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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2756


Senator HARRADINE(11.36) —I too would like to say something on this solemn occasion of the interment of the Australian Bill of Rights Bill 1985. I am happy to act as one of the pall-bearers.


Senator Puplick —More like a grave-digger.


Senator HARRADINE —Yes, a grave-digger. My fear, however, is that the Bill of Rights is just simply undergoing a metamorphosis, having been sent to the Constitutional Commission. I do not think it would be wise for people to say that it is completely dead and buried, but that it is simply on the backburner for a while because those who have attempted to foist it on the Australian people have not given up hope of re-engineering Australian society from above in their own image.

As honourable senators would be well aware, I am a strong opponent of the Bill of Rights. I have argued all along that the measure was an attack on democracy and our parliamentary institutions. Both inside this place and outside it I have argued that, taken together, the Bill of Rights-the ABR-and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill 1985 would give to non-elected government officials the power to decide questions about our rights and our duties which are properly the function in our democratic society of Parliament to decide. I have argued and I still maintain that the tendency of the Bill and the Commission to subvert the role of our democratically and constitutionally established institutions has been one of the key reasons why I believe that the people of Australia have expressed their views and the Government has deferred its policy on this question. I had hoped that there would have been a greater change, an internal change. A large number of government members are strongly opposed to the Bill of Rights. I have not worked out the proportion but others do not accept that.

I would be interested to hear what the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) has to say in answer to what Senator Durack has said. It would do the Government well to jettison the concept completely, not just to put it on the backburner, not just to send it to the Constitutional Commission so that it could undergo some sort of metamorphosis and rise up again. I do not think it will rise Phoenix like because I do not think it will be triumphant in the end.