HSV Submissions Archive 2000 to 2009

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
2009 Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission NSW
Review of the ABC and SBS Department of Communication and Digital Economy FED
National Human Rights Consultation Attorney-General FED
National Security Legislation Amendments 2009 Attorney-General FED
Affordable Social Housing Minister for Housing FED/VIC
Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Office for Women FED
Anti-discrimination Exemptions Read Update … Attorney-General, Rob Hulls VIC
Patentable Matter: Options Advisory Council on Intellectual Property FED
Inquiry into Suicide in Australia Senate Community Affairs References Committee FED
Corporate School Funding Minister for Education and Training VIC
2008 Census 2011 Read Update … Australian Bureau of Statistics FED
National Bill of Rights Attorney-General FED
The Education Revolution Minister for Education and Deputy Prime Minister FED
Euthanasia Laws Repeal Bill 2008 Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee FED
Violence against Women and Children Department of Family and Community Services FED
What Should Be Patentable? Advisory Council on Intellectual Property FED
2007 Genocide in Darfur Prime Minister, J. Howard and Minister for Foreign Affairs FED
Humanitarian Migration Program 2007–08 Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs FED
Global Warming and Climate Change Minister for Environment FED
Access Card (1) [14] Minister for Human Services VIC
Assisted Reproductive Technology National Health and Medical Research Council FED
Joint ACOSS Letter on Northern Territory Action on Child Abuse Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mal Brough FED
Community Organisations Department for Communities VIC
Access Card (2) [13] Department of Human Services VIC
Merit (Performance) Pay for Teachers Minister for Education FED
Cluster Bombs Prime Minister, J. Howard and Minister for Foreign Affairs FED
Abortion Law Reform [12] Law Reform Commission of Victoria VIC
Decriminalisation of Abortion Bill 2007 [11] Attorney-General, Rob Hulls and all MPs VIC
2006 Humanitarian Migration Program 2006–07 Minister for Immigration and Department of Immigration FED
Use of Drug RU486 Members of Parliament FED
Ethical Principles in Gene Technology Gene Technology Ethics Committee Secretariat FED
Ethical Conduct in Human Research National Health and Medical Research Council FED
Ethics in Organ and Tissue Donation After Death National Health and Medical Research Council FED
Equity in Access to Education Minister for Education, Science and Training FED
Ethics of Living Organ and Tissue Donations National Health and Medical Research Council FED
Stem Cell Research: Lockhart Review Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee FED
Chaplains in State Schools [10] Minister for Education, Science and Training FED
Human Rights Charter for Victoria (2) Human Rights Consultative Committee, Department of Justice VIC
2005 Ethics in Biotechnology (Victoria) (1) Department of Human Services VIC
Humanitarian Program Policy, 2005–06 Department of Immigration FED
ATSIC Amendment Bill 2004 (Supplementary) [9] Senate Select Committee on Aboriginal Affairs FED
Corporal Punishment of Children Victorian Law Reform Commission VIC
Ethics in Research on Humans National Health and Medical Research Council FED
Ethics in Biotechnology (Victoria) (2) Department of Human Services VIC
Review of the Education Act in Victoria Minister for Education VIC
Human Rights Charter for Victoria (1) [8] Human Rights Consultative Committee, Department of Justice VIC
ASIO Amendment Act 2005 Premier, Attorney-General VIC
Gene Technology Ethics Gene Technology Ethics Committee VIC
Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005 [7] Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee FED
Victorian Human Rights Charter Recommendations Department of Justice VIC
2004 Humanitarian Migration Program, 2004–05 Department of Immigration FED
Ethical Aspects of Xenotransplantation Health Ethics Section, National Health and Medical Research Council FED
Aboriginal Justice Agreement (Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Victoria) [6] Department of Justice VIC
Administration of Aboriginal Affairs (ATSIC Amendment Bill) [5] Senate Select Committee on Administration of Indigenous Affairs FED
Civil Union and Relationship Bill (New Zealand) Justice and Electoral Committee NZ
Commercial Confidentiality in Government Attorney-General and Shadow Ministers FED
2003 Humanitarian Program 2003–04 Department of Immigration FED
Ethics in Human Stem Cell Research Department of Human Services VIC
National Health Privacy Code Australian Health Ministers Council FED
ASIO Powers Bill [4] Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee FED
Human Rights Commision Bill 2003 Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee FED
The Growing Rich-Poor Divide Department of Community Affairs and Senate Legislation Committee FED
National Census 2006: Religion Question [3] Australian Bureau of Statistics FED
Tertiary Education Funding and Equity of Access Minister for Education FED
Changes to Medicare Senate Select Committee on Changes to Medicare FED
Definition of a Charity Board of Taxation, The Treasury FED
Same-Sex Couples’ Rights Prime Minister FED
Medicare-PLUS Proposals Senate Select Committee on Changes to Medicare FED
Senate Reform (Sect. 57 of Constitution) Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet FED
2002 Migration and Humanitarian Programs Department of Immigration FED
Religion, Diversity and Social Cohesion Australian Multicultural Foundation FED
Revision of Ethical Issues in Organ Donation National Health and Medical Research Council FED
Higher Education Review Department of Education, Science and Training FED
Oaths and Affirmations in Court Law Reform Committee VIC
Issues on Aging [2] House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aging FED
Cloning and Stem Cell Research Senate Legislation Committee FED
Funding for Radio Australia Chairman, ABC Board FED
Aboriginal Health Research Guidelines National Health and Medical Research Council FED
2001 ABC Board Appointments Read Update … Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and Information Technology and Arts References Committee FED
Definition of charities etc. Department of Treasury FED
Racial and Religious Tolerance Legislation Department of the Premier and Cabinet VIC
Victorian Youth Strategy Department of Education, Employment and Training VIC
National Privacy Guidelines Privacy Commissioner FED
Ethical Guidelines on Assisted Reproductive Technology National Health and Medical Research Council FED
2000 The Stolen Generation Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee FED
New South Wales Bill of Rights Committee on Law and Justice, Legislative Council NSW
Responsible Gaming Gaming Policy Unit, Department of Treasury and Finance VIC
Interim Report on Welfare Reform Reference Group on Welfare Reform FED
Northern Territory Mandatory Jailing Office of Chief Minister NT
Safe Injecting Facilities Department of Human Services VIC
Health Records Bill Information Privacy Steering Committee, Department of Human Services VIC
Essential Services Essential Services Commission VIC
Availability of RU-486 Minister for Health FED
Asylum Seekers [1] Minister for Immigration, Philip Ruddock and Prime Minister FED
Religious Instruction in State Schools – Position Paper View PDF … VIC

