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High Court Jack Thomas decision underlines need for Bill of Rights

By Raul Bassi, Socialist Alliance National Executive

“With its decision to uphold the legality of the Howard government's preventative detention order against Jack Thomas the High Court has lined up with the Coalition's disgraceful campaign to severely curtail civil liberties and destroy the presumption of innocence”, Raul Bassi, Socialist Alliance spokesperson on democratic rights said today.

“This decision, coming on top of the disgusting treatment of David Hicks, Dr. Mohamed Haneef and Mamdouh Habib, underlines why we desperately need a Bill of Rights in this country.

Bassi said that the decision came as no surprise given the conservative stacking of the court during a decade of Howard government judicial appointments

“What the court has effectively said is that governments can use the defence power in the Constitution to pass laws not just in respect of external threats to Australia’s security, but internal threats as well.

“In doing that it has decided that a government of rogues like the Howard administration can be trusted with an absoluely draconian power”, Bassi stressed.

The Socialist Alliance spokeperson noted that the decision effectively overturned one of the key decisions in Australian legal history—the Communist Party case of the 1950s, when the High Court blocked the attempt of the Menzies government to ban the Communist Party.

Bassi praised the principled stance of the dissenting justice Michael Kirby, drawing attention to his comment that:
I did not expect that, during my service, I would see the Communist Party case sidelined, minimised, doubted and even criticised and denigrated in this Court. Given the reasoning expressed by the majority in these proceedings, it appears likely that, had the Dissolution Act of 1950 been challenged today, its constitutional validity would have been upheld. This is further evidence of the unfortunate surrender of the present Court to demands for more and more governmental powers, federal and State, that exceed or offend the constitutional text and its abiding values.
Bassi concluded: “The Socialist Alliance will be using the coming federal election to build the growing campaign for an Australian Bill of Rights. In particular, we call on the Labor Party to stop vacillating on this vital issue and express its support for a principle with which the vast majority of Australians agree.”

2 Com:

Richard Fidler | August 04, 2007

Why does the Socialist Alliance call for a Bill of Rights? The B of R will necessarily have to be enforced by ... the courts, ultimately the High Court. In this case, why not just promote a mass campaign for repeal of this particular repressive legislation. Take the struggle to the streets, and the elected legislature, don't divert it to legalist channels and the courts, the same courts that have just upheld the reactionary laws and procedures.

Dave Riley | August 04, 2007

I don't see any counterposition, Richard. No one is suggesting you do the Bill of Rights thing INSTEAD of mass campaigning.

What is not evident too from this statement, is that there is a burgeoning division within the ALP and the ALP milieu over civil rights issues as it is played out over the right to demonstrate, the rights of refugees, Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and "terrorist" suspects.

I then see a campaign for a Bill of Rights to be very useful way to generate discussion and focus around such issues -- for instance on habeas corpus or very urgently, the right to demonstrate or to strike -- in the context of a massive and bipartisan assault on civil liberties which is matching Bush's drive in the US.

No such guarantee exists anywhere in Australian law.

Even a campaign for the right to strike has massive consequences here in Australia and will be a core issue esp after this election and esp if the ALP is elected to gov't.

This is an important tactical approach, you see -- in that you'll have a "social democratic" party committed to engineering a rule of no strikes despite what is practiced overseas.

So there is no diversion to legalistic channels..at all in the off hand way you seem to suggest it.

You also miss the point of whether having a "guarantee" -- even on paper -- is a good or useful thing or not. Having the right to strike enshrined as a right surely is useful as is habeas corpus -- it is something to relate to -- or in this instance, to strive for.

In effect the whole issue opens up a can of worms and places Australian "democracy" under scrutiny.

As far as constitutional law is concerned the ONLY ISSUE the bourgeosie is interested in is a "new federalism' vs state rights --so thats' the only debating point allowed. Human rights are no where on the agenda --so how can we intervene in that debate too?

I think this is an entry level exercise that is well worth pushing in way of seeing what sort of resonance we can engineer as we are being attacked across a broad spectrum of fronts in regard to these issues.

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