February 7th 2009


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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Where will President Obama take America?

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Can Australia avoid an economic depression?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Australia should brace itself for worse to come

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Blatant political bias in human rights body

JUDICIARY: High Court nominee's gay rights, abortion activism

GLOBAL TERRORISM: The great lie of 'home-grown' terrorism

QUARANTINE: Shake-up for Australia's quarantine system

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Being smart about using soft power

MEDIA: What to make of the Obama cult

OPINION: Is there any point to suffering?

CIVILISATION: Created equal: how Christianity shaped the West

OPINION: Legislative change could help first home-buyers

Should democracy always have the last word? (letter)

Deserted by the Liberals? (letter)

A future for News Weekly (letter)

FORUM: Free markets and libertarianism

CINEMA: Slumdog Millionaire - Indian orphan tale a box-office hit

BOOKS: ENOUGH: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life, by John C. Bogle

BOOKS: THE WHITE WAR: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919, by Mark Thompson,

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RELIGIOUS FREEDOM:
Blatant political bias in human rights body


by Damian Wyld

News Weekly, February 7, 2009
Politicians may be far from perfect, but they at least face the public every few years, writes Damian Wyld. The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) never will, despite living off the public purse.

It is hardly surprising that under the Rudd Government the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has had considerable success in having its left-wing agenda implemented. What is surprising, however, is that an unelected, taxpayer-funded office such as the AHRC should wield such influence without a public outcry.

Aside from being a relatively unaccountable tribunal hearing complaints on matters pertaining to race, gender, sexuality and so on, the AHRC is quickly becoming a command centre for left-liberal activism.

Under this current government, the AHRC's recommendations have already resulted in numerous laws accommodating same-sex relationships at the federal level, with the preceding poorly publicised routine "inquiry" largely irrelevant due to the apparently predetermined nature of the AHRC's findings.

Same-sex couples

In launching that inquiry, the AHRC's then president, Justice John von Doussa, said of same-sex couples that "it is now time to highlight those areas of inequity and do something about them". Likewise his colleague, Commissioner Graham Innes, said that "we look forward to working with you to finally eliminate discrimination in this important area".

It has been more of the same with the AHRC's latest inquiry, launched in September last year, entitled Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century. Guided, strangely, by the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tom Calma, the Freedom of Religion and Belief (FRB) inquiry is nothing less than a blatant attempt to undermine our fundamental liberties.

In launching the inquiry, Commissioner Calma was reported by the ABC as saying that Australians need to understand the meaning of religious freedom in the 21st century. The ABC went on to say that "he [Calma] says in a secular, multifaith society, people sometimes have different expectations about the way laws reflect those beliefs".

Calma was reported as pointing to "evidence of a growing fundamentalist religious lobby, in areas such as same-sex relationships, stem-cell research and abortion" and stated that there is a balance to be struck between the freedom to practise religion and not pushing those beliefs on the rest of society.

Ignoring for a moment his ridiculous oxymoronic statement about a "secular, multifaith society", Calma's comments betray deep ideological bias which is reflected in many of the disturbing questions contained in the FRB inquiry's discussion paper. And those questions in turn unmistakably imply that religious influence in the public sphere is too great — hence the need for federal religious anti-vilification laws.

Of the future direction of the AHRC, much can be gleaned from the inaugural speech of the commission's new president, the Hon. Catherine Branson QC. Speaking at the annual Don Dunstan Human Rights Oration in Adelaide last November, Branson gushed about the late South Australian Labor premier with whom she had once worked, praising his work in the area of aboriginal land rights and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

A former Federal Court judge, Branson spoke of her experiences with asylum-seekers and of recent NSW laws pertaining to World Youth Day in Sydney. She criticised these laws as providing power to "control the behaviour of people who might annoy the Pope and other Catholics who were in Sydney". She complained that "the regulation clearly impinged on the rights of people wanting to express their views about the attitude of the Catholic Church to sex before marriage, contraception, abortion and gay and lesbian relationships".

Branson also shared her vision of "social inclusion" and spoke of the supposed "demonisation and alienation of our Muslim communities".

And for those who "suggest that lawyers and judges peddle the idea of human rights and human rights charters because they are drumming up work — and power — for themselves", Branson apparently has "little patience". They "miss the point", said Branson, comparing judges to football umpires — as though the free practice of religion, for example, was of the same importance as whether someone was holding the ball...

The AHRC has also swung in behind the Rudd Government's "National Human Rights Consultation". The consultation, which closes on May 29, 2009, will examine means of strengthening human rights in Australia, including a possible charter or "human rights act".

Neutrality?

To adopt Catherine Branson's analogy, walking down this path will only serve to give more power to the umpire — and, given the absence of neutrality on the part of some of these umpires, this should be major cause for concern.

When the AHRC attempts to play simultaneously both umpire and political activist, all Australians should be worried. Stating as it does that mandatory detention, counter-terrorism laws and the NT emergency response all demonstrate that we "cannot always trust our politicians", the AHRC is seeking a new level of power. But can the AHRC be trusted?

Politicians may be far from perfect, but they must at least face the public every few years. The AHRC never will, despite living off the public purse. Is it too much to ask, then, that one aspect of that arrangement should end?

— Damian Wyld is South Australian state president of the National Civic Council.




























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