Notes:

[1] Asylum Seekers – In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) Conditions in which the asylum seekers are detained breach the guidelines of the UN High Commission for Refugees.
(b) The remoteness and the prison nature of the detention camps prevents contact with support groups and scrutiny of management procedures.
(c) The private prison management is trained to deal with criminals only: most asylum seekers are genuine escapees from political and religious persecution.
(d) The length of detention under punishing conditions compares poorly with other countries with comparable number of asylum seekers, e.g. Sweden, where the maximum time is two months. Given good will and modern technology, health and security screening and status assessment should be a matter of a few weeks only.
(e) The extraordinary refusal to allow the UN, NGOs and church working groups to visit and observe our system of dealing with asylum seekers justifies suspicions of malpractice.
(f) We strongly urge the Government to heed the call by Amnesty International to release children and their mothers held in this type of detention.
(g) The current investigation into these matters should an impartial, full and open inquiry and not a departmental one.
(h) We note that Australia was one of the original drafters and a signatory of the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees.

[2] Issues on Aging – submitted 31 August 2002 – In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) As people age they should be supported and encouraged to remain living within the wider community, rather be congregated in retirement villages or “homes” for the elderly.
(b) Domestic and public buildings should automatically include design features suitable for all ages and degrees of mobility, e.g step height, mandatory railings, door widths.
(c) Labour regulations should be modified to permit older members of the community who wish to continue in paid employment to do so.
(d) There should be education campaigns that draw attention to the wastage of experience and skills that arise from retirement age limitations.
(e) People, while fit and well, should be encouraged to prepare an “advanced directive” which make clear the limits to medical treatment they desire if their health deteriorates.
(f) We strongly endorse the proposition that voluntary

[3] National Census, 2006: Religion Question – submitted 28 July 2003 – In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) We proposed changing the current question “What is the person’s religion?”
(b) The current question elicits misleading responses, and thus produces inaccurate data.
(c) It does not inquire about present religious practice. Many people therefore mark the religion of their parents though they do not identify with these beliefs.
(d) The question implies that each person is expected to be religious and puts a negative connotation on the answer “No religion”, the last choice after listed denominations.
(e) We strongly support the proposal to put “No religion” at the top of the listed categories.
(f) Past Census figures did not reflect the marked departure from religious practices and the general continuing secularisation of the Australian population. Surveys of church attendance report significant decrease.
(g) Many important grants and allocations are made on the basis of Census data. Thus the question should seek to determine the number of people who actually use these subsidised services.
(h) We propose that the question should be “Does the person have a religion?” with No or Yes, followed by a list of major denominations. A subsidiary question should ask: “Is the person an active religious participant? No . . . Yes . . .”
(i) In its present form the question will continue to elicit misleading data and be at variance with other surveys.

[4] ASIO Powers Bill (ASIO Legislation Amendment Bill 2002) – submitted 17 June 2003 –
In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) After minor changes this Bill still contains measures that Humanists see as the hallmark of a police state, unacceptable in a liberal democracy like Australia.
(b) Secret detention, including minors of 16 years on a mere suspicion of possessing information about terrorist activity, is a draconian method of gathering intelligence, a violation of our civil rights.
(c) We believe that existing laws and ASIO powers are adequate to deal with terrorist activities. The proposed additional powers create the potential for basic human rights abuse.
(d) The detention of and interrogation of a minor is in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989.
(e) In some rare case the proscription of an organisation might be justified on the basis of its program of violence and criminal activity. However, the power to ban such groups must not be in any one MP as proposed by the Bill. We urge that both Houses of Parliament be involved in such a decision.
(f) This Bill creates excessive, unchecked and potentially dangerous powers.
(g) We welcome the addition of a three year sunset clause.

[5] Administration of Aboriginal Affairs (ATSIC Amendment Bill) – submitted 28 July 2004 – In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) In absence of an Australian Bill of Rights it is vital that this ATSI Commission Amendment Bill protects the rights of indigenous people.
(b) The right to have elected representatives is fundamental. Appointed representation would be a regression into paternalism.
(c) On all measures the well-being of indigenous Australians is far below average. Long-term and continuing failure of mainstream service delivery accounts for this inequity. This Inquiry offers an opportunity to redress this situation.
(d) Knowledge of cultural values, sensitivities and aspirations is vital in appropriate and successful service delivery. Thus such services should be under the control of the new national indigenous representative body.
(e) Good health, education, employability and social cohesion underpin well-being. The many devastated, dysfunctional Aboriginal communities stand as an indictment of our disregard for human rights.
(f) Time and resources must be given to the new management. It is not clear whether present assets of ATSIC† would be sufficient for this purpose.
(g) Enshrining the rights of indigenous Australians in law would aid in reducing the prejudice, and racism many still experience.
[ATSIC = Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission]
[See also 2005.3, ATSIC Amendment Bill, supplementary]

