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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Cardinal Pell on human rights « Previous | |Next »
April 30, 2008

Cardinal Pell was doing the conservative attack on human rights at the Brisbane Institute, last night. Even though he argues for absolute moral truths against liberals and relativists Pell argued that rights are best determined by common law and parliaments according to the mood and flavour of the time.

This relativist argument was underpinned by an appeal to parliamentary sovereignty, which was justified by the following argument:

The push for a charter of rights springs from a suspicion of majority rule, a preference for judicial decision-making on fundamental questions, the imperatives of the particular social and political agenda that a charter of rights serves, and the elitism of privileged reformers — not all of whom are lawyers. And the problems with such a charter are increased by the inability of contemporary law and philosophy to agree on a secure foundation for human rights, freedom and truth.

A bill or even a charter of rights will help to provoke a culture war says Pell with a straight face.

The rejoinder to this conservative argument is the implication of parliament sovereignty in terms of the power of executive dominance. Jack Waterford states it well in the Canberra Times. He says that he has been sceptical of the need for a charter of rights, but he is changing his mind again, because our politicians are not showing themselves great instinctive protectors of rights, just when they are needed. Certainly not Carr or Hatzistergos. Or previously John Howard and Philip Ruddock, in actions scarcely criticised by those who have now succeeded them He adds:

The risks are being aggravated by the ever-outreaching power of executive government, by the supine position into which legislatures have been put by modern executives, and by the coordination of incumbency and spin to overwhelm popular criticism. It's not parliamentary rule we ought to fear, but increasingly arbitrary and unaccountable rule by executive government.Proponents of a Bill of Rights do not have to put too much faith, or hope, in judges, activist or not. They have only to argue that a Bill might be a desirable further check and balance on government yet another field of tussle between the executive, the parliament and the judiciary.

It a defense against an authoritarian style government favoured by neo-conservatiism

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:40 AM | | Comments (2)



Well actually US Culture Wars have developed around the Bill of Rights.

I find Cardinal Pell repulsive but I do agree with his stand on a Bill of Rights. Are we to presume that our learned friends in the legal club can deliver what our pollies can't?