Politics News

Statement by AMMA Chief Executive, Steve Knott

Australia’s national resource industry employer group, AMMA congratulates Justice Susan Kiefel on her appointment as the next Chief Justice of the High Court.

 In becoming the first woman to be appointed to Australia’s most senior judicial position, Justice Kiefel has achieved a great milestone for herself personally and for all Australian women.

 Her story is truly remarkable, having left school at 15 years of age and beginning her career in law as a legal secretary. After finishing her legal education later in life, she became Queensland’s first female Queen’s Counsel in 1987.

 Her career should be an inspiration to women everywhere, particularly those who come from humble beginnings and can look to Justice Kiefel as an example of how far they can progress through hard work and determination.

 Justice Kiefel’s elevation to Chief Justice is an excellent appointment by the Turnbull Government and one warmly welcomed by the resource industry.

 AMMA also congratulates Brisbane-based Justice James Edelman on his appointment as a High Court Judge, filling the vacancy left by Justice Kiefel’s elevation.

To all members of our TAT family, readers and contributors, who celebrate Diwali..

We wish you Safety, Good Health, Happiness, Prosperity and Good Fortune.

May they all be with you in the coming year.


jacqui lambie

During Senate Estimates, I raised conflict-of-interest concerns with the chair of Dairy Australia, Mr Geoff Akers, who admitted that his wife was on the board of Australia’s largest dairy manufacturer Murray Goulburn. 

Normally I wouldn’t inquire about the personal lives of any person in organisations that receive taxpayer funds, but given hundreds of Tasmanian dairy families are facing ruin because of the way the Australian dairy industry has been managed – I stand by my questioning of Mr Akers during Estimates Hearings.

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners state that, “conflict-of-interest is a gateway to corruption”, and given the dangerous mess that our Dairy industry is in – farmers right now must be given a guarantee that their representatives, running Dairy Australia are acting solely in farmers’ best interests – not the interests of other parties

It’s important for all Australians to establish if Dairy Australia is a truly independent body, given the taxpayer contributes tens of million to its operations every year.

jacqui lambie

I grilled the Liberal Government about Australia’s almost $4B p/a or $50B plus (over a decade) ForeignAid Budget.

There are a number of important facts that many Tasmanians would be shocked to learn – when it comes to the management our Foreign Aid budget. Despite what the Attorney General initially told me during the Estimates questioning. 

And given that Tasmania grows and processes some of the best food in the world – I know our farming community and workers will be very disappointed to hear that Australia does not have in place an official policy to buy local when it comes to our Foreign Aid food, goods and products.

Australia sends a lot of Foreign aid to countries with much larger militaries than our own, including Indonesia approx. ($300M p/a) and Pakistan approx. ($40M p/a
I stand by my network’s policy to halve Australia’s Foreign Aid budget over the next 10 years and pull our pensioners out of poverty.
Our government should redirect that extra $25B to Australian Aged Pensioners.

A consortium comprising four Australian grazier families represented by Messrs Tom Brinkworth, Sterling Buntine, Malcolm Harris and Viv Oldfield (BBHO or the consortium), today announced its intention to submit a $386 million offer to acquire 100% of the shares of S. Kidman and Co. (Kidman) (the Offer).

Consortium spokesman Sterling Buntine said: “We have developed a compelling and superior proposal to that recently supported by the Kidman Board which will see Kidman 100% Australian owned.

“BBHO’s financing is committed and our proposal does not require Foreign Investment Review Board approval which means greater certainty for the Kidman shareholders.”

“The Kidman story and legacy of Sir Sidney Kidman is in the DNA of our cattle industry. Sir Sidney was a pioneering nation-builder whose values and vision helped build Australia into a respected leader in the global beef industry.”

“The four families comprising the consortium are deeply committed to honouring and preserving the Kidman heritage and brand which will continue under the stewardship of highly regarded and successful Australian graziers,” Mr Buntine said.

The BBHO families have direct, active, inter-generational involvement within the industry, and continue to this day to passionately work within their respective agricultural operations.

