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If We Take Our Freedoms For Granted They Could Be Taken Away

Australia is the only western democracy without a legislated or constitutional charter of rights.

01/08/2017 12:39 PM AEST | Updated 01/08/2017 12:39 PM AEST
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"With ministers like Peter Dutton trying to give himself God-like powers to deport some people from Australia, and to deny citizenship to others, it’s more important than ever that we stand up and defend our rights and freedoms."

What are the rights and freedoms that you cherish as an Australian?

Are they democratic freedoms like the right to vote and to join a political party? Or the freedom to speak your mind, in the language of your choice?

How about your legal rights, like freedom from arbitrary detention or torture, the right to a legal representative and the right to a fair trial?

What about the right to take industrial action or the right to see a doctor when you're sick?

Maybe it's something less tangible, like the freedom to choose your own path through life, or the feeling you get when you spend time at the beach, or in the bush, or even in your own home.

Or the freedom that comes from living in a tolerant and prosperous society, and being to enjoy time with your family, or with your friends at the footy or the theatre.

The Australian story is a rich and vibrant story. We are a largely harmonious society with widespread wealth and freedom. But that wealth and freedom is not shared equally, and the next part of our story is how we make that right.

While we as Australians pride ourselves on enjoying our freedoms, our laws do not adequately reflect, or protect them.

So many of these freedoms and rights were hard won, through wars, direct action, collective protests and the democratic process. Many of these battles are still ongoing, such as the fight for marriage equality and for a treaty with First Australians.

And in the recent past we have seen Labor and the Liberals are all too willing to trample on our rights and liberties by giving security agencies unprecedented powers to detain and access personal information.

The metadata laws, the disastrous Northern Territory intervention, and the ongoing torture of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru are three compelling examples of how easily human rights can be stripped away.

With ministers like Peter Dutton trying to give himself God-like powers to deport some people from Australia, and to deny citizenship to others, it's more important than ever that we stand up and defend our rights and freedoms.

This is why the Australian Greens will table, debate and vote on Charter of Rights legislation in the current term of Parliament. We will refer the Charter to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights to determine the best model, as well as the rights that should be included.

Australia is the only western democracy without a legislated or constitutional charter of rights, and there are a number of views about how to carry this issue forward.

It's a big conversation, and it's one worth having.

We want as many people as possible from as many backgrounds as possible to have their say on the kinds of rights that should be protected in the Charter. These are all our rights and this will be a charter for all of us. This is a community decision and we think it is best made together.

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The charter will help ensure that every Australian can live a full and free life.

We want to protect people's freedom of speech, and the freedom from arbitrary detention.

We want the right to shelter to be guaranteed in law.

We want the right to fair and equal pay to be guaranteed, as well as the right to strike.

We want our children's right to a clean environment and fresh drinking water to be protected.

We want to protect digital rights, like privacy, data ownership and the right to be forgotten.

And when ministers try to strip people's dignity away based on their Aboriginality, or where they live, like through the cashless welfare card, then we want people to have a way to fight back.

When coal mines threaten the environment and ground water supply, we want people to have a way to fight back.

Acts of racism and hate crimes are on the rise, so we need to strengthen people's rights to cultural expression.

John Howard's unjust changes to the Marriage Act in 2004 to rule out marriage equality would arguably not been possible if equal rights for LGBTI people were enshrined in law.

A charter of rights will be a document that reflects the values and standards that we stand for as a society, and upholds the dignity of every single person in our southern land.

The Australian story is a rich and vibrant story. We are a largely harmonious society with widespread wealth and freedom. But that wealth and freedom is not shared equally, and the next part of our story is how we make that right.

Let's write the next chapter together.

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