Episode 247 – Secularism, Assisted Dying and China

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In this episode, we speak to Peter Monk about secularism. We then speak to Deep Throat about assisted dying in Qld. And then we finish with an argument as to how we should view China’s role in the COVID-19 crisis.

Secular News

Peter Monk from the NSL joins us

Cardinal Pell

The judges were not biased but perceptions matter.

How can traditional law church services continue?

The Fist: Judges can attend in their personal capacity but not in full regalia.

In Victoria

A leading lawyer has defended the Catholic Church’s right to hold a traditional mass for judges and lawyers in Melbourne, despite protesters saying it should be scrapped.

Key points:

  • The “Red Mass” tradition for the legal fraternity dates back to the 13th century
  • Protesters have called for lawyers and judges to not attend anymore
  • The Melbourne Archdiocese says all are welcome

The Archdiocese of Melbourne hosted its annual “Red Mass” this week after the Victorian Bar Association promoted the event.

It was well attended by senior judges wearing their robes and wigs.

After the service and blessings, the judiciary, members of the legal profession, staff and their families were invited to join Archbishop Peter Comensoli to stay for morning tea in the presbytery.

In Qld

Opening of the law year

At the beginning of the year judicial officers, members of the legal profession and the community are invited to attend the Law Year Church Service. The origins of the service can be traced back to the Middle Ages. In Queensland, the church service rotates through a number of different inner city churches, including the Greek Orthodox Church of St George, South Brisbane (pictured above). In other jurisdictions the service has also been held in local mosques and synagogues.

The Department of Justice and Attorney General (DJAG) posted a video of the 2018 Law Year Church Service on YouTube.

For many years in Queensland this service would occur in the middle of the year, as the cooler weather allowed judges to wear their ceremonial robes more comfortably. Recently, Queensland followed a Commonwealth-wide move towards simpler, more modern robe designs suitable for our sub-tropical climate. As a result, the church service is now held at the beginning of the year.

I ask that all Satanists attend

Wear your robes dear Satanists.

Scomo commits Australia to his God

See the article in The Guardian

“It is a moment like when Moses looked out at the sea and held up his staff … there are moments of great faith in this.”

Morrison offers a prayer that begins “heavenly father, we just commit our nation to you in this terrible time of great need and suffering of so many people”.

“And we do this also for the entire world – in places far from this country there are people suffering even more, going through tremendous hardship, crying out.”

Morrison also prays for “colleagues in parliamentary roles, it doesn’t matter what party they’re from”, ministers in his cabinet, and again for the premiers and chief ministers.

“Pray that you’ll keep the national cabinet strong and united, and we may be able to face each day and each challenge with unity and purpose.”

From Meredith Doig

The Prime Minister expressed concern for those affected by these unprecedented times and calls upon his God to show mercy and compassion. So what might be the role played by this God in the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic?

There are four possibilities: He is not aware of it, He is aware but powerless to intervene, He is aware but happy to allow it to continue; He doesn’t exist.

If the first is true, then God is not all-knowing. If the second is true, then God is not all-powerful. If the third is true, then God is cruel.

As the Prime Minister might say, “Let us hope and pray the fourth is true.”

The IFVG Index

Meredith said “In a secular society, people are allowed to have their private beliefs and to share those beliefs with others – in private. But this video does give the voters of Australia insight into the private beliefs of the person who occupies, arguably, the most powerful position in our country. As a person in a public position, knowledge of this man’s private beliefs is of national interest.”

So check out the IFVG index.

Churches will be considered as workplaces

Scott Morrison says churches will be considered as “workplaces” for Easter services and given some flexibility under social distancing rules.

Singers and other assistants will be allowed to take part in Easter church service webcasts and broadcasts under the new rules announced by the PM on Friday.

Morrison said this would mean churches could have, for example, a cantor and other assistants involved as well as the priest or minister.

The PM clarified to say the new rules do not mean churches and other places of worship were open to the public, but it would allow those who need to participate in presenting services for broadcasts and live streams to do so, so the community can access them.

The Fist: If they are workplaces does that mean they can pay tax?

Do we have enough bandwidth?

