Showing posts with label Liberal Party of Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Liberal Party of Australia. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Few Liberal-Nationals politicians have ever understood the strength of community in the NSW Northern River region


Few Liberal-Nationals politicians have ever understood the strength of community in the NSW Northern Rivers region or the passion of locals to protect their families, neighbours, the land, rivers, forests and native animals from those who threaten all six. Including those who threaten by refusing to take meaningful action to mitigate climate change.

Here is yet another Northern Rivers resident speaking up.....

The Guardian, 2 December 2019:
Melinda Plesman stands with the remains of her burnt-out house, destroyed in the NSW bushfires, outside Parliament House in Canberra. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Melinda Plesman and her partner, Dean Kennedy, lost their family home of 35 years after bushfires tore through Nymboida, south of Grafton in NSW, last month.
Plesman said she wanted to show Scott Morrison the direct result of climate change.
“It’s happening now and this is what climate change looks like,” Plesman said.
“I’m losing my home, whole communities are losing their homes ... and the prime minister said we’re not allowed to talk about it.
“He said he was going to pray for us. And that was the last straw.”.....

Sunday, 1 December 2019

l'état, c'est moi: Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison is acting more like an autocrat every day


"Until this week, I’ve felt that comparisons between Morrison and Donald Trump have been way overblown. Now, I’m not so sure."  [Journalist Katherine Murphy writing in The Guardian, 28 November 2019]

In which it is revealed that Scott Morrison made a 'perfect' phone call à la Trump......

Crikey Worm: For the early birds, 28 November 2019:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is coming under increasing fire over his phone call to the NSW police commissioner, with a former top judge calling it an inappropriate use of his position.

Former ICAC commissioner David Ipp said the call appeared to have been made in the interests of political decision-making, rather than in the interest of the state, telling The Guardian “an ordinary citizen would not be able to get that information from the police … so what is it about the prime minister that entitles him to that information?” Ipp joins former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor leader Anthony Albanese in condemning the call. The prime minister has refused to release notes from the call with the police chief, despite differing accounts of what was discussed, The New Daily reports.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT? 
Being blunt about it, it is a call I would not have made.
— Malcolm Turnbull
The former prime minister offers his two cents on his successor’s decision to ring the NSW police chief.


Thursday, 28 November 2019

NSW Police investigating Australian Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction & Liberal MP for Hume Angus Talyor's use of an apparently fraudulent document


SBS News, 26 November 2019:

NSW POLICE ARE INVESTIGATING A FRAUDULENT DOCUMENT USED BY ANGUS TAYLOR'S OFFICE TO CRITICISE CLOVER MOORE


NSW Police has opened an investigation into an apparently fraudulent document used by federal energy minister Angus Taylor to attack Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore over her council's travel expenditure.
A spokesperson for the Lord Mayor confirmed that "the Office of the Lord Mayor has been contacted by NSW Police regarding its investigation into falsified City documents used to inform Minister Taylor's correspondence with the Lord Mayor. The City will fully cooperate with the police investigation."
NSW Police confirmed that an investigation is underway, telling SBS that "the NSW Police Force is in the early stages of investigating information into the reported creation of fraudulent documentation."
"Detectives from the State Crime Command's Financial Crimes Squad have launched Strike Force Garrad to investigate the matters and determine if any criminal offences have been committed. As investigations are ongoing, no further information is available."
Controversy over the document in question began in September when the Daily Telegraph reported that the City of Sydney Council spent more on domestic and international flights than Australia's foreign ministers.
The story quoted from a letter sent by Mr Taylor to Clover Moore, which claimed that the City of Sydney's 2017-18 annual report "shows your council spent $1.7m on international travel and $14.2m on domestic travel".
These figures differed significantly from the council's publicly available annual report, which reported spending of $4,206.32 on domestic travel and $1,727.77 on international travel.
In emails to Ms Moore's office obtained by The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph said the figures in its story were drawn from a copy of the City of Sydney's annual report provided to the newspaper by Mr Taylor's office.
In Parliament, Mr Taylor has repeatedly claimed that the document in question was "drawn directly from the City of Sydney's website" and was "publicly available".
Mr Taylor has since refused to answer questions about the document......

