Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 3 December 2023, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.
It is with sadness that we share news of the passing of National Secular Lobby ambassador Cr David Zyngier.
Massive thanks to everyone who came to the Secularism Australia Conference on Saturday 2nd December. It was an amazing day that will hopefully pave the way for even greater pro-secular collaboration in Australia.
Do you know someone who might be interested in the stories in our Wrap mailouts? Use the "Forward this email to a friend" link at the bottom of the email.
Do you have any news items, campaigns, petitions, webinars or other event notices that could be added to our weekly Wrap? Let us know at email@example.com.
At the National Level
United Australia senator Ralph Babet has declared he’s determined to ban transgender youth in Australia from accessing gender affirming medical treatments. The Victorian senator is a co-signatory to a bill put forward by Liberal senator Alex Antic that calls for the ban. The bill has been widely condemned by LGBTIQA+ rights groups. (29 Nov 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
States will push Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus to write an exemption for voluntary assisted dying into the Commonwealth’s criminal code so doctors who consult their terminally ill patients about euthanasia over telehealth aren’t at risk of being prosecuted. The Federal Court on Thursday ruled that voluntary assisted dying was considered suicide under the code, which means doctors could be charged under laws that prohibit using a carriage service – such as telehealth, email or phone calls – to incite or provide information about suicide. The landmark judgment by Justice Wendy Abraham clarifies a previously grey area for medical practitioners and patients. It will have the greatest implications for terminally ill Australians in rural and regional areas who must travel long distances to speak in person with a qualified doctor. (30 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Age
Just Equal Australia has renewed its call for an LGBTIQA+ Human Rights Commissioner following the tabling of Government legislation establishing an Anti-Slavery Commissioner. Spokesperson, Brian Greig, said while the establishment of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner was welcomed, for too long successive government’s have ignored calls for an LGBTIQA+ focused commissioner. In 2016 then shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, promised to appoint an LGBTIQA+ Human Rights Commissioner but Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, dropped the policy prior to the last federal election. In 2022 Labor voted down a move by the Greens and independents to establish such a position. (1 Dec 2023)
Read more at Out in Perth
State leaders are calling for the federal government to amend Commonwealth laws and allow telehealth consultations for patients seeking access to voluntary assisted dying services, saying it is essential for rural and regional Australians. All states (but not territories) have their own laws allowing for voluntary assisted dying, while the federal government through Medicare funds telehealth appointments with doctors. On Thursday the Federal Court made a significant ruling in a case brought by Victorian doctor Nicholas Carr, who sought clarity about whether the term suicide in the federal criminal code included voluntary assisted dying. Justice Wendy Abraham found that it did and that if a doctor were to give information to a patient about voluntary assisted dying under Victorian law it would amount to providing "instruction on a particular method of committing suicide". (1 Dec 2023)
Read more at ABC News
Around the Country
NSW: Terminally ill people in New South Wales will be able to make a request to end their own lives from tomorrow. Legislation paving the way for NSW to become the last state in the country to introduce voluntary assisted dying (VAD) was passed last year. This is how VAD will work in NSW. (27 Nov 2023)
Read more at ABC News
QLD: Nurses and midwives will be able to prescribe and dispense medical abortion drugs to women in Queensland, if a bill introduced to state parliament is passed. But the National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (NASOG) has urged "extreme caution", warning termination of pregnancy "is much more than writing a prescription". Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said the proposed amendments to the Medicines and Poisons Act would mean greater choice for Queensland women, particularly in areas where access to surgical termination is unavailable. She said some women still faced barriers in accessing abortions, particularly in rural and remote areas. (1 Dec 2023)
Read more at ABC News
Commentary and Analysis
Hugh Harris: The hope for secularism
"Many faith-based groups want to preserve golden-age values by protecting them within their own walls. They want to hire people of all stripes but make them conform to a strict set of beliefs in their job and sometimes in their private life as well. They want to continue refusing service on religious grounds. All of this is framed within the context of ‘religious freedom’ – a term now weaponised by faith groups to inflict their values on the rest of us. The obfuscations are never ending and the debates are tiresome." (25 Nov 2023)
Read more at Rationale Magazine
Neil Foster: New NSW “Religious Vilification” law
"An amendment to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, making certain types of speech connected with religion unlawful, commenced operation on 11 November 2023. The amendment, made by the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Vilification) Act 2023 (No 15 of 2023) (“the ADA”), is a form of “religious vilification” law which has not previously been in force in NSW. It is not as bad as some forms of such laws in terms of its effect on religious freedom, but it is worth being aware of its potential operation. It will be important, for example, for those preaching and teaching the Bible (or other religious texts) to understand what the law does, and perhaps more importantly, does not, prohibit." (26 Nov 2023)
Read more at Law and Religion Australia
Tamsin Rose: Scott fought for the right to die. Now he hopes he never has to use it
"More than 100 doctors and nurses have completed their training and are now authorised to provide voluntary assisted dying services. Another 250 have started the accreditation process. ... Go Gentle Australia’s chief executive, Dr Linda Swan, describes voluntary assisted dying as one of the biggest social reforms in NSW in decades. She says it hands power back to the individual after it was withheld by institutions for so long."
(28 Nov 2023)
Read more at The Guardian
Brian Morris: SAC takes on CPAC
"Secular Australia justifiably expects equal media attention to that given to CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Conference that stages rallies promoting authoritarian agendas. Notably, the Secularism Australia Conference, SAC, is the polar opposite! On 2nd December SAC sets out to “reclaim the middle ground” with 18 key speakers, including former High Court Justice, Micheal Kirby, and personalities who promote justice and unity. Speaking for the nation’s secular majority, SAC will showcase a raft of social policy initiatives to directly counter the divisive social and political agenda championed by a reactionary CPAC." (30 Nov 2023)
Read more at The AIMN
Events and Campaigns
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.