11 December 2003

The Australian Bill of Rights

Legislative powers of the Parliament 51.(xxiiiA.)The provision of maternity allowances, widows' pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services (but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription), benefits to students and family allowances

(xxxi.) The acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws:

(xxvi.) The people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws

Trial by jury. 80. The trial on indictment of any offence against any law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury, and every such trial shall be held in the State where the offence was committed, and if the offence was not committed within any State the trial shall be held at such place or places as the Parliament prescribes.

Trade within the Commonwealth to be free. 92.Trade commerce and intercourse among the States shall be absolutely free.

Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion. 116. The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

Rights of residents in States. 117. A subject of the Queen, resident in any State, shall not be subject in any other State to any disability or discrimination which would not be equally applicable to him if he were a subject of the Queen resident in such other State.

Section 51(xxiiiA) seems to protect only doctors and dentists. Section 80 has been held to apply only to those offences declared indictable by the parliament, not to other offences no matter how serious. Placitum (xxvi) has been held not to require that the special laws be for the benefit of the people it is made for.

Section 116 prohibits the Commonwealth from making laws about religion, although Section 51 does not give the Commonwealth any such power.

The High Court has implied a freedom of political communication but its limits are uncertain.

This is not a bill of rights we can be proud of. Strangely enough, a bill of rights (PDF) we could take pride in does exist. It�s just not current law anywhere in Australia. The ACT has now passed a statutory bill of rights, but it does not bind the ACT legislature. We are the only electoral democracy without a constitutional or statutory bill of rights. We should fix that.

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