Wren's Week: Australia, the laughing stock of the world

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Such an appropriate subtitle (Screenshot via YouTube)

This week, John Wren delves into our Prime Minister's obsession with religion and why our nation is becoming a global joke.

Wren’s Week


BIZARRO WEEK has continued in Australia. Over the weekend, our Pentecostal PM opened the Hillsong convention in front of thousands of excited acolytes. The spectacle of Australia’s PM sharing a stage with Hillsong’s founder’s son Brian Houston, who covered up his father Frank’s paedophilia, was one of the most shameful things I’ve witnessed in politics in 30 years. We are judged by those we keep company with.

Morrison has been very open about his faith. During the election campaign, he was filmed gesticulating and singing loudly at his local Shire Live (Hillsong) franchise. From the comments I’ve seen across social media, most Australians seem to find this public display of devotion quite disconcerting. Many, including myself, are revolted by it. The Pentecostal church's “prosperity theology” means they focus heavily on wealth creation. Hillsong’s revenue last year was over $100 million and no tax was paid on it. They pray (deliberate typo) on the weak-minded, tithing many 10 per cent of their incomes.

Morrison told the Hillsong congregation that we need more prayer in Australia. Frankly, if that’s Morrison’s solution to our rapidly failing economy, homelessness, underemployment, climate change, skyrocketing power prices and stagnating wages then we are actually in even more trouble than we suspect.

As Australians become more and more concerned by Morrison’s erratic behaviour, his popularity will wane. When it does, be prepared for another challenge from Dutton. I fully expect Morrison to then claim religious persecution and raise millions via the ACL for his legal defence.

While on the topic of religion, the other prominent talking point was the Government’s promised religious freedom bill. This is a bill we don’t need and is becoming ever more problematic for the Government. Why? Well, under s116 of our constitution, the Government is prohibited from making laws that favour any one religion over another, or over lack of faith (atheism). This means that any law that guarantees freedom to practice any aspect of religious faith must apply to all faiths. Now, it’s well known that many on the extreme Right of the Liberal Party are Islamophobic. The religious freedom bill would also guarantee Islamic religious expression and dissuade criticism of it.

The penny finally dropped with One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, who has supposedly withdrawn her support. I’m told the sound of the penny dropping could be heard as far away as Mount Isa. Clearly, her idea of religious freedom was freedom to be a Christian, not freedom to be a Muslim, or Hindu or anything else. Hanson has always needed a minority to pick on. In the 1990s it was Asians — these days it’s Islam. The fear that her whipping boy could be taken away from her was palpable. She tried the old trope that Islam is a political movement and not a religion, but that won’t get her very far in court. She was playing to her Islamophobic base.

Anyway, as a result of this, Attorney General Christian Porter has delayed releasing the first draft of the bill. I suspect it will be delayed some time — so long, in fact, that he’s hoping we will have forgotten about it.

My own observations of the bill and its ramifications are as follows. Where the religious freedom bill will affect most people is in the workplace (as with Israel Folau). If religious expression is protected, then employers will become more and more reluctant to hire religious employees. Employers are rightly concerned that such employees may offend or simply irritate their colleagues, customers and other stakeholders through their religious words and actions (the Folau case is a prime example).

Further, employers are also concerned that religious employees will play “the religion card” if being performance managed — “you’re picking on me because I’m a Christian/Muslim/Jew”. Anecdotally, many recruiters are already being told by their clients that they don’t want religious candidates. Not that recruiters can ask the question, but many do screen social media for clues.

This means that in order to gain (and hold) employment, religious people will need to actually hide their faith rather than publicly express it. This is the opposite effect of the bill.

It will also likely lead to employers of a particular faith hiring only employees of the same faith. It will be a return to the 1950s when companies such as the Seventh Day Adventist-owned Sanitarium refused to employ Catholics. Again, the bill will lead to increasing polarisation of Australian society, the opposite of its intention.

Morrison wasn’t the only nutter this week. Luke Howarth, a junior minister with responsibility for addressing homelessness said Australia needed to put a positive spin on the issue. So, once again we see spin rather than action. One wonders what sort of positive spin the Libs can put on homelessness. Abundant fresh air, nice suntans, camaraderie with like-minded individuals, perhaps.

The increasingly irrelevant Barnaby Joyce let loose with a demented tirade about climate change. He essentially said that Australia can’t fix climate change, so why bother? He’s right on that, but neglects the argument that we can hardly ask the rest of the world to play their part if we don’t play ours. He then went on to suggest that at some point the Earth would also go through another ice age cycle and that a warming climate is less deadly than an ice age. He was essentially saying that we should be grateful the planet is warming rather than cooling. Bonkers.

Almost at the same time that Joyce was having his rant, David Attenborough was at the U.N. calling out Australia for its climate change-denying Government and its profound inaction to reduce emissions. Given that we are already seeing the results of climate change — droughts, extreme weather fluctuations, damage to the Great Barrier Reef and rising sea levels affecting many of Australia’s premier beachside suburbs. Even the rest of the world is shaming us now.

The march towards a fascist police state continues with more revelations about the AFP accessing private travel records of journalists. This was also called out internationally by none other than Amal Clooney who specifically mentioned Australia, telling us “not to become like North Korea”.

Australia, we are becoming an intentional pariah. It’s no laughing matter. We are better than this.

You can sign the petition to have John Wren reinstated on Twitter here.

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