Monday, March 16, 2020

Morrison government quietly mothballs laws to protect gay students and teachers

The Morrison government has quietly mothballed an inquiry which would have paved the way for long-promised laws to protect gay students and teachers from being expelled or sacked from religious schools.

The Australian Law Reform Commission has not yet started work on the inquiry, which was first referred to it nearly a year ago. President Sarah Derrington requested the deadline be extended until 12 months after the government's Religious Discrimination Bill passes Parliament - which is not guaranteed - making it highly unlikely any recommendations will be legislated before the next federal election.

Attorney-General Christian Porter made the change on March 2 but it was not announced by the government. The amendment appeared on the relevant webpage on the ALRC website last week.

Mr Porter told The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age the delay "makes good sense as it will enable the commission to take into account the extraordinarily far-reaching public consultation process we undertook in developing the Religious Discrimination Bill".

But Anna Brown, a lawyer and the chief executive of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Australia, said it was "irresponsible" to make the inquiry contingent on the bill's passage. "This spells danger and discrimination for students at religious schools, whichever way you look at it," she said.

The ALRC's general counsel Matt Corrigan said the commission asked for an extension because it was impossible to conduct the inquiry while the Religious Discrimination Bill was being considered by Parliament.

"We will not be starting on this inquiry until either a bill is passed or a final decision is made by [the] government," he said. "The two are inexorably linked and it's not possible to look at them separately."

Mr Morrison's initial 2018 pledge to protect gay students from being expelled or turned away from religious schools followed public outcry over the recommendations of Philip Ruddock's review into religious freedom, which revealed freedoms few realised existed under the law.

But later in the year the government back-tracked on that promise and referred the matter to the ALRC for a review, after failing to agree on a deal with the Labor opposition led by Bill Shorten.

In 2019, the government amended the terms of reference of the review to remove the issues being dealt with by the Religious Discrimination Bill, leaving the ALRC to focus on LGBTQ teachers and students. It also delayed the reporting date to 12 December 2020, with a discussion paper to be released in "early 2020".

The review has now been delayed for a second time, with an indefinite deadline of "12 months from the date the Religious Discrimination Bill is passed by Parliament". That bill has itself been delayed and reviewed multiple times, with no guarantee it will ever pass. The discussion paper's due date is now "TBA".

Even if the Religious Discrimination Bill becomes law this year, if the ALRC reports by late 2021 it is highly unlikely its recommendations would be legislated before the next election, due in 2022.

Mr Porter said the government still expected the bill to pass the Parliament. "But let's not forget that it was the former Labor government that introduced the exemptions allowing schools to exclude gay students," he said.

"That decision could have been overturned in the last Parliament, but Bill Shorten refused to allow a conscience vote, effectively blocking attempts by the Coalition to change the law."

Ms Brown said many faith-based organisations did not want the exemptions they currently enjoy under the law, and it was "irresponsible" to make the ALRC's long-awaited inquiry contingent on a bill that was "deeply flawed" may not pass.

"In the instance where the strong and broad community opposition to the bill prevails and it doesn't pass, the Prime Minister's promise to protect kids in schools looks destined to remain unfulfilled," she said.

There are relatively few instances of LGBTQ teachers being sacked or forced out of schools, and fewer still cases of LGBTQ students being expelled or turned away. But religious schools retain this power to discirminate and some of the major churches have expressed a desire to keep it.

For example, Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies apologised after a backlash to a letter he facilitated, signed by 34 church schools, which argued for the preservation of the schools' power to discriminate against gay students and teachers.


Waverley's kids are reclaiming the streets from cars

Like most adults, Waverley Council's mayor Paula Masselos remembers playing in the street as a child. Concerned too few children today were playing outside with neighbours and spending too much time inside and online, Cr Masselos announced last month that four streets would close to cars on Sunday afternoons in a six-month trial of street play.

So many other residents expressed interest in street play that the council has opened applications – subject to approval from the council's traffic engineers – to any resident to apply to close their street for play for a few hours on any day of the week.

"People are very excited by this. They see it as important because it brings the community together," Cr Masselos said. "It's about reclaiming the streets, and bringing them back to the people."

During a visit to Cox Avenue, Bondi, last Sunday – a cul-de-sac participating in the pilot – a car revved by. "Slow down," yelled Cr Masselos who said there would always be some people who would ruin the experience of others.

Most people, though, were "pretty cool" with the closure, said local resident Alex Unsworth. Until Cr Masselos was appointed, locals from Cox Avenue had unsuccessfully applied to the council for permission to hold street parties. They went ahead anyway, said Mr Unsworth. Residents bought their own high-vis vests, a 'road closed' sign and red traffic cones, and learned how to politely usher cars in and out of the area.

"You've not been allowed to close the street for anything until now," Mr Unsworth said. Previously the street's application was treated the same as a big event like Sculpture by the Sea.

"We didn't have portable toilets, and an emergency evacuation plan, all that sort of stuff. So we kept on complaining and complaining. The reason we closed the street was that kids were playing and it was the only way to make it safe was to block traffic with the road closure sign," Mr Unsworth said. Residents didn't have insurance, and the pilot program by Waverley will provide that.

Older residents, neighbours without children and others have also joined in the street parties.

Patricia Puiu, whose children played on Cox Avenue after she moved there in December 1975, was "gratified" to see street play bringing people together. "It's a return to the old ways, the good ways, the civility, courtesies, and the children playing."

In a move unrelated to Waverley's trial, a group called Play Australia has received funding from Sport Australia to run a pilot program of street closures for children's play and community events in Perth, Melbourne and on the Gold Coast.

Play Australia's Barb Champion said street closures were as much about creating a sense of community as allowing children to play. "Over the past 20 to 30 years, people no longer know their neighbours. They don't get together, this is as much about community [connection] as it is about children's play."


LNP gives Pauline poll lift

THE liberal National Party will tell its supporters to preference One Nation second in two upcoming state by-elections in a move that will add pressure to Labor's bid to hold on to Bundamba

LNP President announced the party would preference Labor last in the March 28 by-elections in Bundamba and Currumbin, but denied there was a deal with One Nation.

"There are no deals. Labor goes last; so other parties logically have to go before them," Mr Hutchinson said. "We'd rather not issue preferences at all, except that Labor has rigged the system to benefit themselves."

The move will deliver a boost to One Nation in the Ipswich-based seat of Bundamba, which was the centre of Pauline Hanson's political rise more than two decades ago.

Labor is likely to retain the seat vacated by rebel former MP Jo-Ann Miller, but the party also fears a surge in protest votes for One Nation.

Ms Miller held her electorate by a very safe margin of 21.55 per cent. Former LNP MP Jann Stuckey had a much slimmer hold on the seat of Currumbin, suggesting it could be a closer contest

One Nation operative James Ashby recently claimed the LNP planned to preference Labor ahead of the minor party and warned this would damage the Opposition's chances.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 14.3.20

Queensland bail houses are a failure

MORE than 80 per cent of young criminals who have been placed in the Palaszczuk Government's controversial bail houses have reoffended. The Courier-Mail can reveal that 121 of the 145 offenders who were part of the program between when it began in late 2017 and last month went on to commit more crime after leaving.

Slammed as "another complete failure" by the Opposition, the extraordinary revelation comes just a day after the government announced a crackdown on child criminals who are running riot and fuelling public anger across the state.

Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women, Di Farmer, who has already committed to scrapping the program if it is found to not work, yesterday revealed the bail houses were now able to house homeless youths at risk of falling into a life of crime.

The change follows two reports released late last year highlighting problems with the Townsville, Logan and Carbrook centres, including that young offenders were not following house rules.

"We made a commitment to reevaluate the program at the end of this year and if Supervised Commmunity Accommodation is not proving to be successful after the implementation of reccommended  changes we will swcrap the program," Ms Farmer said.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington seized on the figures, slamming the houses as "another complete failure" while pledging to scrap them. "The LNP will shut the revolving door of justice by giving our police tough new laws and the resources they need to protect Queenslanders and their property," she said.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 12.3.20

 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

1 comment:

Paul said...

There is really only one solution to the Black crime problem sweeping the North.