High Court Challenge – Day 3: The ‘Master’ Speaks

Sitting in the High Court of Australia, one could not help but be impressed by the constellation of intellectual power both on and before the bench.  The analogy that came to mind is that the Justices, the barristers and the solicitors-general are the intellectual equivalent of Olympic athletes.  So, it with no thought of disparaging the stellar intellects and talents of the representatives for the defence, that I observe the star performer was undoubtedly,  Ron Williams’ barrister, Bret Walker SC.

Walker’s presentation was authoritative, self-assured, eloquent and accessible. There seemed to be an easy rapport between Walker and the High Court Justices. This is not to suggest any form of favouritism on their part.  I would simply remark that the  tension sometimes evident between the  bench and representatives for the defence, was entirely absent when Walker spoke.  Of course he was questioned and challenged by the Justices, but his calm manner and an underlying gentle humour seemed to put them at ease.

Having witnessed Walker in action on the first day of the hearing, we awaited his reply to the defendants’ arguments with great anticipation. In the course of the three day hearing, it had become evident that the matter before the court had wide and (if the defence was to be believed) potentially devastating consequences for the exercise of power by the incumbent government.

Everyone, including the legal representatives and Justices, seemed astonished at how the case turned, on the second day, to become a matter of such far-reaching historical importance that the chaplaincy issue almost seemed to fade into the background.   No longer did it seem to be the raison d’etre of the case.  Now, it seemed (to me at least), to be simply a tool which might be used to bring a power hungry government to heel.

Walker began his address by speaking briefly to the subject of ‘benefits to students’.  The contention by the defence is that the NSCP fits the description of conferring a ‘benefit’ to students and, therefore, the expenditure is authorised by the Constitution and does not require legislation through an act of parliament.  Walker disposed of Scripture Union’s argument that the word ‘benefits’ should be defined broadly by pointing out their legal reasoning had ‘many steps missing’.  The sense was of a Professor of Law marking a red line through an undergraduate’s assignment.

Walker moved on quickly to attack SUQ’s conention that it is a ‘trading corporation’.  This was important because the Commonwealth and SUQ claimed no legislation was necessary to support expenditure for the National School Chaplaincy program, because the Commonwealth is permitted (without legislation) to enter into contracts with ‘trading corporations’.

Walker conceded that the Constitution does not supply ‘tight definitional parameters’ in this regard,  but, he insisted, “That does not mean that there does not have to be some attempt at definition …”.   To define a ‘trading company’ as one which (like SUQ) happens to trade from time to time – as an activity incidental to its main purpose – was, he insisted, to misinterpret its meaning. It cannot, surely, suffice, said Walker for a corporation to say that from time to time something is done, for example, selling of surplus assets or getting rid of second-hand bibles and say, “Well, that is trade”.

“… That would be, in our submission, fatuous …”.

Next, Walker addressed,”… the critical matter in terms of whether we [i.e. Williams’ case] can succeed or not.”

Walker argued on ‘Day One’ that no valid appropriation had been made for expenditure on the NSCP.  Since then the focus of the court had shifted significantly.  What was now central to the arguments was whether the government had acted properly in failing to pass legislation for the expenditure.

Walker considered (even, perhaps conceded) the possibility that the court may well find that the appropriation was valid and that the NSCP does not constitute a religious test for ‘officers under the Commonwealth’.  (This second contention was given no support by any of the states and, I’m sorry to say, appears – to me at least –  to be ‘dead in the water’.)

Given that the defence may succeed on both these counts, said Walker, “… the question still remains whether the funding agreement under which the Commonwealth provides funds for the chaplaincy at my client’s children’s school is lawful in the sense of being made pursuant to legal authority.”

In other words, by Day Three, the issue of primary concern was that, even if the the NSCP appropriation was valid,  appropriation is not legislation.  Just because something is buried included in a Parliamentary Budget Statement and attached to an appropriation which  passes  successfully through the lower house, this does not mean the expenditure has been ‘approved’.

As I understand it, what was argued at the hearing, and what seemed to be widely accepted by the bench, is that an appropriation  only confirms that money is available from Consolidated Revenue to meet a particular purpose . It should not be construed as providing approval for the expenditure of those funds.

