The International Charter of Human Rights
The Role of Government
At its simplest, the role of government is to protect and serve the interests of its people by providing services that cannot be provided by individuals alone. Any government that over-rides the will of the people operates outside its given authority.
Separation of Church and State
The Humanist Society of SA notes the fact that s.116 of the Australian Constitution prevents Parliament from making any law establishing any religion. However, in the 1981 Defence of Government Schools case the High Court said s.116 does not mean separation of church and state, but prohibits government from establishing a national state religion. Over thirty years have elapsed since that case. As recognised in the federal government’s Gonski report, critical inequalities between public and many private schools have developed; Australia’s multiculturalism has become more diverse; community values systems are more complex.
We therefore call for the Federal Government to legislate for separation of church and state in Australia in keeping with the changing values of contemporary Australians. We request: legislation that prohibits (1) government establishing any religion, not just a national religion, but providing any advantage to religion or non-faith as an effect of legislation (2) passing any law, or undertaking any administrative action that allows the sponsoring or supporting (financially or otherwise) of any religions or alternative non-faiths such as atheism. We ask the House to recognise the words of our first prime minister, Edmund Barton, that ‘the whole mode of government, the whole province of the State is secular’, allowing the manifestation of any belief or non-faith, subject only to limitation by law, but sponsoring or supporting none.
US President Barack Obama has voiced the concern that income inequality is one of the most serious problems of our time while former Treasurer Wayne Swan has said that the rise of the wealthy threatens Australia’s tradition of a “fair go”.
Since the 1980s the trend in Australia is to greater inequality. According to 2011-2012 figures the wealthiest 20 per cent of households have a net worth 68 times greater than the least wealthy 20 per cent. This threatens to create a new powerful elite based on ever increasing monopolies protected by governments they incresingly control.
Thomas Piketty in his influential book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, shows why inequality matters. Wealth buys political power. People like Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer banded together to defeat the Labor government’s resources tax. More recently, the advent of the Palmer United Party shows that those with a lot of money have a great advantage in political contests.
Inequality undermines equality of opportunity. The greed of the very wealthy is breaking the social contract that holds together people in a society. Behind this idea is a vision of society as a system of co-operation between equal citizens based on the moral understanding that everyone should get their fair share.
A fair share need not be an equal share. Incentives are necessary in a competitive society. And most people agree that special talents, education and hard work deserve a reward. But it is hard to believe that Australian CEOs who take home 70 times the average salary deserve so much more than ordinary Australian workers – especially when their decisions are not always good for the economy or the country.
The idea of a social contract is not obsolete.
Equality is, for Australians, a heritage value. Australians overwhelmingly agree that the right to a ”fair go” is at the top of their list of what Australia should stand for. The concept of Australia as an egalitarian society has become increasingly mythical. But myths that reflect values have power and those who are concerned about what binds us together as members of a nation need to take them into account.
We call upon your government to legalise marriage for same-sex couples. We consider the current ban to be a violation of the equality and universality of human rights as enshrined within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Australia has been a signatory for over sixty years.
Population & Demographics
Religious Instruction in Schools
Humanists in concert with South Australian parents are calling for the abolition of legislation that allows religious education seminars to be held in state schools. SA legislation allows for an average of half a day per term for the seminars. These are run by the South Australian branch of controversial and overtly evangelical religious education provider, Scripture Union rebadged as Schools Ministries Group (SMG).
It is claimed by Schools Ministries Group that “Christian Pastoral Workers” are not in public schools to either proselytise or counsel students. Recent Government guidance suggested non religious (or “secular”) pastoral workers be removed from schools.