Australia's reputation as a human rights champion [?] had been so tarnished in recent years that it could be called a wolf in sheep's clothing, the retiring High Court justice Michael McHugh said yesterday.
[Unless of course, Australia's reputation has always been tainted? That depends on what governments can and will hide and secrets for 30 years etc. Tainted with things like Colonialism, Imperialism and Ruling Class, Noble Cause Corruption etc. Now, this may mean that it is getting much worse than what it was, is and perhaps, as it has always been?]
In his last speech as a member of the High Court, he told Sydney University law students that judges were being "called on to reach legal conclusions which have tragic consequences".
[Do tell? Like draconian laws and 20 years for thought crimes?]
These verdicts could often be at odds with their personal beliefs because of the respect which had to be paid to Parliament.
Justice McHugh urged the adoption of a bill of rights, saying its absence was the main reason our judges were not as empowered as those in the United States Supreme Court to defend fundamental human rights.
And he agreed with a comment that Australia's legal system was "seriously inadequate in protecting the rights of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our society". [Like Aboriginals and Muslims?]
He cited the 2004 decision of al Kateb, in which the court said a provision which allowed unlawful citizens to be detained until they could be deported was not unconstitutional. Ahmed Ali al Kateb was stateless and unable to leave Australia.
Justice McHugh said there was "a powerful argument" that the verdict of the 4-3 majority - "who, I'm afraid, included myself" - would have been different with a bill of rights.
Justice McHugh, who will be replaced by Susan Crennan when he steps down from the court on November 1 - his 70th birthday - follows figures such as the former chief justice, Sir Anthony Mason, and a former prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, in pressing for rights to be enshrined in the constitution.
He said Australia had played a leading role in encouraging human rights [?] and had been praised as a model member of the United Nations. [Although Australian authorities have had little or no regard for the UN constitution, the rights of the child, refugees, indigenous and of course the illegal and degrading war for resources in the Middle East.] "Given this record, why then have we been recently called a wolf in sheep's clothing? [Laugh.] It is undoubtedly the case that Australia's international reputation as a champion of human rights has been somewhat tarnished over recent years." [More recent years than you might like to imagine?]
He said Australia was "very much the odd man out" and that by failing to adopt a bill of rights the nation was arguably failing to meet its obligations under international law.
It would provide "a set of navigation lights for the executive ... [and] allow the public a clear overview of the rights they are being asked to give up in the name of national security, for example". [In the name of illegal and degrading resource wars in the Middle East.]
Justice McHugh said,: "My own social views are probably as radical as anyone in this room [ruling class?] - maybe more so - but when you are a judge there are constraints. You have to give effect to what the purpose of Parliament is."
[Noble Cause Corruption, Colonialism, Imperialism, murderers, thieves and criminals. Oh! and a few rock spiders to boot?]
He said a former High Court colleague, Justice John Toohey, had once told him: "You are very radical in relation to the common law and equity but you are very conservative in relation to the constitution and statutes".
[Perhaps radical in relation to noble causes for masters and prestige for himself? And conservative in relation to making sure one has the right to be able to do that? Laugh.]
Justice McHugh said: "I think that's very accurate ... In relation to the constitution it's my belief ... that judges don't have the legitimacy to be making up the rules and pushing their own social views."
[Otherwise they don't serve the Queen I.E. the 300 club of the worlds richest ruling class. Don't get me wrong I think it takes a brave judge to stand up for human rights, so good on ya. But to suggest that Australia has been a champion of human rights is quite wrong. The same reason John Howard couldn't say sorry to the indigenous people who were here before they invaded.]
By Michael Pelly 13 October 05
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