Importantly, where an expenditure falls outside of the category of the ‘nationhood’ powers of the Commonwealth (i.e. matters of national emergency, or matters peculiar to the administration of the Commonwealth) or where it cannot be construed as a routine and ongoing item of expenditure necessary for the administration of the Commonwealth (e.g. the purchase of stationery), it requires legislation (i.e. the passing of a legislative act).  The NSCP does not appear to fit either of the categories which would exclude the necessity for parliamentary approval through legislation.

Any claim that chaplaincy is, of necessity, a national program, said Walker, is  insupportable.  There is no ‘observable incapacity of the States’ to run such a program themselves.

“… how could it be said there is any national aspect to this when the scheme itself bespeaks that it will only be available to such local communities as volunteer to take advantage of it? So there is nothing of the universality that might indicate nationality and there is nothing of the uniformity of approach that might indicate nationality.”

In Walker’s opinion, the failure to pass legislation for expenditure for the NSCP simply cannot be circumvented by claiming it is a matter of ‘national importance’ which the States do not have the capacity to administer.

Throughout the case, the Commonwealth and SUQ, like oracles of doom,  attempted to warn the judges of the ‘terrible consequences’ that would ensue if there was a finding in favour of Mr Williams. Portentious rabbits prophesying all kinds of apocalyptic consequences were frantically pulled out of the defendants’ collective hats.  The suggestion that a win for Williams would deprive thousands of poor autistic children from participating in Commonwealth funded programs, was one of the more cynical arguments.

During the case, there was some amusement caused by the suggestion that a win for Williams would require legislation to enable the purchase of ‘HB pencils’.  The implication was that a precedent would be set, requiring legislation for everything and anything on which the Commonwealth spends money.  This, the defence warned ominously, would ‘hobble the nation’.

But, Walker explained patiently that the ‘nationhood’ powers conferred on the executive by Section 61 of the Constitution ensured the nation would not be ‘hobbled’ by a finding for Williams. In short, the NSCP is not a matter of national importance, nor is it a program that could only be administered by the Commonwealth – the existence of school chaplaincy in Queensland well before Commonwealth funding proves the point.  So, a ruling that programs like the NSCP require legislation would not confer any negative impact upon matters which are legitimately the business of the Commonwealth.

In fact, one of the High Court Justices, himself, pointed out:

 “.. the Crown has a power independent of statute to make such contracts for the public service as are incidental to the ordinary and well-recognized functions of Government”.

Just so, the argument that a finding for Williams would require legislation for stationery supplies, was neatly exposed as specious.

Quietly settling any concerns about the wider ramifications of a finding for Williams, Walker reminded the Justices there were already useful precedents in case law which might provide the bench with guidance in respect to those areas in which executive power exists under section 61, without the need for enabling legislation.  Better definition was clearly needed, but the means to make such definition existed.

The executive, said Walker, was certainly authorised to make contracts on behalf of the Commonwealth as might from time to time be necessary in the course of its administration; but one should not pretend that the National School Chaplaincy Program falls within that category.  Nevertheless, the executive might, legitimately, have investigated whether such a program was worthwhile before spending $450 million of taxpayers’ money on it. This would not have required enabling legislation.

Providing a ‘road map’ of how similar programs might be managed, Walker said that, having tested the need for and potential efficacy of such a program and determined that it was desirable, it might then have entered into agreement with the States to provide funding to a third party as part of the terms.  But this is not what was done in the case of the NSCP.  The suggestion seemed to be that what is at issue is not that such programs might be prohibited (leaving autistic children throughout the nation, bereft!), but only that a somewhat different, and co-operative approach may be required for their implementation.

One of the Justices asked if policy ‘experiments’ could be treated in the same way as ‘inquiries’ into new policies.

“If it was a sufficiently humdrum or mundane experiment that did not really attract the description “policy”,” said Walker, then it might fall into this category. “ … but if it were truly a policy departure, a novel program, then it would not evade the requirement for enabling legislation to call it a pilot, to call it a trial or to call it an experiment.  Insofar as it involves activities by the Commonwealth, including contracting or spending, it would need the enabling legislation.”

