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Monday, 16 September 2019
Page: 2926

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (10:10): I'm delighted to second this motion.

The SPEAKER: The member for Mayo may proceed.

Ms SHARKIE: Australia is the only Western democracy that does not have a bill of human rights. Instead, we have a patchwork of state and federal legislation from which we construct and construe a series of implied and express freedoms. Our Constitution provides for only five express rights: the right to vote, the right to a trial by jury, freedom of religion, protection against acquisition of property on unjust terms and a prohibition on the basis of state of residency.

There is an implied freedom of speech, but last month the High Court confirmed unanimously that Australians do not have a personal right to freedom of speech. In its ruling, the court upheld the government's right to sack Michaela Banerji, a public servant, for her anonymous critical tweets about the government's immigration policy. But we already knew our freedom of speech was on shaky ground, following the raids on Annika Smethurst, Ben Fordham and the ABC studio's journalists. Journalists must now be reticent in talking with whistleblowers. We cannot let that become Australia. That must not be. We must have journalists who have the courage to be able to talk to whistleblowers for the benefit of all of us, for the rights and freedoms of all of us. As Bernard Collaery and Witness K will attest to, we can forgo any rights in the face of national security concerns. Richard Boyle, an ATO officer, questioned the behaviour of the ATO, and is currently facing trial.

A bill of rights would remind the government of the day that any intrusion into our civil liberties must be reasonable and proportionate to achieve a legitimate end, and it would equip the courts with the laws they need to ensure that a just outcome is reached. Again, we are the only Western democracy that does not have a bill or charter of rights, and we need to fix this.

The SPEAKER: The question is that this bill be now read a second time. The time allotted for this debate has expired and the debate is adjourned. The resumption the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.