[6] Aboriginal Justice Agreement – submitted 21 June 2004 – In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) The terms of reference indicate a further welcome shift from the previous policies of paternalism and assimilation towards self-determination and co-operative decision making.
(b) We believe the difficulties of aligning diversity with justice can be overcome.
(c) We support the concept of Koori Courts where justice can be administrated with cultural understanding and wisdom.
(d) We regard the educational disadvantage of Kooris as a major cause of their over-representation in the criminal justice system.
(e) We expressed the view that the Worawa Aboriginal College has an impressive curriculum and range of programs which deal with youth problems.
(f) Indigenous ill health and deaths in custody are closely linked. Given that cultural values and beliefs play an important role in successful therapy, we suggested that careers for indigenous care givers — doctors, nurses, psychiatrists — be encouraged through the provision of scholarships and reserved places in tertiary courses.
(g) To increase the economic opportunities of indigenous Australians’ enterprises structured as cooperatives would, we believe, better reflect the ethos of sharing inherent in Aboriginal culture.
(h) A Bill of Rights, preferably in the Australian, rather than a State, Constitution, would aid in the full implementation of all recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and might significantly reduce the prejudice, racism and social marginalisation still experienced by many indigenous people.

[7] Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005 – submitted 9 November 2005 – In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) We acknowledge that current circumstances require measures to deal with terrorism. However, recent arrests of suspects indicate that adequate measures are in place and we question the need for more draconian legislation.
(b) Regrettable invasions of privacy, such as inspection of bags or parcels, checks of identity and public video surveillance, are justifiable at present, provided they are applied to all citizens without selective aim.
(c) More time is required to consider these significant changes that affect our civil rights and way of life. Without a wide-ranging public and parliamentary debate we run the risk of having bad laws enacted in haste.
(d) Potential for abuse of powers is created by greatly widening the powers of Australia’s security organisations without adequate scrutiny of their operations.
(e) The proposed legislation is in breach of our signed obligations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on these points: arbitrary detention, insufficient access to judicial review, possible conflict in separation of executive and judiciary powers.
(f) In the absence of a Bill of Rights in this country there is need for a set of strong safeguards to protect systems of justice and democracy. A biannual audit to Parliament from an independent panel monitoring the use of this new law would be a minimum safeguard.
(g) The law of sedition, even in its modernised form, carries the risk of stifling free expression of views, [and] debates in public and in the media. Laws of sedition are a hallmark of totalitarian regimes and are inimical to democracy. We urge that this section be deleted.
(h) For a variety of reasons there should be frequent review of this legislation. We strongly urge that a two-year, rather than the proposed 10-year, sunset clause be enacted.

[8] Human Rights Charter for Victoria – submitted 20 January 2006 – The Human Rights Consultative Committee asked the HSV to comment on their report to the Victorian Government. We made the following points in response:
(a) We find the report an impressive and informative document.
(b) Victorian Humanists are pleased by the inclusion of responsibilities in the Charter as we always supported a nexus between rights and responsibilities.
(c) We support most of the recommendations made and comment on some.
(d) Breaches of compliance with the Charter should incur a specified penalty.
(e) Old statutes as well as new legislation should be examined for compatibility with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
(f) We express our disappointment that the vital economic, social, and cultural rights will not be included in this Charter at present and hope that at the review of this Bill in four years these essential rights will be included.

[9] ATSIC Amendment Bill 2004 (Supplementary) – submitted 15 February 2005 – Following our submission, HSV was invited to augment our comments and answer questions before the Senate Select Committee dealing with this matter. The meeting was, however, cancelled and a written supplementary submission invited. We made the following points:
(a) Humanists regard a nation’s laws as a reflection on the degree of civilisation it has reached. Positive discrimination towards the disadvantaged is one of the marks of a civilised society.
(b) By all measures the indigenous Australians are greatly disadvantaged. We submit that the ATSIC Amendment Bill should state our commitment to eliminate this disadvantage. This would be of importance in the absence of an Australian Bill of Rights.
(c) Humanists value greatly the ideal of liberal democracy and human rights. Imposition of appointed representatives, in place of elected ones, violates these principles.
(d) We quote the former Liberal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Fred Chaney) in favour of having elected representatives.
(e) We regard health and education as the crucial social areas and urge that special rather than mainstream approach be adopted to alleviate disadvantage.
(f) Adequate funding is essential to deal with these problems.

