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By Australian Newsletter

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt has warned of a setback to reconciliation that could last decades if the nation rushes towards a referendum without a consensus on constitutional reform.  Mr Wyatt urged a cautious approach to constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people out of concern at the risk of a devastating defeat that would set the cause back a generation.  Indigenous leader Noel Pearson also changed tack on his referendum push conceding the model should be fleshed out before being put to the Australian people, a shift from previous arguments the vote could take place first.

After being sworn in as Australia’s first Indigenous member of a federal cabinet, Mr Wyatt likened a potential defeat to the setback for republicans in the failure of the 1999 referendum on an Australian head of state.  “We need to ensure that we don’t go forward and fail,” he said.  “It’s too important in the scheme of Australian society, particularly for Indigenous Australians.  To lose a referendum because we hadn’t done our work properly would be a major setback for at least 10 or 20 years.  “I would rather gain something within two terms of government than to wait another 20 or 30 years before the next referendum.

Often when you get burned on an issue, as with the republican referendum, you never got a guernsey again.  And I don’t want to be in that situation.”  He said the work had to be methodical and people had to be educated on the importance of constitutional change.  Mr Wyatt, a Noongar, Yamatji and Wongi man from Western Australia, was named to cabinet after serving as minister for aged care.  While Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that he was “committed to getting an outcome” on constitutional recognition, he signalled caution and said the government would take “as long as is needed” to achieve a consensus.

Indigenous constitutional recognition has been on the political agenda for a decade, but attention has focused on the concept of a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous “Voice to Parliament” since 2017, when it was proposed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart alongside other key proposals.  The idea for the representative body to advise Parliament on policy affecting Indigenous people has been backed by Labor but has faced hostility in the Coalition, with senior figures describing it as a “third chamber” of Parliament.  That claim has been rejected by advocates of the idea. Mr Wyatt said the discussion was “evolving” and acknowledged people had concerns.

“Certainly, people have expressed their concern at the lack of definition and the lack of clarity as to what the Voice is,” he said.  The challenge for the Morrison government is to satisfy Indigenous Australians, who were promised a referendum in this Parliament by Labor, while avoiding a fierce reaction from conservatives in the Coalition who oppose sweeping change to the constitution.  Mr Pearson told the ABC that he now accepted the “reality” that the referendum proposal must be refined and advocates needed to convince people of the practical merits of a constitutional Voice.

“It’s not possible to present a kind of general description of the idea for the Australian people to consider.  We are going to have to articulate the full detail and I believe we can,” he said.  Mr Pearson said Mr Wyatt should have three priorities in his new role: empowerment of Indigenous people, progress in closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and working over the next 12-24 months towards a referendum on the Voice.  “If we have a voice in better policy, that will help the process of empowerment and ultimately it will contribute to the closing of the gap in the next two, three generations,” he said.

MPs from both sides on Parliament’s constitutional recognition committee have backed further exploration of the Voice concept and recommended a “co-design” consultation process with Indigenous communities.  Mr Wyatt flagged examination of regional bodies, noting that Labor senator Patrick Dodson and Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who have co-chaired the constitutional recognition committee, had both raised the idea as a way for Indigenous people to provide input into policy and services.  “So I want to look at that model of regional structures,” he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

Israel Folau‘s representatives say GoFundMe “buckled to demands against the freedoms of Australians” when it pulled down his fundraising page.  Responding for the first time since the organisation’s decision to remove the campaign, a spokesperson for Folau insisted it complied with GoFundMe’s terms and conditions, along with “all relevant rules and regulations”.  “There appears to be a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters,” the spokesperson said via a statement.  “He is very grateful to the 10,000-plus supporters who believed in good faith that their donations would contribute to his case against Rugby Australia.”

They also allege that the former Wallaby’s website has been targeted by a “sustained cyberattack” and that a “deliberate attempt” has been made to “vilify” netballer Maria Folau for supporting her husband.  “While Israel does not intend to respond in detail at this time regarding the accusations thrown at him or his family, he wants everyone to know these attacks have hardened his resolve,” the spokesperson said.  They also claim several organisations have flagged they will fill the breach left by GoFundMe, pledging to organise the fundraising effort.

