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The time has come, the walrus said…

We are told we have an aging population that we cannot afford to support so we must all get off welfare and work longer. We are told we can no longer afford universal healthcare and that we must all pitch in. We are told that we have a financial crisis (cough). We are also told that “all things are on the table”.

That being the case, I feel it is time to reopen the discussion about euthanasia. I understand that this is an extremely sensitive debate where no-one should ever try to dictate what opinion should be. But surely it is time to consider giving people the option of avoiding suffering and dying with dignity at a time of their choosing.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in the Netherlands. When dealing with a patient’s request for euthanasia, doctors must observe the following due care criteria. They must:

a. be satisfied that the patient’s request is voluntary and well-considered;

b. be satisfied that the patient’s suffering is unbearable and that there is no prospect of improvement;

c. inform the patient of his or her situation and further prognosis;

d. discuss the situation with the patient and come to the joint conclusion that there is no other reasonable solution;

e. consult at least one other physician with no connection to the case, who must then see the patient and state in writing that the attending physician has satisfied the due care criteria listed in the four points above;

f. exercise due medical care and attention in terminating the patient’s life or assisting in his/her suicide.

Two thirds of the requests for euthanasia that are put to doctors are refused. Experience shows that many patients find sufficient peace of mind in the knowledge that the doctor is prepared to perform euthanasia and that they ultimately die a natural death.

The ability to refuse a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide guarantees doctors’ freedom of conscience. The basic principle underlying the legislation is that patients have no absolute right to euthanasia and doctors no absolute duty to perform it.

Experience shows that in practice the vast majority of cases of euthanasia (almost 90%) relate to patients with terminal cancer. Three percent of deaths in the Netherlands are the result of euthanasia or assisted suicide. Of those, 7% were done without the explicit request of the patient.

A 2002-3 study on hospital costs of older people in New South Wales in the last year of life found that

  • Care of people aged 65 years and over in their last year of life accounted for 8.9% of all hospital inpatient costs.
  • The average costs per person of those who died aged 65–74 years was $17 927 with cancer as the most frequent cause of death (41.2%)
  • Average inpatient costs increased greatly in the 6 months before death, from $646 per person in the sixth month to $5545 in the last month before death

A lot of the money being spent may not only be not helping, it can cause the patient to endure more bad experiences on a daily basis. The patient’s quality of life is being sacrificed by increasing the cost of death. For some families, that last year/month can be a genuinely awful experience for all concerned.

The discussion has to be about quality of life, not just length of life, and of course, religious, moral and uncertainty issues are involved. Many families have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order put on the patient record, and the health care proxy (usually a close relative) thinks that takes care of the problem. Yet a DNR does not address quality of life satisfactorily. You can only do that by having a discussion early on with the patient about how they want to live their life to the end in the best possible way. Most of the current physicians, family members and provider institutions really dislike that conversation simply because it can be hard on the person initiating the discussion.

With the process frequently driven by the medical system’s focus on performing aggressive interventions at any cost — and the reluctance of families to talk about death — many people who are dying do not get the care they want.

Worse, they often suffer through unnecessary, even harmful treatments. When patients have a terminal illness, at some point more disease treatment does not equal better care. Ending up in the hospital often means aggressive, high-cost treatment at the expense of quality of life. A 2010 Dartmouth study of elderly cancer patients nearing death found that 9% had a breathing tube or other life-prolonging procedure in the last month, and at most academic medical centres, more than 40% of the patients saw 10 or more doctors in the last six months of their lives.

A 2013 report by Australia21 – a non-profit body dedicated to analysing complex issues – found even though voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide were unlawful, they occurred ”not infrequently” in Australia with no oversight and rarely any prosecutions.

It said Australia’s laws were ”deficient and unequal” as people with the right knowledge or connections could be helped to die while others had to suffer.

Launching the report, co-author Emeritus Professor and former Fraser Government Minister Peter Baume said: ”Voluntary euthanasia goes on every day – but without supervision, without advice from colleagues and without rules.”

The report recommendations state governments should legislate now to protect patients and doctors and the Federal Parliament should restore powers to the territories so they may do the same.

As I have mentioned before, The Northern Territory briefly legalised euthanasia until our current Social Services Minister had it overturned in 1996. Considering the future, it is perhaps time for Mr Andrews to revisit the cost of the imposition of his Christian beliefs in denying people choice about their own lives.


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  1. Fed up

    What males me angry, is this government’s belief they can get away with anything. No lie is too great.

    What makes me angrier, is that they are probably right

  2. Ricardo29

    As a Territorian who was grossly offended by the religious zealot Andrews sponsorship of legislation overturning the NT’s ROTI Bill, I think it is only appropriate that he should be asked, indeed encouraged, to offer himself up for voluntary euthanasia. It would certainly the the community a lot of money.

  3. Ruth Lipscombe

    Totally agree!

  4. Anomander

    We live in one of the richest nations on Earth at a time when the wealth of our innovation, science, technology and our resources is at our disposal. Why is it we somehow can’t afford to provide universal health coverage for every Australian?

    We all know the reason – those at the top of the income pool are simply not paying their way. They are happy to avail themselves of the infrastructure created by generations prior to us and by our collective contributions, but they refuse to acknowledge this, citing instead their personal capacity to make money and greedily retain it for themselves.

    The health budget is growing exponentially because of the intervention of private insurance – an industry that contributes naught and does nothing to limit expenditure and profit-taking by medical firms. In truth it is in their best interests to see costs rise because then they can demand greater premiums, which then demands larger tax contributions in the form of rebates.

    The privatised health system, much like most other privatised industries, creates a recursive profit-making loop, consuming a greater percentage of government funds to support and industry that feeds profits back into itself.

    If we are to address our health costs, we need to nationalise the whole system and use the scale and weight of government to enforce limits, instead of feeding our money into a corporate black hole.

  5. Keitha Granville

    the time has come for ALL religious notions to be left at the door when it comes to ANY decisions for the whole population. If we want to be Christian or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or whatever, we can choose those doctrines. But we should NOT have to dfoolow them iof we choose NOT to follow them. End of life should be of of our own choosing, how and when – what in the hell are we doing medicating people to the eyeballs to keep them alive for another day, another week, another year. For whom, for what reason ? We already live longer because of a whole range of intervention during our lives – when it gets to the end and nothing can be done LET US GO.

  6. diannaart

    I am too full of angst at the freedoms religions take from people – just when I think religion couldn’t get any more powerful, they do. In spite of the decline in church attendances, the most conservative, fundamentalist side of the Christian Church (in Australia & America’s’s case) has managed to out-populate all the rest: Christian moderates, atheists and the mix of other religions.

    Freedom From Religion starts Now

  7. Douglas Evans

    According to Parliamentary Budget Office costings the Abbott government could recoup over $12 billion across the forward estimate period by removing fossil fuel and mining subsidies. Mining sends 83 percent of its profits overseas and gets billions in government subsidies, while tourism and manufacturing struggle under a high dollar and receive little government support.

    Supporting mining and fossil fuels puts them at a huge advantage compared to other sectors of the economy.

    The PBO has followed usual practice in developing its costings and accepted the government’s assumptions that the price on pollution is repealed and the general company tax rate will be cut.

    Anyone interested can access the report here http://adam-bandt.greensmps.org.au/content/media-releases/axe-13-billion-fossil-fuel-subsidies-greens

  8. Mike Wilkinson

    I am very much pro VE. I wrote this little poem last year to express my feelings on the subject. I’m no poet laureate but I don’t think it’s too bad 😉

    In Defence Of Dying Voluntarily.

    The cold I once found bracing
    now chills me to the bone.
    The dreams I once was chasing
    now race ahead alone.

    These arms and legs were stronger
    when I battled life’s long war,
    now too weak to serve me longer,
    they can fight the fight no more…

    The heat of Summer, draining
    the vigour from my limbs,
    I find solace in the raining,
    sweet coolness as life dims.

    I lie here, hurting, helpless,
    My body filled with pain.
    The drugs I’m given help less,
    I will not rise again.

