Federal 'Bill or Charter of Rights'
The Rudd government announced a 'National Consultation on Human Rights' on 10 December 2008. That really means a discussion and debate about a federal 'Bill of Rights' or a 'Charter of Rights'.
STATUS: Submissions closed.
The Committee presented its written Report to the federal government on 30 September 2009.
More than 35,000 submissions were received and 65 public meetings were held!
It is no surprise that the 'National Consultation on Human Rights' Committee has recommended that Australia have a Charter of Human Rights and a Human Rights Act.
Attorney General Robert McClelland who commissioned the Consultation is in favour of a Bill of Rights. Labor Party policy supports the idea of a 'rights charter'. The Committee Chairman Frank Brennan has openly supported a Bill of Rights in the past.
The Committee has said there is 'no consensus' in this matter but that has not deterred them from going ahead anyway.
We are concerned at the proposals and oppose any form of a Charter or Bill of Rights.
The Committee makes 31 Recommendations - they suggest that the government recognise ALL of the 'rights' included in all of the United Nations treaties. They suggest a wide range of rights and ways of implementing them...
Senator Ron Boswell put out a very good media release reminding people that Hitler had a Bill of Rights as does Zimbabwe. Read his media release: BILL OF RIGHTS TOTALLY WRONG
Bill Muehlenberg wrote a good commentary: A Bill of Rights is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong
Read it and make comments on his website, Culture Watch.
FamilyVoice Australiaput out a media release opposing a Charter of Rights.
The Consultation Report website page.
The full Report is 30 MB but it is available in html in sections: See Downloads
Please read the 31 Recommendations to see the extent of what they are proposing.
Click here for Recommendations.
MEANWHILE: Please be alert - contact your MPs to oppose any Charter of Rights.
NEW: Media Report - October 2009
Clergy unite over human rights charter
Nicola Berkovic | October 23, 2009 Article from: The Australian
"THE nation's most powerful church leaders have united in a bid to scuttle efforts to create a national charter of human rights, warning the Rudd government it could curtail religious freedoms and give judges the power to shape laws on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Catholic cardinal George Pell led a delegation of about 20 church leaders to Canberra to raise strong concerns about the impact of a charter on religious freedoms.... Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen did not attend the meeting with Attorney-General Robert McClelland on Wednesday because of a synod meeting but said he staunchly backed the delegation's views...."
George Pell had an article in The Australian opposing a 'human rights charter'.
Ideology dressed up as social justice
George Pell | October 23, 2009 Article from: The Australian
"THE Christian churches strongly support human rights and their attendant responsibilities. But religious freedom should not be eroded by stealth. The Brennan committee's report on human rights gives the government two options: an upfront charter of rights or a Trojan Horse version.
The upfront charter is the committee's proposal for a federal human rights act. Committee chairman Frank Brennan already has acknowledged that parts of this proposal are unviable and unworkable because the High Court of Australia probably won't be able to play the part the committee wants to assign it. But that's OK, the report says. The Australian Human Rights Commission, with increased powers, should be able to fill the gap.
In whatever form it comes, Brennan's charter of rights is a bad idea because it is a threat to some freedoms...."
NEW - 28 Aug 2009:
The Hon John Howard AC - Menzies Lecture
PROPOSED CHARTER OF RIGHTS
WINTHROP HALL, UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA, 7.30 PM, WEDNESDAY, 26 AUGUST 2009.
Click here to read the full text of the lecture.
You can actually WATCH the first three minutres of the lecture on video at the ABC website - includes a report.
NEW - 14 Sept 2009:
Senator Boswell - Bill of 'Frights' not Rights
Senator Ron Boswell (Nationals) has spoken out, both in the Senate as well as in a media release, to oppose any form of a Charter or Bill of Rights.
The national Consultation on human rights is drawing to a close - the National Consultation Committee, led by Frank Brennan, is due to hand its report to the government by 30 September 2009.
Bill of 'Frights' not Rights
Media Release, Senator Ron Boswell, 9 September 2009.
"A bill of rights is really a bill of 'frights'," said The Nationals' Senator Ron Boswell today when he raised the issue in the Senate during a Matters of Public Interest debate...."
Submissions closed 15 June 2009.
See ACTION section for previous details on making a submission!
The Consultation webpage - click here.
You can make your submission online - click here.
OR post it to
National Human Rights Consultation Secretariat, Attorney-General's Department, Central Office, Robert Garran Offices, National Circuit, BARTON ACT 2600.
Public meetings were held around Australia - in many cities and towns - starting 10 March in Broken Hill and going through to June 2009.
