The NSW Greens are urging the state government to enshrine ethics classes as an alternative to scripture classes in the Education Act in a bid to prevent a Coalition government from reversing their introduction to NSW schools. The Minister for Education, Verity Firth, yesterday released the findings of an independent report on a 10-week trial of ethics classes in NSW schools which found they were well received and achieved their purpose. She said the government would seek feedback on the report before deciding whether to implement the classes, which could begin next year.
As an openly gay teenager, Samuel Rodda has endured his share of bullying over the years. Sometimes it's been verbal abuse, other times social exclusion - like the school camp where his classmates refused to share a room with him at night, simply because of his sexuality. The 16-year-old nonetheless considers himself one of the lucky ones. He has never been bashed for being gay but knows of several teenagers who have or, worse still, attempted suicide when the homophobic attacks became too much. But, having been to four different schools in four years, he knows that ''coming out'' can be brutally tough for young people without a supportive environment. ''There's definitely a lot of ignorance in schools when it comes to gay students. Some of the schools I've been to haven't even recognised that there are gay students there,'' he says.
The NSW government is set to push ahead with the introduction of ethics classes in public schools next year, promising they are not intended to push out religious education. Education Minister Verity Firth on Wednesday released a positive evaluation of the trial ethics classes, run over 10 weeks in 10 schools this year. The government would seek public consultation before taking any decision to cabinet, but "for all intents and purposes" the classes would be introduced next year, she said.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today urged the NSW Government to undertake a genuine consultation process over proposed ethics classes in schools. ACL NSW Director David Hutt today said there is widespread community concern that the NSW Government has already made up its mind on the introduction of ethics classes in the Special Religious Education (SRE) time slot despite valid concerns about whether the classes would compete with SRE for enrolments and whether the course material conformed to community standards on ethics.
Labor's controversial ISP filter plan faces further delays as a meeting central to the policy is postponed yet again. Labor wants all ISPs to automatically block web pages on a secret blacklist of refused classification (RC) material. In July Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said he, alongside the Home Affairs Minister, would recommend to states and territory ministers that a review into the type of content that RC covers be conducted. Delays to the review mean it will be at least five years before the mandatory filtering scheme comes to fruition. Labor mooted the plan in late 2007.
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) yesterday was urging all other Australian Council’s to follow the lead of Parramatta City Council, which passed a motion this week to seek to be able to reject brothels in its area for social reasons. Currently State Government legislation allows brothels in certain zones and Council can only reject brothels on planning grounds. Michelle Pearse from the ACL, said ‘Parramatta City Council had taken a clear stand in favour of the best interests of the local community by becoming the first council in NSW to defy the NSW Government’s planning requirements which impose brothels on local communities despite compelling social concerns’.
Despite an overwhelmingly positive response to its last public consultation, the Australian government says it needs more data before it relaxes its videogame rating system. Earlier in the year, the Australian Federal Government asked the public for its opinion on the creation of an R18+ rating for videogames. Of the nearly 60,000 submissions it received, only a tiny handful were against the idea - just 1.2 percent - but the Australian Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor says that there was still a lot more to discuss before a decision could be made.
Kristina Keneally's Labor Government descended into disarray yesterday, with the party suspending a senior MP after she became the first Government MP in 13 years to cross the floor - in defence of pornography sellers. Amanda Fazio, the Legislative Council President, risks expulsion from the ALP after she left the chair to vote against a proposal from the Attorney-General John Hatzistergos to crack down on adult shop owners. Mr Hatzistergos' Bill allows police to charge store owners for the price of classification when they take a prosecution against them.
The Greens are at risk of losing one of their most generous campaign benefactors for next month's Victorian election. Dean Mighell, the secretary of the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union, made a record $325,000 donation to the Greens' federal election campaign this year, which helped Adam Bandt win the seat of Melbourne and the Greens clinch a Victorian Senate seat. But Mr Mighell told The Australian yesterday he was unhappy about the prospect of the Greens doing a preferences deal with the Liberal Party and he would, "at this stage", support the John Brumby-led Labor government.
If the ethics course in NSW primary schools goes ahead, as the Keneally government says it will, then where do I sign up to teach it? Far from being threatened, as a Christian theologian I am excited and intrigued by the interest being shown in the proposed course. Getting children to question the basis on which they make ethical choices will actually help them to ask the very questions that often lead to people to faith. What reliable basis do I have for knowing right from wrong? What will help me to do the right thing once I know what that is? From the lesson plans that I have seen, it is clear that the emphasis in the course is not on providing a particular answer to any question, but rather on helping students to think in an ethical way. It is about process, and not conclusions.
The outpouring over St Mary should give Brumby and Baillieu pause for thought. THEY were all there at the Exhibition Building on Sunday afternoon for the Melbourne ceremony marking the canonisation of Mary MacKillop. Up on stage were Prime Minister Julia Gillard (Australia's most famous atheist since Bob Hawke) as well as Premier John Brumby and state Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu (Protestants both). Our political leaders were celebrating and giving thanks for a national (and Catholic) hero whose life's work revolved around helping the poor. Perhaps Gillard, Brumby and Baillieu took a moment during the service to reflect on whether they are doing enough - more than 150 years after the birth of St Mary - to tackle poverty. As it happens, Mary's canonisation coincided with Anti-Poverty Week in Victoria, and several charitable institutions who are carrying on in the tradition of her work have produced research that shows the answer to that question is unequivocally ''no''. Brumby and Baillieu are both decent, compassionate leaders who take seriously their responsibilities to the disadvantaged. They certainly talk the talk.
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January 23, 2018
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