Monday, 18 November 2019

With 6 people burnt to death to date during the current NSW 2019 fire season, one reputable Australian journalist pointed the finger squarely at who and what is to blame


TheGuardian, 16 November 2019:

The history of climate policy in Australia is a history of self-interest, posturing and shameful inaction. Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty Images

In a dispiriting political week like the one we’ve just had, it helps to keep things simple. Let’s begin with the organising idea of the week, where various politicians asserted, both in measured ways and unhinged ways, that it was inappropriate to talk about climate change while bushfires ravaged the country.

Let’s be clear about what this line of argument is.

It’s self-serving crap.

It is entirely possible to have a sensible discussion about climate change and the risks it poses, including the risks of longer and more intense fire seasons, and still do all the things that need to be done to protect lives and property.

We have that bandwidth. In fact Australia demonstrated amply over the course of the past few days our collective capacity to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Despite all the finger waggling from politicians, or perhaps because of it, the climate conversation happened in tandem with heroic efforts by emergency services workers to save lives and contain the damage. In fact, the most compelling part of the conversation about bushfires being a symptom of climate change was led by emergency service workers: a coalition of former fire chiefs, who point blank refused various invitations from politicians to shut up.

Given there is no law that says bushfires preclude sensible, evidence-based policy conversations, it’s reasonable to ask why this particular prohibition was asserted.

The answer to that is simple. The Coalition does not want its record raked over at a time when Australians are deeply anxious, because it’s hard to control the narrative in those conditions. The government does not want people who are not particularly engaged in politics, and who make a point of not following Canberra’s periodically rancid policy debates (and climate is the most toxic of the lot), switching on to this issue at a time where they have a personal stake in the conversation.

While Scott Morrison has acknowledged there is a link between climate change and natural disasters, and in attitudinal terms that acknowledgement is a positive development, it’s not really in the prime minister’s interests for anyone to press very assertively on that pressure point, particularly not at a time when the prolonged drought (another symptom of climate change) is already making the Coalition’s supporters restive.

Morrison doesn’t invite the climate action interrogation, because the government’s record is abysmal, and I don’t invoke that word lightly. The Liberal and National parties have done everything within their collective power to frustrate climate action in Australia for more than a decade. The Coalition repealed the carbon price. They attempted to gut the renewable energy target. They imposed fig-leaf policies costing taxpayers billions that have failed to stop emissions rising every quarter.

Lest this wrecking, self-interested, destructive behaviour seem a quirk of history – a quaint vestige of the Abbott era curtailed by the sensible man in the Lodge – be reminded that the Liberals blasted Malcolm Turnbull out of the prime ministership only last August in part for the thought crime of trying to impose a policy mechanism that would have reduced emissions in the electricity sector.

Reflections on a catastrophic week of bushfires

Not content with that, the Coalition, Morrison and his ministers, also claimed during the May election that an emissions reduction target broadly consistent with climate science would be a wrecking ball in the Australian economy. Not content with that, Morrison and his ministers characterised a sensible policy by Labor to try and encourage the electrification of the car fleet to reduce emissions in transport as a “war on the weekend”.

What Australian voters needed after the election in May was a government of whatever stripe prepared to put the country on an orderly path towards decarbonisation.

But what the Coalition needed was different. It wanted to remain in power, and one of the principle means to power it deemed necessary proved to be convincing voters in the outer suburbs and regions that Bill Shorten was crazy and shifty about climate change and would confiscate your ute.

To put this point very starkly, there was a climate election in May, and the climate lost.

I hope it’s clear by now, as a consequence of this heart-warming romp through recent political history, that the arbitrary prohibition of the week – we can’t talk about climate because the country is burning – is about politics, and about self-interest, and not about anything else.

And rather than applying false balance and blaming everyone and declaring the whole business of politics and democracy a debacle, let’s also acknowledge that everyone has certainly stuffed up at one point or another, but one political movement more than any other bears the responsibility for Australia’s failure to get on with the necessary transition to low emissions.

That’s the Liberal and National parties.

Read the full article here.

The dead to date in the 2019 NSW bushfire season

77 year-old man & 68 year-old woman burnt inside their home on Deadman Creek Road in Coongbar, Upper Clarence Valley in October
53 year-old woman burnt in her home at Johns River, north of Taree in November
elderly man found in a burnt out car at Wytaliba, east of Glen Innes in November
68 year-old woman burnt on her property at Wytaliba in November
58 year-old man burnt at the southern end of the Kyuna Track at Willawarrin, 34km west of Kempsey in November

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison brings shame on all of us who arrived in the country from 1778 onwards


And Jenna Price* expresses that shame for us all......

