Category Archives: Religion

Why Victorians should not put Senator Conroy last

There has been quite a campaign to encourage people to put Senator Stephen Conroy last on the Victorian Senate ballot paper, in light of his never-ending attempts to filter the internet in Australia.

I can sympathise – several years ago, I was advising people to put Senator Richard Alston last on the same ballot paper, for similar reasons, and did so myself. I was wrong to do this.

By putting Senator Conroy last, you are effectively saying that his policies are worse than everyone else on the ballot paper. I am utterly against the filter, but, that said, there are plenty of issues just as serious, and there are some absolute nutcases standing for election for Victoria’s senate seats. Let me provide a few examples:

Family First are a group of extreme religious social conservatives, and most of their members belong to strange pentecostal sects. They too want a mandatory filter, but beyond that, they want to ban internet pornography entirely (good luck with that), they’re firmly against abortion and euthanasia, and they believe that “Small Business (are) the True Heroes of the Economy”, whatever that means. Now, I’m not saying that Family First are a front for whack-job churches like Hillsong and the Assembly of God, but whenever Senator Steven Fielding opens his mouth, I’m pretty sure he’s speaking in tongues. Their Queensland lead Senate candidate has, err, issues, and in the last election, the party demonstrated their lack of judgement by endorsing Pastor Danny Nalliah of Victoria’s-bushfires-were-an-act-of-retribution-from-God fame. Stephen Conroy may be a devout Catholic, but he’s not beyond ignoring stupid church doctrine and taking advantage of the NSW surrogacy laws, something which his own state doesn’t allow. He’s far better than the Family First nutters and should be put higher on the ballot paper than them.

The Citizens Electoral Council are a pack of Larouchite loons who should be put absolutely last on any sane human being’s ballot paper. Conroy is far preferable to them.

We all know who One Nation are, and what they stand for. The only reason I put them above the Citizens Electoral Council is that One Nation couldn’t organise a dinner in a room full of fish-and-chip shop owners. They’ve proved that they’re too incompetent to be dangerous. Nevertheless, they’re racist and extreme-right. Conroy is easily better than them.

The Liberal Party of Australia is a socially conservative party with an almost-dead small-l liberal faction. It is led by a man who, when health minister, pulled out all stops to keep RU486 banned in Australia. He believes that “climate change is crap” and is so creepy that he talks to the media about his daughters’ virginity. One of the Liberal Party’s Victorian candidates that is running for re-election is a former National Party member named Julian McGauran. The Age has an interesting article that refers to him. Definitely going below Conroy.

Obviously, there are plenty of good parties to put above Labor: the Greens, The Australian Sex Party and The Australian Democrats are all socially liberal parties. Stephen Mayne (of Crikey fame) is also running for the Senate, and while I disagree with a few things he’s said in the past, he’s shown himself to be honest and generally progressive.

But to put Senator Conroy last on your ballot paper is to say that he’s worse than a herd of far-right, bigoted religious fundamentalists, who want to interfere with your life. Despite his ridiculous stance on the filter, I don’t believe that he is as bad as them.

Ah, the irony…

…of a Catholic Archbishop telling the Western world that it isn’t having enough babies:

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, today warned Western nations such as Australia to populate or perish … “There is a crisis in the Western world. No Western country is producing enough babies to keep the population stable, no Western country”.

You first, George.

Teaching religion to children is a form of abuse.

I don’t think I’ve seen anything much more depressing than the sight of hundreds of schoolchildren fawning over a wooden cross. Seriously. It’s just plain sad that religious schools are allowed to brainwash them in this way, and more so that the government subsidises them to do so.

I don’t know whether or not these schools were chosen for the report because they were populated with an unusually high number of children from ultra-religious families, but it was a considerable contrast from my time at school, where the vast majority of us were so contemptuous of religion that the school didn’t even bother offering religious classes in years 10 and above…

Don’t talk to the dead. That’d be, like, weird.

Sydney’s Anglican archbishop, Dr Peter Jensen, doesn’t seem to appreciate the irony
of his own statements:

Dr Jensen has also warned people against dabbling in the supernatural.

He says those who are grieving over the death of a family member or friend should not try and contact them.

“This is very dangerous – meddling in the occult is never a good idea,” he said.

I agree. Talking to supernatural beings and thinking that the dead might somehow resurrect themselves after, say, two days, is just plain strange.

Overreactions: banning bikes on trains and Australian internet censorship.

2007 closed with a couple of government overreactions, which mostly escaped scrutiny because the governments involved announced them at a dead time when no-one really gave a bugger:

  1. The Victorian government has banned bicycles on peak-hour trains in Melbourne, and on any V/line service which originates or terminates in Melbourne during peak hour. Now, I hate bicycles on trains as much as the next person (probably more so, given the number of bikes I had to squeeze past on the crowded Amsterdam metro, while I was living there) – but a complete ban seems overly heavy-handed.

    Wouldn’t it be more sensible to remove a few seats from the end of each train and restrict bicycles to the final carriage? It’s not like our public transport operators haven’t stooped to removing seats in order to cram more passengers aboard, in the past.

