CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

A Bill of Rights is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Oct 8, 2009

There are plenty of reasons why we do not need a Bill of Rights. Indeed, a recent government inquiry on the issue received heaps of submissions from people warning about the dangers of a Bill of Rights (BoR). I was one of those to put in such a submission.

Yet the body looking into this affair, the National Human Rights Consultation Committee (NHRCC), seems to think it is a pretty good idea. It has released a report today recommending that a BoR gets the green light. This of course comes as no surprise. There are already plenty of activist bodies around, and this is just one of them.

One of the reasons a BoR will be a bad idea is the power it will give to unelected, unrepresentative bureaucrats and judges to push activist agendas. Indeed, an article in today’s Australian began with these alarming words: “A push to introduce a charter of human rights in Australia is set to reignite the gay marriage debate with predictions the High Court judges would be empowered to rule on the issue.”

It continued, “The report suggests human rights that should be enshrined in law include a right to marry, which could force judges to rule on whether same sex couples can marry or adopt and a right to life, which is likely to spark debate among pro-choice and anti-abortion groups. Currently, Australian law states that marriage must be between a man and a woman. If a charter of rights was introduced that also enshrined a right to marriage, the High Court could be asked to rule on the conflict.”

Fortunately, according to the article, some groups are rightly expressing concern: “But warning such a charter would be a ‘victory for the elites’, the Opposition has warned it would simply put more power in the hands of judges, challenging the Prime Minister to immediately rule out introducing the laws without a popular vote.”

The article went on, “The Coalition said Mr Rudd must guarantee voters a national referendum on any charter of human rights and not simply introduce legislation into Parliament. Liberal frontbencher George Brandis also warned introducing human rights laws may complicate Australia’s ability to protect the nation’s borders and deter boatpeople….

“Senator Brandis said today the Government must guarantee that voters have the final say on whether Australia has a charter of rights. ‘This recommendation is the ultimate triumph of the elites. The Government should reject it. If it proposes to adopt it, it should put it to the people,’ Senator Brandis said. ‘This entire process has been driven by a small group of academics, lawyers and political activists. It lacks broadly-based support, being opposed not only by the Coalition, but by much of the Labor side of politics,’ he said.

“‘In future, it is the courts, not elected governments, which would have the final say on such issues as military conscription in wartime, the rights of trade unions, and gay marriage and adoption.’ Senator Brandis also said that the Brennan Committee’s recommendation that the protection of the charter of rights to ‘all people in Australia’, rather than Australian citizens or permanent residents (recommendation 21) could frustrate the Government’s ability to protect the nation’s borders against illegal entrants.”

However the most critical voice thus far has been that of Queensland National Senator Ron Boswell. In a scathing press release, he roundly condemned the NHRCC for moving in a direction that so many Australians disapprove of. He is worth quoting at length:

“The recommendation for a bill of rights by the National Human Rights Consultation Committee would create a paradise for lawyers and left wing activists. I find it hard to believe that a committee today would recommend the downgrading of our parliamentary democracy such that power is taken away from democratically elected representatives and put in the hands of committees, bureaucrats and judges.

“These recommendations are also impractical, costly and time consuming. The NHRCC has fallen for the rhetoric of the left and failed to appreciate the realities of governing in a world where rights compete and change. It is impossible and arrogant to come up with a definitive, lasting and equitable list of rights. Australia should be free to interpret international conventions in our own way and not undermine our sovereignty by making parliament’s decisions subject to lists set by others.

“One of the recommended responsibilities is ‘to promote peaceful means for the resolution of conflict’. Does that mean we could never go to war? Implementing a bill of rights would just add such complexity to lawmaking and encourage conflict amongst competing groups. You would tie the hands of parliament in knots.

“Hitler had a bill of rights, Zimbabwe has a bill of rights. The only way human rights are considered is where they are important and respected in society and in parliament. To a large extent we have that in Australia. It could always be improved but not through radically changing the existing structure of delivering human rights as proposed by this committee.

“This is a total give-in to the bleeding heart left wing lawyer and activist brigade and has been an incredible waste of time. Lists of rights will cause endless trouble for governments trying to make a positive difference for indigenous Australians for example. Interventions that save children in at risk communities might never happen or be fatally delayed if taken to court.”

Religious groups will be especially at risk: “Church communities will be concerned by future challenges to their ability to employ people of similar values, and the right to marry and found a family being extended to same sex couples.”

He continues, “The Committee has gone further than just calling for a bill of rights. They want to overhaul the whole of public service policy, delivery and decision making by subjecting it to lists of rights from International Covenants. This is an impossibly subjective process. How will competing rights be assessed and by whom? The committee want this formalised into a framework with a Minister at the head to report to Parliament. Every department and agency will have to develop human right action plans.

“This is effectively a huge wish list from the Australian Human Rights Commission who would become a bloated organisation with greatly expanded powers to inquire into any act of a federal public authority that might be inconsistent with the definitive list of rights. Courts are to be the ultimate arbiters of whether unlawful discrimination has occurred. This is where churches stand to lose their ability to employ people who share their values. The committee tries to stop the courts having a role in relation to economic, social and cultural rights, but that division in itself would be a mess for lawyers to argue over which right fell into which category.”

Boswell concluded with these words: “The Nationals will be strongly taking up the fight against a bill of rights.” Good on him and the Nationals. They seem to be among the few sensible leaders we have nowadays. As always, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and it looks like we have a lot more work cut out for us.

www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26182778-601,00.html
ronboswell.com/?p=810

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13 Responses to A Bill of Rights is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

  • Any mob with “Human Rights” in its name wants to be not the defender of human rights, but the definer of them.

