Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Monday, 15 October 2018

Australian Politics 2018: Liberal and Nationals hard right agenda revealed


It appears the rigid hard-right core of the Liberal and National parties, whose face for public consumption is Prime Minister Scott Morrison, thought that Australian voters would find it acceptable that the only people that religious institutions of any denomination would not be able to discriminate against will be heterosexual individuals and those born with absent or ambiguous secondary sexual characteristics.

Everyone else would apparently be fair game for every rabid bigot across the land.

Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender citizens and their children are not to be afforded the full protection of human rights and anti-discrimination law in this New World Order.

It doesn't get any clearer than the main thrust of the twenty recommendations set out  below.

However, now the cat is out of the bag Morrison is backtracking slightly. Just hours after arguing schools should be run consistent with their religious principles and that no existing exemption should be repealed, Scott Morrison told Sky News that he was "not comfortable" with private schools expelling gay students on the basis of their sexuality. 

Rejecting new enrolment applications by gay students was something he was careful not to directly address.

It should be noted that "not comfortable' leaves a lot of wiggle room to look the other way as state and federal legislation is either amended or new Commonwealth legislation created which would allow this blatant discrimination to lawfully occur.


Recommendation 1
Those jurisdictions that retain exceptions or exemptions in their anti-discrimination laws for religious bodies with respect to race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status should review them, having regard to community expectations.

Recommendation 2
Commonwealth, state and territory governments should have regard to the Siracusa Principles on the Limitation and Derogation Provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights when drafting laws that would limit the right to freedom of religion.

Recommendation 3
Commonwealth, state and territory governments should consider the use of objects, purposes or other interpretive clauses in anti-discrimination legislation to reflect the equal status in international law of all human rights, including freedom of religion.

Recommendation 4
The Commonwealth should amend section 11 of the Charities Act 2013 to clarify that advocacy of a ‘traditional’ view of marriage would not, of itself, amount to a ‘disqualifying purpose’.

Recommendation 5
The Commonwealth should amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to provide that religious schools can discriminate in relation to the employment of staff, and the engagement of contractors, on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status provided that:
The discrimination is founded in the precepts of the religion.
The school has a publicly available policy outlining its position in relation to the matter and explaining how the policy will be enforced.
The school provides a copy of the policy in writing to employees and contractors and prospective employees and contractors.

Recommendation 6
Jurisdictions should abolish any exceptions to anti-discrimination laws that provide for discrimination by religious schools in employment on the basis of race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status. Further, jurisdictions should ensure that any exceptions for religious schools do not permit discrimination against an existing employee solely on the basis that the employee has entered into a marriage.

Recommendation 7
The Commonwealth should amend the Sex Discrimination Act to provide that religious schools may discriminate in relation to students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status provided that:
The discrimination is founded in the precepts of the religion.
The school has a publicly available policy outlining its position in relation to the matter.
The school provides a copy of the policy in writing to prospective students and their parents at the time of enrolment and to existing students and their parents at any time the policy is updated.
The school has regard to the best interests of the child as the primary consideration in its conduct.

Recommendation 8
Jurisdictions should abolish any exceptions to anti-discrimination laws that provide for discrimination by religious schools with respect to students on the basis of race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status.

Recommendation 9
State and territory education departments should maintain clear policies as to when and how a parent or guardian may request that a child be removed from a class that contains instruction on religious or moral matters and ensure that these policies are applied consistently. These policies should:
Include a requirement to provide sufficient, relevant information about such classes to enable parents or guardians to consider whether their content may be inconsistent with the parents’ or guardians’ religious beliefs
Give due consideration to the rights of the child, including to receive information about sexual health, and their progressive capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Recommendation 10
The Commonwealth Attorney-General should consider the guidance material on the Attorney-General’s Department’s website relating to authorised celebrants to ensure that it uses plain English to explain clearly and precisely the operation of the Marriage Act 1961. The updated guidance should include:
A clear description of the religious protections available to different classes of authorised celebrants, and
Advice that the term ‘minister of religion’ is used to cover authorised celebrants from religious bodies which would not ordinarily use the term ‘minister’, including non-Christian religions.

Recommendation 11
The Commonwealth Attorney-General should consider whether the Code of Practice set out in Schedule 2 of the Marriage Regulations 2017 is appropriately adapted to the needs of smaller and emerging religious bodies.

Recommendation 12
The Commonwealth should progress legislative amendments to make it clear that religious schools are not required to make available their facilities, or to provide goods or services, for any marriage, provided that the refusal:
Conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of the religion of the body
Is necessary to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of adherents of that religion.

Recommendation 13
Those jurisdictions that have not abolished statutory or common law offences of blasphemy should do so.

Recommendation 14
References to blasphemy in the Shipping Registration Regulations 1981, and in state and territory primary and secondary legislation, should be repealed or replaced with terms applicable not only to religion.