By way of explanation, Walker proposed an analogy, “… the replacement lifeboat on the battleship is one thing, the new battleship is another thing altogether” – the one legitimately finding approval in an appropriation, the other requiring an act of Parliament.

“When it comes to the exercise of making a contract along the lines of the NSCP”,  said Walker, it is necessary for the Executive to be authorised by law. This “can no longer be done in this country simply by pointing to a large lump of money in the Appropriation Act and saying it is within an outcome or activity.”

The defence’s attempt to claim legitimacy for the NSCP under the Commonwealth’s power to make grants was also called out as a semantic ruse. “If you call it a grant, you do not make it any better, it is still spending,” said Walker.

“In our submission, it would be the height of cynicism and the evasion of Parliamentary control of the Executive simply to say, “Oh, well, executives give money away, spend money, therefore, all spending of money is something an executive may do without legislation.” That, in our submission, is chop logic of the worst kind.”

The argument, it seemed, kept coming back to the same point.  Expenditure for the NSCP should have been put to the parliament for approval.  No matter which way the defence tried to twist and turn, make semantic arguments, or churn out dire predictions of apocalyptic consequences, Walker masterfully called them out.  It came down to this:  The appropriation of the funds – whether valid or not – was not sufficient to make the NSCP ‘legal’ in a Constitutional sense.

So, said Justice Crennan, seeking clarification, “Is the end point this:  spending on, or making contracts in respect of the activity or enterprise of chaplaincy in schools in Queensland does not fall within the ordinary and well-recognised functions of the Commonwealth Government?”

It does in this case, yes,” said Walker, “That is where it comes to ground so as to produce a win for us in this case, yes, your Honour.”

With that, Walker concluded his address to the bench.

It may now be three to six months before the High Court hands down its decision.

Chrys Stevenson

Posts in this High Court Challenge Series (in order):

High Court Challenge: We Arrive in Canberra

High Court Challenge: Last Man Standing?

High Court Challenge – Day 1: The Hearing Begins

High Court Challenge  – Day 2: Scintillating Boredom

High Court Challenge – Day3 (a):  Terrible Consequences

High Court Challenge – Day 3 (b): The ‘Master’ Speaks

If you support Ron Williams’ High Court Challenge, please consider making a donation at the High Court Challenge website. Support for Williams has been overwhelming, but legal fees are still outstanding.  Ron, his wife and their six children should not have to bear the full brunt of the outstanding amount.

27 thoughts on “High Court Challenge – Day 3: The ‘Master’ Speaks

  1. Val Lewis

    Thanks Chrys. Seems to me the defence’s ‘dire consequences’ argument assumes efficacy without providing evidence, and so wondering if this was asked about or discussed, or do you think the argument was pretty obviously absurd…

  2. Doug Steley

    well explained Chrys

    I think I understand and only have a mild headache 🙂

    that the Christian lobby and Government called in such spurious and unsupported evidence can only suggest at a fundamental weakness in their case.

    If they had ignored those avenues and given points of law and precedents I would be a LOT more worried about the outcome.

    They seem to me anyway to have admitted failure and relied on emotion.

    I can only suggest possibly producing a scantily clad buxom blonde with huge breasts to present this kind of evidence may have had more effect on swaying the opinions of the judges !!!!!

    Well done to all who have worked on this pretty momentous undertaking

  3. Danny Stevens

    Wow, Chrys, you have a pretty good grasp of this yourself. Thanks for your work, its been a great read. Now for the wait.

    Its a shame not more focus could be given to section 116.

  4. Justin

    Thanks Chrys.. another great write-up and a very impressive read! Can I ask you to elaborate though on the ‘dead in the water’ bit? I didn’t quite follow that?

  5. Jayel

    Again a wonderful read, Chrys – thank you! I am still confused over the treatment of s116 though. The pro-chaplaincy crowd on other forums is all excited about this barely being mentioned in the recent proceedings, but one way or another I suppose the reason for that will become clearer when the judgement is handed down.

  6. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    Jayel, I make no pretence at being either a legal expert nor am I able to read the minds of the High Court Justices. I can say, however, that the Section 116 argument was never central to the case and, as the case evolved in court, it became pretty obvious that was not the battle-ground on which the case would be fought.

    This may be disappointing for many, and, in a sense I share that disappointment.

    Of course, it may be that Section 116 will resurrect in the course of the Justice’s deliberations, but my sense is that is unlikely.

    Those who supported Ron should not feel disappointed, though. It is, of course, not possible to predict the outcome, but we left the court with a great deal of optimism that, whether or not Section 116 is in contention, the NSCP will not come out of this unscathed.

    I have yet to read through the court transcripts, but will be doing that next week and then writing an article about the possible repercussions of the case and what that might mean for the NSCP in particular. Stay tuned!

  7. Victor Bien

    Thanks for being effectively eyes and ears in the court for me (and others). In the Australian Book of Atheism you’re billed as “Historian, writer and blogger”. You have acquitted that description very well in the present series! I have put a link to the beginning of this series on the HSNSW website home page http://www.hsnsw.asn.au

  8. Russell Blackford

    Chrys, thank you so much for these reports on the proceedings. It’s a fascinating case, and I’m enjoying reading about all these issues that go far beyond section 116. It takes me back to my law school days. The issues raised really are quite fundamental to the extent of government power at the federal level. I never imagined when this case was first talked about that issues that go so deep into the Australian constitutional settlement would be raised … and would become critical to the disposition of the case. Wow!

  9. martin

    Thankyou for an incredible account. Very lucid; and complements the transcripts very well.

    I can’t help but feel very very disappointed if, as you say, the battleground of the case was whether the program should have been explicitly approved by the parliament. Since the Labor and Liberal parties seem to love the program, then this will not put a stop to the program at all. That is UNLESS, any explicit approval of the program by parliament breaches section 116. So the program gets caught between 51 and 116. HOWEVER, I strongly suspect that our constitution, though brilliantly phrased and clearly meant to prevent spending on ANY religion, has been grossly misinterpreted by a succession of high court judiciaries to mean funding of any particular religion.

    Since the actual people of Australia don’t appear to care too much about chaplains in state schools, and they will never change the constitution i have only one suggestion: Anyone who cares should lobby minority religious groups to join them in opposing the program.

    1. Chris

      “Since the Labor and Liberal parties seem to love the program, then this will not put a stop to the program at all. ”

      Actually it might, at least in the short term, with neither major party in control of the senate…?

  10. Philip Heywood

    I have very limited knowledge of the High Court other than of an appealled criminal case which got that far after the Qld courts fouled it up unbelievably. The unfortunate victim of miscarriage of justice (plain as a pikestaff, all documented at my site) didn’t exactly have any fanfare of media attention, not even a cross-eyed bear to make the Court sit up and think. Case dismissed, injustice triumphs, judge yawns and walks away. Maintain the distinguished aura of the verbose elite. Cost, simply, criminal.
    What the hang is all this about, anyway?
    The Australian Constitution is the offspring of Westminster governmental principles, which is the progeny of Protestant Christianity. S. 116 is the administrative expression of the christian principle of freedom of expression of personal religion. Only the Bible allows freeedom of personal religion. WIKIPEDIA notes the confusion amongst lawyers as to the meaning of religion as intended by 116. So the High Court can’t even read WIKIPEDIA? Total $cost? Total result? The schools are an utter mess. Why not put the dollars and the thought and the verbiage into getting someone a decent day at a decent educational institution? Start by training the lawyers.

    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      I appreciate your thoughts, Phillip, but I must say our whole team was incredibly impressed at the knowledge and abilities of the lawyers and barristers (Ron’s, in particular, of course), solicitors-general and High Court Justices. The law may sometimes be an ass, but we noted no asses among any of the legal experts present at the High Court.

      Of course, we did not always agree with their interpretation of the law – and neither did the Justices – but the impression that this was a serious matter of national importance, which deserved serious consideration with due respect to previous rulings and interpretations was inescapable.

