more weight than non-adoption.
The issue whether to have a national bill of rights is highly contentious. Thus, it is significant that governments across the globe consider the pros and cons of adopting the bill of rights. Before developing the bill, it is crucial to understand the people for whom the group of such rights is being developed (Bernard, 1992). Equally important, the aspects that the proposed bill of rights covers must be put into perspective. For instance, does the proposed bill of rights encompass economic, social, political or all of these rights. In practice, adopting the bill of rights has an effect on the way how governmental organs relate. Consequently, these issues must also be considered. This is based on the notion that having the bill of rights may necessitate establishment of certain authorities or commissions to ensure that the rights are actualized. In addition, since the bill of rights touches on the rights of citizens of a country, it is necessary that wide consultation should be carried out so that each stakeholder's views are captured. The implication at this point is that the development of the bill of rights ought to be all-inclusive in order to promote its acceptance.
Arguments in Favor of Adopting a Bill of Rights in Australia
From the onset, it is held that adopting the bill of rights in Australia is a better alternative than failing to do so. This is based on the notion that in every society there are groups of people who are unable to go about their daily activities normally. Such people come from vulnerable segments of the population. As a result, a failure to protect them would predispose them to a number of problems. In support of this position, it is evident that at the current state, rights of such people as the elderly with disabilities are not protected adequately by the constitution. Thus, if the country wants to protect the marginalized groups, it is necessary to pass the bill of rights that enshrines each individual's fundamental rights.
It is also clear that when developing the bill of rights, the society undergoes through a critical moment of self-definition. In brief, the bill of rights allows a society to set out its vision. For societies that seek progress, they should appear to promote aspirations that are basic among societal members. Such values as fairness, democracy, rule of law and civic duty are some of the attributes that developed societies depict as key pillars of life.
The key controversy in the debate on human rights is based on the question whether to include economic or social rights. Although it is highly desirable to include every right, it is difficult to actualize the inclusions. However, governments need to make efforts towards ensuring the realization of rights such as, the right to education, housing, health, etc.
The adoption of the bill of rights would be a constitutional landmark that is likely to pave way for big changes. For instance, adoption of the bill of rights would influence the relationship among the court system, the executive and the parliament. However, the courts should not earn additional powers. It is preferred that the courts should retain the powers to adjudicate only.
Introducing the bill of rights affects the way human rights are viewed. By developing the bill of rights, human rights are put in their proper context (Byrnes, 2008). It helps to show that the rights come with responsibilities. Another issue centers on the socio-economic rights. For a long time, both social and economic rights have been lacking from constitutional provisions across a number of countries including Australia.
It is critcal to provide a mechanism that helps to balance rights and responsibilities. In practice, when coming up with rights, responsibilities must be attached. It is also necessary to develop a framework that reflects the country's shared values as part of Australia's heritage. A shared heritage presents strong attempts to unite people. The other key aspect revolves around the need to educate the people on the constituents of their rights and responsibilities. Social and economic rights must also be considered since these aspects can no longer be left aside due to their significance. The weak and vulnerable continue to increase in number (Australia's Human Rights framework, 2010). Consequently, protecting them from the powerful forces is necessary.
Other arguments in favor of adopting the bill of rights remain. For instance, it is observable that such rights would contribute towards the provision of ownership of the development process, in addition to citizenship. The bill of rights may also enhance togetherness as far as it indicates the shared values of a society, as already mentioned above. It should be noted that Australia is home to the diverse groups of people (Byrnes, 2008). Consequently, highlighting the shared values would serve to promote togetherness and enhance the unity of the people in the country. When the bond of togetherness is high, societies are well placed to achieve progress at a faster rate.
It is also alleged that the bill of rights would help in reinvigorating democracy. This is achieved through ingraining fundamental principles to people, which could otherwise be difficult to ingrain in the absence of the bill of rights. It is clear that various countries across the world have developed and incorporated bill of rights into their constitutions. It is also clear that international bodies such as the United Nations continue calling upon those countries lagging behind to enact the bills of rights. Consequently, it is in the interests of the Australian country to enact the bill of rights. Such a development would prevent the country from facing incursions from transnational bodies on the pretext of failing to ratify international pacts.
States or governments often exhibit a tendency of citizens being abused or denied rights. As such, individual and group grievances are a common factor within states. Adopting the bill of rights would ensure that offended persons or entities have a platform to use against the state affront on human rights.
