HSV Submissions Archive 1990 to 1999

Activity Type:

Parliament House in Canberra, Australian Capital TerritoryThe 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.
Download complete HSV Submissions List in PDF format.

Year Title Recipient Jurisdiction
1999 Freedom of Religion and Belief Human Rights Subcommittee FED
Independence and Integrity of the ABC View PDF … Office of Prime Minister FED
Inquiry into Human Cloning House of Representatives Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs FED
Declaration and Strategies for Reconciliation Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation FED
Welfare Reform Review Dept Family and Community Services FED
1998 Census 2001 via Council of Australian Humanist Societies (CAHS) FED
Youth Homelessness [42] Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Hon. Jocelyn Newman FED
Research on Human Subjects I Australian Health Ethics Committee FED
Research on Human Subjects II Australian Health Ethics Committee FED
1997 Suicide Prevention [38] Suicide Prevention Task Force VIC
Right to Believe Read Update … Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission FED
Voluntary Euthanasia Bill – South Australia [39] Select Committee on Voluntary Euthanasia Bill SA
Native Title (Wik) [40] Joint Committee on Native Title FED
Aboriginal Reconciliation Read Update … Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Affairs, John Heron, Prime Minister, John Howard and Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation FED
Constitutional Convention on Republic [41] Constitutional Convention and Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet FED
1996 Homeless Youth Prime Minister, John Howard FED
Portrayal of Violence [8] Department of Communications and the Arts FED
Organ Retrieval and Donation [7] Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council FED
Adult and Community Education [34] Senate Committee on Education and Training FED
Assisted Reproductive Technology, Draft Guidelines [6] Australian Health and Ethics Committee (National Health and Medical Research Council) FED
Review of ABC Mansfield Inquiry on ABC FED
Voluntary Euthanasia and Abortion Minister for Health and Family Services, M. Wooldridge FED
Sentencing in Victoria [35] Community Council Against Violence VIC
Euthanasia Laws Bill, 1996 [36] Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee FED
Research on Human Subjects [37] Australian Health Ethics Committee, National Health and Medical Research Council FED
1995 Workforce of the Future – Supplementary Submission Read Update … House of Representatives Standing Committee on Long Term Strategies FED
“Schools of the Future” Impact in Victoria Read Update … Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training, Ross Free FED
Medical Assistance in Voluntary Euthanasia Read Update … President, Dr D. Weedon, and Chairman of Council, Professor Priscilla Kincaid-Smith, Australian Medical Association (AMA) FED
Illicit Drug Use in Victoria Read Update … Drug Advisory Council VIC
1994 In-vitro Fertilisation and Embryo Transfer Guidelines [25] National Health and Medical Research Council FED
Mental Illness and Firearms Misuse [26] Ministry for Police and Emergency Services NSW
Media’s Code of Ethics [27] Media, Entertainment and Arts Association (MEAA): Ethics Review Committee FED
Female Genital Mutilation [28] Family Law Council FED
White Paper on Unemployment: The Working Nation [29] Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet FED
Aged Care [5] Australian Law Reform Commission FED
Civil Celebrants Program [30] Attorney-General, Hon. M. H. Lavarch FED
Decriminalisation of Homosexual Activity in Tasmania [4] Attorney-General, Hon. M. H. Lavarch FED
Trials of Abortifacient RU486 [31] Minister for Human Services and Health, Hon. Dr. Carmen Lawrence FED
Options for Dying with Dignity [32] Minister for Human Services and Health, Hon. Dr. Carmen Lawrence FED
UN Population and Development Conference, Cairo [33] Federal Minister for Human Services and Health, Dr Carmen Lawrence, Senator Nick Bolkus and Gordon Bilney FED
1993 Planning for Radio and TV Services [19] Australian Broadcasting Authority FED
ASTEC’s Work Program 1993–1994 Australian Science and Technology Council FED
Census on Religion 1996 Australian Bureau of Statistics FED
Indigenous People: A New Partnership [20] Minister for Aboriginal Affairs FED
Gender Issues and the Judiciary [21] Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs FED
Rights and Obligations of the Media View PDF … Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs FED
Equality Before the Law View PDF … Australian Law Reform Commission FED
Inquiry into Australian Law Reform Commission [22] House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs FED
Firearms Act Review [23] Firearms Consultative Committee FED
Alcohol and Other Drugs in the Australian Workplace [1] Drugs of Dependence (DoD) Branch, Department of Health FED
Inquiry into Workforce of the Future [24] House of Representatives Standing Committee on Long Term Strategies FED
High Priority Subjects for Research Read Update … Australian Science and Technology Council (ASTEC)
1991 Multiculturalism: Family Law Australian Law Reform Commission FED
Multiculturalism: Criminal Law Australian Law Reform Commission FED
Death Caused by Dangerous Driving Victorian Law Reform Commission VIC
The Bail Act 1977, A Review Victorian Law Reform Commission VIC
National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Strategy Minister for the Environment FED
Restrictions on Legal Practice Victorian Law Reform Commission VIC
Accountability of the Legal Profession Victorian Law Reform Commission VIC
Firearms Restriction Premier of Victoria VIC
Research Directions for Australia’s Future [18] Australian Science and Technology Council FED
1990 All-male Jury [2] Attorney-General FED
Religious Instruction in Schools [9] Minister for Education VIC
Equal Opportunity Act Review: 2nd Paper [10] Victorian Law Reform Commission VIC
Enduring Powers of Attorney [11] Victorian Law Reform Commission VIC
The Report on Priorities in Higher Education Federal Parliamentary Standing Committee FED
The Law of Blasphemy [3] Attorney-General, Minister for Justice FED
Access to the Law: The Cost of Litigation View PDF … Victorian Law Reform Commission VIC
Choice of Law Rules [12] Australian Law Reform Commission FED
Infertility Counselling [13] Bioethics Consultative Committee FED
Inquiry into Public Violence [14] Victorian Community Council Against Violence VIC
Multiculturalism and the Law [15] Australian Law Reform Commission FED
Human Rights of People with Mental Illness [16] Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission FED
Surrogacy: 2. Implementation [17] National Bioethics Consultative Committee FED


