Weekend Wrap for 30 August 2020

Mike Gaffney’s bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying in Tassie has made its way to the floor of the state parliament. Catch up on that and much more in this wrap of secular news from the past week.

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

The federal government’s chief health officer has sought to reassure religious communities there are no ethical concerns surrounding the coronavirus vaccine that the government is seeking (ABC).

While acknowledging that the cell line used in the Oxford vaccine may be problematic for Catholics, Nobel laureate Peter Doherty has suggested that others had a “right to take absolutely no intelligence” from church leaders on the issue (The Guardian).

Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher has tried to dispel claims that he and other faith leaders opposed a potential COVID-19 vaccine because it included cell lines from an aborted foetus, claiming that his words “weren’t reported accurately or fairly” (Catholic Leader).

Catholic health organisations such as Catholic Health Australia and the Australian Catholic Medical Association have publicly endorsed Archbishop Fisher’s ethical concerns about the Oxford vaccine (Catholic Weekly).

Public school graduates are earning on average significantly less than graduates of Catholic schools, with a new survey of millennials showing that average annual household income of those from public schools being about $15,000 less (SMH).

Around the Country

TAS: In this short video, campaigners for voluntary assisted dying in Tasmania capture the moment when Independent MLC Mike Gaffney tables his bill in parliament (Your Choice TAS).

TAS: Mike Gaffney’s End of Life Choices Bill is now set to be debated in the state’s Legislative Council from 15 September (The Mercury).

TAS: On the day before introducing his bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying, Mike Gaffney tabled more than 100 submissions of personal stories about people’s experiences with end-of-life suffering (The Advocate).

TAS: In this radio interview, Mike Gaffney talks about the “distressing” personal stories that he submitted to parliament, the widespread support he has received from healthcare professionals and the reasons behind the many changes made to the bill (Tasmania Talks).

TAS: A leaflet being circulated to Catholic parishioners instructs them on how to write letters to members of parliament to lobby against Mike Gaffney's voluntary assisted dying bill, urging them to use the term ‘assisted suicide’ and to refrain from making religious arguments (RSA).

TAS: Senator Jacqui Lambie has publicly backed the push for voluntary assisted dying in her state (The Examiner).

QLD: A new online petition is calling for the support of 35,000 Christians to pressure the Noosa mayor to cancel the upcoming Satanic Black Mass, being held by Noosa Temple of Satan as an expression of religious freedom.

QLD: The Australian Christian Lobby has applauded Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party for committing to roll back Queensland “brutal and extreme abortion law” (ACL).

ACT: Equality campaigners have welcomed the territory’s passing of legislation to ban gay conversion therapy in both formal and informal contexts, arguing the new law is a “vast improvement” on Queensland’s version (Out in Perth).

ACT: In sharp contrast to conservative Christian organisations, 16 Uniting Church ministers wrote a joint letter in support of the Barr government’s new gay coversion therapy law (Star Observer).

ACT: In response to the Barr government’s amendment preventing the 'mere expression of a religious tenet or belief’ from being considered a gay conversion practice, the Australian Christian Lobby labelled it a “clumsy amendment” that would make the legislation “more dangerous” (ACL).

ACT: Anglican and Catholic leaders raised concerns that the new law banning gay conversion practices would infringe on the rights and autonomy of parents in seeking treatment options for children experiencing gender dysphoria (Catholic Weekly).

ACT: A survivor who suffered depression after experiencing conversion practices in a church group has welcomed the Barr government’s new law, saying it would save lives (ABC).

VIC: A powerful Christian Right figure in the Liberal Party has been suspended from an important party committee because she had knowledge of a plot to dump state upper house members of parliament based on skin colour, gender, ethnicity and religious beliefs (The Australian, paywalled).

NSW: The Newcastle branch of the Teachers Federation has revealed that religious instructors in public schools are making “really alarming” remarks to children about homosexuals and multiculturalism (NBN News).

NSW: A new petition to prevent the passing of the One Nation-led bill prohibiting the teaching of gender fluidity to children in schools has gathered almost 60,000 signatures in two weeks (Out in Perth).

Commentary and Analysis

Alexandra Alvaro and Fiona Blackwood take a look at the key elements of Mike Gaffney's voluntary assisted dying bill (ABC).

Tim Martain writes on Michael Gaffney’s long journey to bringing voluntary assisted dying back to the state parliament (The Mercury).

Ian Wood, the spokesperson for the Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Assisted Dying group, addresses Tasmanian members of parliament on Christian support for the proposed law.

Sid Finnigan of Doctors for Assisted Dying Choice argues that Queenslanders deserve to know where all members of parliament and candidates stand on assisted dying ahead of the state election (Northwest Star, see second article on page).

While the potential COVID-19 vaccine may raise issues of conscience for some religious groups, Renae Barker writes that the interests of public health are likely to outweigh any freedom of religion concerns (The Conversation).

Holly Seale examines how supporting public health goals has previously been the key principle applied by major faith institutions in situations where ethical issues around vaccination have been raised (The Conversation).

Rob Harris and Paul Sakkal explore how Liberal Party members now divide along social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and assisted dying instead of traditional economic issues (Brisbane Times).

The nature of branch stacking among conservative sections of the major parties shows how the practice is about furthering conservative agendas, writes Mike Seccombe (The Saturday Paper, paywalled).

Kathleen McPhillips argues that new revelations in the book ‘The Altar Boys’ add to the need for more findings of the child abuse royal commission to be made public (The Big Smoke).

That's it for another week!

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