Rights and freedoms in Commonwealth laws — Interim Report

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) today released an Interim Report, Traditional Rights and Freedoms—Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws (IR 127), and is calling for submissions.

This is the second consultation document for this inquiry, in which the ALRC has been asked to review Commonwealth laws that encroach on traditional rights, freedoms and privileges (Freedoms Inquiry). Traditional rights include such fundamental freedoms as freedom of speech, religion, movement and association; and other important rights and privileges such as property rights, client legal privilege, the right to a fair trial, and access to the courts, to name a few. The Terms of Reference list 19 such rights, freedoms and privileges to consider.

In the Interim Report, the ALRC discusses the source and rationale of these important common law rights, freedoms and privileges, and discusses how they have been protected by the Constitution, the Parliament and the courts. The Interim Report also provides an extensive survey of current Commonwealth laws that limit traditional rights, freedoms and privileges and considers how such laws may be justified.

ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, Commissioner-in-charge of the inquiry, said, “There is no doubt that there are laws in Australia that can be seen as encroaching on traditional common law rights and freedoms. The ALRC’s task is to identify these laws and examine their justification, in the context that fundamental rights and freedoms should only be limited when strictly necessary. The ALRC has highlighted areas of law that may merit further scrutiny, in terms of their effects on traditional rights, freedoms and privileges. It is in these areas in particular that the ALRC is seeking further comment from the community”.

The ALRC invites submissions in response to this Interim Report and, in particular, submissions identifying Commonwealth laws that warrant further review. The ALRC final report will be presented to the Attorney-General in December 2015. 

The Interim Report is available free of charge on the ALRC website at www.alrc.gov.au/publications/traditional-rights-freedoms-ir127 and as an ebook.

The ALRC prefers submissions via the ALRC online submission form: www.alrc.gov.au/content/freedoms-ir127-submission

Submissions are due to the ALRC by 21 September 2015.

Subscribe to the Freedoms Inquiry e-news on the ALRC website.