[1] Alcohol and Other Drugs in the Australian Workplace – submitted 15 November 1993 – Main points made were the need for intensive educational campaign to change this strong cultural trait. Safety related tests for alcohol and other drugs of dependence that affect performance should be carried out in the workplace.

[2] All-male Jury – The granting of the request to have an all-male jury. The Bible repeatedly specifies that it was man’s God-given right to judge and thus the defendant refused to have women serving on the jury. The judge agreed. (No prizes for guessing it happened in Queensland.)

[3] The Law of Blasphemy – it is proposed that the law should be extended to apply to faiths other than Christianity. This is in relation to the Salman Rushdie affair.

[4] Decriminalisation of Homosexual Activity in Tasmania – submitted 17 August 1994 – The Humanist Society of Victoria (HSV) stated that both the HSV and the Council of Australian Humanist Societies (CAHS) have previously lobbied for the decriminalisation of homosexual activity between consenting adults in private. The main grounds were that it is private, voluntary and victimless behaviour, and that the law and the government should not regulate intimate acts, and that it has a duty to protect victims of prejudice, discrimination and persecution.

Tasmania is the only State in Australia that retains and occasionally invokes its criminal code against homosexuals. This is the subject of condemnation by several international bodies such as Amnesty International [and] the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and it puts us in breach of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to which Australia is a signatory. We see this as a grievous harm to Australia’s reputation among civilised nations.

We pointed to the general tolerance and acceptance of diversity as a mark of a mature society; to the many respected and admirable people who are gay or lesbian in their orientation; [and] that some scientific evidence suggests that such orientation may be genetically determined.

We urged that these Tasmanian criminal codes be annulled and that Equal Opportunity and Anti-discrimination Acts include sexual orientation as a ground for complaint. (This is not available as redress in Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania.) Archaic, brutal and oppressive laws must be repealed. Our statutes reflect our humaneness and degree of civilisation.

[5] Aged Care – submitted 19 July 1994 – In response to Discussion Paper 57, HSV made the following points:
(a) Support for the recommendations of the recently published report on care of the aged in nursing homes by Professor Gregory of the ANU.
(b) That consultation be made with the aged through their organisations and agencies of local government.
(c) The new legislation to include charters of rights and expectations of outcomes.
(d) Community visitors scheme and advocacy services to be regulated on a national basis.
(e) Privacy of personal information to be protected in law and to be a condition of funding.
(f) Service providers to be subject to better accreditation and accountability than is required at present.
(g) The new legislation to be uniform Federally, to be written in plain English, and contain a “sunset clause” or provisions for review.
(h) The need for education of the community and of the aged on the rights and the autonomy to choose options to live and die with dignity.

[6] Assisted Reproductive Technology, Draft Guidelines – submitted 6 August 1996 – The Australian Health Ethics Committee, a principal section of the National Health and Medical Council, issued draft guidelines on assisted reproductive technology for comment from interested bodies. In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) Accreditation of practitioners and accountability of practice are imperative.
(b) Assessment of prospective parents should be based on their socio-affective skills as this is the most important parenting quality.
(c) Altruistic surrogacy should be assisted rather than drive this practice “backyard’ where neither counselling nor proper antenatal tests are provided.
(d) Most detailed, thorough information to be provided to applicants with checks on their final perceptions and expectations of outcomes.
(e) Counselling should be carried out by highly accredited professionals.
(f) Couples should be able to donate their no longer wanted frozen embryos for research.
(g) Generating embryos for research purposes should be permitted.
(h) Reliable sex selection should be available for medical but not social reasons.

