Media Release: Thursday, May 10, 2007
In contrast to its objective, a Northern Territory Bill of Rights may actually serve to erode existing freedoms rather than protecting the human rights of Northern Territory citizens.
That’s the opinion of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), which is opposed to a Northern Territory Bill of Rights and today urged the Northern Territory Government to deal with this issue separately from the issue of statehood.
ACL Northern Territory Chief of Staff Lois Fong said the ACL strongly believes that every person has universal and innate rights and responsibilities by virtue of their humanity, and that these rights should be protected.
“However, we don’t believe that a Northern Territory Bill of Rights would achieve this and are concerned that it would undermine the very purpose it is intended to serve,” Mrs Fong said. “It would in fact lower the status of human rights from being innate to being legislated.”
ACL’s comments coincided with the holding of a Symposium on Statehood and a Bill of Rights at Charles Darwin University today. ACL supports concerns raised by Professor James Allan of the University of Queensland that a Bill of Rights could open the door to the excessive use of judicial power by transferring final decision-making from the elected parliament to the courts, and that a Bill of Rights is unnecessary as rights can be protected clearly and precisely in specific legislation relevant to the particular right in question.
ACL would add that a Bill of Rights does not itself protect against abuse of state power. Some of the most appalling human rights abuses in modern times have taken place in countries with explicit bills of rights. A rights-based culture is too often self-centred and litigious, and a Bill of Rights can be used as a Trojan horse for minority agendas.
Mrs Fong said that there is already a large body of international law codifying human rights. Countless Australian laws protect civil and political rights as well as economic and social rights.
“We do not need a Northern Territory Bill of Rights, with all its associated consequences. It is much more effective to define rights clearly and precisely in specific legislation relevant to the particular right in question, than it is to enact a Bill of Rights which aims to guarantee general rights expressed in vague terms.
“ACL calls on the Northern Territory Government to separate out the issues of Statehood and a Bill of Rights and deal with them individually. These are very different matters and should not be rolled in together.”
ACL began in 1996 and is a non-denominational, non-partisan lobby group representing a broad constituency of Christian supporters. ACL’s vision is to see Christian principles and ethics accepted and influencing the way we are governed, do business, and relate as a community.
Contact: Lois Fong