Myth 10: The introduction of a Human Rights Act will only protect minorities to the detriment of the majority

The myth: A Human Rights Act would be hijacked by minority groups.

The reality: Human rights do not elevate one group over another.  Human rights for minorities simply ensure that minorities enjoy human rights to the same level as others in society.  Vulnerable minorities are more likely to need such protection because they are more likely to suffer from laws, policies or practices which adversely affect them.  After all, majorities are more able to influence parliaments to protect and respect their rights, whereas minorities can be neglected. Unpopular minorities are particularly vulnerable as majorities may actively wish to suppress their rights.  Finally, the plight of minority groups rarely influences people's votes.  If human rights are left solely in the hands of Parliaments, minorities may be required to wait patiently for majorities to be motivated enough to prompt or tolerate change. That can take a long time, and leave many human rights abuses unaddressed along the way.

While Parliament would retain power under the proposed Human Rights Act, public servants would have to be mindful of the plight of minorities in their work.  The judiciary could bring minority rights abuses to the attention of Parliament via a Declaration of Incompatibility, and, when possible, interpret legislation in a way that protects minority rights.

For a longer discussion of the arguments regarding the protection of individuals and minorities, see this section of the Castan Centre's submission to the National Human Rights Consultation.