For the first time in the history of this country there was an aboriginal voice in the parliament and that gave me an enormous feeling of overwhelming responsibility. I made people aware, the lawmakers in this country, I made them aware of indigenous people. I think that was an achievement.
The test to be applied in ascertaining what are fair and reasonable conditions of remuneration of labour, under the Excise Tariff 1906, is, in the case of unskilled labourers – what are the normal needs of the average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilised community?
Racists are able 'utterly to disregard' the sufferings of their victims. If they are to see the evil they do, they must first find it intelligible that their victims had inner lives of the kind which enable the wrongs they suffer to go deep.
The more you learn about perspectives other than your own, the greater the chance you will be able to judge objectively.
Without the law, you can’t have society. But without the arts, you can’t have civilisation
How can it be, in an egalitarian society, that injustice to the marginalized creates scarcely a ripple? The answer I think is found at the threshold: most Australians do not recognize the original inhabitants, the stolen generations, the faceless asylum seekers, as people: at least, not in the same sense that we are people. Their humanity is of a different order.
To recognize the equal humanity of every broken spirit of the stolen generations; to see your own child in the face of every child fretting and grieving in a detention centre, would be a terrible burden. This blindness protects the privileged.
A moral crime is all the worse when it is sanctioned by law: the worst excesses of the Nazi regime were carried out under colour of the Nuremberg laws. At its best, practising law can be instrumental in achieving Justice. But there are times when to uphold the law is to betray Justice. Any society which legitimises the mistreatment of a defenceless group poses a great challenge for lawyers. We face a stark choice: we can lend ourselves to the enforcement of immoral laws, or help to resist them, and perhaps change them.
This is not the kind of country where you would feel comfortable if you were opposed to democracy, parliamentary law, independent courts and so I would say to people who don’t feel comfortable with those values there might be other countries where they’d feel more comfortable with their own values or beliefs.
In this role my wish is to build our understanding of what it means to protect the rights and human dignity of all Australians. Upholding human rights is about looking out for each other, taking the idea of fairness seriously. And it goes to the heart of who we are as a nation.