    We are being moved away from Magna Carta, where all is permitted unless the law forbids, towards Code Napoleon, where all is forbidden unless the law permits.

    Michael Watts

  • Thanks Michael

    Yes it is a real worry. Another good article appeared in today’s Australian on the BoR: www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26183724-7583,00.html

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Why people seem willing to give up more power to unelected bodies is beyond me.

    Sure, a “Bill of Rights” sounds good to most people – there was a time not long ago when even I would have fallen for it – but I wager that most people simply aren’t aware of what that actually means. Those formulating such Bills are aware of this and are exploiting the ignorance.

    Mathew Hamilton, Victoria

  • Ron Boswell is not only the longest serving member of the Australian Senate (and therefore worth listening to on huge issues like this), but he does always come across as a man of sensible convictions.

    I have a conundrum of sorts for you Bill, (and I’m not trying to be disrespectful to your background at all), why is it that the Left in Australia are supposedly haters of America, yet they seem determined to make Australia more and more like America in pursuing a republic, a bill of rights, and a system whereby judges and lawyers would have a disproportionate influence on public policy and social issues?

    Yarran Johnston

  • Thanks Yarran

    Generally speaking, what the Left hates about America is the good stuff: Christianity, the free market, emphasis on family, self-reliance, support for Israel, the love of freedom, hard work, etc. The Left however does not mind all the bad stuff being foisted upon the nation by social activists, and is quite happy to seek to replicate that here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, the result of the Father Brennan-led consultancy should come as no surprise. I attended their public forum in Alice Springs and heard the most incredible statements about the human right to this or that. The most astounding came from a local Aboriginal luminary closely related to the Aboriginal governing body in charge of ‘administering’ the local town camp squalor. Except for the fact that she was not trying to be funny, I would have laughed as she steadfastly affirmed the basic human right to have a paved, bitumised road to Santa Teresa, some 110+ kms from the Alice. I’ve driven the road to and from this relatively well-managed Aboriginal community (no small thanks to the Catholic influence), and yes, the road is bone-rattling and teeth-jarring at points. But a basic human right? Hardly. It is such sillyness in thinking that makes a Bill of Rights dangerous.
    Steve Swartz

  • Only a people who can be trusted to live lives without the intrusion of heavy governance, because they are guided by common sense, the Christian conscience, that is informed by the Bible and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, can be classed as a free people – not autonomous, but free to obey God.

    As Chuck Norris states, “John Adams [the second president of the United States of America] put it well when he said: ‘We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.’ Our Founders had a better answer than government or even education. God is the answer. God is the moral compass of America. Or He should be, if we ever want to restore morality in our homes and civility to our land. Our Founders believed morals flowed from one’s accountability to God, and that, without God, immoral anarchy would result.”

    The elite Human Rights lobbyists because we have rejected God’s authority over our consciences have taken charge of it and control it from the centre. It aims to legislate for every thought, every emotion and every sneeze. It alone already defines what is offensive and what is not. Those elite lawyers, like Cherie Blair the wife of Tony Blair, at the heart of this machinery decide at any given moment what is criminal and what is not. This is resulting in a totally paralysed and submissive peoples.

    Meanwhile Islam that also means submission, taking advantage of human rights and multi- cultural legislation is, bit by bit, taking away the freedoms that have cost the blood of millions for two thousand years.
    www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1484810/Schoolgirl-wins-right-to-wear-Muslim-gown.html
    www.christianlegalcentre.com/view.php?id=866

    David Skinner, UK

  • Paul Kelly is also excellent on the BoR issue in today’s Australian. He is scathing of it!

    www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26188812-7583,00.html

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks for the tip Damien.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • It’s certainly the flavour of the moment; Obama being urged to do more for HR, newspaper commentaries etc. I expect that the media exposure of the subject will bring out the proponents. Like Mathew above, I once thought Human Rights would be a useful tool.
    What about something different like a ‘bill of human responsibilities’ or ‘duties of care legislation’? E.g. “If a hungry person comes to your door- feed him.” That would put Australia in the news. I almost forgot; we’ve already rejected that one. Oh well, an immediate benefit of human rights legislation would be wide spread redundancy amongst the pollies; we’d need less than half of them with the judiciary doing their work.
    Could it work if the hoi polloi could elect their ‘Commissioners of HR’? (Many of us would have voted for a republic if we could have elected the president.)
    Tony Morreau

  • Quite right Tony: A Bill of Human Responsibilities. Now that I would like to see.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Perhaps we have lost the significance of the repeal of the blasphemy laws (which by the way Muslims are still unofficially able to use against anyone criticising either Mohammad or Allah).

    The Ten commandments have not been discarded but appropriated. The third commandment has become “You shall not take the name of the homosexual in vain, for the human rights commission will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

    Though homosexuals will try to “get into bed” with us by saying, “look we are all members of minority groups; some of us are left-handed, ginger-haired, bold, short, tall and therefore should have equal rights,” it does not work out like that. The human rights of homosexuals and Muslims trump those of all others.

    You can offend who ever you like, especially Christians, but on pain of public humiliation, loss of job, crippling fine and imprisonment do not offend a homosexual.

    David Skinner, UK

  • I did put in a submission to the Commission opposing a BoR – so did the majority of people who sent in submissions. Apparently, what the Australian public wishes just does not count for these extremists – yes, extremists, because they are extreme in their dislike and fear of Christianity and are doing their very best to stamp it out completely. Thank God He is greater than any man or group of humans!
    Joan Davidson

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