    I want no tears or sighing,
    no sorrow at my end,
    all your fears and crying,
    will not make this will bend.

    I’ve decided that it’s time to end
    and will hear of no denying,
    be of good cheer my dearest friend,
    I embrace the art of dying.

  9. Douglas Evans

    Sorry the last comment was a bit off-topic but I guess it’s generally relevant to the discussion going on at this site.

  10. Anomander

    While our politics is dominated by fundamentalists with beliefs founded upon a 2000 year old superstitions, fear and concepts from an uneducated age, things will never change. Even when we manage to get people into power who are not religious (Gillard), they are still inclined to adopt their outmoded belief systems.

    How it is a small (and diminishing) minority is able to wield such power, control and influence over public policy?

    I still cannot fathom how it is anybody else’s business if I should choose to end my own life, should I ever feel a need.

    The very inhumanity of the deeply religious beggars comprehension, that as a society, we mercifully put an animal out of its suffering but we force a human to endure weeks, months or even years of unnecessary excruciating pain and humiliation , because some uneducated activist from a distant age wrote it in a book once and told everyone it was the direct words of some mystical sky god.

  11. Lee

    If a religious person does not want euthanasia then they are able to choose not to do it. They do not have the right to inflict their belief in a mythical being upon me and force me to comply with their own nonsensical rules for living.

    As hard as it is to make the decision, I consider that euthanising my pets to relieve their suffering is the final act of love that I can perform for them. It is a great shame that we cannot allow people to make the decision to end their own life and allow their loved ones to support them through that process.

  12. abbienoiraude

    My mother contracted MS when I was 16. For the next 10+ years she was not ‘told’ of her situation. For the last 18 years my dad cared for her full time.
    I sat with her one day and we talked of her ‘faith’ and her childhood, her ‘guilt’ and her wanting to have a ‘relationship with god’. I had by then become a full blown atheist but deferred to my mother’s belief system and promised I would support her in any way I could.
    As her hospitalisations became more frequent she talked to me about voluntary euthanasia (VE). She wanted to ‘go’ but was terrified of her ‘god’s’ judgement. I tried to gently allay her fears and unnecessary stress dredged up from her guilt ridden upbringing. I talked about her ‘meeting with her mother’ again and such things she believed were the positives.

    She was finally hospitalised and I went to visit. They were beginning their ‘usual’ treatment. I said; Wait on; NFR (DNR) order is in place. Oh they said…BUT I said i am not her next of kin…wait for my dad. He had ‘forgotten’ to tell them.
    We had a meeting with the attending doctor. Dad was silent. I said; My parents believe in VE.
    OH he said. Right. Then. We shall (ahem) ‘make her comfortable’ then shall we? Do you know what I mean?
    I looked at dad. He nodded slowly, sadly.
    I said yes.
    Mum died the next day.

    Dad lived for another 10 years with many many arterial/heart/lung problems. Finally he was loosing his mind. He said; I want to go like your mum did. I want VE. Help me.
    I said; I can’t I am so so so sorry…I want to but I can’t.

    He died slowly (not in hospital) demented and bruised from all his falls out of bed. I was there…watching as he went though each painful last breath. I knew he would have hated that.
    He did not want to live when his mind went, his memories, his stories, his singing went.

    I want VE when it is my turn. I want it to be legal so I can decide, so I can relieve my family of that decision I had to make and encourage and want for my beloved parents.
    Give me the right. YOU don’t have to have it…just give it to me.

  13. Buff McMenis

    Ohhh, my dear, dear Abbie … :'( I too have been there and done that. My Daddy had a dignified and peaceful death after fighting for quite a few years from the results of removing a “wart” without it being pathologically examined. One word from a real doctor who cared for his patient and he went to sleep. My mother-in-law went through the whole hog of fear, pain, religion (including laying on of hands, which didn’t work .. not my idea), drugs, ignominious treatment and embarrassing handling. I too want that Right!!! 🙁

  14. MissPamela

    I completely agree – Voluntary Euthanasia is choice that should be up to the individual, with the assistance of a medical adviser and the support of their family.
    One should have the right to chose to not undergo invasive procedures which may prolong life but not result in a quality life. One should not have to commit suicide and be careful to ensure it is done in such a way that their family can not be complicit in their actions for fear of their being prosecuted. This happens – I personally know of two cases recently and I am sure they would not be the only ones.
    Governments and those who hold religious beliefs which I do not follow should not have the right to dictate what will happen to me should I become ill and wish, as Mike Wilkinson said in his poem “embrace the art of dying”. This should be my right and my personal choice.

  15. Hotspringer

    Yes, I, too, support euthanasia for myself as does some 80% of our population. But this will not happen while there is a fortune to be made from old peoples’ homes, hospices and “palliative care”. How much do the companies involved donate to our lords and masters?

  16. PapaSmurf

    In issues like euthanasia, abortion, equal marriage rights (and others), I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of people who, like me, read AIMN or marched in March. The basic misunderstanding is this (and I’ll use euthanasia as the example, to stay on-topic): we believe that voluntary euthanasia should be made legal in Australia, with the appropriate checks and safeguards. We know it happens anyway, we consider to be a merciful and dignified option that should be available and – crucially – we’re not arguing for it to be universal or compulsory.

    We’re not forcing a Christians to have euthanasia. Or Muslims or even unwilling atheists. They don’t have to worry about it. So why do they oppose it?

    The thing is, if you stand by and let an evil be done, then you are complicit in that evil. And while I’ve no doubt that for many who oppose voluntary euthanasia, their opposition is a cynical appeal to the true believers; there are also true believers. For them, euthanasia may well be an evil, and if they don’t fight it, then they will be held accountable for letting it happen. Accountable to God, presumably.

    To turn this on its head…I consider female circumcision to be a hateful, hateful thing. It’s not enough to be told, “It’s not your culture, and besides, we’re not forcing your daughters to have it done. Leave us alone, it’s voluntary.” I think it should be stopped, and not just in Australia. Perhaps that’s how voluntary euthanasia is viewed by conservative Christians and/or Hillsong: I suspect it is.

  17. Stephen Tardrew

    I have been extremely tolerant of religions and their right to believe what they like however many are not at all tolerant of me. I am not a a theist, an atheist or an agnostic but a non-dual transfinitist which will mean little to most people. I have strong grounding in science and a comprehensive understanding of comparative religion yet I stand outside of anyone who thinks they know anything about the profound nature of existence. In a true democracy no one has the right to say when or how I may die but I most certainly do. I am thoroughly sick of this dichotomy between religions and atheists and hedging agnostics. Believe it or not there are other alternatives however the debate is always couched in religious or atheistic metaphors.

    There are so many ways we could find the capital to provide the necessary care and right to voluntary euthanasia given the will and intelligence to accept our moral obligations to others. For example, carbon tax; wealth tax; resources tax; a tax on all market financial transactions; international agreement to tax off shore accounts; comprehensive economic stimulus using fiscal policy; recognition that quantitative easing is feeding the bank reserves balance sheets (money is not being created) while they are not providing lending capital which the banks generate themselves. Put simply the banks are refusing to lend while playing the stock market which provides better returns.

    The only way into the future is through lateral thinking and revisionary ideas that challenge a dysfunctional status quo. Our constitution is a mess and that is why we are in a mess. Greed and inequality are swallowing up wealth.

    Here are a list of positive benefits form more equitable redistribution of wealth.

    1. People enjoy better health and higher life expectancy.
    2. Fewer citizens develop drug addictions.
    3. People are less victimized by violence.
    4 .Birth rates amongst teenage girls are lower.
    5. Children experience higher levels of well-being.
    6. The rate of obesity declines.
    7. Mental illness is less common.
    8. Opportunities for social mobility are more widespread.

    Enough is Enough: Rob Duetz and Dan O’Neill p.92 ( also see The Spirit Level)

    The potential savings are astronomical yet Abbot and Hockey are telling us we are on a deficit highway to hell. Meanwhile senior citizens are seen as a burden when we should ethically consider every person of equal importance and benefit to our society. I am getting fed up with the vilification of the underprivileged while markets are making a killing You can’t fool me you devious bastards.