RESOURCE: One page paper to copy and distribute
A Salt Shakers paper outlining the details of the consultation and our key concerns.
A federal Bill of Rights?
On 10 December, to mark the 60th anniversary of the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights,federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced a "National Consultation on Human Rights". This really means looking at whether Australia should have a 'Bill of Rights'.
The government appointed Jesuit priest Frank Brennan to lead the Consultation. The Consultation Committee also includes Mary Kostakidis, Mick Palmer and Tammy Williams .
Frank Brennan was said to be 'neutral' or 'undecided' on the question of a Bill of Rights - however he was very active in various aboriginal rights campaigns including Mabo.
The Key Consultation Questions are:
* Which human rights and responsibilities should be protected and promoted?
* Are human rights sufficiently protected and promoted?
* How could Australia better protect and promote human rights?
We oppose the introduction of a federal Charter or Bill of Rights.
We opposed 'Charters of Rights' in the ACT and Victoria, because such Charters generally add additional 'rights' that particularly favour minority groups. They also give too much power to judges. Under our constitution the elected parliament makes the laws and judges make rulings accordingly.
PLEASE make a submission - in your submission you can be detailed or brief.
You might suggest - in your own words - some of the following (more ideas in the articles below):
- Our rights are protected by law.
- Some rights are expressly included in the Constitution already.
- Parliaments should be the body making laws. Courts should interpret and apply them. We don't want courts to have extra power, assessing laws according to some list of 'rights'.
- Minority groups use such Charters/Bills to lobby for their individual rights.
- The constitutional problems of a Charter of Rights (as outlined below) mean that a Charter of Rights is unacceptable.
- Nations that are very undemocratic - such as the USSR, Zimbabwe and Cuba have Bills/Charters of Rights - so did Nazi Germany. They don't make a nation free.
Some politicians and media commentators have already strongly opposed the idea of a Charter of Rights. Some of them belong to the Labor Party - former NSW Premier Bob Carr is opposing a formal Charter of Rights, as is the NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos and South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson
NSW Chief Justice James Spigelman has said that Australia already has a common law bill of rights and that freedom of speech and religion, the right to a fair trial etc are already protected.
Former NSW Premier Bob Carr opposes a Bill of Rights as it gives too much power to the judiciary - and is UNCONSTITUTIONAL as it removes the final authority of the High Court to interpret the law. See his latest article on this here .
In the UK, which adopted a 'Charter of Rights' ten years ago, the Justice Secretary Jack Straw is currently talking of 'rebalancing' the Charter of Rights because of the 'interpreting' actions of judges and Tory leader David Cameron says he would repeal it!
Media commentators Paul Kelly and Janet Albrechtsen have both strongly opposed a Charter of Rights.
There are numerous groups lining up to support a Bill of Rights. New Matilda has been running a campaign calling for some time and Liberty Victoria is supporting a Bill of Rights.
Already homosexual activist groups are stating that a federal Charter of Rights might help them get new 'anti-discrimination laws' based on sexual orientation and perhaps even give them access to 'marriage'!
A website has been established to oppose any Charter of Rights by 'Citizens for Rights against the Charter':
See their website - it contains excellent articles on the subject of bill of rights.
Freedom of speech and religion
Freedom of speech and freedom of religion could be further undermined by a 'Charter of Rights'. We already have these rights - they don't need to be 'given' to us by the state.
Some people might suggest specifically including them in such a Charter. - but trying to define these 'rights' undoubtedly ends up limiting the freedoms we already have.
Consultation webpage - click here
Making a submission - click here.
Federal Attorney-General's media release - click here.
ACTION: What can we do?
The Consultation Committee is asking for our 'views'.
Submissions close on 15 June 2009.
They are also holding 'community roundtable discussions'.
The Committee will prepare a Report which has to be handed to the government by 31 July 2009 .
Over the next couple of months we suggest you read some articles - from the media and Christian commentators. We've listed some of the media articles below.
We've also posted some articles opposing a Charter/Bill of Rights.
These were written when the Victorian government was proposing a Charter of Rights but many of the points made are very relevant.
Read the articles posted here - by Bill Muehlenberg, Charles Francis QC and Dr Augusto Zimmermann (plus others).
Making a submission:
Key ideas for your response - please write in your own words!
* The main thing to say in your response is that human rights ARE protected in Australia. Australia does not need any further framework to 'protect' rights. Thus we do not need a Charter of Rights.
* Don't feel you need to answer the 'questions' given - they would lead people to respond 'favourably' - by stating certain 'rights' to be protected etc!
* Give several reasons for your opposition to a Charter of Rights: addition of rights for minority groups, increased power to the judiciary, the need to promote responsibilities not rights.
