Constitution Day 2015

Speakers Forum: Magna Carta – is it relevant to 21st century Australian democracy?

King John of England, 1167-1216. Illuminated manuscript, De Rege Johanne, 1300-1400, folio 116, British Library.
King John of England, 1167-1216. Illuminated manuscript, De Rege Johanne, 1300-1400, folio 116, British Library.

This year marks the 800th Anniversary of the sealing of the 1215 Charter of Liberties (Carta Libertatum). A subsequent derivation of this document, commonly referred to as the Magna Carta, was sealed in 1217. The importance of the principles enunciated in the Magna Carta cannot be overestimated, including its influence on common and constitutional law, as well as political representation and the development of Parliament. The Magna Carta still forms an important symbol of liberty today.

The original charter, it is often claimed, embodies the principles and values that underpin the emergence of parliamentary democracy and the legal system in the UK, in the free world more generally, and especially in Australia: limiting arbitrary power, curbing the right to levy taxation without consent, holding the executive to account, and affirming the rule of law. These principles are the foundation of Australia’s own ‘Birth Certificates’, including the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK), on display at the National Archives of Australia.

Magna Carta and the liberties it guaranteed are fundamental to the values we have cherished for centuries. In our Australian democracy, are these principles far too often taken for granted, and often not fully understood? Is it widely understood they are the foundation stones of our major institutions, notably our Parliament and our courts? Are they values that should continue to unite us all? Is it important to fight to uphold these values? Especially these days, when they are being challenged by those opposed to the rule of law?

This year, eminent speakers will question the relevance of the Magna Carta to Australian democracy during a highly regarded Constitution Day discussion.

Join the National Archives for a Constitution Day Speakers’ Forum on Thursday 9 July, 6 for 6.30pm start, at the Australian Parliament House in Canberra.

The panel includes:

Pictured left to right: Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs, Professor Nicholas Cowdery, Dr Rebecca Ananian Welsh, Neville Tiffen, Pia Waugh, Dr Nicholas Gruen, Paul Barclay
Pictured left to right: Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs, Professor Nicholas Cowdery, Dr Rebecca Ananian Welsh, Neville Tiffen, Pia Waugh, Dr Nicholas Gruen, Paul Barclay

Free, bookings essential

Moderated by Paul Barclay, presenter and series producer of ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas, this is a conversation not to be missed!

Join the conversation online

In the weeks leading up to the forum, we will update the blog with posts from each of our speakers. Find out where they stand on the relevance of the Magna Carta, and let’s get the conversation started!

Do you agree? Join the conversation on Twitter, follow #C_Day2015 and @naagovau on Twitter.

Presented by the National Archives of Australia, in partnership with the Parliament of Australia and ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas.

National Archives of Australia logo, ABC Big Ideas logo, Parliament of Australia logo

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