Weekend Wrap for 3 April 2021

Whatever your religious beliefs, we hope you are enjoying the Easter long weekend, and we welcome you to a new NSL Weekend Wrap, summarising the latest Australian secular-related news and views.

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

In a rare show of cross-party co-operation, ACT Labor, Green, and Liberal politicians unanimously moved that the Federal Government restore Territory rights so the ACT can vote on voluntary assisted dying. The Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 (the "Andrews Bill") was introduced 24 years ago, which prevented the ACT and the NT from legislating on euthanasia. (Canberra Weekly)

Concerns are being raised over the appointment of overtly conservative senator Amanda Stoker as Scott Morrison’s new assistant minister for women, given her history of being "vocally anti-abortion" and having "been accused of anti-trans rhetoric". Senator Stoker has also been a vocal supporter of the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill. (The Guardian)

Labor Senator Deborah O'Neill, a devout Catholic who has been campaigning for Labor to boost its appeal with voters from faith communities, used Senate Estimates last week to push for a bipartisanship approach with the Morrison government on the Religious Discrimination Bill. (Rationalist Society of Australia)

Scott Morrison has used his Easter message to preach the virtues of love and forgiveness, while paying tribute to the resilience of Australians. (The Australian)

The ALP has for the first time recognised the state of Palestine in its national platform, despite strong opposition from sections of the party’s Right faction. The platform amendment calls for the Palestinian statehood to “be an important priority” for Labor if it wins the next election. (The Australian)

Ben Schneiders reveals that the Church of Scientology has shifted tens of millions of dollars into Australia, which has become an international haven for the controversial religion where it makes tax-free profits with minimal scrutiny, and that despite shrinking to fewer than 1700 adherents in Australia, its wealth continues to increase. (SMH and Brisbane Times)

Two researchers at Deakin University have tracked incidents of antisemitism across Australia between 2013 and 2017 in an effort to better understand and predict the phenomenon and to allow the creation of more appropriate legislation protecting against it. (The Conversation)

Cardinal George Pell has stated that Australia should consider a ­second national broadcaster to present an "alternative outlook" to the ABC, believing that the public network is "hostile to social conservatives, most Christians and often to Western civilisation." (The Australian)

Around the Country

ACT: Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne has flagged that the territory government could go to the United Nations if the federal government does not restore the territories' rights to make laws on euthanasia. The territories have had no ability to make legislation on voluntary assisted dying since the so-called Andrews Bill passed in the federal parliament in 1997. (Canberra Times)

NSW: A majority of a NSW parliamentary committee has endorsed a push led by One Nation's Mark Latham to amend the state's anti-discrimination laws to protect and enhance religious freedom, in a move that has divided MPs and triggered a wider backlash. If accepted, the proposal would see NSW forge ahead of the Commonwealth in introducing additional laws to protect and privilege religious expression. (SMH)

NSW: The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) has formally thanked the Joint Select Committee on the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Freedoms and Equality) Bill 2020 for supporting the bill. (AFIC)

TAS: RACGP Tasmania Chair Dr Tim Jackson says that Tasmanian doctors will have the next 18 months to adjust to the state's "world class" legislation while the health system gets up to speed. Tasmania is the third Australian state to establish voluntary assisted dying laws, after legislation passed the state's upper house last week. (The RACGP)

NSW: The head of Anglicare Sydney has been summoned to appear before a NSW parliamentary inquiry into aged care to explain its handling of the deadly COVID-19 outbreak in Newmarch House. The inquiry follows the release earlier this month of the final report into the royal commission into aged care, which found "unacceptably high levels of substandard care" in the crisis-plagued sector. (The Age)

QLD: (one we missed from a couple of weeks ago) A Brisbane nurse who called herself "the angel of death" and told colleagues she was proud of helping an elderly friend to die at home has been reprimanded by a judicial tribunal but will not face criminal charges. (Brisbane Times)

NSW: A group of disaffected Christian Democrats are suing Reverend Fred Nile for defamation over two furious emails accusing them of staging a siege at the party’s former headquarters last year. The lawsuit is a fresh front in an extraordinary schism playing out between Mr Nile and a renegade group who disagree with how the party is being run. (The Australian)

Commentary and Analysis

Chris Watkin, senior lecturer in French Studies at Monash University, delivered a lecture at Parliament House, Canberra, at the invitation of the Church Community Restoration Project, suggesting that Christianity should play a central role in creating a new, post-COVID common good "social contract". (Eternity News)

James Snare, a pastor at Gosford Presbyterian Church on the NSW Central Coast, delivers a "gentle critique" of the Australian Christian Lobby's strategy of using fear as a motivating factor in their campaigns. (Eternity News)

The Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR) has issued a statement in support of LGBTIQA+ Catholics following the "ill-informed statement from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in which it bans 'the blessing of unions of persons of the same sex'.” (Pearls and Irritations)

At Sydney's Trans Day of Visibility rally this week, Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) spokesperson April Holcombe warned those gathered that "the fight is not over" as trans rights are currently under renewed legislative attacks at both the federal and state levels, in the guise of religious freedoms and education reforms. More on this from Paul Gregoire. (Sydney Criminal Lawyers)

NSW Labor has, in recent years, failed to ensure all voices and views are heard, especially from those who identify as religious. It needs to change now, writes Member for Bankstown, Tania Mihailuk. (Daily Telegraph)

Philip Freier, Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, writes that "for the 70 per cent of federal elected members who swear an oath on the Bible, the weight of Jesus' teaching is intended to be a present reality in their undertaking of such a position of trust." (SMH)

In the context of internal Australian division in our disagreements with China, Chris Uhlmann writes that perhaps it is time to "note that religion is the fountainhead of our notion of a just society" and that "[godless] erasers claim to be champions of justice, but they are its executioners." (SMH)

A new study, commissioned by Alpha Australia and conducted by McCrindle Research, has found that four out of five Australians are open to spiritual conversations which may involve views other than their own, and that younger generations are the most open to having those conversations. (Eternity News)

That's it for another week!

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