Monthly Archives

September 2019

NSW PREMIER FACES MUTINY OVER ABORTION BILL

By Australian Newsletter

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian faces mutiny, with two Liberal MPs threatening to move to the cross-bench over the abortion bill if amendments aren’t made.  Former minister Tanya Davies agreed it would be “political suicide” but “absolutely” worth it.  The move would plunge the Premier into minority government, with her hold on power assured by a wafer-thin two seats.  Former minister Tanya Davies and Riverstone MP Kevin Connolly are both willing to go to the cross-bench if the abortion bill passes without amendments.  Ms Davies told the media she had warned the Premier of her intention.

“I continue to work with the Premier and Minister for Health on essential amendments to the abortion bill, if the amendments are not adopted into the abortion bill, my conscience will drive me to sit on the cross-bench,” she said.  “This position has been communicated to the Premier, Deputy Premier and Minister Hazzard.”  Ms Berejiklian has not commented.  The heated abortion bill debate has torn apart the Liberal Party and is set to return to the upper house in a fortnight.  Ms Davies has led the charge to ensure the legislation prevents sex-selective abortions.

Ms Davies said “There’s one thing that politicians pay attention to and that’s numbers.  At the moment, our government holds government by 50 plus two.  I am one of those two and there is another colleague and together we have told the Premier and the Deputy Premier that if you do not make essential amendments to this bill we will remove ourselves from the party room, which means we will disconnect ourselves from being bound by the leadership and the direction of the Liberals and Nationals,” Ms Davies said.  “Which means the government goes into minority government.”

She was asked if this equated to “political suicide”, which she confirmed but said it was “absolutely” worth it.  Ms Davies said “I’m called to do this, so I am not concerned about my future whatsoever.  My conscience will not allow me to stand alongside people who have just trampled upon you, upon my community, in the way that they have, and particularly over such a sensitive and highly complex and delicate subject such as abortion.”  Mr Connolly said he had been put in an “untenable position” by the bill: “What has been introduced and facilitated by my own side of politics is abhorrent and something has to change.”  He said he was taking a “stand on principle”.

Senior government sources are preparing for the possibility the divisive debate could last for months.  When the legislation is taken to the committee stage in the upper house, there is no time limit on how long members speak.  One source said there was nothing to stopping anyone opposing the legislation from speaking for hours on end.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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VICTORIAN BIRTH CERTIFICATE REFORM PASSED

By Australian Newsletter

Transgender and gender-diverse people in Victoria will be able to change the sex on their birth certificate without having to undergo gender reassignment surgery, after reforms were passed in parliament.  The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill introduced by the state government passed 26-14 in the Victorian upper house and now goes to the Governor for royal assent.  The bill will remove the current requirement for transgender people to undergo sex reassignment surgery before updating their birth certificate.  They will also be free to self-nominate their sex as male, female or many other non-binary descriptors of their choice.

Children will also be able to alter the gender on their birth certificate, provided they have parental support and a statement from a doctor or registered psychologist stating that the decision is in the child’s best interests.  Victoria became the fifth state in Australia to adopt the reform, bringing it in line with Tasmania, Northern Territory, South Australia and the ACT.  The government has argued that the law that requires a trans person to have sex affirmation surgery before changing their birth certificate should be scrapped because some people cannot, or do not want to go through an expensive and invasive medical procedure.

Labor had previously sought to amend Victoria’s birth registration laws in this way.  The Andrews government narrowly failed to change the law in 2016 due to opposition from the Coalition and some crossbench MPs.  The bill was introduced a second time by Attorney-General Jill Hennessy.  “These important new laws are about ensuring everyone can live their life as they choose, and that includes having a birth certificate that reflects their true identity,” she said.  “The current surgery requirement sends a painful and false message that there is something wrong with being trans or gender diverse that needs to be ‘fixed’ , that’s why we’re removing this barrier.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP TO KEEP CONFESSIONAL SEAL DESPITE LAW

By Australian Newsletter

Melbourne’s Catholic archbishop Peter Comensoli says his principles of reporting child abuse do not remove his responsibility to the sanctity of the seal.  He says he’ll go to jail before he breaks the seal of confession after a bill forcing religious leaders to report child abuse landed in the Victorian parliament.  Under the new laws, disclosures of abuse during religious confession will not be exempt and must be reported to police.  Under current laws, priests are exempt from mandatory requirements but the Andrews Labor government is seeking to introduce amendments to extend the criminal offence to religious leaders.

When asked, Archbishop Comensoli said: “Personally, I’ll keep the seal.”  When asked if he was prepared to go to jail he said: “I’ll say for myself, yes.”  Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the welfare of children was more important than the seal of confession.  “We promised to put the safety of children ahead of the secrecy of the confessional and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” she said.  Victorian Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan said everyone had an obligation to report child abuse.  “These are significant reforms, and they will go a long way to ensuring future generations of children are protected from the harm that far too many suffered in the past,” he said.

 Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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AUSTRALIA REDIRECTS $500M FOREIGN AID TO THE PACIFIC

By Australian Newsletter

Australia will redirect more than half a billion dollars in foreign aid towards renewable energy projects and disaster relief throughout the Pacific, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces direct calls from leaders to “do more” to curb the threat facing the region.  Mr Morrison unveiled a $500 million climate change and oceans package at the recent Pacific Islands Forum, promising Australia will be a “champion” of the environment and ensure the Pacific remained economically stable and “sovereign politically”.  The funds will be redirected from existing aid projects, but it’s not clear which countries will lose support.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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WARNINGS OVER SURGE IN TRANSGENDER CASES

By Australian Newsletter

Clinicians are calling for an urgent national inquiry into the safety and ethics of giving unproven hormone drug treatment to ever younger children who are confused about sex and gender.  A detailed submission arguing that risks including infertility and lifelong regret outweigh the benefits to trans children and teenagers, has been sent to Health Minister Greg Hunt and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.  The first national figures, obtained under freedom of information legislation from major hospitals in NSW, Victoria, WA and Queensland, show 2415 children were referred for gender treatment between 2014 and last year, with a 41% increase in Victoria.

Girls as young as 9 are believed to be put on “puberty blocker” drugs, and boys from about 11.  A poorly understood surge in children and teens identifying as transgender, especially girls whose body perception can be more fraught, has arrived in the past five to 10 years.  The call for an inquiry by health sociologist Geoff Holloway, who wrote the submission, has been backed by 2019 Senior Australian of the Year paediatrician Sue Packer, Western Sydney University paediatrics professor John Whitehall and developmental psychologist Dianna Kenny.  “Who gave ethics approval for this treatment when it lacks any scientific basis and therefore is an experiment?”

Professor Whitehall said. “We should give the psychiatry and psychology a full run before we start castrating children.”  The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, whose national standards for treatment in this area have been hailed as the “most progressive” in the world, also has the biggest caseload in the country.  It champions the internationally dominant “affirmation model” in which going along with the child’s wish to transition is often seen by clinicians, with good intentions, as compassionate and necessary.  The rationale for puberty blockers, was to give the child respite from unwanted development, ease suffering and allow time to sort out identity.

Critics point out virtually all those on blockers go on to cross-sex hormones, and sometimes surgery, meaning an irrevocable transition to a medical approximation of the opposite sex.  This makes them lifelong patients with a range of potential complications and a high risk of infertility, clinicians say. Professor Whitehall said there was no rigorous long-term evidence that puberty blockers were safe and reversible for younger children, and studies in adults and sheep suggested damage to the growing human brain could not be ruled out.  The new flag the need for more research, “a comprehensive exploration” of a child’s history and fertility counselling.

Professor Whitehall said informed consent was an illusion because children and teens could not grasp the life-changing nature of the decisions, even if gender clinics gave a more accurate idea of cost-benefit balances.  Critics say still-maturing young people are immersed in a world where many parents, teachers and clinicians, are captured by emotive promotion of trans status, while activists try to suppress scepticism or inquiry as “hateful transphobia”.  Dr Holloway says the role of culture in the issue is unmistakeable. “People who object to what’s going on can lose their jobs and be ostracised.  This is supposed to be a scientific endeavour, not a witch hunt.”

In Britain, the well-known Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service has come under scrutiny, with ex-staff saying trans lobby pressure has contaminated clinical decisions.  The clinic is running “an unregulated live hormone drug experiment on children”, says Oxford University’s professor of evidence-based medicine, Carl Heneghan, who points to the scarcity, weakness and brevity of supporting studies. Critics say the trans lobby has encouraged conflation of the biological fact of birth sex with changeable gender identity.  Clinicians stress the suffering of gender-confused children is real, and requires a compassionate response.

But they also put the case for non-intrusive therapy to bring distorted gender ideas into line with the reality of biological sex, rather than a risky medical reinvention of the body.  Dr Kenny said she believed gender dysphoria was in part “a social construct, propagated through the processes of groupthink and social contagion”.  Sceptical clinicians say the affirmation model too readily puts children on a path to medical intervention when evidence suggests the vast majority of those with early “gender dysphoria” will grow out of it, many emerging as gay or bisexual.

The rush to puberty blockers disrupts this self-correcting process and often involves only a cursory examination of mental health issues, family trauma, autism and other factors that may predate the gender dysphoria, it’s argued.  “Far be it from anybody to say that there are absolutely no people in the world who are genuinely gender dysphoric and who find it impossible to live in their biological sex,” said Dr Kenny, a clinician who until recently was a psychology professor at Sydney University.  “What I’m saying is it’s been massively and irresponsibly over-diagnosed and these children and teens are going to be irrevocably damaged by the treatment they received.”

In June last year, paediatrician Michelle Telfer, director of the Royal Children’s Hospital Gender Service in Melbourne, said starting medical intervention as young as 13 or 14 was “not at all controversial within those with expertise”.  “The consequence of not treating are known to be severe in terms of depression, self-harm, suicide,” she said.  Sceptics say the suicide risk linked to gender dysphoria itself has been exaggerated, while evidence showing high suicide risk in adults who undergo full medical transition has been downplayed.  Dean, 28, from Sydney, is among those who come to regret going trans.