[7] Organ Retrieval and Donation – submitted 16 July 1996 – In the HSV submission, we made the following points:
(a) Australia has one of the lowest rates of organ donations, for transplants and hundreds each year because of this shortage.
(b) General public is poorly informed about the existing programs and its many successes. The media should assist in this area.
(c) Only a small minority of people carry organ donor cards: many are unaware of such provision. The family may reject request for organs and so ignore the wishes of the deceased.
(d) We therefore support the proposal of an organ registry where competent adults may enlist to specify their wishes regarding the donation of their organs. These advance directives, stored in a central registry, would allow the exercise of autonomy and personal responsibility.
(e) Incentives could enhance this program: organ donors would have priority to receive organs from this program should they require a transplant. Those who did not wish to be donors will join the normal waiting list should they become recipients. Exceptions, as at present, would be made on the basis of age and prognosis.
(f) Such prior commitments would facilitate matching for compatibility between donors and recipients. Opting-out system, i.e. only those who refuse to be donors carry a card to indicate this. With this “presumed consent” system, Austria and Belgium achieve a much higher kidney procurement than others.
(g) Familial consent should be required only in cases of children and mentally handicapped adults. Otherwise relatives should not be able to disregard a stated wish of an autonomous adult. Each of these measures would require a program of community education.
(List of references supplied)

[8] Portrayal of Violence – submitted 10 June 1996 – In the HSV submission on the Portrayal of Violence and the linkage, if any, with violent behaviour, we made the following points:
(a) Quoted findings of major inquiries on this subject in the past, e.g. from UNESCO: “Violence existed before the mass media. Although the media should not be absolved from their responsibilities, it would be misleading to regard them as the roots of violent behaviour. These are more likely to be found in the frustration engendered by such practice as inequality, social injustice, overcrowding, urbanisation and so on”.
(b) Other inquiries show positive association between viewing televised violence and subsequent aggressive behaviour in some children and adults, but fail to establish causal relations.
(c) Modern technology now offers easy access to unclassified material and recent material show graphic depictions of torture, mutilations, rape and degrading acts.
(d) We support measures to limit children’s access to such material e.g. the UK “watershed” system where all graphic violence (factional and fictional) is shown after 9 p.m., making the V-chip available and affordable and greater restrictions on importation and production of such material.
(e) Self-regulation and codes of practice within the mass media fail to meet community expectations.
(f) Our main concern is with the underlying causes of violence which we believe to be: inadequate socialisation of children, particularly boys, in non-violent ways of resolving conflict; the acceptance of violence in sport and in domestic conflicts as the norm; social deprivations such as inequality of access to services, inadequate care in childhood overcrowding; unemployment and lack of prospects for the future.
(g) Social structures should be set up for those deprived to provide meaningful involvement in and a sense of belonging to the society. Otherwise aggression and violence will continue.
(h) Family planning should be fostered to ensure that every child is a wanted child. There will be fewer stressed, impoverished families with maltreated children.
(i) Enculturing arbitration and conciliation in public life e.g. family or industrial conflict.
(j) We strongly support proposals for intensive public and school education campaign on non-violent conflict resolution methods, positive role models in the media and discerning approach to selection of viewing material.

[9] Religious Instruction in Schools – HSV objected to the dismissal of a teacher in the Islamic Schools of Victoria’s Werribee College for refusal to use religious material in her classroom. We stated our concerns: the divisive nature of sectional religious education and the use of public funds to promote it.

[10] Equal Opportunity Act Review: 2nd Paper – submitted 22 May 1990 – HSV argued for a stronger legislative basis for equal opportunity; that too many exemptions would weaken this important principle; that it should be unlawful for an employer to dismiss an employee solely on the grounds of reaching an age of higher wages. HSV agreed with a number of proposals, applauded the attempts at uniformity between the State laws and the directive to formulate the Act in plain English.

[11] Enduring Powers of Attorney – submitted 28 May 1990 – Proposed changes to this Act include a test of competence of the giver at the time of giving powers of attorney, additional precautions against abuse of trust and ways of monitoring attorneys. HSV was in general agreement and offered several suggestions. The reviewers of this Act aim to achieve uniformity or at least reciprocity between State laws. Another objective is to present it in plain English and supply translations in several foreign languages used by migrants. HSV applauded these aims. This Act does not include decisions about medical treatment and dying. We expressed our regret about this limitation.