  18. Lee

    “The thing is, if you stand by and let an evil be done, then you are complicit in that evil. And while I’ve no doubt that for many who oppose voluntary euthanasia, their opposition is a cynical appeal to the true believers; there are also true believers. For them, euthanasia may well be an evil, and if they don’t fight it, then they will be held accountable for letting it happen. Accountable to God, presumably.”

    The thing is, religious folks make up the rules as they go along, including the entire LNP front bench. They are disobeying the word of God in so many ways I’ve lost count. Not one of them is Christlike in their actions and words.

  19. Douglas Evans

    I’m a bit surprised at the rush among commenters here to blame religion for State opposition to voluntary euthanasia. True all the major religions proscribe both murder and suicide and would presumably frown on voluntary euthanasia (VE). True certain fundamentalist Christian Churches well established in swing seats attempt to have politicians enshrine their beliefs in the law of the land by lobbying. True politicians are inclined to put on their most pious expressions and invoke ‘religious beliefs’ as part of their explanation for taking a position on VE or gay marriage or abortion when the matter is entirely driven by political expediency. It’s not the tenets of Christianity but the threat of losing votes that drives opposition to (for example) VE in Australia. That it might be Churches who are threatening votes does not mean that it is their religion that is bringing about this state of affairs. In Australia we are supposed to have separation of Church and State

    Section 116 of The Australian Constitution states: “The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”

    Seems pretty clear that any political attempt to impose a religious observance via legislation is proscribed by the Constitution. I would have thought that the striking down of the ACT and NT voluntary euthanasia laws fell into this category but whatever, our Constitution prohibits Governments from enshrining religious teachings in the law of the land. The conservative moral lobby that we find so objectionable is not the same as the religion it wears as a cloak of legitimacy. Whatever they may say to hide their ultimate motives the actions of our politicians on these matters are driven by the fear of losing their seat not by the word of God.

  20. Lee

    “Whatever they may say to hide their ultimate motives the actions of our politicians on these matters are driven by the fear of losing their seat not by the word of God.”

    Surveys have indicated that the majority of Australians want voluntary euthanasia. Why don’t they put it to a referendum?

  21. diannaart


    Do you or anyone have any info on the number of atheists or agnostics in the Liberal Party?

    I suspect Malcom Turnbull is an in the closet atheist. Recent history shows, that if one is not completely au fait with Tony Abbott … bad things seem to happen to these people… just sayin’.

  22. Douglas Evans

    Good question. What do you think the answer is?

  23. Douglas Evans

    What would it tell us if we knew how many there are?

  24. 'FairGo Australia'

    We must take care of the people who genuinely do not have the resources to assist them … Being compassionate and responsible is the first act of looking after such people who live in this predicament … This must be the first priority that any government should take … Looking after the disadvantaged is paramount in the evolution of humanity towards equality …

  25. Douglas Evans

    In 2011-12 the Property industry which I guess might include the companies you ask about (I certainly can’t see any other likely category) donated about $500,000 about 37% to Labor, about 33% to Qld LNP and about 20% to the Libs. This makes aged care – retirement villages, nursing homes and hospices pretty small beer as donors go.

  26. nurses1968

    Malcolm Turnbull is a convert to Roman Catholicism from Presbyterianism

  27. Stephen Tardrew

    Regardless Doug it is not so much the religions as their representatives in government so there is in fact a causal chain. Vilifying religions does not help but rational arguments are valid when they are complicit in social injustice, prejudice and intolerance.

    If the foo shits wear it.

  28. abbienoiraude

    Oh heck and blimey. There is nothing more hell-bent then a convert especially one from the Pressduds to the Catholics.
    No joy there, then.

    (I suspect in USA not one politician would admit to being atheist/agnostic/whateva….not worth their career nor their life. Atheism is on the rise in USA but most would never admit to it so go along with the ‘god bless merca’ catchcry. We are heading in the same direction…get rid of ‘Lord’s prayer’ at beginning of Parlt session. It is embarrassing in a multicultural Nation!)

    Now hand me that ‘separation of church and state’ and let’s get this thing rolling.

  29. Stephen Tardrew

    Thanks Doug:

    Missed the $12 billion in subsidies in my first post.

  30. Lee

    There is no separation of church and state. The reading of the Lord’s Prayer in parliament is proof of that. I think that candidates should have to declare their religious affiliation to the electorate. I prefer critical thinking skills in my politicians. When I learn that someone is a devout Christian that throws a big question mark over their ability to think critically. Fundamentalist Christians are unlikely to give a rat’s posterior about environmental issues. Many of them believe that God told them to rule over everything and use it as they see fit. They think that Jesus is returning soon and they will be raptured, so there is no need to look after the planet. The view of religious folks on women’s issues are also likely to be skewed. They are elected to represent us and adherence to a religious faith is a potential conflict of interest.

  31. Evan

    Perhaps it is time for an “ultimate solution”, legalise voluntary euthanasia and provide a medicare rebate for it.
    This might overcome their religious resistance to the idea.

  32. Lee

    Provide a rebate to whom? I don’t think the patient has any more need for money.

  33. Evan

    I think you missed the point.

  34. Kaye Lee

    I must say I hesitated to bring up the economic aspect of this debate because it should be a basic human right to have the comfort of knowing that you won’t have to suffer if that is your choice. I find myself driven to find economic justifications for everything because it seems to be all this government understands, but even that understanding is blinkered by ideology.

  35. sam

    The aging population is a myth.

    The government cannot run out of money! Australia is a soverign currency issuing entity with a large underutilisation of its population (in other words lots of people unemployed/underemployed/hidden employment).
    We have 25%+ Youth not working or in full time education. (be casreful because ‘how’australia measures unemployment means you count as employed if you work one hour a week/you dissapear off the ‘unemployed’ list as soon as you give up looking for work).

    Why does’nt a policy maker connect the dots and do what has always historically worked. Create employment and an industry around better health care.

    Sounds like a logistical problem not a money problem.
    All this is neo-liberal economic nonesense to kill your grandparents.

    In essence the netherlands has been running a perfectly equitable working euthenasia system. Why not just adopt this as part of a larger comprehensive (no one left behind) health care system.

    Liberals only god is the free market (correction rigged free market where their mates get all the best deals). Unsurprisingly of course there will be religious elements but its because it suits their primary ambition which is ‘race to the bottom’ for australians.

  36. Don S

    The problem is that the politicians think they own my body and the priests think they own my soul.

    They are both wrong.

  37. Kaye Lee

    And we wake this morning to find…..

    “Australia will buy 58 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) at a cost of more than $12 billion after the Federal Government gave the go ahead for the purchase yesterday.
    The Government says it will also consider the option of buying another squadron of the next-generation fighter jets to eventually replace the RAAF’S F/A-18 Super Hornets.
    As part of the announcement, more than $1.6 billion will be spent on new facilities at air bases in Williamtown in New South Wales and Tindal in the Northern Territory.”

    What’s more, we are buying them from the US so we create zero jobs and lose 12 billion from OUR economy so Tony can play his “suck up to the US and the defence department” war games.

  38. Douglas Evans

    Stephen, Lee and diannaart
    I am an atheist (in line with my earlier commitment to Buddhism). I have no religious barrows to push. However it seems to me that an odd sort of hysteria often creeps into the comments on AIMN when religion comes into the discussion. People that set high store on critical thinking seem to chuck it out the window when the Church is on the agenda. For example a perfectly reasonable objection to the worryingly successful lobbying activities of certain fundamentalist Christian churches morphs unquestioned into a wholesale rejection of the role of religion in society. Is the problem here religion per se, the specific theology that forms the background to the organization or the fact that this organization by virtue of tradition enjoys particular advantages that it quite unethically seeks to exploit. I reckon it’s the latter.

    When the sanctimonious hypocrites among those we elect to represent us (from both the ‘old’ parties – there’s plenty of them on the Labor side also) hold their hands on their hearts and invoke their ‘deeply held’ religious beliefs as justification for the continued presence of various forms of discrimination in our laws is their motivation to be found in the Bible or in the their voter base? Is the problem the religion they choose to cloak themselves in (exactly as the racists in the Cronulla beach riots cloaked themselves in the Australian flag) or the power unethically wielded by this organization? In both cases I think it’s the latter.