From the ACL

Wendy Francis

The ACL calls on the federal government to direct telecommunications and internet service providers to block pornography during the COVID-19 crisis.

With Australians social distancing and self-isolating to prevent the spread of COVID-19, blocking porn online is essential to prevent internet gridlock and resultant isolation or even loss of lives, the Australian Christian Lobby said today.

A Rap for The Wrap

The weekly rap from the NSL is comprehensive.

Where is the L is NSL?

Lobbying efforts? A list of secular friendly Labor politicians?

The Great Debate

Next week. “Does the Abrahamic God exist?”

Send in suggested questions for Hugh Harris and Matt Su.

Matt is a graduate student in Philosophy and used to be a lawyer.

Revised format agree upon by Matt and Hugh.


  • 10 minutes opening (Matt goes first)
  • Questions from moderator
  • 1 rounds of rebuttal 5 minutes each
  • Questions from moderator
  • Questions from online chat (if any)
  • Questions to each other (2)
  • 5 minutes closing argument (Matt goes first)


Assisted Dying in Queensland

Deep Throat provides an update.

From ABC News

Queensland Parliament’s health committee has recommended passing the voluntary assisted dying laws that were first proposed in late 2018.

Key points:

  • Health committee chair Aaron Harper says the proposal was given extensive consideration
  • The bipartisan committee held 41 hearings and received 4,729 submissions
  • Mr Harper says most people who engaged with them supported the bill

The committee spent much of last year taking submissions on the proposal and today made a number of recommendations.

Under the proposal, people aged 18 years and older would be allowed to seek an assisted death if they were diagnosed by a medical practitioner as having an advanced and progressive terminal illness, or neurodegenerative condition.

But the committee recommended any assisted dying scheme should not propose a precise anticipated date of death for a person before they could access it “due to the complex, subjective and unpredictable nature of the prognosis of terminal illness”.

State Opposition raises concerns

The LNP has two members on the six-member health committee who raised concerns about the proposal overshadowing increased palliative care services.

“No decision should be made whilst the issue of palliative care is so poorly funded, understood, barely accessible and neglected,” their joint statement said.

“Additionally, the logic relied on by the majority is flawed or not supported by evidence.

“The LNP members accept this is a very emotional question and agree there are deeply held beliefs.

“The conclusion we have come to is not to be seen as belittling people’s beliefs, rather a criticism of a flawed process.”

The Catholics are not happy.

From Catholic Weekly

It recommends widening the scope of accessibility and lowering important safeguards, including that it not only apply to the terminally ill expecting to die within six months, as is the case in Victoria and from July 2021, Western Australia.

Rather, any adult permanent Queensland resident could be considered who has “an advanced and progressive terminal, chronic or neurodegenerative medical condition that cannot be alleviated in a manner acceptable to the person, and that the condition will cause death”.

The report also recommends that no counselling be required and that a person with a mental illness is not disqualified from accessing assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge said that the recommendations came as no surprise “given the cultural tide of this time and the resources invested by the supporters of physician-assisted suicide”.

 “But there is a dark irony that these recommendations appear at a time when the COVID-19 crisis is casting the shadow of death across the planet – and with these recommendations and any legislation that may follow from them that shadow grows darker,” he told The Catholic Leader.

The Fist: There is a dark irony that a cabal of paedophiles are purporting to comment on ethical matters.

Cardinal Pell

You may not like it but you should. Imagine if you were accused of a historical sex crime?

The appeal was successful.

The First Incident

  1. It remains that the evidence of witnesses, whose honesty was not in question, (i) placed the applicant on the steps of the Cathedral for at least ten minutes after Mass on 15 and 22 December 1996; (ii) placed him in the company of Portelli when he returned to the priests’ sacristy to remove his vestments; and (iii) described continuous traffic into and out of the priests’ sacristy for ten to 15 minutes after the altar servers completed their bows to the crucifix.
  1. Upon the assumption that the jury assessed A’s evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the issue for the Court of Appeal was whether the compounding improbabilities caused by the unchallenged evidence summarised in (i), (ii) and (iii) above nonetheless required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt. Plainly they did. Making full allowance for the advantages enjoyed by the jury, there is a significant possibility in relation to charges one to four that an innocent person has been convicted.

