Weekend Wrap for 20 December 2020

Momentum is building in New South Wales for voluntary assisted dying legislation. Catch up on that story and more in the new Weekend Wrap of secular news from the past week.

This will be the last Wrap for 2020 while our volunteers take time off. Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!

Don’t forget that the Weekend Wrap, which aims to help secular-minded Australians keep abreast of the latest news on current issues, is also published on our Facebook page!

At the National Level

Around the Country

NSW: Right-wing members of the Berejiklian government are demanding that the Premier stick to her promise to not allow any more conscience votes in this term of parliament, as they move to prevent voluntary assisted dying from being legalised (SMH).

NSW: A petition by the Dying with Dignity group is collecting signatures in an effort to generate support across the state for voluntary assisted dying law reform, with terminally-ill advocate Janet Cohen urging the public to get behind the initiative (Port News).

NSW: State Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has called for more investment to be made in palliative care to ensure people have “absolute dignity” as they near death, but he declined to reveal his position on voluntary assisted dying (The West).

NSW: The Australian Christian Lobby has declared it would oppose the latest attempt to legalise “assisted suicide”, warning that, in wanting to copy the Western Australia model, the current proposal has fewer safeguards than the Victorian law.

QLD: The Palasczuk government has announced a delay to the introduction of legislation for voluntary assisted dying, arguing that a timetable error meant the Queensland Law Reform Commission needed more time to deliver the draft legislation (Yahoo).

QLD: David Muir, chair of the pro-voluntary assisted dying advocacy group Clem Jones Trust, welcomed the delay to the timetable to introduce the bill into parliament, saying that it was common-sense decision (The Australian).

QLD: In response to the state government’s decision to delay the voluntary assisted dying bill, Townsville Catholic Bishop Tim Harris called on political leaders to scrap the proposal altogether and become “promoters of life, not agents of death” (Catholic Leader).

QLD: Brisbane Catholic Archbishop Mark Coleridge has slammed the “politicisation” of voluntary euthanasia after the state government teamed up with Clem Jones Trust to announce the delay in the legislation, arguing that it pointed to a “hand-in-glove arrangement” between the government and the lobby group (The Australian, paywalled).

SA: Voluntary assisted dying advocates are receiving “incredible” feedback and support in meetings in towns such as Victor Harbour (Victor Harbour Times).

NSW: Government-mandated restrictions are returning to church services in Sydney, the central coast and the Blue Mountains after a new outbreak of COVID-19 in the state (Eternity News).

TAS: A Catholic anti-voluntary assisted dying lobby group has accused a member of the independent University of Tasmania panel reviewing the bill to legalise the end-of-life option of having a 25-year track record as a euthanasia advocate (The Australian, paywalled).

VIC: A Mornington Peninsula councillor who voted to maintain Christian prayer in council meetings has argued that none of her fellow councillors had a mandate from the community to remove the prayer (Mornington Peninsula News).

QLD: Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader David Crisafulli have both publicly backed the continuation of reciting the Lord’s Prayer to open the state parliament each day (Brisbane Times).

NSW: Women attending a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Sydney have sounded the alarm about the centre’s extreme religious teachings, saying they fear being sent to prison if they seek to leave the centre (ABC).

VIC: Applicants wanting to establish a Buddhist temple in Bendigo say they will turn to the state’s civil and administrative tribunal after their local council refused to provide them a permit on the grounds that the temple would be too noisy (Bendigo Advertiser).

SA: Anti-abortion advocates remain hopeful that an abortion decriminalisation bill may still be quashed by the lower house in 2021, saying the number of politicians who voted against the bill in the upper house was a positive sign (The Southern Cross).

WA: LGBTIQ+ advocacy group just.equal are surveying all party leaders ahead of next year’s state election, asking them to outline their position on issues including banning gay conversion practices and discrimination exemptions (Out in Perth).

WA: A former Trinity College teacher who was one of the first people convicted under the state’s child sexual abuse mandatory reporting laws announced he would be appealing the court’s decision (ABC).

Commentary and Analysis

Reflecting on the Brereton Report, federal Liberal member of parliament, former SAS soldier and evangelical Andrew Hastie recalls how a military chaplain and friend of his lamented the existence of a “pagan warrior ethos” in the defence forces.

With a new survey of the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ people showing they face an “epidemic of discrimination, harassment, vilification and violence”, analyst Alastair Lawrie writes that the Morrison government is set to make the situation even worse if it pushes ahead with its Religious Discrimination Bill.

Dr Timothy Jones writes that the fears of religious communities about the Victorian government’s gay conversion bill are unfounded as it does not propose to ban prayer, preaching or pastoral support about gender and sexuality in general (The Age).

In this radio interview, biblical scholar Robyn Whitaker argues that the Victorian government’s gay conversion legislation is necessary to put a stop to practices that “various communities, including faith communities, are doing that are causing harm and are abusive” (Joy).

Barney Zwartz, a senior fellow of the Centre for Public Christianity, argues that churches in Victoria are rightly concerned about the legislation banning gay conversion practices as it represents “massive overreach” and raises fear among Christians of a “broader agenda at work” by a government that is more “hostile to Christianity than its predecessors” (The Age).

Presbyterian Church minister Kamal Weerakoon questions whether the Victorian government’s gay conversion legislation represents a backward step for religious freedom in Australia and a lurch toward the type of authoritarianism he escaped when he left his homeland of Sri Lanka to live in Australia (The Spectator).

That's it for another week!

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