Weekend Wrap for 30 June 2024

Welcome to the NSL Weekend Wrap for 30 June 2024, where you can catch up on the latest secular-related news from around the country.

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At the National Level

The federal government has effectively shelved its push to introduce both extraordinary immigration powers and religious discrimination laws, with Labor offering few signs it will seek to deliver on its promised policies before the election. Ahead of the last election, then opposition leader Anthony Albanese promised to introduce measures to protect LGBT staff and students from discrimination in religious schools. At the same time, he also vowed to deliver protections for people of faith. Now the prime minister has offered varying accounts of his plans in recent months. There are few signs that either Labor or the LNP are seeking to initiate negotiations. (23 Jun 2024)
Read more at ABC News

Religious schools have failed to provide evidence of how their operations in jurisdictions without exemptions to anti-discrimination laws have been negatively affected by the removal of those exemptions, the head of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has said. Faith-based education providers have criticised the ALRC’s proposed reforms to the Sex Discrimination Act and Fair Work Act to prevent students and staff being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, but in an ABC interview, Justice Mordecai Bromberg said that faith schools already operate in a number of states and territories that do not allow them to exercise such exemptions to anti-discrimination laws. “The idea that religious schools will cease to exist is quite surprising. The exemptions that we’ve been talking about do not currently exist in a range of places,” he said. “There was no evidence that religious schools or institutions were affected by the removal of those exemptions. And we asked for it. We did ask for evidence of that kind – if it was available – and nothing came forward.” (28 Jun 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

Around the Country

VIC: The religious order that runs Catholic boys’ school Xavier College is facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit after a Supreme Court judge overturned a settlement struck to compensate the victim of a “serial recidivist paedophile” who abused a student at the elite school. The victim, a 69-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons, successfully appealed the agreement struck in August 2011 between him and the Society of Jesus in Australia, which included a term that Xavier College in Kew cover tuition for his two sons and pay him $150,000. The former student is now claiming loss of past earnings and superannuation of between $1,248,791.62 and $4,952,307.62 in damages. (24 Jun 2024)
Read more at The Age

NSW: The Catholic Church has used its membership on the new New South Wales Faith Affairs Council to demand answers from the state government as to why it has allowed equality legislation to progress in parliament. Documents obtained by the Rationalist Society of Australia under freedom of information laws show that Monica Doumit, Director of Public Affairs and Engagement for the Archdiocese of Sydney, asked the Faith Affairs Council to question the government in regards to its handling of Independent MP Alex Greenwich’s proposed legislation. Ms Doumit also requested the Faith Affairs Council seek answers from the government in regards to public comments by Premier Chris Minns and Deputy Premier Prue Car in support of a same-sex student at a Catholic school. (24 Jun 2024)
Read more at the Rationalist Society of Australia

QLD: Queensland’s Attorney General Yvette D’Ath has pulled many of the promised reforms from the state’s update of Equal Opportunity Laws. Now off-the-table are reforms that would have seen protections that allow faith-based schools to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, gender identity, pregnancy and relationship status. The state’s Human Rights Commisisoner Scott McDougall has said he’s "deeply disappointed" and "at a loss to understand why" the Labor government has abandoned its promise to bring in reforms, especially as a wide-ranging consultation has already been completed. National LGBTIQA+ rights group Just.Equal have highlighted that the Queensland government’s recent declaration that they would not proceed with bringing in state-based protections for students and teachers working at religious schools may be an indicator of what is likely to happen in Western Australia too. (27 Jun 2024)
Read more at Out in Perth

Commentary and Analysis

Trevor Cobbold: Private schools serving richest NSW families over-funded by millions
"New figures reveal scandalous over-funding of NSW Independent schools serving the richest families in the state. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds are being squandered on just 52 highly privileged schools while public schools go begging. ... The new figures show that 52 Independent schools with a median taxable family income of $200,000 or more will be over-funded by $353 million over seven years from 2022 to 2028 inclusive by the Commonwealth Government. Of these, just 13 of these schools will be over-funded by $178 million. The 52 schools will receive $2.4 billion in funding by the Commonwealth over the period. ... The over-funding estimated from official government figures is just the tip of the iceberg because of defects in the Commonwealth system of funding private schools. The Direct Measure of Income (DMI) method introduced by the Morrison Government is fundamentally flawed because it under-estimates the income capacity of families to pay school fees and therefore over-estimates the need for taxpayer funding." (24 Jun 2024)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

