The Secular Party recognises the economic and social importance of education and its role in the promotion of universal secular values and social harmony. The Secular Party supports the 19th century notion that education be “universal, secular and free”. In recent decades, this principle has been disregarded, and there has been a massive shift in funding towards private schools. Privilege has been entrenched and indoctrination encouraged. The seeds of future divisiveness and sectarianism have been sown. We seek to reverse these trends.
The Secular Party recognises the public good of public education. This is best provided by high quality and inclusive government schools, incorporating teaching based on universal values and principles.
The Secular Party also supports an adequately funded tertiary education sector. The future economic health of the country depends upon investment in education.
Tax exemptions for religion
Religious institutions receive significant advantages in terms of tax exemptions and benefits. At the same time these institutions are largely unaccountable for their receipt and distribution of funds. The policy of the Secular Party is to end these religious tax exemptions and subsidies. This will benefit the average taxpayer and a level playing field will be provided for all charities.
Oaths and Prayers
Oaths sworn in association with a chosen religious book have legal standing in Australia. Prayers to a particular deity are used to open parliaments and religious references are made on other ceremonial occasions. The veracity of such oaths and the solemnity of such occasions is not enhanced by such references.
The Secular Party believes that all citizens should be bound by the same undertaking, irrespective of their religion or non-religion, and that ceremonial references to religious beings are anachronistic, ethnocentric and divisive. It is our policy therefore that affirmations be taken, following which a religious oath may also be sworn upon request. On ceremonial occasions it is our policy that these entail pledges of loyalty to principles, and to the people of Australia.
Personal freedoms should be based on modern secular humanist principles. Only secularism can guarantee religious freedom and we endorse this freedom. However those that adhere to faith-based morality frequently seek to impose their religious views on the entire population. This occurs in policies concerning areas such as abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, drug policy and gay rights.
The Secular Party believes in equal human rights. Same sex couples should receive the same privileges as heterosexual couples, in inheritance, and for all ceremonial, legal and medical purposes. Our policies on issues of high moral content such as abortion and euthanasia favour freedom of choice, and are based on rational assessment of the relevant issues.
The rights of citizens have been curtailed as a result of the ‘war on terror’. There is a risk that these new laws will produce greater alienation amongst target groups. Citizens therefore need the protection of legislation that protects human rights. The Secular Party endorses and supports a Bill of Rights Act such as that proposed by New Matilda. The purpose of this act is to formalise in Australia rights that have already been agreed to in international treaties that Australia has signed and ratified.
The Secular Party believes that ideally, expression of religious belief should be a private matter for adults. However we endorse the right of adult individuals to wear clothing of their choice.
The Secular Party believes that the religious indoctrination of children in schools violates the rights of the child. The requirement, whether by parents or schools, that children wear religious attire, is a form of indoctrination. The Secular Party therefore opposes this practice. It is the policy of the Secular Party that all forms of religious attire be prohibited in all government schools.
The Secular Party supports the right to access information and entertainment, in private, free from censorship dictated by religious ideas. We acknowledge the need for censorship for reasons such as violence and child pornography and to accord with accepted standards on public decency.
The Secular Party stands for the use of balanced judgement in economics, rather than any ideology. We recognise the general need for balanced budgets but do not accept free market fundamentalism. In cases of market failure, government intervention is required. We recognise that Australia’s structural trade deficit and burgeoning foreign debt is unsustainable and must be addressed by appropriate industry policies.
The Secular Party recognises that monarchies embody the concept of hereditary privilege, and that this is incompatible with the principle of equal human rights. The British monarch is also head of the Church of England. Having the monarch as the Australian Head of State is thus a violation of the basic secular principle of separation of church and state. It is therefore the policy of the Secular Party that Australia become a republic, with an Australian head of state.
The Secular Party recognises there are many other motivations for a republic, including that the people of Australia be ultimately sovereign and the source of any authority in government.
Strategic defence planning, as indicted by scheduled purchase of military equipment for the army, navy and air force, indicates the assumption that the future use of the Australian Defence Force will be used for long range external purposes in association with the United States. The Secular Party acknowledges the need for alliances, but does not accept that these should predetermine our entire defence strategy. We therefore will restructure our defence capabilities in favour of greater self-reliance.
The Secular Party recognises that civilisation is sustained by the rule of law. Globally we support the enhancement of the International Criminal Court as a means of dealing with problems, rather than arbitrary superpower intervention. We support the development of international corporate law as a means of addressing adverse transnational corporate behaviour.
