Flat White

What will a Mark McGowan landslide mean for religious freedom?

9 March 2021

7:35 PM

9 March 2021

7:35 PM

This Saturday, West Australians go to the polls. All the indications are that the McGowan Labor government will be re-elected in a landslide. Opposition leader Zak Kirkup has already meekly given the election away, instead focussing on a theme of ensuring the ALP does not control both houses of the State Parliament, and the threat this will pose for democracy. 

While this author agrees with Mark Imisides’ piece in these pages last week that throwing in the towel should never be an option, WA voters need look no further than Victoria for the consequences of what can happen when a government has total control of the parliament. Christians should be especially worried, since the policies of the McGowan government are very similar to those legislated by Chairman Dan. They should think very carefully before casting their vote, particularly if they decide to do so for a minor party. The three minor party MPs in Victoria’s Upper House have provided very little opposition to the Andrews agenda, not just on the outrageous state of emergency, but in ensuring his egregious anti-Christian agenda has been passed into law in that state. The same could well happen in WA. 

The McGowan Government makes no bones about its anti-Christian credentials. Deputy Premier and Health Minister, Roger Cook, has consistently attacked the WA Liberals throughout the election campaign for pre-selecting Christian candidates, saying it is a sign of immaturity”. Cook has described such candidates as “weird” and “dangerous” for daring to express different points of view. WA Attorney-General John Quigley describes himself as a Catholic. Indeed, he ensured the local media knew he attended daily Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth prior to his election to the parliament in 2001. Since then, however, he has failed to stand up for Christian values such as individual liberty and the sanctity of human life. Indeed, he was one of the major supporters of the assisted suicide bill in WA (as were McGowan himself and Cook).  

Furthermore, the supposedly devout Quigley did not stand in the way of proposed mandatory reporting laws last year to compel clergy to violate the seal of confession if they receive information about child abuse in the confessional. In such a case, abuse or suspected abuse must be reported, irrespective of the wishes of the penitent, and failure to do so will lead to fines or imprisonment. The proposed laws are a replica of those introduced by the Andrews Government and passed by the Victorian Parliament in 2019 and were presented by another CINO (Catholic in name only), Child Protection Minister, Simone McGurk. For Catholics and those of the Eastern Orthodox faiths (including, but not limited to, the Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Melkite, Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Indian and Armenian Apostolic Churches), this assault on one of the seven sacraments was, as Morgan Begg wrote in this publication recently, no less than a direct assault on those Churches, as well as a deliberate and needless intrusion on the freedom of religion in Western Australia. Late last year a Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into the draft laws received over 600 submissions to this inquiry. Over 90 per cent of those submissions were in opposition to mandatory reporting for clergyFollowing the Committee delivering its report, and given the proximity of the election, the draft laws were shelved. Yet McGurk is committed to re-introducing this legislation after the election. 


In 2015 in Victoria the government passed laws prohibiting any person from protesting—which includes prayer and silent vigils—within 150 metres of abortion providers. In WA Roger Cook has proposed identical legislation, the Public Health Amendment (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2020, yet another threat to the liberties of West Australians of faith, which will no doubt become law after the state election if the ALP has unfettered parliamentary control. 

Last month the Victorian state parliament passed the government’s Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020. The new laws create criminal penalties and give new powers to the state human rights commission to outlaw ‘carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer-based practice’ which challenges a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The laws thus criminalise attempts of parents of gender-confused children to seek and receive help through individual and family counselling. This follows on from similar laws passed in Queensland by another Labor government. As James Parker wrote at the time in these pages on the subject “many vulnerable young Australians … struggle with unwanted sexual attractions and questions about gender. Their voices are rarely if ever heard.”

As noted by John Whitehall recently, despite these testimonies, the Victorian and Queensland legislation deny the possibility of change, and even the right of an adult to seek it. The only change permitted is change in sexual orientation away from heterosexual and chromosomal restraints, including the administration of ‘puberty blockers’. This is in complete opposition to Tavistock v Bell, where the English High Court ruled that minors under 16 undergoing such treatment are unlikely to be able to give informed consent. If a re-elected McGowan Government has control of both houses of state parliament, no doubt it will seek to propose such laws in WA. 

For those who have doubts this will happen, look at the WA Government’s record, particularly in relation to the ‘hard’ border. Last week McGowan had to make an embarrassing back down from a proposal to keep border checks in place indefinitely. That a ‘hard’ border has ever been put in place at all, and in particular over the Christmas holiday period, cruelly separating many parents from their children, should be evidence enough of this government’s naked hostility to liberty and fundamental freedoms, particularly religious freedom. 

To paraphrase Begg, the McGowan Government, like that of Daniel Andrews, is not a friend to those of faith and presents an unprecedented threat to the future of religious freedom in Australia. WA voters are implored to take note and act accordingly. 

The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous for employment-related reasons.

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