[10] Chaplains in State Schools – submitted 2 October 2006 – In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) This political initiative violates the separation of State and religion.
(b) It is based on the stated belief that schools are “anti-religious” and that the Commonwealth must intervene to close the “gaping hole in religious education”. This violates the law by which State schools must provide only secular education.
(c) The Chaplains are to act as counsellors and crisis managers. While some chaplains may help in the absence of school Welfare Officers, this very important role demands professional impartiality and should be performed by qualified specialists.
(d) The Council for Christian Education in Schools, which trains chaplains, states: “A school chaplain in a state school operates as a Christian in public ministry on behalf of the Christian Community” and “it is understood that the chaplain represents the body of Christ on earth, the Church.”
(e) In our multicultural, multifaith society such a chaplain may not gain the necessary trust of students who follow another belief system or are secular.
(f) The proposal assumes that, (i) teachers in State schools are incapable of imparting ethical values and standards, and (ii) that Christianity has a monopoly on proper values. We dispute both assumptions.
(g) Humanists advocate the teaching of comparative belief systems to engender understanding and tolerance of diversity and to prepare students for a harmonious interaction in our multicultural society. (We quoted a similar view expressed by the Rev. Dr. Bob Fraser – letter to The Age editor.)
(h) We submit that secular education of morals and ethics should be part of personal and social relationships classes as a core subject. Young people should learn to bear responsibility for their own actions rather than passing it on to a higher authority. They should learn to give meaning to their own life. Universal human values of liberty, equality, tolerance and respect for others should be taught along with personal and social obligations. Clear critical thinking should be encouraged and practiced in discussions. This important subject should be taught by a specially trained and independent teacher and be free from sectarian dogma.

[11] Decriminalisation of Abortion Bill 2007 – submitted 13 August 2007 – In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) Humanists regard abortion as an unfortunate necessity for many women. According to research, unplanned pregnancies are due to lack of sex education, intimate partner’s violence, contraceptive failure and restricted access to contraception.
(b) Therefore it is vital that safe and legitimate services are available for terminations of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. The present legislation jeopardises these requirements by legal uncertainties which lead to cases of prosecution, harassment and stigmatisation.
(c) Recent surveys show a large majority (81-92%) of public support for the woman’s right to make decisions in this matter.
(d) We applaud the success of a similar Bill enacted in the ACT in 2002 and note a rise in the number of abortions there, as predicted by its opponents, has not resulted there.
(e) In the interest of repealing outdated laws we strongly urge for the removal of Sections 65 and 66 from the Victorian Crimes Act and thus for the right of choice for women. This is a right well accepted by the community whose support crosses religious and political affiliations.
(f) We add comments on related issues: (i) Sex education, the key to lower abortion rates should be a compulsory subject in schools. (ii) Pregnancy counselling should be free from sectarian influences and coercion. (iii) The Federal Minister for Health denies the availability of RU-486 [mifepristone] in spite of the approval of Parliament. This abortifacient, safer than the surgical procedure, is now used throughout the world and offers the confidentiality and privacy much needed in this matter. We regard this restriction as an abuse of our rights and of the democratic process.
[Note: An abbreviated version of this submission was circulated to all members of Victorian Parliament.]