    The raft of abuse scandals that have surfaced worldwide over the last decade make it clear that religious organizations, granted unmonitored power over vulnerable individuals, are as capable of criminal abuse of the powerless as groups based on (for example) racial identity or political belief. Is the issue here the religion that forms the background rationale to the group’s existence or the propensity of people with too much unmonitored power to do bad things to those they have power over? I suggest the latter.

    Lee points to the reading of the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament as evidence that there is no separation of church and state. I reckon this is drawing a very long bow. Certainly it’s a worrying sign of religious encroachment on our political processes but the fact is that the Constitution guarantees us this separation. If it is being eroded by the activities of special interest groups the ethical response is to push back by pointing this out and engaging in the political process rather than by railing online against a set of ideas we don’t personally find attractive.

    I could go on but won’t. I think these distinctions are important. The first step to finding a solution to a problem is the clear understanding of what the problem actually is. I recognize that commenting in this way is swimming against the current. Atheism is the new black and for a decade now the new atheists, Dawkins, Harris, De Bouton et al have been pumping out distressingly simplistic books on the topic that allow educated finger waggers to claim the moral high ground. I don’t buy it. There are pros as well as cons in this discussion. The topic is complex and profoundly rooted in what it is to be human. I reckon cautious examination of the issues (which are bound to become more pressing as the crisis deepens) is more useful than vehement absolutism.

    I note that Van Badham in the Guardian agrees. Her Easter message is well worth reading. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/22/its-time-for-the-right-to-stop-tarnishing-christianitys-image

  39. Kaye Lee

    You talk about “the religion” like it is a thing on its own. What is religion if not the people and organisations that come together in its name?

    There are definite pluses in this coming together. Many good-hearted people do a lot of practical good for those in need. It heightens a sense of community, something that has been lost in many areas. It gives a starting place for lonely people to meet others. As a philosophy, the various religions provide the basis for a moral and ethical code for a growing society.

    But I find the amount of time and money wasted on ceremony and worship against the principles they purport to represent. Religious organisations, perhaps more than any other, are both the beneficiary and the victim of factional fighting. New ideas aren’t welcomed so splinter groups form and fierce competition ensues. It is not productive. I also resent their dictating attitudes about contraception, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia etc, by invoking the wrath of god scare tactic.

    The unquestioned power bestowed on religious organisations makes them very open to corruption. As with politics, you don’t really need any qualifications or specific experience or skills to get the job. The idea that they provide pastoral care is silly when you look at George Pell, consider the fact that Tony Abbott even contemplated the priesthood, and the shocking revelations from the Royal Commission.

    The Pope is making some wonderful speeches about lifting the world from poverty, while the Vatican remain one of the world’s largest players on the stock market with wealth beyond counting.

    It is hard to respect a philosophy that stems from a book written by men thousands of years ago when the practice has been so corrupted by those in power.

    I hasten to say there are many religious leaders for whom I have a great deal of respect and whose work I truly admire for making a real positive contribution to society. But these are people who earn that respect for their personal qualities which would no doubt carry through to whatever path they chose.

    I guess that appraisal by me ignores the spiritual aspect which is showing my personal beliefs. For me spirituality has nothing to do with religion. Religion, for me, is the people rather than, as Napoleon put it, a competition about who has the best imaginary friend.

    I guess it boils down to me not accepting the “rule by fear” approach. God will love and reward you if you do this or hate and punish you if you do that.

  40. diannaart


    I thought I made myself clear that my targets were the fundamentalists who do indeed use religion as a cloak for their motives.

    On another blog I responded to Kaye Lee my agreement that organisations such as the Unitarian Church express the more ideal aspects of Christianity.

    Now, according to Nurses1968, even Malcolm Turnbull is a convert. I would posit this makes for 99% Christian Liberal government. Yes, I am aware that Labor harbours its share of Christians and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists – Labor being a slightly broader ‘church’ than the Libs.

    Why is it important to know how many of our politicians are religious?, for the same reason we need to know if our leaders are capable of governing for all and not just the few. Since September 7 2013, the Federal Government has clearly been governing for the few. We need to ask why and part (only part – there’s the unholy alliance of corporate interests as well) of the answer is the domination by the more fundamentalist side of the Christian Church.

    I agree with others that the ritual of opening parliament with the Lord’s Prayer is indicative of exclusion of both other religions and people who simply have no particular religious affiliation.

    Religion has immense influence on our access to health services right through from birth to death. I do no want any religion telling me how to live – however, in Australia and the USA the Christian Church does have direct influence in my life. I can’t even die in peace from these control freaks!

    Apologies, that a Australia has become what it is today rather than the vigorous, progressive and inclusive nation it could be, saddens me every single day.

  41. Stephen Tardrew

    Dougals agreed.

    That is exactly my point. Nevertheless when ethical imperatives override ideology, and dogma causes harm, they must be challenged including the likes of Hitchins and Dawkins. Believe what you want, atheists included, but unless you can prove absolute knowledge then claims to truth are fallacious. We have no more than myopic epoch relative proofs. I have gone into the complexities of physic, cosmology and mathematical paradoxes and counterintuitives before suffice it to say creative and innovative minds always leave the door open to myriad possibilities. I accept that determinist purposeless deontology is far from the functional reality of subjectively creative purposeful teleology, for example the utility of watches, and so the paradoxes and contradictions are written bare faced upon the fabric of reality.

    We can embrace factual knowledge while holding subjective metaphysical points of view however they must be held accountable to some empirical, ethical and rational standards. And so people, in general, need a sense of mystery awe and wonder that leads to compassion, equity utility, kindness and love. One has to have the courage to accept the things we do know and embrace those that we do not. On million years of technological evolution and we become future primitives. Our egos are survival mechanisms that are driven by primitive autonomic emotional fear imperatives. Failure to rationally account for such compulsions is leading us down a path to self-destruction and further misery. Ergo we are all to some degree right and some degree wrong nevertheless there is an urgent need to be flexible open and creative if we are to survive.
    Backward referring traditionalism and ideology will not help us make the necessary transitions based upon obvious testable facts.

    As you note it is a complex problem but one we are more than capable of resolving in the interest of survival based upon foundational facts and mutual respect.

  42. diannaart

    Perhaps a reminder of how both the Libs and Labor have aided the Christian political agenda in our schools:

    To date from when first implemented by John Howard, the School Chaplaincy Program, has cost the taxpayer half a Billion dollars.

  43. Dan Rowden

    On Malcolm Turnbull’s status, from an Australian Story interview:

    3 August , 2009

    I didn’t have a particularly religious upbringing at all. When I went to boarding school, particularly when I was at the boarding school at Randwick when I was in high school,, say, from 1967 for about four years, the boys would go to their respective churches and I went to the local Presbyterian church in Randwick and that… so I regarded myself as Presbyterian, although not a particularly diligent one or only attending church occasionally. But some years later, I became a Roman Catholic which, of course, is the religion of Lucy’s family and that’s… you know, I’ve enjoyed that.

    I enjoy the liturgy; I enjoy the sacraments, the Catholic tradition. I think it’s a wonderful tradition. I’m not a sectarian person at all. I don’t imagine that the Catholic tradition has all the answers, or more answers than any other Christian, or indeed any religious tradition. I think religious is very much a mystery. It’s very hard; it’s not something that’s readily rationalized. That’s why it is correctly called a mystery in the truer sense of the word, and it’s a question of faith and I’ve been comfortable not completely comfortable but reasonably comfortable in that Catholic tradition.

    Most Catholics feel uncomfortable from time to time with the decisions of the hierarchy. You know, there is… there are some teachings of the church that most Catholics particularly in Australia don’t agree with. For example, such as the teachings on birth control, which are in one very distinguished archbishop, I said to him once “What do you think the faithful, how do you think the faithful take the church’s teachings on contraception?” And he said “Almost without exception they totally ignore them”, so there it is. I’m not a particularly pius, and certainly not a sanctimonious person.

