Removing the anti-disrcimination shield

Mark Dreyfus – The Age

The true nature of the new Victorian Liberal Government is starting to emerge.
Last week the Victorian Attorney-General, Robert Clark, introduced legislation to substantially weaken protection against discrimination for single parents, defacto couples and members of Victoria's gay and lesbian community. The legislation, if passed, would repeal a carefully drafted provision of the Equal Opportunities Act 2010, enacted by the previous Labor Government. This provision prevents religious groups from discriminating in hiring staff on religious grounds, unless the organisation can identify how a person's sexual orientation or gender identity affects their ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job.

School religion classes probed

Jewel Topsfield - The Age

The Christian group that provides religious education and chaplains in Victorian government schools will be investigated after its chief executive told a conference: ''We need to go and make disciples.'' The remarks appear to breach guidelines governing school religious programs, which ban trying to convert students to any one religion. The federal and state governments said last night they would investigate Access Ministries after a recording of the speech by Evonne Paddison was brought to their attention.

Tony Abbott throws his lines into Labor's vote pool

Matthew Franklin - The Australian

Tony Abbott has assured Australia's middle-income earners he does not believe they are rich and demanded Julia Gillard call an election to seek a mandate on her plan to introduce a carbon tax. The Opposition Leader has also committed a Coalition government to impose mandatory jail sentences on people-smugglers and sharpened his pitch to small business with a pledge to slash red-tape costs by $1 billion a year. The promises came last night as Mr Abbott used his formal response to the 2011-12 budget to savage Labor as aloof, wasteful and unable to learn from its mistakes.

Budget reply - independents not in Tony Abbott's plans

Simon Benson - The Daily Telegraph

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has ruled out doing any deal with the independents to form government and would now only seek to govern with a mandate from a new election. In a Budget reply speech that has drawn a new line in the sand, the Opposition Leader last night suggested the independents had lost their one chance. "Only an election can give Australia a government to make the tough decisions needed to build a better future," he told Parliament.

‘Blasphemy’ Laws in Egypt, Sudan Threaten Converts

Compass Direct

Shifting political winds in the north African countries of Egypt and Sudan will leave their mark on history, but local attitudes ensure one thing remains unchanged: the laws against defaming Islam will stand like granite in a sandstorm. As Egyptians continue to grapple with a revolution and seek freedoms commonplace in other parts of the world, there is no sign that Egypt’s version of an anti-blasphemy law will be changed. And in Sudan, where the non-Islamic south is set to split from the Islamic north on July 9, Christians remaining in the north are more vulnerable than ever to baseless accusations of defaming Islam.

Population plan sets no targets, casts doubt on growth

Stephen Lunn - The Australian

The nation's first population strategy does not set a target number, and rejects the view that population growth is good for the nation and the economy. Solutions to issues such as big-city congestion and lack of housing, services and infrastructure in regional growth areas should be found on a community-by-community basis, the government says in its sustainable population strategy, to be released today. Sustainable Population Minister Tony Burke will launch "Sustainable Australia, Sustainable Communities" on the Gold Coast today. The plan highlights the need for action, particularly on jobs and housing policy, to help people relocate from the big cities to the mining boom hotspots or attractive seachange locations.

Packer lobbying over pokies reforms

Richard Willingham - The Age

Casino baron and billionaire James Packer has been quietly lobbying the key players involved in the debate over Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie's controversial pokies reforms, raising concerns over the impact it could have on casinos. Mr Wilkie yesterday confirmed he met Mr Packer at Crown Casino on March 20 and had spoken with him by phone a number of times, but played down the significance.