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Monday, July 15, 2024
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The humour and hypocrisy of the Greens over cemeteries

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Catholic cemeteries - The Catholic weekly
Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The NSW Greens hit peak levels of hypocrisy and humour this week as they made a last-ditch effort to stop a resolution of the cemeteries matter that has been dragging on for years.

There were three main lines to their attack. The first was the scare campaign that the Catholic Church is “set to earn billions of dollars” from the passage of the Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria Trust Bill 2024. According to a parliamentary speech by upper house member, Cate Faehrmann MLC, this is because the $160 million that Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria Trust has accumulated for the perpetual care of existing graves “compounds each year by about $20 million.”

“With that amount of money compounding,” Faehrmann continued, “it could grow to $1 billion.”

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“What will the Catholic Church do with that money?”

“The government will not know what the Catholic Church will do with that money.”

Actually, the government knows exactly what the Catholic Church will do with that money because it has been drafted into the legislation the government put forward. The money can be used for purposes such as conducting funerals for and/or burials of people of all faiths and none, operation and management of cemeteries, the building of chapels and other sacred spaces and the purchase of more burial grounds.

In her speech, Faehrmann argued that while the government has made assurances that all excess funds will go back to interment services, the government will not know because it has no oversight of the Catholic operator.

The problem with Faehrmann’s argument is that the only reason the $160 million of funds exists is because the Catholic operator saved those funds for the perpetual care of graves over the years, whereas the other Crown operators had insufficient accumulated savings. The Crown operators had limited ability to care for existing graves, much less acquire more land for new ones.

Catholic cemeteries - The Catholic weekly

As Faehrmann herself said in the same speech: “The majority of Crown operators were not financially sustainable, and Sydney was running out of burial space.” Government oversight of the Crown operators didn’t stop them from being run into the ground, and limited government oversight of the Catholic operator saw that entity succeed.

I would suggest that the Catholic operator is motivated to do this because it is a work of mercy, rather than just another bureaucratic function. Faehrmann’s suggestion that this is motivated by money is desperately unfair to the good people who work in this sector.

The second line of attack was just plain laughable. Faehrmann argued that the reason the government did not take up the recommendation that it retain control of the existing funds and future capital generated was “because of the influence of the Catholic Church on the Labor and Liberal parties in this Parliament.”

Anyone who has watched NSW pass some of the world’s most extreme abortion laws and—at the time of their passage—the country’s worst euthanasia laws, would know that to be untrue. Debate will soon begin on Alex Greenwich’s so-called “equality” bill, even though 85 per cent of the public asked the parliament to reject it outright. I wish the Catholic Church had the influence in parliament Faehrmann alleges; it would make my job much easier.

The third line of attack was blatant hypocrisy. Faehrmann complained that the bill was “being rushed through by the government with little consultation or transparency.” She sought to send the bill to an inquiry, arguing that “members should not be bullied into voting for this rushed and dangerous bill on that basis.”

She also whinged that the upper house was recalled at midnight to ensure the bill passed. She had no such complaint a few months back when the upper house sat through the night to pass conversion therapy legislation and she and her Greens colleagues joined with the government to override an inquiry into that bill that had already been approved.

Thankfully, Faehrmann’s complaints went unheeded, this lengthy drama is finally over and the Catholics can finally get on with what we do best: serving others.

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