For release: November 25, 2009

A massive petition endorsed by over 21,000 people opposed to a charter of rights will today be tabled in the Senate.

The petition, organised by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and to be tabled by Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis, is one of the biggest in the life of the current parliament. It calls on the Parliament to reject the proposed charter of rights or to ensure that it is not enacted without first holding a referendum.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said the widespread support for the petition from denominations and churches across Australia should send a clear message to the parliament that people are very concerned about the prospect of a charter or its equivalent being implemented.

“Christians care deeply about protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable but they are aware that the proposed charter of rights would do little to benefit human rights, but much to undermine some basic freedoms Christians take for granted,” he said.

“These instruments also inevitably reflect someone’s ideology, usually not reflective of the well-being of the most vulnerable.

“Here in Australia, both the ACT and Victorian charter of rights explicitly exclude the right to life of a child before birth – despite the fact that the right to life is the most inalienable of rights.

“It is a bit difficult to convince Christians that there are no dangers to freedom of religion when Victorians have just fought a 21-month battle to retain the right to employ Christians in Christian schools and churches because of a challenge under the Victorian charter,” Mr Wallace said.

The wording of the petition is as follows: “We the undersigned are opposed to a Charter of Rights which would allow judges to determine if laws are incompatible with human rights. We support the protection of human rights, especially those of the most vulnerable in our society, but we wish to see elected representatives of the people, not unelected judges, remain responsible for the protection of human rights. We note that this system has already made Australia one of the freest countries in the world with a human rights record the envy of people all over the world. We call upon the Australian Parliament to: a. reject a Charter of Rights or b. not enact a Charter without a referendum.”

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan on 0408 875 979.