Barack Obama reaches out to Islam

Peter Alford - The Australian
Barack Obama has delivered a personal appeal to the Muslim world to join the West in the battle against their common enemy - al-Qa'ida and affiliated militants. Returning after 39 years to Jakarta where he spent four years of boyhood, the US President reiterated his Cairo message to the world's Muslims: "America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Instead, all of us must defeat al-Qa'ida and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion, certainly not a great world religion like Islam." He delivered his speech in front of 6000 people, mostly students, at the University of Indonesia's Depok campus, south of the city.

Safety first in family law changes

Chris Merritt and Patricia Karvelas - The Australian
The Gillard government has unveiled radical changes to family law. The changes would redefine domestic violence, place greater weight on child safety and could weaken the Howard government's shared parenting laws. The changes, which are directed at cases involving abusive parents, elevate the safety of children to the top priority in custody disputes. Whenever a court considers that this goal is in conflict with the right of a child to have a relationship with both parents, it will be required to give greater weight to child safety.

Labor fails to lock in Greens

Paul Austin - The Age
Preference negotiations between Labor and the Greens have broken down, with the ALP now resigned to a Coalition-Greens deal that could bring down the Brumby government. After the Greens yesterday refused to meet a Labor-imposed deadline for a deal, the ALP fears the Liberals will deliver preferences to the Greens in a clutch of inner-Melbourne seats, imperilling four ALP members including ministers Bronwyn Pike and Richard Wynne. Labor believes that, in return, the Greens will distribute ''open'' how-to-vote cards in key ALP-held marginal seats in Melbourne's eastern and south-eastern suburbs - dramatically increasing the Liberals' prospects of snatching power at the November 27 election.

Why an atheist Prime Minister is better

Brendan Brown - The Punch
Julia Gillard’s atheism and Tony Abbott’s catholicism were virtually non-issues in the 2010 election, even though Gillard’s godlessness may have cost her votes amongst the religiously-minded. Australians generally accept that religion should be an irrelevant consideration when choosing their Prime Minister, and whilst such an attitude sounds commendably tolerant, it is also wrong. Australians who didn’t vote for Gillard because she is an atheist are right, religion matters, although they are right for entirely the wrong reason. Religion is a relevant political issue because it is a window into someone’s mindset. Abbott believes that a supernatural intelligence created the Universe and designed everything in it, including humans. Gillard does not.

Powerbroker Joe Tripodi quits

Imre Salusinszky - The Australian
Joe Tripodi will today announce he is quitting politics, in the clearest sign yet of a changing of the guard in NSW Labor. Mr Tripodi has been the key powerbroker on the party's Right during a tumultuous period that has seen Labor in NSW, previously famous for its stability, crunch through four premiers in five years. "I support Kristina Keneally's view that the party needs to renew and refresh and I'm happy to be part of the process," an emotional Mr Tripodi told The Australian last night. He also revealed his influence had not waned in his post-ministerial career, as he had been advising NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal on electricity privatisation.

Children in jail on smuggler charges

Paul Maley - The Australian
Boys as young as 14 are being held in Australian maximum-security adult jails and tried for people-smuggling offences despite having birth certificates that prove they are minors, Indonesian officials say. The Australian has uncovered details of four jailed Indonesian nationals who claim to be underage, revelations that could strain Canberra's relationship with Jakarta at a time when the Gillard government needs Indonesian goodwill for its planned regional processing centre. The figure could be higher, as the Indonesian consulate says there are at least five people in the adult prison system claiming to be minors. The four alleged juveniles are being held in the general population of the West Australian prison system, with claims some are as young as 14.

'Locked out' Greens create own climate roundtable

Siobhain Ryan - The Australian
A multi-party committee set up just six weeks ago to help drive climate change policy has fractured.  The Greens yesterday accused Labor of a "breach of faith". Greens leader Bob Brown said the party was setting up its own parallel processes to consult with business and non-government organisations over a carbon price, after being shut out of government advisory groups. "(The government) said that 'You Greens can't go to those roundtables', and I think that was a breach of faith," Senator Brown said in Canberra. Julia Gillard announced on September 27 that she would chair a new multi-party climate change committee to explore options for implementing a carbon price and building a consensus on tackling climate change.

New third force are ecological Marxists

Christian Kerr - The Australian
The Greens need to be treated as more than a political novelty and subjected to serious scrutiny. Liberal frontbencher Kevin Andrews has made this assessment in a hard-hitting critique of the new third force in politics. The Greens won more than 13 per cent of the Senate vote and 11.7 per cent of House of Representatives first preferences on August 21, the strongest showing by any minor party in modern Australian political history. They will hold the balance of power in the Senate from July 1 next year. Mr Andrews says the roots of the Greens lie in the self-declared "ecological Marxism" of former BLF boss Jack Mundey and the Green Ban movement of the early 1970s that saw well-heeled Sydney NIMBYs and hard-left unionists join forces to block development, rather than the broader environmental movement.

Girl, 11, gives birth: alleged father in custody

An 11-year-old girl from a country Victorian town gave birth to a child this year, allegedly to a 30-year-old man.
The man, a family friend of the girl's grandparents, is currently in custody facing 18 criminal charges. He has been charged with rape, sexual penetration of a child under 16 and assault with intent and was remanded in custody pending trial. The girl gave birth to the baby at an outer-suburban hospital.

Funds to close gap

The federal Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, will announce $24 million in funding today for projects to improve literacy and numeracy among Aboriginal students, as the government steps up efforts to close the gap in educational achievement between indigenous and non-indigenous children. The funding will be for 15 new projects.
All Australian governments have agreed to the target of halving the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy by 2018.

School girlfriends get support but principal sticks to her guns

Julie Szego - The Age
Back in what Methodist Ladies' College principal Rosa Storelli calls ''the dark ages'', teachers at the school would occasionally receive a ''discreet note'' from a student seeking permission to attend the school formal with their same-sex partner. ''That was prior to 14 years ago,'' she said. ''And then we felt that this process was an invasion of the students' privacy.'' The MLC formal is an inclusive and relaxed affair now: students can bring a partner of the opposite sex or the same sex, they can turn up alone or band together as a group. Ms Storelli was yesterday promoting her policy, after the can and can't-dos of the school formal emerged as a quasi test of whether schools could walk the walk on accepting gay students.

Humanism classes have some merit

Des Cahill - The Age
Defining religion is notoriously difficult, and probably impossible, given the diversity of religious and non-religious views across the world. As the highly regarded Pew Research Centre in the US has empirically shown in its surveys across many nations, the overwhelming majority of the global population thinks that religion is very important in their lives. And almost half of these are either Christian or Muslim. The Australian Constitution takes, perhaps wisely, a minimalist approach in outlining the relationship between religion and the state. It certainly rejects an established church but allows religious groups to be considered as agencies or associations, albeit with special features, working alongside the state for spiritual and social wellbeing. This constitutional flexibility has allowed the different Commonwealth states, among other things, to pursue varying strategies in teaching religion in government schools.