Questions meanwhile have been raised over how and when donors who contributed will receive their refund from GoFundMe.  Each contributor was charged a 2.2 per cent transaction fee when they donated money to help Folau pay his $3 million legal fight against Rugby Australia.  More than $700,000 was raised by contributors from all over the world.  It comes as religious organisations told The Australian they have been inundated with calls from donors asking how else they can support Folau’s legal battle after the online platform found he violated its terms of service.

Rev Michael Kallahan, adviser to the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, said GoFundMe’s decision to remove the campaign had actually “galvanised support” for Folau’s cause.  “People have been asking me how else they can donate and telling me they now want to double their contribution,” Reverend Kallahan said. “What GoFundMe has done is discriminatory because they’ve said they’ll support people who have certain beliefs but not others.”  GoFundMe’s terms and conditions, listed on their website, state that it is up to the donor to determine the “appropriateness” of contributing to a campaign.

“We expressly disclaim any liability or responsibility for the outcome or success of any Campaign.  You, as a Donor, must make the final determination as to the value and appropriateness of contributing to any Campaign, Campaign Organiser or Charity,” it reads.  Earlier, in a statement, GoFundMe said they would be issuing a full refund to all donors, after Folau raised in excess of $700,000.  “We will be closing Israel Folau’s campaign and issuing full refunds to all donors.  After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service,” GoFundMe Australia regional manager Nicola Britton said.

“As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity.  While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.”  GoFundMe’s official Twitter account handle and logo features a rainbow coloured flag in support of LGBTIQ+ people, which was used on their site before Folau launched his crowd-funding campaign.  It comes as the former Wallabies star attended a closed church service at his father’s house after launching his $3 million funding campaign. <

The Law Council of Australia said the issue of crowd-funding a law suit opened up a “veritable can of worms” for the legal profession and the courts.  Law Council of Australia President, Arthur Moses SC pointed out that if Folau’s case was dismissed or the litigation failed, the money raised could be used to pay legal expenses of the opposing side.  “Furthermore, if a lawyer for a litigant is paid using the proceeds of a crowd-funding campaign, this may expose a lawyer to a claim brought by persons who had contributed to the crowd-funding who may claim they were misled as to the use of the money or who do not approve of the conduct of the case,” Mr Moses said.

Source Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney has pledged his support to his “Christian brother” Israel Folau and claimed the way his support was cut off by GoFundMe was telling of “a new and ugly Australia where dissent from narrow cultural views is not tolerated”.  Archbishop Glenn Davies’s comments come as the Australian Christian Lobby fundraising campaign raised more money in less than 24 hours than the defunct GoFundMe appeal did over four days.  The second fundraising campaign has already amassed more than $2,000,000 in donations since it was launched by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and has now been suspended having reached its current target.

Archbishop Davies said the original social media post that cost Folau his playing contract “canvassed some basic tenets of the Christian faith” and was “posted without malice.” “Folau’s right to express his faith and act according to his conscience is of fundamental importance in any democracy, and it is of great concern to many Australians that this right is being denied and vilified.  Many are wondering whether they will be next,” Archbishop Davies wrote.  “What Folau is going through may shine a light on an issue which is vital to our democracy and of crucial importance for Christians, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and to live according to our faith.”

The ACL set up the fundraising campaign for the former Wallabies star on its website after Folau’s successful GoFundMe page was closed by the US-based crowd-funding platform.  Folau launched his GoFundMe appeal for $3 million over a week ago and had raised $750,000 in four days from more than 7000 donors.  But the fundraising platform pulled the campaign, saying it violated their terms of service and announced it would refund all donations.  “As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity” GoFundMe Australia’s regional manager Nicola Britton said.

But Martyn Iles, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, stepped in to host a reborn online appeal for funds.  “On behalf of the Australian Christian Lobby, I have spoken to Israel Folau to let him know that ACL will be donating $100,000 to his legal defence, because it’s right and it sets an important legal precedent,’’ Mr Iles said.  The decision to dump the former Wallaby’s funding page unleashed a furious response across the country, with Mr Iles describing the move as “alarming” and “grand hypocrisy”.  “It’s decided to wield its politically correct baseball bat against anyone who doesn’t toe the line with their PC view of the world,” he said.