Articles from Christian commentators
Ten Wrongs with a Bill of Rights, Bill Muehlenberg
Published in Salt Shakers Journal - April 2009.
Also published in Quadrant Online - December 2008.
Eight reasons why Australia should not have a federal charter of rights
NATIONAL OBSERVER (Council for the National Interest, Melbourne), No. 79, Summer 2008/09, pages 34-44.
Also posted on the National Observer website.
When rights are wrong
Dr Brian Pollard
Dr Pollard is a retired palliative care specialist - his article highlights the question of rights relating to 'euthanasia'..
Media Reports and articles:
Brennan to head human rights consultation panel
ABC Online, Australia - Dec 9, 2008
The Federal Government will appoint a four-member panel, headed by Jesuit priest and lawyer Frank Brennan, to consult with the public on strengthening human ...
Govt open to formal human rights protection
ABC Online, Australia - Dec 9, 2008
ELEANOR HALL: But first the Attorney-General Robert McClelland, this morning launched a public debate about whether Australia should have a bill of rights. ...
Critics read rights act over bill of rights panel
The Australian, Australia - Dec 10, 2008
PROMINENT historian Geoffrey Blainey has warned Kevin Rudd not to run the looming debate about an Australian charter of rights in the same narrow way Paul ...
Balance of power worth defending
The Australian, Editorial, December 11, 2008
"Experience suggests a national charter of rights would be a banquet, rather than a picnic, for lawyers.
HUMAN rights are a cornerstone of our national life, which The Australian, in common with most citizens, holds dear. We believe they are best protected by democracy and the rule of law. . ."
Commentary (full articles attached in some cases):
So, whose rights reign supreme?
The Age, Bob Carr - June 5, 2009.
Bill of Wrongs by John Izzard.
Quadrant Online - May 2009.
Legislation is not the key to human rights
John Hatzistergos | December 12, 2008 Article from: The Australian
John Hatzistergos is NSW Attorney-General
ON Wednesday, as federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland was telling the UN Association of Australia that a "human rights consultation" would be undertaken, the same topic was making news in Britain. But unlike McClelland, who described the consultation as an opportunity for Australians to "share their views on how we conduct ourselves as a community that respects its people and their rights", the latest news from London was different..."
Keep power with the people
Janet Albrechtsen Blog | The Australian, December 10, 2008
ANALYSING calls for so-called reforms should always start with a few golden rules. Follow the money. And follow the power. This week both paths lead you straight to the legal profession and to the heartland of politically driven activists. Like pigs sniffing for truffles, lawyers can smell the enticing waft of money and power in the air as they push open new legal industries. For the activists, it's about influence as they seek to move from the irrelevant fringe of political life to the centre of the action. . ."
Paul Kelly, Editor-at-large | December 13, 2008
Article from: The Australian
THE Rudd Government has pressed the button on plans to change Australia 's governance to entrench protection of human rights and minority interests by giving fresh authority to judges. The panel announced this week by Attorney-General Robert McClelland is geared to this outcome. It will mandate a bill of rights or a variation of this model, or create new mechanisms to give judges influence over the legislative process. . ."
SA Attorney General Michael Atkinson
Mr Atkinson expressed his opposition to a Bill of Rights at FamilyVoice Australia's Review meeting in August 2008.
Click here for FAVA's press release.
Former NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr
Mr Carr has expressed his concern about a federal Bill of Rights.
Here is his submission opposing a NSW Bill of Rights whilst still NSW Premier.
SUBMISSION TO THE STANDINGCOMMITTEE ON LAW AND JUSTICE
INQUIRY INTO A NSW BILL OF RIGHTS
by Bob Carr, Premier of NSW
"The Standing Committee on Law and Justice has requested me to inform it of my concerns about any proposal to enact a bill of rights for NSW. In this submission, I will outline my general objections to the legislative enactment or constitutional entrenchment of a bill of rights, rather than what types of rights should be included and how a bill of rights should apply. . ."
NSW Chief Justice Spigelman
NSW Chief Justice Spigelman has spoken out against a federal Bill of Rights in a series of lectures titled "Statutory Interpretation and Human Rights" given at the University of Queensland in March 2008.
He said that Australia's legal system already has a "common-law bill of rights".
Chief Justice Spigelman identified 18 areas the common law regarded as sacrosanct, such as freedom of speech, equality of religion and a fair trial, and said those rights were protected in the absence of a "clear statement" by parliament. He raised questions about the "proper role of the judiciary in a parliamentary democracy".
See report in The Australian - 28 April 2008.