On September 16 the Andrews government in Victoria announced amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. According to Attorney General Jaclyn Symes the changes prohibit the display of Nazi symbols to arrest the rise of neo-Nazi activities, extend anti-vilification protections beyond race and religion, allow those vilified to seek justice through the courts, improve the psychological well-being members of the community, and complement anti-racism legislation.

Who could possibly object to all this?

Parents cancelled

Read the fine print. The amendments strip parents of the right to determine who spends time with their children. Religious organisations and schools will only be able to employ people of faith where the Government decides that religious beliefs are critical to the job.

This is a violation of parents’ human rights. Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

A child will be influenced by whoever spends time with them, or by whatever they are exposed to. This is a pedagogical reality. For this reason, parents have always worried about the influences on their children. “All people become like the company they keep,” wrote Euripides some 2500 years ago. Nothing has changed since then.

Attorney General Syme has two small children; she will use her judgement to choose one preschool over another because she likes the culture in that preschool. This is not a judgement that the other preschools are breaking the law, simply that they do not suit her family values, and she is the best judge for what is good for her kids.

If she chooses a preschool where all the teachers speak French, why shouldn’t she? Similarly, why shouldn’t parents be able to choose a preschool where all the teachers are female?

It’s almost impossible now to deny that the Andrews government has an anti-family agenda. In the government’s 18 page anti-vilification response there are no references to “parent” or “family” but the word “school” is used 22 times. The primacy of parental rights in education has been ignored. Back in ancient Sparta children were the responsibility of the state, not the parents. This is a step 2,400 years into the past.

Religion cancelled

Passing on religion is not the exclusive role of religion teachers. It is misleading to suggest, as the review of religious exemptions suggests, that only teachers “in certain roles” in a school provide religious input.

But the Andrews Government counts on the cross-bench vote of Fiona Patten, of the Reason Party (formerly the Australian Sex Party). Ms Patten’s opposition to religious exemptions are paraded on her website.

Vanessa Chang, Executive Officer of the Australian Association of Christian Schools rightly says: “For our schools to effectively fulfil their mission and ethos, it is crucial that all staff employed share the values and beliefs of the school.”

“Our schools take seriously their responsibility to shape their student’s moral character and spiritual development. Parents who choose our schools understand and want this for their children. All subjects in Christian schools are taught through the prism of faith. It makes no difference whether it’s the maths teacher, the science teacher, or the outdoor education teacher, they’re all involved in the spiritual formation of our children.”  

These new laws will prevent Islamic preschools from employing all Muslims and Christian preschools from employing all Christians.

In Australia an employer has the right to build a distinctive culture in his organisation. Employment law holds it reasonable that an employee supports the ethos of the organisation. Not to do so would be grounds for termination.

Why are schools so different? Brothels will be able to exclusively employ prostitutes and those sympathetic with prostitution, but faith-based schools will be prohibited from employing only persons sympathetic to the faith of the institution.

An emerging pattern

The Andrews government has form in using human rights as a smokescreen for its anti-family ideology. It recently banned so-called “conversion therapy” after a sham consultation process.

Its legislation was a masterpiece of anti-religion, pro LGBT social engineering, enacted without transparency. The former Attorney General, Jill Hennessy, said that two reports compelled her to propose the prohibition on so called “conversion therapies”. One report was never been released. The other report was funded by the Victorian Government through the Latrobe Gay and Lesbian Centre, and presented the religious grievances of 17 recruited-for-purpose LGBT persons. Opposing submissions from more than 70 successful detransitioners and from church and parent organisations were ignored.

Victoria is slowly implementing a legally-enforceable ideology of radical secularism. Some parents are starting to ask whether this is any different from Xi Jinping’s China.

When the Attorney General stepped into her role in December 2020 Daniel Andrews praised her for her “fierce commitment to carry on the work of reforming our justice system that I know makes her right for this role.”

What other reforms will we see? How is it possible that this young mother of two should be so oblivious of the rights of parents?

Dr Andy Mullins now works with parents and university students in Melbourne and teaches the Formation of Character course at the University of Notre Dame in Sydney. Formerly he was headmaster of Redfield...