The second incident

  1. The unchallenged evidence of the applicant’s invariable practice of greeting congregants after Sunday solemn Mass, and the unchallenged evidence of the requirement under Catholic church practice that the applicant always be accompanied when in the Cathedral, were inconsistent with acceptance of A’s evidence of the second incident. It was evidence which ought to have caused the jury, acting rationally, to entertain a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt of the offence charged in the second incident. In relation to charge five, again making full allowance for the jury’s advantage, there is a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted.



Maybe there is a God.

RA confirmed to The Courier-Mail yesterday that Folau’s out-of-court settlement, which is understood to be about $3 million – is being paid off in instalments. The RA spokesman would give no details of what the payments were but, ironically, it leaves Folau desperately hoping that the game he almost bankrupted with his freedom of religion lawsuit now stays afloat.

Should RA be forced to declare itself insolvent, Folau would be treated as an unsecured creditor and, depending on whatever assets rugby was able to muster, would likely be paid out only a few cents in the dollar.


Thank you

Cruise Ships full of refugees

Where are the refugee advocates?

There seems to be no shame in telling them to piss off.

Virgin bailout

From Michael West

There is a strong case for bailing out the banks: preserving the stability of the banking system. If the payments system freezes, the lights go out. But taxpayers bailing out airlines and other large corporations? This is a far more delicate proposition.

Particularly so in the case of Virgin Australia Holdings whose shares are 90 per cent-owned by foreign state corporations in China, Abu Dhabi and Singapore; and Sir Richard Branson who resides in his own island in a tax haven. With the utmost chutzpah, Virgin chief executive, Paul Scurrah, has put his hand out for a $1.4 billion gift from taxpayers when Virgin’s share price values the entire company at just $690 million on the sharemarket.

The company’s accounts show there is roughly $3 billion in debt and $1 billion in cash; and aviation analysts reckon they will burn through that cash in as little as three months.

What to do?

  • Buy the business, not the company
  • Use compulsory acquisition provisions of the Constitution (s51)
  • Pay “just terms”
  • Preserve staff and planes
  • IPO later or sale to another carrier

Conceptually, if the Government either lent Virgin money at mates rates, bought its existing shares or took new equity to recapitalise the airline, Australian taxpayers would be rescuing Richard Branson, the Communist Party of China, the benevolent dictatorship of Singapore and Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, an Emir in the Middle East.

Given these shareholders have elected not to put their hands in their pockets, to back it themselves – instead urging chief executive Paul Scurrah to plead for taxpayers’ money – and and given the fact that Virgin never pays tax in this country, this option is highly unattractive politically.

Scott Morisson and Josh Frydenberg have other options though. They could offer to acquire the company Virgin Australia Holdings, acquire the shares that it, recapitalise the company and sell it later. No doubt Richard Branson et al would decline to sell without a 30 per cent premium. Any premium however, indeed any price paid for equity, would reward Virgin’s recalcitrant shareholders.

The best solution

This brings us to the most sensible option; acquiring the business, rather than the company.

Section 51 of the Constitution says:

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:

(xxxi) the acquisition of property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws.

So the Government has the power, should they push a quick act through Parliament, to buy Virgin’s business on “just terms”. Its shareholders have already abandoned it so it would be just to say cheerio to them for the neat consideration of zero cents.

The acquisition legislation could leave the planes’ lessors as unsecured creditors, recognising that there is no market for second-hand 737s at any time in the foreseeable future.

How about Virgin’s creditors, the banks who hold the debt? Again, they have taken the commercial risk and lost. Every airline in the world must already be close to insolvency if not already there.

“Just terms” then, or “fair value” could be determined by some independent experts. Let’s say it is 10c in the dollar for the debt, or $300 million on Virgin’s $3 billion in debts.

To be clear, buying the business means everything which is in the Virgin Australia Holdings box. Pilots, engineers, flight attendants, check-in staff, landing slots, terminals – everything except the executives and their desk ornaments. Cash goes in for creditors to fight over, everything else out.