Interests of the group span livestock, grain, transport and other industry services.

Mr Buntine said: “As Australian grazing families we share a strong affinity with the Kidman properties. My father carted cattle for Kidman for many years, while several members of the Oldfield family earned their stripes as drovers on Sir Sidney’s properties. More recently the Brinkworth family’s epic 18,000 head cattle drive from central west Queensland to southern New South Wales followed in Sir Sidney’s similar footsteps from earlier this century.”

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While more subsidised mental health-related prescriptions are being dispensed in Australia, government spending on these medications has fallen, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Mental health services—in brief 2016 shows that $753 million was spent by the Federal Government on mental health-related subsidised prescriptions under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS)—accounting for about 8% of all PBS/RPBS subsidies.

AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard said that after adjusting for inflation, spending on subsidised mental health-related prescriptions fell on average by 1.4% per year between 2009–10 and 2013–14.

‘Despite this, more prescriptions were dispensed—rising by an average of 2.6% per year over the five years from 2010–11,’ Mr Beard said.

‘This was largely due to the decreased cost of many subsidised medications.’

In total, there were 35 million prescriptions dispensed to 3.9 million patients during 2014–15.

‘Antidepressant medication was the most frequently dispensed medication, accounting for about 68% (or 24 million) of mental health-related prescriptions dispensed,’ Mr Beard said.

The rate of prescriptions was highest in Inner regional areas, at 1,934 prescriptions per 1,000 people. It was lowest in Very remote areas, at 436 prescriptions per 1,000 people.

‘Among the states and territories, Tasmania had the highest rate of prescriptions, at 1,942 per 1,000 people. The lowest rate of prescriptions was 738 per 1,000 people in the Northern Territory,’ Mr Beard said.

Today’s report also shows that overall, an estimated $8 billion was spent on mental health-related services in Australia during 2013–14—equivalent to $344 per person. This included $2.1 billion on public hospital services for admitted patients and $1.9 billion for community mental health care.

The report is accompanied by other updates to information on the Mental Health Services in Australia website (https://mhsa.aihw.gov.au) including emergency departments, community and residential care, hospitalisations and GP activity.


Mental Health Australia, the peak group for mental health in Australia, has today issued a Position Statement on marriage equality.

The statement highlights the negative effects of ongoing discrimination on the mental health of LGBTIQ Australians and calls on the Parliament to pass laws to establish marriage equality.

 “LGBTIQ Australians experience routine discrimination, along with all its negative mental health effects.  Marriage equality is squarely a mental health issue” said Mr Frank Quinlan CEO of Mental Health Australia.

 “Determinants of mental health are the same for LGBTIQ Australians as they are for the rest of the community, but ongoing discrimination creates additional challenges.”

 “LGBTIQ Australians experience triple the rate of depression and double the rate of anxiety when compared to their heterosexual counterparts.”

 “LGBTIQ Australians are also between 3.5 and 14 times more likely to attempt suicide.”

  “More than half of the LGBTIQ population have experienced verbal homophobic abuse.”

 “No part of the population should be reliant on the outcome of a plebiscite to free them from discrimination,” Mr Quinlan said.

 “$160 million saved on a plebiscite would go a very long way towards providing much needed mental health and suicide prevention programs for LGBTIQ Australians”

 The Position Statement is available at www.mhaustralia.org/general/marriage-equality-statement

Thousands of full time Tasmanian jobs in horticulture depend on the surge of backpacker labour during the summer harvest season.

And by placing a new tax on backpacker fruit and berry pickers, the Federal Government has not only placed those full-time local jobs in jeopardy – but also the livelihoods of hundreds of Tasmanian farming families.

There is still a grave danger that fruit will rot on the ground and farmers will go broke, as backpackers take working holidays in countries that don’t charge as much in tax as Australia now intends to.

When it comes to competing for vital backpacker farm labour and tourists – New Zealand is one of our biggest and most aggressive competitors. 