[12] Choice of Law Rules – submitted 16 September 1990 – HSV submitted a brief comment in response to this Discussion Paper from the Australian Law Reform Commission. HSV stated the need for uniformity of statutes throughout the Commonwealth. Forum shopping (i.e., plaintiff initiating action where the law is most favourable to their case) should be disallowed. “Double actionability”, where action spans events in two States and therefore two jurisdictions, is a costly waste of court time and of legal resources. Requirements for notification of infectious disease vary in each State – another legacy from the days of horse and buggy travel and an impediment to disease control.

[13] Infertility Counselling – submitted 17 September 1990 – An Issues Paper from the National Bioethics Consultative Committee . . . offers a number of suggestions on this topic for public debate. HSV urged that education about reproduction and infertility be conducted in schools and in the community. This should also aim to dispel the stigma and the myths that surround infertility. Of utmost importance is an appropriate and stringent selection of participants in the various IVF procedures. If, as stated, the interests of the child are to be paramount, only couples able to give an unconditional acceptance to a child regardless of its genetic equipment (own or donor gametes) should be offered this involved and expensive reproductive means. HSV referred to the Family Law Council’s report on Creating Children – Reproductive Technology in Australia (1985). We find their recommendations on counselling combine rationality and compassion and we are in support of them.

[14] Inquiry into Public Violence – submitted 18 September 1990 – HSV urged to establish the proposed independent Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research to provide a scientific base for dealing with public violence. We quoted evidence of the association between violent behaviour and a number of factors, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, gratuitous portrayals of violence in film, TV and videos, inherently violent sports such as boxing and rugby, the availability of dangerous weapons and the frustrations caused by social inequality. We suggested that migrants and refugees should make a statuary declaration not to engage in hostile acts against their previous political or religious opponents, with a breach incurring deportation.

[15] Multiculturalism and the Law – submitted 2 October 1990 – In response to the Commission’s Issues Paper, HSV opposed proposals to modify the law to accommodate extreme ethnic differences, particularly in regard to gender inequalities, children’s rights to broader education, and freedom to choose careers and partners. Any changes to the law to accommodate cultural values should take account of the evolution of the culture of origin, lest Australia becomes a museum for fossils of cultures. Religion taught at public schools should be in the context of comparative religions. Sectarian religious instruction should be funded privately.

[16] Human Rights of People with Mental Illness – submitted 7 November 1990 – To the National Inquiry Concerning the Human Rights of People with Mental Illness, HSV urged that a uniform definition of mental illness be established for all States. The assessment of cases should not be by the judiciary, but by a panel of experts, balancing the competing problems of civil liberties and community protection in favour of the latter. We strongly supported the system of Public Advocacy as a watch-dog of human rights for the mentally ill. We contended that institutionalisation must remain a necessity for some victims of mental illness.

[17] Surrogacy: 2. Implementation – submitted 4 December 1990 – HSV supported the proposal that established, licensed agencies govern the arrangements for surrogacy to ensure the welfare of the child, to offer professional counselling and to prevent exploitation. Uniform Federal legislation is essential.

[18] Research Directions for Australia’s Future – submitted 18 February 1991 – HSV’s response to ASTEC’s call for submissions included the following suggestions:
1. Human Ecology:
(a) to define basic social needs of Australians for good health, sense of involvement, confidence and security
(b) to assess the social impact of technology
(c) to define the optimal human population size for Australia
2. The Health of the Nation: Cost effective benefits have already resulted from preventive measures taken in some disease categories. This approach should be extended to areas in which improvements have not yet been achieved.
3. Environment, research into:
(a) new concepts, materials and energy savings in all types of buildings
(b) energy efficiency in transport
(c) prevention of soil erosion, salination and into the development of arid areas
4. Science Education Investigation of the quality of science teaching at all levels of schooling and of means of enhancing careers in science.

[19] Planning for Radio and TV Services – submitted 9 February 1993 – In its submission, HSV urged that these services should utilise their unique potential to foster enlightenment and tolerant attitudes, to educate, to provide meaningful and intelligent entertainment, curb frequent and fictional portrayals of violence and to deglamorise the Rambo style. We commented on the present style of advertising and argued against televangelism. Relevant references accompanied the HSV submission.

[20] Indigenous People: A New Partnership – submitted 27 May 1993 – ‘Indigenous People: A New Partnership’ was the theme for 1993, the International Year for the World’s indigenous people. In HSV’s submission, we stated that many prominent Australians worked and campaigned for the improvement of the position of our indigenous people. Considerable goodwill exists in the general community, yet there is still a great deal of disadvantage and discrimination suffered by the Aborigines. We expressed, among other things, that the Mabo Case will lead to fair settlement of land ownership; that the many social problems can be addressed; that racist attitudes and practices will abate in response to educational campaigns and legal reforms; that the many initiatives undertaken recently to improve the situation will succeed; that the profound differences that exist between our two cultures can be met with understanding and acceptance on both sides. We suggested a number of approaches and urged the transfer of powers affecting the human rights of the indigenous people to the Federal sphere.

