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Public Christianity
  1. Equal Opportunity – inherent requirements test
  2. Equal Opportunity – VHREOC own-motion powers
  3. Religious vilification
  4. Role for the Church
   


Public Christianity

1. Equal Opportunity – inherent requirements test

Of the inherent requirements test in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, chief executive of the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Helen Szoke said, "Religious schools or religious charities ... will have to show how belonging to a particular religion is relevant to the job they are trying to fill". Will your Party support the removal of the inherent requirements test from the EO Act, which creates uncertainty for faith-based schools and service-providers?

Australian Labor Party of Victoria [View responses to all questions from the Australian Labor Party of Victoria]

The Brumby Labor Government introduced changes to the Equal Opportunity Act which create greater certainty and which better balance the right of individuals to be free from discrimination, with the right to religious freedom. The changes:

  • Narrow the scope of the current religious exceptions to ensure that religious groups can no longer discriminate on the grounds of race, disability, age, physical features, political belief or activity, and breastfeeding.
  • Enable religious groups to continue to discriminate on other grounds, including religious belief or sexuality, if it is in accordance with their religious beliefs or is necessary to avoid injury to religious sensitivities.
  • Where religious groups do wish to discriminate in relation to employment, they will need to show that conforming with religious beliefs is an inherent requirement of the job on offer, taking into account the religious context of the employer organisation.

The position on the religious exceptions was developed after careful consultation with Churches of all faiths, the community and other stakeholders. Labor believes the amendments preserve the rights of religious bodies and schools to follow their religious doctrines while more tightly prescribing the circumstances in which discrimination is allowed. Labor will not be removing the inherent requirements test, which it believes is necessary to the integrity of the remaining exception. The new Act will still allow religious bodies to employ people of a particular faith and to require staff to adhere to the values of the organisation.



Family First
Family First [View responses to all questions from the Family First]
  • Family First would actively support the removal of the inherent requirements test which currently places an undue burden upon religious institutions.


Christian Democratic Party
Christian Democratic Party [View responses to all questions from the Christian Democratic Party]
  • We strongly oppose the inherent requirements test.
  • Any employee in, for example, a Christian school sets the tone in that institution, not merely by what he or she believes but, just as importantly, by his or her lifestyle.
  • As a matter of religious freedom, it should be the prerogative of the Christian institution which hires an employee to determine who is suitable, not an outside government body.


Democratic Labour Party of Australia
Democratic Labour Party of Australia [View responses to all questions from the Democratic Labour Party of Australia]

Yes. The DLP would support the removal of the inherent requirements test but would suggest some balance to the extent that the religious schools receive public funding for a range of jobs that do not involve religion.



Australian Greens
Australian Greens [View responses to all questions from the Australian Greens]
  • The Greens oppose discrimination.
  • It is important that anyone who is qualified for a job, be able to be assessed equally to all others applying for a job.
  • We would not seek to remove the inherent requirements test from the EO Act.

The Greens are surprised that some Christians (definitely not all Christians) oppose this requirement. A critical part of the Christian message is to love all, and treat all equally.

To support discrimination against others when the criteria for that discrimination is not inherently necessary for the goals of the organisation, seems anti-Christian.

If it can be shown that the gardener or office worker interacts in such a way as to transfer the inherent values of the religious organisation to the people there, then argue it. But if some roles have no connection to the goals of the organisation, it is simply unjust to discriminate against applicants for those roles. If a non-Christian is happy to work in a Christian environment and not undermine the philosophy of the group employing them, isn’t that a good thing for a Christian organisation to be demonstrating to the people they deal with?



Liberal National Coalition
Liberal National Coalition [View responses to all questions from the Liberal National Coalition]
  • A Liberal-Nationals Coalition government will remove the “inherent requirements” test from the Equal Opportunity Act.

The Liberal-Nationals Coalition believes Labor’s changes to the Equal Opportunity Act undermine the freedom of parents across Victoria to provide their children with an education that reflects their values and beliefs.

The government’s double standard in this move is highlighted by the fact that the legislation expressly leaves government Ministers free to continue to discriminate in selecting staff for their own offices based on political beliefs, without any “inherent requirement” test.

A Liberal-Nationals Coalition government will restore the rights of freedom of religion and freedom of association in relation to faith-based schools and other organisations by removing the “inherent requirements” test which Labor has imposed.

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2. Equal Opportunity – VHREOC own-motion powers

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 grants the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission unprecedented and wide-ranging powers to initiate an investigation into any matter relating to the operation of the Act without receiving a prior complaint. Does your Party support the removal of this extraordinary prerogative from the VHREOC?

Australian Labor Party of Victoria [View responses to all questions from the Australian Labor Party of Victoria]

The Brumby Labor Government reformed the role of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to:

  • Take a proactive approach to inequality, with an emphasis on education, training, facilitating dispute resolution and assisting compliance by working with business to prevent discrimination and develop healthy and positive work and service environments.
  • Move away from relying on individual complaints as a way of tackling systemic discrimination to an approach which creates a positive duty on employers, schools and other providers and acknowledges the wider impact on groups of people who might be experiencing discrimination – for example, if an organisation systematically fired every worker who became pregnant, or who revealed they were a Christian.
  • For the Commission to initiate an investigation, it must be a serious matter, it must involve a possible contravention of the Act, and it must involve discrimination against a class of people. While safeguards will apply to the conduct of investigations, the focus of the Commission will be on education and helping businesses to comply.