So it makes sense for our Government to at least reduce our backpacker tax rate to one that’s competitive with NZ  – at 10.5%. 

I, and many Tasmanian farmers would like the backpacker rate to remain unchanged at 0% – however we’re happy to meet the Government and the Labor Opposition halfway at $10.5%. 

By fixing the rate at 10.5% the government’s $10 million tourism/backpacker advertising campaign is guaranteed to work – and the unnecessary damage that the Liberal Government caused to our farming and tourism sectors will be more quickly repaired.

I understand that our farmers want the Government backpacker legislation – to pass quickly through the Senate – but I will introduce amendments to the Government’s legislation in the Senate, which reduces the rate of the Government’s proposed tax from 19% to 10.5%.

I hope that all Crossbench, Labor, and Green Senators will agree with my proposal and also agree that we should remain competitive with NZ. 

Should the Senate choose to amend and decrease the Government’s backpacker rate from 19% to 10.5%  – I hope that the Government respects the Senate’s decision – and votes for their own legislation which may be amended, to pass the Parliament.


A survey completed by Essential Media shows similar results to the surveys done by PFLAG that 60% of people of Australia are strongly in favour of marriage equality, 68% are strongly against public funding for the Yes and No campaigns and 70% are strongly concerned about hate speech and the negative impact it may have on LGBTI people and the community generally.

National Spokesperson for parents with LGBTI loved ones, Shelley Argent, said,

I cannot understand why Mr Turnbull and his Government are intent on a wasteful, non binding plebiscite that only benefits the nay sayers and their negative campaign.

An increase of nastiness and divisiveness on both sides of the debate has already started on social media.  Mr Turnbull needs to recognise that a plebiscite, should it be called, will not be respectful.

Additionally, we call on Mr Shorten, Leader of the Opposition to stand by his word and block the proposed legislation in the Senate.

It should be noted, a survey initiated by PFLAG in July showed that of the 5500 LGBTI people surveyed 85% definitely do not want a Plebiscite and 65% would prefer to wait for a new government or for Mr Turnbull to have a change of heart and allow a Free Vote.

Attorney General, George Brandis stated late last week that he knew that 70% of Australians were in favour of marriage equality, so he believed the Plebiscite would easily win.

However, the Government is still prepared to waste $160+ million dollars and put unnecessary stress and anxiety on LGBTI people and their families.  Meanwhile, LGBTI people’s rights continue to be withheld because of a right wing minority  group will never change their minds or understand the feeling of being considered second rate.

It is time for Mr Turnbull to stand up, show leadership and make it clear to Abetz & Co that they are not leading this country, he is. If Mr Turnbull wants to be remembered as a Leader of worth he needs to do what he knows is right.

Advocates have welcomed a new poll showing Australians support marriage equality, support a parliamentary free vote on the issue and are concerned a plebiscite may result in anti-gay hate speech and abuse.

 The Essential poll, released today, also shows the public is strongly against funding for the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cases if a plebiscite is held.

 Spokesperson for LGBTI advocacy group, just.equal, Ivan Hinton-Teoh, said,

 “This poll shows Australians back marriage equality, support a free vote on the issue and are concerned about a plebiscite.”

 “We will use this poll to lobby Coalition members to push for a free vote and to lobby Labor to finally close the door on a plebiscite.”

 According to the Essential poll, 60% of Australians support marriage equality, with majority support across the supporters of all parties, including the Coalition.

 53% of Australians support a free vote in Parliament should a plebiscite be blocked, with only 29% against. There is majority support for a free vote across all parties.

 48% are concerned about hate campaigns during a plebiscite compared to 39% against.

 A whopping 68% reject the Government’s proposal for public funding for the respective sides.

 Mr Hinton-Teoh said many LGBTI people will take heart that more Australians than not share their concerns about hate campaigns.

 “As Malcolm Turnbull says, a majority of Australians are sensible, fair-minded people. It is precisely these qualities that lead us to share a deep concern with a plebiscite.”



