Media Release: Thursday, 21 May 2009
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today launched a campaign which challenges assumptions that a charter of rights is the best way to protect human rights, and also called on the Federal Government not to enact a charter without holding a referendum to accurately assess public views.
The ‘Charter rights no wrongs’ campaign aims to mobilise tens of thousands of Christians to voice concerns that the proposed charter would do little to benefit human rights but could do much to undermine some basic Australian freedoms.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said the organisation is contacting large numbers of churches throughout Australia to encourage them to have their members sign a petition asking that elected representatives - rather than judges - remain responsible for human rights. With the aid of a special ‘Charter rights no wrongs’ campaign website found at www.makeastand.org.au, Christians are also being asked to put in submissions to the National Human Rights Consultation.
“Most Christians are passionately committed to upholding human rights, but the mooted charter of rights is not the best way to do this and would actually threaten some of the most basic freedoms Australians take for granted,” Mr Wallace said.
“Charters or bills of rights have not proven to be guarantors of human rights in other countries. For example, the UK has a charter of rights but also has anti-terror laws far more draconian than Australia’s, and it still places children in immigration detention - something Australians remedied at the ballot box without a charter.
“However a charter of rights would hand unelected judges unprecedented power in Australia over moral and social policy, allowing minority interest groups to achieve agendas that they cannot win at the ballot box. For example in Canada, where there is a charter of rights, judges have ruled that tobacco advertising is a form of free speech and have overturned laws that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. In the US, which has a Bill of Rights, judges have ruled that laws passed by the Congress to block internet pornography were against free speech.
“Here in Australia we are already seeing the rights of Christian organisations and schools to discriminate in favour of employing staff who share their ethos and values being reviewed in Victoria after the passage of their charter of rights,” he said.
“Specific legislation debated robustly in the democratic forum of parliament is the way to protect human rights – not handing over power to judges. The current government-funded consultation is already showing itself to be biased in favour of a charter of rights and should not be used as an accurate gauge of public opinion. In 1988 Australians comprehensively knocked back via referendum proposals to enshrine various rights in the constitution and they should not have a charter of rights foisted on them without their agreement through another referendum.”
Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan