It seems likely that a federal election will be held later this year, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison shouting “it’s time to give Australians their lives back”1.
One of the senators for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is Zed Seselja, a religious nutter from the Liberal Party. Prior to the last federal election, he stated that the sky would fall if the Labor Party were elected to government federally; that the boats would start again (he didn’t mention the planes); rents would go up; the price of houses would fall; and electricity prices would increase. The latter is quite funny given that he said “And if you think electricity bills are high, just wait…Labor’s new carbon taxes and 50% renewables target will mean you pay more for far less reliable electricity”2.
It seems that South Australia, which obtains 60% of its electricity from renewables has the cheapest power in the nation. In addition, it is the most reliable electricity supply, as it doesn’t break down nearly as often as the coal-fired power stations3. Seselja, of course, was simply lying again. Now, the federal government is being dragged kicking and screaming (mostly from the National Party) to accepting a 50% emissions reduction by 2050 at the frightening prospect (for climate change deniers) of being hammered at the Glasgow climate conference.
Despite voting for the same-sex marriage plebiscite4, Seselja was not happy when the result was overwhelmingly for legalising same-sex marriage (61.6%). Indeed, the ACT was the jurisdiction in which the result was strongest for legalisation, with 74.0% voting in favour5. Seselja initially pledged to back the result of the national plebiscite in parliament, but when it came to the vote, he absented himself from the chamber6.
Seselja voted ‘no’ in the same-sex marriage plebiscite because he believes that Christians and other religious people could be persecuted for their views on marriage and sexuality if the law is changed. Needless to say, he didn’t give any examples of this supposed persecution7. What he fears most is not persecution, but ridicule. It happens when you have ludicrously archaic views of human rights and sexuality, and an ingrained attitude that the religious have the right to tell everyone how to live their lives.
The Liberal Party have been out of power in the ACT since November 2001, and it is unlikely they will ever be elected to government again, because they seem to be a religious rump attempting to impose their regressive beliefs on the most progressive jurisdiction in Australia. The progressive nature of the ACT was not only demonstrated by the vote in the same-sex marriage plebiscite (see above), but has also been clear from the census results, with the most recent one for which results are available (2016) showing that in the ACT, the proportion of the population with ‘no religion’ was 36.6%8, while the Australian average was 30.1%9.
While that was 5 years ago, a more recent survey (in 2018; not a census) indicated that those with no religion are continuing to increase as a proportion of the population. At that time, it was likely about 40%10. It will be interesting to see if that decline is continuing when the results of the 2021 census are made public.
Zed Seselja has been very quiet during the pandemic only releasing media statements on support for businesses and the need for a plan to come out of Covid-19 lockdowns. Most were party political in their nature, and Seselja was simply acting as a mouthpiece for the federal government’s policies. There was one ‘interesting’ statement which indicates how he will lie till he is blue in the face, in support of his regressive religious beliefs. This statement was entitled ‘How much unchecked power should 13 people have’11.
There are so many lies in this piece it is difficult to make their rebuttal shorter than the original statement, so I’ll concentrate on a few. The 13 people to which he refers are Labor and Greens members of the ACT Legislative Assembly who were elected by the voters in the ACT11. We elected all the people in the Legislative Assembly to govern in the best interests of all the people of the ACT. Zed seems to think that they should only legislate what his church tells him is acceptable. Unfortunately for Zed, almost 90% of the voting population support assisted dying legislation12.
He says: “The question needs to be asked in the context of the debate over whether Territories should have the right to legislate on assisted suicide. Because make no mistake – those arguing for the ACT to be able to legislate on assisted suicide are arguing for unchecked power of 13 people to legislate on the taking of a life.”11
These ‘unchecked’ powers are the same powers that the state governments have used to legislate for assisted dying. The only state which has not legislated for assisted dying is New South Wales, although in some of the other states, the legislation has not yet come into operation13.
The Northern Territory became the first place in the world to legislate voluntary euthanasia as it was then called, and it came into effect in 1996. In the nine months it was operational, four people availed themselves of it. In 1996, federal Liberal MP and religious nutter Kevin Andrews put forward a bill to outlaw it, which was passed by the Howard government in 199714. Like Seselja, Andrews lied when he said that it was all about regarding vulnerable people as expendable. If I had a terminal illness and happened to feel that my pain and suffering was intolerable, like those four people in the Northern Territory, I would consider voluntary assisted dying as a way of ending it. It would not be another person deciding to take my life; it would be me.
Seselja continued: “What is likely (based on the record of this Labor-Greens Government) is that we would have the most extreme assisted suicide legislation in the country, and could see the kind of results unfolding in parts of Europe and North America, where assisted suicide goes well beyond late stage terminal illness. In Belgium, it is available to children. In the Netherlands it’s available to children, new-born babies with serious disabilities and people with dementia and mental illness. Canada has also passed legislation to make assisted suicide available to those with mental illness.”11
Again, this is lying, and this time by omission. Seselja gives the impression that if a child in Belgium or the Netherlands ‘decided’ to end their life, they could do so. This is in fact only possible with the consent of at least one of their parents and the doctors concerned, and in the case of infants and very young children who are expected to have ‘no hope of a good quality of life’. Those with dementia are only allowed to avail themselves of voluntary assisted dying if they have an advance directive15-17.
The lust for power over people’s lives and deaths is what the religious are about. One of the funny things about Australian politics is that some of those aligned with the religious on the far right of the political spectrum are libertarians, who profess to be all about keeping governments or others out of people’s lives. It is also funny that Seselja will lie through his teeth to attempt to keep his church exerting control over people’s lives. It seems that the number of commandments to which the people like Seselja adhere has now been reduced to, at most, nine. We need to vote out these pious dinosaurs, who want to take us back to the 1950s when men wore hats, tugged their forelock to their priest, and women knew their place.