Monthly Archives

November 2021


By Australian Newsletter

The religious discrimination bill will shield Australians who make statements of belief from state anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws and allow religious-run businesses, schools, hospitals and aged care homes to prioritise the hiring of people from their own faith. The Prime Minister personally tabled the bill, a key 2019 election promise, in the lower house last week and is expected to push for a vote before sending the legislation to the Senate. Under subclause 12 of the legislation distributed to Coalition MPs, moderately expressed religious views that do not incite hatred or violence “would not constitute vilification”. The statement of belief clause, which leads protections for individuals and was a key demand from Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders, is defined as a “religious belief held by a person”.

Statement made in good faith in writing or by way of spoken words or other communication by a person who genuinely considers such to be in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of that religion, will also be protected by the bill. The bill provides similar protections for atheists who don’t hold a religious belief. Statements of belief will be considered as discrimination if they are “malicious” or considered by a “reasonable person” to be threatening or intimidatory. It is not discrimination for a religious hospital, aged care facility, accommodation provider or disability service provider to seek to preserve a religious ethos amongst its staff by making faith-based decisions in relation to employment. Such conduct is therefore not unlawful.

Catholic Bishops Conference spokesman Peter Comensoli, the Archbishop of Melbourne, said a religious discrimination bill was “an important progression towards parity with other anti-discrimination protections”. It is understood faith-based groups have adopted a pragmatic approach to the bill, realising that outcomes gained from the proposed laws would offer more protections than they currently have. Under previous draft legislation prepared by former attorney-general Christian Porter, the right of employees to make religious statements outside work was dubbed the “Folau clause” after Rugby Australia pushed out Israel Folau over an Instagram post claiming gay people went to hell. This clause has now been removed.

The legislation outlines conduct not considered to be discrimination or unlawful across areas including work, education, access to premises and the provision of goods, services and accommodation. Religious education institutions, including schools, colleges, universities and training facilities, “must have a publicly available policy in relation to conduct in the context of employment”. They will not contravene state or territory laws if they give “preference, in good faith, to persons who hold or engage in a particular religious belief or activity”. The written policies must outline the religious body’s position in relation to “religious beliefs or activities and explain how the position will be enforced by the religious body”.

While the government removed the contentious Folau clause, which would have given individuals in large companies and organisations legal protection from termination as a result of expressing their religious belief, the bill stops professional bodies from striking off or restricting members over their religious beliefs and statements. A baker will not be able to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple because it is still considered discrimination under the Sex Discrimination Act. Part six of the legislation outlines the role of a new religious discrimination commissioner operating inside the Australian Human Rights Commission alongside aged, disability, sex and race commissioners. Conscientious objection protections for health professionals was not included in the final bill.

The religious discrimination bill will be debated by the lower house before being sent to the Senate, where it is expected to be referred to a committee process. While moderate Liberal MPs could cross the floor, the government believes the inclusion of a statement of religious belief will win support from Labor right-faction MPs. It is more likely than not that the bill will remain stalled in a Senate committee process until after the election. LGBTI rights groups have warned the government against bringing in any religious-focused legislation that would increase discrimination against gay people. Moderate Liberal MPs Warren Entsch, Trent Zimmerman, Tim Wilson and Dave Sharma have publicly raised concerns about the proposed law becoming a religious bill of rights or winding back protections for LGBTI people.

National Catholic Education Commission executive director Jacinta Collins, a former Labor senator, called on the Morrison government to speed up its legislation because proposed reforms to Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act could curb the rights of Catholic schools. Senator Cash was inundated with calls from religious leaders to override state government bans on gay conversion therapy and to significantly broaden the bill’s definitions of faith-based institutions to cover a wider group of institutions than places of worship and schools. Senior government sources said the revised bill removed some of the more controversial or “extreme” measures contained in earlier drafts and offered a “sensible compromise”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

In an historic vote the South Australian Liberal Women’s Council voted to support the Nordic Model of Prostitution Law Reform and to call on a Liberal Government to implement it. This model decriminalises the selling of sexual services, criminalises the buying of sexual services and third party profiteering, and most importantly, provides for meaningful exit strategies for prostituted women. The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has been campaigning for the implementation of this model since 2019 and it is  great to see a significant section of one of the major parties adopt it as policy. This follows on the young Liberals adopting the Equality Model as policy in 2019.

