The Victorian Premier and Opposition Leader have both stated that they will allow a conscience vote if a private members’ bill is introduced to restore freedom to doctors to decline to participate in abortion.
Denis Napthine and Daniel Andrews were responding to questions from Christian leaders at the Australian Christian Lobby’s Make it Count forum at Queens’ Hall, Parliament House on 23 September 2014.
Their commitments come following a question at the forum about Melbourne Doctor Mark Hobart, who faced sanctions for declining to assist a couple who wanted their baby girl aborted so they could try again for a boy.
“If a private members’ bill was introduced then we would certainly allow a conscience vote,” Dr Napthine said.
“My position would be to afford a conscience vote,” Mr Andrews said.
ACL Victorian Director Dan Flynn welcomed the leaders’ commitments to allow a parliamentary vote on whether or not doctors should be forced to participate in abortion by making a referral for an abortion.
“Victorian voters who value life are urged to vote for a pro-freedom of conscience candidate from either party at the 29 November election”, Mr Flynn said.
Premier Denis Napthine has said the government would act quickly to draft legislation in response to the Victorian Parliament’s Family and Community Development Committee Betrayal of Trust report.
The report’s recommendations cover five important areas: changes to the criminal law; easier access to the civil justice system; an independent, alternative avenue for justice; greater independent monitoring and scrutiny of organisations; and further improvements to
prevention systems and processes.
The Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart released a statement shortly after the report stating the Catholic Church in Victoria welcomed the findings.
The committee, which consisted of 6 members of parliament, received 486 submissions and held 33 public hearings between October 2012 and June 2013.
In the opening remarks of the report, Chairwoman, Ms Georgie Crozier MP said:
“The criminal abuse of children is unacceptable in any form. It symbolises a departure from morals that are the touchstone of our humanity and our society”
The report found the overwhelming majority of children participating in activities in religious and other non-governmental organisations or who are cared for by staff in those organisations are safe and derive great benefit from their involvement.
However, the report details the incidence of criminal child abuse “in some of society’s most trusted and respected institutions and organisations”
The report acknowledged that criminal child abuse has profound and lifelong consequences for the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of victims and their parents.
During hearings (many conducted in camera) victims detailed horrendous and traumatic experiences while in the care of non-government organisations.
The committee heard many victims were not given the basic level of respect they expected and deserved. The Committee found that organisations often did not assume responsibility for the harm victims had suffered and sometimes even concealed the truth.
The Committee reported that the majority of evidence from victims indicated that between the 1950s and 1980s the response of specific organisations to criminal child abuse was seriously inadequate and sometimes non-existent, particularly in religious organisations.
The Committee made the following reform recommendations to the sector and to the Victorian Parliament.
The Committee emphasised the importance of organisational leaders developing cultures that protect children from criminal abuse. Requirements for organisations to manage “situational risks”, developing child safe policies with zero tolerance for child abuse and clear processes for reporting breaches were proposed by the Committee.
Reforms to the criminal law have been recommended, including creating an offence of:
- “grooming” of a child or the child’s family,
- “child endangerment”-imposing criminal responsibility where a person in authority, intentionally or recklessly fails to protect a child from harm or abuse, and
- “failing to report a serious indictable offence against a child”.
It has been recommended that limitations on time frames for victims to commence civil proceedings be abolished.
The Committee found that the current internal processes used by organisations to resolve complaints of sexual abuse does not meet the needs of victims in achieving justice and has recommended the creation of an independent, alternative tribunal to be funded by the catholic churches and non-government organisations.
The report represents extremely important work by the Victorian Parliament. The Committee’s recommendations should ensure that the scourge of institutional criminal child abuse is not repeated in Victoria.
You may read Executive Summary here.
ACL is urging Victorian supporters to participate in the current push to protect doctors conscience in Victoria in light of recent events surrounding Dr Mark Hobart.
Dr Hobart drew attention in the state earlier this year after refusing to provide a referral for a couple seeking a sex-selection abortion.
He is currently being investigated by the National Medical Board for breaching Section 8 of the Abortion Law Reform Act, which states that a practitioner who has a conscientious objection to abortion "must refer the woman to another registered health practitioner in the same regulated health profession who the practitioner knows does not have a conscientious objection to abortion."
Doctors Conscience and other pro-life groups are calling on the Victorian government to reform Section 8 to protect freedom of conscience for all Victorian healthcare workers.
Earlier this month, Doctors Conscience circulated a petition for Victorians supporting an amendment to the Act, which is expected to be tabled in the parliament in the coming weeks.
Although the petition has now closed, you can still show your support for freedom of conscience by signing this petition at change.org.
You can also watch Professor Greg Craven's speech at the 'Freedom of Conscience' dinner last month by clicking on the YouTube video above. Professor Craven is the Vice-Chancellor at the Australian Catholic University.
This year's March for the Babies will be held on Saturday 12th October.
The March has been held each year in Victoria since 2009, and is in response to the Abortion Law Reform Act passed in 2008 in Victoria, which makes abortion available for any reason up to 24 weeks. After that time a woman can obtain an abortion if two doctors agree – the reasons that can be used not only cover life and health issues – they include “social circumstances” as well.
Last year, over 3,500 people marched through the Melbourne CBD calling for a change of culture for the unborn and a repeal of the Victorian legislation, considered to be one of the most extreme abortion laws in the Western world.
If you are in Victoria, we encourage you to join in the March for the Babies this October.
When: Saturday 12th October 2013
Where: meet at Treasury Gardens, corner of Spring Street and Wellington Parade, Melbourne
Wear: pink and blue
For more information, please visit the official March for the Babies website.
Thursday, 9th May 2013
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) says evidence given by the Victoria Police at a parliamentary inquiry shows there’s a link between sex trafficking and legalised brothels.
Victoria Police yesterday told the Parliamentary Inquiry into Slavery and People Trafficking Melbourne hearing that there is a large-scale human trafficking problem occurring in many licensed brothels in the state.
ACL’s Victorian Director Dan Flynn says the state government’s laws surrounding prostitution don’t deter human trafficking and a new legislative approach was needed.
“Victoria Police have told the inquiry that although many brothels don’t use trafficked women, there are still plenty where trafficking is occurring,” he said.
“Prostitution has been licensed in Victoria since 1984 and as long as the states continue to allow legalised prostitution, we will never see this issue disappear.
“If the government wants to tackle the growing sex trafficking problem, it must seriously consider tackling the demand for prostituted women.
“ACL has continually advocated for the government to adopt the Nordic approach to prostitution which criminalises the purchase of sex
“The results are promising; Sweden, for example, is now seen as an unfavourable destination for traffickers of women,” he said.
In November 2012, ACL presented evidence linking legalised prostitution and sex trafficking to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.
ACL’s Managing Director Lyle Shelton and Research Officer Daniel Simon argued that the existence of legal prostitution heightened demand for prostituted women and fostered an environment in which illegal prostitution and sex trafficking flourished.
MR: ACL calls for implementation of Swedish prostitution laws in response to samurai sword slashing of a prostitute
For release: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Today’s County Court hearing in Melbourne into the circumstances of a man slashing an escort worker with a samurai sword at his Elwood home, highlights the need for the Victorian Government to urgently follow the lead of other overseas jurisdictions and implement the Swedish policy of criminalising the purchase of sex.
ACL’s Victorian director Dan Flynn said urgent prostitution law reform was needed to stop women being exposed to harm and injury like this again.
“ACL calls on the Victorian Government to establish a Parliamentary Inquiry into the successful Swedish approach which has now been adopted in Iceland, Israel, Norway and South Korea,” he said.
“Unless law reform is undertaken, escort services will continue to result in women being placed in extremely vulnerable situations. It is hoped that the death of an escort worker is not required before legislative reform is commenced.
“The Swedish approach has been found to substantially reduce demand and offers pathways out of prostitution for women caught in the trade,” he said.
For release: Monday 21st March 2011
The Australian Christian Lobby is calling on the Victorian Government to reconsider its proposal for trading on Easter Sunday when a bill to usher in the change is debated in Parliament later this week.
Victorian State Director Rob Ward said the ACL supported the retention of the general ban on shops trading on Easter Sunday in Victoria.
“Easter Sunday is an important tradition valued by society and should not be competed with by shopping. Sixty-four per cent of Australians identify themselves as Christians and Easter Sunday is an important religious event that Christians remember,” he said.
Mr Ward said the Shop Trading Reform Amendment (Easter Sunday) Bill will do away with almost all restrictions on trading on Easter Sunday.
“Victoria has just 3.5 days out of 365 where trading is not permitted. For the other 361.5 days, shops can trade 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” he said.
The Bill was passed in the Legislative Assembly along party lines, but the ACL now calls on all parties to reconsider this important issue in light of its impact on families and people of faith.
“There is no evidence of a major community push to have even more hours to spend their money, so why the urgency for change?” Mr Ward said.
“The Bill impacts on freedom of religion (as accepted by the Government in its introduction of the Bill) because it reduces the ability of people to practice their faith,” he said.
“While there are some limits under various awards that require employers to cater for employees’ religious practices, there is no doubt that pressure will be placed on Christians who would normally worship on this most important day in the Christian calendar.
“If other places around the world can set aside this day without suffering economic fallout, so can Victoria,” he said.
Media Contact: Katherine Spackman on 0408 875 979.