Recommendation 15
The Commonwealth should amend the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, or enact a Religious Discrimination Act, to render it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of a person’s ‘religious belief or activity’, including on the basis that a person does not hold any religious belief. In doing so, consideration should be given to providing for appropriate exceptions and exemptions, including for religious bodies, religious schools and charities.

Recommendation 16
New South Wales and South Australia should amend their anti-discrimination laws to render it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of a person’s ‘religious belief or activity’ including on the basis that a person does not hold any religious belief. In doing so, consideration should be given to providing for the appropriate exceptions and exemptions, including for religious bodies, religious schools and charities.

Recommendation 17
The Commonwealth should commission the collection and analysis of quantitative and qualitative information on the experience of freedom of religion in Australia at the community level, including:
Incidents of physical violence, including threats of violence, linked to a person’s faith
Harassment, intimidation or verbal abuse directed at those of faith
Forms of discrimination based on religion and suffered by those of faith
Unreasonable restrictions on the ability of people to express, manifest or change their faith
Restrictions on the ability of people to educate their children in a manner consistent with their faith
The experience of freedom of religion impacting on other human rights
The extent to which religious diversity (as distinct from cultural diversity)
is accepted and promoted in Australian society

Recommendation 18
The Commonwealth should support the development of a religious engagement and public education program about human rights and religion in Australia, the importance of the right to freedom of religion and belief, and the current protections for religious freedom in Australian and international law. As a first step, the panel recommends that the Attorney-General should ask the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights to inquire into and report on how best to enhance engagement, education and awareness about these issues.

Recommendation 19
The Australian Human Rights Commission should take a leading role in the protection of freedom of religion, including through enhancing engagement, understanding and dialogue. This should occur within the existing commissioner model and not necessarily through the creation of a new position.

Recommendation 20
The Prime Minister and the Commonwealth Attorney-General should take leadership of the issues identified in this report with respect to the Commonwealth, and work with the states and territories to ensure its implementation. While the panel hopes it would not be necessary, consideration should be given to further Commonwealth legislative solutions if required.

Because Scott Morrison made no secret of his dislike of same-sex marriage and his intention to make new laws protecting so-called religious 'freedoms'. he is now going to have a fight on his hands every single day until the next federal election - these recommendations have made that a certainty.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Religious Freedom Review Report: a curate's egg in the hands of an Australian prime minister who doesn't understand the definition of secular or why there is a separation between Church and State


"Australia is not a secular country — it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose.”  [Scott Morrison, 2007]

“Secular [adj] of or pertaining to the world or things not religious, sacred or spiritual; temporal, worldly.” [Patrick Hanks & Simeon Potter, Encyclopedic World Dictionary, 1971]

On 22 November 2017 then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the appointment of an Expert Panel to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.

The Panel’s Religious Freedom Review Report was delivered on 18 May 2018, accompanied by a statement that the report was now in the hands of the Prime Minister any government response was a matter for him.

The prime minister of the day is now the Liberal MP for Cook - a nakedly ambitious man who uses his public profession of Christian Pentecostal faith as a political tool.

Until this week the national electorate had no idea what the report might contain. It remained a closely guarded secret.

Which leads one to wonder if the leak which came Fairfax Media’s way is in fact Morrison preparing voters for what at best is highly likely to be proposed legislation which attempts to extend the exemptions religious institutions enjoy when it come to obeying human rights and anti-discrimination law and at worst an attempt to insert church into the heart of state.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 October 2018:

Religious schools would be guaranteed the right to turn away gay students and teachers under changes to federal anti-discrimination laws recommended by the government’s long-awaited review into religious freedom.

However the report, which is still being debated by cabinet despite being handed to the Coalition four months ago, dismisses the notion religious freedom in Australia is in “imminent peril”, and warns against any radical push to let businesses refuse goods and services such as a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The review was commissioned in the wake of last year’s same-sex marriage victory to appease conservative MPs who feared the change would restrict people’s ability to practise their religion freely.

The contents of the report - seen by Fairfax Media - are unlikely to placate conservatives and religious leaders, and will trigger concern within the LGBTI community about the treatment of gay students and teachers.

The report calls for the federal Sex Discrimination Act to be amended to allow religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status - something some but not all states already allow.
“There is a wide variety of religious schools in Australia and ... to some school communities, cultivating an environment and ethos which conforms to their religious beliefs is of paramount importance,” the report noted.

“To the extent that this can be done in the context of appropriate safeguards for the rights and mental health of the child, the panel accepts their right to select, or preference, students who uphold the religious convictions of that school community.”

Any change to the law should only apply to new enrolments, the report said. The school would have to have a publicly available policy outlining its position, and should regard the best interests of the child as the “primary consideration of its conduct”.

The panel also agreed that faith-based schools should have some discretion to discriminate in the hiring of teachers on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status…..

The panel did not accept that businesses should be allowed to refuse services on religious grounds, warning this would “unnecessarily encroach on other human rights” and “may cause significant harm to vulnerable groups”.

