Even
without having seen Victoria’s proposed Bill of Rights legislation, it
is safe to make one prediction – it will be a lawyers picnic. At the
very least, the BoR will give more rights to certain people. While
courts will not be able to declare legislation invalid, they will be
obliged to apply the BoR in their rulings and in the interpretation of
existing legislation.

All court rulings will have to be
consistent with the BoR and all legislation will have to be interpreted
so that the interpretation carries out the intention of the BoR. Thus
it will have a huge impact upon litigation. Until now, the concepts of
a “fair trial” or “natural justice” were Common Law principles
developed by the courts over centuries. This legislation will take
their place.

Apparently Government departments will be absolutely bound by the BoR. Again, this will increase litigation.

Who will the BoR protect?
Well, the answer is – the underprivileged, unrepresented, hard-done-by,
persecuted, minority groups in our society – victims of our sexist,
capitalist, repressive, racist, bigoted, intolerant, cruel and uncaring
society. Here is a possible list of the groups who will have the
primary benefit: women, homosexuals, criminals, prisoners, Muslims,
terror suspects, Greenies, trade unionists, drug users and Aboriginals.
All these groups will suddenly acquire a raft of new rights which can
be enforced in the courts.

Who won’t it help? It is
unlikely that there will be any real benefit to the privileged members
of the majority such as men, heterosexuals, married couples, honest law
abiding citizens, victims of crime, Christians, developers, farmers,
small businesses, employers, opponents of drugs and generally the
Anglo-Celtic peoples who built the state in the 19th century.

Let
me make two more points. One, rights usually carry with them
obligations. In this case, there will be rights without obligations.
Two, the community will have no rights – protection will only be given
to individuals, and then just the (usual) victims of society.

We
will have to wait and see. There is no doubt, however, that the
principal beneficiaries will be the lawyers. I think I feel the need
for a swimming pool coming on – it is only fair that I name my new pool
the Rob Hulls BoR Pool. (Only joking, I live in an apartment.)

Peter Fray

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