HSV Submissions 2010 to current
The Humanist Society of Victoria (HSV) regularly makes submissions to various responsible bodies, including Senate Committees, Royal Commissions and Government policy reviews. HSV also communicates humanist concerns to politicians of all political persuasions. The content of these communications is formulated by the members at specially convened discussion meetings. This advocacy forms an important part of the work of HSV in disseminating and promoting the humanist view in ethics and religion. Through these representations, HSV is making valuable contributions to civil society.
In the list of submissions below, the titles of a series of submissions on a single issue are appended (1), (2), (3), etc.
Access a short note on a submission by clicking on the note number in [square] brackets.
|2018||National School Chaplaincy Program (2)  View PDF …||Australian Human Rights Commission||FED|
|National School Chaplaincy Program (1) ||Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, cc Shadow Minister, Tanya Plibersek||FED|
|Expert Panel on Religious Freedom ||Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet||FED|
|2017||Office of Research Integrity||Minister for Health and Sport, Greg Hunt||FED|
|Supervised Injecting Facilities ||Premier, Daniel Andrews, and Fiona Patten||VIC|
|Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (2)||All MPs, Premier, Daniel Andrews, Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy||VIC|
|Plastic Bags and Wrapping Waste ||Premier, Daniel Andrews, and Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change||VIC|
|Inquiry into Drug Law Reform ||Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee||VIC|
|Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (1) ||Department of Health and Human Services, Ministerial Advisory Panel||VIC|
|War on Drugs ||Federal and State Ministers for Health, State Attorney-General||FED/VIC|
|2016||Legislative Restrictions on Rights ||Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Immigration||FED|
|Religious Freedom Roundtable ||Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission||FED|
|Gender Equality Strategy for Victoria Read Update …||Department of the Premier and Cabinet||VIC|
|Safe School Anti-bullying Program ||Minister for Education, James Merlino||VIC|
|Marriage Equality Plebiscite ||Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull||FED|
|Multiculturalism ||Minister for Multicultural Affairs||FED|
|Victorian State Disability Plan ||Ministry for Disability and Aging||VIC|
|Marriage and Gender Equality ||Premier, Daniel Andrews||VIC|
|Education Funding ||Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, and Shadow Minister for Education, Tanya Plibersek||FED|
|Climate Change ||Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, and Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Tanya Plibersek||FED|
|Welfare Spending Cuts||Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter|
|Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill ||Premier, Daniel Andrews and Attorney-General, Martin Pakula||VIC|
|Voluntary Assisted Dying ||Premier, Daniel Andrews and Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy||VIC|
|Human Services Inquiry ||Productivity Commission Commissioners||FED|
|Migration Act Amendment Bill 2016||Senate Legislation Committee||FED|
|ABC’s Independence ||Minister for Communications and the Arts, Mitch Fifield, and Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull||FED|
|The ‘War on Drugs’||Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy|
|2015||Flogging of Raif Badawi ||Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Justice, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Australia, UNO, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Julie Bishop, IHEU, Amnesty International, editor The Age||FED|
|Special Religious Instruction (SRI) ||Premier, Daniel Andrews, and Deputy Premier/Education Minister, James Merlino||VIC|
|Raif Badawi’s Wife||Amnesty International (Canada and Australia)|
|Boko Haram and Lord’s Resistance Army ||Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop||FED|
|Asylum Seeker Off-shore Detention ||Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, and Shadow Minister||FED|
|Labor Party Asylum Seeker Detention Policy ||Labor Immigration, Bill Shorten and Richard Marles||FED|
|Homelessness and Poverty in Victoria ||Premier, Deputy Premier and Lord Mayor||VIC|
|Support for Professor Gillian Triggs ||Attorney-General, Shadow Attorney-General and Professor Gillian Triggs||FED|
|Trade Agreement and Metadata Laws ||16 Senators||FED|
|Law and Policy Reform in Victoria ||Premier, Deputy Premier and Attorney-General||VIC|
|International Women’s Day/Prevention of Family Violence ||Minister for Women and Shadow Minister for Women|
|Murder of Avjit Roy ||High Commissioner of Bangladesh, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and Amnesty International|
|Science Funding and Education ||9 cross-bench Senators||FED|
|Labor Party Human-Rights Policies ||31 ALP MPs||FED|
|Indigenous Affairs (Close the Gap) ||Prime Minister, Western Australian Premier, Minister for Indigenous Affairs||FED/WA|
|Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometrics Integrity) Bill 2015 ||Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee||FED|
|Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 ||Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee||FED|
|Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015||Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee||FED|
|Security Legislation Review 2015 ||Security Legislation Monitor, Roger Gyles AO QC||FED|
|Justice for Refugees (Palm Sunday) ||Refugee Advocacy Network|
|Increase Foreign Aid Budget ||Prime Minister, Treasurer, Foreign Affairs Minister, Minister for Finance and Australian Ambassador to UN||FED|
|Murder of Avjit Roy and Washiour Rahman||Bangladeshi High Commissioner, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Amnesty International|
|Family Violence Royal Commission ||Royal Commission into Family Violence (Victoria)||VIC|
|Immigration Detention Centres ||Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton||FED|
|Inquiry into Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 ||Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security||FED|
|End of Life Choices Inquiry  View PDF …||Legal and Social Issues Committee||VIC|
|The Education State||Survey|
|Constitutional Recognition of First Australians ||Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples||FED|
|Requests to New State Government ||Premier, Deputy Premier and Attorney-General||VIC|
|2014||Syrian Crisis ||Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop and His Excellency Mr Gary Quinlan, Australian Ambassador to UN||FED|
|Australia’s Counter-terrorism Legislation ||Monitor, Bret Walker SC||FED|
|Great Barrier Reef Destruction ||Minister for Environment, Greg Hunt, Shadow Minister for Environment and UNESCO Chairperson of World Heritage Committee||FED|
|Save Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Areas ||Minister for Environment, Greg Hunt, Shadow Minister for Environment, Prime Minister and UNESCO Chairperson of World Heritage Committee||FED|
|Abortion Law ||Premier, Denis Napthine||VIC|
|‘Move-on’ Bill Read Update …||Premier and 24 MPs||VIC|
|Freedom of Speech (Repeal of Section 18c) Bill 2014  Read HSV Media Release …||Human Rights Policy Branch (Attorney-General’s Department)||FED|
|Foreign Aid Budget ||4 MPs||FED|
|Threatened Species Commissioner ||Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt||FED|
|Trade and Foreign Investment Act 2014 ||Senate Foreign Affairs Committee||FED|
|Advanced Care Strategy (DWD) ||Minister for Health, David Davis||VIC|
|National Security Legislation Amendment Act 2014  View PDF …||Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee||FED|
|Humane Treatment of Asylum Seekers Read Update …||12 MPs||FED|
|Homophobia and Transphobia ||Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop MP||FED|
|Self Harm in Detained Children||Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission|
|India: Attacks on Women ||Australian High Commissioner of India|
|Same-sex Marriage Recognition ||Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs|
|Proposed Budget Measures||Treasurer and Shadow Treasurer||FED|
|Federal Budget Concerns Read Update …||Prime Minister and 22 other MPs||FED|
|Voluntary Assisted Dying ||Denis Napthine and Daniel Andrews||VIC|
|Domestic Violence ||6 Federal and State MPs||FED/VIC|
|Leo Seemanpillai’s Funeral ||Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison||FED|
|National School Chaplaincy Program Read Update …||Prime Minister, Tony Abbott||FED|
|Asylum Seekers ||Prime Minister and 14 MPs||FED|
|School Chaplains||Denis Napthine and 4 MPs||VIC|
|National School Chaplaincy Program ||Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and Commonwealth Auditor General||FED|
|Support for Australian Muslims ||8 Muslim Organisations and The Age, Herald|
|Australia’s refoulement to Afghanistan ||Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison||FED|
|Save Endangered Emus ||NSW Minister for Environment, G. Clancy, and Ecologist and Birding wildlife guide||NSW|
|Ebola Epidemic ||Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australian Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières Australia and World Health Organisation||FED|
