Alice Tay Lecture on Law and Human Rights: Professor George Williams on 'The Future of the Australian Bill of Rights Debate'

The Alice Tay Lecture on Law and Human Rights, 2010

Professor George Williams
Anthony Mason Professor
Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow
Foundation Director, Gilbert + Tobin Centre for Public law

The Future of the Australian Bill of Rights Debate


Repeated attempts have been made since World War II to bring about a national Bill of Rights for Australia. Most recently, the federal government established a consultation panel headed by Father Frank Brennan that generated enormous community engagement and demonstrated high levels of the popular support for a national human rights act. However, in early 2010 the federal government rejected the panel’s recommendation that Australia enact such an Act. Instead, the government announced a new human rights framework that focuses on new scrutiny mechanisms for the federal parliament. This lecture will address whether this marks the end of the push for Australian Bill of Rights? Is it time to recognise that the debate has reached to the end of the road, or will it have yet another lease of life? If the debate does continue, what direction might it now take?

George Williams is the Anthony Mason Professor and Foundation Director of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales. He is also an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and has held visiting positions at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Columbia University Law School in New York and University College London. George has written and edited 25 books, including A Charter of Rights for Australia and Australian Constitutional Law and Theory. As a barrister, he appears in the High Court of Australia, while in 2005 he chaired the Victorian Human Rights Consultation Committee that lead to the enactment of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. George is a well-known media commentator and currently writes a fortnightly column for the Sydney Morning Herald.


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