The review also found civil celebrants should not be entitled to refuse to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies if they became celebrants after it was was legalised.
The review does not recommend any changes to the Marriage Act. Nor does it recommend a dedicated Religious Freedom Act - championed by several major Christian churches - which would have enshrined religious organisations’ exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

“Specifically protecting freedom of religion would be out of step with the treatment of other rights,” the report found.

However it did recommend the government amend the Racial Discrimination Act or create a new Religious Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s religious belief or lack thereof.

The panel said it had heard a broad range of concerns about people’s ability to “manifest their faith publicly without suffering discrimination”.

This included wearing religious symbols and dress at school or work, communicating views based on religious understandings, obtaining goods and services and engaging in public life without fear of discrimination.

The report also recommends federal legislation “to make it clear” that religious schools cannot be forced to lease their facilities for a same-sex marriage, as long as the refusal is made in the name of religious doctrine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month told Fairfax Media new religious freedom laws were needed to safeguard personal liberty in a changing society.

“Just because things haven’t been a problem in the past doesn’t mean they won’t be a problem in the future,” he said.

While the panel accepted the right of religious school to discriminate against students on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, it could see no justification for a school to discriminate on the basis of race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status.

“Schools should be places of learning, not breeding grounds of prejudice. This looks and feels like a vindictive attempt to punish LGBTI people for achieving marriage equality."  [just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome, 2018]

As is usual for this prime minister, Morrison fronted the media with half-truths and misdirection about the Religious Freedom Review Reportimplying that the contentious matters within the report were already uniformly codified in law across all the states.

This is far from the truth.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Sometime Australian Prime Minister & MP for Cook, Scott Morrison, is the protector of religious freedom? Don't make me laugh


This was Australia’s most recent Liberal prime minister quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald on 17 September 2018:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will enact "preventative regulation and legislation" to shield freedom of religion from future enemies, giving his strongest hints to date about the government's intentions regarding "religious freedom" laws.

What a load of codswallop, manure, dung, heifers dust, cowpats, meadow cocktails – what ABSOLUTE BULLSH*T!

The Liberal Member for Cook Scott Morrison already knows that the Australian Constitution without qualification guarantees religious freedom in this country at federal level:

Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion
                   The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth. [my yellow highlighting]

As the Australian Constitution is the highest source in the land on this issue, one can only suspect that:

a) Scott Morrison has never read the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (as amended up to 1977); or

b) Scott Morrison is shamelessly pandering to his far-right, ideologically blind & bigoted supporter base, in the hope of being re-elected in 2019.

He appears to forget that Australia has also ratified a number of UN resolutions which directly or indirectly protect religious freedom and these have been upheld by the courts.

While he ignores the fact that Tasmania has had a religious freedom provision written into its state constitution since 1934 and Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory as well as the ACT have passed legislation prohibiting direct and indirect discrimination on the ground of religion. Only South Australia appears to have no legislation specifically covering religious freedom to date.

Morrison also forgets that whatever legislation he forces through this parliament, or whatever regulations he imposes, can all be undone in the first instance by subsequent federal parliaments and in the second instance by the minister of the day.

If he really wants to genuinely strengthen existing religious freedoms he would call a referendum to change the Australian Constitution.

Even a callow first-year-in-parliament politician knows that when state law is in conflict with federal law it is federal law which usually prevails and, if either is in conflict with the Constitution it will be the Constitution which prevails.

Having well and truly politicised his own faith Morrison may in fact be creating his own "future enemies" - he has all but guaranteed that someone will take his legislation and regulations to the High Court of Australia - where every word, phrase and punctuation mark will be studied closely.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Australia has a prime minister who rejects realitiy and embraces idiocy


Scott Morrison with a coal specimen supplied by the Minerals Council of Australia
ABC News, 9 February 2018
During an interview with the ABC 7.30 program on 11 September 2018 Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison declared he is “troubled” by the politics of envy in Australia and has “a very strong view” on what fairness means.

His version of “fairness” is a redefinition far removed from the contents of any dictionary wherein it is usually taken to mean impartial and just treatment or behaviour without favouritism or discrimination.

His expresses his version of fairness as “those that have a go get a go” or “a fair go for those that have a go”– phrases that are inherently judgemental.

It seems that in Morrison's world only individuals who are already capable of helping themselves in some fashion will deserve assistance from others.

Morrison again refused to say why the parliamentary Liberal Party changed leaders and in the interview sought to divorce himself from both the spill process and outcome, as though he wasn’t a participant in those rolling leadership ballots.

But what caught the attention of a numbers of viewers was his response to two questions.

The first response contained Morrison's assertion that he had separated climate/ environment and energy policies and admissions that he was removing climate change targets from future energy policy and was giving no guarantee of future funding for greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
The second involved his belief that there was a need for additional legal protections of religious freedoms when none were being threatened....... 

For Scott Morrison the primary fear of a majority of the Australian population is less important that demonstrating his missionary zeal to institutional Christianity and his unwavering support to the fossil fuel industry. 

Monday, 10 September 2018

Under Morrison's prime ministership will church and state begin to regressively merge?


