Part Thirty-eight (and conclusion) of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.
What Sahul could recognise
The future constituents will decide on how to proceed. Nevertheless, they could consider some suggestions on the basis of the experience of other peoples who succeeded in proclaiming and maintaining their independence.
The experience of Finland comes to mind.
The Finns speak a Uralic language unrelated to the Scandinavian languages. In Finland, there are three official languages: Finnish, Swedish and Sami.
All Finns, 5.5 million of them, readily communicate with their neighbours: Norway, Sweden and Russia in their languages or in the English which is taught as a second language in schools. Let it be said at this point that education in Finland is absolutely secular, there being no sectarian schools. It just so happens that the educational system is regarded as the best in the so-called western world. Finland is the eighth largest country in Europe and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Finland is a parliamentary republic with a central government based in the capital Helsinki, local governments in 311 municipalities, and an autonomous region, the Åland Islands. Over 1.4 million people live in the Greater Helsinki metropolitan area, which produces a third of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Originally occupied by Sweden in the thirteenth country, Finland was incorporated into the Russian Empire as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809. In 1906 Finland became the second nation in the world to acknowledge the right to vote to all adult citizens and the first in the world to guarantee all adult citizens the right to run for public office. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, Finland declared itself independent, on 6 December 1917.
In 1918 the fledgling state was divided by civil war, with the Bolshevik-leaning ‘Reds’ supported by the equally new Soviet Russia, fighting the ‘Whites’, supported by the German Empire, both empires gone by now. After a brief attempt to establish a kingdom, the country became a republic. During the second world war, the Soviet Union sought repeatedly to occupy Finland, with Finland losing parts of Karelia, Salla and Kuusamo, Petsamo and some islands, but retaining independence. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and established an official policy of neutrality. The Finno-Soviet Treaty of 1948 gave the Soviet Union some leverage in Finnish domestic politics during the cold war era. In 1955 Finland joined the United Nations and established an official policy of neutrality. It is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development since in 1969, of the N.A.T.O. Partnership for Peace since 1994, of the European Union since 1995, of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council since 1997, and joined the Eurozone at its inception, in 1999.
Finland is a modern, vibrant, dynamic country, a top performer in numerous metrics of national performance, including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life, and human development. In 2015 Finland was ranked first in the World Human Capital and the Press Freedom Index, and as the most stable country in the world during 2011–2016. A large, but decreasing, majority of Finns are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, People of that confession were 95 percent in 1950, but only 72 percent in 2016. During the same time, people with no religious affiliation went from 2.8 percent to 25.3 percent. Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the Finnish Constitution.
Passing now to the constitution, a practical, modern, progressive, essentially free attitude to life’s values, has permitted the Finns to amend their constitution the best to serve them.
The Constitution defines the political system: parliamentary republic within the framework of a representative democracy. It also defines the basis, structures and organisation of government, the relationship between the different constitutional organs, and lays out the fundamental rights of Finnish citizens. The original Constitution Act was enacted in 1919, soon after Finland declared its Independence in 1917, but the current Constitution – the text thereof having been adopted on 11 June 1999 – came into force on 1 March 2000, and was amended on 1 March 2012.
The text of the constitution consists of 131 Sections, grouped into 13 Chapters, as follows: 1. Fundamental provisions, 2. Basic rights and liberties, 3. Parliament and the Representatives, 4. Parliamentary activity, 5. The President of the Republic and the Government, 6. Legislation, 7. State finances, 8. International relations, 9. Administration of justice, 10. Supervision of legality, 11. Administration and self-government, 12. National defence, 13. Final provisions.
At this point, one could very well ask: but why Finland?
Some universally recognised rights seen as fundamental reverberate the most solemn provisions of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or the U.N. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Such rights have been ‘constitutionally received and protected’ in Finland. They are the foundation of Finnish law and as such include, for instance, the following: right to self-determination, I.C.C.P.R., Art.1; right to liberty, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 9; right to due process of law, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 12; right to freedom of movement, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 18; right to freedom of thought and the right to freedom of religion, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 18; right to freedom of expression, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 19; right to peaceful assembly, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 21; and right to freedom of association, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 22.
Furthermore, the provisions for constitutional rights closely mirror the European convention on human rights, including the educational, social and economic rights in addition to political liberties. The international human rights obligations of Finland are set as the highest legal norm of the law – even above the constitution.
Chapter 2: on Basic rights and liberties, which is divided into 18 Sections, and is one of the most important, contains the following guarantees: equality; the right to life, personal liberty and integrity; freedom of movement; the right to privacy; freedom of religion and conscience; freedom of expression and right of access to information; freedom of assembly and freedom of association; electoral and participatory rights; protection of property; educational rights; right to one’s language and culture; the right to work and the freedom to engage in commercial activity; the right to social security; responsibility for the environment; protection under the law; protection of basic rights and liberties; and basic rights and liberties in situations of emergency. (Ministry of Justice, Finland (Unofficial translation) The Constitution of Finland 11 June 1999 (731/1999, amendments up to 1112 / 2011 included).
The basic rights and liberties are consecrated in Chapter 2, Section 6 which proclaims that everyone is equal before the law, therefore “No one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person.