Lucy Hamilton: Australian Libertarians and Theocrats unite in Albury
"The Triple Conference took place in Albury in March. Conspiracists and hustlers appeared alongside the well-meaning and self-important to inform a small audience of largely white-haired elders about the North Korean conditions overtaking Australia. We are dark in politics and spirit. The uniting of theocrats with libertarians and “cranks” is not a novel phenomenon. The unsavoury Right has exerted a longterm influence on fusion conservatism, despite the intellectual conservatives’ boast about exiling the outliers and bigots. ... [The libertarians'] theocrat friends are ensuring the fertility of the poor is uncontrolled, for religious freedom’s sake. So the desperate will replenish the stock of slave-labour workers, obliging the Christians’ libertarian donors." (24 Jun 2024)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

Yvonne Patterson: Exemptions in discrimination law: ‘safe spaces’ to act out prejudice towards LGBTIQ people
"Australia’s Federal Discrimination Laws, the Marriage Act and the WA State Equal Opportunity Act (1984) and others, license religious groups to perpetrate their choice of discrimination against primarily LGBTIQ people, if it’s disguised as a ‘chosen religious belief’. The ‘exemption’ is a ‘licence to discriminate’, a ‘safe space’ where the lives of LGBTIQ people can be denigrated and destroyed. It absolves the perpetrators of real accountability. Victims are hung out to dry. ... Why are governments reneging on repealing exemptions? It is not just the arcane calculus of seeking votes, even from bad actors; not even cowardice as some politicians have claimed; not just that religious groups seek to protect their tax exemptions and to bond congregations through prejudice against LGBTIQ people. The core reason is that prejudice toward LGBTIQ people lurks at the heart of Australian governments’ policy. If prejudice was absent, these exemptions would have been repealed in full, years ago." (24 Jun 2024)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

David Stephens: Anzac religion unfitting in multicultural Australia
"Recently, Defence Minister Richard Marles gave a speech at the Defending Australia Summit, held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The Minister referred to the Memorial as 'Australia's most sacred public site'. Describing the Memorial in such a way is common for politicians. According to former Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2018: 'The Australian War Memorial, the soul of the nation. That is what is housed within its stone and brass walls. It is sacred to us all. It transcends politics, it transcends all of us.' Where did this commemorative cliché come from and what does it signify? (27 Jun 2024)
Read more at Independent Australia

Lucy Hamilton: The Right's war to control education
"The corporate world is afraid of youth demanding change, particularly as rapacious business practices look set to drive us over the climate cliff into a frightening future. One solution the Right has implemented is the Christian Classical Education movement. ... There are several CCE schools in Australia currently. They are also fostered by the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies, a Catholic 'intellectual society' in Hobart. David Daintree, its director, organises anti-trans activities and shares climate denial material with his mailing list. CCE is affiliated with other problematic movements." (29 Jun 2024)
Read more at Pearls & Irritations

Angus Thomson: Narelle watched her husband die a painful death, so she chose hers
"In November, NSW became the last state in Australia to allow terminally ill patients to die with the help of doctors. In the program’s first three months, 517 people requested access to VAD, and 131 people died, according to the program board’s first report released on Friday. Two-thirds of applicants were from regional NSW. ... Critics of voluntary euthanasia have argued palliative care is already a decent and dignified option for those at the end of their lives. But Dr Wade Stedman, an intensive care specialist charged with leading its implementation in NSW, says the past six months have shown VAD is a complement, rather than an alternative, to palliative care." (29 Jun 2024)
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald

Events and Campaigns

Griffith University researchers are exploring Registered Nurses’ and Nurse Practitioners’ willingness to participate in Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD).
Read more at The Lamp

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

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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