      Whatever the outcome, I have left with a huge respect for our High Court and its functionaries.

    2. John

      It is a shame but as the broad ruling by the High Court in the DOGS case set the precedence effectively removing separation of church and state. The court can never ignore what has been previously ruled even if it has severely limited the meaning of the Constitution.

      I personally see the NSCP breech Section 116 and not even the argument put forth in this case of religious test for office.

      By hiring chaplains to proselytise children they breeched Section 116, as it is prohibited “for imposing any religious observance”.

  11. Rhonda Cale

    Chrys, we really appreciate your succinct and accessible interpretation and summing up of this (complex) courst process.

    Thanks, Rhonda

  12. Gerry Tander

    It’s quite obvious that the “trophy” issue for Ron Williams ie. that there was a breach of section 116 of the constitution through a religious test was given short thrift by the High Court. By not allowing the defence to give their opinion, the High Court judges seem to have already dismissed this argument. The only matter to be resolved is not whether the funding is appropriate but how it should occur – through the Commonwealth or the States. I have no doubt that School Chaplaincy will remain in schools and it will receive federal funding. I’m afraid you are just going to have to accept this reality

    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      Gerry, S116 was never the ‘trophy’ issue in the Williams case. It was a small part of the overall argument. Further, Williams never expected that a win in the case would bring an end to school chaplaincy – simply an end to Federal funding. Getting rid of chaplaincy altogether is more of a long-term strategy. Ron has just given us a good start. Although I did tend to agree with you that the Justices had dismissed the S16 argument by refusing to hear from the defence on it, I have since moderated this view. A legal expert has since suggested that while it might be that they saw no merit in Wiliams’ argument on this subject, it may equally be so that they found it so strong that it did not require further discussion. We will not know until the judgement is handed down.

      I think the chance of continued direct Federal funding for the NSCP is now in major jeopardy. However, there may still be an opportunity for the Federal government to fund it via tied grants to the States. That means that the States will have to decide how this ‘windfall’ can best be spent. With the damning report from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, and some major concessions about weaknesses in the existing program, it seems very likely that any scheme implemented by the states will be substantially different to the Federal scheme. That, in itself, will be a victory for Williams.

      Win or lose, the Williams case has turned the tide of public and media opinion on the NSCP and, more widely, on religion in schools. We have been beseiged by support and have noticed that even the most conservative papers are now writing positive articles about Ron’s battle. Just today, I heard from a parent who has been emboldened by Ron’s fight to go to her school Principal and insist that religious instruction at the school be undertaken in full compliance with Queensland Education policies. It appears that the school, realizing the negative publicity surrounding issues of this nature, will comply.

      The NSCP will not be defeated by the High Court Action. It will be defeated by a series of small victories given impetus by Williams’ example. Make no mistake, the opposition to the NSCP is mounting and increasingly organized and well connected. This is not the end.

      1. Jayel

        It’s great to hear that this case is giving people the strength to fight for what’s right and not let school administrations take the easy way out. Earlier this year I successfully fought a battle, with pressure added separately from another parent, to get our state school in Queensland to conduct RI according to the regulations. Until that point, the school stated that RE [sic, and misleading in itself] was compulsory and that written notification was required to withdraw a child. The result was many kids, naturally including those of no-religion and completely different religions from Christianity (the only religion presently offered) being left in RI classes. Education Queensland finally put pressure on them to do it properly, although the principal later cheerfully announced at a P&C meeting that ‘you’ll be pleased to know we’ve had a good strike rate of people opting back in to RE [sic],” clearly showing his prejudice when his job was to be neutral on the issue. Chaplaincy was pushed through with very little community consultation. The P&C votes each year whether to give money to support the chaplaincy program, which I and another parent have argued against, but all people see is the nice person (and he is nice) helping out at the school and are unable to see beyond to the principles behind the opposition. This is the battle we face…Anything that takes the wind out of the sails of religion creeping into our states schools is a good thing.

