Rights, how important are they and by which means should we protect them? Should we adopt a “Bill of Rights” in the same way many other advanced democracies have? If we should, who should be entrusted to write such an important instrument of social order? Should it be a simple law or should it be given assent to constitutional status and the binding authority such assent entails?
Rights are of importance and that is why they need protection, it is how best to do that which is the sticking point. For many years now there have been rumblings and a push to have a “Bill of Rights” enacted in Australia, however this push has been largely countered by the fact that Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Human Rights Charter, which has filtered down through various legislative instruments. That is true, we have a Human Rights Commission which is entrusted to be the arbiter of our rights, we also have anti-discrimination tribunals and anti-discrimination laws and other laws based on the principles of protecting the rights of various people.
But, what has all of the above changed exactly? How has it served the truer needs of the populace? Have we been fooled into thinking that these measures offer us all a real and absolute means by which our rights are protected?
Yes, we have been fooled, by being distracted by the argument over the rights which may alter the societal norms and the activities the self-appointed protectors of the societal norm determine are unsatisfactory we’ve been blind to the under-current. The under-current of government authority has continued unabated, form the powers of secret searches, arbitrary extra-judicial imprisonment, the collection of intelligence regarding the activities of the citizen, the curtailment of speech, the curtailment of the rights to associate, retrospective legislation are to name but a few examples.
Certainly there are those that may rejoice in the attainment of the socially acceptable right to kill their unborn, but, is it of such high importance compared to what they’ve lost, the very right to be free?
The difference between prisoners and the rest of us is only the fact that the prisoner can see the bars to his cell, the rest of us merely live caged in the ignorance to the bars of our cell. Whilst in prison the authorities read your mail, listen to your phone calls and regulate who you can and can not see, they even regulate the music you can listen to, iconography you can posses and books you can read. The only difference between those imprisoned and the rest of society, is that those in prison are aware of the rules, the rest of society isn’t aware of either the rules of the fact that those very same things are happening to them.
A fundamental difference between the us of today and those who wrote the “Bill of Rights” in the then rebelling colonies of the British Empire that would later become the United States of America, is that the Americans wanted guaranteed protections from government, were-as we’re now asking government to protect us from ourselves.
Of-course a “Bill of Rights” must be given constitutional assent to ensure that those rights can not be usurped or stripped by government, and to ensure government is kept within absolute boundaries.
That raises a serious question, exactly who do we trust to write such an important and powerful document? Those in government and of the governing class will insist it is their responsibility to do so given that it can only be given constitutional assent via a referendum of their instigation. There are those on the political left who will demand that they alone are the sole arbiters of social rights there-fore the responsibility should be theirs, and there will be those on the political right who will never accept being bound by the rights dreamt-up by the immature ideologies that influence their opponents, all whilst demanding they be given certain rights that neither the governing class or those on the left could ever agree to.
A “Bill of Rights” is only as effective as what is left off the list of rights, and we can know well in advance what rights won’t be included in any such document in Australia. It will not include the right to keep and bear arms, as such a right would make a number of laws unworkable, it will not contain any protection form unreasonable search and seizure as it would make a number of laws unenforceable. Such a document won’t include the right to speak, as such a right given constitutional assent would see a whole number of laws voided, it won’t include the right to freely associate, because that would render some laws obsolete, and it certainly won’t include the right to be, since that runs counter to the wishes of those who struggled long and hard for legal infanticide. And on the list would go, until any rights it did include were all based on the social construct rather than what the true underlying rights and protections needed to be.
Imagine for one moment if we had the “Bill of Rights” enacted in the United States of America and how many laws we as a nation would have to change, how many government institutions that would require restructuring. The simple right to silence would make almost all of our peak crime fighting institutions pointless, from the much feared “star chambers” to Royal Commissions/Commissions of Inquiry and those Standing Commissions which utilise those powers would cease to function. And, that may be a good thing, although we may think that surrendering the right to silence is agreeable in return for safety, but really, are we any safer for all the rights we don’t have?
As long as we look to government and the governing class as our protectors we will always have rights wholly invented by the intellectually vacuous and based on the emotive ideology of those who fear their ideals being questioned. Any “Bill of Rights” written today runs the real risk of being the means to enforce one ideology over all others, and not the instrument by which all citizens are to be protected from the ideologies of others. The only way we as a collective are to obtain the protections of our true rights is by imposition, by imposing the will of the citizen on the government and governing class, as constitutional assent may require the imposition of a constitution of the people’s making on those who would be willing to usurp such a document for their own benefit.