After last night’s political debate at the Sydney Institute, I’ve cancelled my plans to go to Holland. According to the Reverend Fred Nile, voluntary euthanasia laws there have meant that people are “too afraid to go to hospital” for fear of being bumped off without consent. Could one broken foot lead to you prematurely popping your clogs? The 81-year-old veteran of the NSW upper house asserted that “hundreds, if not thousands of people have been killed in Dutch hospitals”.
Nile, once described as the “pilot light of the lunar right”, was in his usual proselytizing form last night, debating the Sex Party candidate for the Senate Professor Ross Fitzgerald.
I’m always mystified as to how the founder of the Christian Democrats can espouse his views with a straight face. My knowledge of the Bible is sketchy, but didn’t Jesus call for tolerance and acceptance? The party, which espouses all the usual homophobic and anti-abortion rhetoric, is viciously anti-Muslim and loves to foment terror about the imminent imposition of sharia law. Last night Fred told us that the proceeds of halal certification went towards building mosques. There’s probably no point in telling him that this is nonsense — anyone who has religious faith is automatically predisposed to believing something which isn’t evidence-based.
He was also predictably opposed to the Safe Schools anti-bullying program, saying he was “against propaganda going into the minds of sensitive children” as “puberty is already disturbing”. He is right about the proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage, last night describing it as “a wishy-washy situation which has no legal authority. Nothing need happen afterwards. In a referendum, something has to happen.”
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His debating partner, Ross Fitzgerald OA, kicked off by telling us that the Sex Party stood for much more than sex. The 72-year-old author and academic said he accepted the position of No. 1 Senate candidate in NSW because he had been campaigning on many of the same policies for years.
“I strongly support the Australian Sex Party for its principled stand on taxing all religious institutions, supporting same-sex marriage and dying with dignity, as well as its advocacy of evidence-based public policy, including prison reform, immigration reform and drug reform.”
“More generally, I strongly support the Sex Party’s advocacy of easily accessible and wide-ranging freedom of information; the promotion of education and the arts; and especially the freedom for adults to decide for ourselves what we choose to read and watch.”
In particular, the Sex Party wants to legalize and tax marijuana, treat drug addiction as a health problem rather than a criminal one and reform the prison system.
While most jail inmates are there for drug offences, “who in this room has not used any drug since the double dissolution? No tea or coffee, no wine or beer, not even an out of sight puff on the occasional cigar or cigarette?” Fitzgerald, a former alcoholic and drug addict, successfully quit both in 1970 and is a regular at Alcoholics Anonymous.
He said last night that as he has been a member of the Queensland Parole Board and the NSW State Parole Authority for more than 20 years, prison reform was one of his main political and policy priorities.
“The sad, disgraceful reality is that up to a third of our inmates and parolees are functionally illiterate and that up to 80% of prisoners are addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Unless these key problems are addressed, a great many prisoners and parolees are destined to be recidivists and hence represent a huge imposition on the public purse.”
One area on which the debaters differed most was the Sex Party’s call for a tax on religious institutions — including Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist bodies that run profit-making businesses. Both the Hillsong Church and Sanitarium Foods (owned by the Seventh Day Adventists) fall into this category and should pay tax, he says. This was money that could be used to help “eradicate homelessness and indigenous disadvantage — but our elected politicians feel free to enshrine church law into secular law. And this without even a whiff of any large donation to party funds!”
Fitzgerald said he was tempted to quote the opinion attributed to Jesus: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Fred Nile said that the churches would be happy to pay tax if they could bill the government for all the social services they provided.
Ross’ most recent book “Going Out Backwards” is a “sexual/political satire” in which (his alter ego) Professor Dr Grafton Everest holds the balance of power in Australia’s upper house. Hopefully free of Dennis Jensen-esque flourishes, it seems to be the product of a fertile imagination. Come July 2, we’ll find out if it’s a prophecy.