“Let’s just write that down…”

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson reckons Australia needs a Bill of Rights. I reckon he’s right about rights. And that’s because the central issue reminds me of when we were running The Core magazine

The Core‘s sole source of income was advertising, and most of it came from nightclubs. Nightclub managers are [coughs] the most honourable and [chokes] reliable [gargles] businessmen and women who can be found. Their integ… [coughs] [chokes] … sorry, I seem to have something caught in my throat.

They’d brag about how their new club night would be the biggest, brightest thing ever. “It’ll be huge,” they’d say. They’d want to book a heap of advertising — on credit, of course — and wanted discount.

“Sure,” I’d say, showing them our rate card and the discounts on offer.

“We’ll book a full page for 8 weeks then, for that 25% discount,” or whatever it was.

“Sure,” I’d say again. “Just sign here.”

And then they’d freeze.

“What’s this?” they’d ask nervously.

“Oh this is just our standard advertising booking form, showing what we just agreed. It says that you’re booking a full page for 8 weeks, and you’ll get a 25% discount — and that if you don’t run for 8 weeks, or don’t pay on time, the price reverts to the normal rate. Just sign there at the bottom.”

And that’s when they’d start mumbling about having to see how things went, or they had to check with the owner, or where did I leave those car keys…

Verbal agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, as the saying goes. If I’m doing business with the reptiles that run nightclubs, I’ll make sure there’s a written record. If you’re genuine about sticking to your side of the bargain, then writing it down shouldn’t be the least bit controversial.

The same goes for politicians.

Especially politicians who come up with ideas like non-core promises.

If, as the Citizenship Test says, we have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equality under the law and so on, how about we just write that down? If we’re genuine about “Australians having rights,” there can’t be anything wrong with putting it on paper, and signing it into Law.

Last night Geoffrey Robertson reminded us that Australia had fallen to 35th and 39th in the two latest international press freedom ratings. Today, I’m sure some redneck talkback callers are saying a Bill of Rights will destroy the church or somesuch paranoid rant. They are simply wrong. A Bill of Rights would protect their chosen religion too.

If anyone opposes a Bill of Rights, they’re not genuinely interested in human rights for others, only for themselves. It’s as simple as that.

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