In Australia, several regulatory agencies are charged with the responsibility of protecting human rights. For instance, the Human Rights Commission could have a wide mandate on the issue. In addition, the Sex Discrimination Act has established bodies that look into issues that are based on sex discrimination. Another Act that contributes towards the protection of human rights is the Racial Discrimination Act. The latter Act is critical in controlling aspects that hinge on discrimination that stems from differences in race. However, traditionally, the activities of these agencies have not been bound by the rule of law. Moreover, the rights due to defendants or accused persons are not subject to the due process as envisaged by the law. The implication is that whereas some observers would claim that the need for the bill of rights lacks merit, since the agencies in place are enough, others would cite the inability to accord those affected a fair chance as an important reason as to why Australia should adopt the bill of rights. Another aspect that enhances the need for adoption of the bill of rights is based on the notion that partial judges dominate the various commissions. Hence, delivery of unbiased rulings is difficult to obtain. Based on this evidence, the case for adopting the bill of rights in the country is made stronger.
Arguments against the Adoption of the Bill of Rights in Australia
It has been pointed above that there are agencies that have a responsibility of handling the rights of vulnerable groups. Consequently, adopting the bill of rights could amount to duplicating roles. As such, the authorities should consider the appropriate balance. In this case, a choice must be made to do away with the existing agencies in order to create room for the adoption of the bill of rights. Alternatively, measures to ensure a smooth coexistence should be considered.
The main reason why the bill of rights is enhanced is that the acts in place are inadequate. This translates into a lower capacity of the various agencies to enhance the protection of human rights. Thus, adopting the bill of rights should be done to enhance protecting rights. However, if this is the primary reason then the best way to enhance protection is to strengthen the regime in question.
In Australia, rights for protest and assembly need to be protected or enhanced. Furthermore, it is necessary to stop interference with privacy or personal communication. Thus, monitoring of individual communication should be barred.
For people who pursue freedom, the bill of rights would not present any disadvantages. However, for authorities or politicians, who seek to control others, issues could arise. Politicians would be unable to push through legislations that support their interests, which are against human rights. Thus, those who aspire to introduce authoritarian leadership are unlikely to succeed. Based on this establishment, introducing the bill of rights is disadvantageous to a section of the political class.
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The mere allegation that the bill of rights equates to deletion of some existing acts deserves a mention. People vote for laws that are adopted. However, in the event of adopting the bill of rights, some Acts would be rendered useless. More specifically, the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act would be rendered null and void because it primarily crashes with the universal human rights. Based on the Act, gangs have no right to assembly because they are disruptive in nature. This contravenes the principle of freedom of assembly, which is protected in the bill of rights. Upon the relegation of such laws, dangerous gangs such as the motorcycle gangs may emerge and cause harm in the country.
The bill of rights would allow for the perpetuation of poor decisions. A major drawback associated with the bills of rights is that once it has been adopted, the changes are difficult to introduce. Thus, if a wrong decision is made during the time of incorporation or adoption, chances are that the people will live with its effects. Perhaps the most important aspect to do is to consult extensively before agreeing on terms and issues to be contained in the bill of rights. However, it is not possible to agree on some issues owing to the different interests that characterize decision-making. It is also noting that changing bad decisions contained in the bill of rights would take long to overturn. On this account, adopting the bill of rights may not be advantageous to Australia.
It is obvious that in the absence of a precedent, difficulties are likely to emerge. Sometimes, rulings regarding cases are made based on experience. Hence, previous cases are used as reference. Adopting the bill of rights will introduce a new element to Australia and put the country in such problems. The implication is that when an issue emerges, more time would be wasted trying to look for ways to arrive at a decision.
Another problem emerges with the adoption of the bill of rights. For instance, it occasions the need for records. When operating under the bill of rights, the need to follow precedents is crucial. This adds to the problem of record keeping. In brief, several records must be kept for reference purposes. When many records are kept, problems that border on accessibility emerge. It is tedious shifting through so many records even when using automated mechanisms. However, such methods as indexing could be used to mitigate the concerns.
Based on the paper, human rights occupy a central position within societies in the current century. However, as debate rages in Australia whether to adopt or not to adopt the bill of rights other, countries have gone ahead. Irrespective of the model of the bill of rights that country adopts, t is remarkable that adoption is preferable owing to the advantages that could follow. Thus, it is conclusive that the adoption of the bill of rights carries more weight than non-adoption.
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