The Victorian government is further pushing multiculturalism and secularism!

The Victorian Parliament is conducting a review of exemptions to Victoria’s Equal Opportunity law. This rises out of the introduction of the Victorian Human Rights and Responsibilities Charter in 2006.

The State Government is reviewing the exceptions and exemptions of its equal opportunity legislation so that it is in line with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, which has been operating for more than 18 months under the Equal Opportunity Act.

In June, a landmark study undertaken by the Australian National University found job applicants with foreign sounding names faced greater hurdles in the job market than those with Anglo names (the exception was Italians applying for jobs in Melbourne). Employees could be penalised for giving preference to long-term Australian citizens over new-arrivals. Rather than “racism” it could be that foreigners may have less English skills, overseas experience and qualifications, and cultural differences?

At present, a church or independent school can make exceptions based on a person's religious beliefs, sexuality or marital circumstances. Catholic Church wants their right to exercise discrimination of this kind to continue, the church equating any change to the law as a "threat to religious freedoms".

Many churches, religious leaders, parents and private schools vowing to defend discrimination based on faith.

Under the 53 exceptions and exemptions to the Equal Opportunity Act, a religious organisation can insist on staff sharing its belief. The parliamentary committee's options paper floats a controversial change that would make it more difficult for religious groups and schools to discriminate against people for "non-core" or “internal” roles — those not directly relating to worship or the teaching of faith, such as pastors and religious education teachers. But religious groups are fiercely rejecting the idea of core and non-core roles – all have a part in the ethos and practices! Churches and Christian organisations should have the right to employ people who support their ethos, ideals and give preference to people who live lifestyles in accordance their spiritual beliefs and practices. The weakness of the bill lies in the tension between the general rule and the exception: "justifiable discrimination".

The Australian Christian Lobby began a campaign against the review with a website called

ACL is opposed to a bill/charter of rights because it transfers law-making powers from democratically elected parliament to an unaccountable judiciary. Parliament is a forum for debating alternative perspectives. It is representative and democratic, whereas Courts are a much more limited forum.
A charter of rights means judges can declare laws ‘incompatible’ with their own interpretation of human rights. The vagueness of bills or charters of rights give judges open-ended interpretive scope to determine what particular rights entail and when they should be restricted.

In the UK and parts of the USA the Catholic Church has moved out of adoption services altogether because submitting to equal opportunity regulations for adoption, including the requirement to adopt out of same-sex couples, would have violated their conscience.

Australia's most prominent public figure opposed to a bill of rights is former NSW Labor premier, Bob Carr, but he is now drawing strong support from many quarters. If Attorney-General Robert McClelland is allowed to proceed, Kevin Rudd will find himself engulfed in a culture war over power, rights and values, with unusual dividing lines.

Human rights can conflict with each other. The right to privacy can impinge upon the right of a community to live in safety. Equal opportunity rights in employment can conflict with the need of a faith community and others to employ a people who share beliefs and a common culture.

How does one balance the right to life with the right to self-defence? How does one balance the right to avoid detention without conviction with the view of every Australian government that, on rare occasions, detention without conviction is essential for public security?

It is time to ask what this means for society if extra rights are invested in the causes surrounding feminism, asylum seekers, gays, national security suspects, law breakers and secularism, whilst long standing rights and services of groups such as Christians are withdrawn or overridden.

Our Brumby government, with support from the Greens, will make Christian institutions just another minority faith group along with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and thus create a more secular society. This is a push to further multiculturalism - a denial of our Christian cultural origins! This is an audacious push to quash religious freedom in Victoria.


My main point is: Employees should be able to employ people who share the similar ideals and have the same ethos. Faith communities such as churches should be able to "discriminatle" legally to employ people who share their faith and aims. Why should they not employ teachers, janitors, administrative staff and other professionals who are not like-minded? The core positions in a church or any organisation must be holistic in aims, and all parts should function together to be part of a whole. Our society is becoming more fragmented and communities will be limited in their expression of aims, and so will their functions. These laws will cause further cultural disunity and conflicts, and judges will be left to decide whose rights are greater than whose.

Well done, Vivienne for outlining and researching this topic. Faith communities should remain exempt from the Equal Opportunity Act with regard to their own organizations, where having the same beliefs is imperative to their not-for-profit organizations. As much as these organizations are a part of the community, the way they serve their community, say in the form of an overseas (Christian) aid organization, is often very closely tied in with their Christian, ethos - and the relationships they have with local churches, Christians, overseas Christians and groups, and each other in the workplace and organization. Of course, some jobs can be excluded from having to have Christians working them, say in an allied role... However, I know of one Christian school that in the interview for a teaching position, preluded with the interviewer inviting the interviewee to pray with him/her, of course to their Christian God. In schools such as these, teachers need to be able to assist students in the Christian faith and be witnesses of this faith. Non-christians may find this uncomfortable behaviour and nonetheless may still be hired in these roles, but at the schools'/organizations' discretion, people of their practicing faith may and should be chosen over non-Christians as they see fit. Of course, a non-Muslim will not likely be employed by a Muslim organisation! But they will want to work wherever and demand that they can carry their faith overtly maybe at their will, into a new workplace.

If parents want to pay for their children to go to a Christian school and receive an education with spiritual guidance, why shouldn't the school be free to employ teachers who accept their beliefs so they can be part of the aims and ideals of the Christian faith? Why should they have to employ the person with the highest qualifications and experience, even if they don't share the faith? This idealistic part of the position description should be just, or more, valid as academic qualifications and experience. How could they join in prayers and be a role model? Parents and students, and the school, would be discriminated against for having their mission statement and ideals compromised! It is not a vilification of gays and secular people or atheists, but about having a common aim and consistency. Doctors who are idealistically opposed to abortion should not be forced to perform one! Surely this would limit their human rights to practice their faith and conscience. Our State Government is out of its depth on this one, and it is an effort to further limit the powers and the contribution of the church in society. Muslims and other religions will find this one hard to comply with too!

Hello Vivienne.. coming in late here, but a couple of comments. 1. Referring to the Australian National University study you ask: "Rather than “racism” it could be that foreigners may have less English skills, overseas experience and qualifications, and cultural differences?" Please compare this with the study in question. Nothing else was changed in the résumés in question except the names of the applicants. To achieve the same number of interviews as someone with an Anglo-Saxon name, an application with a Chinese name had to submit 68% more applications, Middle Easterners 64% more etc. 2. The distinction between core and non-core roles is, in my opinion, appropriate. Freedom of religious practise is not an absolute right (we do not allow sati for example), constrained by universal rights. Under contemporary equal opportunity legislation, there is just prohibition on businesses and non-profit associations discriminating against on sexuality, gender, gender-identity, marital or parental status - so why should religions be according some special extralegal protection particularly if employment or commerce is entirely for secular tasks, rather than religious ceremonies? On a more tangential issue the incorporation of universal legal protections as constitutional protections is the most effective way to protect individuals from a 'tyranny of the majority'. The entire point of putting items such as freedom of speech as a constitutional protection is to ensure that politicians can't stomp on individual rights.

It is not about "discrimination" but about values. We can't have a value-free society as no one would be free to have ethical and moral opinions. A saw-mill owner would not be welcomed as a member of a conservation group, and a butcher a member of animal liberation! Organisations who do not support gay unions or abortions should not be forced to employ them if they do not support their ethos. It's not about hatred or vilification, but about supporting values. If fact, as Christians, hatred is wrong, but we can disapprove of someone's lifestyle but still respect the person. All parts of a body have different functions but work together for the common aim. The core and non-core roles are all part of the same body and should all support the same aims and ideals. Why would Christian schools be forced to employ atheist teachers, or doctors to perform abortions when they are contrary to their beliefs? Not everything can be standardised and monopolised to be completely neutral. There must be some absolutes somewhere, and Christianity is about a faith in God and about His Justice and compassion. As for resumes, it really is a different type of 'discrimination'. However, it is about the practicalities of filtering out prospective employees before honing in on a select few. It is not about country of origin, but about our increasing numbers. Multiculturalism has added to our economic growth and added an interesting mixture to Anglo origins. However, the tide has turned, and we are becoming over-populated, and the inherent problems are seeping through the cracks. We are short of jobs, housing, transport, infrastructures, and our suburbs are suffering from obesity. Without a monoculture as in other high-dense living nations, we are seeing greater violence, rising costs and stress. Our immigration is not beneficial any more, but clearly adding to our woes because our numbers are too high. Our "lucky country" is becoming a distant memory! There are just too many people being added due to our leaders' addiction to growth at all costs! Something must be done to stop the deterioration of Australia. Original Australians are being discriminated against because they are competing with a globalised population for limited jobs.

Spot on (!) - the state of rapid population growth leaves me very depressed. The business/political lobby that insists we need population growth to cope with the aging population proves that the same lobby is littered with self-serving idiots. Blind Freddie can see that all that does (along with destroying the country) is put off that "problem" for another 25 years when suddenly it will be many times worse. Are they going to insist then on increased immigration and baby bonuses to solve that problem? Limits to growth do exist.

Viviene, such values are discriminatory. Nobody is claiming that this is leading to a value-free society, but rather that the values are based on universality, rather than exclusion. As the Anglican Bishop of Gippsland, John McInytre, pointed out "How bizarre that the followers of Jesus Christ would oppose, and ask for exemptions from, a legal instrument that has at its heart a declaration of the dignity and value of every human life and the basic rights of every person. Jesus of all people, would champion an affirmation of fundamental human rights, which especially benefits marginalised groups in society and those least able to protect themselves." Christians, at least those who are not hypocritical, who "hatred is wrong, but we can disapprove of someone's lifestyle but still respect the person", should not have any concern about employing a person in secular tasks even if they do disapprove of a person's 'lifestyle'. That would be respect. It all rather reminds me of Ghandi's experience with so-called Christians.

Prejudice is unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, esp. of a hostile nature, regarding a racial, religious, or national group. Discrimination is the power of making fine distinctions; discriminating judgement. Employers, and clients, should be able to make distinctions based on reason and beliefs. I think you are confusing prejudice and discrimination, or discernment. What "secular" tasks are there? Not all people are secular, and not all values and actions are. There is no universality in spiritual issues. It is about an church/religious/not-for-profit organisation being able to uphold their holistic aims, their objectives, and all roles should be towards these aims. Without unified ideals, an organisation would be weakened and be less effective.

Yes, Viviene I am quite aware of the distinction between prejudice and discrimination. One should also recognise that the common usage of the latter word - as it has been for twenty plus years now - is that discrimination in the context of equal opportunity refers to prejudiced behaviour. Contrary to what you claim, all people are secular - otherwise they simply wouldn't exist. Secular means 'belonging to a time'. If people have faith that they also consider 'eternal' issues, well good for them. Nobody is preventing that. There is nothing in the government discussion paper that suggested that such faith-based roles be subject to EEO legislation. However there are plenty of areas where the activities of such bodies are not faith-based, but rather are the same sort of tasks done in secular institutions of the same nature. Religious organisations - in part courtesy of various government agencies providing them funding - are a major employer in the education and welfare sector. Surely should come under the same laws as any other organisation performing identical tasks.

Add comment