The Canberra Times, 25 October 2019:

It's the only night legendary Australian band the Go-Betweens are playing in Sydney and the audience is keyed up. A woman gives a very moving Acknowledgment of Country - you know, the ones which are more than just the nod to elders past, present and emerging. The ones which talk about rivers and sky, kin and skin. It's Wiradjuri woman Yvonne Weldon, chair of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, whose ability to hold an audience is epic.


Midway, a bloke in the audience starts heckling. Get a move on, he says, and worse.

"I paused. And then I said, 'This is exactly for you, we are the oldest living cultures of the world'," Weldon remembers.

There was a moment of silence before people started telling him to shush - but in stronger language. Weldon continued. Her aim, she says, was to address a big-mouthed, small-minded person.

Now the Prime Minister is doing his own interrupting, colonising these acknowledgments with his own version. Last Saturday, at a Liberal function at Parliament House, he acknowledged the Ngunnawal people. And then he said: "Can I also acknowledge, as is my habit, anyone who is serving in our defence forces and certainly those who are veterans, and simply say on behalf of a very grateful nation, thank you for your service."

It's his own thing. Six words about the traditional owners and entire sentences about everyone else. He didn't just do it at the Liberal Council. He also did it at the Migration and Settlement Awards and at the Prime Minister's Literary Awards. Morrison has decided to add non-Indigenous people to the acknowledgments without reflecting on what that means and how it diminishes Aboriginal people.
Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy-Wandin performs a Welcome to Country and Acknowledgment of Country before a State of Origin game in Melbourne. Picture: Getty Images
Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy-Wandin performs
a Welcome to Country and Acknowledgment of Country
beforea State of Origin game in Melbourne. Picture:
Getty Images

Why does this matter? We know we are on Aboriginal land. We know Australia wasn't blank earth when colonised 200 years ago. Since the arrival of Cook and company, Aboriginal people have been raped and murdered, stolen from their families, had their cultural practices and beliefs erased. They earn less, learn less, die early. There is a lot we can do to redress that, but the very least we could do is to acknowledge that we are on Aboriginal land. It's a couple of minutes out of our respective days and might even encourage a tiny bit of reflection on the part of those of us who are listening. It's not a big ask to be part of a ceremony that has its traditions going back thousands of years (yes, yes, they didn't have exactly this before white people arrived, but Aboriginal people had their own ways of welcoming to country). 

In the aeons before, the Welcome to Country was a sign of peace. And it's this which irks D'harawal scholar Gawaian Bodkin-Andrews, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney (I work there too), the most. Bodkin-Andrews, who has researched Welcome to Country controversies, says the Prime Minister has appropriated an act of peace and embedded war. 
Bodkin-Andrews reminds us that Welcome to Countries (delivered by traditional custodians) are about Aboriginal people sharing their histories and their connections to Country. Acknowledgments (given by Aboriginal people who are not custodians of the land or by non-Aboriginal people) should respect this. 

"It's asking for understanding and demonstrating that our arms are open to you. Military personnel can be agents of war and Morrison's comments are warmongering in a symbol of peace. That is ultimately disrespectful." 

It's also puzzling. Why acknowledge that particular category of Australian?

"It's reflective of his mentality and the party he stands for."

NOTES

* Jenna Price, BA (Communications) (NSWIT), MA (UTS), PhD (Sydney), Senior Lecturer, Journalism Program, University of Technology Sydney.


Saturday, 2 November 2019

Quotes of the Week


"Even inside the Liberal party, there is some discontent with what MPs say is an increasingly dictatorial style of Mr Morrison. One described the Prime Minister as ‘‘Caesar’’.  
[Political Editor Phillip Coorey, writing in the Financial Review on 23 October 2019]

Last year, a Royal Commission found that a Pentecostal leader covered up the abuse of a seven-year-old. Yesterday, Scott Morrison wilfully shared a stage with him. His apathy toward victims is painfully clear”  [Dr. Jennifer Wilson writing in The Big Smoke (Australia), 11 July 2019]

Thursday, 24 October 2019

NSW Liberal-Nationals Government to forbid planning agencies to consider potential impacts of climate change