Christian Porter has no time for democracy

From The Guardian

The attorney general, Christian Porter, on Monday bluntly told the opposition that MPs had “better things to do” than sit in parliament.

Porter, who is also government leader in the House of Representatives, told ABC radio on Monday: “What is the point of that?

“If people want to sit out there during the greatest economic crisis Australia’s experienced and read practice and procedure of the House of Representatives, good luck to them.

“But we’ve got better things to do.”

But the independent senator Jacqui Lambie said the parliament should be recalled as soon as possible and “as soon as it is safe to do so”.

She told Guardian Australia on Monday: “We should set down some dates and times.

“This idea the government has of calling us in on a whim, whenever they feel they need, it’s not the most functional.

“They’re spending billions of dollars, so it’s time to apply a bit of scrutiny. We’ve been very nice to the government, we’ve played very nice. But with no parliament – is that a sustainable way for a democracy to go? No, it’s not.”

China Begins To Lift Coronavirus Restrictions

From The Shovel

China Begins To Lift Coronavirus Restrictions: Citizens Free To Go Back To Doing Whatever Government Tells Them

In the first sign of a return to normality, Chinese Officials have begun to lift strict coronavirus-related restrictions and returned to ordinary, everyday totalitarian-related restrictions.

The changes mean that Chinese people – who have been strictly locked-down and monitored within their homes for months – will be free to go outside to be tracked and monitored there.

One government official said it was great to see things begin to return to normal. “For months now we’ve had to severely restrict people’s rights due to the coronavirus, so it’ll be nice to go back to severely restricting their rights because we’re a tyrannical communist state.

“Hundreds of factories and human rights have been shut down throughout the crisis. It’s great to see the factories starting to open up again”.

China – The Cold War heats up

I’m noticing increased anti-China rhetoric on social media.

The Henry Jackson Society says sue them.

China should be sued under international law for trillions of dollars for its initial cover-up of the coronavirus pandemic which has caused more than 60,000 deaths and trillions of dollars in economic damage, a new report says.

According to the report, Coronavirus Compensation? by conservative London think tank The Henry Jackson Society, China could be sued under 10 possible legal avenues, including the International Health Regulations, which were beefed up after the SARS outbreak, which China also tried to cover up.

The report said had China provided accurate information at an early juncture, “the infection would not have left China.”

China only reported the disease to the WHO on December 31 and said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

Maybe Australia could sue the USA?


Remember the 2009 USA Flu ? …. Aka H1N1

Our IFVG debate over

China Concealed Extent of Virus Outbreak, U.S. Intelligence Says


US pushes conspiracy theory on China’s coronavirus death toll to deflect from Trump administration failures

From Bloomberg

China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials.

The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret, and they declined to detail its contents. But the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.

Stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei province have driven public doubt in Beijing’s reporting.

Republican lawmakers in the U.S. have been particularly harsh about China’s role in the outbreak. Enhancing Beijing’s role in the pandemic could be politically helpful to Trump, who has sought to shift blame for the U.S. outbreak away from his administration’s delays in achieving widespread testing for the virus and mobilizing greater production of supplies such as face masks and hospital ventilators.

“The claim that the United States has more coronavirus deaths than China is false,” Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said in a statement after Bloomberg News published its report. “Without commenting on any classified information, this much is painfully obvious: The Chinese Communist Party has lied, is lying, and will continue to lie about coronavirus to protect the regime.”


Blame China and the USA

From George Megalogenis in the SMH

Our ally never made the banned list in her own right, even as the evidence mounted in early March that the Americans were tracking for catastrophe. The US was only swept up by default when Australia closed its borders to all foreign visitors on March 20, six weeks after the initial ban on visitors from China. Even then, another week would pass before all Australians returning from overseas were placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

It is not so much a double standard as an unavoidable diplomatic reality. Australia, like most Western countries, continues to tap dance around the fragile ego of Donald Trump. The Morrison government would have known that treating the US on the basis of hard evidence, as a risk equivalent to China or Iran, would likely have enraged a president who thought the coronavirus was a media beat-up .

