Submission to the Consultation Committee for the Proposed Western Australia Human Rights Act

Thank you for the opportunity to express the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc. opinion on this very important matter. The Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc. is the largest organisation of its type in the Southern Hemisphere. The views expressed are representative of our members. The AFA is prepared to meet with the Committee if necessary.

Herewith our submission:

  • Should WA have a Human Rights Act?
    Yes. All societies need to have citizens’ rights clearly itemised and safeguarded by law.
  • What rights should be protected in a WA Human Rights Act?
    All the rights declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • What form should a WA Human Rights Act take?
    They must be enshrined in a constitution.
  • How should a WA Human Rights Act require human rights to be protected?
    Everyone must be entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, whose decisions receive the full backing of the law.
  • Who should be required to comply with the human rights recognized in a WA Human Rights Act?
    Every individual; every organisation; every club; business; religious organisation; government department…with no exceptions.
  • What should happen if a person’s human rights are breached?
    The matter should be reported immediately to the independent and impartial tribunal for speedy investigation, followed by appropriate action according to the law. Reporting must be simple and easily available to everyone.
  • If WA introduced a Human Rights Act what wider changes would be needed?
    All laws that presently discriminate against individuals or groups, either positively or negatively would need to be rescinded and then rewritten to comply with the Act.
  • What else can the Government and the community do to encourage a culture of respect for human rights in WA?
    Introduce Human Rights awareness courses in schools from year one; inform the public through all media of the changes and the legal ramifications of failure to comply. Respect for the rule of law is the only guarantee of respect for human rights.
  • Do you have further comments about human rights laws for WA?
    Yes.
    1. Human Rights laws should guarantee equality for all individuals.
      Equality is compromised if individuals, groups or organisations are given special treatment or exemptions.
      Examples:
    2. Either everyone must pay taxes, or no one. It is unfair that religious organisations pay no tax – this poses an unfair burden on individuals, businesses and organisations not associated with religion.
      [b] Schools must be free and secular and have no dispensation from Human Rights requirements. Thus: No school should be permitted to discriminate in the selection of pupils on the basis of religious belief or disbelief, gender, sexual orientation, ability to pay, or intellectual ability, and staff must not be discriminated against on the basis of religious belief or disbelief, gender, or sexual orientation. Any school that does so discriminate, or promotes any particular religion, must not receive any monies from the public purse. {It is especially galling that schools run by religious organisations should receive enormous grants of taxation money when, despite huge annual profits, they pay no taxes!}
    3. All persons must be equal before the law and entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.

In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground…Article 26, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This means that no group or organisation may be given exemption from discriminating or special permission to discriminate against others.
Example: No groups, such as religious organizations, may be given exemptions to discriminate against same-sex-oriented people, or to incite people to discriminate against such individuals by publicly proclaiming religious dogma that presents negative discrimination as good.

  1. No girl or woman should be forced or coerced to either continue or terminate a pregnancy. Control over one’s body must be the sole responsibility of the individual concerned.
  2. The definition of a person, in human rights legislation, should not include: – a foetus, a blastocyst, an embryo or zygote.
  3. Whilst the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: ‘Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.‘ This should not be taken to mean they have the right to indoctrinate their children with belief systems that, as non- indoctrinated educated adults, they would be unlikely to accept as rational. Parents/guardians/ schools must not have the right to present supernatural beliefs and superstitions as a correct interpretation of reality. Instead, wide-ranging discussions and classes in comparative religion and philosophy – subjects that will assist children to make rational and informed decisions when they reach adulthood, should be compulsory.
  4. The only way to guarantee the human rights of all citizens is to ensure the total separation of religion from government. No religion, sect or creed should receive special protection from the state, or any assistance other than that which is freely available to every individual.

{Apropos of this, we view with alarm the inclusion of a senior clergyman on the committee. He has a serious conflict of interest, as he is compelled to put his faith before individuals, and cannot agree to remove the unfair fiscal advantages enjoyed by religion, nor their exemptions from discrimination and human rights as outlined above. If his removal cannot be obtained, we sincerely hope the Consultation Committee for the Proposed Human Rights Act take special care to ensure that it is the rights of individuals that are guaranteed, not the so-called ‘rights’ of religious institutions.}

Yours Sincerely,
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc


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