Media Release:  Monday, 25 May 2009

Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Managing Director Jim Wallace today slammed the campaign for a charter or bill of rights as aiming to legislate selfishness by failing to balance individual rights with community rights.

Speaking at today’s launch in Sydney of the Menzies Research Centre book Don’t Leave us with the Bill: The Case Against an Australian Bill of Rights – in which he is a contributor - Mr Wallace said that overseas experience has shown that charters or bills of rights don’t of themselves benefit human rights but provide a tool for those who want to propel what are essentially selfish agendas above community rights.

“Charters or bills of rights have failed to deliver human rights – even the most basic of rights. Despite a bill of rights the U.S. took over 150 years to deliver African Americans equal rights and as late as this month has still executed prisoners, depriving them of the highest, the most sacred right to life. So essential a fashion accessory to power have they become that even Mr Mugabe has a bill of rights!

“We cannot allow ourselves to legislate selfishness by creating a higher order of legislation that makes self unassailable, even in the interest of community. If ever we need to put self aside it is now,” he said.

Mr Wallace said that many commentators, including the Prime Minister, have emphasised the contribution of selfishness to the current global financial crisis.

“Caring, stable communities depend on a lack of selfishness. The protection and promotion of human rights is best achieved within a strong sense of community and shaped by a strong community ethic – strong community values. How does a charter or bill of rights support that need when the experience of overseas jurisdictions clearly, even farcically, demonstrates their complete failure to address individual rights and/or balance rights held in community?

“What community or even human rights were served by U.S. judges striking down - in the name of freedom of expression – laws passed by the people’s elected representatives which aimed to control internet pornography? What community or even human rights were served by Canadian judges deciding that the government couldn’t regulate tobacco advertising because it was a matter of free speech in conflict with their charter of rights?”

Mr Wallace said that nobody is more concerned about human rights than Christians and that historically there has been a strong tradition of Christians taking action to preserve human rights - whether by ending the slave trade, supporting persecuted religious minorities in other countries, championing civil liberties of African Americans in the U.S., defending the right to life of the unborn, affirming the worth of people with disabilities, or exercising leadership in the early trade union movement. However the best way to protect human rights is to identify human rights at risk and redress them through specific legislation debated in the democratic forum of parliament.

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan