Elite Supply 'Blockages' and the Failure of National Bill of Rights Initiatives in Australia: A Comparative Westminster Analysis
Commonwealth and Comparative Politics
36 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2011 Last revised: 24 Feb 2011
Date Written: July 3, 2008
This paper examines why Australia remains the only country in the Westminster world not to have adopted a national Bill of Rights. It is argued that an explanation based on allegedly inherently weak demand for such initiatives is at best incomplete. Instead, it is argued that two elite political supply ‘blockages’ have also proved significant. Firstly, Australia’s much stronger institutional fragmentation compared especially with the UK and New Zealand have raised the barrier against such constitutional (or quasi-constitutional) reform. Secondly, during the crucial periods of its political history, Australia (in contrast to Canada, the UK and New Zealand) has lacked an appropriate ‘trigger dynamic’ providing elites with an immediate rationale and impetus for change.
Keywords: Australia, human rights, bill of rights, institutional fragmentation, federalism, political triggers, multiculturalism, cultural left
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