    I definitely believe in God. But again, it is… for me, religion is a mystery and I enjoy learning more about the way in which other faiths and other traditions within the Christian church for that matter explore that mystery. I enjoy very much the Greek tradition, for example. Their liturgy has a greater sense of mystery than the very open tradition of the way in which the Eucharist is celebrated in the modern Catholic Church. So there are different traditions and all of them have their benefits and advantages.

  44. Lee

    There are plenty of non-religious folks who do not need a church or a book to tell them to do good works towards their fellow man. Yet they manage to volunteer many hours to this end, sometimes even travelling overseas to do it.

    The problem with the church is that while they are performing their good works, they are simultaneously filling people’s heads with rubbish. You can’t separate them, it’s a package deal. I’ve spent many years inside churches and studying the Bible. I’ve seen first hand what they are like. I’ve seen mentally ill people denied medical treatment because the church believes they are demon possessed and praying for them is what’s needed. Some of those untreated mentally ill patients have then fallen foul of the law with their illness as a major contributing factor to the crime. I’ve seen people with cancer elect to forego medical treatment in favour of faith healing (which didn’t work btw). Others have bled to death rather than accept a blood transfusion. Parents have refused urgent medical treatment for their children diagnosed with leukaemia because they refuse to allow blood transfusions. I’ve seen doctors take those parents to court to obtain the court’s permission to save the children’s lives. I’ve seen homosexuals and single mothers marginalised as sinners. I’ve seen people cut off from their families for daring to leave the church and their businesses fail because they relied primarily on clients from the church. I could go on with many examples of hypocrisy I’ve witnessed at all levels within the church but I need to go to work.

    Ruth Hurmence Green, author of The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible, puts it this way:

    “I am now convinced that children should not be subjected to the frightfulness of the Christian religion […]. If the concept of a father who plots to have his own son put to death is presented to children as beautiful and as worthy of society’s admiration, what types of human behavior can be presented to them as reprehensible?”

    The world would be much better off if we stopped filling our kids’ heads with this nonsense. Religion is behind many wars. Wiping each other out to prove who has the strongest imaginary friend is a pointless pursuit.

    Finally I’ll end with another quote from Green. ““I feel that we should stop wasting our time trying to please the supernatural and concentrate on improving the welfare of human beings. I think that, uh, we should use our energy and our initiative to solve our problems, and stop relying on prayer and wishful thinking. If we have faith in ourselves, we won’t have to have faith in gods.”

  45. Stephen Tardrew


    We are missing something fundamentally important about the evolution of magic and mythology which predates rational thinking. I don’t think that any of the current evolutionary theories deal adequately with this problem however, on many other issues, evolutionary explanations are undeniable. I feel it has something to do with generative abstractions in subjective space that free us up to have abstract metaphysical imaginations reflected in creative literature and artistic abstractions which must have some advantage to our long term future. No one has yet given me a clear projection of future potentialities therefore most philosophies are simply fishing in the dark. This is why open creative and lateral thinking can help to map out a vast mosaic of potentialities in subjective and virtual realities. The future is going to be driven by complexity, diversity and abstraction. What it means no one yet knows. However the underlying laws of physics, cosmology and mathematics of infinity are providing glimpses of the vast mosaic that is unfolding.

    I think that tolerance will help us to converge upon a divergent realization of dynamic potentialities and a conergent realization of mutuality, cooperation and communitarian sufficiency.

  46. Zofia

    Dying with Dignity Victoria and Dying with Dignity NSW are trying to achieve law reform which allows a person to end their life, their suffering, with medical assistance. They have websites which give you information about what is happening in Australia.

  47. Dan Rowden


    I find myself torn on the issue of the political influence that members of various religious communities attempt to wield in the political sphere. I’m torn between my metaphysical and psychological disdain for religion and my valuing of human and democratic rights. Like you I’m an atheist. My atheism is a sort of Spinozian-Zen hybrid. I take my metaphysics from both, essentially (actually I them from my own mind but you know what I mean). I’m also a strident anti-theist in the Dawkins, Harris, Dennett mould, although I don’t especially like the first and last and find much of Dawkins’ argumentation to be pretty shitful. I guess I just like Harris because he recognises Buddhism in many respects. But my anti-theistic views and activities are held, for the most part, at a philosophical level and I am always cautious about how I allow them to manifest in a socio-political context.

    I agree arguments about religious persons and groups who seek to influence politics on the basis of their religious convictions is a different thing to religion per se. Generally it’s going to be the case that when a discussion of the former arises people will take the opportunity to dump on religion wholesale. It’s pretty lame but I can’t really blame them for it. I absolutely share their expressed concern about the influence, attempted or real, by the religious in the Australian political landscape, but that’s really because the influence of religion of Australian culture disturbs me in general. So, when religionists seek to impose certain value, or even doctrinal sensibilities, onto our political discourse, like others I get worried and a touch uppity.

    That said, at a political, democratic level I also recognise their absolute right to do so – to a point. That point being when said influence and activity and its potential legislative or regulatory outcomes push the boundaries of, or simply transgress, the Church/State separation principle. Of course, people bringing their religiously based ethical sensibilities to political debate or even legislative processes does not of itself do that at all. Such people are totally free to do do, and that’s as it must be in a democratic society. Secularists tend not to like where religionists get their values and ethical constructs, and nor do I, but if a religious person was to ask a secularist, “Ok, well, where the hell do you get your values and morals from such that you can hold them over me from a supposed place or intellectual and moral superiority?” I doubt many people would be able to respond cogently.

    Btw, as something of an aside but I guess still pertinent to this discussion, Section 116 of the Constitution applies to the Commonwealth. It does not apply to the States, even though it appears in the section of the Constitution that deals with State issues. The States have their own constitutions and only Tasmania has a provision like Section 116. In effect, it is actually entirely possible for any of the other States to do what the Commonwealth Constitution forbids of the Commonwealth, and there’s stuff-all anyone could do about it. Food for thought.

    Anyway, this issue floods my head with competing concerns: my ultimate disregard for religion and all of its products and my view that whatever I think of religion and its adherents, I cannot deny them the natural political and democratic rights I would advocate for all persons. The fact that I don’t like it is immaterial to that. I don’t like what conservatives bring to the political table in general but I’m not about to argue they don’t have a natural and inalienable right to do so.

    All of those things said, I absolutely think leftist secularists ought bring to the public attention religious lobbyism and influence at every opportunity. People really need to know who and what are the forces driving society so they can make an informed judgement about the influence and political products of such forces.

  48. Stephen Tardrew


    Many in West are basically ignorant of the important philosophical work of Nagarjuna. As you probably know professional philosophers have shown deep interest in his work however he effectively negates every narrative and dialogue founded in duality so all the discourses and critiques of Nagarjuna are empty of “own being” and therefore of little absolute value. I think the critical point is that the Chan, Zen lineage accepts paradox as subjectively implicit and now with proof of physical and mathematical paradoxes and counterintuitives the Western logical empirical wish for a fully axiomatic philosophy is dead. Godel, Turing and Cohen helped settle that count. This is where we end up in a giant roadblock simply because, though the likes of Schopenhauer had a fine appreciation of art, he was still attached to the logical empirical and logical positivist narrative.

    Solve the problem of time? Not any where near it. The beauty of non-dualism is that it witnesses the dynamic play of a material causally-sufficient reality unfold while nested in detached witnessing of the thing-in-itself which falls outside of the linguistic foundations of subject and object predicate.

    It is profoundly unsettling for temporary minds yet those minds ride upon the block time meta-matrix. Rather than an open and closed case metaphysics is wide open to innovative subjective application of direct experience free from the debilitating constraints of language. Add future dynamic potentialities and the meta-matrix becomes vast and inexplicable didactically yet experientially omnipresent perfect and complete while, at the same time, appearing almost infinitely generative.

    Something going on her we somewhere do not fully understand.

  49. Stephen Tardrew

    we somehow do no fully understand. Sheesh done it again.

