The Queensland Youth Parliament Chronicles
The QYP Chronicles
Last week, as some of you may know, I participated in the 2016 YMCA Queensland Youth Parliament. This is a programme run for young people aged between 15-25 who are interested in the political process and would like to educate themselves with regards to its many nuances. I was extremely privileged to be selected to represent the youth of Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast. I have put together a selection of the speeches I gave in the House over the past week, ranging over a diverse assortment of topics such as scientific illiteracy, abortion and euthanasia. Read and enjoy, or not, it doesn’t matter to me.
Matter of Public Importance: Queensland should Decriminalise Abortion
Decriminalisation is not a strong enough measure. While the current legal framework is deplorable and disrespectful to women and their right to exercise autonomy over their own bodies, decriminalisation is not a solution. The only way to fix this issue is to provide a solid and supportive framework for women. The contempt we show to women under the current system is quite breath-taking. Women must apply to the courts to get a decision to receive an abortion that, in other states, the legislature assumes women can make themselves. No thinking person looks at abortion and sees a black and white issue. But part of the solution is to give women the option and education to make an informed decision about an extremely contentious and sensitive subject. The criminalisation of abortion is a relic of an intolerant and religious past. Decriminalisation is not sufficient. We can and must do better.
Matter of Public Importance: Queensland should Decriminalise Euthanasia
Before I begin, I want to turn to the etymology of the word euthanasia. It is derived from two Greek words: eu, which means well and thanatos, which means death. What we are talking about is a good or noble death, which is worth bearing in mind throughout the following. While no death is easy or entirely welcomed, there comes a point in one’s life, whether you have terminal cancer, full-body burns, or are the victim of a horrible motor vehicle accident, where the benefits of continuing existence are outweighed by the suffering that must be endured. Now while I can accept that many are of the opinion that preserving life at all costs is a laudable goal, I cannot count myself among their number. Life is complex, death is complex. The only position that we must unequivocally reject is the stultifyingly unsophisticated one that opposes all forms of euthanasia in principle. There are a plethora of varied discussions that we need to have about euthanasia, but whether it is legal or not is not one of them. We must decriminalise euthanasia, move beyond our contemporary, bi-modal discourse, and discuss the myriad nuanced issues this topic and its stakeholders deserve.
Ministerial Statement: The Failure of Multiculturalism
I’m sure my shadow counterpart across the floor will find my statement today, despicable, depraved, and even deplorable, but that is my right, and she would do well to remember it. As the Youth Minister for Minister for Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, it may surprise the chamber to learn that I think that multiculturalism, as it stands currently, has been a failure. To argue this, I refer to the definition provided by dictionary.com: multiculturalism is the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation. You may have noticed a glaring problem in that statement in that description. Many cultures are not amenable to being incorporated as part of a unified state. We need to stop labouring under the delusion that every culture is equally deserving of respect. The content and characteristics of a culture must be taken into account before we unquestioningly accept it as part of our greater society.
I draw inspiration from Sam Harris’s book, ‘The Moral Landscape’, throughout the following by way of an example. In Albania, they have a long and venerable tradition called Kanun. It is a set of principles by which it is considered honourable and enlightening to live. The four pillars of Kanun are honour, hospitality, right conduct, and kin loyalty. What could be more uplifting? Before you cast favourable judgement, allow me to elucidate. Kanun’s main tenet is that if a man commits a murder, his victim’s family can kill any one of the murderer’s male relatives in reprisal. “If a boy has the misfortune of being the son or brother of a murderer, he must spend his days and nights in hiding, forgoing a proper education, adequate health care, and the pleasures of a normal life. Untold numbers of Albanian men and boys live as prisoners of their homes even now” (Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape at p. 1). Now the question: Are the Albanians wrong to do this? Is their form of hysterical blood feud evil? Are their values inferior to our own? Most in the multiculturalism crowd would have you believe that we cannot pose, much less answer such questions. I think the rational answer is staring us in the face: it isn’t good to kill people unrelated to a crime as a deranged form of retribution.
Let me move to an example that’s closer to home. Thousands of girls fall victim to the horrific practice of genital mutilation in Australia every year (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-22/ferrari-fgm-in-australia/6794278). The practice is illegal in all Australian states and has been for around two decades, but due to a misguided sense of deference and a cult of secrecy surrounding the doctrine’s adherents, the first prosecution for such an offence took place in New South Wales in September last year. People, even the doctors, social workers, and nurses who are required to report such barbarous behaviour are unwilling to question a cultural construct that directly contradicts our western values of personal liberty and child wellbeing. Multiculturalism is the paradigm of such thought patterns.
For us to move towards a more prosperous and flourishing society, we need to be able to identify and excise bad ideas without being branded as bigots and racists. We cannot afford to sit idly by and let our notions of cultural sensitivity and political correctness obscure the fact that some cultural constructs are unhelpful or evil.
Private Members’ Statement: The Scourge of Scientific Illiteracy
Mr Speaker, I’d like to draw the chamber’s attention to a crisis in contemporary society. It is not unique to Australia, but we have our own offenders. The problem is scientific illiteracy. It is extremely distressing to me that, at this time, the pinnacle of human innovation and knowledge, that so many people would choose to reject science in favour of superstition and celebrity-endorsed detritus. Allow me to elaborate further as this dichotomy really does irk me. Consider Pete Evans. Here is a man who has advocated for everything from the discredited and dangerous paleo diet to questioning whether milk actually provides calcium for our bones. The key point here is not that Evans espouses these beliefs – every era has its contrarian quacks – it is that so many people listen to him. Pete Evans is a chef, and in a world where science reveals to us how little we know about the most basic things, we should be extremely wary of accepting second-hand knowledge from those not qualified to give it. This is especially true when it directly contradicts established scientific facts. People are distressingly apt to accept a famous idiot’s account of something when there is a more enlightening and accurate alternative already offered by science.
Charges of scientism, that is, a faith in the inerrancy of science, cannot be long in coming. I would like to point out that my understanding of scientific issues like climate change, genetically modified foods, and vaccines is not unerring, nor is it faith-based. I place my trust in the scientific method because it is the only reliable mechanism that humans have devised to separate fact from fiction. My position is based on logic, reason and evidence. People shouldn’t be able to put their unreason up on the shelf next to my reason. I must sound divisive at this point, and I mean to. This is an area that does not lend itself to ecumenical accommodations. Science is right, not all the time, but the vast majority of the time, because it is unique in its ability to take account of facts and reject junk hypotheses. Society will be better off once people become more skilled at applying a scientific mind-set to their everyday lives.
Response to Religious Exemption argument to mandatory gene-banking
Mr Speaker, do we allow people to direct their tax dollars according to their religious beliefs? Can Catholic tax payers withhold their money from abortion clinics? Can Muslims withhold their dollars from drought subsidies for pork farmers? No. We recognise that in a secular democracy, being religious doesn’t give you the right to not comply with laws you don’t like. Secularism is the field on which we must play the game of politics, and you don’t get any extra points for having an imaginary friend. The opposition needs to remember that religious exemptions lead nowhere worth going on the moral landscape.