Does Australia need a federal Bill of Rights?
A Bill of Rights is a statement that sets out particular individual freedoms and rights which are guaranteed under that country's laws. In some countries the Bill of Rights is entrenched in the constitution of that country while in others it exists as a separate legal instrument of parliamentÃ¯Â¿Â½.
In countries where the Bill of Rights is embedded in the constitution, the bill cannot be altered or interfered with in any way without a referendum and other legislation may not contradict it. In it there are usually also provisions that define the special limitation of rights in times of war and unrest. In countries that have a separate or statutory Bill of Rights however the parliament has the power to repeal the Act or pass other Acts that contradict it.
The legal principle of the Bill of Rights dates back to the Magna Carta of 1215 which established the principle that no one is above the law.
Since then other countries have used this premise when drafting their particular Bill of Rights, something that is particularly clear when looking at the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution which state that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
Of course the American Bill of Rights (effective from 1791) is not the only one, indeed France passed the 'Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen' in 1789, Finland passed the 'Basic rights and liberties in Finland' (1919) and even the USSR constitution of 1936 had a chapter (chapter ten) dealing with the fundamental rights and responsibilities of its citizens (though it did focus more on the responsibilities of said citizens than on their 'rights'). Then China passed the 'Fundamental rights and...