In August 2008 a discussion paper was released by the Race Discrimination Unit: Education and Partnerships Section, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission entitiled Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century. Submissions have closed and a final report is expected to be released in January 2010.
At the same time a National Human Rights Consultation has been in process throughout Australia www.humanrightsconsultation.gov.au with opportunity for roundtable discussions and submissions. A report has now been issued and was presented to the Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McClelland MP, on 30 September 2009.
One might imagine that any move to entrench rights in Australia could only be a good thing but experience overseas and in Victoria with a state bill of rights has shown otherwise – that our liberty to express what we believe can be interpreted as hate speech or vilification, that our freedoms are in fact curtailed, and that rights of minority groups sometimes extinguish long- cherished liberties that fair-go Australians have taken for granted.
Australians have twice rejected at referendum inserting bills of rights into our constitution in 1944 and 1988. Two attempts to introduce statutory bills – without having to go to referendum – have also come to naught in 1973 and 1986.
Yes, we are one, and we are many – say “yes” to a fair-go and keep Australia a lucky country!
The People’s Charter
+ A grass-roots movement for all Australians, transcending religion, politics and political parties.
+ A simple statement of liberties as opposed to rights.
+ It acts as a restraint on measures limiting Aussie Fair-Go freedoms.
In light of increasing restriction here and elsewhere to freedom of association and freedom of speech, we the people of Australia, while respecting each other’s beliefs and values, demand the liberty for us all to
- freely express our beliefs and values
- join together with like-minded people who share these beliefs and values in mutual association
- bring up our children in families that facilitate sharing of these beliefs and values
- set up educational facilities consistent with these beliefs and values and the liberty to exclude influences that are contrary
- state these liberties without fear of accusation of intolerance or hate-speech
This statement is not to be construed as support for unfettered and divisive criticism but we believe that freedom to speak in conscience is fundamental for a healthy balanced society where people of different backgrounds can live together in mutual respect and harmony. We believe these fundamental liberties must take precedence over competing “rights”. Our Australian constitution has served us well and we believe it is not in this nation’s interest – nor is it necessary – to adopt a bill of rights.