How does the Commonwealth Parliament engage with “rights” and “justice”? The Case of Australia’s Counter-terrorism Laws.

Stream: Panel 38 - Australian Politics / Media & Politics: Politics and Rights
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


Parliamentary scrutiny of Australia’s counter terrorism laws provides a number of interesting insights into the way the Commonwealth Parliament engages with the concept of ‘rights’ and ‘justice’ and the impact this has on both legislative outcomes and political discourse in this country. On the one hand, the detailed scrutiny of these laws by parliamentary committees and the rights-enhancing legislative amendments made in response to these reports supports the conclusion that the Commonwealth Parliament engages relatively robustly with notions of ‘rights’ and ‘justice’, particularly when compared with the experiences of the States. On the other hand, it is possible to view the scrutiny of these laws more cynically, as an example of deliberate legislative overreach with respect to a politically popular issue, followed by face-saving post-scrutiny amendments designed to ensure support from the Opposition or the cross bench in the Senate, resulting in a legislative regime that continues to seriously abrogate individual rights. Regardless of the perspective taken as to the gravity of the rights impact of the enacted laws, it is possible to identify common themes arising from the Commonwealth Parliament engagement with the concept of ‘rights’ and ‘justice’, including the emergence of a ‘home grown’ set of rights and principles that appear to have appeal across the political spectrum and can be applied to effect legislative change. These themes will be explored in this Paper, which also compliments the research being undertaken by Associate Professor Laura Grenfell relating to right scrutiny cultures at the State and Territory level.


Sarah Moulds (Presenter), University of Adelaide
Sarah Moulds is undertaking a PhD at the University of Adelaide’s Law School in the area of parliamentary scrutiny of Australia's counter terrorism laws. Sarah is also a Senior Project Officer at the South Australian Law Reform Institute.
Sarah was the legal advisor to South Australian Senator Penny Wright, Australian Greens spokesperson on legal affairs, and Director of Criminal Law and Human Rights at the Law Council of Australia.
Sarah has degrees in law and international studies and a Masters in Comparative law and was an associate to the Honourable Justice Gray, Supreme Court of South Australia.