  50. Douglas Evans

    Sorry if I misrepresented you. It was not intentional. I agree with your two posts above. Actually you and John Lord are responsible for me running down this particular rabbit warren. I think, as you and Stephen apparently also think, that we must be careful in identifying the target here. It is all too easy to end up in the position of the art lover who doesn’t know much about art but knows what he/she likes and reckons that if its good enough for him/her it’s good enough for anyone.

  51. Douglas Evans

    You have plainly had unpleasant experiences with (I guess) fundamentalist Christian churches. I certainly wouldn’t wish to diminish your experience or deny your conclusions. I’ll give you a bit of my religious bio in return. I experienced the sort of censorious angry Christianity you describe briefly with the Baptists as a child and walked away from it pretty quickly. After that I became involved with the local Anglican church which was perhaps a bit silly but not damaging and, as far as I could see, was useful as a sort of social glue and source of vague comfort to the old, sick and suffering.

    In my middle age I became involved with one of the westernized Hindu sects that provide a bit of colour and romance in the lives of mostly comfortable middle class suburbanites. Such places are a sort of religiously themed theatre which encourage a comforting retreat into exotic fantasy. They are entertaining but not otherwise very useful. Superficial as this experience definitely was, I still picked up a little of the underlying principles out of which it had grown. Such places attract all manner of folk, and at the Ashram I met some very impressive people some of whom had experienced most unusual occurrences that are not easy to explain or dismiss. It made me conscious of the existence and importance of this aspect of life.

    Next, because I was anxious for authentic teaching in an established tradition I became in the completely traditional formal sense a student of a really excellent Tibetan Buddhist teacher who was resident here in Melbourne. For ten years, although my own practice was weak and increasingly sporadic, I attended his weekly teachings and those of other really excellent teachers who passed through the centre. From these people I learned a great deal. They broadened and deepened my life and still, a decade after I have withdrawn from Buddhism, I feel the benefits of the things I learned and remain grateful for the experience.

    Now, as I approach what David Suzuki endearingly labeled the ‘Death Zone’ I have cycled back to a much earlier interest in Carl Jung, albeit his later work which was directed towards integrating his wide ranging psychological model with religion and philosophy. So I’m again pottering around with my own internal narrative trying to make sense of it in light of Jungs’ work.

    The point of all this as I see it is when (as we all do) I come to that time when I try to find some sense in it all it seems important to me that I can genuinely regard it as a life well lived with a minimum of significant ‘if only I hads’. My reason for dishing up what is probably far too much information about me is just to say ‘hey this also is religion’. There is value here beyond the social. Critics (critiques) of the role of religion that overlook this somewhat miss the point I reckon.

  52. Lee

    “I think that tolerance will help us to converge upon a divergent realization of dynamic potentialities and a conergent realization of mutuality, cooperation and communitarian sufficiency.”

    Stephen, you need to tell that to the churches. We have Christians scare-mongering about boat people being potential Muslim terrorists and wanting to convert all of us to Sharia law, therefore they should be kept out of Australia. We have Muslims who want to eradicate those wicked Westerners. When I was a member of a Pentacostal church (not the only denomination I have experience with) they were hopping mad that the rest of society preached tolerance, because it meant they had to tolerate homosexuals, fornicators and people of different religions – and they refused to tolerate these things. Some of those Fundamentalist church leaders went on to form the Family First party. What they don’t tell us is that the only family they are interested in supporting is the variety that is headed by two heterosexual, married parents.

    Those Catholic & Fundamentalist politicians certainly don’t want tolerance. They consistently vote against issues such abortion, use of RU486, voluntary euthanasia and gay marriage. Such changes to legislation only affect those who wish to make use of them. They have no impact whatsoever on anyone else. So not only do these proposals go against their religious beliefs, they wish to prevent everyone else from doing it too. The problem is, we’re so busy advocating tolerance that we’re giving them free reign to wield their intolerance over us.

  53. Stephen Tardrew


    I know Lee but the only way we can swing them around is through rational discourse and a bit of tolerance. Alienation and continual criticism aren’t going to work. Let’s get the good people in religion on side and see if we can influence the fundamentalist in every religion. I just don’t think that dogmatism of any kind helps. It all takes time and effort. The more we can convince them of the rational consequences of actions the greater body of people we can rely upon to help redefine the cultural paradigm to reflect compassion, tolerance and love. We must use the tools we currently have available. Alienation breeds anger and resentment and while they alienate no believers we can do the opposite and help demonstrate there is a viable alternative. Evolution is a slow and tedious process and often we humans try to race ahead of the limitations that nature imposes upon us. That does no mean we should not affect change it means we have to be street wise or they will just remain belligerent and intolerant.

  54. Kaye Lee

    The teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, as emphasised by Pope John Paul II in the apostolic letter “Ordinatio sacerdotalis”, is “that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” This teaching is embodied by the canonical statement: “Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination.” Insofar as priestly and episcopal ordination are concerned, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that this requirement is a matter of divine law; it belongs to the deposit of faith and is unchangeable

    In 2007, the Holy See issued a decree saying that the attempted ordination of women would result in automatic excommunication for the women and bishops ordaining them. In 2010, the Holy See stated that the ordination of women is a “grave delict”. In any other organisation this would be illegal.

    And it is the views espoused by this group of “men” that dominate our government at the moment. That would be ok if they were their personal beliefs but when it affects legislation then they must be exposed. The fact that we have to fight for the right to make our own health choices seems out of step with the party who supposedly deplores the “nanny” state.

  55. Stephen Tardrew

    Totally agree Kaye. Misogyny is completely unacceptable and yes the hypocrisy is glaring. When standing on rational and ethical principle of justice and equality there are no grounds for negotiation.

  56. Kaye Lee

    And I would also like to know what qualifies Cardinal Pell to make submissions to the Senate on climate change.

    In October 2010, the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee agreed to table a letter from Cardinal Pell which quoted heavily from Ian Plimer’s book Heaven and Earth to claim there were “good reasons for doubting that carbon dioxide causes warmer temperatures”.

    Director of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology Dr Greg Ayers said “At one stage [Cardinal Pell] lists greenhouse gases. Included in the list is the gas nitrogen. That is not a greenhouse gas; it is 78 per cent of the atmosphere. You cannot have people out there telling the public that nitrogen is a greenhouse gas, because it is not.”

    Pell stated in his 2006 Legatus Summit speech:

    “Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign. In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”

    Responding to the Anglican bishop and environmentalist George Browning, who told the Anglican Church of Australia’s general synod that Pell was out of touch with the Catholic Church as well as with the general community, Pell stated:

    “Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don’t need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness. Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense….. I am certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. Uncertainties on climate change abound … my task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people’s minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes.”

    Thank God he’s been called to Rome.

  57. Douglas Evans

    Dan Rowden
    As usual we agree pretty much. We disagree about Harris who IMHO has either overlooked or fundamentally misunderstood Buddhism’s central idea, the foundation on which the rest of the edifice is constructed, mutual causality (paticca samuppada). I don’t have high hopes for his upcoming book setting us all straight on what religion is supposed to be. John Lord and Diannaart alerted me to Harris and started me on what has become so far four essays on the free will – determinism dilemma. The final essay which is supposed to address the new atheism of Dawkins, Harris, De Bouton, Dennett et al I’ll have a go at when I get the energy. I have found the energy so far because the reading has been so very interesting even Harris’ flawed little book on Free will was engaging but I think the reading for the last essay – all that heavy handed finger wagging censorious atheism, all those laboriously constructed and gleefully demolished straw men – promises to be a bit of a slog.

    You’re absolutely right about section 116 of the constitution I noticed also that it didn’t apply to the States but it struck me as interesting that despite the existence of section 116 the commonwealth could over-rule laws passed by State jurisdictions on what appear to me to be religious grounds – but I’m not a constitutional lawyer.

  58. Stephen Tardrew

    This is either a tragedy or a Faustian comedy of epic proportions. I’m inclined to think it is both. The line between comedy and tragedy is, as Shakespeare demonstrated, well written upon the human brow. In short he is as mad as all hell.