[21] Gender Issues and the Judiciary – submitted 4 July 1993 – The Committee asked if (a) there appears to be a failure to understand gender issues by the judiciary and (b) what could be the appropriate response. HSV quoted results of surveys by the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Victorian Law Reform Commission (1989-90), the research by Dr Easteal, statements by the Federal Attorney-General, Mr Lavararch, and proceedings from a conference, “Women and the Law”, all of which present gender bias among the judiciary. As the appropriate response, we supported the following proposals put forward by senior judges, the Institute of Judicial Administration and the Law Reform Commission: a Canadian program set up to identify and correct gender bias in courts, putting women Crown prosecutors in sexual assault cases; allow evidence from specialist groups before the court, promotion of more women judges, system of education such as initiated by judges of County Court and the judiciary of W.A.; the establishment of a sentencing database so that all sentencing comments made by judges would be available on public record and in full context.

[22] Inquiry into Australian Law Reform Commission – submitted 17 October 1993 – The Australian Law Reform Commission informs community opinion through the publication of issues and discussion papers; fosters public input; valuable process of consultation. It should: repeal archaic laws (e.g., blasphemy), update existing legislation, remove bias from laws, propose new laws, ensure national uniformity, put statutes in plain English. It should be a separate, independent body. Its membership should be representative of the community.

[23] Firearms Act Review – submitted 27 October 1993 – Ownership of a firearm is a privilege, not a right. There should be uniformity of legislation across the States. Data shows that the incidence of intentional and accidental homicide and injury is directly proportional to weapon availability. Guns are often used for ‘victim management’ in domestic disputes. We advocated for better credentials for licence holders, gun registration, improved storage and safety requirements. The governing bodies need to be more representative of the community.

[24] Inquiry into Workforce of the Future – submitted 28 November 1993 – Long-term plans must consider present high levels of unemployment to prevent the emergence of a class of chronically unemployed. HSV commented on the following proposals: temporary levies and taxes to fund job schemes, wage subsidies, casual and part-time work, local capital works programs, interstate transport works, plants for recycling, shorter working week, guaranteed minimum income, training for skills in information industries, social participation not traditionally regarded as work, skilled aged to instruct new workers, education for inevitable changes in work of the future.

[25] In-vitro Fertilisation and Embryo Transfer Guidelines – submitted 19 January 1994 – HSV submitted the following main points:
(a) the importance of confidentiality
(b) all procedures to be confined to highly qualified centres
(c) donor gametes should be acceptable
(d) altruistic surrogacy should be legal.
The experimental component of reproductive technology is of particular importance with its unique opportunity to gain knowledge of early human development, transmission of genetic disorders, safe contraception, causes of miscarriages and other aspects of gestation. Embryo research should be allowed till day 14 after conception, as is the practice in the UK. We challenged the definition of parenthood based entirely on genetic criteria: humans not defined or valued by their genetic outfit.

[26] Mental Illness and Firearms Misuse – submitted 6 February 1994 – HSV submitted the following main points: The mentally ill do not misuse firearms with greater frequency than the rest of the community, but rather less so. Much gun misuse occurs as a result of poor control of aggression, anger or provocation. Such behaviour cannot be anticipated and does not classify as mental illness. We echo the concerns of the National Committee on Violence (Institute of Criminology) of stigmatising the mentally ill as violent and dangerous. A register of the mentally ill for the purpose of refusing a shooter’s licence must not be seen as the solution to all problems of gun misuse. Gun registration, stricter laws on gun and ammunition storage, elimination of semi-automatic, self-loading guns from urban areas are a greater and more urgent need. These measures must be uniform throughout the Commonwealth.

[27] Media’s Code of Ethics – submitted 13 March 1994 – To resolve the conflict between the right to privacy and the public’s right to know, HSV suggested that the code of ethics should specify three categories:
(1) ordinary individuals with an absolute right to privacy;
(2) elected office holders, persons on public payrolls — with a right to their private lives but not in their public activities;
(3) listed companies, which should be obliged to be fully accountable.
Shield-laws should be granted to reporters conditional on veracity of information given and there should be exceptions where miscarriage of justice might occur. Phone tapping, hidden cameras and other dishonest means of obtaining information should be prohibited. Other comments referred to were: respect for private grief, reporting emergency situations, mandatory correction of errors, chequebook journalism, public access to media, ‘surveys’ and the mechanism for dealing with complaints.

