High profile public policy analyst Tim Wilson has been appointed as new Human Rights Commissioner. Attorney-General George Brandis announced his appointment  late last year. Mr Wilson has spent seven years with the Institute of Public Affairs think-tank, where he has headed up its climate change policy and intellectual property and free trade unit. ”Human rights are important, consistent and universal and provide the foundations for a free society,” Mr Wilson said. He nominated free speech and media freedom as his two key priorities, saying both had come under attack under the last government.

”Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are essential for a free society,” Mr Wilson said. ”A free media is a direct extension of the importance of free speech and are one and the same in importance. ‘We need to remove the restrictions that have stopped people saying what they think and believe. Only through a contest of ideas will our society flourish,” he continued, condemning the proposals by the last government to change anti-discrimination laws to ban conduct that ”offends or insults”. ”We shouldn’t have restrictions on what may offend or insult because they just end up restricting speech and stop incorrect ideas being challenged and rebutted.”

Mr Wilson – who will be known as the “freedom commissioner” – expressed concern at the muted response from much of the media and academia to the media regulation and anti-discrimination laws put forward under Labor. ”It is clear there were proposals in the last parliament to restrict free speech and freedom of the press,” he said. ”Thankfully they were defeated, but it was deeply concerning to see them so easily come under attack and so little opposition voiced in the community. ”I was disappointed that some people, who should have been staunch defenders of free speech, didn’t stand up and assert the importance of these essential features of our democracy.”

Mr Wilson warned against an incremental dilution of human rights. He threw his support behind Senator Brandis’s pledge to abolish the ”Andrew Bolt” provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act that make it unlawful to offend and insult people because of their race. The move to amend or repeal Section 18C and, possibly, other parts of the Act will honour an election promise, will change the definition of racial vilification to eliminate at least two of the grounds that were used to rule against the columnist over articles about light-skinned Aboriginal people.

”I’m looking forward to reasserting the importance of human rights and advancing the government’s freedom agenda,” Mr Wilson said.Mr Wilson is also a senior fellow at New York’s Centre for Medicine in the Public Interest.  Senator Brandis said Mr Wilson’s appointment would “restore balance to the Australian Human Rights Commission” which, he said had “become increasingly narrow and selective in its view of human rights” under Labor. He praised Mr Wilson’s credentials for the role. “He has published and broadcast widely on the topics of personal freedom, liberal democratic values and the rule of law” Mr Brandis said. 

According to Senator Brandis “Mr Wilson was at the forefront in thwarting recent attempts to erode freedom of speech, freedom of the press and artistic freedom – rights and freedoms Australians have always held precious.” Senator Brandis added that the Coalition had pledged to create at least one “Freedom Commissioner”, adding he had asked Mr Wilson to focus on freedom of expression rights recognised by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He flagged reforms to the Commission would be made this year. Mr Wilson’s appointment will be for five years.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports



Imposing a vow of chastity on teenage boys entering the priesthood helped to cause the “tsunami” of child sex abuse that has engulfed the Catholic Church, a former leader of the Marist Brothers said.  Michael Hill, who spent six years as the order’s Sydney provincial from 1995, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that the requirement should be seriously questioned. Brother Hill, who helped draft the church’s Towards Healing policy on child abuse and chaired the board of the Encompass treatment facility for abusive priests, said the vow “didn’t exactly encourage mature human growth and development. Quite the opposite.”

The vow of chastity, imposed on prospective members of the clergy when still in their teens, was “intolerable”, inappropriate and was coupled with a lack of training he described as “quite inadequate”. Brother Hill said he “often” wondered about the causes of what commission chairman Peter McClellan called “the tsunami of sexual abuse that hit the church” in recent years. “Do you look upon the vow of chastity imposed upon teenage boys, soon to become men, to be one of the elements that may be responsible for the tsunami that came?” Justice McClellan asked. “In some cases I agree that that’s a probable cause, yes,” Brother Hill replied.

