Australian Hindus saved from Greens parties attack

Hindu SRE under attack from Greens political party

Hindu Council of Australia defends its member VHP Australia Inc. from an unprovoked and unnecessary attack from the Greens party in NSW upper house.

What is SRE

The state of NSW in Australia permits religious organisations to register with the department of education and teach their religion (called SRE) to students in state run schools. Each school sets aside one or two periods a week during which volunteers of the registered religious organisation can go in the class and teach students about their faith. SRE, as it is known is a laudable initiative of the state as research has shown that SRE provides a safe environment for children to talk about their religion. SRE teachers are not paid by the schools and have to bear their own expenses for teaching material, transport etc.

Before a religious organisation gets registered, it has to fulfil some very stringent requirements of the education department. It has to put up its age appropriate syllabus on their website along with complaint process etc. SRE teachers have to be trained on many teaching aspects of education and have to clear a “Working with Children” check of the Police/Justice department.

Many well established religions in Australia have their own faith based schools. Parents who want their children to learn and practise their religion can send their children to these faith based schools. Hindu parents can’t do that. Hindus have arrived very recently and have not established any Hindu schools yet. SRE is the only place where Hindu children can learn about their religion in a school setting. Many Hindu organisations have registered themselves with the department and are teaching Hindu SRE classes. There is immense demand for Hindu SRE teachers from the schools and only a fraction of this demand can be met by Hindu volunteers.

Hindu SRE under threat by Greens party

A Greens party parliamentarian Mr David Shoebridge in a parliament committee meeting attacked one of the Hindu SRE provider as an extremist Hindu organisation and tried to stop it from teaching Hinduism at schools. You can read all about it at Parliament records at : Legislative Council Hansard – 12 May 2021 – Proof (nsw.gov.au)

Mr Shoebridge accused VHP Australia of being an organisation banned by CIA. He also insinuated that VHP is somehow responsible for a fight between two different communities in Sydney.

Facts being ignored by Greens

The department of education has supported VHP as providing a valuable service and the department of Police and justice have found no evidence of VHP being involved in any terrorist activity. The claim of VHP having been banned by CIA has also stands rubbished. Minister Geoff Lee, minister for multiculturalism has appreciated the good work being done by VHP Sanskrit school and had even written a letter to Mr Shoebridge.

However, these facts did not matter to Greens and they refuse to see the facts and retract their statement and apologise to VHP, to Hindu community and to all SRE providers.

Hindu Council of Australia tried to meet Mr Shoebridge to explain the facts to him but things did not get very far.

MP Mark Latham defends Hindus and SRE

Mr Mark Latham is an MP in the upper house of NSW (from One Nation party) and is chairman of the Education committee where Mr Shoebridge had raised this false accusations. Mr Latham assured to help Hindus and VHP and put a motion in Parliament asking among other things that

“Mr Shoebridge to withdraw his comments and apologise to the Hindu community, especially at this time of great concern and heartbreak caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in India.”

The Greens party members opposed this motion and the matter went for a discussion.

Daniel Mookhey – a Hindu member of the Parliament and Labor party defend Hindus

Daniel Mookhey, the only Hindu in NSW Upper House had taken his oath on Bhagwat Gita. His father was one of the founders of the first Hindu temple (Sri Mandir, Auburn) in Australia. He has been a Labor member of the New South Wales Legislative Council since 6 May 2015. He was born in Blacktown in Western Sydney to Indian migrants from Punjab.

Nitin Daniel Mookhey, MLC

Mr Mookhey lamented that “when I finished my schooling I had never, ever attended a Hindu scripture class. Today a Hindu child can learn in a New South Wales school that Hinduism as a faith is no less than Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism or the world’s other great religions. He also said that there is no evidence that the VHP in Australia is anything other than a voluntary organisation of men and women who teach Hindu children about their religion. So says the NSW Police Force; so says the Department of Education. The allegations that were made at budget estimates have hurt many people in the Hindu community. I and the Labor Party urge the member who made those allegations to reconsider making such remarks. Budget estimates is there to hold the Government accountable; it is not there to slur a peace-loving community with false allegations.”

His full statement can be perused at :

Legislative Council Hansard – 05 May 2021 – Proof (nsw.gov.au)

A videos of his statement is also available at :

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bp05B4bXVCK5AKO6eBsXJzOHE0QCVEwK/view

Hon Hugh McDermott (liberal party) asks David Shoebridge to apologise

Hugh McDermott a Liberal party member in the lower house defended VHP and asked Mr Shoebridge to retract his statement and apologise. He said

“It is clear that any adverse claims made against the VHP are incorrect. I give the following facts. Mr Ramamoorthi and VHP Australia have the confidence of the Department of Defence, which has appointed him to the Religious Advisory Committee to the Australian Defence Force [ADF]. He is currently serving as the representative of VHP. During his time on the advisory committee, the number of Hindu members of the Australia Defence Force has increased by some 50 per cent, a fact that he is proud of as an Australia citizen. Further, Mr Ramamoorthi has received confirmation from the NSW Police Force Terrorism Investigation Squad that Vishva Hindu Parishad is not a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia. The harm that such allegations can cause to our community is immeasurable. The allegations are an attack on not just VHP Australia but all multicultural community organisations. ”

Hon Hugh McDermott (liberal party)

His full statement can be found here : Legislative Assembly Hansard – 05 May 2021 – Proof (nsw.gov.au)

Parliament asks Shoebridge to apologise

On 12th May 2021, the Parliament discussed the motion of Mr Mark Latham calling on Mr Shoebridge to withdraw his comments and apologise to the Hindu community, especially at this time of great concern and heartbreak caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in India.

The Hon. MARK LATHAM said, It is hard to believe Greens members are in the stranglehold of the CIA and projecting that information against a fine community group. He also said that there is a comprehensive safeguard against any problem. The feeling from the police and the education department is that there is no problem. VHP Australia has 155 teachers who volunteer their time every week to teach children about their faith. Those teachers are contributing to Australian society and to the schools in which they teach. Two months on they are still very disappointed with Mr Shoebridge’s baseless and hurtful allegations.

The Hon. SCOTT FARLOW said, “Like the Hon. Mark Latham, I was at one of those budget estimates hearings, where I heard Mr David Shoebridge’s outrageous slurs. As we know, Vishva Hindu Parishad [VHP] is a registered incorporated charity in New South Wales with no paid staff but over 250 volunteers who dedicate themselves to supporting the community and, in particular, special religious education [SRE]. We now have over 187,000 Hindus in New South Wales, of which 34 percent are under the age of 14. VHP is not listed in the current edition of the CIA World Factbook, and Mr Shoebridge has not put forward any allegations or evidence of any illegal actions, extremist positions or issues with them.

Hon Scott Farlow

Mr Mookhey said, In a (this) time of crisis, when so many people are turning to their faith, faith organisations should not come under attack unless it is based on fact. These remarks have undoubtedly caused offence. The member needs to reflect on that, and if any member wishes to use any forum to make allegations then they should do so on the basis of fact. It is an immense achievement of every Hindu religious teacher and volunteer who is providing that education. They are like my mums and aunties. That means a lot in our culture. I know these people; they are not extremists. It is not right to paint them with that brush.

The Hon. MARK LATHAM: The truth is we all make errors in public life. You deal with a lot of information and you try to put a lot of material into the public arena. Everyone makes mistakes. It is not that hard to say, “I got this wrong. I am sorry.” I am incredibly impressed by the great achievements of these schools. The Indian Hindu community works hard and makes a great contribution, particularly in the small business sector, and they have got something that they are proud of in our schools. It should not be diminished in this way. It should not be slurred in a manner that is completely beyond any factual information and record before the House. I say to Mr David Shoebridge that it is not that hard to say you have got this wrong and apologise to a community who clearly deserve that apology in all the circumstances. Be a person of honour. Be a man. Step up and say you are sorry.

The motion proposed by Mr Latham asking David Shoebridge to “withdraw his comments and apologise to the Hindu community” was passed by voice vote.

A transcript of the debate can be found at : Legislative Council Hansard – 12 May 2021 – Proof (nsw.gov.au)

A video of the debate is available at :