Media Releases

Coalition Government Trashes Legal Rights

Written by
7 February 2020

“The Coalition government is trashing the legal rights of all Australians, creating an unprecedented challenge to individual freedom and human dignity,” said Morgan Begg, Research Fellow with the free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

The IPA’s report Legal Rights Audit 2019, authored by IPA Research Fellow Morgan Begg, is the latest in a series of landmark studies into the state of fundamental legal rights in Australia. It revealed that the legal rights of the presumption of innocence, natural justice, the right to silence and the privilege against self-incrimination are explicitly breached by 381 separate provisions in Acts of federal Parliament. The report also identifies a net increase of 23 breaches of legal rights in 2019.

“The Coalition has a worse record than Labor in protecting legal rights. In legislation currently in force, Coalition governments have been responsible for 279 legal rights breaches, compared with 102 breaches under Labor governments. This is the equivalent to 11 breaches for each year of Coalition government compared with 5 breaches each year on average under Labor since 1976,” said Mr Begg.

“Legal rights reflect the reality that all Australians are endowed with inalienable rights and freedoms which cannot be legitimately confiscated by fellow citizens or the state. The protection of individual rights and freedoms is essential to individual liberty and human dignity.”

“This research shows that for too long, the rule of law has been sacrificed in the name of bureaucratic efficiency. Making it easier to enforce the law is never a good reason to overturn our fundamental legal protections.”

“It was the 2018 Legal Rights Audit that identified the potential for bureaucratic overreach under the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, long before shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus conspired with officials in the Attorney-General’s Department to use the legislation to target conservatives for their political beliefs.”

“The substantial increase in legal rights breaches in 2019 proves there is a systemic problem which requires urgent attention from the government.”

“By stripping away important protections like the presumption of innocence, the right to silence, and the privilege against self-incrimination, our legal system will not achieve just outcomes,” said Mr Begg.

Download the report here.

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Morgan Begg

Morgan Begg is the Director, Legal Rights Program at the Institute of Public Affairs

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