Liberal MP for Cook, former Australian Immigration Minister and former Treasurer, Scott John Morrison, is being marketed as Australia’s first Pentecostal prime minister.

Right from the start of his parliamentary career Morrison politicised his own faith and made sure he identified as a Pentecostal ‘Christian’ in his First Speech in the House of  Representatives on 14 February 2008.

This month the Pentecostal ministry returned the favour by commencing his re-election campaign….

The Guardian, 7 September 2018:

Pentecostal leaders have warned their congregation that “darkness” will spread across Australia and Christians will be persecuted if Scott Morrison does not win the next election.

Others have been told that Morrison’s rise to power was a “miracle of God” that answered three days of prayer and fasting. They have been told that Morrison has made a public stand for Christian freedoms, and has promised to keep doing so, so God intervened to ensure he beat the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, in the Liberal leadership spill.

Videos posted to YouTube show how Pentecostal and evangelical religious communities are reacting to the rise of Morrison as prime minister.

Last Sunday, pastor Adam F Thompson from Voice of Fire Ministries and Adrian Beale from Everrest Ministries told a congregation of Hope City Church that Morrison’s elevation to power was divinely inspired.

Thompson, who says he can interpret dreams and that supernatural signs and manifestations accompany his ministry, said he’d received a message from God that Morrison and the Coalition must win the election.

“The Lord woke me up at 4.30am this morning,” Thompson told the Hope City Church congregation on Sunday, in a video he asked to be recorded.

 “Scott Morrison, he’s a born-again Christian, he’s probably one of the first ever born-again prime ministers, but it’s not time to celebrate at the moment.

“This is a crucial time right now … In the next six months it’s time for the body of Christ [the Christian church] to put its differences aside … and come together and agree that Jesus is the Messiah and start praying together and calling it in and praying for our prime minister right now, and for our government.

“I really see that the body of Christ is going to have influence in the arena of – the political arena of this nation.

“[But] if the prime minister right now doesn’t get elected in this next election there’s going to be darkness coming. And I’m not being negative. The laws are going to change where darkness is going to come and there will be persecution on the church.”

Thompson asked the congregation if they truly wanted a Pentecostal revival and reformation in Australia.

 “If it doesn’t happen in the next six months, in the next year I should say, there is going to be, the laws are going to come in, where they’re going to change and darkness will come,” Thompson said.

“The Lord is saying he wants us to rise up and pray, rather than come into persecution where we’ll have no choice.”

In the video, Beale from Everrest Ministries then leads the congregation in prayer for Morrison, calling on God to help Australians grasp the value of his intervention in the leadership spill.

 “Just as Scott has come to the fore, unexpected Lord, you’ve kept him hidden for a time such as this,” Beale said.

“Lord, we pray that the whole of the body of Christ in Australia would grasp the value of what you’ve done, Lord, and get behind our new leader … and that the next election would be won so that godly principles would be put into place, rather than the enemy having his way.”

In a different video posted to YouTube, Warwick Marsh from the Australian Christian Values Institute has claimed three days of prayer and fasting had been answered with two miracles.

“Firstly, on the 15th of August, the Senate voted down the euthanasia in the territories proposal. No one expected this. This was an absolute miracle,” Marsh says in the video, which was posted last month.

“Secondly, on Friday the 24th, the Liberal party voted in a new prime minister, Scott Morrison, after a week of political turmoil.

“Many people here in Australia of faith believe this was a miracle of God, as Mr Morrison has a strong faith in God and has made a stand for Christian freedoms and has promised to do so in the future.

“It would seem that this is a direct answer to our prayers, as we prayed against the erosion of our Christian freedoms under the forthcoming Ruddock report.”....

In apparent response Morrison has stated....


Pause for a moment and consider the ramifications for an Australian democratic secular society, when the far-right leader of a right wing federal government apparently believes that secular society has no greater claim to legitimacy than faith-based society and, that prayer not environmental or economic policy is an appropriate response to the effects of climate change.


BRIEF BACKGROUND


Subsequently he stood for parliament as a Liberal Party candidate and won the seat of Cook in the 2007 federal election.

On the election of the Abbott Government in 2013 he began his ministerial career:
Cabinet Minister from 18.9.2013
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection from 18.9.13 to 23.12.14
Minister for Social Services from 23.12.14 to 21.9.15
Treasurer from 21.9.15 to 26.08.2018
Prime Minister from 24.8.2018.

As Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Morrison had a reputation for refusing information to parliament, mainstream media and the general public.

Eight asylum seekers in onshore/offshore detention died during his term as immigration minister - these deaths included three suicides (one by self immolation), one ruled a death in custody, one due to failure to receive adequate medical care whilst in offshore detention and another a murder of an asylum seeker by offshore detention security guards.

His well-known antipathy towards asylum seekers has been demonstrated by his actions and statements such as this in 2013:


In 2015 and 2018 Scott Morrison took part in the removal of two Liberal prime ministers - Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. In the first instance by agreeing not to stand as deputy on Abbott's ticket and in the second instance by sending his own supporters to lobby for the second leadership spill and then successfully standing for the vacant prime ministership. 

