Australia: A Constitution without Rights and Rights outside the Constitution

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Author: Tatiana Khramova

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2016-4-14-28

Keywords: Bill of Rights; constitutional rights; High Court of Australia; implied rights; parliamentary supremacy


Australian constitutional model is quite unique for two reasons: first, it is based on the principle of parliamentary supremacy with no written Bill of Rights; second, it is astonishingly stable and resistant to change. Constitutional text contains few explicit rights provisions and is supplemented by a modest and unsystematic collection of implied rights recognized by the High Court of Australia. In spite of the lack of constitutional regulation of rights, the actual level of fundamental rights protection in Australia, determined by various ratings and indexes, is one of the highest in the world. Together with other – more substantial and deep-rooted – causes this explains two tendencies observed in contemporary Australia and scrutinized in a given article: 1) unwillingness to adopt a federal Bill of Rights (in the form of constitutional amendments or a legislative act); 2) unwillingness of the High Court to expand and deepen the potential of existing Constitution by broad and creative interpretation of its provisions. As for the first tendency, the following arguments of the Bill of Rights opponents attract our interest: commitment to Australian exceptionalism and confidence in the existing system of rights protection; supremacy of parliament; and speculations that protection of rights may weaken as a result of adoption of an abstract Bill of Rights. Caution and self-restraint of the High Court of Australia could be explained by the eagerness to preserve its legitimacy and maintain high authority of its decisions in the society which has delegated the prerogative of solving controversial problems, including those related to definition and restriction of rights, to the legislator. The study of peculiar features of Australian constitutional order and legal culture brings the author of this article to interesting conclusions.

Citation: Khramova T. (2016) Avstraliya: Konstitutsiya bez prav i prava vne Konstitutsii [Australia: A Constitution without Rights and Rights outside the Constitution]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, no.4, pp.14–28. (In Russian).


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