However, this is only one more step on the journey to have proper laws to restrict the exploitation of vulnerable people, especially women, and to provide real help for such women. The Nordic Equality Model is not policy of either party. More hard work is required to see a majority of MPs accept and pass this Model. There are strong supporters of the Equality Model in both the major parties which with further hard work may eventually bring about reform to prostitution laws. Please pray that this will happen, for the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous avails much (James 5: 16).

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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By Australian Newsletter

Senator Claire Chandler has announced she will be introducing a private members bill into the Federal Parliament in an attempt to get sex reintroduced into the Sex Discrimination Act. Staggeringly, the definitions of male and female were removed in 2013 leaving the Sex Discrimination Act impotent in promoting or protecting biological sex. The Federal Government has refused to engage on this issue, ignoring the pleas of thousands of Australians to reinstate legislation to protect girls and women from discrimination and disadvantage in sport, refuges, change-rooms, prisons and a myriad of other female services and spaces. Senator Claire Chandler is about to change all of that.  In an email sent out to supporters, Chandler announced her intention to legalise women’s rights.

For the past 18 months, women’s rights groups have been calling on Sport Australia to withdraw their misguided “inclusion” guidelines and acknowledge the importance of single-sex women’s sport. Australians have had enough of ideologically driven bureaucrats claiming that women’s sport should be based on gender identity and not biological reality. Attempts to establish women’s rights in these areas are backed by international sporting bodies, leading scientists from around the world, female athletes, parents, coaches and thousands of ordinary Australians. A mountain of evidence has been put in front of Sport Australia and the parliament, demonstrating unequivocally that it is neither fair nor safe for biological males to be allowed to compete against women. These concerns and the evidence have been ignored.

Sport Australia has made it clear they intend to ignore the latest research and that they will not, under any circumstances, change their guidelines unless the law changes. So Senator Chandler has decided to draft a bill to protect single-sex sport for women and girls in Australia. She has started a process to amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, to ensure that women’s single-sex sport will once again be celebrated and encouraged in Australia. The Sex Discrimination Act was always intended to provide for single-sex sport. But after changes made in 2013 by the former Labor Government, it’s now being used as a weapon to convince sporting organisations that they must base participation in sport on gender identity rather than sex – or risk being in breach of the law.

The senator is committed to ensuring that all sporting clubs have the legal right to rule that female sporting categories are for women and girls only. She will eliminate loopholes and work on ways to ensure transgender athletes can compete in a fair and safe way that does not put females at risk. The media will no doubt either ignore or misrepresent the intentions of this bill. You can be sure that Coalition MPs and the opposition will be running scared, as they will either have to come out in support of the protection of women and girls, or risk being exposed as political ideologues if they oppose it.  Senator Chandler is expected to receive whole-hearted support and commitment from many groups working in this field.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

A group of nurses and midwives who are committed to having a conversation about scientific, evidence-based healthcare have started an account on Twitter. Over 2000 followers have joined them in 24 hours, many of whom are healthcare professionals. It’s clear that people want and need to talk about this – we need to – for patient safety and the moral integrity of our professions. Regulators and unions – it’s time to listen. They describe themselves as “a collective of nurses and midwives with a shared interest in sex and gender.” They started the group due to concerns of being labelled ‘hateful’ or a ‘bigot’ if they raise issues specifically regarding sex-based healthcare.

Binary spokeswoman, Kirralie Smith, said it is a necessary and timely conversation that must be had. “This move comes on the back of government funded agencies trying to insist men can breastfeed or get pregnant,” she said. “Males and females are distinctly different and require healthcare specific to their biology – regardless of how they feel. “Health practitioners must be free to discuss the issues without fear of being penalised, harassed or bullied for stating biological facts.”

Source: Binary

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By Australian Newsletter

When a group of Pacific Islanders fled their abusive employers in Western Australia, embarking on a long journey across the top of the continent to escape rampant wage theft and appalling working conditions, the authorities sprang into action. Within days, specialist Border Force officials raided the home of one of the chief suspects. But the target of this swift response was not one of the abusers. The man in Border Force’s sights was Geoff Smith, a Christian missionary in Bundaberg who has spent much of his life providing pastoral care to South Sea Island workers and was believed to have helped the runaways, and others from his area. More than 50 islanders had “absconded” from their employers in Bundaberg alone in just a few months.

Mr Smith could only watch on as nine Border Force officials armed with a lengthy warrant ransacked his home, seized his phone and left his wife Jane sobbing and shaken. For his alleged crime – “referring unlawful non-citizens for work” – Mr Smith faces up to four years in jail and fines of $40,000. If charged and convicted, he will be the only casualty to date in Australia’s abysmal treatment of its guest workers. Not one prosecution has been launched by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) against any “approved employer” in the Seasonal Worker Program in the past four years. Last week, The Australian revealed how those employers, usually labour hire companies, deduct up to two thirds of workers’ pay for accommodation, transport, visas and other items; even charging $14.20 a time for water coolers.

