Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Time to strengthen the BORA

Last week, the government announced plans to criminalize anti-mining protests via an amendment to the Crown Minerals Bill. Today Geoffrey Palmer, the architect of the Bill of Rights Act, announced that the proposal breaches international law and human rights. But today in Question Time the Minister said that it has not received any review for consistency with the Bill of Rights Act, and the government does not plan for there to be any.

This makes a mockery of the BORA. That legislation is predicated on Parliament being a defender of our rights, and only violating them knowingly and with proper warning, on the theory that it will make a considered decision. But where amendments are introduced like this, with no BORA review (not even an internal one), then that process is a nonsense. Parliament cannot defend our rights if they do not know when they are being broken (arguably they don't defend them anyway, but that's another issue...)

There are two alternatives here: the first would be to strengthen the scrutiny provisions of the BORA, to extend reporting of inconsistencies to amendments as well as on introduction. That would cover not just SOPs, as here, but also select committee amendments. Alternatively, if Parliament won't properly scrutinise the laws it is passing, then we will need to get the courts to do it for them and give them the power to overturn inconsistent laws. The choice is theirs.