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A bill of rights is a list of the rights that are considered important and essential by a nation. The purpose of these bills is to protect those rights against infringement by the government. The term "bill of rights" originates from Great Britainmarker, where it referred to a bill that was passed by Parliament in 1689.

An entrenched bill of rights exists as a separate instrument that falls outside of the normal jurisdiction of a country's legislative body. In many governments, an official legal bill of rights recognized in principle holds more authority than the legislative bodies alone. A bill of rights, on the other hand, may be weakened by subsequent acts passed by government, and they do not need an approval by vote to alter it.

An unentrenched bill of rights exists as a separate act that is presented by a legislative body. As such it can be changed or repealed by the body that created it. It is not as permanent as a constitutional bill of rights.

In other jurisdictions, the definition of rights may be statutory. In other words, it may be repealed just like any other law, and does not necessarily have greater weight than other laws. Not every jurisdiction enforces the protection of the rights articulated in its bill of rights.

Australia is the only Western country with neither a constitutional nor legislative bill of rights, although there is ongoing debate in many of Australia's states. Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are the only regions of the nation's states to have a human rights bill.


Bills of Rights have been argued against, for instance by the former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, as transferring power from elected politicians to unelected judges and bureaucrats. Under this view, a Bill of Rights is seen as unnecessary because the common law system and democracy have adequately protected human rights in Australia and comparable countries like the United Kingdom and Canada for hundreds of years before those countries introduced bills of rights. In essence, this view sees it as Parliament's duty to protect the people from the excesses of the Executive, rather than the Judiciary's duty to protect the people from the excesses of Parliament or the Executive.

Important bills of rights

See also


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