Opinion polls show that Australians are increasingly disenchanted with the way politics is conducted. In this paper Bede Harris argues that most of the problems which give rise to this sentiment originate in flaws in the constitution, but that the notorious resistance by voters to constitutional change creates the paradox that they are unwilling to change the system which is the source of their discontent. Bede argues that we need to adopt a new approach to the Constitution, based on principle rather than pragmatism and which replaces the prevailing defeatist attitude to constitutional change with one based on optimism and a willingness to confront naysayers. The paper applies this approach to six key areas needing reform: the electoral system, legislative scrutiny of the executive, rights protection, the federal system, the constitutional status of Indigenous people and access to constitutional justice.
This lecture will also be live-streamed on Facebook. Link to be provided.
About the speaker: Dr Bede Harris is a Senior Lecturer in Law and Law Discipline Head in the School of Accounting and Finance at Charles Sturt University, Canberra. He has taught constitutional law in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. In 2001 Bede was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholarship to participate in a programme of constitutional law studies in the United States. His main areas of research are constitutional reform and human rights. His most recent books are Freedom, Democracy and Accountability – A Vision for a New Australian Constitution (2012) and Exploring the Frozen Continent – What Australians Think of Constitutional Reform (2014). He has made numerous submissions to legislative inquiries on matters such as constitutional recognition of the rights of Indigenous people, electoral matters and human rights. He is regularly interviewed on ABC Radio and is a contributor to The Conversation.