After 10 years as “Andrea”, dangerous encounters with men and the “self-torture” of hair removal and body sculpting, he began to think “this is not natural”.  He believes it’s wrong for parents and teachers to automatically “support” a young person’s wish to go trans.  “I have younger siblings, and they’re being taught about trans in school.  Their minds are still developing: what if they grow up and want to have children naturally but their bodies have been changed?  “Raised in a loving, religious family, Dean was conscious of early same-sex attraction.  “Me being trans, it was like a thing for me to escape being homosexual; it seemed more acceptable for me to be a woman.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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CHURCH LEADERS WANT CHANGES TO DRAFT RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION BILL

By Australian Newsletter

Religious leaders will advocate for changes to the draft Religious Freedoms laws recently announced by Attorney-General Christian Porter, as many leaders felt left out of the consultation process during the drafting process, expressed concern over parts of the legislation.  Their reaction comes after leaders from the Catholic Church boycotted Mr Porter’s speech at the Great Synagogue in Sydney over disappointment at the consultation process. Michael Stead, Anglican bishop of South Sydney and Chair of the Religious Freedom Reference Group, said that he and Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies had “very significant concerns” about the consultation process and the draft bill.

”I expect there will be minor tweaking around the edges and that there are probably little things that need to be improved.  But I don’t expect that they will be substantive changes to the architecture of the bill.  I think the Attorney-General has made it very clear that the overriding framework is not going to change.” Mr Stead said.  He also expressed concerns about Mr Porter’s flagging that the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) recommendation process would be delayed despite the consultation for the religious freedoms exposure draft bill proceeding.

“What concerns me more is what’s not in the bill, and specifically, that the ALRC process is now going to be delayed so that its recommendations can’t be considered in parallel with this bill.  It’s a very significant concern, because the ALRC is looking at the removal of religious exemptions from other anti-discrimination acts.  This is about religious discrimination, there is an obvious overlap between those two things.  And the really thorny issues, as the Attorney-General indicated, are actually in that space of intersection.  But we’re not allowed to talk about those two things together.” Mr Stead said.
“Actually the real concern is not so much what’s in this bill, but the fact that it’s not going to be able to talk to the recommendations of the ALRC.  And we may end up with something embedded in this bill that becomes unworkable.” Mr Stead said.  Mr Stead said he was also concerned at the lack of clarity of how the laws would impact workplaces and corporations who sacks employees for expressing religious views, and said the situation of Israel Folau and Rugby Australia had not been made any clearer by Mr Porter.  He also said he was not surprised by Catholic Church leaders boycotting the speech, and said “some of their concerns are well founded”.

Bilal Rauf, the spokesman who accompanied the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Mohammed to Mr Porter’s speech said he was disappointed at the consultation process leading up to today’s draft release.  “It’s only now the consultation process seems to be beginning.  Prior to now, there has been very little discussion and there has been very little involvement with us.  “It’s more been a case of people pushing to try and get across views without really understanding what the government had in mind.  This is the first opportunity we have to get real insight into what their thinking is.  And I think leading up to now there hasn’t been that same level of discussion.”

He said he was concerned that given how developed the draft is, further significant change would be unlikely.  “It seems to be quite advanced in its form. I think the reality is that there will be little scope to achieve structural or significant changes.” Mr Rauf said.  Mr Rauf also noted the “positive rights” model that the Australian National Imams Council had put forward in writing was not reflected in the version released today.  “We were part of the group that were putting forward certain views as to the approach, namely, a positive rights approach.  “We are hopeful that there will be fulsome consultation and the opportunity to engage and provide feedback.

We hope to attend the next consultation phase.” he said.  Peter Wertheim, Co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said he was also concerned about the impact of the delay of the ALRC recommendations as the Religious Freedoms draft proceeds.  “I’m more concerned that the referral to the ALRC, concerning exceptions to the anti-discrimination laws that benefit religious institutions, has now been narrowed somewhat, according to what the Attorney-General has announced.  “It will make it difficult given that the timetable has now been extended out to next year, to evaluate both exposure draft and any recommendations.” Mr Wertheim said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT MUST REJECT THE PIMPS PROTECTION BILL

By Australian Newsletter

The recent news that the SA Police Commissioner, Grant Stevens considers that the Prostitution Decriminalisation Bill (which decriminalises pimping and protects pimps) would place community safety at risk and allow organised crime to flourish, and the news that organised crime syndicates are operating in the SA prostitution industry, means that that House of Assembly should reject the Bill. As the recent editorial in the Advertiser stated, lower house MPs should listen to the Commissioner.  There was also important news in the In Daily Online newspaper that the Adelaide City Council (ACC) is set to oppose the decriminalisation of prostitution in SA.

The experience in New Zealand is that after decriminalisation, street work shifted to residential areas and waste was left in the streets and on private property. Prostitution has grown exponentially.  We cannot afford to let this happen in Adelaide and SA for the sake of our young women and men.  MPs should reject this Bill and adopt the Nordic model of regulation which decriminalises the selling of sex, criminalises the buying of sex and pimping and provides real exit strategies for prostituted women and men. In the upcoming prostitution debate numbers are very close.  We are working with a delegation of survivors this week, visiting MPs.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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