Friday, 3 August 2007

High Court Jack Thomas decision underlines need for Bill of Rights

By Raul Bassi, Socialist Alliance National Executive
August 3, 2007

“With its decision to uphold the legality of the Howard government's preventative detention order against Jack Thomas the High Court has lined up with the Coalition's disgraceful campaign to severely curtail civil liberties and destroy the presumption of innocence”, Raul Bassi, Socialist Alliance spokesperson on democratic rights said today.

“This decision, coming on top of the disgusting treatment of David Hicks, Dr. Mohamed Haneef and Mamdouh Habib, underlines why we desperately need a Bill of Rights in this country.

Bassi said that the decision came as no surprise given the conservative stacking of the court during a decade of Howard government judicial appointments

“What the court has effectively said is that governments can use the defence power in the Constitution to pass laws not just in respect of external threats to Australia’s security, but internal threats as well.

“In doing that it has decided that a government of rogues like the Howard administration can be trusted with an absoluely draconian power”, Bassi stressed.

The Socialist Alliance spokeperson noted that the decision effectively overturned one of the key decisions in Australian legal history—the Communist Party case of the 1950s, when the High Court blocked the attempt of the Menzies government to ban the Communist Party.

Bassi praised the principled stance of the dissenting justice Michael Kirby, drawing attention to his comment that:

I did not expect that, during my service, I would see the Communist Party case sidelined, minimised, doubted and even criticised and denigrated in this Court. Given the reasoning expressed by the majority in these proceedings, it appears likely that, had the Dissolution Act of 1950 been challenged today, its constitutional validity would have been upheld. This is further evidence of the unfortunate surrender of the present Court to demands for more and more governmental powers, federal and State, that exceed or offend the constitutional text and its abiding values.

Bassi concluded: “The Socialist Alliance will be using the coming federal election to build the growing campaign for an Australian Bill of Rights. In particular, we call on the Labor Party to stop vacillating on this vital issue and express its support for a principle with which the vast majority of Australians agree.”

For further comment: Raul Bassi (0403 037 376)

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