Gays vow respect in marriage debate

The Australian
The gay marriage movement has taken the unusual step of making a "pledge" to respect the views of people who oppose same-sex weddings on religious grounds in an attempt to blunt arguments by the Christian lobby and Catholic Church. Australian Marriage Equality has made a commitment to respect the religious beliefs of opponents of gay marriage. In return it says it hopes for a commitment from opposing churches not to "inflame prejudice" during the same-sex marriage debate. This commitment has been made as part of AME's latest publication on religion and marriage equality.

Chaplains 'are taking over'

Ellen Lutton - Brisbane Times
Chaplains will fight to keep their presence in the Queensland state school system even if their federal government funding is cut by a High Court case ruling, the Scripture Union has warned. The High Court heard a statement of claim filed by Toowoomba father Ron Williams and his supporters that argued the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) contravened the constitutional separation between church and state.

Police to lead the fight against illegal sex trade

Farrah Tomazin - The Age
The Baillieu government has vowed to crack down on Melbourne's illegal sex trade, amid fears that unlicensed brothels have flourished across the city and are being infiltrated by crime groups. Only a few months after eight illegal brothels were shut down during a police blitz last year, the government has moved to overhaul the way laws are enforced in a bid to stamp out other operators. Under the plan, the government will make Victoria Police the lead agency responsible for weeding out and prosecuting illegal brothels.

Sick mums-to-be hit with $7000 bill to ease pregnancy pain
Women who suffer an extreme reaction to pregnancy are paying up to $7000 for a drug not yet approved for use by expectant mums because they are desperate to control their illness. Obstetricians are prescribing the anti-nausea drug Zofran - used to stop nausea in chemotherapy patients - to women who suffer hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which can result in severe nausea, dehydration and fatigue. But because the drug's manufacturer has not sought approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration to have it used or subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for pregnancy sickness, it costs $8 per pill.

Why trust outweighs knowledge

The Age
The danger with retrospective legislation, which some seek to identify sperm donors, lies in its potential for injustice. Hard cases make bad law. This is as true of the common law and acts passed by Parliament as it is of the moral law. That is why whatever sympathies we have for donor-conceived adult Kimberley Springfield's desire to contact her sperm donor, overhauling the legal framework governing assisted reproductive technology in the state and across the nation may not be justified. What is 26-year-old Springfield, whose case is before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, seeking? She wants the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages - which manages the mandatory and voluntary registers containing information about Victorian donors, donor-conceived offspring and their relatives - to identify her donor by seeking information from the clinic where he gave sperm under conditions of anonymity.

Canberra settles after destroying refugee boat

Selma Milovanovic - SMH
The federal government has reached a legal settlement with the captain of a Vietnamese fishing boat after it destroyed the vessel he used to bring 53 asylum seekers to Australia in 2003. The confidential settlement ends a long-running court case which has cost the government millions. Last year three Federal Court judges ruled that if the government could not establish a lawful basis for destroying the boat, the Hao Kiet, its captain was entitled to compensation.

Aid goes in too many directions, says report

Dan Oakes - SMH
Australia's overseas aid is often fragmented, poorly directed and difficult to evaluate, according to an annual report on the effectiveness of the government's overseas development program.
The report, by AusAID's internal watchdog, the Office of Development Effectiveness, praised the aid program's ''impressive reach … and effectiveness'', but said there were significant structural problems. ''AusAID does not have an overarching strategy on implementing the aid effectiveness agenda and has not clarified how to report against aid effectiveness principles,'' the report says.

Afghans plan to end child police recruitment

The Age
Afghanistan was last night poised to sign a formal agreement with the United Nations to stop the recruitment of children into its police forces and ban the common practice of boys being used as sex slaves by military commanders, according to Afghan and UN officials. The effort by Afghanistan's international backers to expand the country's police and military forces has had the unintended consequence of drawing under-age boys into service. Stung by Afghanistan's inclusion on the UN blacklist of countries where child soldiers are commonly used, government leaders were expected to sign an undertaking with Radhika Coomaraswamy, the secretary-general's special representative for children and armed conflict, during her visit to Kabul yesterday.

Christians worried about Islamic radicals

Many in Egypt are enthusiastic about change, but the country's estimated 10 million Christians are concerned about the influence that Islamic radicals might have on any new government.  A Coptic church in Alexandria was recently the target of a terrorist attack that left 23 dead. No one claimed responsibility, but Islamic radicals from outside the country were blamed by the government.   Bishop Suriel is the Coptic Orthodox Church's leader in Melbourne. He told Timothy McDonald that Egypt's Christians are worried that they may be targeted in the current chaos.

ElBaradei declares new era for Egypt as Mubarak puts police back on streets

The Australian
Top dissident Mohamed ElBaradei has told angry protesters in Cairo that they were starting a new era after six days of a deadly revolt against embattled President Hosni Mubarak.  But despite the anticipation of change, Mubarak ordered police back on the streets after they had largely disappeared over the past two days following street battles with protesters.  He also extended a curfew in key cities.