|Act Against Poverty at G20 Summit ||Prime Minister, Treasurer and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop||FED|
|Migration Legislation Bill 2014||Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee||FED|
|ATSI Constitutional Recognition||Select Committee on ATSI Recognition||FED|
|Thanks for Acting on Gay Hate Crimes||Alex Greenwich MP||NSW|
|Protect Honeyeater in QLD Forest||Minister for Agriculture, Forestry||QLD|
|Oppose New Immigration Bills||Bill Shorten and 26 MPs||FED|
|Do not Dump Sledge in QLD Wetlands||Minister for Environment, Greg Hunt||FED|
|Security Law Amendment Bill (No. 1)||Attorney-General, George Brandis QC||FED|
|Plea for Fair Governance||Premier, Daniel Andrews||VIC|
|Self-destructive Behaviour in Children ||National Children’s Commissioner||FED|
|2013||Human Rights and Old Criminal Records ||Federal Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfuss QC||FED|
|Police Brutality at Mardi Gras||Minister for Police||NSW|
|Police on Crimes Against GLBTI||Minister for Police||NSW|
|Census 2016: Religion Question ||Australian Bureau of Statistics|
|Safe Injecting Facilities||Premier, Denis Napthine||VIC|
|Advance Care Directives||Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek||FED|
|National Parks Protection||Minister for Environment, Mark Butler||FED|
|Ross Sea Protection||New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key||NZ|
|Millennium Development Bill 2013||Senate Foreign Affairs Committee||FED|
|2014 Olympics in Russia||Australian Olympic Committee President (J. Coates)|
|Health System Crisis||Minister for Health, David Davis||VIC|
|Census 2016||Australian Bureau of Statistics|
|Racism in Australia||Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane|
|Animal Welfare Bill 2013||Senate Rural and Regional Affairs Committee||FED|
|Fair Trade (Workers’ Rights) Bill||Senate Trade Committee||FED|
|National Curriculum||Chair of Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), Barry McGaw|
|Koala and Leadbeater Possum ||Minister for Environment, Ryan Smith||VIC|
|Police Treatment of Crimes Against GLBTI||Premier, Barry O’Farrell||NSW|
|Foreign Aid Cuts ||Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd MHR||FED|
|Asylum Seekers||Minister for Immigration and Shadow Minister for Immigration||FED|
|2012||Gonski School Funding||Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and 12 MPs||FED|
|Commissioner for Children||Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee||FED|
|Marriage Equality||Kelvin Thompson MP||FED|
|Asylum Seekers Expert Panel||PO Box Canberra|
|Social Housing||Minister for Housing, Brendan O’Connor||FED|
|On Civics and Citizenship||Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)|
|TAFE and VCAL Funding Cuts||Federal Minister for Education and Victorian Minister for Education||FED/VIC|
|Review of Counter-Terrorism Laws||COAG Security Law Branch|
|Asylum Seekers New Policy||Chris Bowen MP||FED|
|Death in Custody||Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon||FED|
|Vision for Citizenship||Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship (OMAC) and other societies|
|Asylum Seekers Policy||28 MPs||FED|
|Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012||Legal and Constitutional Standing Committee||FED|
|2011||Constitutional Recognition of First Australians (1) ||Prime Minister||FED|
|Religious Instruction in Government Primary Schools (1)||All Victorian government primary school councils||VIC|
|Anti-discrimination Exemptions (1)||Attorney-General, Robert Clark||VIC|
|Bullying in Australia Read Update …||Prime Minister, Hon. Julia Gillard||FED|
|Chaplains in State schools||Minister for Education, Peter Garrett||FED|
|Funding for Schooling||Department of Education||FED|
|Organ Donation||Legal and Social Issues Committee||VIC|
|Education of Gifted and Talented Students||Education and Training Committee||VIC|
|Anti-discrimination Exemptions (2)||Attorney-General, Robert Clark||VIC|
|Same-sex Marriage||Prime Minister, Julia Gillard||FED|
|Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act||Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee||VIC|
|Seeking (Online) Community Opinion on Sentencing||Attorney-General, Robert Clark||VIC|
|Sentencing||Attorney-General, Robert Clark||VIC|
|Religious Instruction in Government Primary Schools (2)||All Victorian government primary school councils||VIC|
|Ethical Behaviour in General Capabilities section View PDF …||Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)||VIC|
|Detention of Asylum Seekers||Joint Select Committee on Immigration Detention||FED|
|Registration of Brenan Hall ||Heritage Victoria||VIC|
|Constitutional Recognition of First Australians (2) ||Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition||FED|
|Anti-discrimination Law||Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner||VIC|
|2010||Public Housing in Victoria||Family and Community Development Committee||VIC|
|Education in Victoria||State and Federal Ministers for Education and Shadow Ministers||FED/VIC|
|Racism in Australia||Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, Premier, Attorneys-General||FED/VIC|
|National Bill of Rights ||Prime Minister, Julia Gillard||FED|
|Asylum Seekers Policy||Prime Minister, Julia Gillard||FED|
|Appointing Judicial Officers||Department of Justice||VIC|
|Dying with Dignity ||12 Victorian Senators||FED|
|Indigenous Inclusion in Australian Constitution||Prime Minister, Julia Gillard||FED|
|Commissioner for Children||Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee||FED|
 National Bill of Rights – After a large majority submitted in favour of a national Bill of Rights to the Brennan Enquiry, its summary dismissal is autocratic and inexplicable. Our rationale for a national Bill is this: a) Inadequate protection for minority groups in our statutes or common law. b) Australia’s role in formulating the Universal Bill of Human Rights was notable. The absence of such a Bill in this country is therefore embarrassing. It compromises our efforts to promote and protect human rights elsewhere. c) Opponents of this Bill have their concerns refuted by legal experts and by the success of the State Bills in the ACT and Victoria.
 Koala and Leadbeater Possum – In response to the HSV letter on endangered species, both the Minister and Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change shared our concern for the health and future of these species. An Advisory Group has been established to support the recovery of Leadbeater’s possum while maintaining a viable timber industry. The group will draw on the latest science for its recommendations. All species listed as threatened are given the full level of protection under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. Leadbeater’s possum is listed as a threatened species under this Act. Koalas have a strong level of protection in Victoria under the Wildlife Act 1975 and it is illegal to interfere or destroy koalas without authorization. In Queensland, NSW and the ACT, koalas have been listed as vulnerable since 2012, but the Victorian population is considered secure. In a number of sites in Victoria the overpopulation of koalas has been managed by Parks Victoria. The Minister wrote: ‘my department takes animal welfare seriously and works with industry (plantation management) to ensure koalas are managed humanely and effectively. The Department of Environment and Primary Industries monitors industry’s adherence to the Wildlife Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and in cases of breaches will take appropriate enforcement action.’
 Foreign Aid Cuts – The Prime Minister, Hon. Tony Abbott, and the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade responded to HSV’s letter on Australia’s foreign aid cuts. Both stated that Australia is committed to a strong and effective overseas aid program, but is currently considering its priorities and the need to reduce fragmentation and improving the effectiveness of our aid efforts. Information on the new approach will be provided by the government in due course.
 Australia’s Counter-terrorism Legislation – Responding to an invitation to comment on the ongoing review of Australia’s Counter-terrorism Legislation, HSV made the following main points:
(a) We welcome the opportunity to consider whether the post-9/11 measures adopted at a time of great anxiety should remain on the statutes.
(b) The current legislation violates several of the universally adopted human rights, e.g. presumption of innocence, freedom of association, freedom from detention without charge.
(c) Our criminal code provides sufficient safeguards to deal with criminal acts and can protect the lives, safety and freedom of our citizens.
(d) We are concerned about the current treatment of asylum seekers who are treated as if they violated Australia’s security. Such treatment infringes both Australian and international laws.
In response, HSV received a copy of a 186-page report from the Victorian government. Chapter 5 considers the proposed laws’ compatibility with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (in absence of a National Bill of Rights). Note: Since then a ‘terrorism scare’ resulted in new security legislation being passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate with bipartisan support.
