The federal opposition has backed a West Australian minister's controversial comments on the burka, saying the dress goes against Australian culture and should not be worn. WA Minister for Women's Interests Robyn McSweeney sparked heated debate when she spoke out against the burka at the weekend, labelling it "alien" to Australia's way of life. "I'm saying that it's confronting when somebody's face is not showing and I personally think that they're being oppressed," Ms McSweeney told The Australian yesterday. "I would just love for them to have the freedom to show their faces." Opposition parliamentary secretary for the status of women Michaelia Cash said the burka had nothing to do with religion because Islam stipulated modesty only, not the wearing of a face covering. She said the dress deprived women of their identity and isolated them from society. "It is inconsistent with our culture and values and I truly believe that women should not do it," she said.
It is a story about show business and the lust for fame, the struggle between permissiveness and social conservatism, and child exploitation: it is a very Philippines sort of scandal. Willie Revillame, the country's highest-paid TV identity, is under investigation for child abuse after he goaded a bawling six-year-old boy to gyrate like a male stripper before a guffawing live audience and millions of viewers. In the March episode of Revillame's show, Jan-Jan Suan, tears streaming down his face, agreed to simulate a pelvic thrusting "macho dancer" - male stripper in The Philippines - in exchange for 10,000 pesos ($220) for his poor family.
It has become commonplace for the Australian Christian Lobby and some right-wing churches to claim Christianity is the source of Australian values. Tolerance, equality of opportunity and between genders, the fair go – yep, when it comes to these and other values Christians claim to have got there first. As one contributor to the Australian Human Rights Commission's study 2011 Freedom of Religion and Belief in 21st Century Australia put it: ". . . whether it be government, social welfare, health, science, on the battlefield and all kinds of pioneering work . . . it has been committed Christians that have very often spearheaded the way . . . Christianity . . . has historically shaped this nation over the past 230 years and not other religions."
The problem with freedom of speech is that some people broadcast to a willing constituency, and others are effectively silenced. Syndicated columnists have the ear of millions. Unpopular minorities preach to the small ranks of the converted. The ideal remedy for targets of vilification and incitement to hatred is, surely, to give them the resources, support and opportunities to counter and contradict and 'speak back' to the vilifier, in a way that validates their experience and increases their confidence, competence and conversational presence in the community.
Christian education in government schools is suddenly controversial, as secularists make it the latest battleground in their efforts to wind back what they see as the malign influence of religion. A case alleging discrimination has been brought to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission; interfaith groups and a new multi-faith education network of academics want to end the present system; and the Education Department is under pressure over what seems an odd interpretation of the Education Act, arguing that the phrase "may" provide special religious instruction actually means "must" provide it.
Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews has thrown his support behind same-sex marriage, becoming the fourth state Labor leader to back the issue. The Labor Party will discuss same-sex marriage at its national conference in December, despite Prime Minister Julia Gillard stating she does not support the move. But Mr Andrews told ABC TV's 7.30 Victoria there is increasing community support for it. "I, like a growing number of Victorians, believe that it's unfair that same-sex couples in Victoria - indeed right across Australia - are not able to exercise the option," he said.
Up to 2000 Canberra club workers could be thrown out of a job if proposed reforms to poker machine legislation are passed, according to local clubs. The dramatic claim was made yesterday by ClubsACT as the nationwide pokies lobby prepared to launch a $20million media blitz against the changes being championed by anti-gambling federal politicians. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Independent senator Nick Xenophon want pre-commitment technology fitted to every poker machine.
Former One Nation politician Pauline Hanson has a good chance of winning the final NSW upper house seat. Ms Hanson is 6000 votes ahead of her nearest rival, the Greens' Jeremy Buckingham, with 91 per cent of primary votes counted, ABC election analyst Antony Green says. The full result is expected to be declared tomorrow, more than two weeks after the state election on March 26.
Chinese police detained dozens of members of an underground Protestant church yesterday after the congregation tried to pray in a public plaza in the north of the capital. The police corralled scores of parishioners into buses and blocked church leaders from leaving their homes. Among those detained was a photographer from The New York Times, who was later released. Last week the church, Shouwang, was evicted from the space it had been renting after the government pressured the landlord not to renew the lease. The congregation, one of the largest so-called house churches in China, has been seeking legal recognition from the authorities since 2006 without success.
Submissions to an ACT Assembly inquiry into prostitution have revealed there is no support for sex workers who want to leave the industry. Prostitution has been legal in the ACT since 1992 and the Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Justice and Community safety is now reviewing the laws. The committee has received more than 50 submissions from sex workers, brothel owners, churches, women's rights groups, the police, and community members. All have different solutions for the perceived problems in the ACT sex industry.
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