25 May 2016

Imagine the possibilities of the federal government funding volunteer management instead of an “illegal” internship program

This month’s Federal Budget and its proposal to introduce $4 per hour internships for unemployed under-25s has already been broadly debated and criticised. The PaTH (Prepare, Train, Hire) program proposes to provide intensive workplace training for young people who have been on Newstart for six months or more, followed by the option of undertaking an internship at up to twenty-five hours per week, for up to twelve weeks. In return, the young person receives an additional $100 per week on top of their Newstart allowance. The employer receives a free employee (paid for by the taxpayer) for up to 300 hours, a $1000 bonus upon completion of the program, and is under no obligation to employ the young person once the internship is over.

Employers in this program can come from any industry. Cafes and supermarkets were promoted as positive examples by the Government in the Budget Overview, whilst Senate Estimates confirmed that even the beleaguered 7-Eleven chain could employ interns free of charge under the PaTH program. It’s quite clear that this is a program aimed at the business market; it’s less clear what the skills benefit transfer is for participants.

Research from Interns Australia has found that 81% of internships do not lead to a job. The Australian Council of Trade Unions, based on legal advice they have received from Maurice Blackburn, has said that the program may even be illegal under the Fair Work Act.

Yet imagine the possibilities, if this program centred not on taxpayers paying for-profit business to engage free labour, but on training and mentoring young people in the not-for-profit sector through a properly funded volunteer management program.

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KAP Member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth was cheered on by the gallery as he spoke in support of the Hospital and Health Boards (Safe Nurse-to-Patient and Midwife-to-Patient Ratios) in parliament this week. 

 Mr Knuth drew on personal stories when delivering a speech in support of the bill, which set minimum number of nurses to the number of patients they care for.

 “Establishing and maintaining a safe workload has been a long-term priority for nurses and midwives,” Mr Knuth said.

 “Politicians are rated 49th out of 50 on the list of trusted professions, but nurses are number one; we need to look after them,” he said.

 Speaking proudly about both his mother and daughter Mr Knuth highlighted just how important this bill is for nurses in Queensland.

 “I grew up with a mighty woman—a nurse—my mum. My mum has said that being a nurse is about finding the need within a community and trying to fix it,” Mr Knuth said.

  “There were never enough staff to meet the needs of patients. My mother worked in wards of up to 50 patients with a ratio of up to eight patients to one nurse. She said supplies were thin and there was never enough staff to tend the needs of every patient.”.

 “Under this legislation nurses will have a more manageable, safer workload with ratios of four patients to one nurse during the day and seven patients to one nurse during the night.”

 Mr Knuth’s daughter also carried on the family tradition first as an enrolled nurse at the Charters Towers Eventide aged-care facility  and at the Townsville general hospital.

 “Nurses and midwives play a crucial role in delivering safe, high-quality care. In contributing to the debate tonight hopefully we can provide a safer environment for those in need and for nurses like my daughter,” he said.

 “The Queensland Nurses’ Union have been lobbying for a safer ratio for our nurses and midwives, and tonight I stand with them.

 “I admire their dedication, their determination, their passion and their will to see a better nurse-to-patient ratio,” he said.

 The bill will also see an additional 250 nurses employed across Queensland.

I write to draw readers attention to the backpacker tax proposed by the federal government.

For those who aren’t yet aware, the agricultural workforce in Queensland is going to be hit with a unsustainable tax increase of 32.5 per cent on July 1 with no tax-free threshold.

This has the potential to leave farming communities like ours gutted.

Such a massive tax on backpackers who work in the agricultural sector could cause these workers, and the essential services they provide to disappear over night. 

Not only would we see the disappearance of the hands, we will also see the disappearance of the tourism dollars they bring.

In places like Tolga and the Atherton Tablelands we see backpackers at the coffee shops.

 Late in the afternoon we see backpackers supporting the pubs by eating their meals there.

We see the backpackers going out to Malanda and supporting the dairy centres.

 We see the backpackers skiing on Tinaroo Dam.

Yet for short term gain this could all disappear.