A spokesman for Folau last night described the platform’s decision to “buckle” to a “continuing campaign of discrimination against him and his 10,000-plus supporters” as “very disappointing”.  He said Folau’s personal website had already been the target of a sustained cyber attack, forcing the website to be shut down for 12 hours.  His wife, Maria, had also been “vilified” for supporting her husband.  “While Israel does not intend to respond in detail at this time regarding the accusations thrown at him or his family, he wants it known that these attacks have hardened his resolve,” the spokesman said.

Jeremy Sammut, a senior research fellow with the Centre for Independent Studies, said ordinary Australians who still believed they had a right to free speech were increasingly being hauled before HR at work for offending the sensibilities of fellow workers who now “expect to be protected from people they disagree with”.  “Religious freedom is the canary in the coalmine,” he said. Christian groups across the country were inundated with offers of further donations to Folau’s cause.  Reverend Michael Kallahan, adviser to the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, said GoFundMe’s decision to remove the campaign had actually “galvanised support” for Folau’s cause.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

Conservative Coalition MPs emboldened by strong support from religious voters at the election are pushing the Morrison government for far-reaching religious freedom provisions in forthcoming laws.  Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce wants laws to exempt religious beliefs from employment contracts, in effect giving legal protection to views such as those expressed by rugby star Israel Folau that homosexuals and fornicators will go to hell.  “You can’t bring people’s faith beliefs into a contract,” Mr Joyce said.  “Your own views on who or where god is or whether there is a god should remain your own personal views and not part of any contractual obligation.”

Attorney-General Christian Porter is expected to present a Religious Discrimination Act to the Parliament in July, acting on a pre-election commitment to boost protections for people of faith against discrimination and vilification.  But some Coalition MPs believe the election results, including significant swings away from Labor in highly religious seats, underline the case for bolder reforms to enshrine freedoms other than freedom from discrimination.  Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who worked extensively with faith leaders to galvanise the support of religious voters during the campaign, said the election marked a “new dawn” on religious freedom.

She called for a standalone Religious Freedom Act that would give greater legal heft to the demands set out by church leaders, Christian schools and other faith-based institutions.  Senator Fierravanti-Wells also said the government need not await the findings of a review being undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) into exemptions to anti-discrimination laws currently enjoyed by religious schools.  “Whilst the ALRC is not due to report until April 2020, given its diverse and broad terms of reference, I believe that the recent election has reinforced the need for more immediate legislative action,” she told the press.

“This is vitally important to not only address our concerns but afford protection against these constant incursions from Labor, the Greens and their acolytes.  It’s a new dawn on this issue.”  Senator Fierravanti-Wells, who voted against marriage equality when it was legalised in 2017, said the election results “had their antecedents in the same-sex marriage debate”, noting large swings to the government in culturally diverse seats around western Sydney.  Banks, Blaxland, Fowler and McMahon, which voted “no” to same-sex marriage, all posted swings to the Coalition above 3 per cent, although so did many electorates that voted “yes”.

Mr Joyce, a former Nationals leader, said Folau’s sacking “got a lot of people annoyed” during the election campaign.  “People were a little bit shocked that someone could lose their job because of what they believe,” he said.  “It made everyone feel a bit awkward and uneasy.”  Mr Joyce said he would argue within the Coalition that any religious freedom law should include clauses to prevent employers crafting contracts that could penalise people for their religious beliefs.  “That would be my input, but whether it’s what other people’s views are, I don’t know,” he said.

Such a law should not necessarily be nicknamed “Folau’s Law” because it would give the sacked rugby player credit for a law that “should be designed for everybody”, Mr Joyce said.  Late last year, in response to former attorney-general Philip Ruddock’s review, Mr Porter pledged to introduce a Religious Discrimination Act and appoint a religious freedom commissioner to the Australian Human Rights Commission.  Last week he said religious freedom was a “key issue” in the election campaign due to “enormous concern” about Labor’s plans on the issue, and indicated legislation would be a priority when Parliament resumes at the start of July.