[28] Female Genital Mutilation – submitted 21 March 1994 – HSV submitted the following main points: Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a brutal practice aimed at dominance of women. It is a crime and it constitutes child abuse in Australia. Existing laws should also be changed to prevent a child, normally a resident here, from being taken outside Australia for the purpose of this procedure. The legislation must be at the Federal Level. Mechanism dealing with child abuse under the Family Law Act 1975 can be utilised. An intensive education campaign should be directed at migrants from countries where FGM is practiced. The community as a whole should be given information on this issue. The fallacy that it is a religious, specifically Islamic practice, must be discounted. Reconstructive surgery should be offered to victims to alleviate physical problems. Australia should participate in international forums (UNESCO, WHO, UNICEF, etc.) towards eliminating the practice globally.

HSV received a copy of the Report from the Family Law Council on Female Genital Mutilation (see V.H., April 1994: p. 4). The major recommendations and conclusions of the report were very much in line with those submitted by HSV.

[29] White Paper on Unemployment: The Working Nation – submitted 5 June 1994 – HSV’s main points were:
(a) The Job Compact designed to help 500,000 unemployed is a good start to solving a difficult problem. We see benefits of even temporary experience of work for the long-term unemployed.
(b) The training opportunities and support are of great value.
(c) Changes to CES practices were long overdue.
(d) We should aim to reduce unemployment below the targeted 5 per cent by measures such as: disincentives for overtime, incentives for part-time work, lower working week, large capital works; e.g., in interstate transport, recycling plants, etc.

[30] Civil Celebrants Program – submitted 19 July 1994 – HSV urged that, in view of its value and importance in a secular society, the existing program should be reviewed with the following aims:
(a) A restatement of its underlying principles and ideology by the Attorney General
(b) The formulation of detailed guidelines of practice, criteria for selection of celebrants and a course of instructions, perhaps at CAE or TAFE
(c) The fee system to be deregulated and advertising permitted to state type of services provided (rehearsals, choice and place of ceremony etc.). Conducting name giving, coming of age, funeral and other ceremonies should also be advertised.
(d) Client complaints should be assessed by an Ombudsman, and mechanisms to remove inadequate celebrants should be established.

[31] Trials of Abortifacient RU486 – submitted 27 September 1994 – HSV submitted the following main points: Australian women should be offered options in ways of terminating unwanted pregnancies. RU486 [mifepristone] as an alternative to surgical abortions has many advantages. The current trials taking place in Australia under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organisation (WHO) are a necessary measure to establish the lowest effective dose of this abortifacient.

Australia, as only one of several Western countries participating in this trialling, should maintain its international commitments and obligations. We support any changes required to make the consent form for volunteers fully informative. But we express our concern at the various attempts to abolish the trials and to prevent RU486 from being available in this country.

[32] Options for Dying with Dignity – submitted 4 October 1994 – HSV expressed our support for the proposed Medical Treatment (Assistance to the Dying) Bill. We believe an option of assisted death should be available to competent people suffering unrelieved distress or pain in a terminal illness. The Bill carefully regulates conditions for such assistance and these eliminate the potential for abuse. Surveys of the public reveal a high percentage of support for such measures. Surveys of medical workers reveal that compassionate assistance is frequently practised; we urge that it be regulated and decriminalised.

[33] UN Population and Development Conference, Cairo – submitted October 1994 – HSV submitted the following main points: Sex education within the subject of human relationships should be a core subject from primary school level onwards. Counselling and contraception should be available to sexually active teenagers in a sensitive and non-judgmental manner. Abortion should be available on request, should be safe and affordable to avoid the dangers of backyard abortions. The abortifacient RU486 should be available as an option in Australia. The Government should fund and support research into the several types of male contraceptives currently under investigation. When the goal of ‘every child being a wanted child’ is achieved, the problem of overpopulation and the large number of neglected, maltreated and homeless children would be largely resolved.

[34] Adult and Community Education – submitted 24 July 1996 – In response to the Senate Committee’s call for submissions, HSV made these main points:
a) We supported the rationale that underpins the Come in Cinderella report on adult education and believe that it has gained importance and urgency since its publicity.
b) Retrenchments, early retirements, rapid workplace change, redundancy of skills and the disappearance of unskilled jobs make the provision for a wide range of types of adult education imperative. We list reasons for its cost-effectiveness.
c) The importance of imparting skills to prisoners to reduce recidivism.
d) The growing need for community education on a range of complex social issues. Increasingly policies are formulated on the bases of public opinion surveys, thus informed and critical thinking is essential and should be fostered.
e) The reskilling of employees should be organised on ‘manpower planning’ principles and not ad hoc.
f) Libraries are vital facilities in adult education and should be enabled to assist in the use of Internet material for those who lack the means or skill. We are concerned about the ‘user pays’ practice in this area.
g) Pseudo-knowledge (e.g., classes on tarrot cards, astrology) should not be funded or offered facilities as they promote unreason and gullibility and are of no benefit at large.

