Family Association warns of bill of rights by stealth

10 Jun 2009

By The Record

Bill of Rights will restrict rights: AFA

By Robert Hiini

The Commonwealth Government is looking to introduce a bill of human rights by stealth and should instead put its proposal to electors in referendums, says the Australian Family Association (AFA).
The AFA’s comments are made in its submission to the National Human Rights Consultation, currently underway, into how human rights can best be protected.
The AFA’s 11-page document outlines its objections to the adoption of a bill of rights, labelling it a ‘licence to rewrite legislation,” “a blantant attack on parliamentary sovereignty" and a dangerous road to a litiguous society.
The document is one of several hundred public submissions made in a process established by the National Human Rights Consultation Committee, a body charged with reporting community attitudes on how human rights should best be protected to the federal government.
The five-person body – including Philip Flood, Mary Kostakidis, Mick Palmer, Tammy Williams and chairperson, Fr Frank Brennan SJ – has also conducted "community roundtables" in every state and territory ending in Broome on June 2.
In spite of such an undertaking, the AFA claims that the moral consensus necessary to discern what “rights” should be included in such a document, no longer exists.
“With the abandonment of [moral] norms we have created a situation in which, potentially, rights are constantly changing, under diverse aspects of public policy competition…Debate becomes little more than an exercise in propaganda.
“This state of flux has contributed largely to the decay so evident in western society today. The type of society which, hitherto, had largely flourished as a result of adopting the Judaeo-Christian ethic.”
The AFA points to the contravention of the right to life and the right to conscientious objection in the passage of Victoria’s abortion legislation in October 2008, requiring objecting medical practitioners to perform abortions or to refer patients to other providers who will.  
The submission notes that many of the world’s most despotic regimes – including the USSR, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Sudan – have or have had, a bill of human rights, indicating that such a document is no guarantee against abuse.
In reference to "cultural rights," the submission outlines a view that a bill of rights will be utilised by influential minorities against the majority populace.
The submission cites the comments of Peter Faris QC on the Victorian Charter of Rights, originally published in Melbourne’s Herald Sun:
“If you are an Aboriginal trans-gender person you will have , by law, cultural rights. If you are an ordinary Australian, you do not.”
The receipt of public submissions will close on June 15.