The message right across the agriculture and tourism sector is that a tax on back packers will smash our agriculture communities.
Yet the federal government’s only response  to the outcry has been  “wait and see”. 

There is already talk of backpackers turning away from our shores because of this ill thought out policy.

Taxing them at higher rates, on top of the falling Australian dollar, is a huge disincentive.

A drop in workers would make the $500 million the federal government hopes to earn from this tax, wildly unachievable.

Let’s not kid ourselves, no backpackers means no earnings from backpacker tax.




Prior to the US presidential election are each party’s primaries, where candidates seek to become the Democratic or Republican nominee. These parties are able to choose their voting method within a broad legal framework varying it on a state by state basis. As a result the terminology surrounding elections and the variety of what that terminology means can become quickly confusing.

This article serves as a brief guide to the variety of these voting methods and their consequences, and their impact on a system seeking democratic representation. In brief there are four main considerations; delegates, the voting method, who can vote and how that vote is allocated. Continue reading

According to a report this morning, the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, is planning to increase the proportion of university fees payable by students under the income contingent HELP scheme by 10 per cent, to an average 50 per cent of the cost of a degree.

If it is the government’s intention to increase the average student contribution by 10 percentage points, from 40 per cent to 50 per cent then this in fact represents an average increase of one quarter (10/40) or 25 per cent increase in fees payable by students.

NTEU National President Jeannie Rea said an average 25 per cent increase in fees would result in a three year humanities degree costing $5,000 more and a six year medical degree costing over $15,000 more.

“This will do nothing to increase resourcing of our chronically underfunded universities to address issues such as rising reliance on casual and fixed term staff. It simply shifts cost and debt from government to students,” said Rea.

“This is in effect a tax on uni students to help get the budget under control by putting students into greater debt. The NTEU stands strongly opposed to such a measure.”

Independent Senator for Tasmania Jacqui Lambie’s Estimate committee questioning of Australia’s Spy Agency and Attorney General has revealed that the liberal government has refused to take legal action against 190 Australian terrorist supporters, while ASIO refuses to reveal the surveillance cost of these traitors.

“Why hasn’t the Liberal government charged each of these 190 Australians with treason? If found guilty, those people would face a maximum penalty of life in jail. The head of Australia’s spy agency Director General Lewis clearly told the parliament that ASIO has watched these people conduct traitorous activities such as raising funds, recruiting people to their cause, espousing and facilitating the Islamic State message.” said Senator Lambie.

“So why are we spending money just watching these terrorist supporters? A responsible government that trusts the advice they receive from ASIO – would take legal action against these 190 traitors. I also can’t understand why ASIO was allowed to keep secret their costs for watching these Australians who are clearly supporting our enemy. I wasn’t after names – just the cost for ASIO of watching 190 enemies of Australia.” said Senator Lambie.

“Why has Government left these known Islamic State supporters remain in our communities where they can – and have – caused harm to innocents? The last time that happened, we ended up with the Sydney café siege and the unnecessary deaths of innocent Australians.

I’m also very disappointed that the head of ASIO found it very difficult to tell the truth about the religion of these 190 traitors. We do no favors to the Australian community by trying to deny the fact that the majority of the terrorist supporters are Islamic.

The head of Australia’s spy agency, Director General Lewis also failed to detail where the 190 Terrorist supporters live in Australia. He had an opportunity to dismiss my suggestion that 12 of those terrorist supporters could be found in Tasmania – but failed. It’s now up to the government to clear up this confusion. Which state are the terrorist supporters living in? ” said Senator Lambie.

Independent Senator for Tasmania Jacqui Lambie has strengthened her position to block all Government legislation after Nationals Senator and Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash confirmed the Medicare cuts to women’s cancer checks would go ahead.

During Questions Without Notice today, Senator Lambie revealed the Coalition Government’s lies regarding $650M of cruel Medicare cuts.

“Rural women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer, yet Senator Nash stood in Parliament today and claimed she had not betrayed anyone when she supported this co-payment by stealth,’’ Senator Lambie said.

