In Times of Crisis
The participants at the National Day of Mourning memorial service for the victims of the Victorian bushfires said it well: at times of crisis and tragedy traditional Aussie values of mateship come to the fore; in the words of the Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd, courage, compassion, and resilience. Other aspects of mateship such as respect, love for one another, touching in common humanity, shared grief, and hope were mentioned by many. Yes, we are one, but we are many, we are Australian.
It is so good to live in the lucky country. There is no better place on this earth.
But some of these VALUES ARE UNDER THREAT, unbelievably not through neglect or ignorance or complacency but from our legislators. Some of these traditional values have already been lost in some states.
They include FREEDOM OF SPEECH, of ROBUST DEBATE, and FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION – values that we should be able to say are self-evident, fundamental liberties of a free society.
It is difficult to understand when this nation is facing and has been facing threats to our future why our legislators should even consider legislation through a bill of rights that would threaten basic values and liberties.
Liberties at one time considered sacrosanct, but now also under threat include the value of marriage as between a male and a female, the family thus formed being the bedrock of society; and the liberty to educate our children in an environment consistent with our values.
A core value of our society is our liberty to speak truth. Consequent upon this must be our liberty to confront untruth or even condemn tendencies or developments that threaten our society or our world.
The “free exercise of any religion” and therefore the liberty to freely state our faith is written into our constitution (section 116). Yet this also is under threat. Those that choose to make Christianity their credo consider it a basic liberty to declare this, and for others to declare a different credo with the same liberty.
Truth itself is under threat. The lawyer in the Victorian vilification case of 2002 argued (correctly, according to the legislation!) that truth was irrelevant and that the issue was the client’s feelings.
What do we need to do? It is likely that the various submissions, letters and voices will be listened to but basically ignored and the bill introduced quietly by statute rather than by constitution with many Australians ignorant of its passing and its ramifications.
It is time for a People’s Charter. A grass-roots movement for all Australians, transcending religion, politics and political parties. Not a legislative document, nor ever intended to be, but a simple statement of liberties as opposed to rights, acting as a restraint on measures limiting freedoms and be an encouragement for members of parliament to vote down such legislation including a bill of rights. To be effective this needs lots of signatures.