Victoria: The human rights watchdog is watching you

The Age 28 February 2021
From The Age in Australia comes the warning about how a ban on ‘conversion therapy’ would work in practice:

“The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has been equipped with power to investigate church groups and other organisations engaged in gay conversion practices, including seizing documents and pursuing them in court if they do not comply with orders. Debate about the legislation has largely focused on criminal sanctions – including up to 10 years in jail – for anyone found to have caused serious harm by attempting to change or suppress someone’s sexuality and gender identity. But much of the impact is likely to come from the civil scheme, which gives the commission the power to conduct own-motion investigations, force people to attend hearings and comply with orders through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and create education programs to prevent such practices. Ms Hilton said the commission would not be shy about using them….

“Victorian Council of Churches president Father Shenouda Boutros said his organisation “is not against legislation that protects people from harm”, but the commission’s new powers were an “over-reach”. Islamic Council of Victoria vice-president Adel Salman said: “We don’t agree at all that [the human rights commission] should be given those powers to investigate and pass judgment. There has to be respect for the doctrines and principles of faith communities. What we don’t want is for [the commission] to try to convince us that our doctrines and our principles are somehow wrong. We just have to respectfully disagree.”…

“Under the reforms, anyone can make a report to the commission about change and suppression practices from any member of the community. The commission can then investigate that complaint, but it also has significant power to conduct “own-motion” investigations where there is indication of serious or systemic problems. This could involve forcing a person or organisation to take, or refrain from taking, certain actions to comply with the Equal Opportunity Act. Such undertakings and notices will be enforceable at VCAT. The commission will also have the power to compel documents and other information, and will educate the community to prevent such practices from occurring.

Even George Orwell would be surprised.

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