  2. The new Federal government is channelling the ghost of the old Federal government, dredging up a discredited internet access policy to appease a small group of Christian fundamentalists, who are too irresponsible to monitor what their own children are doing. ISPs in Australia will be compelled to supply a “clean” internet connection (read: no pr0n, violence or anything “inappropriate”) to all customers, and anyone who does not wish to be subject to this must explicitely opt-out (whereupon their ISP may well decide to charge a fee, and presumably flag the connection for easy targetting by Australia’s security services).

    Our new Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, then went on to show he comes from the same fine pedigree that produced our previous Communication Ministers, by deliberately confusing pornography (which is legally available) with child pornography (which is already, as it should be, illegal):

    “If people equate freedom of speech with watching child pornography, then the Rudd-Labor Government is going to disagree.”

    Apples and Oranges. As mentioned earlier, this is all being done to appease the Fundies First party, because the government may well need their one vote to kill off Workchoices. A saving grace may be that the government hasn’t got the ISPs on side, as Paul Montgomery notes. The previous government announced these plans several times, and never did anything about it; with luck, this will be just more bluster – because if it’s not, then either their plan will be unworkable, or Australian internet connections will become unusable.

This is why I love elections.

It happens, every time. What is it about morals-crusading right-wing parties that attracts them to such amusing incidents?

Of course, it’s not only the creepy political arm of Australia’s pentecostal churches that has, err, interesting candidates. The so-called Liberal Party has this fine fellow running for office in the Victorian seat of Lalor. I don’t think Julia has a lot to worry about:

“I would be very much in favour of intelligent design being taught in public schools,” Mr Curtis said.

Go ahead, but if you try to do that, I will insist that the Bible be studied only in the context of the fantasy and science-fiction part of the literature curriculum.


Poor old George Pell. Apparently he’s not much of a fan of environmentalists:

Cardinal Pell replied that radical environmentalists needed no help from church leaders to impose their agenda by fear, and that church leaders should be allergic to nonsense.

One would think that, as the leader of one of the biggest organisations in Australia that trades in nonsense, he would choose his words a little more carefully.

Too stupid to be allowed to breed.

From the ABC:

A sexual health expert says up to 20 per cent of schoolgirls are not getting vaccinated under the Federal Government’s Gardasil program, which protects against cervical cancer.

Dr Edith Weisberg from the Sydney Centre for Reproductive Health Research says some parents are not giving permission for the vaccination because they are worried it could promote promiscuity.

So, I imagine these people would prefer their daughters died a premature, painful death? That’s as offensive as honour killing.

Why does the Australian Christian Lobby exist?

I guess I should be thanking the Australian Christian Lobby. Not being an avid watcher of commercial television, I completely forgot that Californication was being shown last Monday. Never fear, however, the ACL’s predictable bleating about the show’s “gratuitous sex” generated considerably more media coverage for the show than it otherwise would have received, which prompted me to, err, obtain the first episode – and as far as black-comedies go, it wasn’t too bad.

I’ll leave aside the issue of why these holier-than-thou organisations are forever whining about sex on TV, yet so very rarely make a peep about violence – although I will note that the ACL did bang on about Channel Seven’s “City Homicide” show, also. I don’t recall them ever making any noise about the very excessive violence and torture in 24, but I guess it’s just possible that they were elated that the bad guys were almost always of Middle-Eastern appearance.

What I would like to know, though, is why the Australian Christian Lobby even exists? This is Australia. Our constitution guarantees freedom of religion. There’s probably not a better place in the world to be a Christian, because our society tolerates pretty much any belief, provided that you don’t go trying to ram it down their throat. We certainly don’t have the sectarian violence that Northern Ireland put up with for so many years. We give religious organisations tax-breaks. We even put up with the religions that are racist, sexist and aren’t particularly tolerant about non-believers.

I can only conclude that the ACL exists because these people, not content with living their lives as they see fit, feel a need to force the rest of us to live that way too. In a liberal democracy, there is simply no need to argue for stricter laws to match those of your religion; there’s nothing stopping you from adhering them as you wish (with the usual caveat of not hurting anyone else).

Don’t want to work on a Sunday? Well, don’t. But don’t stop me from shopping on the only day I find it convenient because your supreme-being tells you it’s a day of rest. You don’t want your kids given sex education? Fine, have them removed from class – and accept the consequences of an increased risk of teenage pregnancy, because no amount of your god-bothering is going to stop them if they want to. If other parents are happy about it, then there’s no reason for you to oppose it. Don’t like Californication? Well, for Christ’s sake, don’t watch it. Surely the name would have been enough of an indication that it might offend?

Want your kids protected from the evils of teh Interweb? PUT THE DAMNED COMPUTER IN YOUR LIVING ROOM WHERE YOU CAN WATCH WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE DOING! Sheesh, does social conservatism always come with a free frontal lobotomy?

Dear NSW Catholic MPs.

Please keep in mind that you were not put into office by George Pell.

Oh, and ex-communication should be worn as a badge of honour.