It's Time. A Bill of Rights for Australia

Delivered by Julian Burnside, QC

Thursday 13 November 2008

Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at UniSA and supported by the SA International Human Rights Day Committee

This address will draw attention to the International Day of Human Rights to be celebrated on December 10th and the forthcoming 60th Anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights. This statement expounds the rights of all people across the world to personal security and freedom, and as many are still excluded from access to such rights, remains a source of hope to the oppressed and those who work on their behalf.

Julian Burnside has said:
"Australia needs a Bill of Rights. The time has passed when we could safely assume that parliament would never pass laws which offended decent values."

"Justice is one of the deepest yearnings of the human spirit,and one of the most important promises of democracy. When Law and Justice part company, we are betrayed; when Parliament makes unjust laws we are betrayed; when Justice is promised but is placed beyond reach, democracy fails."

He will expand on his view among others in greater detail when he speaks in Adelaide and all are welcome to register to attend.

Julian Burnside QC

Julian Burnside is a barrister based in Melbourne. He specialises in commercial litigation. He joined the Bar in 1976 and took silk in 1989.

He acted for the Ok Tedi natives against BHP, for Alan Bond in fraud trials, for Rose Porteous in numerous actions against Gina Rinehart, and for the Maritime Union of Australia in the 1998 waterfront dispute against Patrick Stevedores. He was Senior Counsel assisting the Australian Broadcasting Authority in the "Cash for Comment" inquiry and was senior counsel for Liberty Victoria in the Tampa litigation.

He is President of Liberty Victoria, and has acted pro bono in many human rights cases, in particular concerning the treatment of refugees.

He is passionately involved in the arts. He collects contemporary paintings and sculptures and regularly commissions music. He is Chair of Fortyfive Downstairs and Chair of the Mietta Foundation.

He is the author of a book of essays on language and etymology, Wordwatching (Scribe, 2004) and Watching Brief, (Scribe, 2007) a collection of his essays and speeches about the justice system and human rights. He compiled a book of letters written by asylum seekers held in Australia's detention camps. The book, From Nothing to Zero was published in 2003 by Lonely Planet. He also wrote Matilda and the Dragon a children's book published by Allen & Unwin in 1991.

In 2004 he was elected as a Living National Treasure.

He is married to artist Kate Durham.


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While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: strengthening our democracy - valuing our cultural diversity - and building our future.