Weekend Wrap for 25 February 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 25 February 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

Liberal party members have voted to dump incumbent federal MP Ian Goodenough in a hotly contested pre-selection battle for the seat of Moore at the next election. Goodenough, a member of the conservative side of the Liberal party, was first elected to parliament in 2013 and he has been returned in 2016, 2019 and 2022. During his time in parliament Goodenough has been an opponent of marriage equality and a supporter of religious discrimination laws. In 2016 he authored an article that was published in The West Australian saying same-sex marriage would bring “an enormous cost to society in terms of dealing with social dysfunction, psychological and mental health issues”, implying the children of same-sex couples would have mental health problems. (18 Feb 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

Liberal Party Defence and National Security Policy chair Lincoln Parker says the Australian Defence Force should withdraw from the Australian Workplace Equality Index which is run by ACON and stop providing healthcare to transgender personnel. Appearing on the Sky News program The Jury Parler told host Danica De Giogio that Australia’s military needs to be focused on its mission to "deliver extreme violence" to defend Australia’s interests. “Anything they are doing, anything that they are spending money on, or policies that do not support that overarching objective is a waste of time.” Parker said. The Liberal party member said the branches of Australia’s defence force should pull out of the Australian Workplace Diversity Index. (18 Feb 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

Public schools stand to lose billions of dollars if the federal government breaks an election promise to remove a Coalition-era loophole from funding agreements between the commonwealth and the states, advocates have argued. The provision, introduced by the former Morrison government in 2018, allows states and territories to spend up to 4% of the total funding in the agreements on areas not directly related to schools, such as public transport, capital depreciation, regulatory bodies and preschool. Data from the advocacy group Save our Schools (SOS) shows public schools have lost about $13bn in the six years since the clause was introduced. If it continued over the life of the next funding agreement, they would be short more than $26bn to 2029, the group said. (20 Feb 2024)
Read more at The Guardian

AFL clubs that promote themselves as inclusive need to “do the work” to ensure different views on race, religious freedom and sexuality can be raised – even if it makes some people uncomfortable, according to a report commissioned as part of former NAB boss Andrew Thorburn’s settlement with Essendon. Thorburn’s stint as CEO of the Bombers may have lasted just one day, but the report’s author, Dr Matthew Beard of the Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership, hopes the controversy will help sports organisations and clubs deal with “the inclusion dilemma”. Beard said the goal was to give sport organisations the tools to confront difficult but increasingly common questions such as the one raised in Thorburn’s case, or Israel Folau’s battle with Rugby Australia, or Usman Khawaja’s recent challenge to the International Cricket Council rules over his request to use a bat emblazoned with a dove and olive branch with regard to the Middle East conflict. (21 Feb 2024)
Read more at The Age

Five elite private schools in New South Wales and Victoria spent more on new facilities in 2021 than half of the nation's public schools, union analysis has revealed. The report found the five private schools spent $175.6 million in 2021, compared to a spend of $174.4 million at 3,372 public schools. The elite Sydney school Cranbrook spent more on new buildings ($63.48 million) in one year than the entire capital works spend in Victoria and Tasmania combined ($62.4 million). (23 Feb 2024)
Read more at ABC News

In 2024, adoption is still not as straightforward for LGBTQ people as for heterosexual people because much of the work of government is outsourced to private agencies with a legal right to discriminate. Last year Australia was criticised in a United Nations report for allowing government-funded foster care and adoption agencies to reject prospective families based on sexuality, gender identity and faith. (23 Feb 2024)
Read more at The Age

Around the Country

VIC: One-third of the total number of lawmakers in the Victorian Parliament’s upper house are boycotting the Christian prayer ritual at the start of each day. A member of the Legislative Council has told the Rationalist Society of Australia that about one-third of their colleagues – or about 13 of the 40-member chamber – wait outside during the recital of prayers. The surge in the number of members of parliament refusing to take part in prayers will increase pressure on the Victorian government to deliver on its promise to remove Christian prayers from the formal procedures of parliament. (15 Feb 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

NSW: The atheist community leader blocked from a position on the New South Wales Faith Affairs Council is calling for transparency of the body’s deliberations and recommendations to the government. Steve Marton, president of Sydney Atheists, said the government should provide full transparency of the Faith Affairs Council’s work. Id like to see government being honest and respectful enough of the community to allow the community to see what this group of 19 people are talking about, what they’re deciding how they’re deciding it, rather than it being a close-door event, he said."(15 Feb 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

TAS: In the lead-up to the state elections in Tasmania, LGBTQI advocacy group Equality Tasmania said they will seek a commitment from all parties and independents to bring in a ban on anti-gay conversion practices and enact LGBTQI law reforms if they are elected. Two years after the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute called on the state to prohibit conversion practices, the Liberal government has yet to pass a law. A proposed bill by the government was panned by LGBTQI advocates, who said it actually seeks to protect perpetrators. (16 Feb 2024)
Read more at the Star Observer