This is the unavoidable dilemma of the coronavirus for Australia: it is a health and economic crisis with the added complication of international relations.

From Crikey

… while we were laughing at the Trump clown show, the virus escaped over the trans-Pacific air routes into our cities.

Flight arrival data suggests that things turned in the second week of March. On March 9 there were 92 cases in Australia. Just two flights into Sydney from the US had each carried what seems a single case (reports are by seating rows, so there could be more than one case in each nominated row).

By the following Sunday, when Australia followed New Zealand’s lead and closed its borders at midnight, a further 15 flights with at least 21 confirmed cases had arrived in Sydney from North America and the US had become the leading source country of overseas infection.


Last update to this page: 5.30pm 25 March, 2020

But he had a problem. It was one thing to block hot-spots like Italy or Korea, but how should he respond to this US influx without damaging the carefully curated relationship with the US president? The solution came over the weekend courtesy of Jacinda Ardern — if you can’t single out the US, then single out everyone!

The USA cracks down in dissidents


From the NYT

On Monday, Capt. Brett Crozier, the commander of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, sent a letter to the Navy pleading for permission to unload his crew, including scores of sailors sickened with Covid-19, in Guam, where it was docked. The Pentagon had been dragging its feet, and the situation on the ship was growing dire.

“We are not at war,” he wrote. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

After the letter was leaked to The San Francisco Chronicle, the Navy relented. But on Thursday, it relieved Captain Crozier of his command.

Captain Crozier joins a growing list of heroic men and women who have risked their careers over the last few weeks to speak out about life-threatening failures to treat the victims of this terrible pandemic. Many of them are doctors and nurses, and many of them, like Captain Crozier, have been punished. All of them deserve our deepest gratitude.

And doctors too

In Bellingham, Wash., an E.R. doctor, Ming Lin, pleaded on social media for better protections for patients and the staff at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, where he had worked for 17 years.

“I do fear for my staff,” Dr. Lin warned. “Morally, I think when you see something wrong, you have to speak out.”

The hospital responded by terminating Dr. Lin.

Dr. Lin told me that he had no regrets, but he asked supporters not to circulate petitions on his behalf for fear that such an effort would distract from managing the pandemic.

And nurses

In Chicago, a nurse, Lauri Mazurkiewicz, warned colleagues that standard face masks distributed by the hospital were not safe. She brought in her own higher grade N95 mask — and was fired by Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She is now suing the hospital, which declined to comment except to tell me that its practices are safe.

In Texas, my colleague Matt Richtel reported on an anesthesiologist, Dr. Henry Nikicicz, who in effect was suspended without pay because he wore a mask in public places in the hospital. The hospital relented after it was asked for comment.

And Amazon

Chris Smalls, an Amazon worker fired after organizing a walkout over unsafe conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, speaks out.

And Pakistan

From The Guardian

Dozens of doctors in Pakistan protesting over a lack of safety equipment as they battle coronavirus have been arrested in the south-western city of Quetta.

Baton-wielding police broke up the demonstration on Monday by more than 100 doctors and paramedics denouncing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and goggles.

Fifty-three medical staff were detained during the protest, which came as frontline medical workers around the world have been grappling with short supplies of vital safety equipment as the pandemic spreads.

Naples Soldier

Remember the Naples Soldier, the vicious flu pandemic that swept the globe almost 100 years ago, infecting one in three people and killing up to 50 million? You probably don’t, but you might remember the Spanish flu, the name by which that pandemic is better known. ‘Naples Soldier’ was what the Spanish called it, after a catchy tune that was being played in local music halls at the time. They knew the origins of the disaster lay beyond their borders and, understandably, refused to take the blame.

The Spanish flu stands as a monument to the ugly history of disease naming. The world was at war in 1918, and the belligerent nations censored their press, not wanting to damage their populations’ morale. Spain, however, was neutral in that war, and when the first cases of flu occurred there, they were widely reported. The disease had been in the United States for two months already, and in France for several weeks at least, but that information was kept out of their newspapers. The world came to see the disease as pulsing out from Spain, a belief that was encouraged by propagandists in other countries whom it suited to shift the blame.

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