Tim Blair


New Criterion



Monday, August 23, 2004
IF YOU'RE ON THE PROGRESSIVE SIDE OF POLITICS, there are some things you can have both ways at once, like the role of oil in international politics.

But political rights you can only have legally cooked up on one side, according to Professor
George Williams, keen supporter of Canberra's new rights law.

Should we also define political responsibilities in law, as the ACT Liberals have proposed? After all, even Williams sees the problems he's helping to load onto the community:
Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin. No advocate of human rights could argue with the idea that rights can often exist in tension with each other and that the possession of rights also entails the need to exercise them responsibly.

Oh yes, George Williams can. Too vague, difficult and unnecessary, according to his argument.

Legislated rights, you see, "have the benefit of a rich and growing body of law from around the world to draw upon", not to mention a rich and growing body of lawyers.

Responsibilities, on the other hand, "exist in a domestic and international context devoid of interpretive guidance."

And responsibilities will continue to be political orphans if they're depending on George Williams for legal support.