The Victorian state government is grandiosely committed to expanding anti-discrimination laws throughout the state, and is prepared to throw aside any freedom it sees to achieve it.
Prohibitions on peaceful speech and coercive powers to restrict religious liberty and freedom of association are all on the cards, as the government sets a course to ‘put equality back on the agenda in Victoria‘.
For this government, “equality” means special rights for some people, and diminished liberties for others. Doesn’t that sound a little discriminatory?
Just last week, the government gave its support to prohibitions on singing and displaying certain materials around particular favoured buildings. In this new age of anti-discrimination, the right to walk around certain buildings without seeing something disagreeable is paramount to freedom of speech.
Earlier this week, the Attorney-General not only failed to reject, but will consider extraordinary proposals from some “human rights” groups to give the state equal opportunity commission the power to conduct its own investigations, without first needing to receive a complaint. For some, equal opportunity laws are so essential that they must also be easy to enforce – so easy in fact, that the burden of proof is placed on the accused person to make their case, while also relieving that person of the right to silence.
That this did not immediately raise multiple flags with the first law officer of the Crown is worrying, to say the least.
The government’s view of religion and free association is also particularly concerning. Over the weekend, the state’s very own Minister for Equality, Martin Foley, “rubbished” the possibility of a religious exemption in legislation that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children. In ruling out the sort of exemptions other state’s provide, Foley said ‘let’s be clear: this is 2015’.
This, in conjunction with the Labor party’s commitment to make it next to impossible for private, faith-based schools to selectively employ people who share their values, sends a clear message: Freedom of speech, association and holding to a religious belief are a thing of the past, and rights to non-discrimination must now reign supreme.