TAS: Tasmania's Anglican Church has been ordered to pay a survivor of child sexual abuse almost $2.4 million in damages despite a previous settlement to the victim. A law change in 2019, following recommendations from the Royal Commission, gave judges the power to set aside previous agreements – or deeds of release – if it is in the interests of justice to do so. Case judge Justice Michael Brett said the Churchs approach to the 1994 agreement "was heavily influenced by its desire to protect its public reputation", and he said he was "satisfied it is in the interests of justice" to set it aside. (17 Feb 2024)
Read more at ABC News

NSW: Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust has welcomed a ruling by the NSW Court of Appeal that confirms its status as a charitable organisation, putting an end to Sydney’s “cemetery wars” at last. It took its complaint to the New South Wales Court of Appeal after the NSW Auditor General Margaret Crawford repeatedly attempted to compel the trust to submit to an investigation over the use of its funds, after advice from Treasury. The judgement in favour of CMCT is further confirmation of its independence following resolution last year of a dispute with the previous NSW Government in which it sought to dismantle the trust and merge it with four under-performing trusts into one government-operated entity. (20 Feb 2024)
Read more at The Catholic Weekly

SA: Doctors and psychologists who treat LGBTIQ patients with prayers and scripture continue to operate in South Australia, a Labor member of parliament has claimed. In a speech to the state’s Legislative Council earlier this month, Ian Hunter stepped up calls for his own government to outlaw predatory conversion practices". He revealed the personal story of a patient named Sam to highlight how some doctors and psychologists were breaching their professional codes of practice in imposing their religious views. In Sam’s case, a doctor provided scriptures and urged them to pray more to address the body dysmorphia Sam experienced as a teenager. Later, a Mormon psychologist told Sam they had the wrong god and should become Mormon. (23 Feb 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Commentary and Analysis

Trevor Cobbold: To assert Western Australian public schools will be fully funded by 2026 is simply not true.
"The new school funding agreement between the Albanese and Western Australian governments is a significant step forward for the funding of public schools. It has several positives but the claim that WA public schools will be fully funded by 2026 is simply untrue. Public schools will be under-funded by about $1.6bn over the next five years. ...accounting tricks allow the WA government to claim non-school expenditures as part of its SRS funding share for public schools. It can claim expenditures on school transport, capital depreciation and preschools up to 4% of its SRS share. On top of this, it can also claim expenditure on the School Curriculum and Standards Authority and other regulatory functions as part of its SRS share. All these expenditures are specifically excluded from how the SRS is officially measured." (2 Feb 2024)
Read more at The Guardian

Max Wallace: Between Theocracy and Democracy: A Short Review.
"Is it asking too much for the repeal of the tax and charity laws, rooted in 400-year-old law where ‘the advancement of religion’ is ‘charitable’ and thus exempt from tax? Is it asking too much for state governments to legislate for separation of government and religion that facilitate state tax exemptions? Is it asking too much for our supposedly secular governments to drop the identification of government with religion through prayers, the subsidising of religious chaplains instead of qualified counsellors in public schools, the celebrating of key Christian days as public holidays, the image of the religious King on the currency, Christian postage stamps, and so on? The fact of the matter is that our governments are Christian constitutional monarchies, better described as soft theocracies, characterised by government-religion entanglement. That entanglement is what is between theocracy and democracy. (5 Feb 2024)
Read more at the Secular Association of NSW

Dave Kelly: Religious belief should never be blank cheque to hurt others.
"Most people are surprised that in WA religious schools have the legal right to sack a teacher (or any staff member) for having sex outside of marriage, for living in a de facto relationship, for being pregnant, for having an abortion, for being gay, for having an affair and the list goes on. ... The Telethon Kids Institute says about 10 per cent of students identify as something other than heterosexual. These kids at religious schools can be subjected to teachings that say who they are is the work of the devil, or that being gay will send you to hell. ... In 21st-century Australia, religious belief should never be a blank cheque to hurt others." (23 Feb 2024)
Read more at The West Australian

Events and Campaigns

Equality Australia is running a petition asking NSW politicians to ban gay conversion laws.
View the petition at EA's website

Residents of NSW, there is a petition running that calls on the state parliament to run scripture (SRE) and ethics (SEE) lessons outside class time in NSW public schools.
View the petition at the NSW Parliament House website

The Australia Institute are calling on federal parliament to pass truth in political advertising laws that are nationally consistent, constitutional and uphold freedom of speech.
View the petition at The Australia Institute

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 30,000 signatures.
View the petition at change.org

Reason Australia are encouraging Victorians to email the state government asking to remove prayers from Victorian state parliament.
Read more at the Reason Australia website

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

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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