Bill of Rights in Australia: History, Politics and Law

By Fitzgerald, Emily | Melbourne Journal of Politics, Annual 2009 | Go to article overview

Bill of Rights in Australia: History, Politics and Law


Fitzgerald, Emily, Melbourne Journal of Politics


Bill of Rights in Australia: History, Politics and Law

Andrew Bynes, Hilary Charlesworth and Gabrielle McKinnon

Sydney: UNSW Press, 2008, 256pp.

ISBN 9781921410178 (pbk)

$34.95

Writing the foreword to this book, Philip Alston of New York University Law School notes that Australia is 'almost alone' amongst nations in not having a written bill of rights. The question of if Australia should adopt a bill of rights nationally, and if so, how, and what impact this would have is one that has risen time and again in Australian history. It is a question that often evokes strong sentiment and debate, yet is also one where, like many other questions relating to the Australian Constitution and Australian Law, the specifics involved are not generally well understood.

Andrew Bynes, Hilary Charlesworth and Gabrielle McKinnon have worked together to provide a book that enables any reader to get an understanding of the issues and options that arise when exploring the possibility of a bill of rights in Australia, placing the question in the historical and political context for Australia.

Written in a clear, structured manner, the book firstly gives an overview of what is being referred by the term human rights, which would form a basis for a bill of rights, and the international ideas and conventions that have been discussed in relation to these. They allocate a chapter to providing the historical context for the debate in Australia, from when the question was first raised as part of the federation debates at the end of the nineteenth century, then noting the points across the twentieth century where the issue has come to a head, and then subsided again. …

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