Nature Conservation Council of NSW, media release, 22 October 2019: 

Planning changes deny our biggest challenge – climate change
The Nature Conservation Council condemns the NSW Government’s plans to forbid planning authorities considering the full climate impacts of coal mines and gas projects.
“The government is effectively banning planning bodies from considering the biggest environmental challenge of our age,” NCC Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 
“The state government has cravenly capitulated to pressure from the Minerals Council, raising serious questions about who controls planning policy in NSW.
“Minister Rob Stokes announced a review into the Independent Planning Commission just days ago and has already undermined it with proposed legislation.
“For the past 12 years NSW has had a planning policy to consider the climate damage of coal produced in this state. 
“It is reckless and irresponsible to gut this policy when dangerous climate change is on our doorstep with fish kills and more extreme heatwaves and bushfires every summer.
“Courts and planning authorities have been trying to deal with climate change because the government has utterly failed. 
“Now the government is tying planning authorities’ hands and undermine the science-based, responsible decision making the people of NSW want.
“No wonder people are marching in the streets for urgent action on climate.” [my yellow highlighting]

Lock the Gate Alliance, 22 October 2019:

Berejiklian back down: NSW Government capitulates to coal lobby
A NSW Government proposal to prevent the Independent Planning Commission from considering downstream climate emissions when assessing mining projects is a terrible mistake that will be remembered by future generations, according to Lock the Gate Alliance. 

It is being reported the government will move to restrict the IPC from considering the effects of "scope 3" greenhouse gas pollution when considering coal mining projects, with new laws to be introduced to parliament this week.

Scope 3 emissions are the greenhouse emissions produced when coal is burned at its final destination. 

Lock the Gate NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said the legislation would be remembered by future generations as a shameless capitulation to the coal lobby that would harm communities in NSW.

“The government is capitulating to mining industry pressure and winding back laws to address the most important strategic, economic and environmental challenge of our century," she said.

“This is a regressive and fatal mistake that will be remembered for generations.

"New South Wales is right now experiencing a severe and unprecedented bushfire season and one of the worst droughts on record due to climate change. There is so little time left to prevent the problem escalating beyond our control. 

“The public expects all responsible agencies to use the powers available to them to act to avoid harm to our communities and our environment. 

"This is absolutely the wrong move at the wrong time for the Berejiklian Government. A petty political act of vandalism against the urgent needs of their constituents, particularly those on the frontline of global heating in rural Australia.

"Instead of pretending we have no stake in global action on climate change, we need a plan that recognises that the Hunter region will need to adjust to declining coal use worldwide and to prepare our communities for the severe weather extremes that are bearing down on us."
BACKGROUND

The Guardian, 22 October 2019:

The New South Wales government has announced it will introduce legislation to try to stop planning authorities from blocking mine developments based on emissions from coal once it is burned.
The push is a response to the historic Rocky Hill verdict delivered by the NSW Land and Environment court earlier this year and comes just days after the government launched a review of the state’s Independent Planning Commission (IPC).

Environment groups and the legal firm that represented Groundswell Gloucester have described it as a capitulation to the mining industry, which has waged a campaign over recent planning decisions that either rejected mining projects outright or imposed conditions on them related to their impact on the climate.
The NSW deputy premier and resources minister, John Barilaro, said the government would introduce legislation to parliament in the next week to prevent “the regulation of overseas, or scope-three, greenhouse gas emissions” in mining approvals.....
“The government has a very clear policy when it comes to the consideration of scope-three emissions and this will now be enshrined in legislation and through changes to the Mining SEPP (state environmental planning policy),” Barilaro said on Tuesday.
The changes the government is proposing include amending the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) to remove the requirement to consider downstream emissions (emissions after coal or gas is sold and burned).
It also plans to amend the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act so that planning authorities are prohibited from imposing conditions on developers related to downstream emissions.
“These changes will help restore NSW law and policy to the situation that existed prior to the Rocky Hill decision and will provide the mining sector with greater certainty,” Barilaro said.
The proposal is not unexpected and was foreshadowed by the government earlier this month following a campaign by the NSW Minerals Council, which has attacked a number of recent decisions by planning authorities in NSW.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March 2019:
The NSW government prepared sweeping climate change policies to decarbonise the state's economy only to have the plans shelved when Gladys Berejiklian became Premier, documents obtained by the Herald show.
The program included a proposal to "embed climate change consideration into government decision making", and was developed with the advice of the government-appointed expert panel, the Climate Change Council.
Mark Speakman, then environment minister, led the work on two sets of policies that were to give substance to the government's aim to make NSW carbon neutral by 2050. The net-zero carbon goal was announced in November 2016 when Mike Baird was premier.....
Echo NetDaily, 4 April 2019:

Less than a week after being returned to office, the Liberal-National Party moved quickly to weaken environmental protections and local government powers by transferring them to the planning department and the premier, Gladys Berejiklian.

