Tag Archives: Nicola Roxon

The Wayne LaPierre solution to religious exemption from secular law

15 Jan

David Marr’s excellent piece in the Fairfax press yesterday is a reminder of just how conflicted our anti discrimination legislation is, and has been for some time.

Exemption from the law for religious organisations means they are permitted to behave in ways that are unlawful for the rest of us, because of their beliefs. For example, employing someone who does not engage in a heteronormative sexual life, employing a woman who becomes pregnant outside of marriage (the same rule does not apply to the man who impregnates her, by the way) and  employing people who live together unmarried (such as Prime Minister Julia Gillard, but her partner Tim Mathieson as well? This is not clear, perhaps it is only women religious institutions demand marry) transgresses some religious beliefs about how human beings ought to conduct themselves in their private lives. No religious institution should be obliged to put itself in a situation where its beliefs are insulted, it is argued, therefore they are all exempt from anti discrimination legislation that applies to everyone else.

I might find it difficult to work alongside someone who holds any or all of the above beliefs because they do not accord with mine and I find them offensive and insulting. However, were I to refuse the believer employment, or to terminate their employment because their beliefs trouble me, I will be committing an offence under the anti discrimination legislation and if they complain, I will be punished.

As I am not a religious institution, I must employ the religious regardless of my beliefs. This irrational imbalance continues, for some inexplicable reason, to be legitimised by the Labor government, itself led by an atheist woman living in a de facto relationship. In other words, as Marr points out, Prime Minister Gillard is legislating against herself.

Perhaps the solution is to declare atheism and agnosticism  religions, and apply for exemption from the law. I call this the Wayne LaPierre solution, after  the Executive President and CEO of the NRA. LaPierre recently claimed what is needed to stop bad guys with guns is good guys with guns. By the same reasoning, we might consider allowing the rest of us the privilege of denying employment to religious people as they may do to us. Then we will have achieved the equal right to deny a livelihood to everyone except ourselves and those who think like us. Which of us is good or bad will remain as subjective as it as ever been, but we’ll all have big guns with which to kill each other’s prospects.

On the other hand, the current consolidation of the anti discrimination laws offers a golden opportunity to effect changes that would revoke privileges extended to religious institutions, and level the playing field. Attorney General Nicola Roxon has introduced additions to the bill that now declare offending or insulting someone to be an unlawful act. Unless of course you are religious institution and then you can offend and insult somebody’s protected attributes (if they do not comply with your belief system) to your heart’s content by refusing to employ them, or by dismissing them on the grounds of that attribute, and you will get clean away with it. If we can accept additions, surely we can effect the subtraction of what is a most discriminating practice that makes a mockery of the entire legislation?

What we need to ask ourselves is: why are we prepared to allow religious institutions to behave in ways that are so unacceptable to the rest of the community that we have declared them unlawful?

The religious are entitled to their beliefs, of course. A secular state is not obliged to adapt its legal system to those beliefs, it is especially not required to do that when the adaptation is to behaviours that for the rest of the population are unlawful because they are deemed extremely harmful to others.

If an act is so undesirable that we have found it necessary to administer punishment to some of those who perform it, how can we say that same act is not undesirable because it is ameliorated by the balm of religious “belief?” And why on earth should we?

A tale told by idiots

26 Feb

And so we enter the next stage of the Gillard/Rudd cage fight.

It’s nasty. It’s dirty. And despite Attorney-General Nicola Roxon’s political speak, Monday’s leadership challenge will not be the end of it, no matter which contestant triumphs. In a valiant effort to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted, Roxon is now calling for everyone to get behind whoever wins. Yes. I can see that happening. They’ve all demonstrated their capacity to focus on the big picture, haven’t they?

We are witnessing a clash of egos. It’s likely that anyone who seeks to lead a government is going to need exceptional self-belief and both Gillard and Rudd have demonstrated they’ve got it in spades. Remember Gillard announcing Rudd’s ousting with the revelation that the government had lost its way and she was the messiah who was going to get it and the country back on track?

Then this week we have Rudd telling us that only he can save us from an Abbott-led coalition government, to which Roxon responded that we ought to stop being fanciful about messianic rescuers. Of course she didn’t add, only if they were Rudd.

Neither of the contestants is messianic. They’re both more than a little shabby, and tainted by circumstances of their own making. If anyone is depending on either of them to save the country from Tony Abbott, they’re going to be very disappointed.

There’s a monumental battle going on to claim the high moral ground, when it ought to be about good governance. The level of vitriol directed at Rudd by Wayne Swan, Simon Crean and others is alarming: suppose Rudd does win tomorrow, or at  later date, how are they going to work with him? Have they all forgotten why they were elected? Man up, people. Stop whining about the demon Rudd and get on with your jobs. The world is full of people who don’t get on with their bosses. Most of them have to just suck it up.

This can’t be the first government to endure serious tensions, but they usually don’t get into this disgraceful self-eviscerating state about them.

As if that isn’t enough, the populace by far prefers Rudd to both Gillard and Abbott. It’s a reckless politician that denies the popular will, especially with this history behind it.

The overthrow of Rudd was bound to end in tears. What a pity those who dreamed up that scheme lacked the foresight to predict it’s inevitably long-lasting and complex repercussions. There seems to be an alarming disconnect between the government and the people, one that began when Rudd was ousted without much explanation. It’s a bit late now to wash that dirty linen, and it also looks rather after the fact.

Gillard may well be more capable of facilitating the daily business of governing the country than Rudd proved to be. Rudd may well be streets ahead in popularity, and perhaps this does indicate he stands a better chance against Abbott in 2013. That depends on what he does between now and then, should he win tomorrow. If his return to the leadership causes widespread revolt and ministerial resignations that’s only going to play into Abbott’s hands. This doesn’t augur well for Roxon’s preferred solution, and as she has already stated that if Rudd offered her a portfolio she wouldn’t accept it, one has to wonder just what she’s on about. While Rudd may be difficult, some of the others don’t sound so straightforward either. They also sound a long way from making the best of it and getting behind whoever wins.

This morning Education Minister Peter Garrett announced he wouldn’t work in a Rudd government. Who do these people think they are? Elected representatives, that’s who they are, and they aren’t elected to refuse portfolios.

If Gillard is returned, she and her camp can be accused of yet again ignoring the will of the people, who’ve demonstrated in the polls they want Rudd back, and more, didn’t want him thrown out in the first place. Somehow, Gillard will have to turn around those who are resentful, feel cheated, and don’t want her as leader when it comes time to fight the next election. One can imagine how Abbott will use this “denial of the will of the people” narrative against the ALP.

The only winner of tomorrow’s contest is likely to be Abbott, I fear. Serves the ALP right, I also fear. But pity the poor punters. We’re the victims in this farce. Not Rudd. Not Gillard. Not any of those precious pollies who just couldn’t find a way to work with their boss. They should have tried harder, shouldn’t they? Because they are probably going to pay the ultimate price for ousting him when they become the opposition in 2013.

This is truly a tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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