Tim Blair


New Criterion



Thursday, March 04, 2004

Australia's own banana republic in the refrigerator, Canberra (think of Downing Street with its own government run by Marion Barry) has given itself Australia's first Act of Rights.

We're up with international best practice, chants Premier Lite, Jon Stanhope. We need to set out a list of rights as a symbol of what we stand for.(I know the link points to an old ACT Hansard, but they're months behind)

He's already told us where he thinks his indecent Act will find its greatest use; fighting off those rights-abusing security measures adopted by governments to fight terrorists. Just think what the lawyers for Hicks and Habib could have done with it.

All those lawyers done out of jobs by the Pacific Solution can put up their shingles in Jon's Nohopia, where the place burns down while the dumbos in government sit around a table and hope it will all go away.

Pity the ACT is not retrospective. Just think what fun the ACT's scorched citizens could be having in the courts right now! Their right to security, to protection of property, to getting something useful for their taxes, not to be governed by cretins.

We need an Act of Rights to tell us whether the actions of the police in arresting and searching people, surveillance, the conduct of trials in court and the provision of educational facilities are up to the slogans embodied in Jon's junk legislation.

That means whenever legislation is introduced or programs proclaimed Ministers will have to declare everything's right by the Act.

Oppositions disagree, lobbies disagree, you disagree, I disagree. What do we do?

Ask a judge, of course.

Who does that? Lawyers, of course.

If the other jurisdictions follow Nohopia's precedent, all those ambulance-chasing lawyers wetting themselves at the thought that State governments may put a choke on litigiousness can stop looking through the job advertisements. A bit of retraining and they'll have more money than a retired MP, all from asking judges to run the ruler over whatever governments still feel game to do.

You'll never notice the difference in the ACT, where nothing happens until after the next election, but in the real world you will.

Every bureaucrat will need a QC on tap. Likewise any business bigger than a corner store, not that Canberra has any of those.

The civil liberties industry is over the moon:

State premiers know and state opposition leaders know that if there's a bill of rights, then increasing law and order measures will be able to challenged in the courts and perhaps successfully challenged.

That's the essence of this whole campaign. Take power from the electorate and its representatives and give it to judges.

This idea is so dippy even the dippier Anglican bishops are against it. George Browning, well to the left on most things, thinks it's individualism gone too far. Right cause, wrong reasons. It won't be individuals rorting this legislation at our expense.

The next interesting test; will John Howard want to enrage the liberals by opposing it?

And then; how can Mark Latham resist adopting the idea, despite opposition from the Labor Premiers?