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When consultation is not consultation

By John Ridd - posted Tuesday, 24 March 2009


The Commonwealth Attorney-General thinks the country should have a Bill or Charter of Rights. He has appointed a committee to “consult” with the public and then recommend what action the government should take. By making the Terms of Reference loaded one way, by ensuring that few submissions are published, by a total failure to advertise the “consultation” and by making the country-wide meetings open only to those that “sign on”, he has striven to ensure that he gets the outcome that he wants - a Charter of Rights.

Supporters of issues such as Reconciliation, the Republic, scrapping of the “Pacific solution” and so on have variously been called “elite”, “self appointed elite”, “doctor’s wives”, “café latte set,” “the three R’s”, and recently, by Costa, “the cultural left”. Some of those are seen to be offensive. I prefer the term “the New Class” which Milovan Djilas used decades ago to describe a communist elite who were the new power bloc. Of course our New Class are not communist, but the phrase does catch the sense of an undemocratic and very powerful group.

In the context of this “consultation” the Australian Human Rights Group and Get up! are the most prominent sub sets of the New Class.

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The rorting of the “consultation” is compounded by New Class-organised mass pro Charter submissions. Information indicates that there have been more than 10,000 submissions, the vast majority by obedient New Class members.

My thinking about the issue of a Bill or Charter is based on two assumptions:

  • Democracy is the best/least bad system of government possible and nothing must be introduced that might reduce the supremacy of Parliament. I have no starry eyed ideas that democracy is perfect; merely that, as the old saw has it, “democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half the people are right more than half the time”. Having lived in Northern Nigeria in the 1960s as its democracy (flawed but better than nothing) collapsed and sank after two coups into military government and the dreadful Nigerian/Biafran civil war I know that democracy is far better than any alternative.
     
  • It is illogical, almost puerile, to imagine that it is possible to achieve two desirable objectives simultaneously if they may occasionally be mutually exclusive. Obvious examples are (i) the “right” to religious freedom re Islam and the “right” for equality for women and girls and (ii) the Canadian Mormon, charged with polygamy bleating about his religious “Rights” under their Charter of Rights.

The Minister states that Parliament must be supreme. Why does he say that?

Possibility (a) is that he genuinely thinks that it is possible to have a Bill or Charter and leave the supremacy of Parliament undamaged. Well, either a Charter will have an effect or it won’t. If it does have an effect (influence/power) then that must come at the expense of Parliamentary supremacy. If it will have no effect, what are we going on about?

Possibility (b) is that he thinks that a Charter would be easier to whip through Parliament if it gave lip service to Parliament. He may think that since “Hull got away with that spin in Victoria, why shouldn’t I?” Much safer than a referendum that might fail. Can’t let the Plebs decide important things like this now can we? Oh dear me, no.

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The “consultation” material recommends the reader “find out more” about Human Rights at some sites, including that of the UN Rights group. What we find is sad. When the original UN Rights organisation was created it had such high hopes and ambitions. Sadly it has become a perversion of what was intended, a travesty.

Members of the UN Human Rights Council must show “the highest standards in promoting … human Rights”. Currently membership includes Russia, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Cuba!

An article in Oracle, an Education Foundation, states (regarding Saudi Arabia) “In the legal system, just like in Pakistan, women are not considered to be legitimate witnesses”. Currently the Pakistani government, either because it cannot or does not want to control the northwest of the country, is unable to prevent the Taliban from stopping girls from attending school in Swat province. Forty thousand girls are now prevented from getting an education because of the manic and brutal religious ideas of the Taliban. It is probable that Sharia Law will be imposed.

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About the Author

John Ridd taught and lectured in maths and physics in UK, Nigeria and Queensland. He co-authored a series of maths textbooks and after retirement worked for and was awarded a PhD, the topic being 'participation in rigorous maths and science.'

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