Labor will retain this extended role for the Commission, as it believes it is an important step in addressing entrenched discrimination and encouraging social inclusion. While these reforms are significant, they are by no means radical or unprecedented. Various equal opportunity commissions in other jurisdictions have similar investigatory powers and, in fact, Labor did not adopt a recommendation from the initial review to allow the Commission to conduct own motion inquiries. Labor also rejected the recommendation to give the Commission search and seizure powers.



Family First
Family First [View responses to all questions from the Family First]
  • Family First believes these powers are excessive and unwarranted, and should be removed.


Christian Democratic Party
Christian Democratic Party [View responses to all questions from the Christian Democratic Party]
  • The Christian Democratic Party (CDP) clearly supports the total removal of this prerogative.
  • “Human rights and equal opportunity” being such a minefield anyhow, such a “no complaint” prerogative would create further confusion.
  • Every organisation, institution or body has its own ethos and principles under which, within reason, it should be entitled to operate, without governmental intrusion or hindrance.


Democratic Labour Party of Australia
Democratic Labour Party of Australia [View responses to all questions from the Democratic Labour Party of Australia]

Yes.



Australian Greens
Australian Greens [View responses to all questions from the Australian Greens]

The Greens support VHREOC’s new power to initiate an investigation. This provision was lacking from the previous Act and has long been called for. Some people who suffer discrimination are unwilling to lodge a formal complaint for fear of further discrimination. It is intended that this provision be used primarily to look at systemic discrimination.  It is an import tool in the quest to rid the community of discrimination.



Liberal National Coalition
Liberal National Coalition [View responses to all questions from the Liberal National Coalition]
  • A Liberal-Nationals Coalition government will remove the sweeping coercive powers of investigation that Labor has given to the equal opportunity commission.

Under Labor’s legislation, the VEOHRC can launch an investigation into virtually any business or community organisation in the state; it can compel the organisation, its staff and volunteers to hand over documents and give evidence, and can then hit the organisation with a compliance notice without even having to prove any discrimination has occurred.

The legislation gives the VEOHRC more powers to lay hands on documents and interrogate the staff or volunteers of a business, school or social club than our police force has to investigate the worst of criminals.

The potential for abuse of this power is enormous. The commission is already being used as a political tool by the Attorney-General, who axed its independent chair and concentrated all power in a single commissioner. Many of who come may before these investigations and inquiries will therefore have little confidence in receiving a fair hearing.

A Liberal-Nationals Coalition government will remove these sweeping powers from the VEOHRC.

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3. Religious vilification

The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 had as its stated objective the promotion of racial and religious tolerance. However the Acts' civil provisions remain contentious, as evidenced by the notorious 'two Dannies case'. Will you commit to a review of the RRTA to re-examine the need for the civil provisions which encourage individuals to take legal action against people of other faiths?

Australian Labor Party of Victoria [View responses to all questions from the Australian Labor Party of Victoria]
  • A review of the Act was conducted in 2005, and amendments made to clarify and support the right of people to engage in robust discussion, provided it does not vilify others.
  • Labor is aware that the ACL participated in the Eames Hate Crimes Review, in which the RRTA was considered, and takes this opportunity to thank the ACL for its input.


Family First
Family First [View responses to all questions from the Family First]
  • Family First notes that the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act has to date served as providing an undesirable chilling effect on free speech, and has further created heightened tensions between religious groups.
  • Family First is committed to repealing the civil provisions of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.


Christian Democratic Party
Christian Democratic Party [View responses to all questions from the Christian Democratic Party]
  • Our party would, as a matter of urgency, review the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001, having followed the “two Dannies” saga with great interest and concern.
  • It is ironic that the final outcome and mutual agreement of the “two Dannies” case should have prevented the whole years’ long saga from even starting.
  • It is patently plain that in a free society like Australia it is a nonsense to hinder or  charge persons who challenge or criticise the beliefs or actions of another belief system - Christian, Muslim, or other.


Democratic Labour Party of Australia
Democratic Labour Party of Australia [View responses to all questions from the Democratic Labour Party of Australia]

Yes. The role of the law in religious vilification should be restricted to preventing people doing or threatening violence.  This objective was fulfilled by the common law well before 2001. The law as it presently stands represents an offence against freedom of expression.



Australian Greens
Australian Greens [View responses to all questions from the Australian Greens]
  • The concerns expressed here have already been dealt with in the amendments that were passed after the initial action against the “two Dannies”.
  • The Greens have stood on public platforms explaining that they do not agree with laws that interfere with freedom of speech: we have specifically said that we do not agree with the Victorian Racial and Religious Vilification laws.
  • The Greens believe that freedom of speech means you have to put up with hearing things that you might not agree with, or like.