“The whole program is rotten to the core,” Mr Smith said. “There are people making thousands and thousands of dollars out of these workers – these poor blokes at the bottom of the chain.” For years, he has been the man seasonal workers turn to in Bundaberg when they’re in trouble. His wife Jane is a second-generation South Sea islander whose grandparents came to Australia as victims of the blackbirding trade. The threat of prosecution hasn’t stopped Mr Smith. Last week he was thrown off a farm where he’d gone to check that some workers were OK. The manager threatened to call the police. Christian missionary Geoff Smith, with his wife Jane, is facing a long jail term merely for giving pastoral care to abused Pacific Islander workers.

The federal government says absconders are taking advantage of labour shortages and simply swapping jobs for better money. On the evidence seen by The Australian, that is not true. Most don’t mind the harsh work conditions; they signed up for hard, dirty work and shared dormitories. But they know when they are being ripped off. And lied to. When they sign up to work in the scheme they are promised that “seasonal workers have the same rights at work as other employees in Australia”. Even the Fair Work Ombudsman repeats the claim on its website. But that is not true. Workers under the program have no freedom to move between employers – a right that is available to every Australian worker – and can be deported for doing so.

The ombudsman’s office has shown itself incapable of implementing oversight and enforcement mechanisms, even though it is required by law to do so. The last significant attempt by the FWO to prosecute exploitation under the program – in 2014 – ended with the labour hire contractor, Emmanuel Bani, walking away without even reimbursing the wages that the 22 workers had lost. Bani was fined $304,949, but he paid just $490, arguing that he couldn’t afford any more. The man who convinced those frightened workers to stand up for their rights was Geoff Smith. Seven years later, and despite millions of dollars spent on schemes designed to protect seasonal workers, he says things are worse. More than 1200 seasonal workers have absconded from their employers in the past year alone, a tenfold increase from just five years ago.

Many of those absconders are quietly aided by ordinary Australians, including some farmers, who are appalled at their treatment. Some liken it to the “underground railroad” – the illegal network of safe houses used by slaves in early 19th-century America to escape their owners. That comparison didn’t seem far-fetched to Mr Smith as the Border Force officers stood in his living room, downloading the contents of his phone. His lawyer, Stewart Levitt, believes the investigation of Mr Smith and his wife is redolent of the US Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required law enforcement officials to arrest any person aiding a runaway slave or providing food or shelter. But as Mr Levitt says, those good Samaritans convicted of rendering succour to runaway slaves were liable to only six months in jail. If convicted, Mr Smith could be locked up for much longer.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

Millennials are “leading the charge” against the traditional Christian belief in “absolute moral truths”, according to new research. A recent report published both here and in America by the Barna Group covers the attitudes and beliefs of young adults in their 20s and 30s. It found that six out of 10 respondents in this age group believe there are “no moral absolutes that apply to everyone, all the time”. The report says: “The spirit of relativity has comfortably settled in among Millennials – although it should be noted that more than one-fifth of them (22 percent) have yet to figure out where they stand on moral truth. But among those who have taken a stand, rejecting rather than accepting moral absolutes is the dominant perspective by a 5:2 ratio (56 percent vs. 22 percent).”

The report comments: “To those who have ‘ears to hear and eyes to see’ it is incomprehensible that intelligent people would base moral choices on such fluid and unreliable influences as personal emotions, past experiences, and the advice of other people. “Yet those are the primary inputs on which Millennials rely when making their moral decisions. “63% of young adults identified those influences as driving their moral choices while only 19% said they depend on a different source of moral input.” But the research found that Millennials are generally positive about the person of Jesus Christ. “One of the most important insights from the study is that Millennials do not seem to have a problem with Jesus Christ.

Their problems are more with Christian churches, Christian individuals, and some biblical principles that directly conflict with popular culture perspectives,” the report says. It also found that the Bible “fares relatively well” with Millennials “although companion research suggests that they are ill-acquainted with its contents.” Summarising its section on the ‘Faith Factor’, the report declares: “In nations which have a history of religious freedom and spiritual engagement, the decline of spiritual commitment and engagement has been a pillar of the western worlds’ moral and cultural decline. That downward spiral has been fortified by the dramatic reshaping of the faith domain by Millennials.”

Source: Compiled by APN from Christian media

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