      2. Gerry Tander

        I still think you are guilty of “wishful thinking”. Your problem is that you don’t have the political support. The federal and state MPs visit their schools on a regular basis and all they hear is positive stories about the chaplains. They know it will be political suicide not to support it. Why else would an Atheist PM not only extend the funding but also expand it next year. Chaplaincy is entrenched in the psyche of schools. Whilst you might philosophically oppose it, the generalised, unsubstantiated allegations of “misconduct” just can’t be proven.

  13. Philip Heywood

    Feel free to delete this — I don’t know whether I’m entitled to a second post — this has been well reported by Bear and I wish you would send it to the High Court and invite them to read it. Everyone, but everyone, is wasting time and money and the High Court could have short circuited it and saved the agony. Like I said before: What the hang? Williams ‘wins’: so what? The Labour Party (so full of saints) has effectively criminilized parents who smack children. The Bible (which was held up as the only authoritative democratic guide by none other than atheistic darwinist, T.H. Huxley ,who recommended it as a basis for schools) says in black and white that children without parental gudance including if need be, smacking, are ‘bastards’. So the Bible, says physical correction has a place and autralian political parties are ready to ban it. So whose ‘religion’ do we follow? The leading darwinistic agnostic, Huxley, —? If a chaplain says it’s proper to correct children, he is agreeing with a leading agnostic. If we ban the chaplains who prefer the biblical view and replace them with ‘ethicists’ who lean elsewhere, then that replacement action carries religious connotations. Unless, of course, Man is his own God. Well, anyone here notices it thundering whenever they speak?
    Everything done by every person has some religious connotation. The schools are full of religion. And whatever religion it is right now, it isn’t exactly an ornament to proper and productive education. But, just wait for Islam to inveigle into the federal money-go-round — which it probably has done already. According to its written guidelines, all us free-thinking people here are dogs–and the females aren’t even bitches.
    Well, we could go on with the infallibility of the Pope, and the immaculate conception — which are yet official R,C. policy, as far as I know.

    That’s why the Fathers put in S.116. — and prefaced it in the Preamble with, “Humbly relying upon ….. almighty God.” You sure need to, if man-made religion rears its ugly head. Stop humbly relying on Almighty God, and expect society to begin eating itself. The High Court should read the Constitution. Every second thing certain political movements espouse could be challenged under 116. Not smacking children — direct affront to the Bible and the Constitution. Accepting practicing Islamics as immigrants — equal to eating constitutional poison (slow release). Carbon tax? Pay money to show you think Christianity is a total fake — it says Man can’t control the climate. In fact, it says Man is definitely not his own God.
    Did the Founding Fathers, including any enlightened atheists amongst them, intend for the administrative tenets of Christianity to be discarded? Weren’t the least religiously inclined of them, at least of one mind with T.H. Huxley, Darwin’s bulldog? .

  14. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    Wow Phillip, not quite sure how to respond to that rant. Let’s start with the Constitution. You said, “That’s why the Fathers put in S.116. — and prefaced it in the Preamble with, “Humbly relying upon ….. almighty God.” Read some history, Phil. Section 116 was put into the Constitution because of the sectarian rivalry which existed at the time – principally between the Anglican and Catholic Churches. The first drafts of the Constitution included no reference to God at all because those who drafted it wanted an entirely secular state. In fact, Andrew Inglis Clark (a Unitarian) who was responsible for much of what is now still present in the Constitution went to America to consult with experts on how our Constitution should be worded. Two of the main people he consulted with were, in fact, atheists.

    The inclusion of the invocation was not done with any great reverence in mind. It was a political decision made because the churches said they wouldn’t support Federation if it was not included. When it was, reluctantly, added, Section 116 was proposed as something of a counter to it, to ensure that it could never be argued that the invocation suggested that Australia was other than secular.

    Sadly, the decision of the High Court in 1981 favoured a very narrow interpretation of S116 which ran counter to the intentions of the founders, and so we find ourselves, as Justice Gummow mentioned at the High Court recently “in this unhappy situation”.

    I will not enter into debate into smacking children other than to say that violence begets violence. It is a sad reflection on Christianity that their solution to social problems is to hit their children.