It surprises some Christians that the Victorian Greens are opposed to the racial and religious vilification laws. Freedom of speech demands that such laws should not exist.

At the same time, it must be said that the Greens abhor racism and the spreading of fear and hatred of others in a community. Such activity should be fought and opposed. Education, advertising campaigns and maintaining the anti-discrimination laws, should all be used to fight racism and the deliberate spreading of misinformation to create hatred and fear.

We note that since the 2005 amendments there have not been any cases as extreme as the “Catch the Fire” case.



Liberal National Coalition
Liberal National Coalition [View responses to all questions from the Liberal National Coalition]
  • A Liberal-Nationals Coalition government will work with all interested parties to ensure racial and religious tolerance legislation operates as originally intended.

The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act was enacted with the aim of curbing racially or religiously motivated vilification, threats or attacks.  It sought to reinforce the long-standing Australian values of openness, friendliness and a fair go for all. However, the legislation as it currently stands has at times operated in ways contrary to what Parliament intended when the legislation was enacted.

A Liberal-Nationals Coalition government will work with all interested communities and parties to ensure the law operates as it was originally intended and avoids the unintended and counter-productive consequences that have occurred.

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4. Role for the Church

Christian charities and churches play an important public role in Victoria in the provision of services in the areas of education, welfare and health. What has your Party done to foster good relationships with religious communities, and how does it plan to work with them during the life of the next parliament?

Australian Labor Party of Victoria [View responses to all questions from the Australian Labor Party of Victoria]
  • Labor knows that the Churches, Christian people, and Christian values have played –and are still playing, and will continue to play – a vital role in making Victoria a stronger, better, and fairer community.

Victoria today is a diverse, multicultural, and multifaith society and Labor believes in encouraging the voices of faith to be heard. That’s why Premier John Brumby has regularly met with religious leaders of all traditions, including the Christian Churches. It’s why we hosted the Parliament of the World’s Religions late last year. It’s why since 2006, Labor has invested over $6.1 million in our Promoting Harmony initiative, which includes grants for multifaith community projects.



Family First
Family First [View responses to all questions from the Family First]
  • Family First believes churches play a vital role within the community, not only in the area of education, welfare, and health, but also in providing vital spiritual services and developing a vital sense of community and belonging for individuals within our society.
  • Family First will welcome the continued role of churches in the community, and foster areas where church charitable programs can be further assisted with government help.


Christian Democratic Party
Christian Democratic Party [View responses to all questions from the Christian Democratic Party]
  • Being a Christian party we are, de facto, a (political) branch of the Church.
  • Our members are already involved in other Church activities e.g. teaching and counselling of children in government schools under the Christian Religious Education/Chaplaincy programs.
  • All our candidates and supporters are members of a local church.


Democratic Labour Party of Australia
Democratic Labour Party of Australia [View responses to all questions from the Democratic Labour Party of Australia]

The DLP has a culture of respecting the Christian tradition in our society and the role that churches have played in that tradition. DLP MPs and senior members have always attended events organised by churches of all persuasions.



Australian Greens
Australian Greens [View responses to all questions from the Australian Greens]
  • The Greens seek to represent all members of the Australian community
  • Any group (churches and other religious groups included) will have access to Greens parliamentarians
  • A number of active Christians are a part of the Greens Party, and we continue to attract a growing number of Christian voters, as they see the importance of our stand on issues ranging from treatment of refugees, care for the poor and care for the environment.

The Greens appreciate the social work and important contribution that churches and other non-government groups make to Australian society. Our overseas aid policy, for example, sees the value of non-government agencies (including Christian agencies) in that vital area, and we would continue to support and work with such groups. 

Greens MLC Colleen Hartland has worked closely with different religious organisations throughout her term in parliament – particularly charity and social justice groups – for her family and community services and multicultural portfolios.

The Greens are not “anti-religious” or “anti-Christian”. We do clash with intolerant people of any stripe. But we sincerely believe in “live and let live”.

Even though we get attacked by intolerant others, we try not to respond with intolerance – as in the great saying: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  Of course we would work with churches and church charity groups. And we will work with non-Christian groups too.



Liberal National Coalition
Liberal National Coalition [View responses to all questions from the Liberal National Coalition]
  • A Liberal-Nationals Coalition government will work with faith-based organisations in a way which respects each organisation’s role and mission.

The Liberal-Nationals Coalition strongly values the role played by Christian charities and churches in the provision of education, welfare and health.  Shadow Ministers have had extensive engagement with Christian organisations relevant to their respective portfolios, both with service providing organisations and with representative associations.

The Coalition has also appreciated the constructive, well-informed and engaged approach followed by ACL in representing the views of its members on key legislation and issues before the Parliament.

The Coalition intends to continue to work in similar way with Christian and other faith based organisations in the next Parliament. If we are elected to government, we will work with organisations involved education, welfare, health and other areas to improve the services available to the community, and we will do so in a way that respects the perspective from which each organisation approaches its role and mission.

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