The first two Newspolls published after he was sworn in as Australia's 30th prime minister were unfavourable to the government he leads.  The second was the Coalition Government's 40th consecutive unfavourable Newspoll with First Preference voting intentions running at Labor 42% to Coalition 34% and Second Preference voting at Labor 56% to Coalition 44%

So unlike the prime minister he replaced, Morrison experienced no 'honeymoon period' after he came to office.

Due to the resignation of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on 31 August 2018 Scott Morrison currently leads a government without a majority in the House of Representatives.

Morrison has not been generally viewed in a favourable light by the media nor by some who worked with him in the private sector.

The New Daily, 25 August 2018:

Morrison attended Sydney Boys’ High School through to Year 12. In March 2015, approximately 300 alumni of the schools former students signed a letter protesting Mr Morrison’s attendance at a fund-raising event. The letter accused Mr Morrison of having “so flagrantly disregarded human rights”…..

Veteran Canberra journalist Laurie Oakes once said on television that the government “should avoid the goading and arrogance of Scott Morrison, where he just pours mullock on journalists”. Oakes added that his attitude towards journalists was disgusting. “When people like Scott Morrison give us the finger when we ask tough questions, we’ve got to shine a light on that and expose it because it’s not acceptable.”

To become Liberal candidate for Cook in 2007, he lost the preselection ballot, 82 votes to 8, to Michael Towke, a telecommunications engineer and the candidate of the Liberals’ right faction. However, allegations emerged that Towke had engaged in branch stacking and embellished his resume.The Liberal Party’s state executive disendorsed Towke and Morrison won the pre-selection. Later, the allegations against Towke were disproved and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph was successfully sued by Towke.

When 48 people died in the Christmas Island disaster of 2010, Morrison objected to the Gillard Government offering to pay for families’ fares to the funerals in Sydney……

The BBC’s Nick Bryant ungenerously wrote: “My hunch is that Scott Morrison doesn’t spend much time agonising over the contradictions that have marked his career, or fretting about the veering course of a political journey that has taken him from the moderate wing of the party, to the right. The main point for him is that his career has been heading in an ever-upward trajectory.”

The Saturday Paper, 8 September 2018:

Twelve years ago, Morrison was sacked from Tourism Australia – two years into his term as boss there. The then Liberal minister for tourism, Fran Bailey, in 2006 said the board could no longer work with him. He was “incapable of being a team player” and faced a revolt from state and territory tourism executives.

An Australian National Audit Office report released a scathing report into Tourism Australia’s management of “perceived conflicts of interest” while Morrison was at the helm and quoted industry observers who had “expressed the view that the perceived conflicts of interests of board members are a major risk to Tourism Australia’s reputation”.

Morrison’s reported half-a-million dollar payout was questioned as excessive and not in accordance with regulations according to then Remuneration Tribunal president John Conde.

Morrison’s ability to listen to others was questioned during his time as treasurer. Sydney Liberal John Alexander, who headed a group of parliamentary colleagues worried about housing affordability, was incensed by Morrison’s dismissive attitude to him. The task of holding his badly fractured government together will make Morrison’s time at Tourism Australia seem like a walk in the park.

Karl Stefanovic put it bluntly on the Nine Network: “You are the boss but you have little or no control over the party … Your party is an absolute dog’s breakfast.” Amazingly, Morrison said he was “not fussed” about all that. “We are focused on the job ahead.” But in a giveaway that it’s getting to him, the PM leaked one of his own pending announcements: that his five-year commitment to raise the pension age to 70 was being ditched. Labor’s Jim Chalmers quipped the PM was getting in first.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 November 2012:

In 1998, aged 30, Morrison went to New Zealand to run that country's national Office of Tourism and Sport, answering directly to the then tourism minister, Murray McCully. He became known as "Murray's Rottweiler", so enthusiastically did he throw himself into a battle between the minister and the national tourism board. When the dust settled, the casualties included the board's chairman and chief executive, as well as McCully himself. A Wellington newspaper reported that in the ensuing inquiry, Morrison emerged as "a cross between Rasputin and Crocodile Dundee".

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Is there growing emphasis on religious faith in Australian politics?


On 22 November 2017, the Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull announced the appointment of an Expert Panel to examine whether Commonwealth, state and territories law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.

The Panel accepted submissions, but held no public hearings and published no list of witnesses.

The Panel delivered its report on 18 May 2018 and on that same day the Prime Minster made it clear that he had no intention of making the report’s findings public in the near future.

As we wait to find out whether the religious far-right has captured the castle here is a brief look back at comment on religion in politics ......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April 2004:

God is appearing in more and more places around the Federal Parliament, and among all sorts of people….

God moves in mysterious ways, and never more so than when He moves into politics. On Thursday, for example, the Liberal Party announced that its candidate for the seat of Greenway, centred around Blacktown, would be Louise Markus, a prominent member of Hillsong, Australia's largest church.