Children shall be treated equally and as individuals and they shall be allowed to influence matters pertaining to themselves to a degree corresponding to their level of development.
Equality of the sexes is promoted in societal activity and working life, especially in the determination of pay and the other terms of employment, as provided in more detail by an Act [of Parliament].”
In the end, it will be for the Australian Constituent Assembly to establish provisions which guarantee the people of Sahul and the newly arrived the following:
1) to live in a society which encourages the development of local authorities as an expression of direct participation by the people in public life and as a guarantee of civic responsibility;
2) to reside and travel freely in any part of the Republic, save for such limitations as the laws may prescribe in a general way for reasons of health or security, and to be given asylum from political, social or economic oppression. No restriction may be prescribed for political reasons;
3) to enjoy privacy and protection of personal information and correspondence from surveillance or interference;
4) to practice, to propagate and to celebrate any religion, whether in public or private, or not to practice any;
5) to express one’s thoughts freely, whether by words of mouth, in writing, or by any other means of communication;
6) to assemble and associate freely, peaceably and unarmed for the purpose of expressing an opinion, without interference from the government;
7) to organise freely for common political, social or economic ends;
8) to participate in all electoral processes, to contest all elections and to vote in all elections. A vote is personal, equal, free and secret in a proportional system;
9) to petition Parliament for legislative measures;
10) to serve compulsorily in the civil defence forces, which are organised on the basis of the democratic principles of the Republic;
11) to object on conscientious grounds to service in the defence forces.
1) to equal treatment before the law, and in the community, without distinction as to sex or sexual preference, national origin, language, religion, political opinion and personal or social conditions;
2) to freedom from retroactive legislation, from performing personal service, or being forced to any payment other than according to law;
3) to freedom of domicile;
4) to personal freedom from inspection, search, harassment, arbitrary arrest, detention or other restriction on personal liberty;
5) to institute legal proceedings for the protection of one’s rights and legitimate interests;
6) to be presumed innocent until properly found guilty, to be informed of all charges laid and the evidence in support of them, and of the right to remain silent in court;
7) to defence as an inalienable right at every stage of legal proceedings. An indigent person is entitled, through special provisions, to proper means of action, defence and services at all levels of jurisdiction;
8) to a fair and impartial hearing by a jury of the defendant’s peers if accused and tried for an unlawful activity, and to equal treatment before the law and equal access to legal representation;
9) to freedom from torture or cruel and degrading treatment or punishment. The death penalty is not permitted;
10) to obtain reparation from culpable violation of criminal, civil and administrative laws and for judicial errors;
11) to freedom from extradition, unless expressly provided for in international conventions. Extradition is never permitted for political offences.
1) to live in a peaceful, neutral community, which values and applies peaceful means of conflict resolution, and promotes and encourages international organisations having such ends in view;
2) to a healthy, sustainable, accessible and attractive environment and to clean water and air;
3) to adequate housing and comfortable living conditions;
4) to good health care and preventative medicine, free at the moment of need;
5) to full access to personal information held by any public authority, subject only to a restriction signed by the responsible minister and reported to Parliament;
6) to be recognised and respected as a member of a multicultural society and a valuable contributor to a society which is progressing to unity in respect of diversity;
7) to see the cultural patrimony of social groupings retained and enhanced through special educational provisions;
8) to the recognition and protection of the family and the moral and legal equality of its partners;
9) to the recognition of the duty and corresponding right of parents to support, instruct and educate their children;
10) to the safeguard of motherhood, infancy and youth and the promotion of institutions necessary to such purposes;
11) in the case of women, to control of their fertility and reproduction;
12) to free and equal access to child care;
13) to a limitation of working hours, to rest, recreation and leisure, and to holidays;
14) to lifelong and free educational provision;
15) to the promotion and development of scholarship and scientific and technical research;
16) to enjoy access to literature, music, the arts and cultural activities;
17) to dignity and care in retirement.
1) to useful work at a fair wage which provides an income sufficient to maintain a decent standard of living, with the corresponding duty in every citizen (or lawful resident) to undertake, according to one’s possibilities and choice, an activity which contributes to the material and moral progress of society;
2) to the protection of labour in all its forms and methods of execution, and of the vocational and professional training and advancement of workers, as well as the promotion of international agreements and organisations, and the protection of Australian migration and labour overseas;
3) to the protection of economic enterprise, which cannot, however, be applied in such manner as to be in conflict with social utility or be prejudicial to security, freedom and human dignity;
4) to compensation for expropriation;
5) to limitation of private land ownership, the transformation of large estates and the institution of productive units;
6) to the promotion and encouragement of cooperation on a basis of reciprocity and devoid of any private speculative aim;
7) to the protection of saving;
8) to participate in all decisions, including those relating to health and safety, affecting the workplace and to information, representation and expression of opinion for all employed persons;
9) to organise freely in a trade union;
10) to withdraw labour in pursuit of an industrial dispute;
11) to full and equal access to all government or social benefits at a level sufficient to meet basic needs;
12) to the benefits of a progressive taxation system;
13) to freedom from taxation in excess of ability to pay.
Previous instalment: A movement of people in Australia (Part 2)
Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.