 Abortion Law – HSV responded to reports that a private member’s Bill has been foreshadowed with the possible intent to repeal Section 8 of the law. (a) This legal provision currently mandates doctors, who have conscientious objections to abortion, to refer patients to medical practitioners who have no such objection, and was introduced to curb ‘dirty backyard’ abortions and their often dire consequences. Humanists oppose the removal of this provision. (b) Humanists respect religious beliefs but we regret that in the approach to abortion there often appears to be little compassion extended towards women in trauma. (c) We note the 2012 case of Salvita Halappanavar who died in Ireland after being refused abortion on religious grounds. Her case attracted international opprobrium which Victoria can well do without. (d) We also note that a Newspoll survey of December 2013 indicates that 85% of Victorians support a woman’s right to choose, while 48% indicated they would be less likely to vote for any government that changed the law to the detriment of women’s rights.
 Census 2016: Religion Question – The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is currently reviewing content in preparation for the 2016 census. Humanists have long expressed the need for changes to be made to the religion question (see page 7), which is worded and organised in such away that it inflates the numbers with a religion and depresses the numbers for those with no religion. The ABS has seen this optional question as primarily supplying data for religious organisations and, secondarily, information about religion in Australia. At a briefing on 5 March, the ABS made the following points. (a) There will be no changes to the actual religion question, but the ABS is trialling putting the ‘no religion’ option as first choice. (b) The finalised 2016 census will go to Cabinet towards the end of this year. (c) ABS is aiming for Australians to all complete the 2021 census online. For 2011 33% completed it online.
 Threatened Species Commissioner – In HSV’s submission, we supported the Draft Terms of Reference for Australia’s new Threatened Species Commissioner. (a) We commended the proposal that the Commissioner will undertake work to ensure the long-term survival of endangered and critically endangered species over the next century. (b) We welcomed news that the Commissioner will be empowered to work in consultation with interested parties and local communities, and we appealed to the government to ensure that the Commissioner will be provided with a budget, facilities and powers that are commensurate with the responsibility of the position.
 Syrian Crisis – HSV asked the government urgently to work with other world leaders towards a ceasefire and resolution of this terrible catastrophe. We ask that they ensure the total abolition of chemical weapons, that welfare bodies have free access to assist civilians, and to provide Australian assistance to the nations that have taken in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. While a member of the Security Council, Australia could make a significant contribution to ameliorating this situation and so to world history. We welcome the recent decision to accept 500 Syrian refugees to settle in Australia, although it represents only a fraction of the 5,000 that flee Syria each day. We believe Australia can do better. The Federal Government has announced a donation of $20 million to be made to support Syrian child refugees. This follows our letter to the Federal Government in February 2014 asking for tangible action to help the people of Syria, including its million refugees.
 National Security Legislation Amendment Act 2014 – In HSV’s submission, we opposed the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Repeal Bill 2014 and asked that this independent monitor be allowed to continue their vital work to hold Australia’s security and anti-terrorist legislation accountable within the framework of human rights.
In a lengthy response to our concerns, the secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department outlined the new legal provisions required to deal with the security threats emerging now. The Act strikes the right balance between empowering our intelligence agencies and protecting the rights and privacy of Australians.
 Freedom of Speech (Repeal of Section 18c) Bill 2014 – In HSV’s submission, we made the following points:
(a) Humanists noted that international conventions contextualise every person’s entitlement to freedom of belief, speech and association, including the right to hold dissenting views. We believe that rational, informed debate can contribute to improving the well-being of all humanity.
(b) We acknowledged that human rights cannot be abused in such a way as to detract from the human rights of others, and free speech should not be used in any way which may violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
(c) While we opposed Victoria’s ‘Move On’ Bill and other excessive restrictions on the exercise of free speech, we also recognised that any exercise of belief or speech must have practical limitations within a diverse, multicultural, and harmonious democracy.
(d) We called upon the government to protect Australians from harm, and to reinforce existing protections from vilification.
(e) We opposed the repeal of Section 18c or any other section of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
In response, the Leader of the Opposition commended his policy on diluting the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 Section 18C.
 Trade and Foreign Investment Act 2014 – In the HSV submission to the Federal Government inquiry on the Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Act 2014, we expressed concern that appropriate levels of public consultation do not appear to be connected to the Trans-Pacific-Partnership agreement and similar treaties. Victorian Humanists supported the call to ban investor-state dispute settlement provisions until these guarantee adequate public consultation and accountability, with outcomes that serve the best interests of Australia and the world.
 Domestic Violence – HSV asked for both the Federal and Victorian governments to increase their funding of initiatives, policies and practices that will assist in combating this violence. We supported recent calls for a Royal Commission on family violence and for a national crisis summit; and appealed for a public awareness campaign across schools, the mass media and other community networks. We also asked the Australian Government to consider the effects of the proposed 2014 Budget upon the home lives of many struggling families, and whether or not this may escalate rates of domestic and family violence. In response, the relevant minister, Mary Wooldridge, stated pleasingly recorded numbers are falling in Victoria. The Federal Government stated it has no plan for a Royal Commission on domestic violence.
In response, the Department of Human Services and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, listed existing action plans and their funding. For the National Plan the government is providing more than $100 million over the next four years. Details of commitments to address violence against women and children were stated repeatedly. While the letter noted that calls for a Royal Commission were understandable, the wide consultation that took place on this issue will deliver primary prevention outcomes and appropriate judicial responses.
 India: Attacks on Women – HSV wrote to diplomatic representatives of the Indian government in Australia, conveying our deep concern upon hearing ongoing news regarding violence against women in India. We asked for the expansion of initiatives, policies and practices which may assist in combating this unacceptable violence. This included public education campaigns and accountability for police and law enforcement personnel. We expressed our abhorrence of one recent tragic case involving two teenage Dalit girls, and we appealed for both public education initiatives to combat the caste system and for the expansion of anti-poverty programs such as the provision of toilets.
 Leo Seemanpillai’s Funeral – Humanists sent a number of E-mails to the Minister for Immigration, appealing that he grant temporary visas to members of the family of Leo Seemanpillai, the Tamil asylum seeker who recently took his own life and who willed his organs to Australians with his family’s consent. We noted that the Minister’s own maiden speech in Parliament included the statement, ‘Family is the stuff of life and there is nothing more precious.’ On 17 June 2014, the Australian Senate also called upon the Minister for Immigration to grant temporary visas to Leo Seemanpillai’s family. Despite this, his parents and brother were denied entry into Australia to attend his funeral on 18 June 2014.
 Homophobia and Transphobia – submitted 17 May 2014 – In recognition of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), HSV asked the Australian government to:
(a) Issue a public statement in support of equal human rights for all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and opposing all forms of discrimination, bullying and prejudice;
(b) Call upon the Australian community, and all governmental agencies, to work to eliminate all forms of homophobia and transphobia from the law, the workplace and the wider community;
(c) Take unambiguous public action to make clear Australia’s condemnation of laws in Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, Brunei and other nations where homosexuality or other forms of sexuality/gender diversity remain a criminal offence.
In response, HSV received a form letter from the Prime Minister’s Department referring our letter to the Attorney General. We also received a detailed response from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who stated that Australia is a global advocate of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Minister also stated that Australia uses UN processes and multilateral fora to raise its concerns over the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender and intersex communities, including bilateral discussions with nations such as Nigeria, Russia and Uganda.
 Advance Care Directives – In a letter to the Victorian Minister for Health (copy to Shadow Minister for Health), HSV welcomed reports of a new Victorian advanced care strategy which would grant people greater power to control and manage the circumstances of their future illnesses. (a) Although this new strategy is not intended as a step towards voluntary euthanasia, we expressed the hope that it would encourage further debate on the interaction between the autonomous individual and a responsible, ethical social governance. (b) We noted that over 70% of Australians support further legal reforms regarding the right to die with dignity.
In response to the foregoing letter on assisted dying , Daniel Andrews, Victorian Leader of the Opposition stated: (a) Labor supports expanding palliative care, the recognition in law of Advance Care Directives, but does not support legislation beyond these provisions. (b) Labor MPs will be able to exercise a conscience vote, should a Bill supporting voluntary euthanasia be introduced into the Victorian Parliament.
 Voluntary Assisted Dying – In response, the Premier stated his government had no plans to introduce a bill on physician-assisted dying.
 Same-sex Marriage Recognition – The Federal Government responded that it did not support same-sex marriage.
 National School Chaplaincy Program – Repeating our concerns, HSV pointed out that the High Court has for the second time ruled that this program was funded unconstitutionally. The current government is side-stepping this by making tied grants to the states. We object to the lack of transparency and accountability that has marred this program from its outset. A letter from the Prime Minister (30 July 2014) acknowledged our complaints about the school Chaplaincy Program and the High Court’s decision about the funding. It pointed out that provision of chaplaincy services is a matter for each school to determine. The Coalition invented this policy and wants it to continue.Muslim
 Support for Australian Muslims – HSV expressed our moral support in view of the intolerance and acts of violence experienced recently by peaceful Muslim Australians. Victorian Humanists support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, states that all people are equal in worth and dignity. We distanced ourselves from elements that foster fear and intolerance.
 Ebola Epidemic – HSV wrote that much more needs to be done by Australia to fight the Ebola epidemic in Africa. We appealed to Australian government to use its influence in the UN Security Council to ensure a greater world response to this ongoing suffering in western Africa. We also asked that NGOs be assisted with their heroic work and be provided with adequate levels of material and medical aid. The Department of Prime Minister replied that the Government committed about $42 million for the international Ebola response and $20 million for a privately run treatment facility. The first priority is the safety of Australians and we now have assurances that our workers there will be evacuated and treated in the UK if necessary.
 Save Endangered Emus – HSV expressed concern that the coastal emu has been listed as an endangered species and only 15% of its habitat remains. The intended upgrade to the Pacific Highway would further devastate this habitat. We ask that an alternative, less ecologically destructive route be found.
 Constitutional Recognition of First Australians – In responding to a call for submissions, HSV restated our previously made points, as follows:
(a) This recognition is long overdue and should be stated in both the preamble and the body of the Constitution.
(b) Prior ownership of the land, distinct cultures and heritage should be acknowledged.
(c) The recognition of Australia’s first people should also set out the fundamental values of Australians, e.g. equality of racial, sexual and identity, equal opportunity, personal freedoms, democratic governance, the rule of law. Stating such values is of special importance in the absence of a national Bill of Rights.
(d) The removal of Sections 25 and 51 (ss)xxvi is essential. We must clear our Australian Constitution of these racist statements and ensure a guarantee of racial equality.
(e) The Federal Government should be given powers and responsibilities to redress historical disadvantage and to enact protection for the rights, cultures and heritage of the First Australians.
(f) As a signatory of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Australia should enshrine its principles in our Constitution.
(g) We support a formal treaty with the First Australians such as exists in NZ, USA, Canada and other nations.
(h) We urge for a public education campaign prior to the referendum on Constitutional change.
 Purge Homosexual Criminal Records – submitted February 2013 – HSV expressed concerns over the criminal records of men who were prosecuted for consensual gay sex prior to decriminalisation of homosexuality. Such criminal records can prevent people from obtaining jobs. A law reform purging such obsolete convictions is urgently needed. This was done in Britain recently and we asked that Australia follows suit. It is therefore gratifying to see that Victoria has taken the lead in overturning these convictions and purging all criminal records related to homosexual acts prior to 1981, followed by New South Wales. The move had bipartisan support. Not so in Queensland, where the current government ‘has no plans to follow suit’.
 Asylum Seekers – submitted November 2014 – HSV asked for significant changes to Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. Recent events in offshore detention centres and reported harm to the detainees constitute gross violations of human rights. We urged the closure of the offshore detention centres, for rapid onshore processing, for direct intake from Malaysian and Indonesian refugee camps, and for raising Australia’s annual intake to 25,000 as previously proposed. These measures would help stop the boats and drownings. In December 2014, HSV received a response from the office of the Palmer United Party (PUP). PUP’s letter points out that PUP has ensured the introduction of a new visa, Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV), valid for five years and allowing the holder to live and work in a region were labour resources are needed. Holders of this visa will have access to services such as Medicare, trauma counselling and education for school age children. Following work and community involvement the visa holder can apply for an onshore visa.
 Expert Panel on Religious Freedom – submitted February 2018 – The panel, chaired by Philip Ruddock, received over 16,000 submissions. HSV submitted three fundamental points:
(a) Australia needs secular government – i.e. government that is neutral towards both faith and non-faith interests.
(b) The right to manifest religion is not pre-eminent among competing rights: it must be used responsibly.
(c) Religious organizations should be subject to existing anti-discrimination laws in employment and service provision.
 National School Chaplaincy Program – submitted 16 March 2018 – In HSV’s letter, we made the following points:
(a) We expressed concern over internal lobbying among government MPs to renew and increase the funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) in the 2018 budget.
(b) We pointed out that since its inception in 2006, the NSCP has violated the constitutionally enshrined principle of secular education in State schools. And that the High Court has ruled on two occasions that the payments by the Commonwealth government for the NSCP were beyond its constitutionally defined authority.
(c) We pointed out that Australia is a multi-ethnic, multi-faith society, with 30 percent of people having ‘No Religion’, according to the recent Census. And funding the NSCP allows the presence in schools of religious non-teachers, nearly all Christian, who will convey a partiality which discriminates against students of other religions and no religion.
(d) The NSCP is a cheap way of providing mostly non-professional counselling services, instead of funding professional counsellors who have had years of appropriate training in psychology, crisis management and interpersonal skills. The chaplains are not required to be so trained, and the Program is not properly equipped to evaluate their work.
(e) We urged the Minister not to advocate for the continued funding of this Program, but instead to replace it with a properly funded counselling service, employing professionally trained people.
The Hon Senator Simon Birmingham sent a response thanking us and making the following points:
(a) More than 300 schools engage the services of a school chaplain.
(b) Chaplains may be from any faith and are not permitted to proselytise and must respect, accept and be sensitive to other views, values and beliefs.
(c) He has received hundreds of letters of support from schools, local representatives and parents outlining the value of the NSCP.
(d) The Dept. of Education and Training has commissioned an evaluation of the NSCP.
 National School Chaplaincy Program – In response, President of AHRC, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher, wrote, ‘I do not propose, at this time, to conduct an inquiry into the NSCP.’ President of RSA, Meredith Doig, subsequently lodged a complaint with Victorian Ombudsman about Department of Education and Training breaching Charter rights. Complaint was signed by four Victorian secular groups, including HSV, stating in summary that ‘the National School Chaplaincy Program involves religious discrimination in the hiring of school chaplains. Religious discrimination, by or at the behest of, public authorities is incompatible with the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief’.
 Requests to New State Government – In HSV’s letter, we congratulated the new Victorian Government and asked that: (a) religious exemptions in Victorian anti-discrimination legislation be abolished (b) the ‘Move-on’ legislation be rescinded (c) federal funding for the Chaplaincy School Program be declined, and provided a rationale for each request.
 National School Chaplaincy Program – In response to HSV concerns about the National School Chaplaincy Program, Senator the Hon. Scott Ryan, parliamentary secretary to Minister for Education stated that: (a) As a result of the High Court’s decision on 19 June 2014, that payments to school chaplaincy programs were beyond the constitutional authority of the Commonwealth. Whether a school provides chaplain and/or student welfare services is a matter for the school to determine. Under the former scheme, chaplains could be from any faith; they were expected to be sensitive to the views, values and beliefs of others; were required to discourage discrimination on grounds of religion or sexuality, and were not permitted to proselytise or attempt to convert students to any particular faith.
(b) It was also required that all chaplains and student welfare workers had a minimum qualification of Certificate IV in Youth Work or Pastoral Care, including mental health awareness. The program was voluntary and school committees decided if they wanted to apply for funding, after consulting and finding support from their broader school community. Students are not obliged to use chaplaincy services.
(c) The previous government did not allocate funding to the program beyond 2014. However, as part of the 2014–15 Federal budget, the Australian government allocated $243.8 million to cover the new chaplaincy program over four years. This was an election commitment.
(d) The implications of the High Court’s decision (22 October 2014) on this program are being considered.
A response from the previous Victorian Minister for Education (Hon. Martin Dixon MP) stated that the Napthine government had accepted the offer to participate in the School Chaplaincy Programme.
 Act Against Poverty at G20 Summit – submitted 12 November 2014 – In HSV’s letter, we asked that world poverty be included on the G20 Agenda in Brisbane and that explicit action be taken to break the poverty cycle for the world’s poorest people. We pointed out that this summit is a chance for Australia’s government to make a mark upon world affairs and history. In response, HSV received a six-page communiqué stating the subjects discussed in detail, viz. strengthening growth, global economy and institutions to create jobs.
 Great Barrier Reef Destruction – submitted dd March 2014 – In HSV’s letter, we expressed concern over and opposition to the proposal to de-list 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian wild forest from World Heritage areas. We asked that the proposal be rejected and we sought a guarantee that no damage will be done to the area.
In response, the Acting Assistant Secretary from the Heritage Branch of the Department of Environment replied that the proposed boundary modification removes areas that detract from the value of the property and diminish its integrity. The removal of a number of pine and exotic eucalypt plantations, as well as areas that have been logged, will reportedly improve the overall heritage site. The government’s application for boundary modification is due to be considered by the World Heritage Committee in June 2014.
The Australian Government recently announced the draft terms of reference for a new Threatened Species Commissioner who would be charged with safeguarding Australia’s endangered flora and fauna.
 Save Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Areas – submitted dd March 2014 – In HSV’s letter, we deplored the proposal to dredge the Abbot Point coal port and the dumping of the sludge in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, despite objections from hundreds of conservationists and scientists. We asked if the dredge spoil could be dumped on land.
In response, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Environment, replied that his approval followed the best application of environmental law. He claimed that the dredged material is not toxic to marine life and will be deposited away from sensitive areas. He also claimed the imposition of strict conditions will ensure that impacts are avoided, mitigated or offset.
The Director of Queensland and Sea Dumping Section also assured us that careful assessment of all risks is now considered and a report will be published for the public to comment. The Caley Valley Wetlands are not protected under international law though the Director is aware that they support several protected species.
 Australia’s refoulement to Afghanistan – In a letter to five key parliamentarians, HSV expressed grave fears for the safety of any person returned to Afghanistan, particularly those of Hazara background. The reported abduction and torture of Zainullah Naseri (a Hazara man) who, after seeking asylum here, was deported to Afghanistan in August 2014, and the murder of an Australian-Afghan citizen, Sayed Habib Musawi, show that Afghanistan is a not a place where safety can be guaranteed. We pleaded for the suspension of such refoulement.
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young congratulated Vic. Humanists on speaking out against the forcible return of asylum seekers to Afghanistan. We are now hearing reports that they are being tortured and killed.
The Greens will move a motion on 17 November 2014 in Federal parliament for a moratorium on refoulement to Afghanistan.
 Flogging of Raif Badawi – HSV joined IHEU, Amnesty International and commentators from other nations in condemning the cruel punishment of public floggings and 10-year jail term for Raif Badawi, who was accused of running a liberal Saudi website advocating greater religious freedom. This website was deemed ‘insulting to Islam’ and a threat to the state.
HSV wrote that this punishment violates basic human rights and Saudi Arabia’s duties and responsibilities under international law. We asked that the flogging cease immediately and that the conviction and sentence be repealed. We urged the relevant authorities to halt the crackdown on activists, to uphold their right to freedom of speech and to review Saudi Arabia’s laws and punishments to bring them in line with international human rights standards.
HSV also wrote to Ensaf Haidar, condemning the brutal punishment of her husband, Raif Badwai, and extending our moral support, greetings and best wishes. Humanists and many other organisations expressed their dismay and have written to Saudi authorities appealing to them to observe international human rights standards. (Thankfully, the flogging was deferred after the first infliction.)
 Boko Haram and Lord’s Resistance Army – HSV requested the Hon. Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, to use Australia’s influence in world affairs to bring to justice Boko Haram, who continue to massacre Nigerian citizens, and the Ugandan David Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army whose atrocities also continue to evade justice. Victorian Humanists plead for action on these crimes against humanity.
 Law and Policy Reform in Victoria – HSV requested that the law on the following matters be amended:
(a) Abolish mandatory sentencing, which prevents the consideration of individual and extenuating circumstances. We asked that suspended sentences be restored to honour judiciary independence.
(b) Withdraw funding for Special Religious Instruction. We believe these services should be privately funded and delivered outside the school. We welcomed the stated aim of the Education Minister to oversee SRI instructors to ensure that they do not proselytize or induce conversions to any particular religion.
(c) Refer to the Victorian Law Commission the review of the Medical Treatment Act 1988. Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) deals with the rights of the terminally ill and has now been introduced in many jurisdictions and it has consistent support of 75–85% of Australians.
 Science Funding and Education – HSV requested nine cross-bench Senators to oppose the linking of science funding to education reform. It would be short-sighted and harmful to cut funding to science and technology when these sectors are vital for the future development of Australia as a modern nation. Victorian Humanists supported the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and other initiatives that promote science and development.
 Labor Party Human-Rights Policies – HSV requested a change of policies at the upcoming ALP Conference on the following matters:
(a) Same-sex marriage: we called for absolute support for marriage equality rather than having a ‘conscience vote’, which might deny justice to many Australians and continue bigotry and exclusion.
(b) Close the Gap: we called for firm commitment to ensure social services equality for the First Australians. We advocated positive discrimination to redress entrenched disadvantage. We also asked that the ALP support the Constitutional Recognition and a Treaty.
(c) Asylum Seekers Policies: Victorian Humanists abhorred current asylum seekers policies of both major parties in the wake of many condemnations by international human rights bodies and the Australian Human Rights Commission. The harm and despair inflicted in detention in Nauru and PNG was, we presumed, not intended or foreseen when the ALP implemented its policies. We therefore asked the Party to repeal and review its current policies.
 Foreign Aid Budget – submitted dd May 2014 – HSV appealed for an increase in Foreign Aid committed in the budget to a minimum of 0.5% of GDP, thereby honouring Australia’s previous commitment to work towards the UN Millennium Development Goals. We asked for the restoration of AusAID. We stated that Australia is an affluent nation that has an ethical responsibility to assist those less fortunate and asked to provide a Foreign Aid budget that is commensurate with our nation’s moral and economic integrity. We asserted that Australia’s behaviour should be exemplary in line with its current membership of the UN Security Council. We rejected any attempt to redefine Foreign Aid as an investment in trade or other nationalist interests, because such assistance should be used to alleviate poverty, disease, educational deficit, starvation, suffering and mortality among the world’s poorest people. Note: Our letter coincides with the release of a report on Australia’s overseas aid and development assistance summarising the Australian Government’s recent inquiry into Foreign Aid on 27 March 2014.
 Increase Foreign Aid Budget – submitted dd Jun 2015 – HSV requested the federal government to restore the foreign aid allotment to a minimum of 0.5% of GDP in the coming budget, because that money would provide a life-and-death difference for millions of people. As an affluent nation and a current member of the UN Security Council, our behaviour should be exemplary in compassion towards those less fortunate than ourselves.
The Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann, responded by stating that the government had returned the foreign aid budget, in real terms, to the level of spending that applied when it was funded from budget surplus rather than debt. It would continue to grow with the Consumer Price Index.
The secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also pointed out that the previous level of aid depended on budget surplus. It could no longer be afforded and would be tied to the Consumer Price Index. Linking the aid program to a certain fraction of GDP would not occur until the domestic economy was back on a sustainable footing. Funding would be directed to the most effective aid programs.
 Trade Agreement and Metadata Laws – submitted dd Apr 2015 – HSV requested that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the proposed metadata legislation be opposed. There is inadequate information about the ramifications of the TPPA and some aspects appear deleterious to Australian interests. Metadata legislation poses many unanswered questions. We note concerns being expressed by many experts such as the Law Institute of Victoria, such as arbitrary interference with privacy violates human rights.
In May 2015, Senator David Leyonhjelm responded that he is opposed to the legislation and will do his best to prevent it. (A copy of his lengthy article in the Australian Financial Review on this subject was enclosed.)
Senator Jacinta Collins supported the Data Retention Bill after several amendments were negotiated, such as the need for a warrant before access to a journalist’s metadata is granted. The lengthy statement assures us that our feedback on this legislation is welcome and the implementation of this law will be reviewed in two years. She stated that she supports promoting trade to grow current and future prosperity, but will insist on greater transparency of negotiations and believes that the full text of any proposed TPP should be released prior to being signed.
 Asylum Seeker Off-shore Detention – submitted dd Mar 2015 – HSV requested a reassessment of the current policies on off-shore detention and asked that such policies be brought in line with international human rights standards. We listed the many instances of the great harm inflicted on the detainees and the growing condemnations of Australia’s treatment from international human rights bodies. HSV complained about the grievous harm suffered by children held in off-shore detention centres, now documented by several investigators. We quoted the criticism of this country’s policy from UNICEF Australia: “No child should be detained. This is an obligation our Government committed to meet when it signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.” We urged the Minister to change policy so as to free children from detention.
In May 2015, the Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection responded that the government is focussed on disrupting and deterring people smugglers. Anyone who comes to Australia illegally by boat will not be eligible for permanent residency in Australia. Nauru and PNG are responsible for all aspects and needs of transferees. Recent actions of self-harm and demonstrations are not condoned by our or the PNG government. We provide mental health screening, care and support for those with a history of torture.
In Oct 2015, HSV received a long and detailed response from the Australian Border Force. It states that the Australian government views detention as an essential part of border control. It has no set time frame, but the length of detention is subject to regular review for each person detained for more than two years. The department is aware that detention has an adverse impact on children and their families, and that is why most children now live in the community. There a small number of families with children where the refugee status has not been established. At 30 Jun 2015, there were less than 120 children, and the government is working to reduce this number further. Transferees found to be refugees may be settled in Nauru or Cambodia. Those found not to be refugees are expected to return to their country of origin or to a third country. They will be removed where they do not depart voluntarily.
 Labor Party Asylum Seeker Detention Policy – submitted dd Mar 2015 – In anticipation that asylum seeker off-shore detention will be discussed at the ALP Conference later this year, HSV’s letter listed many reasons to rescind some parts of Labor’s policy on off-shore detention. HSV objected to the total and unchecked power given to the Immigration Minister. Among our concerns were:
(a) the murder of an innocent man, the death of another due to medical neglect, serious injuries sustained by many in Nauru detention camp
(b) the very long time taken to establish refugee status and prolonged imprisonment without charge
(c) the growing number of self-harm and suicide attempts and the reported abuse of young children
(d) the damage to Australia’s international reputation and the high financial cost of this incarceration of people who could benefit our economy if allowed to work
(e) our breach of the law of no refoulement by deporting some to the dangers they tried to flee.
In Oct 2015, HSV received a lengthy letter from the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. In it, he explained the complexities of dealing with asylum seekers, with some 60 million individuals forcibly displaced due to wars, persecution and human rights violations. He said a Shorten Labor government will greatly increase annual funding to the UNHCR, increase Australia’s annual intake of refugees to 27,000, i.e., nearly double the current intake. Labor is absolutely committed to protecting the interests of children and, in government, will appoint an advocate to protect children’s welfare. It will restore fast and fair processing of asylum claims and will be focussed on removing people from detention as soon as possible. Labor’s policy is all about opening Australia’s doors wider, bringing more refugees here, but doing it safely.
 Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometrics Integrity) Bill 2015 – submitted dd May 2015 – HSV requested the Committee ensure that:
(a) privacy and personal integrity are guaranteed
(b) processing of migrants is free from prejudice
(c) biometric data will not be used to assist in refoulement of anyone seeking asylum.
We ask the Parliament to ensure that our legislation upholds human rights.
 Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 – submitted 31 Jan 2015 – HSV requested that all sections of the proposed amendments conform to world-class standards of human rights, such as the presumption of innocence, humane treatment, protection for the most vulnerable and transparent governance. We ask for this legislation to reflect Australia’s moral and legal integrity.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Bill Shorten, and Shadow Minister, Hon. Richard Marles MP, responded that they opposed the Bill and the new provisions. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young responded that this draconian piece of legislation will start a new battle for humane treatment of the refugees.
In February 2015, HSV received a lengthy, delayed response from the Director of the Irregular Migration Policy Section, stating that places in the Humanitarian Programme will be reserved for those who apply through the proper process. Illegal arrivals will not be rewarded with permanent settlement. They were liable for transfer to Nauru and PNG where they could seek protection under these countries’ laws. Australia provided funding to UNHCR to establish refugee status in Indonesian and Malaysian camps of asylum seekers to prevent dangerous boat travel. Our department will seek the public’s views on these matters towards the end of the year.
 Murder of Avjit Roy – submitted May 2015 – HSV conveyed our deep concern to High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Canberra about the brutal murder in Dhaka of the prominent US atheist blogger, Avijit Roy, and the attack upon his wife. Victorian Humanists asked for actions and policies that will combat this extremist violence in Bangladesh and will promote and protect universal human rights.
 International Women’s Day/Prevention of Family Violence – submitted April 2015 – HSV noted the International Women’s Day and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. We believe this matter should be referred to as criminal assault in the family and the aim should be to protect the vulnerable.
 Family Violence Royal Commission – submitted May 2015 – HSV submitted as follows: we ask that ‘criminal assault in family’ be adopted as preferred terminology as was in previous surveys. A profound cultural change is needed on gender equality and the criminal nature of assault. Assaults are justified or excused by many, often young people. Assaults and deaths of women and children are on steep increase, yet $300 million has been cut from services assisting women in fleeing abusive partners. Accommodation and legal services are now unable to cope with the demand. We call for intensive educational campaign through schools, sports clubs, media outlets and community organisations to emphasize violence as criminal behaviour, to understand causes of relationship failure, to counteract traditional gender stereotypes, to counsel on anger management, and the value of economic and social independence for women.
 Indigenous Affairs (Close the Gap) – submitted May 2015 – On the National Close the Gap Day, HSV wrote to the Prime Minister, stating as follows:
(a) Recognition of the First Australians is long overdue and should be stated both in the body of the Constitution and in the Preamble. Victorian Humanists regard the removal of Sections 25 and 51(ss) xxvi as essential, to clear this document of racist statements and guarantee racial equality. A formal treaty, such as exists in New Zealand, USA, Canada and other nations, is also essential.
(b) On Close the Gap, we plead for an unbreakable commitment to ensure health services and other welfare support are delivered for the First Australians. We ask, please review the closure of rural settlements in Western Australia and the forced relocation of these inhabitants into areas where they may be marginalized and disempowered. Indigenous people have the right to live freely in areas of their choosing, in line with the UN Declaration of the Rights of, Indigenous Peoples.
In June 2015, the Prime Minister’s Secretary responded that the government was committed to pursuing recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution via a referendum to be held on or before 27 May 2017. A Joint Select Committee was inquiring into steps to be taken to ensure a successful referendum. It would report by 30 June 2015.
 Immigration Detention Centres – submitted May 2015 – In response to new legislation giving security guards in detention centres power to use force if they ‘reasonably believe’ it is necessary to protect life, HSV requested that all staff and management of those centres be professionally trained and held accountable for their acts. Recent reports reveal systemic failures of protection of asylum seekers from human rights abuses and neglect. Independent observers and monitors must have open access to ensure transparency and accountability. Timely reviews of this legislation are needed to assess its effectiveness. We call for a short-term sunset clause.
 Security Legislation Review 2015 – submitted May 2015 – As previous submitters, HSV was invited to comment. HSV urged full consistency with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other treaties and conventions to which Australia is a signatory. An ongoing, independent audit of Australia’s laws and restrictions upon civil liberties is necessary. Our current treatment of refugees is in breach of Australian and the international law. We question whether current metadata legislation may violate the presumption of innocence and restrict the freedom of speech.
 Justice for Refugees (Palm Sunday) – submitted May 2015 – To the secretary of Refugee Advocacy Network, HSV expressed our appreciation of the recent annual Palm Sunday rally organised to oppose the current treatment of asylum seekers. HSV proposed the inclusion of a non-religious speaker at upcoming rallies or other venues of discourse.
 Special Religious Instruction (SRI) – submitted Apr 2015 – HSV advocated that the State have no responsibility to fund the operation of religious organisations in schools. They should be financed separately from any government funds and their involvement be approved by the school council.
In July 2015, the Minister for Education, Hon. James Merlino, assured us that the Andrews Labor government is not providing funding to SRI agencies. The Andrews government, as a priority, is trying to ensure that no proselytizing occurs in Victorian state schools. It recognises the importance of knowledge about religion in a multi-faith society. Thus, it is important that a range of belief structures are explored in classrooms by qualified teachers, as part of a rigorous and balanced curriculum.
 Support for Professor Gillian Triggs – submitted Apr 2015 – HSV expressed our support for Professor Gillian Triggs and her important work and asked what steps had been taken to hold the Australian Parliament accountable for appropriate response to the Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention report.
In Jun 2015, the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff assured us that, although the government would not always agree with the Commission’s recommendations, it welcomed vigorous and diverse human rights debate. As for children in detention, the government had ‘stopped the boats’ and thereby stopped the flow of children entering detention. In such changed circumstances, many of the recommendations in the report no longer applied.
 Homelessness and Poverty in Victoria – submitted Apr 2015 – HSV requested that the recently reported growing number of homeless and destitute people be provided with basic necessities. We pleaded that all levels of government investigate means of preventing and alleviating such problems. Provision of basic material and human rights is a fundamental duty of all governments.
In October 2015, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services responded that the Victorian government has a strong commitment to addressing these problems and will commit $1.6 billion for programs to assist low-income and vulnerable people. The government of Victoria currently provides over $200 million per annum for accommodation and support services for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, as the Department is committed to achieving better services to people in need.
 Inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 – Responding to the terms of reference, HSV stated:
(a) We regard citizenship as a civil right not to be breached without due judicial process, such as in cases of serious criminality.
(b) We are concerned about the power of one person, the Minister, to revoke citizenship without judicial oversight.
(c) We do not believe that the Minister should have the power of revocation, even on the grounds that the person is a citizen of another country and thus would not become stateless. We favour the Canadian approach, where only a prior conviction by a court allows the Minister to revoke citizenship. We also note that, in the USA, citizenship is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and cannot be revoked by the government.
(d) Australia has an international obligation not to render a person stateless. We caution that statelessness is a perilous position as seen in the persecution of Gypsies, Kurds, Rohingyas, Palestinians and the Jews prior to the existence of Israel.
(e) We accept the need to prevent acts of terrorism or sabotage in Australia. If responsibility for such acts is proved it would be reasonable to suspend the perpetrator’s passport until a court trial or a consequential prison term is concluded.
(f) There are several Criminal Code Acts on Australia’s statutes that deal quite severely with acts of treason, treachery and terrorism. There is no need for special, new terrorism legislation.
(g) We note Australia’s responsibility as a signatory to UN resolution 2178  which urges countries to try to prevent their citizens from travelling abroad to join terrorist groups. If they do return, terrorist fighters should be prosecuted, then rehabilitated, but not have their citizenship revoked.
 End of Life Choices Inquiry – submitted 15 Jul 2015 – The Legal and Social Issues Committee of Parliament of Victoria responded, thanking us for our submission to the Inquiry into End of Life Choices. The unprecedented number of submissions to this Inquiry caused a delay in response.
 Legislative Restrictions on Rights – HSV expressed concerns over the growing erosion of human, civil and legal rights in Australia. We specified:
(a)The total power given to Immigration Minister to rule on the fate of asylum seekers.
(b)The Secrecy Act and the threat of two-year imprisonment for staff reporting child abuse in detention centres.
(c)The absence of judicial oversight into the new extensive coercive powers given to the Crime Commission and Immigration and Border Protection agencies.
(d)The federal police can now ‘on reasonable suspicion’ declare a private property to be proceeds of crime and have it forfeited, without criminal charges being laid.
(e)Public attacks by Members of Parliament on the president of the independent Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, in response to her report on the brutal conditions affecting children in offshore detention centres.
(f)The severe cuts to funding of legal aid, depriving-many of access to justice and equality before the law.
We accept the need for new laws to deal with the rise of new threats to our security, but the lack of checks and balances and judicial oversight, damages our democracy.
 Safe School Anti-bullying Program – HSV commended the Minister for Education, the Honourable James Merlino, and the Andrews government for maintaining the Safe Schools anti-bullying program in its original form.
 Religious Freedom Roundtable – Following the Human Rights Commission invitation to HSV to contribute non-religious views on religious freedom in Australia, we submitted as follows:
(a) We agree that freedom to manifest one’s belief, like freedom of expression, is not absolute, but subject to principles of justice. We support the guidelines of equality, non-discrimination and universality.
(b) The summary paper appears to argue as if the government had an interest in the advancement of religion and we urge its policy to be forward-looking rather than reactionary.
(c) We stress that there must be clear separation between religion and the State. No laws or decisions of government should privilege or promote religion. Government resources should not be used to support religious instruction, views and programs. Curricula of all schools should include the study of a range of religious beliefs and life-stances of nonbelievers taught by trained professionals.
(d) The definition of charity should not include the ‘advancement of religion’ and religious organisations should not have automatic tax-exempt status and should be subject to anti-discrimination laws in employment and provision of service.
(e) Adherents of different world-views should agree on universal values which are common to all.
 Multiculturalism – HSV responded to an invitation from the Hon. Craig Laundy MP, Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, for comment on recent negative media reports on multiculturalism, as follows:
(a) HSV has consistently supported cohesive, multicultural societies and their benefits.
(b) Critics and opponents present views imbued with xenophobia, racism and ignorance.
(c) We observe that intolerance is often based on conflicts between various beliefs. Therefore, we view sectarian schools as inimical to social cohesion.
(d) We urge, as we have done in previous letters, that school curricula present the main tenets of major belief systems, to engender understanding and tolerance.
(e) We urge for a school and public campaign to combat xenophobia and racism on the model of the current campaign on anti-homophobia.
 Marriage Equality Plebiscite – submitted 10 May 2016 – HSV stated its support for marriage equality and our concern about the proposed plebiscite on this issue. We quoted authorities, such as the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, human rights, legal and health organisations, who issued warnings of the negative aspects of a plebiscite. These harmful effects include significant distress and psychological harm to children and adults in the LGBTI communities through what is very likely to be a vicious ‘no’ campaign run by a hate-inciting minority. We referred to the Catholic Church’s actions against companies that had publically supported marriage equality. We requested that the state enacts protection of marriage equality as a human right. We listed the many nations that had already sanctioned marriage equality and urged that the proposal for a plebiscite be abandoned.
 Victorian State Disability Plan – HSV’s submission on the Victorian State Disability Plan 2017–2020 made two recommendations:
(a) The Victorian Government to review international disability practice critically and to avoid the sidelining of professional knowledge and expert opinion.
(b) As a matter of urgency, explain to the participants – carers, families, clients and disability workers – the case for any future transfer of government operated disability services, including accommodation, then listen and respond in the new State Disability plan.
Many thanks to Kevin Bain for his knowledgeable work on this submission.
 Marriage and Gender Equality – HSV congratulated the Premier, the Hon. Daniel Andrews, on his letter to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, arguing against running a plebiscite on same-sex marriage. We included a copy of HSV’s 10 May letter to the Prime Minister on the same subject. We also congratulated the Premier on his support for transgender people, especially through the Safe Schools program, which the Victorian government has maintained support for and confidence in.
 Climate Change – HSV made the following main points:
(a) We expressed disappointment that Australian Renewable Energy Agency was facing as much as $1 billion in cuts.
(b) We noted the dissenting report by two members of the Climate Change Authority, commenting that it appeared scientific evidence was being overlooked in favour of political expediency.
(c) We pointed out Australia had a moral obligation to contribute at a higher level to measures curbing green-house-gas emissions.
(d) We commented favourably on some aspects of the governments Direct Action Plan.
 Voluntary Assisted Dying – HSV congratulated the Premier, the Hon Daniel Andrews, on making advance care plans binding. We also expressed our long-standing support for voluntary physician-assisted dying and urged him to legislate on this matter as soon as possible.
 Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill – HSV congratulated the Premier, the Hon Daniel Andrews, on introducing legislation to reinstate an inherent requirement test in regarded to equal employment opportunities. We also expressed our support for equal rights for all regardless of gender, sexuality, marital status or religious beliefs.
 Education Funding – submitted 24 Aug 2016 – HSV submitted the following points:
(a) We cited a report by the Centre for Policy Development, ‘Uneven playing field: the state of Australia’s schools’, which described funding as dysfunctional as it was unable to reverse the widening gap between schools. And that the class divide in Australia was wider than the OECD average.
(b) We noted that public school students receive less government funding than those in private schools.
(c) We urged that schools run by minorities, e.g. Exclusive Brethren and the Church of Scientology, ought not to be subsidised by taxpayers.
(d) We urged the Minister to uphold equality of opportunity as a hallmark of democratic governance.
In October 2016, the Schools Funding Branch replied with a detailed set of responses, set out over more than two pages. In summary the letter implied we were not fully informed on all the matters we had specifically raised. It also emphasized that the federal government aimed to provide education funding on ‘real needs-based principles’.
 Human Services Inquiry – HSV submitted the following points in response to the Preliminary Findings Report:
(a) It did not display a balanced assimilation of available knowledge from Australia and overseas.
(b) It showed inadequate responses to high-order expertise.
(c) It demonstrated little economic sophistication about the experiment of human services quasi-markets or analytical incorporation of contemporary insights from market models from OECD and UN.
(d) It appeared to reject the learning from pilot and patch programs recommended by the Harper CPR.
(e) While it advocated reforms to give the consumers of services a greater say, there was inadequate consideration of how to empower disadvantaged consumers.
The above five concerns were expanded in more detail, resulting in a five-page submission. Grateful thanks to Kevin Bain for putting this extensive submission together.
 ABC’s Independence – On recent threats to the independence of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), HSV submitted the following points:
(a) Humanists regard independent, professional reporting agencies as one of the hallmarks of a democracy.
(b) Investigative journalism by the ABC contributes to civilizing social attitudes in Australia.
(c) ABC FM Radio brings music broadcast to audiences who do not have access to live concerts.
(d) With the majority of media outlets owned or controlled by commercial interests, the independence of the ABC is an important counter source of news and information.
(e) We expressed concern over i) continued funding cuts, ii) the proposed reduction in ABC FM radio program, iii) attempts to control internal pay and staffing arrangements of ABC, iv) the appointment of a known critic of the ABC, Mr Josh Faulks, to the Board.
Many thanks to Halina Strnad for putting these points together.
 War on Drugs – HSV submitted the following points:
(a) Australian Humanist Societies, at their national Convention in 1990, endorsed a policy of decriminalizing drugs as an important social aim.
(b) In 1996, HSV argued to a Drug Advisory Council of Victoria that drug use should be regarded as a health issue rather than a criminal activity.
(c) We expressed support for harm-minimisation efforts, such as needle exchanges and safe injecting rooms.
(d) We noted that social and criminal problems caused by legal substances, alcohol and tobacco, exceeded that caused by illicit drugs. We therefore argued in favour of the decriminalization of all drugs, under strict controls.
(e) We are encouraged by recent calls to legalize and regulate drugs from many responsible bodies and people.
Many thanks to Halina Strnad, former Submissions Convener, for putting these points together.
 Supervised Injecting Facilities – HSV expressed concern about the Premier of Victoria’s reluctance to provide supervised injecting facilities for drug users. Based on the proven success of such a facility in Sydney and overseas in saving lives and preventing the spread of infections, this issue has the strong support of medical colleges, the police, ambulance services and the state coroner. We urge the establishment of safe injecting rooms in Victoria. (Fiona Patten drafted a Private Member’s Bill, proposing the provision of such facilities.)
 Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill – HSV responded to 31 questions posed in the discussion paper by the Parliamentary Committee report examining the proposed Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) legislation.
 Inquiry into Drug Law Reform – HSV responded as follows:
Term of Reference No. 1 – The effectiveness of laws, procedures and regulations relating to illicit and synthetic drugs.
(a) HSV strongly urged that drug use be redefined as a health and social issue, rather than a law enforcement issue.
(b) HSV noted that even though more than two-thirds of expenditure has been on law reinforcement, the illicit drug market has expanded. Therefore, new approaches need to be tried.
Term of Reference No. 2 – The practice of other Australian states.
(a) We urged the setting up of supervised injecting facilities, as has been successfully achieved in King’s Cross for 16 years.
(b) We cited the growing support for such a facility, such as from the Australian Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Victoria Police.
(c) We recommended that the gradual decriminalisation of drug use be considered, citing the success of such action in Portugal in 2001.
 Plastic Bags and Wrapping Waste – HSV made the following points:
(a) plastic intended for landfill can end up in rivers, bays and coastal waters.
(b) plastics have detrimental effects on wildlife, if they become entangled or ingest them.
(c) other Australian States have already enacted legislation to limit use of plastic bags.
 Dying with Dignity – submitted dd Mmm 2010 – In anticipation of a conscience vote in the Parliament on the Northern Territory’s The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, HSV urged the Senators support the legislation. The debate was deferred till later in 2011. So far, four of the Senators responded: Jacinta Collins, David Feeney, Scott Ryan and Michael Ronaldson. All opposed voluntary euthanasia in short statements or lengthy explanations.
 Constitutional Recognition of First Australians- submitted dd Mmm 2011 – In HSV’s letter to the Prime Minister, we recommended Mr Julian Burnside (Australian Humanist of the Year 2009) for membership of the expert panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians. The response from the office of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Hon. Jenny Macklin MP, thanked us for our interest and support of this issue.
 Registration of Brenan Hall- submitted dd Mmm 2011 – HSV’s letter expressed support for the retention of Brenan Hall, 29 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, as an example of an early freethought Science Hall. HSV members celebrated the centenary of this former Science Hall opening on 12 May 1989, with a visit during the day and a dinner the same evening. A brief account by Nigel Sinnott of this building appeared in Australian Humanist.
 Constitutional Recognition of First Australians- submitted dd Mmm 2011 – To a panel considering Constitutional Recognition of Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, HSV submitted as follows to a series of questions for invited responses:
(a) Victorian Humanists congratulate the Prime Minister on initiating the project. We convey best wishes to the panel on this important task.
(b) Constitutional recognition of the First Australians is long overdue and should be stated in the body of this document and also mentioned in the preamble.
(c) We strongly support:
(i) acknowledgement of prior ownership and custodianship of land, distinct culture and heritage;
(ii) the addition of statement of values, such as racial and gender equality, personal freedoms, the rule of law, respect for diversity, equal opportunities and democratic governance—being of particular importance in the absence of a national bill of rights;
(iii) the removal of Sections 25 and 51(xxvi) to clear our Constitution of these racist statements;
(iv) the creation in the Constitution of a guarantee of racial equality in Australia.
(d) The Federal Government should have powers to redress historical disadvantage. It should enact protection for the culture and heritage of the First Australians. We believe positive discrimination towards the disadvantaged is a mark of a civilised society.
(e) Having signed the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous People, we should include a summary of these rights in our Constitution.
(f) We would like to see a formal treaty with Australia’s Indigenous people, such as exists in NZ, US and Canada and other countries.
 Self-destructive Behaviour in Children- submitted dd Mmm 2014 – In HSV’s submission to the inquiry on intentional self-harm and suicidal behaviour in children, we made the following points:
We asked for adequate funding, training and curriculum materials in schools; that the mass media and Internet provide positive role models and confront cyber-bullying; that impact studies be made of government funding decisions; and for the abolition of religious exemptions in Equal Opportunity laws, because these may fuel stigma and discrimination.
HSV also noted that children should be educated for self-confidence, resilience and empathy. We expressed concern that school chaplains may potentially alienate or misinform young people from diverse sexualities or cultures. Finally, we asked that high-risk groups be granted autonomy within self-empowerment programs, including First Nations children, asylum-seeker and refugee children, sexuality or gender-variant children, and those from culturally diverse backgrounds.