We recognise that secularism is a principle that has wide application in solving a number of global issues. We support the concept of comprehensive secularism, (as defined by the International Humanist and Ethical Union) which entails not only impartiality between religions and the separation of religion from state institutions, but also the intervention, where necessary, to protect human rights from violation by religious assertions and injunctions.
The Secular Party is opposed to theocracies, whether Christian, Islamic or Judaic. A state that preserves privileges to a particular religious, ethnic or national group violates secular principles and universal human rights. The Secular Party advocates that the only possible long term solution is one in which all citizens have equal rights.
We recognise global warming as a significant and dire threat to global civilisation. To address the problem, global carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced dramatically. Existing “cap and trade” proposals may not achieve anything like the magnitude of reduction required. They may therefore be a counterproductive diversion. The required emission reduction can best be achieved by the global cessation of emissions from coal fired electricity generation. This requires the phased introduction of a carbon tax, nationally and internationally.
The cost of investment in alternative energy production will be at least a hundred billion dollars in Australia alone. This can be financed from revenue from the coal tax. To facilitate the introduction of this tax internationally, and to ease the transition for Australian industry, the Secular Party proposes an International Coal Tax to be levied on coal exports, in conjunction with other coal exporters. Revenue from the tax will be distributed domestically and internationally to assist structural adjustment and provide welfare compensation.
All forms of alternative base load energy production will need to be utilised, including geothermal, tidal and nuclear. Given Australia’s prominence in the world supply of uranium, the Secular Party considers that it is Australia’s responsibility, and to our advantage, to participate in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, including power generation and waste disposal.
Law and Order
The Secular Party recognises the need for incarceration to prevent harm, to foster reform and as a deterrent. Revenge should not be a motivation in punishment. The Secular Party advocates policies that stress rehabilitation, crime prevention and harm minimisation.
The Secular Party endorses all medical research, with appropriate ethical oversight, that benefits humanity. This should not be limited by misguided or religiously inspired “sanctity of life” prohibitions. We do not support research involving animals for purposes such as the development of cosmetics.
The Secular Party recognises the need for health services to be accessible and affordable for all citizens, including dental care and prescription medicines. We recognise that multiple funding streams together with the burden of oversight means that private health insurance, and particularly public subsidies for private health care, are an additional inefficient burden and should be removed.
We further recognise cost shifting and perverse incentives through the tension between State and Federal Governments as a major problem in providing adequate funding, necessitating thorough reform of Federal-State health arrangements.
The Secular Party recognises that intellectual property rights protect the interests of creators and provide incentives for innovation. However, property rights should not be derived from non-creative findings. Native communities should maintain ownership of innovations derived from their custodial knowledge, and patents derived from the human genome – the custodial property of us all – should be limited.
Recognising that such rights are a reciprocal arrangement, and the need for ideas to return to the public domain, our policy is that copyright not be extended to more than 50 years after the author’s death (as compared to the current 70 years).
Intellectual property rights should not subvert long held understandings about what “ownership” means – they should not limit an owner’s freedom to make continued private non-commercial use and copying of a purchased item.
The Free Trade Agreement with the USA is noted to have damaged an equitable property rights approach; we therefore support the renegotiation of the Free Trade Agreement and limitation of its inequitable consequences.
The Secular Party recognises that those who have become marginalised in society, such as drug users, criminals, mentally ill, need support and fair treatment. We view that unwarranted cuts to services, that push responsibilities back to carers or others, merely create further problems. Our policy is to provide incentives for individuals and companies to support individuals in need.
The Secular Party recognises the crisis in housing affordability. We recognise the need for Government intervention, including the need for the provision of public housing.
The Secular Party believes that the UN International Convention on the Rights of the Child should be enshrined in legislation so that children receive fair and equitable treatment, without being taken advantage of or being abused. We endorse institutions that support and educate parents in parenting issues including preschools, schools as well as other organisations that support the family.
In order for a democratic society to prosper its people and communities must show respect for each other. Even though individuals involved in past wrong doing may no longer be present, when the institutions within which they acted remain, it is a necessary first step towards future understanding and cooperation for those institutions to acknowledge their wrong doing and apologise.
Other Policy Areas:
The Secular Party is engaged in continuing discussion on policy development. While detailing our policy in the following areas the Party will use the same secular humanist values that have been used to develop its other policies. If you feel you could contribute, please feel free to join the party and assist us in our policy development in these areas:
- Industrial Relations
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