  59. Lee

    “The more we can convince them of the rational consequences of actions the greater body of people we can rely upon to help redefine the cultural paradigm to reflect compassion, tolerance and love.”

    Stephen, using rational argument against these people does not work. They do not think like you or me and they are far more adept at manipulating us than the other way around. I participated in multi-denominational Bible study classes for almost 10 years. I liked “innocently” asking questions that challenged their beliefs, that highlighted nonsensical or contradictory passages in the Bible, or incorporating facts into my questions. I’m not aware that anyone in any of those classes was prompted to question their beliefs as a result.

    By the way, they got around the potential conflict of differences between denominations by agreeing not to discuss their differences. However, it is difficult to do this in politics. Their religious beliefs are guiding their political views which are frequently poles apart from our own. They like to use emotional arguments to further their cause but still we often fail when trying to use the same tactic. They will respond to an emotional plea with “Yes it is sad that people are …. (living in poverty, children are born deformed, etc), but this is God’s will.”

  60. Stephen Tardrew


    Tis a subject guaranteed to make one tear ones hair out. In some sense each step is a wrong step because we are dealing with complete irrationality so I must concede to your analysis yet I can live in hope of compromise one day. I think the planet and its people’s survival is definitely more important than any ideology.

  61. Kaye Lee

    We truly have some talented people in Australia.

  62. Stephen Tardrew

    And so say we all.

  63. Lee

    ” I think the planet and its people’s survival is definitely more important than any ideology.”

    Oh it most certainly is, Stephen. If we use the conservatives tactics against them, we can win the swinging voters over. However, the ALP then needs to keep its promises to keep those voters, and I think they also need to stop drifting to the right periodically. The amount of energy needed to convert a relatively small number of the religious right probably isn’t worth the effort.

  64. Don Winther

    It has nothing to do with God or Politics, the last few months of a life is when the real money is made. The longer you last the more the money flows unless you have NO health insurance then the end could be rather quick and painless.

  65. Don Winther

    Well may-be not painless

  66. Douglas Evans

    You wrote
    “They do not think like you or me and they are far more adept at manipulating us than the other way around.”
    This resonated for me. Years of battling the fog of lies from climate change deniers showed me that your sentence is as appropriate to them as to religious fundamentalists. In Australia and north America (Canada too) the climate deniers have won the battle both for public opinion and to control any political inclination to act against this threat. Facts and rational argument have been swept aside by irrational emotional appeal exploiting our innate fear of change, fear of the unknown.

    Throughout western Europe racism is on the rise. Growing social and economic pressures have created fertile ground for xenophobic groups to little by little shift public opinion and by exploiting the political system impose a worldview based on deep seated fear of ‘the other’, fear of difference fear of change.

    The same is true for the ‘religious’ zealots of the type you discuss. In the English speaking world (perhaps primarily Australia and north America?) it’s Christian fundamentalism. In central and western Asia it’s Islamic fundamentalism. In south Asia it’s Hindu fundamentalism. In all cases the theology is a cherry picked perverted version of the original only supported by a minority of adherents. However despite this, here and there, little by little, they are imposing their worldview based on a deep fear of ‘the other’, fear of change, by exploiting the political system.

    I don’t think it matters whether the packaging has religious, racial or climate colored wrapping paper. The contents of the box in all cases is the same. We are talking about the imposition of a fear and hate driven minority worldview (with demonstrably negative consequences) on the majority via the unethical exploitation of political opportunity granted by democratic political systems. Logically it is the contents of the box, not the wrapping paper (or the tree from which the wrapping paper was made) that we should be addressing.

  67. Lee

    “This resonated for me. Years of battling the fog of lies from climate change deniers showed me that your sentence is as appropriate to them as to religious fundamentalists.”

    Douglas, we see exactly the same tactics used by anti-vaccination folks and opponents of Big Pharma too. Take a tiny bit of truth (sometimes), wrap it up in lies using plausible language so that people without a good knowledge of the field don’t detect the subtle differences and then add a whole lot of emotion.

  68. brickbob

    Good article once again,and anybody who likes a good political poem check out John OCallaghans ”’ I Wish I Were A Liberal on the Grovely Gazette” ,well worth it.

  69. Douglas Evans

    Kaye Lee
    To be fair to you and the article above religion was hardly mentioned in its text although the Christian basis of the opposition to VE was stated. Like most here I’m an atheist. Despite my history of involvement with different religions (I guess) again like most here I have no formal religious affiliation. In particular I have no brief for Christianity of any flavor which I abandoned quite consciously when I was in my early teens. Many have argued, and I agree, that Christianity is a religion in decline. This said, the failings, corruption and indeed crimes of the organization that is the Catholic Church which you draw attention to (and the other denominations that you don’t) are not different to those of secular organizations with too much power and too little oversight. They should be treated and regarded in the same way. They are only tangentially connected to, and in many cases directly contradict, the theology that the Church is the vehicle for – the theology is not generally the cause of the problem. The problem is rooted in power structures, democratic processes and their relationship to ethics, particularly the latter. Even when the theology is directly implicated – as with VE the key point should be that the Commonwealth Constitution which covers Commonwealth legislation guarantees separation of Church and State and apparently Commonwealth law trumps State law in these matters. In such circumstances adherents to a religion that proscribes VE must ethically (and I would have thought legally) be allowed to follow the dictates of their religion if that is what they wish and those who don’t should have access to VE.

  70. Douglas Evans

    Absolutely and in all case it’s the unethical garnering and abuse of power rather than the background rationale for the activity that we should be concentrating on.

  71. Lee

    “They are only tangentially connected to, and in many cases directly contradict, the theology that the Church is the vehicle for – the theology is not generally the cause of the problem.”

    I have to disagree Douglas, the theology can cause many problems without the need for corrupted individuals in positions of power who make up their own rules. For example, the ban on contraception is taken directly from Scripture. Poor people are kept in poverty when they don’t want to have any more children that they cannot afford, but church leaders or members are telling them they cannot use contraception. Homosexuals are marginalised because the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin. Homosexuals are prevented from marrying because the Bible states that marriage is between a man and a woman. Abortion and voluntary euthanasia is not allowed because the Bible states that we shall not kill.

  72. Zofia


    “…we see exactly the same tactics used by anti-vaccination folks and opponents of Big Pharma too.”

    I take from your comment that you have faith in the pharmaceutical companies and think that the scientific rigour of their researchers is beyond question. This is an extract from an article written by George Monbiot.

    “A study of research papers examining the side-effects of a class of heart drugs called calcium channel blockers found that 96% of the researchers who said they were safe had financial relationships with the manufacturers, as opposed to 37 per cent of those who raised concerns. Other studies have found similar relationships between the financial interests of researchers and their reporting of the dangers of passive smoking and the side effects of contraceptive pills.
    It gets worse. In 2002 the Guardian revealed that British and American scientists are putting their names to papers they have not written. The papers are ‘ghosted’ or co-written by employees of the drug companies, then signed, for a handsome fee, by respectable researchers. …
    A pharmacologist who studied the practice told the Guardian, ‘it may well be that 50% of the articles on drugs in the major journals across all areas of medicine are not written in a way that the average person in the street expects.”
    The Sleaze Behind Our Science – George Monbiot, Feb 24, 2004

  73. Douglas Evans

    See my comment to Kaye Lee

  74. Lee

    “I take from your comment that you have faith in the pharmaceutical companies and think that the scientific rigour of their researchers is beyond question.”

    Then you would be wrong. Big Pharma does have its problems. There are however, many lies perpetrated by its opponents. Big Pharma has saved and improved quality and longevity of life for millions of people and continues to do so.

  75. Kaye Lee

    The Australian branch of AMGEN – the world’s largest biotechnology company – has been the major sponsor of Pollie Pedal since 2007. In 2013 that sponsorship was valued at $80,000 while alphapharm, Roche and Pfizer would each have coughed between $20,000 and $50,000 as ‘supporting’ and ‘major’ sponsors respectively.