[35] Sentencing in Victoria – submitted 15 October 1996 – In response to questions posed in the information paper, Sentencing in Victoria, HSV submitted the following main points:
a) We quoted a report of serious shortcomings in the program of rehabilitation and education of prisoners and of poor efforts to resocialise them upon their release. This and the placing of young, first offenders together with hardened criminals, contributes to the high rates of recidivism.
b) Community attitudes to particular crimes may be based on wrong perceptions regarding their frequency and severity.
c) Additional sentencing options should include home detentions and curfews. We condemn attempts to reintroduce the death penalty.
d) Some types of incest and of sexual exploitation of children should incur the penalty of rape.
e) The aim of community protection should be paramount in cases of dangerous, intractable offenders.
f) ‘White-collar’ crime should incur harsher penalties than at present.
g) The public does not receive enough information to understand the complexities of sentencing. Specific educations for schools and the community is needed to create insights into the system of sentencing.
h) We must not base laws on uninformed opinions.

[36] Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996 – submitted dd Mmm 1996 – To the Committee’s call for submissions, HSV submitted the following points:
a) The Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act is a long overdue attempt to deal with a growing social problem.
b) Modern medical technology prolongs the process of dying. Many choose this course and their rights are respected. The few who seek assistance to shorten this process should be granted rights to do so.
c) Other reasons to decriminalise voluntary euthanasia are: Large majority of the public supports such move; it is a frequent practice and in its clandestine mode is open to abuse. It must be open to scrutiny, performed by accredited and accountable experts.
d) Current legislation in other States puts the caring, compassionate physician in breach of the law and it maintains the potential for abuse.
e) We are impressed by the careful provisions of the NT’s Act, which ascertains that the request is voluntary, well considered and then reconsidered in the face of terminal stages of an illness diagnosed by two independent experts.
f) To deny such option for a death with dignity is inhumane.
g) The frequent omission of the operative term ‘voluntary’ in debates and publications leads to misinformation and fears of ‘mercy killing’ of the old and infirm without their consent. It causes a spurious comparison with the Nazi killings, which were certainly not done on request.
h) Legalisation of voluntary euthanasia should be a Federal and not a State matter and the NT’s Act should be adopted nationally.

[37] Research on Human Subjects – submitted 28 December 1996 – To the call for submissions on The Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Human Subjects, HSV made the following general remarks:
The National Health and Medical Research Council was congratulated on their set of guidelines relating to new biotechnology and medical research. This technology grows in scope and complexity and affects many aspects of our lives. Many of our values and beliefs are challenged and thus the need for a rational approach becomes urgent. We find the statements made to date attentive to detail to human dignity, privacy and to the need for confidentiality.

In answer to specific points we urged that:
a) Members of Institutional Ethics Committees declare their religious affiliation and that care be taken to avoid an anti-science bias.
b) A high level of accreditation and accountability of practitioners is required to avoid abuse.
c) Clinical trials of new drugs are not adequately controlled.
d) The use of foetal tissue should be regarded as another form of organ donation and transplantation, a practice now generally accepted and encouraged.

[38] Suicide Prevention – submitted 13 March 1997 – HSV supplied relevant publications and listed several quoted sources. Main points in our submission were:
(a) As youth suicide occurs across a broad range of socioeconomic levels, it appears that the alarming rise in frequency in recent years is due to structural, cultural and social changes in the community.
(b) Peer role models, such as pop stars, shape values and attitudes of adolescents. In this emotional maturity, experience and wisdom are lacking.
(c) The nuclear family offers less support and security than the extended family did in the past.
(d) The current promotion of individualism is a further alienating factor. ‘Every man for himself’ is a daunting view of life for a young person.
(e) The high rate of unemployment among the young creates hopelessness and despair.
(f) Identified risks and precipitating factors: unstable/dysfunctional family situations, prolonged unemployment, substance abuse, loss of a significant person, depression, mental illness, availability of means (e.g., guns).
(g) Availability of a firearm regarded as a major factor in impulsive suicide, hence higher rates in rural areas.
(h) Inadequate care of psychiatric patients after closure of their institutions.

We listed the following measures to minimise the rates of suicide: education (targeted and general) toward better identification of individuals at risk; media to avoid highlighting suicides of celebrities in view of the copy-cat behaviour, and to desist from featuring negative, anti-social messages; the government should restore trained counsellors in schools, provide psychiatric aftercare, continue ‘dole’ payments to genuine work seekers, promote inclusive, community values rather than the individual ethos, and set up a centre to gather data and co-ordinate appropriate prevention.

