Premier Ted Baillieu's Christmas gift to children

Editorial - Herald Sun
Ted Baillieu may have brought back Christmas for thousands of Victoria's schoolchildren. Nativity scenes and children singing carols and exchanging cards could once again be part of Christmas celebrations at Victorian schools. Why not? Australia is a mostly Christian country and the political correctness that banned Christmas at schools should be regarded as the ghost of Christmas past. Children do not have to take part and Mr Baillieu surely offends no one by asking principals to take "a reasonable and commonsense approach". The Premier has brought back a festive spirit in asking for children to "have the opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures of Christmas".

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Christmas bans are off, says Ted Baillieu

John Masanauskas - Herald Sun
Don't let political correctness ruin Christmas, Ted Baillieu has warned schools and other community groups. The Premier said Victorians should embrace the festive season. He said schools should not back down from running Christmas pageants, concerts and nativity scenes for fear of offending minority groups. "A Baillieu government expects school principals to take a reasonable and commonsense approach so all Victorian children have the opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures of Christmas," he said.

Who’s teaching the ethics teachers getting their ethics?

David Hutt (ACL) - The Punch
What is the point of a “non-judgemental” ethics centre? It’s a serious question. In my naiveté, I had always assumed that the whole point of ethics was to arrive at some sort of judgement about what is right and what is wrong. But take a look at the secular St James Ethics Centre’s website and it would appear I was wrong. The St James Ethics Centre - headed by Dr Simon Longstaff – bills itself as offering a “non-judgemental forum” to explore ethical issues. It won’t investigate unethical behaviour. It won’t help you make an ethical financial investment. But the biggest problem is that a “non-judgemental” approach lowers the stakes. It means your standard of ethics can only be judged by whether you are being true to yourself or not. This is the problem the NSW Government’s independent academic struggled with as she penned her report into the trial ethics classes run by the St James Ethics Centre earlier this year in 10 NSW primary schools.

Churches help more than numbers would suggest

Well-Being Australia - Christian Today
A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Paul Daley gave a tremendous tick to both the Salvation Army and many other Christian Churches in their beneficial contribution to the welfare of the nation. Daley wrote this insightful comment about Australia's earlier days: “Churches and the Salvation Army consistently emerged as critical providers of social support where the fledgling state welfare service failed.” Not much has changed it seems for he quotes the Australian Council of Social Services

Brethren appeal VCAT decision

Star Observer
The Christian Brethren owned Christian Youth Camps Ltd (CYC) will appeal a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) decision that found it had discriminated against WayOut — a rural youth group for same-sex attracted young people — in refusing them accommodation in 2007. The CYC’s legal team lodged paperwork on the final day of the 28-day appeal period. It’s understood that although documents indicating CYC would appeal were lodged, a crucial Notice of Appeal document was not sent.

Pakistan mother denied presidential pardon for 'insulting Islam'

Reuters
A Pakistani court has barred President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning a Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of insulting Islam, in a case that has prompted criticism over the country's blasphemy law. Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of four, requested a pardon from the president after a lower court sentenced her to death on 8 November in a case stemming from a village dispute. The Lahore high court today barred Zardari from pardoning Bibi in a petition filed by Shahid Iqbal, a Pakistani citizen. Iqbal's lawyer Allah Bux Laghari told Reuters a pardon was illegal as the court was already hearing an appeal against her sentence.

Most Aussies aren't very good neighbours, survey reveals

AAP
Nearly 60 per cent of Australians don't speak to their neighbours, according to a new study. The survey undertaken by That's Life magazine also claims to have found 82 per cent of Australian adults believe their parents were better neighbours than they are. "The results of our neighbourhood survey were truly surprising," Linda Smith, editor of That's Life magazine said today.  "Most of our readers remember very clearly the neighbours they grew up with.

Don't appease the Left, confront it: Michael Costa

Samantha Maiden and Imre Salusinszky - The Australian
Julia Gillard must confront the Greens to save the Labor Party and stop practising the politics of appeasement with the far-Left. This is according to a devastating analysis penned by former NSW treasurer Michael Costa. Slamming the "voodoo politics" that has allowed ALP policy to become a slave to focus groups, and calling for abolition of the "diseased" NSW Right faction, Mr Costa writes in The Australian Literary Review today that Labor must also confront entrenched union power. His 4000-word essay was last night praised as a "searching and hard-headed piece" by former NSW premier Bob Carr, who will soon release his own Labor Party review of the 2010 election result.