New Labor leader Anthony Albanese acknowledged his party needed to show greater “respect” to religious views after frontbenchers Chris Bowen and Tony Burke publicly lamented that people of faith had lost trust in Labor and progressive politics.  Liberal senator Eric Abetz said the Coalition owed Rugby Australia “a bit of gratitude because their ham-fisted approach to Israel Folau clearly elevated the issue and concerned many, many people”.  He agreed with Senator Fierravanti-Wells on the need for positively-framed legislation to establish religious freedoms but said it should be broader and encompass free speech.

Source:  Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

The Victorian Government has reintroduced a bill to Parliament which would make it easier for people to change the gender recorded on their birth certificate to male, female or any other gender descriptor of their choice.  Children would be able to change their gender if their choice was supported by their parents and a medical professional.  The bill was introduced by Labor in 2016 but was blocked by the Coalition.  It is likely to pass this time with support from non-government crossbenchers in the Upper House.  The reform is aimed at improving existing laws, where Victorians can only change their birth certificate after they have undergone gender reassignment surgery.

Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia have all already removed the requirement for surgery to occur before a birth certificate gender is changed.  The bill was first introduced in 2016 when it was opposed by the Coalition and failed to pass.  Premier Daniel Andrews said he was hopeful the legislation would have the support it needed the second time around.  “In this state, equality is not negotiable and we are well-known, and I think well-viewed, for the fact that we treat every Victorian equally with respect and dignity and that who you are is enough, you’re valued for exactly who you are,” he said.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said he would like to see the details of the bill in its current form before making a decision on whether or not to support it.  “We don’t know if it’s going to be exactly the same bill, or different, so we’ll see the detail and we’ll make a reasoned decision,” he said.  “I suppose society is grappling with that question of, is a birth certificate supposed to reflect how you were born, or does it reflect how you identify at a point in time?”  Even if the Coalition opposes the bill, it should still pass the Upper House, after the Greens and Animal Justice Party confirmed they would support it.  The Reason Party’s Fiona Patten is also likely to support it.

Under the proposal, Victorians could choose their own gender description, but the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages would be able to reject any descriptions that are obscene or offensive.  The bill would also allow children to alter the sex recorded on their birth certificate, provided they had support from their parents and a statement of support from a doctor, registered psychologist or other “prescribed person”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has commended South Australian (SA) Labor leader Peter Malinauskas who has raised serious concerns about the Greens’ prostitution decriminalisation Bill.  ACL State director Christopher Brohier said that Mr Malinauskas properly raised the question that we must decide if brothels should be allowed next to schools.  “This among other issues raised by the Labor leader in relation to street work, are key community concerns that the current Tammy Franks’ Bill will allow in SA,” commented Mr Brohier.“

ACL was saddened by the approach taken by the Liberal Attorney-General Vicki Chapman and the Liberal Deputy leader in the Upper House Michelle Lensink, which reflected a lack of consideration of the obvious flaws of the Greens’ Bill.” “Decriminalisation will lead to increased demand and industrialisation of prostitution and so to increased trafficking,” warned Mr Brohier.  The Australian Christian Lobby calls on the Upper House members to reject the Greens’ Bill and instead consider the Nordic Model of prostitution law reform which provides meaningful exit strategies for those prostituted and criminalises the buying of sex.

Source:  Australian Christian Lobby

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By Australian Newsletter

Tonight my adjournment speech is about the very important issue of religious freedom.  It is a very important issue for the Christian Democratic Party but it is also important for the majority of people in Australia.  We have just had two major elections, one in New South Wales that saw the return of Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the most recent election that saw the election of the Federal Government under our Christian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.  Many issues motivate the public in casting their vote for this or that party or person but there is one issue that I think impacted both elections and will likely remain a pressing concern for many people.

I am referring to religious freedom or, rather, how that freedom has no guarantees in law or statute.  As members know, the Ruddock review was very clear in its recommendations, one of which stated that legislation should be passed to protect the rights and liberties of people of faith.  I recall the Government indicated to me that it would not be taking any action until the review published its findings and the recommendations were known to all.  We now have the recommendations but so far no action has been taken, although I have given notice of a bill dealing with religious freedom that I hope will be debated in the next few weeks.

