The British High Commission hosts the annual Magna Carta Lecture and each year invites a significant Australian or British figure to speak about modern issues linked to those values.
Senator The Hon Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs, addressed a crowd of 180 guests at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney with guests including the Human Rights Commissioner, representatives from numerous human rights and not for profit organisations, government officials and members of the diplomatic corp with a speech titled “Perspectives on Human Rights and Australian Foreign Policy”.
The British High Commissioner HE Paul Madden spoke about the Magna Carta before introducing Minister Carr:
Some people describe the Magna Carta as the “greatest constitutional document of all time”. It enshrines some of the basic principles on which the law is founded, all around the English speaking world. It encapsulates some of the freedoms and rights which we enjoy today, here in Australia, and Britain, in America and in many other countries.
That is why human rights are an important part of the international agenda for the governments of our two countries. We champion these values in our membership of international organisations, and in our bilateral relationships and through our aid programmes.
Minister Carr further drew from the words of the Magna Carta in his address on human rights:
They are beautiful words; no free man shall be taken or imprisoned or outlawed, or exiled or in any way ruined nor will we go or send against him except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.
They are radical words that render the Magna Carta of 1215 as one of the overriding milestones, one of the milestones towards a more enlightened polity.
The Magna Carta Lecture series began in 2002 as part of the British Government’s involvement in celebrations to mark Australia’s Centenary of Federation in 2001. The intention was to set up a series of lectures which both celebrate our common values and interests, and explore current and future issues relevant to both countries.
Magna Carta Lecturet
Speakers in the past have included:
The then Lord Chancellor, Lord Irving of Lairg, delivered the inaugural lecture in October 2002 at Parliament House in Canberra. “The Spirit of Magna Carta continues to Resonate in Modern Law”.
The Chief Justice of Australia, the Hon Murray Gleeson, delivered the second lecture, “Legality: Spirit and Principal” at Parliament House in Sydney on 2003.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation delivered the third lecture “A Scientific World Without Boundaries” at Government House Melbourne in 2004.
Sir David King, the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor delivered the lecture at Parliament House in Canberra in 2005 “Global Action to Control Global Warming”.
Lord Falconer of Thornton, Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs delivered the lecture at the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney in 2006 “Constitutional Reform & Human Rights: A UK Perspective”.
Professor Ian Frazer, Director, Centre for Cancer & Immunology Research and former Australian on the Year 2006, delivered the 2007 lecture at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane; “Research as a Driver for Sustainable Health in the 21st Century”.
In February 2009, Baroness Patricia Scotland, the UK Attorney General, delivered the lecture at Parliament House in Canberra; “The Rule of Law: Principal and Pragmatism”.
The Hon Kevin Rudd MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, delivered the 2011 lecture at the Adelaide Town Hall; “Tjukurrpa: for the Indigenous peoples of the world”.