So much for integrity

So much for integrity
Fiona Patten

In recent days, the Andrews Government teamed up with the Opposition to continue to deny reproductive rights to women. 

They claim to champion women’s rights. 

But they lack appear to lack the courage of their convictions. Could it be they bowed to the power of the Catholic Church with an election around the corner? 

They teamed up to vote against legislation I introduced into the Victorian Parliament to prevent publicly funded denominational hospitals to continue refusing women access to abortions and family planning services. 

They also voted to continue to allow denominational hospices to continue to deny the rights of each of us to assisted dying, under strictly controlled circumstances. 

So much for integrity! Basic human rights are being denied in publicly-funded denominational hospitals, even though these institutions receive hundreds of millions of your tax dollars every year. 

Were you aware hospitals, including the Mercy and St Vincent’s, do this? Most people I’ve discussed this with are shocked to discover these cruel realities. They are amazed hospitals could even contemplate such sinful injustice. 

Religion is a blessing to many amid the mysteries and vagaries of existence, but imposed religious faith has no place in the public health system. Institutions, by legal definition, have no conscience. 

The reliance of some institutions on the false construct of institutional conscientious objection has no rational, legal, or moral basis. 

My Bill is about fairness and decency. It protects abortion rights and extends abortion and family planning services and ensures end-of-life rights. 

It also extends access to abortion and contraception across all hospitals that get taxpayers’ money. 

It does not undermine any rights of people within the private health system, where people have choice over service providers, some of which receive no money from the public Treasury. 

Rather, it protects individuals’ rights from institutional edict – a hospital will not be able to prevent a doctor from performing legal procedures. 

Patients in the public health system should not have to depend on their postcode for access to the full panoply of public health services. 

The Bill has zero impact on the rights of individual medicos to refuse certain services on the basis of personal religious conviction or conscientious objection. 

Speaking of integrity, the ongoing fallout of the Labor Party’s branch-stacking and misuse of taxpayers’ money to fund blatant political work shows the party is in lamentable need of cleaning up its own dirty backyard. 

And in recent days, the Opposition Leader Matthew Guy’s claim he takes integrity seriously was shredded by evidence he was aware of, indeed potentially party to, an attempt to get around political funding rules by hitting up a billionaire Liberal donor for $100,000 to top up the salary of his then chief-of-staff, a man with no political experience who resigned in disgrace. 

In public policy, the perfect should not prevent the good. And in life, the ideological should not prevent the rational. 

The fight against the wrongs of the denominational hospitals is unfinished business. I will not let it rest in peace until it’s fixed. 

Fiona Patten MLC is Leader of the Reason Party •

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