Australian Conservatives Fear “Human Rights Charter” Will Suppress Religious and Democratic Freedoms

Fri Jun 26, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Hilary White

June 26, 2009 ( - Australian life and family advocates are deeply concerned with plans by a government agency to institute new "human rights" legislation modelled on that of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Endeavour Forum, a national pro-life and pro-family advocacy group, has submitted a brief to a consultative committee, warning that since the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has "consistently failed" to protect the Christian values of the majority of Australians, "its probable recommendations will diminish, not enhance, our freedom."

The AHRC is conducting national consultations on a proposed Human Rights Charter that is supported by the Attorney General, Robert McClelland, who has argued that since other countries, such as Canada, have such documents, Australia should follow suit.

McClelland recently told homosexualist activists that the Labour government had "gone beyond" the recommendations of the AHRC for "gay rights" and had "removed inequalities" in 100 areas of the law. The government plans to introduce changes giving homosexual partners the same treatment as heterosexual "de facto" or "common law" couples, including in such areas as social security and veterans affairs by mid-2009.

The Endeavour Forum, an NGO with special consultative status at the Economic and Social Council of the UN, said that a Charter of Human Rights would leave the country open to the manipulations of highly organised special interest groups. They cited the homosexualist lobby and radical Islamic groups in Britain that have used such "anti-discrimination" legislation to suppress such essential democratic freedoms as religious expression.

Given their demonstrated anti-Christian bias, the brief warned, any recommendations on freedom of religious expression by the AHRC, "will be designed to limit" current exemptions for churches to hiring active homosexuals, as has happened in the UK.

Even as it stands, without a charter of human rights, they said, anyone who "makes factually correct statements that sodomy spreads disease, the children thrive best when raised with a mother and a father" or that homosexuals may change their "orientation," is "labelled homophobic and punished accordingly."

"The homosexual agenda is not merely about removing 'discrimination' against homosexuals but about promoting the lifestyle to young children, about forcing individuals and organisations to accept that there is no intrinsic difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality, and about demanding homosexual 'marriage'."

"Australians must be free to criticise and reject these initiatives," the Forum continued.

Charles Francis, former MP of the Victorian State Parliament, has also criticised the move, saying that there is "singularly little" need for any such document, since there have been "no identified abuses of human rights within Australia."

Francis, a QC, former chairman of the Victorian Bar and lecturer in law at Melbourne University, is quoted by the Endeavour Forum saying that British Common Law is itself already a "vast charter of human rights" that has stood the test of 800 years of jurisprudence in the English-speaking world.

"As such, the common law is likely to be incomparably wiser and better than any bill of rights prepared by some allegedly expert government committee," he said. Indeed, he added, it has been shown in Australia that there is no public call for such a document except from "small but vocal special-interest groups and some academic lawyers."

Francis said that such a document would in fact present two distinct dangers to the democratic structure of Australia. It would muddy distinctions between the legislative powers and the judiciary, and leave the country open to abuses by politicized courts working at the behest of special interest lobbyists as has happened in Canada.

Noting the admiration of the Canadian Charter by some Australian human rights activists, Francis pointed to the problems that document has created by allowing unelected judges to interpret the meaning of the Charter's intentions. The Canadian courts, he said, have found within its provisions "'legal' grounds to invalidate all laws against the killing of babies in utero ... and to re-write the marriage laws to include same-sex relationships."

"Thus the Canadian judges have become major political players," whose "individual social and political beliefs of judges are considered more important than the Constitution itself."

This change, he said, "demonstrates just how a bill of rights can shift political power from legislatures to the judiciary, thereby seriously damaging what was previously an appropriate separation of powers."

In addition, Francis cautioned that should such legislation be put forward, it would be granting the legal concept, alien to the British Common Law, that "government has the power to determine what our human rights should be," thus reducing the concept of "God-given" or "inalienable" human rights to being a mere function of government committees and political fashions.

He particularly warned against allowing the current government of Australia, headed by the left-leaning Australian Labour Party, the right to determine the meaning of human rights, given its abortion advocacy.

"Australians need to ask whether to such a government should any determination of human rights be entrusted," Francis said.

Read related coverage:

Australian Senate Passes De Facto Same-Sex "Marriage" Laws

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