My guest today is one of Australia’s highest profile barristers and human rights advocates – Julian Burnside QC. He is also the current President of Liberty Victoria, also known as the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties Inc, an independent non-government organisation committed to the defence and extension of human rights and civil liberties.

I have been appalled by the way Australia’s Government has acted over the last decade in the Tampa crises, the situation with refugee internment and the recent Haneef case. The legislation which enshrines these acts in law is extremely disturbing. So I invited Julian onto the show in order to help me understand how we got here, to affirm why we should all be very concerned, and to ask him if he thinks Australia, the only country among advanced liberal democracies which doesn’t have a Bill Of Rights, needs one.

In answer to the question about why we need a Bill Of Rights, Burnside points to the case of Al-Kateb v Godwin. I had never heard of it before and I’m guessing many of you won’t have either. It relates to a finding by The High Court, in 2004, that unsuccessful asylum seekers who could not be removed to another country despite their wish to leave Australia could be held in immigration detention indefinitely. As Burnside puts it “someone who has not committed a crime and has no charges against them, can be held in jail permanently”.

Is this the country we want to have?

You can find Julian Burnside’s website here and Liberty Victoria’s e-membership programme here.

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