The US-style, high-energy, hand-clapping Pentecostal church, which draws its people from the Bible belt of Sydney's north-western suburbs, attracts more than 15,000 people each Sunday. Its Friday night youth meetings reportedly draw 2000, its children's meetings some 1600 and its women-only gatherings more than 1000.

The church is as entrepreneurial as it is evangelical, constantly seeking to expand its influence through CDs, books and other media. And now it might be in line to claim its second federal MP. It already has Alan Cadman, the fiercely right-wing member for Mitchell - which includes Baulkham Hills, the epicentre of Hillsong influence - as a prominent member of the flock. Greenway, which adjoins Cadman's seat, is held by Labor's Frank Mossfield, but is highly marginal, and the sitting member is retiring at the election.

You might have thought someone standing for such a marginal seat would want all the media attention he or she could get, but the Liberals' state director, Scott Morrison, refused to let the Herald talk to her. He said she would do "local media first".

Instead Morrison, himself a man of "strong religious views", launched into a pitch for the type of "faith-based programs" that Hillsong had established to address social problems.

"In the [United] States there is an increasing tendency of governments - particularly the Bush Government - to get behind what are called faith-based programs," he enthused.

"That is where governments start to lift the constraints on the Noffses and the Bill Crewses and others, to enable them to really help people, beyond just the material, and give them life advice which involves faith. Those programs, I understand, have had some great success."

Markus works for Emerge, the Hillsong offshoot whose facilities and programs range from medical centres and emergency relief services to drug and alcohol programs, and personal development and recovery programs.

The CEO there, Leigh Coleman, would not put us in contact with Markus, either. And so the views of the Hillsong employee and Liberal candidate on the desirability of passing responsibility for social welfare issues from secular government agencies to religious organisations must for now remain a mystery.

Perhaps some light will be shed when the chief pastor of Hillsong, Brian Houston, addresses Federal Parliament's Christian fellowship prayer breakfast when next it meets, in about a month.

A bigger mystery, however, is the movement of God into the NSW Young Liberals. In this case, however, God wears not the toothy smile of a Pentecostal "happy clapper" but the dour face of the arch-conservative Catholic organisation, Opus Dei.

Warrane College was established in 1971. It is a residential college affiliated to the University of NSW and owned by the not-for-profit Educational Development Association. Pastoral care for its 125 young men (women are not permitted past the ground floor) is "entrusted" to Opus Dei, a prelature of the Catholic Church.

Warrane College is also the "home" address of about one-quarter of the membership of the Randwick/Coogee branch of the Young Liberals. Of 88 members enrolled in the Young Libs branch, 21 list the college or its post-office box as their address, according to a membership list seen by the Herald….

Parliament of Australia, Papers on Parliament No. 46, December 2006:

Religion and politics has a long and often controversial history in Australia, most of it associated with Christianity. One resolution of the relationship came with the incorporation into the Constitution of s. 116. That section reads:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

In discussions of the religious component of twentieth century Australian politics most attention has been given not to constitutional issues but to the link between denominations and parties in voting and representation, Catholics with Labor and Protestants with the Coalition, as well as the denominational character of the Labor Party Split of the 1950s that produced the Democratic Labor Party. Professor Judith Brett, for instance, begins her survey of the literature as follows:
It has long been recognised that the foundation of the Australian party system had a religious dimension, with an affinity between the main Australian nonlabour parties and Protestantism and between the Labor Party and Roman Catholicism…..

The Howard government is the first federal Coalition government in which Catholics have played a major role. While this fact has been commented on from time to time, sometimes it is submerged under the exaggerated concentration on the religious affiliation and personal religious background of just one of its senior ministers, Tony Abbott. This concentration culminated in the reportage of the February 2006 debates about the so-called ‘abortion drug’ RU-486 (see below). The general trend is of greater significance, however, than the role of any one individual.

Historically Catholic representation in the Coalition parties was minimal, almost non-existent, and there was active antipathy towards Catholic MPs such as Sir John Cramer as late as the 1950s. Professor Joan Rydon notes ‘the almost negligible Catholic component of the non-Labor parties’ in her survey of the Commonwealth Parliament from 1901 to 1980. Representation of Catholics in the Fraser ministry (1975–83) was still minimal, though it did include Philip Lynch, Fraser’s deputy for a time. But it had jumped dramatically 13 years later in both the Liberal and National parties. National Party Catholics have included two Deputy Prime Ministers, Tim Fischer and Mark Vaile. Senior Liberal Party Catholics have included Abbott, Brendan Nelson, Helen Coonan, Joe Hockey and Kevin Andrews to name just some current senior ministers. Prominent Catholics earlier in the Howard era included Communications minister, Richard Alston, Resources and Energy minister, Warwick Parer, and Aboriginal Affairs minister, John Herron. By 2006, other Catholics included new minister, Senator Santo Santoro, and up and coming parliamentary secretaries such as Robb himself, Malcolm Turnbull and Christopher Pyne. One step behind were senators George Brandis and Brett Mason. Prominent in another way has been Senator Bill Heffernan, the Prime Minister’s outspoken NSW party ally and one-time parliamentary secretary. The overall change has been remarkable.

