Labor's national executive will hand incoming secretary George Wright a difficult first task, deferring consideration of controversial party rule changes until he gets his feet under the desk. The ALP's national executive met in Canberra yesterday to throw open the ballot for the national secretary post, with Mr Wright expected to be the only candidate when nominations close on April 18. The National Australia Bank's public affairs manager was hand-picked by Julia Gillard this week after the factions failed to agree on a candidate. He is not factionally aligned and considered a likely party reformer.
Greens leader Bob Brown has been accused of double standards after declaring it "undemocratic" to judge politicians on the company they keep at rallies and other public forums. Opposition frontbencher Andrew Robb yesterday accused Senator Brown of "hypocrisy writ large" over his attack on Tony Abbott's appearance at an anti-carbon tax rally last month, where placards portrayed Julia Gillard as a "witch", a "bitch" and a "frump". Senator Brown on Thursday defended the actions of Greens senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Scott Ludlam for appearing at rallies in 2009 and last year, respectively, where protesters called on Australia to sever ties with Israel. "If you're saying there that members of parliament should not take the stage or be on a rostrum or be at a rally or go on (television program) Q&A if you are going to be judged by the people you are there with, then we're getting to a very undemocratic path, aren't we," Senator Brown told ABC radio.
Two female-born transsexuals have won the right to argue before the High Court that they should legally be considered men, even though they could still fall pregnant. The female-to-male transsexuals were yesterday granted leave to appeal a decision last year that ruled they were not men because they retained female reproductive organs. The landmark case tackles fundamental issues of gender and identity, with the pair -- whose names are suppressed -- appearing male but retaining female reproductive organs.
There were the usual union heavies, party hacks, and scandal-ridden survivors in NSW Labor leader John Robertson's shadow cabinet line-up announced yesterday, and then there was Linda Burney. Ms Burney, who was yesterday elected unopposed as the deputy leader of the rump of ALP members left in parliament after the election rout, was effectively identified by Mr Robertson as the one frontbencher with a true Labor narrative. "Linda's personal story is the very embodiment of what Labor stands for - that every person should have the opportunity to be the best they can be," Mr Robertson said in announcing the leaner 15-member team.
On its own, the attempt to use the courts to silence Andrew Bolt is not the end of the world. If successful, one newspaper columnist will no longer be free to express a particular opinion. It will be a victory for the thought police, but society will go on. And when looked at in isolation, Health Minister Nicola Roxon's plan to have cigarettes sold in repulsive packages merely erodes the commercial freedom of one unpopular industry. Few will care.But when these incidents are added to thousands of others, they point to what some consider to be the rise of the nanny state.
One of Australia's most powerful business leaders, ANZ chief executive Mike Smith, has delivered a savage attack on Julia Gillard, declaring her party was part of the "weak government club" of the world. In an extraordinary Sydney speech, Mr Smith criticised every major government policy -- especially tax, carbon tax, infrastructure and Labor's association with the Greens. The British-born Mr Smith labelled the Australian tax system as "Byzantine", complex and discouraging of inbound investment into Australia. The current Labor plan to price carbon, he said, would not change consumers' behaviour because of Ms Gillard's planned income tax offsets. "We don't need something that just clips the ticket and puts on a few more public servants to oversee it," he said.
It takes a certain talent to appear self-effacing while making yourself the centre of attention. The Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd pulled it off on QandA, and his pantomime dragged in a growing, unwilling, cast for the rest of the week. The roles in the farce were cast by Kevin: the Prime Minister and senior ministers were to wander about the stage looking like gits, pretending nothing was wrong as the children in the media yelled, "He's behind you!".
Every so often Australians accuse themselves of being out of step. The implication is that we should "catch up with the world". Sometimes this has been a useful spur to reform, sometimes it has been nonsense. But the Gillard government is attempting to put Australia off-side with the practice of virtually the entire world. And it is doing so by pursuing a puritan ideological obsession that virtually no one else in the world is doing. I refer, of course, to the proposed carbon tax. If the carbon tax goes ahead, to be replaced in due course by an emissions trading scheme with a fixed carbon emissions target, Australia will have among the most extreme climate-change policies in the world.
Religious education in government schools is a hot topic in Australia. Whenever we have conducted consultations with diverse religious communities the most frequent request we have received is for education about diverse religions to be included in the curriculum from the first years of schooling. Australia is a multifaith nation and as religions are playing an increasingly prominent role in the public sphere, there is a growing need for Australian young people to develop religious literacy and interreligious understanding. The need "to nurture an appreciation of and respect for social, cultural and religious diversity" has been given a prominent place within the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and in The Shape of the Australian Curriculum documents.
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