Two recent case studies highlight the need for the Australian political system to guarantee our freedoms.
Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi introduced a Protected Freedoms Act into parliament last year and plans to reintroduce it again this year in an effort to protect the unalienable freedoms of all Australians.
Professor Dean Jaensch in today’s The Advertiser asks the question: “In the case of top rugby player Israel Folau being expelled from Rugby Australia. What was his “crime” ?
Mr Folau is a committed believer in a fundamental church.
That was not the problem, nor should it be. He has a right to believe in the fundamental precepts of his church. But then he promulgated those beliefs on social media, and was judged to be in contempt of the code of conduct of Rugby Australia .
The second case concerns the actions of the Australian Federal Police raiding the home and offices of News Corp and ABC journalists.
These actions followed the publication of material by the journalists on matters which the AFP apparently considered was a threat to Australia’s security .
Both cases raise issues about rights. In the Folau case, the right of freedom of religion; in the News Corp and ABC cases, the freedom of the press. In both cases, the Australian Constitution , the sovereign law of the nation, is pathetically weak.
In fact, it contains virtually nothing about rights in any form. Both cases are a clear call for the Australian political society urgently to reform the Constitution.
In relation to religion, Section 116 states: “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 …”
Where is any statement about individual human rights in regards to religion?
In relation to freedom of the press, The High Court ruled there is an implied constitutional freedom in political communication, in essence a freedom of speech, but in a major qualification made it clear “this does not confer personal rights on individuals” .
Of course there is no right to an absolute freedom of speech. There are justifiable laws against defamation, libel and the like. And there can be no absolute freedom of the press, especially in regard to national security. But the overall emphasis should be on the freedom component.”
Key rights that Senator Bernardi’s Protected Freedoms Bill would protect are freedoms of speech, expression, the press, life, personhood, thought, conscience & religion, and freedoms from torture and retrospective laws.
“The Protected Freedoms Act will over-ride all other federal, state and territory laws that restrict those freedoms,” Senator Bernardi explained, “At present, parliaments create criminal laws with exemptions to preserve freedoms. The Conservative Party puts freedom first – our Act will preserve freedoms, and politicians can explain how they want to limit those freedoms for criminal purposes.”
“In short, if someone mounts a criminal or administrative case over-riding key freedoms, the court registry – or the magistrate or judge – will have to throw it out immediately if it breaches a protected freedom.”
“Some rights advocates may claim rights evolve – well if that’s the case, rights are cannibalising each other. Some key rights are unalienable and essential to the human condition. Adding ever more rights is nonsensical – parliament must ring fence Australia’s key freedoms.”
In November last year, Senator Bernardi told Leon Byner on Adelaide radio station FIVEaa the government must justify any erosion of our rights if we are to maintain our national sovereignty.