Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

After the Republic a Bill of Rights

By Michael Lee - posted Thursday, 15 July 1999

The Republic and the Preamble - those are the big constitutional issues for 1999. Undoubtedly they are important symbolic issues, but what will be the effect of these constitutional changes for Australians? Very little.

One issue that could make a very big difference is the introduction of a Bill of Rights.

Presently the Australian Constitution provides few express guarantees of individual rights. They are limited to:

  • s.51(xxxi) which provides that the acquisition of property must be on just terms
  • s.80 which provides that any trial on indictment must be heard by a jury
  • s.92 which provides for free trade among the States
  • s.116 which provides for freedom of religion
  • s.117 which provides for the non-discrimination of people due to the residency of a particular State.

True, there are many implicit guarantees that have been found by the High Court but this presents its own complications.

We need a Bill of Rights not because we lack basic civil and political rights but because our present system is inadequate to protect those rights.

Australia – A Democracy

Those against a constitutionally enshrined Bill of Rights point to Australia’s history as a well renowned democracy. This is true, but what about liberty? There is a fundamental and important difference between democracy and liberty.

Democracy operates on the basis that a democratically elected majority has the power to govern as they see fit. Liberty on the other hand operates on the basis that even the power of a democratic majority must be limited to ensure individual rights are protected.

We have seen decisions by democratically elected governments of all political persuasions denying fundamental rights.


Take for example the democratically elected Bjelke-Petersen Government legislating to stop people from marching in the streets. Or the democratically elected Keating Government legislating to prohibit the broadcasting of political advertisements on TV or radio during election campaigns?

In both instances these governments completely disregarded the concept of freedom of speech.

Do we want to live in a society where our fundamental rights as human beings can be discarded or changed by a simple Act of Parliament?

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Michael Lee is a Brisbane based consultant who assesses economic loss in litigation matters. His interests include human rights, American political history, and Native Title.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Michael Lee
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy