HSV Submissions 2010 to current

Submissions Archive:  2000–2009   1990–1999   1980–1989   1970–1979

Parliament House in Canberra, Australian Capital TerritoryAn important activity of Humanist Society of Victoria is the making of submissions to various responsible bodies, communicating the Humanist view on social issues and policies, as formulated by the members at specially convened discussion meetings. Usually it is in response to public calls for submissions, sometimes our members provide the impetus. The Humanist Society of Victoria has been doing this work at least since 1973. This is a list of our submissions of recent years.

The titles of a series of submissions on a single issue are appended (1), (2), (3), etc.
A short note on a submission is accessed by clicking on the note number in [square] brackets.

Year Title Recipient Jurisdiction
2018 National School Chaplaincy Program (2) View PDF … Australian Human Rights Commission FED
National School Chaplaincy Program (1) [27] Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, cc Shadow Minister, Tanya Plibersek FED
Expert Panel on Religious Freedom [26] 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 VIC
Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill (2) All MPs, Premier, Daniel Andrews, Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy VIC
Plastic Bags and Wrapping Waste 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
The War on Drugs Federal and State Ministers for Health, State Attorney-General FED/VIC
2016 Legislative Changes Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Immigration FED
Religious Freedom Roundtable Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Gender Equality Department of the Premier and Cabinet VIC
Safe School Anti-bullying Program Minister for Education VIC
Marriage Equality Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull FED
Multiculturalism Minister for Multicultural Affairs
State Disability Plan Ministry for Disability and Aging VIC
Marriage and Gender Equality Premier, Daniel Andrews VIC
Education Funding Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Education
The Environment Minister for the Environment, Josh Frydenberg FED
Welfare Spending Cuts Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter
Equal Opportunity Amendment Bill Premier, Daniel Andrews VIC
Voluntary Assisted Dying Premier, Daniel Andrews VIC
Human Services Inquiry (Productivity Commission) Commissioners
Migration Act Amendment Bill 2016 Senate Legislation Committee FED
ABC’s Independence Minister for Communications and the Arts, Mitch Fifield FED
The ‘War on Drugs’ Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy
2015 Flogging of Raif Badawi 11 authorities (UN, UK, Saudi Arabia, Australia)
Special Religious Instructions Premier and Deputy Premier VIC
Rail Badawi’s Wife Amnesty International (Canada and Australia)
Boko Haram and LRA Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop FED
Offshore Asylum Seekers Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, and Shadow Minister FED
Change Asylum Seeker 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 (Family Violence) Minister for Women and Shadow Minister for Women
The Murder of Avjit Roy Bangladeshi High Commissioner, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and Amnesty International
Science Funding and Education 9 cross-bench Senators FED
Change ALP Policies 31 ALP MPs
Indigenous Affairs (Close the Gap) Prime Minister, Western Australian Premier, Minister for Indigenous Affairs FED/WA
Migration Amendment (biometrics) Bill 2015 Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee FED
Migration “Good Order” Bill 2015 Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee FED
Review National Security Law 2015 Security Legislation Monitor, Roger Gyles AO QC FED
Justice for Refugees (Palm Sunday) Refugee Advocacy Network
Restore Foreign Budget 5 Ministers and UN Ambassador FED
Murder of Avjit Roy and Washiour Rahman Bangladeshi High Commissioner, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Amnesty International
Family Violence Royal Commission VIC
Children in Detention Centres Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton FED
Citizenship Removal FED
End-of-Life Choices Inquiry Legal and Social Issues Committee VIC
The Education State Survey
Constitutional Recognition of First Australians [23] Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples FED
2014 Syrian Crisis [8] Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop and His Excellency Mr Gary Quinlan, Australian Ambassador to UN FED
Australia’s Counter-terrorism Legislation [4] Monitor, Bret Walker SC FED
Barrier Reef Destruction Minister for Environment, Greg Hunt FED
Save Tasmanian Wilderness Areas Minister for Environment, Greg Hunt FED
Abortion Law [5] Premier, Denis Napthine VIC
‘Move-on’ Bill Read Update … Premier and 24 MPs VIC
Increase our Foreign Aid 4 MPs and UN Ambassador FED
Freedom of Speech (Repeal of Section 18c) Bill 2014 [10] Read HSV Media Release … Human Rights Policy Branch (Attorney-General’s Department) FED
Foreign Aid Budget 4 MPs FED
Threatened Species Commissioner [7] Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt FED
Trade and Foreign Investment Act 2014 [11] Senate Foreign Affairs Committee FED
Advanced Care Strategy (DWD) [16] Minister for Health, David Davis VIC
Security Legislation Bill 2014 [9] View PDF … Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee FED
Humane Treatment of Asylum Seekers Read Update … 12 MPs FED
Homophobia and Transphobia [15] 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 [13] Australian High Commissioner of India
Same-sex Marriage Recognition [18] Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Proposed Budget Measures Treasurer and Shadow Treasurer FED
Voluntary Assisted Dying [17] Denis Napthine and Daniel Andrews VIC
Domestic Violence [12] 6 Federal and State MPs FED/VIC
Leo Seemanpillai’s Funeral [14] Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison FED
National School Chaplaincy Program Read Update … Prime Minister, Tony Abbott FED
Asylum Seekers [25] Prime Minister and 14 MPs FED
School Chaplains Denis Napthine and 4 MPs VIC
National School Chaplaincy Program [19] Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and Commonwealth Auditor General FED
Support for Australian Muslims [20] 8 Muslim Organisations and The Age, Herald
No Refoulment to Afghanistan Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison FED
Save Endangered Emus [22] NSW Minister for Environment, G. Clancy, and Ecologist and Birding wildlife guide NSW
Ebola Epidemic [21] 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
2013 Human Rights and Old Criminal Records [24] 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 [6] 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 [2] Minister for Environment, Ryan Smith VIC
Police Treatment of Crimes Against GLBTI Premier, Barry O’Farrell NSW
Foreign Aid Cuts [3] 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
2011 Religious Instruction in Government Primary Schools (1) All Victorian government primary school councils
Anti-discrimination Exemptions (1) Attorney-General, Robert Clark VIC
Bullying in Australia Prime Minister, 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 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 Ministers for Education FED/VIC
Racism Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, Premier, Attorneys-General FED/VIC
National Bill of Rights [1] Prime Minister, Julia Gillard FED
Asylum Seekers Policy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard FED
Appointing Judicial Officers Department of Justice VIC
Dying with Dignity 10 Victorian Senators FED
Indigenous Inclusion in Australian Constitution Prime Minister, Julia Gillard FED
Commissioner for Children Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee FED

Notes:

[1] 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.

[2] 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.’

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] 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.

[7] 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.

[8] 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.

[9] Security Legislation Bill 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.

[10] 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.

[11] 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.

[12] 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.

[13] 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.

[14] 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.

[15] 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.

[16] 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.

[17] Voluntary Assisted Dying – In response, the Premier stated his government had no plans to introduce a bill on physician-assisted dying.

[18] Same-sex Marriage Recognition – The Federal Government responded that it did not support same-sex marriage.

[19] 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

[20] 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.

[21] 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.

[22] 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.

[23] 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.

[24] 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’.

[25] 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.

[26] 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.

[27] National School Chaplaincy Program – submitted 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.