“When I have been told by respected health professionals in the pathology sector that the Coalition’s $650 million worth of cuts to pathology and diagnostic imaging will prevent people from seeking an early prognosis and that rural and regional Australia will be hit the hardest – Senator Nash’s claims have a hollow ring.

“Cancer and diabetes will not be seen until it’s too late and hospitals will be overwhelmed. Tasmania’s public health system is already in a health crisis – it couldn’t cope with a heavier burden,’’ Senator Lambie said.

“We have made so much progress over 10 years to establish a strong focus on primary health care and cervical cancer is no longer a death sentence, with 72 per cent of women diagnosed surviving.

“It would be a shame to reverse that progress for what appears to be a warped, political game.

‘’This is further proof that this government isn’t making decisions for our grandchildren – they are making decisions for the election,’’ Senator Lambie said.

By Brandon Taylor

From anyone with a hint of environmentalism in their blood one could almost hear a collective sigh of relief when Tony Abbott stepped down from his post as Australian Prime Minister.  Hopes were lifted as climate change realist Malcolm Turnbull rose to the occasion, but are already fading to disappointment as he backpedals away from his former stance in opposition to climate change.

Having supported the feasibility of making Australia a 100% renewable energy nation in 2010 and decrying Australia’s Direct Action policy on climate change as “fiscal recklessness on a grand scale,” Turnbull is known as a champion for change.  He has, however, softened from advising a true transition away from fossil fuels to less holistic tactics like using clean coal and planting trees. Activists were aghast when they heard the new poster boy for fighting climate change chant that there is “a strong moral case” for supporting coal exports and the building of coal mines. The streak of pragmatic escapism may be a skin-deep effort to widen his appeal as PM, but it has cost him some public confidence and has cost the environment a staunch supporter.

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21) coming up in November (and droughts hitting Australia harder than ever) it could easily be said that both Turnbull and Australia have some ground to make up on the climate change front.

This will require a two-pronged approach: on one hand, pushing for the full implementation of international environmental standards and increasing the share of renewables in the country’s power mix, but on the other hand, deploying foreign policy that convinces Australia’s neighbours to match its environmental efforts.

As editor for Malaysian environmental news website Clean Malaysia, I’ve been surprised at how strong the ties between Kuala Lumpur and Australia have become.  Malaysia is now Australia’s second-largest trading partner in ASEAN, and total merchandise trade between Australia and Malaysia in 2014 was A$17.5 billion.  A 2007 report by the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade noted that the relationship between Australia and Malaysia has evolved from one of distant support to “one of wide-ranging and extensive collaboration across all fields” – fact laid bare by the joint efforts for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and Australia’s push for prosecuting the parties responsible for the downing of MH17.

This burgeoning relationship offers great potential for joint progress on the environmental front as well.  Interestingly enough, that opportunity lies within an industry that has been a source of financial tension between the two countries – the bauxite trade.  Continue reading

hughharrisBy Hugh Harris





Rector Michael Jensen’s article, If you want kids to be happy, try religion, in the ABC’s The Drum provides a striking example of how readily the religious mind contents itself with insufficient evidence.

His thesis as follows (my emphasis):

There’s been a lot of alarmist stuff written recently about the potential detrimental effects of religious teaching on young people. What the hard data says is otherwise: an active religious faith is much to be desired in young people, and the benefits of such a faith persist into old age.



The first is a summary report by The World Health Organisation (WHO) seemingly based on data supplied by HBLPY surveys run by UNICEF. It doesn’t provide any of the data, nor the sample size, but indicates several factors which correlate to reduced risk of early sexual initiation, substance abuse and depression. One of the factors is spiritual beliefs which get a green tick for being more often associated with less risk. There’s no detail of the actual statistics, the sample size, or the ratio of correlation. Jensen doesn’t explain what relation this has to Religious Instruction.

