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Abstract

Statutory bills of rights have been introduced in the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. If similar legislation was placed before the Queensland parliament, the Bligh government would need to convince the public that it would serve a practical purpose. The public may be persuaded that a statutory bill of rights is necessary if it could be demonstrated that persistent infringements of civil liberties have occurred in Queensland’s past. The government of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, which lasted from 1968 to 1987, was often criticised for its record on civil liberties. However, a closer inspection of that record reveals that most of the important decisions affecting civil and political rights were inherently contestable and not susceptible to a right or wrong answer. Even if a statutory bill of rights had been in place during the Bjelke-Petersen era, it is unlikely to have altered any of the decisions taken by his government and may have resulted in an erosion of respect for the judiciary. Importantly, the absence of a statutory bill of rights had a major benefit for the state: it forced Queenslanders to consider the civil liberties implications of the decisions taken by the Bjelke-Petersen government

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