By contrast, the place of Catholics in their ‘traditional’ party, Labor, seems much diminished and less obvious, despite Kim Beazley’s family connections with the church and Kevin Rudd’s Catholic origins. Many of them appeared to be isolated in the Catholic right faction, especially the NSW Right, and the party’s culture and history did not encourage them to emphasise their religious belief, because it stirred internal party divisions and conflict. Furthermore, anti-Catholic prejudice had become endemic in the Victorian branch of the party following the Labor Party split. As a consequence there is hardly a major federal Labor figure whose Catholic identity seems important. Most of the leading humanists in the Parliament are in the Labor Party and several of them, led by Dr Carmen Lawrence, formed a cross-factional Humanist Group in September 2000 to counter what they saw as the growing influence of religion in parliamentary debates and decisions…..

The public presentation of personal religious beliefs, now widespread in public life, is of equal interest to the denominational changes that have taken place. More than any other federal government the senior members of the Howard government have been active, in word and deed, in emphasizing (or at least being open about) its religious credentials and beliefs and in emphasizing the positive contribution of Christian values to Australian society. One has only to compare the publicly Christian approach of the Howard-Anderson-Costello-Abbott team, for instance, to the privately Christian, even secular, approach of the Fraser-Anthony-Lynch team in the 1970s to see that this is true.

The reason for this change might include a combination of the so-called international clash between fundamentalist Islam and Western Christian nations together with the particular personalities that just happen to have emerged in leadership positions in the Coalition. Howard himself, it should be noted, has not been the leading figure in this development, despite the attention given to his personal Methodism-cum-Anglicanism. Perhaps decreasing sectarianism has played a part.

Nevertheless, whatever its origins, this has occurred to the extent that following the 2004 federal election it drew a response from Labor in the form of Foreign Affairs shadow minister, Kevin Rudd, who formed a party discussion group on religion, faith and values to educate Labor colleagues and to warn them very publicly about the dangers of allowing the Coalition to capture the growing religious vote. Rudd and other Labor figures, while revealing a typical Labor wariness of the mix of religion and politics, believed that ‘the Coalition is intent on exploiting religion for political purposes.’ At the 2004 election the contrast with Labor had been made somewhat clearer because Labor leader, Mark Latham, was a declared agnostic. Latham was privately dismissive of religion and these views became public on the publication of his diaries. This has led Anglican Bishop Tom Frame to claim that in recent years ‘Labor leaders have exhibited an open disdain for all things religious.’ By 2005 the new Labor leader, Kim Beazley, a Christian himself, had overcome his traditional aversion to mixing religion and politics by speaking about his own faith at an Australian Christian Lobby conference in Canberra….

Religion and politics is also more prominent, though not widespread, in public appointments. The most controversial Howard government appointment in this context has been that of Archbishop Peter Hollingworth as Governor-General in June 2001. Hollingworth at the time of his appointment was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane…..

The most recent development in religion and politics has been the emergence of the Family First Party. The emergence of this new party at the 2004 federal election was just one aspect of the larger relationship between the Howard government and evangelical Christians. Despite the success of FFP it remains a less significant phenomenon than the direct influence of evangelical Christians within the Coalition. Evangelical lobby groups, like the emerging Australian Christian Lobby, are another notable element of this evangelical story……

Hansard, excerpt from Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison’s maiden speech in the House of Representatives, 14 February 2008:

I turn now to the most significant influences on my life—my family and my faith.

Family is the stuff of life and there is nothing more precious. I thank my family members here in the gallery today for their support. It is my hope that all Australians could have the same caring and supportive environment that was provided to me by my parents, John and Marion Morrison, and my late grandparents, Mardie and Sandy Smith and Douglas and Noel Morrison, whom I honour in this place today. My parents laid the foundation for my life. Together with my brother, Alan, they demonstrated through their actions their Christian faith and the value they placed on public and community service. In our family, it has never been what you accumulate that matters but what you contribute. I thank them for their sacrifice, love and, above all, their example. To my wife, Jenny, on Valentine’s Day: words are not enough. She has loved and supported me in all things and made countless sacrifices, consistent with her generous, selfless and caring nature. However, above all, I thank her for her determination to never give up hope for us to have a child. After 14 years of bitter disappointments, God remembered her faithfulness and blessed us with our miracle child, Abbey Rose, on the seventh of the seventh of the seventh, to whom I dedicate this speech today in the hope of an even better future for her and her generation.

Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders, in particular the Reverend Ray Green and pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman. My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda. As Lincoln said, our task is not to claim whether God is on our side but to pray earnestly that we are on His. For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social—as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message. In recent times it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country. This presents a significant challenge for those of us, like my colleague, who seek to follow the example of William Wilberforce or Desmond Tutu, to name just two. These leaders stood for the immutable truths and principles of the Christian faith. They transformed their nations and, indeed, the world in the process. More importantly, by following the convictions of their faith, they established and reinforced the principles of our liberal democracy upon which our own nation is built.

