Victorian Secular Lobby and the 2014 State Election

Election 2014

The Victorian Secular Lobby is running a public information campaign during the 2014 State Election. Do you support the separation of Church and State? Then please donate to our campaign! You can either use Paypal (above) or contact us for other methods at public@victoriansecular.org.

We wish to highlight those issues that have come up the current and previous legislature that indicate the dedication of candidates in this coming election to ensure the principle of freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

This includes treating religious organisations the same as non-religious organisations and leaving self-regarding issues to the decision of the individual conscience.

Crowdfunding Targets and Recognition

George Holyoake

We're a small organisation and as a result we have modest targets as follows.

$500. Production of 5000 DL campaign pamphlets.
$1000. Production of 5000 DL campaign pamphlets.
$3000. Extended social media campaign.

The level that you can donate will receive the following recognition. Distributors will receive an equivalent recognition of 250 leaflets for $25.

$1. A thank you email from the Victorian Secular Lobby.
$10. As above, plus recognition on our Victorian Election 2014 page (anonymous if desired).
$50 As above, but highlighted on the website.
$100. As above, Secular Justice Warrior! Framed certificate from the VSL for your contribution.
$500. As above, plus a “George Holyoake” trophy

We are also looking for volunteers to assist in the campaign; please email public@victoriansecular.org.

Issues of Concern

Special Religious Instruction. Special religious instruction is defined as: "instruction provided by churches and other religious groups and based on distinctive religious tenets and beliefs". Access Ministries conduct 96% of classes. Is not taught by teachers (instructors can receive as little as one day's training), and does not teach general religious education, i.e., it is instruction, not education. It also is publically funded.

Equal Opportunity Act. The Act of 2010 provided a more limited level of special religious exceptions exemptions from equal opportunity, limiting it positions that were directly related to the conduct of the religious activity. Now religious bodies and religious schools can discriminate on the basis of a person's religious belief or activity, sex, sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, martial status, parental status or gender identity
where the discrimination conforms to the doctrines, beliefs or principles of the religion.

Abortion Reform Act. Following the Abortion Law Reform Act of 2008, the performance of an abortion by a qualified person was removed from the Crimes Act. Medical practitioners and nurses who have a conscientious objection to abortion must inform the patient with information about a medical practitioner who does not have any such objection. Medical practitioners and nurses have a duty to perform or assist in performing an emergency abortion if the pregnant woman's life is in danger. Some politicians have indicated that they wish to overturn these reproductive rights.

Racial and Religious Tolerance Act of 2001. This seeks to promote racial and religious tolerance in a multicultural democracy by prohibiting
the vilification of persons on the basis of their 'race' or their religious belief and activity. However the intentions do not match the content. The legislation prohibits "conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons", regardless of their veracity. It would be better to extend defamation clauses to allow class actions against untrue statements, whilst removing the clauses that prohibit regardless of veracity.

Party Positions

Greens: Opposes public funding of special religious instruction, Supports Equal Opportunity Act and inherent requirements exemptions. Oppose veracity limits in Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. Oppose conscientious objection to referrals and duty of care.

Labor: Introduced and supported special religious instruction, but policy committee is opposed, and State Conference supports public education system that is "free, compulsory and secular". Supports Equal Opportunity Act inherent requirements exemptions, but subjected issue to a conscience vote. Supports and introduced veracity limits in Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. Supports conscience vote on objection to referrals and duty of care.

Liberals: Supports special religious instruction, Opposes Equal Opportunity Act inherent requirements exemptions. Supports introduced veracity limits in Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. Supports conscience vote on objection to referrals and duty of care.

Nationals: Supports special religious instruction, Opposes Equal Opportunity Act inherent requirements exemptions. Supports introduced veracity limits in Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. Supports conscience vote on objection to referrals and duty of care.

"Conscience" Votes

Conscience votes often can be assessed by the degree that a politician is prepared to impose their conscience (and religious beliefs) over the rest of society. It rarely is based on a post­metaphysical moral norm, or an evidence­-based ethical position. The last parliament had four major conscience votes issues reach the Legislative Council (Abortion Law Reform, Assisted Reproductive Treatment, IVF Eggs and Research, Equal Opportunity Act).

The consistently worst MPs, who voted against all four (or five for MLC), initiatives and who are standing in the upcoming election are:

MLAs: Gary Blackwood (Lib), Neale Burgess (Lib), Robert Clark (Lib), Peter Crisp (Nat), Martin Dixon (Lib), Christine Fyffe (Lib), David Hodgett (Lib), Terence Mulder (Lib), Russell Northe (Nat), Michael O'Brien (Lib), and Peter Ryan (Nat).
MLCs: Richard Dalla­Riva (Lib), Damian Drum (Nat), Bernie Finn (Lib), Inga Peulich (Lib)

We have a collection of MP voting records on conscience issues from the 2006-2010 parliament, which covers the Abortion Law Reform Bill, 11 Sept 2008, ART-IVF & Surrogacy: Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill, Oct 9 2008,
IVF Eggs and research: Infertility Treatment Amendment Bill, 18 April 2007, Equal Opportunity Bill, 2010 and, in the Legislative Council, Euthanasia: Medical Treatment (Physician Assisted Dying) Bill, 10 Sept 2008.

