Battlegrounds for belief

Barney Zwartz  - The Age
Which groups of Australians most worry other Australians? Muslims, gays and - astonishingly - witches. That apparently anachronistic result appears in a survey of public submissions to a national inquiry into freedom of religion and belief in the 21st century, from which the draft report was submitted last week to the Australian Human Rights Commission.  On the other side of the religious coin, there seems something approaching paranoia among some atheistic and secular groups and individuals. Reading those of the 2037 submissions that the commission has posted online, it seems some atheists fear Australia is in imminent danger of becoming an Iran-style theocracy run by Christian mullahs. Meanwhile, some Christians apparently believe they are on the brink of a Roman-style persecution.

Pope visit to UK places Christian charities in centre stage again

Evangelical Alliance UK - Christian Today
The Pope’s UK visit paves the way for Christians to play an even greater role in supporting Britain’s poor and needy in the wake of big cuts in government spending.  During his four-day tour to the UK the Pontiff spoke up for Britain’s Christian heritage that has been undermined by ‘aggressive forms of secularisation’. He applauded the work of Christian churches in defending vulnerable groups of people.  The Evangelical Alliance, the UK’s largest and oldest organisation representing around a million evangelical Christians, welcomed the comments. The Pope’s views are also being backed by Baroness Warsi, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, who in a major speech to Church of England bishops urged the Government to liberate people of faith to do more to help build the Big Society rather than seek to control them.

Police make $70 million drug haul

Police have seized 76 kilograms of amphetamines worth $70 million during raids in Sydney.  Detectives arrested a 50-year-old man on Moore Street, Drummoyne at 3pm on Friday then searched his Audi car and found 12kg of powder, believed to be amphetamine.  At subsequent raids on properties at The Esplanade, Drummoyne and Lyall Street, Leichhardt, officers found 64kg of the drug.  A 55-year-old man was arrested at the Leichhardt address.

Kevin Rudd catches up with President Obama after Hillary Clinton confirms Australia visit

Brad Norington  - The Australian
Barack Obama has met Kevin Rudd during a top level meeting at the White House after Hillary Clinton said she would visit Australia in November.   The US President dropped in for greetings and a personal catchup with Mr Rudd, Australia’s new foreign minister, during hour-long talks he held with Mr Obama’s national security adviser James Jones.   The Obama-Rudd meeting came just hours after US Secretary of State Clinton confirmed she will visit Australia for high-level ministerial talks in November.   Mrs Clinton announced the planned trip today following a meeting with Mr Rudd at her State Department office in Washington.

'Pairing' Speaker a recipe for chaos, legal experts warn

Chris Merritt and Patricia Karvelas -  The Australian
Rob Oakeshott's parliamentary reform deal with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott could open the way to High Court challenges to laws passed under the agreement.   Legal experts warned yesterday that granting a parliamentary "pair" to the new Speaker of the House of Representatives - ensuring the Speaker's vote was cancelled out by a member with the opposite position - breached the spirit of the Constitution and would invite a legal challenge.  The warning, from leading constitutional lawyer Geoff Lindell, raises doubts about the validity of key parts of an agreement struck by Labor and the Coalition with independent MPs over the powers of the Speaker.   Professor Lindell's view is in line with that of legal academic Greg Craven, the vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, who argued that the parliamentary reform agreement ran contrary to the intention of the Constitution.