Education Minister Bronwyn Pike has ducked a potential backlash from the powerful Christian lobby by rejecting a proposal to allow humanism to be taught in primary schools during time allocated for religious education. The Humanist Society of Victoria, which wants to teach an ethics-based curriculum, is planning a legal challenge, saying that the current system indirectly discriminates against non-religious children, causing ''hurt, humiliation and pain and suffering'' to them when they opt out of religious education classes. Children in two-thirds of Victorian state primary schools are taught Christian scripture by volunteers, even though the Education Act says state schools must be secular and ''not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect''.
Labor is preparing for a pre-Christmas bloodbath as the party attempts a Caucus clean-out with preselections for its final seats to be decided in the next few weeks. The party has left its 14 most controversial seats until last with several MPs vowing to fight attempts to oust them in favour of new talent. The finalisation of the pre-selection process signals the party's readiness to begin the fight for political survival at the start of the year. Environment Minister Frank Sartor is expected to stand down while Fairfield MP Joe Tripodi is under intense pressure from Sussex Street to vacate his safe western Sydney seat.
The number of school employees under investigation over claims of sexual impropriety, grooming students and illicit affairs has tripled this year. Documents obtained exclusively by The Sunday Telegraph reveal 117 allegations of sexual misconduct have been reported to the Department of Education and Training between January 1 and October 31 this year - up from the 46 complaints the department dealt with in 2009. Deputy NSW Ombudsman Steve Kinmond said the rise in sexual misconduct claims was partly a result of teachers using email and Facebook to contact students out of the classroom and after hours.
A Liberal National Party MP says religious ``happy clappers'' wield extraordinary power within the party and credits divine intervention with delivering a church-going friend a seat in Parliament. A recording obtained by The Sunday Mail reveals state MP for Dalrymple, Shane Knuth, made the comments during a sermon at Atherton's Destiny Community Church last year. The comments are set to reignite debate over the power of what some MPs dub the ``Christian Soldiers'' within the state's main conservative party.
Pregnant teenagers and young mums are "couchsurfing" because there isn't enough public housing, say support workers. Teen parenting support worker Jenny Reynolds said a growing number of teen mothers had no choice but to sleep on couches and floors at friends' houses. Ms Reynolds said she was providing assistance to a teenager who was 14 when her baby was born 18 months ago. "She was kicked out of home and has been couchsurfing with her baby," she said.
One of the great injustices of the NSW justice system is the large number of accused people who are denied bail yet end up being acquitted of all charges. One of the great injustices of the NSW justice system is the large number of accused people who are denied bail yet end up being acquitted of all charges. They receive no compensation for the months they have spent in jail. The total number on remand – which started to shoot up under Premier Bob Carr – is more than 2500. (In Victoria it is well beneath 1000.) Alex Steel, a law lecturer at the University of NSW, says about 30 per cent of those on remand are eventually acquitted, while a lot of the remainder receive a good behaviour bond. Ideally, none of these people should spend time in jail. But NSW politicians just love locking people up. From 1992 to 2008 they made 23 changes to tighten bail legislation. (Victoria’s politicians made just six.) Dr Steel was speaking at an event organised by the Crime and Justice Reform Committee.
A new poll has put the Coalition on level pegging with the Brumby government, suggesting Victoria too could have a hung parliament and minority government after November 27. The Essential Research online poll, taken over September and October among 1465 voters, reports the Coalition holding a six-point lead over Labor on first preferences, with 44 per cent to Labor's 38 per cent. The poll reported the Greens vote as 12 per cent. After preferences, the poll found Labor and the Coalition in a dead heat, each with 50 per cent of the two-party vote. If Victorians were to vote that way, Labor would likely lose its majority in the Legislative Assembly, giving the Greens the balance of power and the ability to decide which side would form the government.
Victorians would prefer to have a drink with John Brumby than Ted Baillieu, believing the Premier is stronger, more capable and the more caring. A poll of readers of The Sunday Age and The Age has assessed the two leaders' personalities head to head. Mr Baillieu led in only one category, with a small majority of respondents believing he was more honest. The poll also found that one in three plans to switch political loyalties at this month's state election. A survey of 1533 members of The Age reader panel - a group that provides feedback to the paper - reveals that most of the switchers gravitated to the Greens, although the Coalition also benefited from the change in voting intentions.
Public health campaigners are calling for bottle shop exclusion zones around schools and a ban on alcohol advertising on public transport to prevent children from being bombarded with ''insidious'' alcohol marketing. The Australian Drug Foundation and the Public Health Association are among groups claiming the alcohol industry is bombarding children with promotion in every area of their lives and resorting to devious methods. At a recent Melbourne summit they cited examples including a bottle shop in Sunshine with billboards for discounted alcopops that directly face a high school entrance; a New South Wales pub crawl bus bearing the Bundy rum bear logo, which also doubles as a school bus for grade 4 excursions; and a Johnnie Walker online competition inviting visitors of any age to choose their favourite Australian cricket dream team, despite the whisky's brand being prominently displayed multiple times.
Some, not all ChristiansYour heading ''Christians target death bill'' should be amended to read ''Some Christians target death bill''. The Australian Christian Lobby does not represent all Christians, nor does it reflect the full range and depth of Christians' thinking on euthanasia.LIONEL PARROTT, CroydonNo simple answersI am a Christian and I think I am not a mindless follower of anyone, particularly the so-called Australian Christian lobby, which claims to represent me and my beliefs but, on most things, certainly does not. I believe in the sanctity of life but I also believe that sometimes the extent of a person's suffering demands a compassionate response. And, yes, sometimes that may entail allowing a person to seek an early and merciful death. There are no simple answers, and the issue demands deep and prolonged thought and discussion. It does not help to attempt to close down discussion by trying to quash the debate before it begins. The Christian God with whom I walk is one of deep compassion who, in Jesus, repeatedly spoke out against those who set their own absolute, black-and-white laws above the law of love. Note also that the Australian Christian Lobby, as I understand it, does not represent any of the major Christian religious groups, but rather its paid-up conservative membership.REV GORDON BANNON, Campbells Creek
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