Special mention goes to Geoff Shaw, Ind., for arguing consistently holding anti­secular positions and would certainly vote against all reforms above if given the opportunity. He has argued in favour of religious­ based discrimination, and has described the abortion law reform as among the worst in world, and gave rise to the mocking meme on "tummy eggs".

In his maiden speech to the Victorian parliament, he acknowledged "the original owner of the land on which we stand—God, the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible."

Other Surveys

The Progressive Atheists ran a survey of all candidates over ten questions. Some key points; (a) the Liberals and National Party candidates did not respond (b) The ALP responses were split in favour and opposed to Special Religious Instruction, School Chaplains, Church Property Trusts, but strongly in favour of abortion rights legislation, voluntary euthanasia, and removal of religious exemptions from the anti-discrimination legislation.

The Rationalist Society also conducted a survey of candidates on the questions of abolition of Special Religious Instruction, to allow non-religious School Chaplains, the redirection of funding currently provided to Access Ministries, and the introduction of professional ethics and values classes. The results overwhelmingly indicated support for the abolition of such classes, the allowance for secular chaplains, redirection of funds provided to Access Ministries, and the provision of professional ethics and values classes.

Interestingly, the parties most against general religious education conducted by professional teachers were the Australian Christians and the Rise Up Australia Party.

Results

What We Did

The Victorian Secular Lobby held a meeting on October 4th, identifying the major issues in the upcoming state election and reviewing the voting record of members of parliament on conscience votes and policy statements from the major parties. The major issues identified for the State election were Special Religious Instruction, the Equal Opportunity Act exemptions, the Abortion Reform Act, and the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

A campaign was decided that would target highlight these issues and target the worst MPs in terms of their voting record and public statements. Additional funds raised would be used for social media advertising. A staggered set of recognition, up to an including certificates for being "Secular Justice Warriors" and a "George Holyoake Trophy" were offered. This was expanded during the campaign to include assistance as well as financial donations.

A fundraising campaign was conducted in the last three weeks of the election from nine contributors which raised $1000. Ten thousand DL cardstock leaflets were produced, of which eight thousand five hundred were distributed by ten people in the last week of the campaign, and three days of Google Ads were run. They leaflets were distributed in the Frankston, Kew, Malvern, Preston, Essendon, Footscray, Prahran, and Richmond - especially after it was recognised that many of the main theocratic MPs were in safe and regional seats.

Results

Several of the "worst" MPs were retiring. Of those that were not, all suffered swings against them and all except one suffered swings greater than the state average, and it seems that at least one (Geoff Shaw) is almost certain to be defeated whilst another (Russell Northe) maintains a thin lead. There is some evidence that the incoming Labor government may be better on secular issues than the outgoing Coalition government; it has not given strong commitments to Special Religious Instruction, will not be amending the decriminalisation of abortion, and will be providing greater steps towards voluntary euthanasia.

On the other side of the equation it seems possible that the Liberal opposition will be selecting on of the worst MPs as their leader. This will represent another significant lurch in a party which was prepared to preference fundamentalist religious political parties such as Rise Up over more secular parties such as the Greens.

Whilst counting continues, it seems that Rachel Carling-Jenkins of the DLP has taken a seat in the Legislative Council. She is notable for taking a very strong anti-abortion stance, and opposes the removal of exemptions for religious organisations in the Equal Opportunity Act. On the other hand, it seems likely that one, if not two, members of the Australian Sex Party have been elected to Council. This Party has shown strong support for the separation of religious laws from civil laws.

What We Did Right

Conducting the campaign was the right decision. Whilst it is difficult to determine what direct effect the campaign had, it was certainly part of an ongoing contribution to raising secular matters as important, and involved our members in practical, on-the-ground activity. Our fundraising reached its major target, and the overwhelming majority of our leaflets were distributed and were well received, especially by secular religious individuals.

Our campaign dovetailed very well with groups like the Progressive Atheists and the Rationalist Society who conducted surveys on candidates on issues of secular interest. Of interesting note was the least secular religious parties where the ones most opposed to general religious education.

What We Did Wrong

As our first major campaign it was inevitable that a few mistakes would be made. The most important was leaving the campaign too late; we should have started very shortly after the original meeting, that way we could have fundraised more and distributed more. We spent too much time seeking skilled graphical artists to assist in the leaflet when a plainer design proved just as effective. The expenditure of funds on Google Ads was not particularly cost-effective, illustrating that once again the best campaign is word-of-mouth and volunteered social media distribution.

What We Still Need To Do

Our awards and notifications still need to go out. A meeting highlighting a secular agenda programme for the new government and meeting with new MPs needs to be held.

Election Material

All Election Campaign Material on this website is authorised by Lev Lafayette on behalf of the Victorian Secular Lobby Inc., 169 Wiltshire Drive, Kew, Victoria, 3101

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