SHARIA law has no place in the Australian legal system and a multicultural society does not translate to a multicultural legal system, the country's first legal officer says.
In an interview on Australian Agenda with Peter Van Onselen on Sky News, federal Attorney General Robert McClelland said people come to Australia because of its "vibrant democracy underpinned by the rule of law". He there "there is no way" there will be any change to the legal system to incorporate Sharia and other laws.
His comments came yesterday after a submission last week from the Islamic Councils to introduce Sharia law into Australia.
"In terms of the legal system we have one culture that's the Australian legal system," he said.
Asked by journalists whether the submission suggests a lack of understanding of fundamental basic civics, McClelland said more can be done in the area of civvies education generally.
"I think more could be done in terms of those who are new arrivals to Australia to inform them of our heritage and of … the fundamental importance of the rule of law and our legal system, how it operates," he said.
"We have a vibrant multicultural community. When it comes to our legal system however we have only one culture and that's what people need to accept and that culture is at the heart of the operation of our democracy, our thoughts and so forth."
Acknowledging some groups have their own informal dispute resolution bodies that are based around their churches in Australia, McClelland said "non of these can surpass or supplant Australian law".
"They can't, through those bodies, contract out of Australian law. Now they can have some informal dispute resolution techniques regarding commercial law matter, business law matters and so forth to try and accommodate each other but at the end of the day if there is any conflict at all the Australian law and the Australian legal system prevails."
Multiculturalism does not apply in the legal system, said McClelland.
He said Australia has an inherited legal system, "we have applied it in the broad through our constitutional principles that go back to the Westminster system. A bit from the United States, a bit from Switzerland, modified and adopted and brought up to date over the past 110 years through our courts".
Aboriginal Australians, particularly in the criminal justice system, are not exempt from the rule of law, McClelland said.
"If there is any conflict between customs, even Aboriginal customs and the Australian legal system, the Australian legal system will prevail."
Pressed as to whether there a yardstick where there is more tolerance for indigenous Australians than from people coming from overseas, McCelland said: "Cultural-background issues of cultural heritage are specifically recognised in legislation, very relevant of course to the whole native title framework. [There is] not so much relevance in the criminal justice system but in those broader issues of heritage and native title and so forth then the legal system does recognise that."
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