Abbott's credibility challenge

Phillip Coorey - SMH
Tony Abbott will dedicate the next 12 months to policy development in an acknowledgment the Coalition must do more than attack Labor if it is to be seen as a credible alternative government. In an interview with the Herald to mark his first anniversary as Opposition Leader, Mr Abbott said he did not discount Julia Gillard calling an early election and ''I want us to be, in 12 months' time, a more credible alternative''. ''Come the next election, whenever that is, people have got to look at us and say, 'Yep, I trust that mob with my future and I am confident that that mob will do a better job by me and by our country and by my neighbourhood than Labor would do,' '' he said. Mr Abbott will have his shadow ministers liaise with the conservative think tank the Menzies Research Centre and selected experts to refine Coalition policies and develop new ideas.

Fix offered for child protection

Danielle Mckay - The Mercury
An unprecedented multi-million-dollar overhaul of Tasmania's failing child protection system has been outlined by the state's new Children's Commissioner. Replacing the existing legislation with an entirely new Act and boosting support programs were among 18 recommendations Aileen Ashford flagged at a parliamentary select committee yesterday. Ms Ashford, who took on the challenging role of commissioner just five weeks ago, said the recommendations could help fix the "struggling" system. However, Ms Ashford said they would only succeed if they were adequately funded and resourced, estimating that the system was currently underfunded by as much as $40 million.

ALP, Greens split on carbon

Sid Maher and Christian Kerr - The Australian
Labor and the Greens have split over emissions-reduction targets in a brawl that could force Julia Gillard to introduce an interim carbon tax. This would meet her self-imposed deadline of pricing carbon by next year. In the most serious row between the government and the Greens since they signed a power alliance in September, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and Greens deputy leader Christine Milne yesterday traded blows over Australia's greenhouse gas emissions targets. Mr Combet said the government's target remained a cut of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 because international conditions for lifting the threshold towards 15-25 per cent had not been met, and he told the minor party to come on board the government's bid to price carbon.

Coalition still in the running to control both houses

Stephen Lunn - The Australian
The final makeup of Victoria's Legislative Council may not become clear for a fortnight. But the Baillieu government retains a serious chance of gaining control of both houses. Counting continued yesterday, but the complicated preferencing system makes predicting final seat numbers in the upper house a day-to-day proposition. Coalition upper house leader David Davis was loath to speculate on the final outcome in the 40-seat Legislative Council, in particular whether his government would be able to run legislation through both houses without the need for negotiation with the minor parties or independents.

Liberals propose sending refugees back to Central Asia for processing

Paul Maley - The Australian
Afghan asylum-seekers who arrive in Australia by boat would be returned to Central Asia for processing under a proposal from the opposition. In a plan attacked by the government as "a thought bubble", opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison yesterday outlined a radical variation of Julia Gillard's East Timor proposal. Mr Morrison's plan would involve a new deal to take more Afghan refugees, a regional framework centred around Central Asia -- as opposed to Labor's Southeast Asia proposals -- and the possibility of providing skills training to asylum-seekers in detention. Mr Morrison said as part of an international agreement, a Coalition government could agree to raise Australia's overall refugee intake of 13,770.

Abbott stands by his man as Liberals go Nutt

Phillip Coorey - SMH
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, is sticking by the Liberal Party's federal director, Brian Loughnane, saying he has no desire to see him replaced. In an interview with the Herald yesterday, Mr Abbott said he would not endorse any dramatic change of officials at the federal level. Rumours about Mr Loughnane have swirled for months and the Coalition's stunning victory in the Victorian state election at the weekend has led to speculation that the Victorian Liberal Party's state director, Tony Nutt, could be drafted into the top job. The former prime minister John Howard set tongues wagging on Monday night when he told ABC TV's Lateline that Mr Nutt was ''the best Liberal Party professional in the country''.

Detox call to pokie players

The Age
There's Movember, Febfast, the 40 Hour Famine and now - Pokie Detox. With Victorians losing $2.6 billion on poker machines every year - a large portion from people with gambling problems - one former pokie addict is calling for a break in play. Casual poker machine players are being invited to have a two-week breather from the machines from December 6 to 19. The pokie detox idea comes from former problem gambler Tom Cummings. ''It is like junk food - people can benefit from taking a couple of weeks off and just seeing how they go,'' he said.

Stem Cells could be the answer

Kim Carr - ALP
Cures for heart disease, stroke and multiple sclerosis could be found in our own bodies, according to a new research team from the University of Melbourne – Stem Cells Australia. And their research is being backed by a $21 million grant from the Gillard Labor Government. Announcing the funding under the Australian Research Council’s Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science, Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr said the $21 million investment could deliver significant breakthroughs in the area of biotechnology and save the lives of thousands of Australians. “The Stem Cells Australia application showed innovative research ideas and strong leadership skills. Both are needed to give us a greater understanding of stem cells and hopefully bring about some of the world’s best medical breakthroughs,” Senator Carr said.