“Should the commission look carefully at the construct of the church and its imposition of the vow of chastity on young men when addressing the question of why?” Justice McClellan asked. “Yes, I believe so,” he replied. The Catholic Church has received more than 2200 complaints of child sex abuse by clergy under Towards Healing since it was established in 1996 and has paid out about $43 million in compensation. Brother Hill’s predecessor as provincial, Alexis Turton, told the commission that he alone received 128 complaints while in office during the decade before 1995 and the Marist Brothers “have a significant problem”.

During the 1990s, Brother Turton told the commission, he failed to pass on allegations against one of his colleagues to the school where he knew the brother was teaching. Documents tendered to the commission show the order received several allegations against the cleric, Raymond Foster, including that “he enjoyed watching people abuse themselves and masturbate”, while teaching at a school in far north Queensland. Brother Turton said he spoke to Foster and chose not to warn the Marist Brothers school in Sydney where the brother was teaching at the time.

“I assume that I would have had an assurance from him that what was referred to 30 years ago was not an issue now,” he said. “At that time I didn’t consider it was necessary … I am quite sure I would have taken action today.” A few months after this conversation, in 1994, Foster was stood down after being questioned by police in relation to further allegations of child abuse. He committed suicide before being brought to trial. The Marist Brothers subsequently paid tens of thousands of dollars in compensation to one of his victims, but declined a request to make a public apology.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports



The Abbott government will overhaul the way international adoptions are handled to make it easier for Australian families to adopt overseas children. Tony Abbott called overseas adoption reform a “policy no-go area” but ordered his department form a taskforce to advise him in the lead-up to the issue being fully discussed at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in April.Mr Abbott’s proposed changes mark a dramatic shift from the former Labor government which closed the flag ship Ethiopian adoption program in June last year. 

For families like the Hermans, it’s a crucial commitment but one they’ll believe only “when we have a baby in our arms”. Rosemary Hermans, 40, grew up watching the Ethiopian famine unfold in Africa and vowed she would adopt a child when she was older, going so far as to warn successive boyfriends this was her goal. Decades later, and after a five-year wait and a bureaucratic tangle, she held her daughter Zuri for the first time since she was officially recognised as her adoptive mother. Zuri, now 11, is from the same famine-stricken city Alamata which Mrs Hermans was so affected by when a child.

The Melbourne mother decided to have a biological child – now seven-year-old daughter Chiara – because the process was so arduous “The red-tape is suffocating but I’ve lived in war zones and I’ve held the starving and abandoned children,” she said. “They exist, these children are real and if they can’t be with their natural parents they deserve to be in a loving home.” Mrs Hermans applied again for an overseas adoption for which she had been waiting six years for an answer, when she received a phone call from the department telling me the federal government had closed the Ethiopian adoption program. She said “I was grief-stricken, absolutely shattered.” 

The former Labor government had previously closed the program while it knew families had been matched with children. In making the announcement Mr Abbott said “I have asked a taskforce of senior officials to come together to provide urgent advice on everything we need to do to make this process easier; what are the current impediments to adoption; what are ways that we can usefully adapt that will make it easier to adopt; what new countries can we partner with to make it possible for more children to have a better life and for there to be more good families here in this country of ours,” he said.

Another woman, Ms Furness, who has two adopted children, Oscar and Ava, with her husband, said she wanted to “savour the moment” while her husband said it felt like the “brick walls” were finally tumbling down. For Ms Hermans, who is also a foster carer in Victoria, she was unsure whether another adoption will ever happen. “We wanted to adopt a one-day old baby who was in our care for eight months but we couldn’t do that either, because you can only be on one list,” she said. “Whatever happens, I will never give up fighting on this issue.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports



Sunday 2nd March, 2014

Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra

10.00AM till 4.00PM

The National Day of Prayer and Fasting gives opportunity for Christians from across Australia to gather in Canberra to pray for our nation. For six hours, worship and prayer will be offered up to God in our National capital asking Him to send revival to our spiritually dry and thirsty land. Prayer will be offered for an overwhelming flood of God’s power and presence on His people that will result in a great harvest of souls for His kingdom. Those attending will be asked to humble themselves before God and cry out for a turning back of the tide of immorality that is sweeping our nation. Those that cannot make the journey to Canberra are encouraged to pray in their own community.

For further information go to

Source: National Day of Prayer & Fasting Organising Committee