    In December 2012, AMGEN pleaded guilty to illegally marketing its product Arensep and agreed to pay $US762 million in criminal penalties as well as settlements in related whistle-blower lawsuits. Arensep is a synthetic version of erythropoietin – EPO – an artificial blood booster that stimulates the production of red blood cells. EPO has valuable uses in the treatment of anaemia and in the 1990s was used enthusiastically – and illegally – by endurance athletes in search of an effective energy boost.


  76. Lee

    Zofia, the other point to bear in mind is that the scientific method does actually work. Yes, there are unscrupulous individuals who do not use it in the way it is intended, or who abuse it for their own gain. That is not a valid reason for rejecting science.

  77. Zofia


    I have no problem with science or the scientific method. But data and research results can be manipulated. It is the results of research which has been conducted by unethical researchers or the findings being tampered with, that I have the problem with. One has to bear in mind that the pharmaceutical companies are just that – companies – who make billions of dollars every year and can behave unethically to enhance their profit margin. So when such huge amounts of money are involved, there is the risk of unscrupulous behaviour occurring and people need to be made aware of this.
    When a person is given a prescription for a drug by their doctor, they are expected to trust that that drug will have the desired effect and help them. So I would think the patient has the right to expect that the drug has been thoroughly tested and screened for side effects through comprehensive and extensive trials.
    People have to trust a lot of institutions in our society and hope the institutions don’t betray that trust. I think we should all be aware that that trust can be betrayed.

  78. Lee

    Zofia, do you know what a straw man argument is? I never said Big Pharma is perfect. There are checks and balances in the system designed to weed out unethical behaviour and fraud, as well as substantial penalties for those caught indulging in such behaviour, because yes, patients do have the right to trust that there has been full compliance with the regulations and recognised best practice techniques have been employed in the development of these drugs.

    The TGA has quite strict regulations that drug manufacturers must comply with. They require extensive information including clinical trial data and they perform audits periodically to check that manufacturers are complying with those regulations. I have never worked for a pharmaceutical company but I do have some experience with the TGA and the Code of Good Manufacturing Practice for Human Blood and Tissues.

    Patients are not “expected to trust that the drug will have the desired effect and help them.” Patients in this country have the right to make an informed decision and they also have the right to refuse treatment with a particular drug. Their doctor should discuss potential known side effects and the likelihood that these will occur. Even with extensive clinical trials, sometimes a rare side effect does not show up. It may be later, after the drug is approved for general use, that a rare side effect shows up and there is a process for dealing with this situation. Drugs may be removed from the market if evidence arises that it is not as safe as data from clinical trials indicated. My GP has never told me that a particular drug “will have the desired effect”. I have been informed to return if it clearly doesn’t work, or to return to monitor the progress, as appropriate. It has been made quite clear to me that sometimes a different drug or dosage may be required. I am aware that not all doctors fulfill their obligations re: informed consent, but the pharmaceutical companies cannot be blamed for that. Whenever I obtain a new drug from my pharmacy I am given a leaflet containing quite detailed information for patients.

    The general public knows that Big Pharma makes huge profits. They are a business after all and all businesses aim to make a profit. What the general public often does not know is that Big Pharma frequently sponsors other areas within the health sector that ultimately provides a benefit to patients. For example, they sponsor conferences and other continuing education programs for medical and other allied health professionals. Another example – medical pathology laboratories are expected to either enrol in external quality control programs for the tests they perform, where such a program exists, or else participate in inter-laboratory comparisons as a form of quality control. I work for a laboratory that is the only lab in Australia performing a particular rare test. That test is not on the Medicare schedule, so patients have to pay for it and it is expensive. The other laboratory involved in the comparisons is in Europe. Last year a pharmaceutical company covered the cost of transporting specimens back and forth, which cost over $100,000 (for one test only). Without that sponsorship, we would have to pass that cost onto the patients. With the illness in question, patients already have large medical bills.

    Yes we should be critical when Big Pharma betrays our trust and behaves in an unethical manner. It is imperative that this behaviour is not tolerated. However we should also give credit where credit is due. Big Pharma manufactures a lot of drugs that have either saved or improved the quality of countless millions of lives. Without them we would be a lot worse off.

  79. rick5591Rick5591

    Has everyone noticed, increasingly as the years go by, that we are told we can’t afford this,we can’t afford that. Its all a gigantic fraud that has been played upon the people of the world by that same crowd that brought you the World Wars, the Great Depression, the Global Financial Crisis. That crowd own the banks of the Western World, the Oil cartels, the Drug syndicates, the big Pharmaceuticals, the armaments industries etc etc. The banks of Australia including the Reserve Bank all borrow money from the Rothchild banks for which they have to pay interest. In order to pay that interest our banks have to borrow more money from the same crowd and the public debt keeps increasing.Sounds familiar?
    Whole nations of the world are being bankrupted with the USA being the next in line. OK . So what is to be done. The answer is surprisingly simple. Do what Iceland did. They kicked out the Rothchild banks, set up a peoples bank which issues their own currency with no interest paid to anyone. Iceland went from poverty to prosperity almost overnight. Its not rocket science. A 12 year old girl on Canadian TV explained it very succinctly . She pointed out also that when you sign a mortgage contract the bank creates the money out of thin air. Its all smoke and mirrors my friends. Lets stop being mugs and follow Icelands example.

  80. Zofia


    Please see this report:
    House of Commons
    Committee of Public Accounts
    Access to clinical trial information and the stockpiling of Tamiflu
    Thirty-fifth Report of Session 2013-14

    The Department of Health (the Department) spent £424 million on stockpiling Tamiflu, an antiviral medicine used in the treatment of influenza, for use in a pandemic, but had to write off £74 million of its Tamiflu stockpile as a result of poor record-keeping by the NHS.

    There is a lack of consensus over how well Tamiflu works, in particular whether it reduces complications and mortality. Discussions over this issue among professionals have been hampered because important information about clinical trials is routinely and legally withheld from doctors and researchers by manufacturers. This longstanding regulatory and cultural failure impacts on all of medicine, and undermines the ability of clinicians, researchers and patients to make informed decisions about which treatment is best. There are also concerns about the information made available to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which assesses a medicine’s clinical and cost–effectiveness for use in the NHS.

  81. Lee

    Zofia, you have attributed a false position to me and are arguing against that false position, or in other words you have created a straw man argument. I have already acknowledged that sometimes pharmaceutical companies act unethically and that sometimes the system does not work perfectly. It would be appreciated if you stop implying that I believe something different to what I have already written. As well as working in a medical science field in a technical and scientific capacity for over 25 years, I do have a special interest in health fraud and am widely read on the subject. I am also a skeptic.

    Every country has different regulations. What happens in the UK does not necessarily hold true in Australia, in indeed anywhere else. Some drugs are approved for use in some countries, but not approved in other countries, due to different regulations within each jurisdiction. The regulations are mandated by the government, not by the pharmaceutical companies.

    You should also be aware that flu vaccines change every year because the virus mutates rapidly, whereas most drugs take years to develop. There are also issues with viruses being species-specific, and depending on the nature of the virus, testing opportunities can be restricted. It is not acceptable to infect people with a deadly virus to test if the vaccine works. An ineffective vaccine is also not evidence that all drugs are ineffective.

    If you feel that pharmaceutical companies are 100% evil and cannot be trusted at all, then you have the right not to use any of the products that they manufacture.

  82. Lee

    Zofia, you have attributed a false position to me and are arguing against that false position, or in other words you have created a straw man argument. I have already acknowledged that sometimes pharmaceutical companies act unethically and that sometimes the system does not work perfectly.

    Every country has different regulations. What happens in the UK does not necessarily hold true in Australia, in indeed anywhere else. Some drugs are approved for use in some countries, but not approved in other countries, due to different regulations within each jurisdiction. The regulations are mandated by the government, not by the pharmaceutical companies.

    You may be interested to read further on Tamiflu.

    New evidence, same conclusion: Tamiflu only modestly useful for influenza

    Finally, if you feel that pharmaceutical companies are 100% evil and cannot be trusted at all, then you have the right not to use any of the products that they manufacture.

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