First – I have a couple of questions:
What is the Federal Government doing about the issues of faith in this country? With the influx of migration there are many varied Christian and non-Christian faiths and belief systems, such as, secularism, atheism, Gnosticism, Humanitarianism and the list goes on. A person could legitimately claim any of these viewpoints as their religion
My other question is: Is a person’s faith really something that the Government should be involving themselves with anyway? Unless it is to protect our right to have and practice a faith.
After Just recently being involved in the Freedom of Religion/Freedom of Speech petition, which is to be sent to the government in anticipation of the bill being brought before the Federal Parliaments in the next few weeks, I was pleased to read an article written by the Australian family Coalition, (extracts included below). Having collected around 500 signatures myself, and there are probably some I don’t know of yet that did not come back to me, I was amazed at how many people did not know about the bill. Equally amazing to me, was that almost everyone I asked signed the petition when given the information regarding the severity of the bill and what it means for our future. In fact, there were only three people that said they did not want to sign it. Really, when you think about the freedoms we have had in this country who would want to step backwards and lose their right to freely speak their mind about what they believe and hold dear, especially on the importance of one’s faith.
Damian Wyld, Director of Australian Family Coalition writes on the 30th of July just passed.
“After literally years of waiting, we have finally seen the Federal Government’s proposals to protect religious freedom. The debate has been incredibly drawn out, spanning the 2017 marriage survey, the marriage vote in parliament (when most good amendments were thrown out and we were promised something at a later date), the Ruddock Review (and related leaks last year designed to damage faith-based schooling), the Israel Folau saga, and finally the federal election. It’s been a marathon and, disappointingly, we’re still far from the finish line.
Why do I say this? Several reasons:
1. While the Government’s proposal is just that, a proposal for consultation, it falls short of what’s needed to truly maintain freedom of religion and belief – with the courts left to have a field day.
2. Forces behind the 2017 “yes” campaign for same sex “marriage” are already attacking the Government’s intent (imperfect though we might consider it).
3. Labor still doesn’t seem to have realised that it lost the federal election and has no. mandate to oppose protections for people of faith. Their official pronouncements have. been cagey, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves about the challenge of getting the Opposition. to support meaningful legislation.
The Government is proposing not one, but three separate bills. Combined with accompanying explanatory documents, there are hundreds of pages to read. Given they were only released yesterday; we’re still working on it! But we can already share a few serious concerns with you:
• As the Government’s own documents state, the legislation “will not create a positive right to freedom of religion”.
• The Australian Human Rights Commission’s scope will significantly increase to cover religion.
Far, far too much is left to unelected courts to decide, rather than our parliaments.
What is your definition of freedom of speech?
I asked my colleague this question, and she said, “to say any crazy thing you want;” her name is withheld to avoid embarrassment!
As for me, I would prefer to take a more conservative approach and say, ‘Freedom of Speech is the foundation of all freedoms; without it, no other freedom could survive’. In other words, Freedom of Speech is very closely allied to our basic freedoms which reflect our humanity and allows us to have freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and belief.’
» In Australia we still have the common law right of freedom of speech; protected from abuse by our constitution.
» Free speech and expression is known to be a fundamental aspect of one’s self development and accomplishments. The freedom to choose what to say or do is inherently important, in serving our objectives, of fulfillment in our social spectrum. Someone once said, (echoing John Stuart Mill), ‘the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market’.
» freedom of speech is the essence of our democracy. People are more ready to accept decisions that are not in their favour, if they have had the opportunity to influence that decision. Free Speech exposes the errors in the management of justice and challenges public officials in the area of possible abuse of power.
In Australia, legislation deems illegal, dialogue expressed in many different contexts. There are already limits put on our speech and recognised by our common law. These include expressing obscenities and treason, insults, defamation, profanity, incitement, provocation and more.
Australian Law Commission notes: 1
“Numerous Commonwealth laws may be seen as interfering with freedom of speech and expression. here are, for example, more than 500 government secrecy provisions alone. In the area of commercial and corporate regulation, a range of intellectual property, media, broadcasting and telecommunications laws restrict the content of publications, broadcasts, advertising and other media products. In the context of workplace relations, anti-discrimination law—including the general protections provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)—prohibit certain forms of speech and expression.”
It would seem ,that we already have enough govt. bodies, and legislation in place to oversee
pretty much all the possibilities of careless, abusive, offensive and threatening speech.
• The Criminal Code Act 1995
• Various terrorism-related secrecy offences in the Criminal Code, Crimes Act 1914
• Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979
• (ASIO Act) and, in particular, those relating to ‘special intelligence operations’
• Anti-discrimination law and, in particular, 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 Counter-terrorism and national security laws,
• Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (Intelligence Committee).
• Australian Border Force Act 2015 provides for proportionate limitations on freedom of speech.
Don’t you think we already have adequate restriction on our speech? certainly I feel it would suffice any discretion or misdemeanour played out in carless rhetoric.
There has been much debate in relation to 18C laws. Please see below, an extract from the
Australian Law Commission:
RUA CALLS FOR DISSOLVING 18C as it currently reads.
It is now time:
• To review the 18C legislation;
• Remove references to offence.
To be offended is to react to an issue. It is based on the emotion to a fact; is variable and does not require consistency in its context. It is therefore not possible to show that an ‘offender‘ had intent to harm an individual when speaking out what he/she believes to be the truth about a subject.
Let’s not waste time and energy worrying about being offended! There are too many real issues that need to be addressed. … situations that threaten our livelihood, our economy and our nation’s security. While we worry about being offended! Really??
Let’s get real before it’s too late and we have nothing to worry about
Written by Yvonne Gentle – National Secretary
UPDATE: On ‘The Religious Freedom Act’
Just received today, September 3rd 2019. An email received from a colleague:
Today, I spoke with …xxx… who works with Senator Concerta Wells regarding where the petition is up to and the outcomes to the draft bill that has just been released.
The Religious draft bill just released, has up to 4 weeks for the public to present a submission on (the 2nd Oct, but please check to confirm). xxx said our efforts (re: Petition) so far have made a 25% improvement on this current draft bill but we need to keep the pressure on. The Attorney General, Christian Porter has made 65 amended versions of this bill. It is still not good enough …. more changes are required.
… Senator Wells was previously a lawyer prior to becoming a politician. …there were gaping legal flaws in the original draft and hence why she began the petition due to the great danger of Christians being sued and losing their religious freedoms.
The religious draft bill will be finalised by the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020 after passing both lower and upper houses.
Regarding the Petition: Religious Freedom Act, … keep them coming in. They have almost 26,000 signatures from all over Australia. ….. because of the Abortion Bill, which has become the focal point, the Religious Freedom Act and current draft has taken more of a back seat for now. Apparently, they received 78,000 signed petitions against the Abortion bill so … send in any signed petitions regarding the religious freedom act ASAP. We … want to give them a sense of urgency … The Petition and Religious Freedom Act needs to come to the forefront again as is too important to let slide.
If Senator Concerta Wells had not started this petition which uncovered the inadequacy of this Religious Freedom Act, we would have all suffered. … she is putting so much pressure on the government which has precipitated these changes … but more pressure is needed. … we need to get 75% of amendments accepted. That is their goal!
Senator Wells is planning 2 meetings in western suburbs of Sydney… re: (creating) awareness and (obtaining) more signatures. … Lastly, can I suggest … (writing a) submission for the draft bill just released, and to keep getting signatures for the Petition: … (Religious Discrimination Act) …(get) more copies of petitions … send in sheets, … signed even if not full. Also, … be encouraged to hear the impact that has already been achieved by Senator Wells although not what we want, is nevertheless better than first proposed. Her petition and all the people who have signed can be encouraged they have already made some impact. …
Australian Law Commission notes: 2
4.8 The ALRC has not established whether 18C of the RDA has, in practice, caused unjustifiable interferences with freedom of speech. However, it appears that pt IIA of the RDA, of which s 18C forms a part, would benefit from more thorough review in relation to freedom of speech.
4.9 In particular, there are arguments that s 18C lacks sufficient precision and clarity, and unjustifiably interferes with freedom of speech by extending to speech that is reasonably likely to ‘offend’. In some respects, the provision is broader than is required under international law to prohibit the advocacy of racial hatred, broader than similar laws in other jurisdictions, and may be susceptible to constitutional challenge.