The second piece of “hard data” contains no data at all, rather an anecdote contained within a pop-psychology book Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment. It’s a story of a blind undergraduate student who criss-crosses the United States visiting religious congregations getting a measure for the relation of optimism and faith. She found that the more fundamentalist they were the more optimistic they were. Hard Data this is not – the opinion of one psychology student based on some conversations she’s had with exclusively religious people. Perhaps the message is to train children to be religious fanatics to maximise their happiness?

The third example, taken from an article in the UK’s The Independent, is a survey of 9000 people over the age of 50 who report going to church as beneficial to their mental health. I’m not so sure that the self-reported mental health of English men and women over 50 years old has any bearing on the efficacy of religious instruction for children in Australia. Again, the sequitur is missing.

So there’s our “hard data:” a report with no statistics, a survey of over 50 year olds, and the observations of a psychology student in the US. From this we are supposed to draw the conclusion that Religious Instruction is beneficial to students, or that religion makes children happy.

There’s a myriad of good reasons why the Victorian government scrapped Special Religious Instruction from its curriculum. Once parents had to opt in to the program, rather than opt out, it suffered a 40% decrease in participation. This followed controversy due to overt proselytization by Christian service providers, particularly Access Ministries, whose CEO, Evonne Paddison, had previously said:

In Australia we have a God-given open door to children and young people with the Gospel, our federal and state governments allow us to take the Christian faith into our schools and share it. We need to go and make disciples.


Children should be taught how to distinguish between beliefs and knowledge prior to considering religion. Religion should be taught as a comparative course in the development of a variety of religious traditions.

Currently, Special Religious Instruction, as it offered in all states of Australia, is taught as knowledge rather than belief. Presented as a complete worldview, by volunteer pastors from the local church, the program takes advantage of children, presenting them with a solution when it should be offering a mystery.

In an irreligious country like Australia, where less than 10% attend church, where 70% regard religion as “having no importance” (Gallup 2008), our education policies are unrepresentative of the population. Most non-believers are ambivalent about the role of religion in the public life.

This might explain why Australian children are force-fed religious belief when adults have little interest. And perhaps this also explains the apparent confusion between knowledge and belief present in the faithful who champion policies aimed at privileging the Christian tradition such as the National Chaplaincy Scheme, and Special Religious Instruction.

Once we humans adopt a belief and integrate it into our lives, the belief becomes notoriously difficult to dislodge. We must be extra careful then to ensure our children learn to use their minds as a reasoning tool for establishing knowledge, not for a rationalizing tool for defending unjustifiable beliefs. Or else we wind up content with argument fashioned out of the evening breeze, such as the “hard data” of Michael Jensen.


Hugh Harris is a freelance writer who owns a blog called The Rational Razor on philosophy, and rational thought, and is a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia.

Hugh is a contributor to the ABC, U.S. online mag The Daily Banter, the Rationalist, the Australia Times, and Secular Web.

Tony Abbott’s Conscience and the Rainbow Sails in the Sunset

Liberals, Please Speak up for Free Speech

Eric Abetz and the Case for Same-Sex Marriage

Confusing Rights with Privileges, So Many Fallacies so Little Time

The Fallacy of the “20th Century Atheist Regimes”

Tradition isn’t what it used to be

The Chomsky Harris Feud: Tribalism, Ethics and the Debate that Wasn’t

Tony’s arrogance cost him dear
and cost our country too I fear
but now a new bloke’s set to steer
the proud ship of Australia.

Let’s hope that Malcolm gets it right
if not we’ll all bemoan his plight
and wail and whinge into the night –
another polly failure.

Tall poppies fall fast in this land
we don’t always united stand
and yet we still claim we are grand.
God help us – who will save ya?

We’ve turned the boats back in the past,
incarcerated those who asked
for refuge or, shock and aghast …
a same sex marriage favour.

So this time can we get it right?
Can Malcolm turn us overnight
back to a nation that has might?
A once more proud Australia.

Maureen Clifford © The #ScribblyBark Poet

hughharrisBy Hugh Harris




It’s not going away… Over the weekend thousands of Australians rallied in support of same-sex marriage. Liberal MPs rueful at the farce of Tony Abbott’s stone-walling, might reflect on what a conscience vote really means. Individuals can vote freely on certain issues because of particular beliefs they hold – usually cultural or religious.