This issue has resulted in many people of conscience having their lives turned upside down and their careers ruined.  This has happened not because of what they did or said having a really harmful impact on anyone but because a small minority in this country are very negative in their attitude to people of faith.  They feign offence so as to attack and vilify.  This illustrates an abuse of existing laws that seek to limit discrimination and vilification in society.  These laws, which we support, are now being abused.  We now have a system that facilitates and enables the discrimination of people of faith, when they have done nothing other than preach to their own congregations.

Members would be aware of the recent case of Israel Folau.  Israel is a great sportsman but when he is not on the field he is a preacher in his community church.  By exercising his right to speak on a social media website by quoting the Bible he became the focus of a relentless campaign of hate that finally led to the end of his professional career.  This is not an issue that only religious people should be concerned about.  The new puritans who are sniffing out witches to burn at the stake of public opinion are not motivated by any desire for a better society.

Once people of faith are dispatched, it is likely they will come up with another group or view that they find offensive.  By “offensive”, I mean something they simply disagree with and want to shut down debate on.  In the Hon. Mark Latham’s inaugural speech, which I  congratulated him on, he made it clear that even someone who is agnostic should be concerned about the choking effect of political correctness.  Nobody is perfect but if we cannot talk and exchange frank views, even on religious topics, then we destroy the very thing that has made our civilisation dynamic.  I am of course referring to freedom of thought and the ability to express it in the public square.

Ironically, while those who disagree with me about this may preach tolerance, it is they who should display a little more tolerance themselves.  Recently I spoke to a professor at the University of Notre Dame here in Sydney.  He made very clear to me his concerns about the effect that an absence of law guaranteeing religious freedom may have on his ability to teach at the university.  Universities should be places where ideas can be most freely discussed and debated.  This freedom becomes especially valuable to people who work and teach at universities, at Christian colleges and at Christian schools that have a religious charter or objectives.

I feel it is almost ridiculous to have to say this, it seems too obvious, but if we do not pass some form of legislative protection for religious liberty then I fear that what many take for granted now will come under increasing threat.  Christians have suffered persecution for centuries.  Even today Christians are the most repressed, persecuted religious group in the world, whether it is in North Africa, the Middle East or parts of Asia.  I commend Almighty God to provide that protection for us.

Source: Parliamentary Speech by Rev Fred Nile in NSW Parliament

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By Australian Newsletter

Why does religious freedom matter. I think, from a Christian perspective.  I want to quote a verse of scripture which I often refer to when I write.  It is the prayer of Paul that is written in 1 Timothy 2. Paul says: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and pleasing in the sight of God, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  This passage is very significant because if you read that carefully, Paul is effectively saying to these people, “Pray for religious freedom.”

Sometimes when I travel around I almost hear people praying for persecution which is very foolish.  If persecution comes, we pray that God will lead us through it in His sovereign will, and perhaps use that which is intended for evil for good.  But nobody prays for persecution because the darkness that it brings into society, the destructive nature of it, is evil and wrong.  The Apostle Paul says in these verses we should rather pray that the godly life would be a life of peace and dignity.  What does a godly life mean?  It is a life in which the mandate to be Christ’s witnesses is lived out.

That means the life of following His commands; to be salt and light, to do things in the world out of the power of a converted life, to do good in His name, to use our talents for His glory.  It is a life which contributes to the flourishing of Christ’s church; doing its ministry, preaching the gospel to all nations.  Paul says: ‘pray that’s a life of peace.’  Why?  The text tells us, because “it is good and pleasing in the sight of God.”  But why would that be?  If this paradigm exists in a society, it is a society in which the governing authorities are fulfilling their God-given ministry.  That ministry is stated in the Bible, in Solomon’s famous statement, “righteousness exalts a nation.”

Whether it’s Solomon’s own prayer for wisdom, or Romans 13, or 1 Peter 2, we see that government is sent by God to punish evil and reward good.  Now, if that’s what the government is doing, then those who are doing good and living consistent with truth in society are going to be free.  It also means they are not going to be punished.  They will lead lives of peace.  Meanwhile, those in society who are doing wrong will be punished instead.  The persecutor will not get away with it.  Evil will be rightly suppressed by the effective ministry of the governing authorities.

Source: Blog by Martyn Iles Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby

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