Weekend Wrap for 16 July 2023

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 16 July 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

Medical abortions are set to become more accessible, with prescribers and chemists dispensing the medicine no longer needing to receive extra certification or special registration. Under changes coming into place on August 1, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is removing those requirements, with MS 2-step soon able to be prescribed like any other medicine. The changes around certification and registration help address a number of recommendations of the recent senate inquiry into reproductive healthcare, which called for significant changes to improve abortion access. (11 Jul 2023)
Read more at ABC News

The lobby groups campaigning to sink the Indigenous voice to parliament referendum have deep links to a number of conservative Christian organisations and consultancies, a Guardian investigation reveals. The no campaign is working with companies that appear to specialise in conservative Christian campaigning, including a US-headquartered marketing and fundraising firm that aims to help Christian nonprofit ministries “fulfill their mission”. The public tactics of the no campaign are heavily influenced by conservative US politics, social media experts say. (13 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

Taxpayers will need to top up school funding by nearly $30bn across the next decade to provide basic educational resources, a new analysis reveals. The Parliamentary Budget Office has produced the first official costing for every Australian school to receive 100 per cent of its “Gonski funding”, the Schooling Resource Standard. The federal government provides 20 per cent of SRS funding to public schools – which are operated by state and territory governments – and 80 per cent of SRS funding to private and Catholic schools. Public schools are on track to receive 100 per cent of their SRS by 2029. (13 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Australian

An LNP member of parliament has credited the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the retention of exclusively Christian worship at the opening of the chamber every day under the Albanese government. In an interview on Christian radio this week, Terry Young, the member for Longman in Queensland, said that he and his colleagues had expected the Albanese government would remove the prayer rituals. But he said the House Speaker – Labor member Milton Dick (a Christian) – had ensured the practice continued. (13 Jul 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Influential group Emily’s List is calling on the government to consider further broadening access to the abortion pill and allowing pharmacists to prescribe it without a script from a doctor or nurse. The Albanese government this week empowered nurses to prescribe the pill but did not give such power to pharmacists, instead only lifting regulations that restrict the stocking and dispensing of the medication. Christian groups have been ­calling on Labor MPs to back more protections for religious organisations in the party’s policy ­platform at Aug­ust’s ALP ­national conference and have raised alarm at the debate over abortion becoming “unbalanced” to protect women pressured into terminations but not those who wanted to continue with the pregnancy. (14 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Australian

Around the Country

NSW: The New South Wales health minister, Ryan Park, has vowed to improve the care available to transgender children and review gender research after a media report highlighted issues many people face trying to get help. Park said on Tuesday it was “extremely disappointing” and “concerning” to hear people had struggled to access healthcare and that doctors had felt unable to speak up. ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday night reported three new patients had been seen at the gender clinic at Westmead children’s hospital this year compared with 88 new patients in 2022. (11 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Guardian

NSW: On 28 June, NSW Attorney General Michael Daley introduced the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification) Bill 2023 to NSW Parliament. The Bill would prohibit vilification on the basis of religious belief or affiliation or religious activity. While the proposal has been welcomed by some groups, others have expressed concerns about the specifics of what the government is proposing, and how it could impact freedom of speech. Alastair Lawrie, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre appeared on 2SER to discuss the Bill and some of its potential problems. (12 Jul 2023)
Listen to the interview at 2SER

QLD: A Queensland councillor has nearly succeeded in having references to God inserted into his council’s Acknowledgement of Country. At a recent Fraser Coast Regional Council budget meeting, Councillor Phil Truscott moved an amendment to insert an acknowledgment to the "God of Creation" and to "pay our respects to the Lord God Almighty" as part of the Indigenous Acknowledgement of Country. (15 Jul 2023)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Commentary and Analysis

Zuleyha Keskin: The Islamic State flag hijacks Muslim words of faith. Banning it could cause confusion and unfair targeting of Muslims.
"New legislation has been introduced to parliament to outlaw the public display of “prohibited symbols”. These include two Nazi symbols and the Islamic State flag. ... According to the proposed bill, the IS flag is to become a prohibited symbol. Anything that “so nearly resembles” the IS flag such that “it is likely to be confused with, or mistaken for” the IS flag, is also to be banned. ... But this is problematic because the IS flag hijacks words which are sacred for all Muslims. The IS flag ban will likely create more problems than it solves and should be removed from the legislation. Or at the very least, the ban should be postponed until solid data is available about its problematic use." (10 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Conversation

Adam Wesselinoff: Religious freedom debate yet to strike the right balance: Brennan
"Australia has struggled to strike the right balance between freedom of religion and the right to non-discrimination in the wake of the same-sex marriage plebiscite, with the public discussion around rights tending to 'become more shrill and less civil' due to identity politics and 'cancel culture,' respected lawyer Fr Frank Brennan SJ has said. In his keynote address to the 2023 education law symposium held by Catholic Schools NSW on 6 July, Fr Brennan said religious schools 'should not be able to discriminate against students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But religious schools should remain free to teach their doctrine respectfully and reasonably, in season and out of season. And the law should make that perfectly clear. We all need to concede that some religious teachings can be confronting and upsetting. But it is not for the state to rewrite the Bible or the Koran.'” (13 Jul 2023)
Read more at The Catholic Weekly

Events and Campaigns

Equality Australia are running a petition calling on the Federal Government and all remaining states and territories to remove unnecessary legal carve-outs for religious schools and organisations and ensure laws protect everyone equally.
Read and sign the petition at Equality Australia

The Human Rights Law Centre are running a website for those who want to support an Australian Charter of Human Rights & Freedoms.
Visit the Charter of Rights website here

A change.org petition has been started, calling for churches to lose their tax-free status and for "the religious influence of churches in Australian politics and society" to be limited. It's currently up to 28,000 signatures.
View the petition at change.org

Reason Australia have started a new petition to remove prayers from Victorian state parliament.
Read and sign the petition at the Reason Australia website

Have you faced discrimination at a religious school or organisation? Equality Australia wants to know!

Humanists Australia have launched a Change.org petition calling for full separation of church and state in Australia. View and sign here.

The Australian Education Union is running a campaign calling for “every school, every child” to receive fair education funding. Support the campaign here.

The Human Rights for NSW alliance has launched a campaign calling for NSW to pass a Human Rights Act.

That's it for another week!

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