Is Australia the only western (1st world) country without a Bill of Rights?
The Australian government has been under fire for its refusal to implement a ‘Bill of Rights’ in Australia. But what is the Bill of Rights, and why do we need it? Read on to learn more.
Australia is the only Developed Western country without a Bill of Rights
We are often told that Australia has no bill of rights, but what is a bill of rights and why do we need one? It is generally accepted that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. However, most Australians do not realize that it is actually a very limited document that contains no specific rights for individuals or groups. In fact, the Constitution does not even guarantee freedom of speech.
What is a Bill of Rights?
A bill of rights is a document that enshrines certain rights at a national level. It lays out the laws and regulations which protect these rights, and which outline how they can be appealed if they are broken. For example, a bill of rights may state that a person has a right to a fair trial, a right to say what they think, or a right to work. None of this happens in Australia, the law is only accessible to the most wealthy within Australian society, plus there is no sense of integrity within Australian society, where someone will step in to protect another persons human rights. Most Australians will just allow terrible things happen right in front of them, without stepping in or even saying something.
So what is the problem with not having a bill of rights? Well, without one, individual rights are not guaranteed. That means that if someone doesn’t like what you say, they can sue you for defamation without warning. They can ban you from entering a business or social event because of who you are or what you believe. They can harass you for your personal beliefs. They can fire you for your political beliefs.
Emphasizing that there is not a Bill of Rights in Australia also means that the Constitution is the only measure of rights and freedoms, and this document still allows for suppression of freedom of speech and other such rights.
The specific rights and freedoms that the Constitution does provide are not guaranteed, and these rights and freedoms can be removed by Parliamentary vote. As such, Australia does not have a Bill of Rights and in this respect, we are the only nation in the world to be in this position.
A bill of rights is a list of rights that are guaranteed to the people. These rights are enshrined in the law by way of a bill of rights or similar legislation.
Bills of Rights exist in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, South Africa, Bhutan, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Israel, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Lesotho, Zambia, Nepal, Yemen, Moldova, Chile, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Mexico, Benin, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Bolivia, Guatemala, Colombia, Grenada, Honduras, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Guatemala, Dominica, Trinidad, Tobago, you get the point.
Some argue that the absence of a bill of rights in Australia is not a problem
The Australian constitution does not recognize entrenched, unamendable rights that most other countries recognize. When this is combined with the ability of Parliament to pass retrospective legislation, the entire system of law in relation to civil liberties is based on Parliamentary whim.
This is why Australians can be imprisoned without charge under the War Crimes Act, detained without charge under the Anti-Terrorism Act, deported without charge under the Immigration Act, or executed without charge under the Bail Act.
Yet the system of law in New Zealand, Canada, the United States, South Africa, and India all recognize rights that are guaranteed and there is an entrenched, unamendable Bill of Rights that governs the way that these rights are implemented.
It is for this reason that Australia is the only democracy without an entrenched, un amendable Bill of Rights, and it is for this reason that legislation in Australia is so different to legislation in other democracies.