A blog post

Belling the Cat

Posted on the 25 March, 2010 at 10:56 pm Written by in Blog

Two quotes from Four Fictions: An Argument Against a Charter of Rights

By + Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, 29 April 2008 Address to the Brisbane Institute

The high standard of probity and commitment among judges and politicians in Australia is a blessing we should not take for granted. But as a forum for decisive public answers, parliament has a great advantage over the courts because it is much easier to bell the cat. Genuine public debate exposes the influence of extraneous factors which may or may not work against principled decision making. It allows all those concerned about an issue to have their say about the proper basis in principle for making a determination. This is an important safeguard.

So it is not only in areas of life, family, freedom of religion, discrimination and equality that a bill or charter of rights causes trouble. The irony is that the uses to which courts put a bill of rights often generate exactly the hostile majority reaction to rights that this sort of legislation is meant to avert. We don’t have a culture war here in Australia in the way the United States does, but a bill or charter of rights could help provoke one.