Alternative Law Journal
The Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, has expressed dismay at the moral decay he sees all around him '(The Age 1/6/04). Letters to the Editor indicate that many people are not surprised by this given some of the putrid and rank policies and behaviours of the Howard Government. Remember Tampa? How many children are in detention centres? Whatever happened to hospitality to strangers and who told terrible porkies about weapons of destruction and ignored evidence of abuse of prisoners and detainees?
Costello also attacked Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act arguing it encourages people from different religious groups to spy on each other to collect evidence to support their court cases. Differing views about religious beliefs, he says, can't be resolved by court cases. Critics of the Treasurer's remarks have pointed out that there is a world of difference between religious diversity and racial vilification with people from many faiths regularly interacting w1th each other in Australia's richly diverse communities. Yes, free speech is important and the legislation does not inhibit free and open speech. Instead it demands there should be reasonable standards in public discourse and seeks to strike the right balance in allowing free speech while prohibiting the promotion of racial hatred.
Defamation laws are also sometimes seen to be a threat to free speech. Costello's lack of faith in our courts did not prevent his family using defamation laws in their case against Bob Ellis.
In a particularly grubby vote grabbing operat1on the Federal Government has decided to add the words 'a union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others' to the Marriage Act. In so doing it is effectively banning same-sex marriages. The proposed changes would prevent Australian recognition of gay marriages carried out overseas in countries like Canada and would stop gay couples adopting children from overseas.
Meanwhile Greens MP Michael Organ (yes that is his name) introduced a private member's bill that would remove barriers to same-sex marriages, gay and lesbian adoptions, access to IVF and equality with heterosexuals in areas such as superannuation, employment and health entitlements. Even though Rainbow Labor has supported reform the opposition does not support the Green reforms and has said they will support the Government's proposed changes to the Marriage Act.
Several Liberal parliamentarians concerned about losing their seats have expressed concern, especially in marginal seats such as that held by Trish Worth in Adela1de whose margin is 0.6%. Her seat is inner city and has a sizeable gay constituency. Kerryn Phelps has accused John Howard of looking for another Tampa before an election and says he has chosen to pick on the gay community.
Goodbye to Edith Morgan who died in Victoria in May 2004. A fearless advocate for women's rights and a tireless fighter for social justice, equality and peace Edith is remembered with great affection for her humour, her no-bullshit approach and her s1gnificant achievements. Edith was closely involved with (among others) Union of Australian Women, Older Persons Action centre, public housing lobby groups and one of her many interests was sexual freedoms for older persons. With typical wicked good humour this became known as her 'feels on wheels' campaign.
From 4 June 2004 Sweden will be able to call 696969 to summons a white van with a logo of a large red condom with wings to deliver ten prophylactics. An initiative of the Swedish Organisation for Sex Education the project seeks to increase the usage of condoms.
On 24 May the former' Governor-General Peter Hollingworth, revealed he had spent a year struggling to understand the impact of child abuse. He regrets it has taken him so long and, he says, he is still grappling with the issue. Here is some free advice from Girlie:
Rule 1. Child abuse harms children.
Rule 2. It is never acceptable for an adult to have sex with a child.
Rule 3. Never blame the victim.
A study by the Australia Institute has found that our anti discrimination laws are Inadequate in terms of protecting vulnerable students. It has found that private schools have too much freedom to engage 1n discriminatory conduct, including expelling gay or pregnant students. Under current laws if a religious school finds homosexuality to be against its teachings then it could lawfully d1scnminate against gay teachers or students. It might also be lawful for a school to exclude people l1ving in a defacto relationship if the school did not bel1eve in sex outside of marriage.
Just who was on trial during the committal hearing of the 'backpacker' murder of Peter Falcon1o? And why does the mass media refer to Mr Falconio as a 'backpacker'? He had a car for goodness sake! Readers could be easily forgiven for concluding that Joanne Lees was the person on trial. Cross examination about a brief relationship she had resulted in puerile and nauseating headlines and to a media hunt of the man Involved. Something about this case carries chilling reminders of the abysmal treatment handed out by the media to Lindy Chamberlain. Joanne Lees' ordeal in the outback was utterly horrifying, her treatment by the media and our legal system -the stuff of nightmares.
DEE KAYYING is a feminist lawyer.