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"The Australian Constitution is ill equipped to meet the demands of a modern, democratic society." Discuss critically with regard to arguments concerning the adoption of a bill of rights.

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Introduction

"The Australian Constitution is ill equipped to meet the demands of a modern, democratic society." Discuss critically with regard to arguments concerning the adoption of a bill of rights. The founding fathers of Australia could never have predicted the society that was to come. However, the constitution- the most important document of the land- stands today with only 8 changes to the words after over 100 years of use. The constitution is not without flaws; the rights outlined in the document are far from clear, which hampers the knowledge of the public about their rights. However, this does not mean that the rights are not upheld in Australia. Sir Robert Menzies suggests, "The rights of individuals [in Australia] are as adequately protected as they are in any other country in the world" (1967). A bill of rights in Australia would provide a stable set of guidelines for both the courts and parliament to work around, but at the cost of many other aspects of our current political system. This is a case of the negatives outweighing the positives, as both sides of the argument have merit. The current constitution working with the executive, parliament and the courts provides Australia with a stable and working system that would only be endangered by further changes, such as the implementation of a bill of rights. ...read more.

Middle

However, there are measures that ensure that these laws are in accordance with the feelings and standards of society. The interests and rights of society are protected though "common law and by the good sense of elected representatives, who are constrained by the doctrine of responsible government" (Williams 2000). This means that currently, the Australians elect representatives to the parliament who can make laws in regard to rights. If there was a need for such a right, and the parliament failed in their duty to provide a law regarding to this matter, they would be answerable to the people. If a bill of rights were implemented, the premise behind representatives would be demolished. The people entrust their faith when they vote "to the chosen representatives of the people" (Sir Owen Dixon 1965). If those chosen do not perform to the standards of the people, in the next election the public are able to vote, in accordance with their beliefs in regard to the current representatives. This ensures that parliament acts through the will of the people, whilst retaining the notion of parliamentary sovereignty. An unbreakable, practically unchangeable document outlining the rights which the current society believe are important to them. Our current constitution has both rights and implied rights throughout its body. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, having these rights so succinctly written out may instead of the intended extension of rights, may actually limit them. To define and outline specific rights in such a detailed manner would be to prioritise and create inclusive and exclusive rights. Those perhaps less important rights not mentioned in the document would be extremely hard to implement or even recognise considering that they weren't seen to be important enough to be on the bill. Not only this, but those rights that are written down are limited by the words they are written in. The words written in a constitution can only be interpreted in so many ways before a 'right' would become meaningless. This means that important cases may be thrust aside because they do not meet within the wording of the constitution, causing perhaps the incorrect judgment to be reached, in order to keep the bill in meaningful form. Having rights written down, could create a situation where those in print are the only ones considered, nothing more or less, this limits the rights of Australians rather than enhancing them. At the present time the constitution and indeed current society functions in a highly effective manner. To add a bill of rights would be creating unnecessary confusion and would question the foundations that Australia was built on. The constitution is adequate, with the aid of the courts and parliament and the principles of parliamentary sovereignty and responsible government. ...read more.

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