[12] Abortion Law Reform – submitted 16 October 2007 – In answering specific questions, the HSV submission made the following points:
(a) Legal and ethical principles underpinning this law should be: respect for the autonomy of a competent adult; recognition that abortion is an unfortunate necessity for many women; that this often-performed procedure needs safe and legitimate services; recognition of the large majority support for decriminalisation of terminations of unplanned pregnancies; and that every child should be a wanted child.
(b) To regulate termination and remove ambiguities in present legislation.
(c) Factors considered in lawful termination should be: informed request of the pregnant woman, threat to her life, her physical and mental health, her social and economic factors, rape, incest, foetal abnormality, heritable disease. We believe these reasons should be valid for all stages of gestation.
(d) The medical practitioner’s role should be to provide an informative and sympathetic consultation, advise but not coerce the woman to attend counselling sessions. The doctor should not be required to notify any authorities of this procedure. Statistical data to be obtained anonymously from service centres. A minor or mentally incompetent female to have a guardian appointed.
(e) It is imperative that counselling sessions be run by professionals and be free from any coercion or religious influences.
(f) All service providers who have conscientious objections to terminations of pregnancies should be exempted from obligations to participate in this procedure.
(g) Section 10 of the Victorian Crimes Act should be retained for cases of wilful, violent attack on a pregnant woman, perpetrators to be charged with offences against the woman and the foetus.
(h) Key elements in the new abortion law to be: removal of abortion from the criminal code, placing this procedure under relevant regulations in the Department of Human Services and the Health Professionals Regulation Act 2005; ensuring that terminations are performed in registered and accredited facilities; ‘backyard abortionists’ to be prosecuted.
(i) We strongly support the action taken by the ACT in 2002, which removed abortions from the criminal code and which explicitly allowed for legal abortions on request at all stages of pregnancy. (We note that the predicted increase in the number of abortions in the ACT did not occur.)
(j) We urge for a strong recommendation on the need for better sex education as the key to lower abortion rates.
(k) The restricted availability is a violation of rights.
(l) We congratulate the Commission on modernising an archaic law and suggest a 3 to 4 year sunset clause on the new law, given the rapid developments in biotechnologies.

[13] Access Card – submitted 16 July 2007 – On the redrafted Access Card Bill 2007, HSV added the following main points:
(a) The extension of public debate on this important issue is welcomed.
(b) We support Privacy Commissioners’ recommendation that the biometric information handling be subject to Privacy Act restrictions.
(c) Our remaining concerns are: (i) the ease and dangerous consequences of forgery of the card; (ii) the unavoidable “function creep”, i.e. added information beyond the present intentions for the card and the future possibility of its use for social control; (iii) the large number of agencies exempted from protection by the Privacy Act will allow unwarranted intrusions into our privacy; (iv) there is no provision for compensation persons wronged under this Act; (v) the statement in the Bill, that there must be disclosure of chip or register content to the individual, is qualified by giving the Secretary the power of discretion on this matter. We argue that honest disclosure is imperative.

[14] Access Card – submitted 18 February 2007 – In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) Benefits of modern technologies have to be balanced against the risks they carry for data misuse and violations of rights to privacy.
(b) Humanists regard a right to privacy as a salient right, a main aspect of human dignity. And they regard a government’s respect for personal privacy as a mark of a democratic and civilised society.
(c) Wide consultation with society should be undertaken before the legislators change its human rights.
(d) The call for submissions on 22 December 20006 for January 2007 was a most peculiar timing to seek public opinion on this important matter.
(e) Assessments (KPMG) reports not open to scrutiny cause justified mistrust.
(f) Well-known breaches of privacy by unauthorised access (police, ATO, etc.) are of concern. The new databases will be available to a wide range of agencies and we expect frequent access, some of which may cause serious problems, such as disclosure of the address of a victim of domestic violence now at a secret location.
(g) Such large databases will be tempting to hackers. The Pentagon failed to prevent hacking.
(h) So-called “function creep” cannot be prevented; it has already occurred in the UK. An extension of function into an ID card cannot be averted: the card can be exploited or misused by future governments, as admitted by the Attorney-General.
(i) Arguments in favour of the card are spurious. It is not like a driver’s licence (limited information known to us), not compulsory to have (but essential for services access); it is not anti-terrorist; and it has been shown that it may protect criminals once they acquire false identity as the 11 September 2001 and Madrid bombers did.
(j) The dedicated and sophisticated will be able to insert false data or make duplicates.
[Note: A copy of the submission was sent to Legal and Constitutional Senate Committee.]