Monday, October 5, 2009

Lord McDowall's letter to Victoria's Brumby and Hulls.

Heard about this letter from another person on Facebook and was directed to this website here.
I don't think anyone will mind if I post a copy of the letter here, the more who read it, are aware of its existence and should feel strongly enough to act upon it, the better.

The Chair
Lord R McDowall
LGBT Network
PO Box 4107
Glasgow
G53 9AP

5th October, 2009

To the Premier and the Attorney General of the State of Victoria in the Commonwealth of Australia

Dear Premier Brumby and Attorney General Rob Hulls,

I write to you a letter which I have previously written to representatives of the Egyptian Government, the Libyan Government, the Burundian Government, the Syrian Government, and the Government of Belarus; among other non-democratic, authoritarian states; to express my serious concern about a proposed or ratified law that adversely discriminates or affects Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender citizens.

I never considered that I would have to write this letter to the head of a democratically elected government in a Western nation.

I have no further need to express to you the seriousness of this nature, of which you are most undoubtedly aware. Your Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, proposed last week a ‘compromise’ on discrimination law, to allow schools, hospitals and other welfare services to refuse to employ or provide services to gay people, to single mothers or people of other faiths, whilst it will be illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, disability, age, physical features, political beliefs or activity.

To allow faith groups that run services for the wider community to refuse to employ staff that they believe undermine their beliefs purely because they are unmarried or are a lesbian, or to allow those faith based groups to refuse any of their services to a gay pupil, or a patient of another faith is a completely at odds with the principles of not only a modern, cosmopolitan society, but of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Fairness, respect, a fair go. These proposals are incompatible with the values that each Australian closely holds, and that your Government has a duty to protect.

What makes a newly qualified, teacher with less experience but is heterosexual better than a teacher with decades of teaching knowledge and multiple advanced qualifications but is gay?

Why is a nurse who barely passed professional exams, has been complained against because of poor standards of care or hygiene but professes to be a Christian, better than a nurse who was top of the class and goes the extra mile to make those in care comfortable, safe and healthy, but is a Buddhist?

Why is it right or fair in a democratic, modern society, and in an urban, cosmopolitan state such as Victoria, that ecclesiastic religious scholars should decide who is best to deliver the services they have decided to offer, rather than the mangers who run those services?

In what way does it ensure the best possible standard of care or of teaching when hospitals or schools can be prevented by the clerics who oversee them from hiring best candidate for the job?

Why does whether someone has decided to marry their partner or not make the slightest bit of difference in how they can carry out a job that they have the experience, skills, and qualifications to deliver?

No doctor would say that there are better at their job because of their sexuality, religion or marital status, no teacher would claim that either, because these characteristics, like race, age and gender, have no bearing on job performance.

The proposals to allow religious run schools, hospitals or welfare organisations to refuse to provide services to gay people, or those of a different faith or marital status, is not just discriminatory, it is divisive.

Do you want Victoria to be a place where young people can be excluded from school because of their sexuality? Where someone can be refused entry to a hospital and left to die on the street outside because they are of a different faith? Because they don’t have a wedding ring on their finger?

In the United Kingdom, a single equality act was brought in which ‘outlawed discrimination in the provision of goods and services’.

The principles behind these measures are straightforward. It can’t be right in a decent, tolerant society that a shopkeeper or restaurant can refuse to serve a customer because of his or her sexual orientation. It cannot be right for a school to discriminate against a child because of their parents’ sexuality or not to take homophobic bullying as seriously as they should…

The Regulations make such discrimination illegal. We want to ensure that when people visit their hospital, study at school or college, or even do something as everyday as shopping or booking a holiday, they get treated fairly and with respect, no matter what their sexual orientation.

The Secretary of State who brought in these changes was Ruth Kelly, a staunch Catholic. She recognised that her beliefs were her own. She was more that entitled to them, indeed they were her right. However the right to her beliefs did not extend to denying rights to other people. That is the essence of human rights; that is the balance of justice in a democratic society. Creating a society of fairness and respect is vital to the progress and prosperity of a 21st century society. This law you are proposing will do the opposite.

To allow discrimination based on some parts of the human condition but not others is to wilfully and criminally neglect the duty of the state to care for all its citizens without prejudice or favour. This does not provide a balance between the rights of religious groups and of the general population, this will foster intolerance, breed hate and create a Victoria that is dislocated and fractured, where citizens are subjected to unequal treatment for no other reason than some people do not like who they are. It creates unnatural hierarchies in society, where none existed before. A gay person living in Melbourne will see their Asian or black friends protected from the racist sentiments of others, but they will not be allowed protections against those same people who do not subscribe to the values of fairness that marks Australia out.

It will drive religious communities deeper into themselves. Rather than encouraging Muslims and Christians to work together, live and access services together and to recognise and celebrate the things that unite them, it only serves to divide communities and for groups to see suspicion, fear and intolerance against others where there was none before.

All people are either treated equally or they are not, there is no middle way, no compromise when it comes to equal treatment of people in law.

A state, a party and a premier who allows such intolerance to embed itself in society may win a bare majority of voters who also hold such prejudices. Yet history will judge you not on how many elections you won but on the legacy you left to the people of Victoria.

This law will ensure that many, unequal, dis-unified Victoria’s will emerge. Cosmopolitan Melbourne will be left as a rump of only like minded individuals, while those who are refused education, services or medical treatment will be forced from their homes to seek out places where they are seen on the merits of their humanity, not judged on the prejudices that others hold.

The Victorian Government has already recognised these principles of fairness and equality and enshrined it in law. The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities states it clearly;

People have the right to recognition before the law.

People have the right to enjoy their human rights without discrimination.

People have the right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law without discrimination.

This type of law, this sort of compromise you propose seriously violates the protections that were written into law only a few years ago. To remove a gay pupil from school, to deny an unmarried doctor a job, to ban a Hindu from teaching, is the exact opposite of equality before the law and equal protection of the law.

It is the exact opposite of the bedrock of Australian values and principles. It is incompatible with the guiding principle of the Commonwealth of Australia, the right of a fair go, for everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

“At the heart of Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities is respect: the belief that everyone is entitled, as we say, to ‘a fair go’. It’s part of our national character. It’s behind our willingness to help in times of disaster or distress. Yet the notion of ‘a fair go’ can be ignored, eroded, or corrupted and rights we take for granted diminished or removed.”

The Attorney General Rob Hulls was right when he signed his name to the Charter, and that must be remembered. He and the Government of Victoria must respect its citizens, and most of all, respect their right to a fair go, at employment, at services, at life. To allow anything else, like this law proposes, is unfair, unequal, and Un-Australian.

Yours

Lord R McDowall GNB (CNLE) IMC MEA

Chair of the LGBT Network

lordmcdowall@lgbtnetwork.eu

4 comments:

Andrew said...

Great letter and at least they will read it having been written and sent by a Lord. I just spent five minutes researching the Lord and did not come up with anything much. Will check later.

Andrew said...

Further thinking, something does not sound at all right about Lord McDowall.

River said...

What madness is this? "They" might just as well say I can't work in (wherever) because I have too many hairs on my head. What the heck difference does it make?? When will "they" learn?

Cazzie!!! said...

Well, there goes about 83% of my professional work force(probably more!)if this is all true. (And..more than hat if you include the people in Allied Health etc etc) So 1950's!! What is going on out there? Please let it not be true.

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