    Because Huxley happened to accept Darwin’s theory of evolution certainly doesn’t make him an expert on parenting. Because atheists might agree with Huxley’s view on evolution, doesn’t mean they slavishly agree with every other view he may have held.

    No-one (certainly not Ron Williams) is suggesting that chaplains be replaced with ethicists. We suggest that a study be done to determine how children’s mental health and psychological needs might best be met. One imagines that the best solution may be to increase the number of tertiary trained counsellors in schools and these may, of course, be either Christian or non-Christian – religion playing no part in the employment criteria for such positions.

    Finally, with regard to Islam. We do not see Muslim’s lobbying to have imams in secular schools. We do not see the Islamic Lobby making demands of Julia Gillard. We do not see the Islamic Lobby holding rallies at Parliament House in order to disparage other Australians. We do not see Muslims disrupting Anzac day to push their own political barrow. No, Phillip. The biggest threat to Australian freedom is not Islam, but Christianity, which is where we focus our attention.

    I have allowed your last comment, Phillip, but it is the last anti-Islam, pro-child abuse rant I will allow on my blog. You have had your freedom of speech and I have given my reply. You are no longer welcome here.

  15. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    @Gerry – As I said, the High Court Challenge is the opening salvo of a much longer fight. We recognise that. Will Ron be successful in his court action? None of us will know that until the decision is handed down. All I can say is that I sat in that court all day, every day and you didn’t. I had the opportunity to get feedback from some of the lawyers involved, you didn’t. And so, respectfully, I think I may have a better sense of how it went than you.

    Also, with respect, you do not have access to the many complaints which have been lodged and which are yet to be dealt with or made public – some of them shocking in their implications. As I said, Gerry, we’re just at the start of this, and we’re not using all of our ammunition at the first battle.

    Finally, we do have political support and it is increasing. Is it sufficient at this stage to overturn chaplaincy? No. Did we expect this battle would be won overnight? No.

    1. Gerry Tander


      Here you are making assumptions again – how do you know I wasn’t in the court during the High Court Challenge? Did you speak to the Defence lawyers – I don’t think so. How do you know that i don’t have access to the “complaints” (details which were reported recently in certain newspapers)? Most of the complaints refer to administrative issues that are relevant to DEEWR (again published in newspapers). The “complaints’ you refer to come from the same small band of supporters you have – they never put their names to it or substantiate it. Put up or shut up! Where is your political support – surely you’re not banking on the Greens. I went to my local P&C meeting last night and they are all raving about the chaplain and wondering who are these “nuts’ trying to stop the scheme. You need to get out of your “group think’ bubble and go and speak to the real world

  16. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    ” How do you know I wasn’t in the court during the High Court Challenge?”

    Were you? No, I didn’t think so. If you were there you would surely not have missed the opportunity to have said, “I was there too” or “I saw you there”. You would surely have mentioned an incident which happened at the court which has not been publicised but which you would have known about had you been there.

    I know you don’t have access to the complaints which are held by the Australian Secular Lobby, some of which they have passed on directly to the Minister.

    Of course formal complaints include the names of those making them. Of course the ASL has the real names of those who have lodged complaints with them. The fact that *you* don’t have them means nothing.

    Of course there is support among the Greens – and don’t underestimate that – the power to negotiate is a powerful thing. There is also growing discontent about the program amongst the Labor grassroots. Labor’s involvement in religion and religious activities is the source of a great deal of angst in the branches. Just recently, the Tasmanian branch of the ALP passed a motion at its state conference to replace school chaplains with secular counsellors. This is not our preferred option, but it certainly is no ringing endorsement for the current policy.

    You are very welcome to underestimate us, Gerry, and to underestimate the breadth of our information network. As I said, we’re in this for the long haul and already we have pulled off a High Court Case, national media attention, and the support of influential Australians such as Bob Carr and Justice Michael Kirby and influential organizations such as the Australian Psychology Society and Sane Australia and the Commonwealth Ombudsman. And this is just the beginning ….

  17. Pingback: High Court ChallengeSunshine Coast Atheists - In Us We Trust | Sunshine Coast Atheists - In Us We Trust

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