[39] Voluntary Euthanasia Bill – South Australia – submitted 2 September 1997 – In support of the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill presented to the S.A. Parliament by the Hon. Anne Levy, HSV submitted the following main points:
(a) Modern technology deprives the terminally ill of a speedy release from distress and loss of dignity.
(b) The rights of the many who wish to have their life prolonged are and should be respected; the rights of the few who seek assistance in ending their life during terminal illness should be equally granted and respected. Such need is documented by the many botched attempts at suicide.
(c) The autonomy of the person was acknowledged in law when suicide was decriminalised and, further, when the refusal of medical treatment was legalised.
(d) This growing respect for the person’s autonomy and freedom of choice is a mark of a maturing society no longer governed by ancient dogma.
(e) Voluntary Euthanasia was the subject of extensive public debates and surveys. Public opinion shows overwhelming support for medical assistance in dying.
(f) The practice of medical assistance occurs frequently at present according to doctors and nurses. In this clandestine mode, there is potential for abuse. The process should be open to scrutiny and be performed by experienced, accredited and accountable medical practitioners.
(g) The current legislation puts the caring physician in breach of the law. It also maintains the potential for misconduct.
(h) The small number of terminally ill patients in whom pain or distress cannot be eased by palliative means should have the option of seeking medical assistance in dying. To deny this option is inhumane.

[40] Native Title (Wik) – submitted 30 September 1997 – On the Native Title Amendment Bill, HSV made the following points:
(a) We support this Act and its principles; improvements to it should affirm and protect this title rather than put it at risk of extinguishment.
(b) Coexistence in land use is a practical and civilised approach to land use. To reduce this is a further denial of human rights.
(c) The need to prove continuing association with the land is most unfair in view of the frequent forceful removal of families, tribes and children from many pastoral properties where they and their ancestors lived for generations.
(d) Proposed upgrading of land from leasehold to freehold will effectively extinguish native title. It is racially and socially discriminatory and will cause international condemnation.
(e) It is crucial that native title be the sole Federal responsibility and protected at this level. Powers given to the States will ensure large scale extinguishment.
(f) Proposed additional land use on pastoral and freehold leases should be scrutinised for its environmental and ecological impact.
(g) Local agreements on indigenous land should be protected by law.

[41] Constitutional Convention on Republic – submitted 5 December 1997 – To the Constitutional Convention, HSV made the following main points:
1. We regret the narrow scope of the terms of reference.
2. Australia should become a republic by the year 2001 with an Australian Head of State nominated by a bipartisan parliamentary majority.
3. Any power vested in hereditary monarchy is at variance with democracy.
4. The convention should consider long overdue changes to our constitution:
(a) The preamble should state core values of this nation: egalitarianism, tolerance of diversity, fairness and equity, and our aims to be decent, civil, and compassionate society where justice and harmony prevail.
(b) A charter of citizens’ rights, freedoms and obligations, as well as those of groups with special needs (children, the indigenous, the handicapped, etc.) should be enshrined in this statute.
(c) There should be an acknowledgement of the accountability of government to the people and an affirmation of equal opportunities and gender equality in education, health and employment.
(d) Australia is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions; we believe these rights should be enshrined in our Constitution so that they are protected by law.
(e) The present Constitution is mostly about States’ rights and does not meet the needs of a modern democracy.
(f) The statutes of a nation reflect the degree of civilisation it has achieved.

[42] Youth Homelessness – submitted 29 July 1998 – In HSV’s submission, we wrote:
We propose the creation of live-in co-operatives for the homeless young, where tasks outsourced from industries or ‘cottage industries’ could create income. Household and maintenance duties could be on a rotating basis so that these skills can be learnt. Under expert adult supervision a degree of autonomy could be given to the young according to maturity and sense of responsibility. Well run, such places could specialise in different skills/products. Within, creative and innovative efforts could be encouraged: interaction between these co-ops could be facilitated and visits by experts could impart new skills. Such programs would help to rehabilitate and restore a sense of dignity to many homeless young.

HSV received responses from several Government Departments and a call from the Youth Task Force in New South Wales. Encouraged by the response, a group of interested persons have been discussing this idea further. We intend to convene a Forum of experts in appropriate areas, e.g., Race Mathews (co¬operatives), Eva Cox (alternative communities), Pamela Bone (Kibbutz experience), John Embling, William Kelly (Youth Work), Rev. Tim Costello (St. Kilda street kids), Jill Reichstein (philanthropy), etc.