Under the Administration of Acts Order and associated changes made on Tuesday this week, the Coalition government have moved many key ministerial responsibilities, effectively disempowering the ministers and their departments.

Of major concern, say NSW Labor and the Greens, is the scrapping of the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), a department tasked with the oversight of environmental protection across the state. Premier Berejiklian told Fairfax’s SMH that ‘heritage would be shifted to the Arts portfolio headed by Don Harwin as minister’.

SMH reporter Peter Hannam also wrote, ‘As part of the changes, the Office of Local Government will also cease to exist as a separate entity, while the Planning & Environment cluster will end its operations as of July 1 this year’.

According to Administration of Acts Order, the re-appointed Planning Minister Rob Stokes will now exercise all the powers under the Local Government Act 1993....

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Quotes of the Week


"We pursue the most vulnerable people with more energy than we pursue corporations."  [Christine Craik , Australian Association of Social Workers, The Canberra Times, 9 October 2019]

"WaterNSW has responsibility for water licensing, approvals, trading and establishing priorities for water management in the Murray Darling Basin and yet not one of the Ministerial appointed board, has any background or experience in rural NSW or represents the interests of rural water suppliers. Clearly there is a need for change and those who are in charge of WaterNSW need to be more attuned to the needs of river communities and the importance of rules for water management that reflect the importance of maintaining town and country water supplies.” Brewarrina Shire Council, at NSW Local Government Conference, October 2019]

In Australia, the only thing as certain as drought is the subsequent calls by politicians to build new dams.” [ The Australia Institute Senior Water Researcher Maryanne Slattery, writing in The Guardian, 15 October 2019]

Monday, 14 October 2019

What if privatisation of Centrelink pension/benefit/allowance cash transfer delivery ends in tears?


It is increasingly evident that Australian Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison eventually intends to place all Centrelink clients on the Indue Limited Cashless Debit Card.

Apparently this policy change comes under the heading of either 'tough love' or 'compassionate conservatism' - whichever term Liberal and Nationals MPs and senators think sounds good at the time - when in reality it is establishing yet another market for poverty profiteers*.

In all the pious and poisonous spin being uttered by those making war on the poor and vulnerable, there has been little said about any government guarantee covering the millions Centrelink regularly deposits with Indue Limited.

What happens to the mandated 80 per cent of a Centrelink client's welfare payment held on the Cashless Debit Card if Indue ceases to trade, trades while insolvent or is placed under administration? 

How many corporate debtors would take precedence over welfare recipients in the distribution of whatever assets Indue had left if it declares bankruptcy?

Would sole parents, the unemployed, students, disability and age pensioners or other recipients ever get back any of the money which has been forcibly retained on these debit cards?

Notes

* See: Bielefeld, Dr. S, Griffith University Law School (2018), Technologising the poor: Cashless Debit Card trials expanding despite no credible evidence regarding positive outcomes  

Friday, 11 October 2019

Seems no-one is really happy with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's religious freedom bills


Armed with what appeared to be a sense of personal righteousness, in August 2019 Australian Prime Minister, Liberal MP for Cook and self-proclaimed man willing to "burn" for Australia, Scott John Morrison, released a draft Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 along with the Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019 and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religion) Bill 2019.

Not everyone is happy with the contents of these bills.

For the institutional religions the bills do not go far enough. While for legal academics, industry bodies and human rights agencies these bills go too far. 

This is a selection of views publicly expressed.......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 October 2019: 

Australia's Catholic Church says the federal government's draft religious discrimination laws are "problematic" and require major changes to avoid unwanted "lawfare" and ensure religious bodies keep their ability to hire and fire at will. 

The demands from the country's largest church increase the pressure on Attorney-General Christian Porter to go back to the drawing board on a process that started with 2017's religious freedom review by Philip Ruddock. 

In particular, the Catholic Church wants special rights for religious schools to extend to religious hospitals and aged-care facilities, as well as an explicit override of state anti-discrimination laws. 

And despite the special rules for schools, the peak Catholic school body complained the draft law still "does not provide our schools with the flexibility they require" to ensure staff and students adhere to the tenets of their faith. 

The head of the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), former Labor senator Jacinta Collins, said Australia's 1750 Catholic schools must retain their legal right to hire and fire - and accept students - based on how well a person fit into "the ethos" of the school. That included whether someone was baptised as Catholic, or whether they had undermined the tenets of the faith by publicly entering a same-sex relationship or marriage. 

In a 27-page submission to the government on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli said the laws "require some significant amendment" to properly assist people of faith. 

He stressed religious hospitals and aged-care facilities "must" be included as religious bodies and enjoy the same hiring and firing rights as religious schools, with the Catholic Church the largest non-government provider of healthcare services in Australia. 

The Age, 4 October 2019: 

Religious believers could be free to publicly shame rape survivors under the federal government’s proposed “religious freedom” laws, Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner has warned. 

Commissioner Kristen Hilton also noted an unmarried woman would be powerless to seek redress if a doctor told her she was “sinful and dirty” for requesting contraception on the basis of a religious conviction. 

The commissioner has warned federal Attorney-General Christian Porter that his proposed new laws, which the government says are designed to protect the rights of people of faith to express their religious views, risks trampling on the human rights of other Australians…… 

Ms Hilton writes in her submission that the religious freedom laws might allow a worker in a health service to go on social media in their own time and denigrate the homosexuality of sexual abuse survivors. 

Another concern for the commissioner is the potential under the proposed laws that a private business or religious group could demand the right to provide sexual health education in government schools and tell children that homosexuality is an illness and that the use of contraceptives is a sin. 

A clause in the draft bill stating that expressions of belief should be protected from anti-discrimination laws could have the effect, Ms Hilton wrote, of "emboldening some people to characterise survivors of sexual assault or rape as being blame-worthy for not being sufficiently modest or chaste."….. 

“But religious expression needs to be balanced against other rights, such as the right to be free from discrimination,” the Commissioner wrote. 

“This bill does not get the balance right. 

“By privileging religious expression, the rights of other people are diminished."  

The Guardian, 4 October 2019: 

Legal academics and the Diversity Council have warned that the Coalition’s proposed religious discrimination bill is unworkable for employers and will thwart policies designed to create safe and inclusive workplaces. 

In a joint submission, the academics warn the bill’s proposed ban on workplace policies regulating religious speech would leave employers in the invidious position of having a duty under occupational health and safety laws to create safe workplaces, but being restrained in their ability to prevent bullying. 

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned the bill does not properly define religion, meaning that Indigenous spirituality could be excluded by the common law definition while “esoteric or emerging religions” are protected. 

The draft bill would prevent employers from having codes of conduct that ban religious speech in the workplace or on social media, on the grounds that such a ban would indirectly discriminate on the grounds of religion. The provision exempts large employers only if they can show they would suffer “unjustifiable financial hardship” without the rule. 

The academics’ submission – coordinated by Liam Elphick and Alice Taylor and signed by Professors Beth Gaze, Simon Rice and Margaret Thornton – noted the effect of the section is that religious speech “would have greater protection from employer intervention than any other statement or expression”. 

For example, an employer with a code of conduct banning employees from publicly engaging in controversial political debates would not be able to impose the rule on a religious employee who wanted to oppose marriage equality. A gay employee, however, would be restricted from publicly supporting it. 

“There are also workability issues in how an employer can factually prove that a conduct rule is ‘necessary’ to avoid unjustifiable financial hardship, considering the very high standard required to prove necessity,” the academics said. 

The academics warned the clause exempting religious speech from federal, state and territory discrimination protections would create an “unworkable situation for businesses in regard to employment”. 

“Work health and safety laws impose a positive duty on employers to prevent bullying, and discrimination laws require businesses to provide their services free from discrimination, yet [the exemption] would authorise bullying and discrimination,” they wrote. 

The Australian, 1 October 2019: 

The Anglican Church says the Morrison government’s draft religious discrimination bill contains problems “so serious” it cannot support it in its current form, warning that some groups like Anglicare and Anglican Youthworks may not be protected. 