Tony Abbott has exercised his conscience, in order to disallow others from exercising theirs, as if in mockery of the very concept. This highlights the fatal flaw with conscience: if everyone acted on conscience we would have a country of 24 million Tony Abbott’s demanding respect for their own views. We’d never agree on anything and yet, some opponents of gay marriage insist the consciences of all Australians must be preserved under the guise of religious liberty. If we grant any credence to the “conscience” of one person, unaccompanied by evidence or argument, we devalue the objective good reasons why policies are implemented.

Of the 33 conscience votes in the Federal parliament many have been perceived as issues of principle. These include the abolition of the death penalty, euthanasia, sex discrimination and human embryo cloning. A vote occurred in 1973, when John Gorton proposed that homosexual acts in private should not be subject to the criminal law, and also in 1974, when the Family Law Bill allowed no-fault divorce. Decades later we look back at these two changes as measures of our progress, rather than matters of principle. Once we have moved on, the reasons for their adoption seem so obvious and apparent that we wonder why it took so long. One suspects we’ll see same-sex marriage in much the same way in 20 years.

Notwithstanding, the thwarting of the conscience vote for Coalition MPs provides a ray of hope for the stalwarts against change. If the leaders of our country can meet for a marathon six hours, hear from 90 speakers, and still resolve to do nothing it’s a good sign for the status quo. But unfortunately for them, the debate is de-facto already lost.

“De-facto” refers to holding a position in fact but not necessarily by legal right. As such, de-facto couples have the same rights in fact to marriage couples, and legal disputes are arbitrated on how “marriage-like” the relationship is. The laws on de-facto couples were changed in 2009 allowing same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Ah, but won’t marriage-equality opponents say there’s a big difference between a de-facto couple and a married couple?

No. They try to placate the forces for change by arguing equal rights already exist (see Rowan Dean). Also, note the following quote from senior fellow at Australian Catholic University, Kevin Donnelly:

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Media Release
Tuesday August 11th


Advocates say the drawn out Coalition party room debate on marriage equality boosts the case for a free vote on the issue.

Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said,

“The drawn out party room debate shows there are passionately held views on both sides and the best way forward is a free vote.”

“The whole point of free votes is to allow impasses like this to be resolved.”

“Those Coalition members opposed to marriage equality must show greater respect to those members who do, and to the Australian people, by allowing a free vote.”

“Coalition members like Kelly O’Dwyer, Sarah Henderson, Ewen Jones and Darren Chester should be allowed to fulfil their commitment to their electorates and vote for marriage equality.”

Tomorrow morning a prayer breakfast will be held by clergy for marriage equality at Federal Parliament details are HERE
For more information contact Rodney Croome on 0409 010 668.



“I was bitterly disappointed Federal Member for Braddon Brett Whiteley had nothing to say about the potential loss of an event that is the beating heart of the North-West Coast economy.


The media’s coverage of the potential loss of the Burnie International Tennis Classic this week showed Brett Whiteley preferred not to comment on that matter.

I find it sad the North-West Coast’s Federal representative hasn’t come out fighting for the Burnie Tennis Club and the North-West Coast.

I understand he needs to toe the Liberal party line, but there is a time and a place where the community’s best interests must come before political loyalty – and this is the time and the place.

The money is there to save the Burnie International, Senator Eric Abetz is simply holding on it like a spoilt and greedy schoolyard bully.

The economic and social benefits are obvious for supporting the Burnie International, including $850,000 injected into the local economy every year and the immediate boost to local job security and creation.

And let’s not forget the global exposure from the event being live streamed worldwide.

It’s time the schoolyard bully was challenged and the $15 million Cadbury fund was fairly shared with all Tasmanians.”

Senator Jacqui Lambie


Letter to the Hon. Eric Abetz re Burnie International 240715

Image artwork by Tania McMurty

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