Doctor of Law
School of Law
Walker, Brian Melbourne, Explaining and Confronting Australia’s Refusal To Adopt a National Bill of Rights, Doctor of Law thesis, School of Law, University of Wollongong, 2017. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses1/37
Australia's legal arrangements for the protection of human rights have been described by rights activists as an 'intricate patch work'. Ironically, the most noteworthy feature of this 'patchwork' is not what it contains, but what it lacks, a bill of rights (BOR). The failure of national governments over decades to remedy this situation is the focus of this thesis. This thesis argues that, until a bill of rights is enacted, the capacity of all Australians to enjoy their human rights will remain diminished.
This thesis aims to contribute to overcoming Australia's entrenched impasse about a BOR in two ways. First, it explains why despite periodic 'movements' during periods of Australian Labor Party governments since the 1970's, no bill of rights campaign has come to fruition. The chief explanation for these rejections is that a bill of rights would threaten the sovereignty and supremacy of the Australian Parliament.
Second, by comparative examination of the experience of New Zealand, which enacted a 'Commonwealth model' statutory bill of rights in 1990, this thesis challenges the veracity of this dominant view in Australian politics.
This thesis concludes, that the enactment of a Human Rights Act that is, a statutory bill of rights, that does not diminish parliamentary supremacy, is a necessary next step in fulfillment of Australia's obligation to respect the human rights of all Australians.