JERRY ROBERTS. Dangerous banking and religious legislation should be discarded.

Feb 3, 2020

Doctors are obliged to warn patients about the risks of surgery before wheeling them into the operating theatre. When the surgery is cosmetic and unnecessary the risks should be weighed even more carefully. Politicians should exercise similar caution with unnecessary, high-risk legislation.

The two most discredited institutions on planet earth are the banks and the Church. Their betrayal of trust revealed in Australian royal commissions and similar inquiries elsewhere has sent shock waves around the world. It beggars belief that our Government is legislating to protect these disgraced institutions against the interests of our citizens.

The specific measures now approaching D Day in the Parliament are the Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill 2019 and the religious discrimination legislation brought to the Parliament last year, withdrawn after howls of protest from all sides and brought back with indecent haste after higgledy-piggledy amendments.

The banking bill is a shocker and was referred to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee which is due to report by 7 February. The Senate committee is holding a public hearing in Sydney on Thursday 30 January at 207 Kent Street. Unfortunately that is too far too soon for me but I hope readers of Pearls and Irritations who are Sydney-siders will attend. I seem to recall Kent Street is central Sydney.

Labor Senator Alex Gallacher can be seen on You Tube questioning Treasury officials and exposing the fraudulent nature of this legislation which is being presented with the phony excuse that it is about the black economy, tax dodging and organised crime. Robert Barwick of the Citizens Party has edited a five-minute video of Senator Gallacher’s interrogation that can be watched on You Tube. It is a gem that would grace an episode of “Yes Minister” but this is no joke. The banks and the Government are coming after you and they have form.

The Cash bill is about protecting the banks at the expense of their depositors and is part of worldwide planning for the next global financial crisis. It is about a process known as “bail-in” which I won’t try to describe here but is thoroughly examined by Australian economist John Adams on the Internet. John will testify before the Senate committee in Sydney on Thursday.

The Government is playing to the strength of existing practice as many people now routinely use plastic cards even for such minor purchases as a cup of coffee. But when Government and Treasury cook up such an elaborate pork pie to sell shonky goods, voters should read the fine print.

Democracy is a delicate flower, wilting worldwide before our eyes. In Australia we find ourselves heavily dependent on the Senate. I hope the Sydney public session is well attended and people lobby their Senators to reject this Bill.

The religious discrimination legislation was fostered in the controversy aroused by rugby champion Israel Folau kicking off his new career as a backwoods bible-basher by quoting Saint Paul, who was writing 2,000 years ago addressing the Roman vices of male prostitution and paedophilia. Things don’t change much in Rome. It is indeed the eternal city.

I can’t get to Sydney in time but I did attend a meeting at ALP headquarters in Perth to listen to proposed amendments to the religious legislation. I spoke against the legislation and the amendments and I was surprised to read that even the Greens and the Australian Rationalist Society are proposing amendments. When you try to amend garbage you pick up infections through your skin and poison the body politic. This entire package needs to be thrown out. It is toxic waste.

The Churches should be leading the charge against this legislation. Christ threw the money-lenders out of the temple and the Bishops should throw the politicians out of their cathedrals. They have enough problems without allowing their institutions be become political footballs kicked up and down the grubby corridors of Parliament House.

Israel Folau’s comments were offensive and this legislation offends the letter and the spirit of the Australian Constitution and the “Australian values” that certain politicians love to talk about. It is a lawyers’ picnic and a whole heap of trouble that we don’t need.

When we compare the simple, elegant strength and foresight of Section 116 in our Constitution with this dog’s breakfast of a thing dragged in and out and back to the Parliament because the governing classes see votes in religious warfare, we see in stark relief the descent from the high hopes once held for Australian democracy to the depths of cynical, point-scoring that is Canberra today.

Sports writers blame Rugby Australia for our religious fiasco and they have a point. It was foolish to sign a long-term contract with a player at the end of his career. Young talent is needed and the most spectacular candidate is Rabbitohs recruit Latrell Mitchell who is such a gifted footballer that he could play any code, even soccer.

Regardless of who is to blame, this needs to stop now. The ball is in the Labor Party’s court. If Labor can find a backbone and enough guts to work with the Greens, minor parties and Independents, this fraudulent, dirty dangerous banking and religious legislation can be flushed down the toilets of the Senate into the Canberra sewerage system where it belongs.

Jerry Roberts is a former parliamentary reporter and a member of the ALP

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