Media Release: Thursday, October 8, 2009

Judges should not be given new powers without a referendum, according to Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Jim Wallace.

Responding to the release today of the Human Rights Consultation panel, Mr Wallace said the committee’s recommendation that High Court Judges be given the power to make declarations of incompatibility incorporated the most undemocratic aspects of a bill or charter of rights.

“Christians are among the most concerned in society about the human rights of the vulnerable but many Christians believe these rights should be protected within our existing democratic structures.”

Mr Wallace said ACL had a record of advocating for the human rights of the vulnerable, particularly for oppressed people groups overseas and for the rights of children domestically.

“We are concerned that the panel has recommended giving new powers to High Court judges which will radically change the separation of powers that is fundamental to our existing system of government.

“In any society there will be conflicting rights but the elected and accountable representatives of the people should settle these policy issues with robust debate, not through unelected judges, which this proposal effectively recommends.”

Mr Wallace said Christians in Victoria had just spent nine months fighting a human rights-inspired review of equal opportunity laws which ironically threatened the right to religious freedom guaranteed in international law.

“Sadly the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 was used in a transparent attempt to remove the freedom of Christian schools, churches and charities to employ people who shared their faith or ethos,” Mr Wallace said.

“This was a move akin to requiring the Labor Party to employ Liberal Party members.

“Thankfully the Victorian Government last week announced it would uphold this basic freedom of religion but this drawn out process would have been unnecessary if charters or bills of rights were really as effective in protecting fundamental human rights as they purport to be.”

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan