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Pages tagged "free speech"
Australia’s worst abortion laws just got worse
· November 27, 2015 11:00 AM
For two nights this week the Legislative Council has had marathon sittings lasting until 4am on Wednesday morning and 2am Friday morning in the Government’s bid to clamp down on pro-life speech or posters within 150 metres of Victorias abortion clinics. This ban extends to public and many private hospitals and all of the 100 plus doctors’ surgeries that administer the abortion drug RU 486.
The debate was dominated by a volley of questions from Coalition & DLP MP’s to Minister Jenny Mikakos regarding the Government’s intentions and the proposed operation of the exclusion zone laws.
It is alarming that the Government is refusing to provide any information to the public on where the zones will be located. Minister Mikakos made a statement that it would not be helpful for the public to know where the clinics that administer RU 486 are located. This demonstrates the uncertainty that surrounds the Bill.
It was pointed out by Inga Peulich MP that Victoria’s Universities have clinics providing RU 486 and therefore “clubs and societies” on campus would be limited in their free speech, especially during Orientation week.
Sensible amendments, designed to make a bad law better, were all defeated. The amendments sought to reduce the zone from 150 metres to 15 metres and reduce the maximum jail term for those who breach the zone, from 12 months to 1 month.
A critical amendment, by Bernie Finn MP, attempting to remove prayer and other forms of religious expression from the free speech ban was unsuccessful.
The wheels were set in motion for these speech censorship laws because the ALP Government denied its MP’s a conscience vote on the issue.
The Andrew’s ALP Government failed to honour the clear provisions in the ALP national rules, applicable since 1984, that guarantee ALP MP’s a conscience vote on abortion.
Sadly, a large number of Coalition members exercised their free vote on the issue to support the draconian laws, mistakenly accepting the false narrative that those who seek to offer alternatives to abortion at abortion clinics, cause harm. In fact, these pro-life counsellors’ compassionate activities usually result in 12 live births every year.
The mothers of these children have not regretted their choice to continue with their pregnancies. One such mother and her four year old daughter were present in Parliament during the debate; hearing that the method by which the young girl’s life was saved, a compassionate conversation, will now be an imprisonable offence.
Due to the votes of the 30 MP’s who approved this Bill, there will be twelve less children around the Christmas table next year. This is indeed a shocking outcome for a vote taken in the middle of the night. It seems unreasonable that the lives of children depend on the votes of MP’s at a time of day when making decisions is difficult.
The Government’s banning of allowing alternatives to abortion, where information is most needed, facilitates a cruel type of domestic violence, where the most vulnerable pay the ultimate price in silence.
Conservative free speech Victorians applaud the courage of the eight MPs who repeatedly voted against the jackboot of Government speech control; Bernie Finn, Inga Peulich, Richard Dalla-Riva, Rachel Carling-Jenkins, Daniel Young, Gordon Rich-Philips, James Purcell & Jeff Bourman.
While a minority group, they represented the views of the majority of correspondents to MP’s on this issue, as was acknowledged by MP’s on both sides of the debate.
This free speech ban is now likely to be tested in the High Court in the likely scenario that a compassionate pro-life advocate seeks a consensual conversation with a young mother outside of one of Victorias abortion clinics.
ACL's Lyle Shelton on govt's decision to drop changes to Racial Discrimination Act
· August 12, 2014 10:00 AM
Lyle Shelton is the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby. In this interview with the ACL's Katherine Spackman he comments on the government's decision to drop proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. Mr Shelton said the Racial Discrimination Act has a low threshold for triggering legal proceedings and believes it's important for a free and democratic society to have robust discussions.
Free speech debate is only just beginning
· April 02, 2014 11:00 AM
The last federal Parliamentary sitting week in March was dominated by fierce debate about free speech and racial vilification.
Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it illegal to offend, insult or humiliate someone because of their race.
The Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt ran foul of these laws and was fined, prompting the then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to promise to repeal them.
No thinking person, and especially Christians, wants racism.
The question is, how do you strike the right balance between free speech and creating a culture of respect for all people?
The human rights lobby believes strong legal protections are needed against racist elements in the Australian community and wants the laws unchanged.
I tend to think the Australian community is far more tolerant than some give them credit for.
The Attorney General George Brandis has argued that free speech is a higher value and is proposing to repeal Section 18C.
However, he proposes to make it against the law to vilify or intimidate people on the basis of race where vilify means to incite hatred against a person or group and intimidate means to cause fear of physical harm.
While still subjective, that seems to be a more appropriate place to strike the balance.
But what of non-race-based claims of vilification?
Some people claim the statements: "Marriage should be between a man and a woman" and "that wherever possible, children deserve their mother and father" to be deeply offensive, humiliating and even 'hateful'.
Some politicians have even said there is "no place in Australia" for these views.
It seems the debate about free speech and freedom of religion in Australia is only just beginning.
ACL's MD talks about the value of free speech
· March 04, 2014 11:00 AM
Lyle Shelton is the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby. In this interview with the ACL's Katherine Spackman he talks about why free speech is important for a well-functioning society. Debate about free speech and the limits of it has been a matter of public discussion in the context of an inquiry into whether section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act should be amended. Columnist Andrew Bolt was found guilty of breaching the Act in 2011 because of his comments he made about light-skinned aboriginal people. Mr Shelton believes some parts of the Racial Discrimination Act could be amended to ensure free speech.
MR: Shocking scenes as 50 radicals try to disrupt March for the Babies
· October 13, 2013 11:00 AM
For release: Sunday 13th October 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby has expressed concern at the anger and vitriol directed at pro-life supporters during yesterday’s annual March for the Babies in Melbourne.
More than 3,000 people participating in the peaceful march were confronted by around 50 radicals who yelled and screamed abuse. The shocking abuse of pro-life supporters was captured by
According to media reports, several of those hurling abuse were members of the Socialist Alliance and one was filmed wearing a T-Shirt advertising the Australian Sex Party.
ACL’s Victorian Director Dan Flynn, who is also Deputy Chair of March for the Babies, said today that such abuse was unacceptable in a society which respects freedom of speech.
"Every group has the right to lawful assembly and free speech, but no group has a right to violently attack such a lawful assembly with abuse and violence.
“I can only surmise that the motive of these 50 people is to manufacture a violent scene to dissuade people from attending the March for the Babies in the future.”
Mr Flynn said he respected the view of the pro-abortion protestors but said the cause of protecting unborn babies and reforming Victoria's abortion laws should be allowed to be debated in a civil manner.
March for the Babies occurs each year to peacefully campaign for human rights protections for the unborn, which were completely removed by the passing of a 2008 abortion bill in the Victorian Parliament.
Tas benches anti-discrimination laws but looks set to pass adoption laws
· June 27, 2013 10:00 AM
The Tasmanian Government has benched anti-discrimination legislation that would have had serious implications on religious freedom.
Proposed changes to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1988 were due to be debated in the Upper House on Wednesday but ACL understands the state government decided not to vote on the legislation when it realised it didn’t have the numbers for the legislation to pass.
The legislation would have greatly expanded the number of grounds where conduct which “offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules” is prohibited. It would include race, age, sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, gender, marital status, relationship status, pregnancy, breastfeeding, parental status, family responsibilities, disability, industrial activity, political belief or affiliation, political activity, religious belief or affiliation, religious activity, irrelevant criminal record, irrelevant medical record, and association with a person who has or is believed to have any of these attributes”.
A central point of contention for the government was that a majority of members supported faith-based schools receiving exceptions to anti-discrimination laws when enrolling students.
ACL’s Tasmanian Director Mark Brown said in a
this week that such changes would threaten free speech and open dialogue, and increase unnecessary litigation. He says Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.
Meanwhile, ACL understands proposed changes to Tasmania’s adoption laws will be passed which will allow those registered with a significant relationship, including unmarried and same-sex couples, to adopt an unknown child.
This is a disappointing outcome and it seems previous laws regarding surrogacy and known adoptions for same-sex couples had set a precedent for members to also vote for this legislation.
MR: Proposed changes to anti-discrimination laws in Tas jeopardise human rights
· June 25, 2013 10:00 AM
Tuesday, 25th June 2013
Amendments to anti-discrimination legislation in Tasmania would have serious implications for freedom of speech, conscience and religion, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.
Proposed changes to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1988, which will likely be debated in the upper house tomorrow, would expand the prohibition of conduct that “offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules.”
ACL’s Tasmanian Director Mark Brown said such changes would threaten free speech and open dialogue, and increase unnecessary litigation.
“ACL certainly objects to behaviour that incites hatred or ridicules another but to open the prohibition of offence to things like religious or political belief or sexual orientation is a threat to freedom of speech,” he said.
“Who doesn’t get offended or insulted at times by others’ difference of opinion? This is part of living in a democracy,” he said.
Mr Brown also said that legislators should ensure anti-discrimination laws respect fundamental and universal human rights to freedom of thought conscience and religion.
“Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’” he said.
“In a country like Australia which prides itself on tolerance in a multicultural society, these changes would only undermine tolerance and robust political debate would be inhibited.
“In the last few months, Tasmanians have debated numerous social issues which bought out diverse opinion, much of which surely offended people. Surely the government does not expect all such offences be put before the legal system,” Mr Brown said.
- ends -
MR: Uncertainty over marriage policy could drive voters to minor parties
· May 07, 2013 10:00 AM
For release: Tuesday, 7th May 2013
Coalition uncertainty over voting policy on marriage may force many Australians to consider minor parties who are clear on the issue at the September 14 election, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.
“Upper House elections in Tasmania at the weekend which returned pro-marriage candidates showed there is little appetite for radical social policy such as redefining marriage,” ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said.
“Those supporting marriage were rewarded at the ballot box after an expensive and high profile campaign failed to unseat them,” Mr Shelton said.
While ACL had welcomed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s clarity on the issue, it was concerned proponents of redefining marriage were pressuring Coalition candidates to support watering down Coalition marriage policy.
ACL was preparing to target key marginal seats in the lead-up to the September 14 election with leaflets to highlight the social benefits of keeping marriage between a man and a woman.
“We want to highlight to the constituency those candidates and parties who support marriage and let voters know where a candidate is in favour of redefining marriage.”
Mr Shelton said it was regrettable that redefining marriage was becoming an election issue so soon after it was resoundingly defeated in the Australian Parliament last September.
“The Parliament has already spoken but if advocates for redefining marriage are so sure of public support, why don’t they back a referendum?”
protests in France against the Hollande Government yesterday
have been motivated in part by his legislating a new definition of marriage and UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party has
suffered an embarrassing setback in local council elections
after he supported redefining marriage.
“I have great confidence in the ability of Australians, particularly under 35s, to think critically about this issue as long as an alternative view is allowed to be put in the public debate,” Mr Shelton said.
“There are consequences in redefining marriage for children, free speech and freedom of religion and this needs further public discussion.
“A referendum would be the ideal forum in which to have a balanced debate.”
Vic Director Letter to Supporters - February 2013
· February 11, 2013 11:00 AM
The Victorian Director Dan Flynn’s letter to supporters in the state is now available online.
We have launched what will be a busy and energetic year for ACL in Victoria.
Orthodox priests in the Antioch and Syrian tradition have engaged me in discussions about the deteriorating situation for Christians in Syria. Meetings currently underway will shortly culminate in Jim Wallace, ACL’s Managing Director, leading a high level delegation to the relevant Federal Minister, seeking practical support for persecuted Christians.
to continue reading.
MR: Threats to religious freedoms still remain in anti-discrimination bill
· January 31, 2013 11:00 AM
Thursday, 31st January 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby welcomes the decision from the Attorney-General Nicola Roxon to remove conduct that offends from the draft anti-discrimination bill but warns concerns still remain about religious freedom.
Ms Roxon announced that her department will be given the option to remove section 19(2)(b) of the draft bill, a section which would prohibit conduct that “offends, insults or intimidates”.
But ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said more needs to be changed in order to provide adequate protection for freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
“The removal of the ‘offends or insults’ section, while a positive step, does not completely remove the threats to freedom of religion this bill poses - particularly in Section 23, 32 and 33,” Mr Wallace said.
“Currently the exemptions are too narrow in their protection of religious freedom.
“Just as any political party can choose employees who share the aims of the party - churches, Christians schools and other faith-based organisations must be confident they can choose staff who will uphold the ethos of the organisation.
“They should be able to retain their right to employ staff who are committed to upholding the tenets and beliefs of the organisation – no matter what their role.
“Also Section 3 of the Act needs to be amended to acknowledge freedom of religion as a fundamental right, as it is in international human rights law with the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” he said.
Mr Wallace added that even with the removal of section 19(2)(b) the bill still represents an extension of anti-discrimination law.
“The bill expands the number of attributes protected under current anti-discrimination law from four – race, sex, disability and age – to 18,” he said.
“Whilst religion is included as a protected attribute, it’s only protected in work and work-related areas whereas most of the other attributes are protected in ‘any area of public life’.
“This places religion at a lower priority for protection in government policy when it should be afforded at least the same protection as other attributes.
“The aim for non-discrimination must be balanced against the right to freedom of religion.”
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