Australia is not a secular country—it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one. It has no greater claim than any other on our society. As US Senator Joe Lieberman said, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion. I believe the same is true in this country.

So what values do I derive from my faith? My answer comes from Jeremiah, chapter 9:24:
... I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.

From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil. Desmond Tutu put it this way:

... we expect Christians ... to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.

These are my principles. My vision for Australia is for a nation that is strong, prosperous and generous: strong in our values and our freedoms, strong in our family and community life, strong in our sense of nationhood and in the institutions that protect and preserve our democracy; prosperous in our enterprise and the careful stewardship of our opportunities, our natural environment and our resources; and, above all, generous in spirit, to share our good fortune with others, both at home and overseas, out of compassion and a desire for justice.

ABC Radio National, 3 September 2008:

Well the Australians are going back in history. The first guy to get involved was man named Norman Makin who was actually not considered a right-winger, he was a long-time Ambassador to the United States, but was an early Cold warrior and saw The Family as a useful vehicle for working with the Conservative side of American politics during the Cold War. More recently, I would just bump into - in the documents -minor Australian politicians, Bruce Baird, a fellow named Ross Cameron, and I suppose Peter Costello has been involved, and I don't know how involved and I just, that's not something I followed up on……


The religious makeup of Australia has changed gradually over the past 50 years. In 1966, Christianity (88 per cent) was the main religion. By 1991, this figure had fallen to 74 per cent, and further to the 2016 figure. Catholicism is the largest Christian grouping in Australia, accounting for almost a quarter (22.6 per cent) of the Australian population.

Australia is increasingly a story of religious diversity, with Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, and Buddhism all increasingly common religious beliefs. Hinduism had the most significant growth between 2006 and 2016, driven by immigration from South Asia.

The growing percentage of Australia’s population reporting no religion has been a trend for decades, and is accelerating. Those reporting no religion increased noticeably from 19 per cent in 2006 to 30 per cent in 2016. The largest change was between 2011 (22 per cent) and 2016, when an additional 2.2 million people reported having no religion…..

The Conversation, 21 August 2017:

Even though the 2016 Census revealed that more than 30% of the Australian population identify as having “no religion” – a label that overtook the Catholic faith figure – Christianity’s effect on Australian politics is far from waning.
Surprisingly, Christians currently number more than 40% of the Coalition government and about 30% of the Labor opposition. This is high for a nation labelled “secular”….

 Kevin RuddTony Abbott and former Liberal senator Cory Bernardi moved Christian values from the periphery to the centre when they declared their strong convictions on faith and policy….

When federal parliament is in session, the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship meets fortnightly, with about 60 members from all sides of politics in attendance. This is more than a quarter of total parliamentary members.

Not all Christians in parliament choose to attend the fellowship. Anecdotal evidence suggests that guest speakers, prayer and Bible studies with focused discussions are regular features of these meetings.

2. Faith-based delivery of social and community services

The government has outsourced approximately two-thirds of community services to faith-based agencies at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars…..

The Age, 18 May 2018:

A senior Mormon recently elected to a powerful position in the Victorian Liberal Party has been accused of not being a legitimate member, fuelling tensions over the rising influence of ultra-conservatives in the state branch.

Three weeks after winning a coveted spot on the party’s administrative committee, infectious diseases specialist Dr Ivan Stratov has had his membership thrown into doubt, amid allegations that he did not get the necessary approval to join the Liberals after initialling running as a Family First candidate at the state election in 2010….

The Age, 3 June 2018:

He’s the most unlikely Liberal Party powerbroker.

The son of a leftist migrant from the Soviet Union; brought up atheist in Melbourne’s suburbs; the first Mormon missionary to baptise new believers in Ukraine in the early 1990s.

But nearly three decades later, HIV specialist and doctor Ivan Stratov is part of a new conservative wave that’s seizing power in the Victorian branch.

An Age investigation has confirmed with senior church sources that at least 10 of the 78 people elected to the Liberals’ administrative bodies at the party’s April state council are Mormons.

This amounts to nearly 13 per cent of all those now in key positions within the Liberals’ organisational wing, compared to just 0.3 per cent of all Australians who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Combined with conservative Catholics, evangelical Christians from churches such as Victory Faith Centre and City Builders, the religious right-wing now has unprecedented sway in Liberal Party politics.

And Stratov – a senior Mormon who won a coveted spot on the administrative committee – is their most influential figure.

When conservative Liberals embarked on an anti-Safe Schools roadshow across Victoria last year to highlight concerns about the program, Stratov was a headline act.

When state MPs debated changing euthanasia laws, the scientist whose papers are peer reviewed, sat on a panel at the party’s Exhibition Street headquarters warning them against it…..

And when acolytes of new state vice-president Marcus Bastiaan and federal MP Michael Sukkar embarked on a takeover of the Victorian branch, Stratov was one of Bastiaan's key lieutenants…..