Freedoms enews | Issue 2

Issue 2 | 21 August 2014 View original format

Review of Commonwealth Laws for Consistency with Traditional Rights, Freedoms and Privileges

With the start of this Inquiry—‘the Freedoms Inquiry’—the ALRC has two substantial tasks ahead of it. The first is to identify Commonwealth laws that encroach on traditional rights, freedoms and privileges. The second is to determine whether these laws are appropriately justified.

The Terms of Reference identify 19 rights, freedoms and privileges. These may be seen as traditional or fundamental rights in modern society. Some relate to the right to a fair trial, others to the proper exercise and extent of executive power by the government, others to limits on retrospective operation of laws. Others include freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

These traditional rights, freedoms and privileges have their source in the common law built up over centuries, in the Australian Constitution and in international instruments to which Australia is a party, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Many of these rights are also implicit in fundamental concepts which are strongly embedded within our legal system and our system of democratic government, such as the rule of law.

We have been asked to consider commercial and corporate regulation, environmental regulation and workplace relations, but the inquiry is not limited to these areas.

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher recently discussed the Inquiry at the Free Speech Symposium held by the Australian Human Rights Commission on 7 August 2014.

Participation and process

Throughout the Freedoms Inquiry we will seek the views of the public, interested groups, government and industry bodies, and expert commentators and academics.

Public wiki: In the next few weeks, the ALRC will start a public wiki—a collaborative online document—to help us identify Commonwealth laws that encroach on traditional rights, freedoms and privileges. We hope that as many people as possible will help us complete this ambitious survey of Australian law. We will let you know more about this in the next week or so.

Issues Paper: We plan to release an Issues Paper based on our preliminary research and consultations later this year. We will also call for submissions at this stage.

Discussion Paper: The Issues Paper will be followed by further consultation and then a Discussion Paper, with a second call for submissions, in mid 2015.

Final Report: The Final Report will be completed by the end of 2015.

Aside from this enews, you can also keep up with the Inquiry by following us (@AusLawReform) on Twitter. You can follow and join conversations about the Freedoms Inquiry using the hashtag #ALRCfreedoms.