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Feb 17, 2010

Abbott’s Muslim comment shows the need for a Human Rights Act

Yesterday, Tony Abbott commented about keeping Muslims out of the country. It's proof that we need a Human Rights Act to protect our democracy from personal bias, writes Mark Blumer.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s comments in the media yesterday — about keeping Muslims out of Australia using border protection measures  — is the perfect example of why we need a Human Rights Act for Australia.

Bailed up by an elderly woman at a shopping centre, Abbott experienced this exchange:

Old woman with a shopping trolley: I want to be in a country that’s not going to be run by Muslims.

Tony Abbott: I understand what you’re saying ma’am, and as I said the important thing is to make the borders secure and that way people will be happier that the right people are coming to our country.

An Act enshrining those rights that Australians hold dear, would help protect our democracy from such personal bias.

Australians need an impenetrable, statutory provision with constitutional certainty that they know beyond any doubt will protect and defend them against any attack on their civil rights. Without such a document, government leaders can decide to ban entry because of their own religious bias, but with a Human Rights Act, personal prejudice can be challenged.

In recent times, both sides of politics have been guilty of using the religious message, blatantly or subliminally, to win votes, just as the “tough-on-crime” political tactic used fear to win votes.

As a result we are seeing civil rights being eroded across the country with the introduction of legislation curbing the right to free association, mandatory sentencing of youth in Western Australia and race-based laws such as the intervention.

These new laws, that are creeping in, should be of real concern to all Australians who value their quality of life. They are paternalistic and infringe on basic human rights.

The argument being forwarded against the need for a Human Rights Act, was that this would give the judiciary more power. The only power that the statutory model, being considered, would give would be the right to ask questions of the government when making decisions. Laws that appear to be inconsistent with such an Act would also be highlighted and then go back to parliament for reconsideration.

Let’s not any of us being naïve here. Politics is not always about true suffrage and representation. Politicians often use their power inappropriately and there are those elected by a minority that hold the government to ransom because of their parliamentary balance of power.

We are the only democratic country in the world that doesn’t have such a legal instrument to help protect our fundamental beliefs about what is right and fair.

Isn’t it time we got rid of this loophole that continues to trip up the rights of all Australians and to ensure decision making is free of prejudice?

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50 thoughts on “Abbott’s Muslim comment shows the need for a Human Rights Act

  1. skink

    Western Australia’s new stop-and-search laws also deserve a mention

    WA police are to be given the right to stop and search any citizen without reason or suspicion.

    Premier Colin Barnett has opposed an Upper House Parliamentary review of the legislation, leading to understandable cries of ‘Police State!”

  2. Liz45

    Mark, obviously bigotted Abbott and that racist woman were away from the country when we learned of people from Afghanistan in Australia, working extremely hard. Isn’t that why the train from Perth to Alice Springs? is called ‘The Ghan’? How many yrs ago was that? Over 100 yrs?

    The Constitution has racism ingrained in it. The only protection against this was the Racial Discrimination Act, which Howard removed to invade the NT and initiate his draconian policy of income ‘management’ etc. All the organisations, community centres fought for for years have gone. It’s now governance by Federal decree, which one community at least has said, ‘enough’? I agree with them! It’s horrific!

    I’m all for a Bill of Rights or the equivalent – I don’t care what it’s called, as long as it makes all the hateful instances in the above article plus SKINK’s added ones illegal. People like Bob Carr have their own agenda for actively agitating against this – you can’t walk all over indigenous people, women or Muslims and uphold human rights. Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney, under his watch, led to the mental illness and trauma of many people who were locked up there, including at least 2 young children!

    We’d also see the end of holding people who’ve not committed a crime in jails, like Christmas Island, Villawood etc. I find much of the Opposition’s nonsense and fear making re “protecting our borders” and the number of people on Christmas Island frustrating and incredulous? Who built it to take over 800 people in the first place? They did, and I don’t recall even a hint of outrage over that? Why didn’t their so-called “strong messages” to would be aylum seekers work? If they were so good, why spend millions of dollars on a maximum security jail for hundreds of people? Perhaps they were going to use it for political prisoners, such as those who went on strike against racism or WorstChoices or the way kids and others were being treated in those jails, otherwise referred to as detention centres?


    And I don’t want to be in a country run by Catholic fundamentalists! Can I say that?

  4. Most Peculiar Mama

    “…Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s comments in the media yesterday — about keeping Muslims out of Australia…”

    What rubbish….talk about long bows.

    The only people who keep prattling on about the need for a Bill of Rights are lawyers like yourself.

    With the huge piles of easy cash to be made prosecuting everyone I’m hardly surprised.

    Politics and the law should be kept at arms length.

    The judiciary should a

  5. Most Peculiar Mama

    The judiciary should also be ultimately accountable for the decisions they make.

    Let’s see how deep they press for a HRB then.

  6. Captain Col

    “The only power that the statutory model, being considered, would give would be the right to ask questions of the government when making decisions. ”

    So Mark, is this your absolute final position? I’m sure you won’t tell us but I suspect that is only your opening gambit. Perhaps secretly, you desire a much stronger power, even eventually a constitutional amendment. Tell us it aint so. Skink wants more, LIZ45 wants more. 2 out of 3 aint bad to borrow from Meatloaf.

    BTW I see no problem with us selecting ‘the right people’ to come to our country. We do it now and we would be stupid to do otherwise.

  7. R.Bobbie

    So the “secure Borders” takes care of muslims? But Tony, what about the existing Australian muslims? The 2006 census indicated there were more than 300,000 living in our wonderful country. TA’s not up to speed on the facts that we already are a multicultural nation with Australians themselves choosing to be muslims. Newflash: Time has moved on from the days of predominantly white, anglo-saxon christians inhabiting Australia.

  8. JamesK

    With Brennan’s report so beloved of pantywaists, lefty lawyers and the perennial self-righteous ‘progressive’ meddlers in others affairs receiving the cold shoulder from the Australian people that it so richly deserves the nutters now screech ever more pathetically malcontent………

  9. meski

    Abbott – once a dog-whistler, always a dog-whistler. And that speech is a prime example of the craft

  10. Pete WN

    Abbott seems smart to bang on about Border Security (*yawn*). It’s an issue where Rudd looked truly vulnerable last year. I think it violated Malcolm’s principles (and rightly so IMO) but Abbott perhaps is reading the political tea leaves here.

    On a sperate note, did anyone notice the story of the sick PNG girl who took a dinghy into Australian Territory for medical treatment? Show us your ‘Border Security’.

    … (good outcome for the girl though)

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