In its submission to the government, the Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney outlined seven issues to be addressed and called on Attorney-General Christian Porter to expedite the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into laws that impact on religious freedoms. 

Under clause 10, religious bodies “may act in accordance with their faith” and do not discriminate against a person if their conduct may reasonably be regarded as in accordance with their doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings. A religious body that “engages solely or primarily in commercial activities” is excluded. 

Bishop Stead said the explanatory memorandum made it clear religious hospitals and religious aged-care providers would not be considered religious bodies. 

Anglican Youthworks, which charges fees to run “Christian Outdoor Education” programs, could also be disqualified because it engaged in commercial activity.While commending the bill, Bishop Stead said the clause might have a perverse effect. 

The Guardian, 30 September 2019: 

Key provisions of the religious discrimination bill may be unconstitutional because they allow medical practitioners to refuse treatment, and privilege statements of religious belief, an academic has warned. 

Luke Beck, a constitutional and religious freedom expert at Monash University, warned the Coalition’s exposure draft bill may be incompatible with international law and therefore not supported by the external affairs power in the constitution. 

The submission echoes concerns from the Australian Human Rights Commission and Public Interest Advocacy Centre that the bill will licence discriminatory statements about race, sexual orientation and disability on the grounds of religion, and that it privileges religion over other rights. 

What is the religious discrimination bill and what will it do? Read more The bill has been criticised for overriding state and federal discrimination law, including section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits speech that offends, insults or humiliates people based on race. 

Beck argued the bill provided a “bigger sword” to religious people’s statements of belief than those of non-religious people. Statements of belief can be made “on any topic whatsoever” provided they “may reasonably be regarded” as in accordance with a person’s religious beliefs. 

By contrast, statements of non-belief must deal only with the topic of religion and “arise directly” from the fact the person does not hold a religious belief, the associate professor said.  

Freedom For Faith, undated submission:

The overwhelming concern of faith-based organisations across the country with whom we have spoken is about the effect of the Bill on their religious mission, with particular reference to their staffing policies, but also in relation to other issues. 

Staffing policies in faith-based institutions 

At a meeting in Sydney with a range of faith leaders a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister promised that the law would not take faith groups backwards in terms of protection of religious freedom. The difficulty is that this Bill does, in relation to staffing of faith-based organisations. The issues are existential ones for many faith-based organisations. If the issues are not resolved, this may lead us to conclude that the Bill is better not being enacted. That said, we have every confidence that the Attorney-General will be able to sort the drafting problems out. 

Currently, at least in some States, it is lawful for faith-based organisations to appoint, or prefer to appoint, adherents of the faith without breaching anti-discrimination laws. So for example, a Catholic school may prefer practising Catholic staff, or at least practising members of other Christian denominations. A Jewish school may prefer Jewish staff, and so on. This is no different to a political party which may choose or prefer staff who support the policies of the party, or an environmental group that wants staff who will believe in its mission. Organisations that exist for a particular purpose or are associated, for example, with a particular ethnic group, need to be able to have staffing policies that reflect their purpose and identity. 

This is not a right to discriminate. It is a right to select. And it is just plain common sense. A Church’s childcare centre is not like the Commonwealth Bank or a shop selling bedroom furniture. The childcare centre is part of the mission and ministry of the Church. If it could not insist on employing Christian staff, or at least having a critical mass of Christian staff, it would cease to be a Christian ministry. 

Many faith-based organisations have a strong preference for staff who are practising adherents to the faith, in order to maintain their religious identity and culture. However, larger organisations typically do not make it an inherent requirement of working there, because they need the flexibility to meet their staffing needs without drawing from too narrow a pool......


Neither of these examples cover situations where there is merely a preference to employ practising Catholics or practising Christians more generally. Furthermore, even if a Catholic school or other charity did have a policy of only employing Catholic staff, it would only be lawful if this could reasonably be regarded as in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs and teachings of Catholicism. That may be a difficult test to satisfy in the eyes of a court. The court may find it hard to see how the Catholic school’s preference in terms of employment may reasonably be regarded as being in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of the religion. The school, however, may take the view that it is a necessary implication of their doctrines that they want to maintain a Catholic ethos by having a “critical mass” of believing staff. Whether or not this policy does flow from religious doctrines – it is really about the purpose of having a Catholic school – it would be best if the legislation made it clear that such a policy was not unlawful.

