From pumpkin-carving competitions to trick or treating, Queenslanders are becoming hooked on Halloween despite having no idea what it means. In the United States, the festival is second only to Christmas in terms of merchandise sales and market forces are being blamed for its growing popularity here. Cherie Dalley from the Queensland Consumers Association said marketers had recognised the potential for profiting from the occasion. ''There seems to be a space where they can't make a dollar between Father's Day and Christmas and Halloween is the answer,'' said Ms Dalley.
Doctors are calling for state governments, including South Australia's, to create safe drug-use spaces. A Sydney heroin injection centre has become permanent, which has sparked a Royal Australasian College of Physicians call for all state and territory governments to introduce injecting rooms. RACP president Professor John Kolbe said the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injection Centre referred more than 8500 drug users to support services. In a press release, the college said ambulance call-outs to drug overdoses had fallen by 80 per cent in the area and more than 3500 overdoses were managed without fatality.
Victoria's 1.3 million Catholics are being urged to quiz state election candidates on the controversial issues of abortion and assisted suicide to decide how they vote, as the Catholic Church weighs into next month's poll. In a pointed election guide being sent to Victoria's 488 Catholic schools and more than 300 parishes, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart expresses concern about the Brumby government's 2009 bill that paved the way for the decriminalisation of abortion. The election guide, which covers areas including housing and health, also criticises a defeated Greens private member's bill to legalise euthanasia. In a section entitled ''Life'', the pamphlet says that the church is steadfast in its opposition to abortion and euthanasia as the destruction of human life is never acceptable. In the guide, Catholics are urged to ask candidates: ''Will you oppose any attempt to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide whatever it may be called? What is your attitude towards abortion?''
Julia Gillard has dramatically increased funding for school chaplains but not everybody's happy, writes Damien Murphy. The flagpoles of Australia's schoolgrounds are John Howard's main education legacy, according to the former Hawke government minister John Brown. With Howard's political autobiography doing standing-room-only publicity, judgments about the former prime minister lie thick on the ground. But Brown's opinion ignores the continuing success of Howard's greatest gesture to education, the National School Chaplaincy Program. The idea came out of Howard's hunt for the Christian vote during his last term of office. It has continued apace ever since. Recently the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, ''turbo-charged'' the chaplaincy program and prompted an unseemly rush to chaplaincy, even in the NSW government school system, which has historically eschewed mixing church and state.
Premier John Brumby goes into next month's state election campaign with a strong lead over the Coalition but under threat from the surging Greens. An Age/Nielsen poll taken this week shows Labor with 53 per cent of the vote after distribution of preferences from the Greens and other minor parties, and the Coalition on 47 per cent. This is a swing to the Liberal and National parties of about 1.5 per cent since the November 2006 election - not enough for the Coalition to win, but indicating it could get within striking distance with an effective campaign.
Outrage over a T-shirt depicting a woman bound up in bondage gear with the slogan ''relax it's just sex'' has forced the State Government to demand they be removed from sale. Minister for Women Karen Struthers said the shirts, which were being sold in Brisbane and Toowoomba, are ''extremely disturbing''. ''I understand that people are free to express themselves as they choose but these images cross the line in my view,'' she said.
West Australian Liberal Premier Colin Barnett has warned that his state is "under siege" from the Gillard Labor government. Mr Barnett said he has had no meaningful policy talks with the Prime Minister since she took office. In an exclusive interview with The Weekend Australian, Mr Barnett said his state would never accept the modified Gillard mining tax and that he would never surrender a third of Western Australia's entitled GST revenue to the commonwealth, under the terms of the federal government's national health agreement.
It is too late to avoid serious effects of climate change on Australia's economy, society and environment, the Gillard government has been warned. The report came from a 114-page briefing on the impacts of global warming. The special briefing to the incoming government, obtained by The Weekend Australian under Freedom of Information, said Australia must show global goodwill by putting a price on carbon and that delaying action would greatly increase the cost. Large sections of the report were blacked out but it warned the government that it faced three challenges.
John Brumby says it is wrong to assume the Greens will increase their political influence. Mr Brumby has compared the Greens to the short-lived Nuclear Disarmament Party. Despite the latest Newspoll showing one in five Victorian voters intend to vote for the Greens and the party could win four seats at the November 27 election, the Premier believes history shows non-mainstream parties such as the Greens go through cycles and may not be around for the long haul.
As digital light filters through pixilated dust, 15 animated roses appear superimposed on the tomb. nother mouse click and a window opens: ''Enter your prayer,'' it reads, ''(maximum 255 characters).'' This is the website of the Sisters of St Joseph. Since Mary MacKillop was canonised a fortnight ago, it has attracted more than 6000 prayers. ''We actually don't pray to Mary MacKillop. We pray to God through Mary MacKillop's intercession,'' the website's congregational co-ordinator, Sister Annette Arnold, explained. ''It's an important distinction. That's where people say you get into idolatry.''
The main character in the video game Postal II leaves a trail of gore as he moves about town. The Postal Dude, as he is known, shoots police officers, beheads girls with a shovel and sets people on fire. Along the way, he also might become a symbol of the breadth of the US constitution's protections of free speech. On Tuesday the US Supreme Court will consider whether the first amendment on freedom of speech permits a Californian law that would bar the sale of Postal II and other violent video games to minors. California wants the courts to consider violent games in the same way they view graphic sexual material. The video-game industry is challenging the law, arguing that even the bloodiest of games are entitled to constitutional protection.
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