Christian Schools Australia, undated:

In conjunction with the release of this package of Bills the Government narrowed the Term of Reference of the referral to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) of the other aspect of the response to the Religious Freedom Review of interest to Christian schools and deferred the timetable for this review. 

While the substance of the ALRC review remains the same it will now do so in the light of the proposed legislation circulated last week. Rather than releasing a Discussion Paper next week it will now release a discussion paper “in early 2020” with the reporting deadline to Government pushed back from April 2020 to 12 December 2020. Although claimed to “reduce confusion for stakeholders” the amended timeline will require the Religious Discrimination Bill and associated legislation to be finalised BEFORE the discussion paper on proposed amendment to the existing amendments are released. 

CSA is concerned that this will not allow appropriate consultation on the complete package of reforms affecting Christian and other faith-based schools. 

We have raised this with the Attorney-General’s office and will continue to advocate for a more coordinated response to both aspects of the whole package.

Australian Human Rights Commission, 27 September 2019: 

However, the Commission is concerned that, in other respects, the Bill would provide protection to religious belief or activity at the expense of other rights. The Bill also includes a number of unique provisions that have no counterpart in other anti-discrimination laws and appear to be designed to address high-profile individual cases. As a matter of principle, the Commission considers that this is not good legislative practice. As a matter of substance, the Commission considers that this may lead to unintended and undesirable consequences. 

The Commission’s main concerns regarding the Bill are as follows. 

First, the scope of the Bill is overly broad in defining who may be a victim of religious discrimination and, arguably, too narrow in defining who may be found to have engaged in religious discrimination. 

Unlike all other Commonwealth discrimination laws, which focus on the rights of natural persons (that is, humans) to be free from discrimination, the Bill provides that claims of religious discrimination may be made by corporations including religious institutions, religious schools, religious charities and religious businesses. This is a significant departure from domestic and international human rights laws which protect only the rights of natural persons. 

At the same time, the Bill provides that ‘religious bodies’—including religious schools, religious charities and other religious bodies—are entirely exempt from engaging in religious discrimination if the discrimination is in good faith and in accordance with their religious doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings. This is a wide exemption that undercuts protections against religious discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment and the provision of goods and services, and requires further close examination. 

Secondly, the Bill provides that ‘statements of belief’ that would otherwise contravene Commonwealth, State or Territory anti-discrimination laws are exempt from the operation of those laws. Discriminatory statements of belief, of the kind described in clause 41 of the Bill, whether they amount to racial discrimination, sex discrimination or discrimination on any other ground prohibited by law, will no longer be unlawful. The Commission considers that this overriding of all other Australian discrimination laws is not warranted, sets a concerning precedent, and is inconsistent with the stated objects of the Bill, which recognise the indivisibility and universality of human rights. Instead, this provision seeks to favour one right over all others. 

Thirdly, the Commission is concerned about two deeming provisions that affect the assessment of whether codes of conduct imposed by large employers on their employees, and rules dealing with conscientious objections by medical practitioners, will be considered to be reasonable. Unlike all other Commonwealth discrimination laws, the Bill prejudges the assessment of reasonableness by deeming some specific kinds of conduct not to be reasonable. This means that, in those cases, not all of the potentially relevant circumstances will be taken into account. 

Fourthly, those deeming provisions also have an impact on the ability of employers to decide who they employ. The Bill provides that employers may not decide that compliance with a code of conduct that extends to conduct outside work hours, or with rules dealing with conscientious objection, are an inherent requirement of employment, if they would be unreasonable under clause 8. This means, for example, that the narrow deeming provisions about what is reasonable for organisations with an annual revenue of more than $50 million also has an impact on the decisions by those employers about the conditions they may set with respect to employment. 

These four issues, and a range of others relating to all three Religious Freedom Bills, are dealt with in more detail in the body of the Commission’s submission. In revising the Bill, attention needs to be paid not only to its text, but also to the eventual Explanatory Memorandum. At several points the current Notes provide examples and explanations that suggest a very limited scope for religious organisations to retain their ethos and identity, and conversely an expansive scope for suppression of free speech. It is difficult to reconcile these Notes, at various points, with government policy as expressed by the Prime Minister and Attorney-General.