Australia is one step closer to introducing R18+ ratings for games following the release of much-anticipated draft guidelines into computer games classification. There will be no restrictions on language or drug use and nudity will be permitted, while sexual activity may be realistically simulated, the proposal says. The government, with the approval of states and territories, would decide whether to create the new rating in July. Gamers have long argued for adult-themed games to be classified. Until now, such games are banned from sale.
Religion in schools is a touchy subject and so it helps to be clear about definitions and categories. In making his case against chaplains in government schools, Christopher Bantick ("Chaplaincy program participants beyond a prayer", The Weekend Australian, May 21-22) begins with a category confusion. Chaplains funded by the federal government's National Schools Chaplaincy Program, for which additional funding was announced in the budget this month, are appointed to provide pastoral care to students. Chaplains do not teach religion in schools. Religious instruction in government schools is entirely separate from chaplaincy. Nor are school chaplains necessarily Christian. Under NSCP guidelines, schools and their communities determine the "role, faith and/or denomination of the chaplain".
The draft Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games are contrary to the interests of parents and their children, the Australian Christian Lobby has said. The draft guidelines, released by the Minister for Justice Brendan O’Connor today, would allow almost precisely the same guidelines for R18+ films to apply to computer games, allowing games with a ‘high’ impact to be legal in Australia for the first time. “Not only is this proposal contrary to the claim that the introduction of an R18+ category for computer games would protect children by merely relocating existing MA15+ games to a new R18+ category, it would inevitably open the Australian hire and sale markets to a higher level of graphically violent and sexually explicit interactive games,” ACL’s chief of staff Lyle Shelton said. “For the very first time, computer games with sexual activity that may be ‘realistically simulated’, and games with ‘virtually’ no restrictions on language and the treatment of themes such as racism and suicide, would be legal in Australia according to the draft guidelines.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has urged Julia Gillard to avoid "radical and extreme politics", warning that Greens' proposals to ban new coalmines would cause "a social and economic catastrophe" for her state. Attacking the Greens as fanciful and unrealistic, Ms Bligh has also strongly defended her state's burgeoning coal-seam gas industry, telling The Australian it would be an important transitional fuel in coming decades as the world sought to develop "viable" energy alternatives. The Premier's stout defence of an industry that directly employs 55,000 Queenslanders came as Greens leader Bob Brown renewed his calls for a swift transition away from coal and savaged federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who on Tuesday defended the industry's future.
New mums want paid breastfeeding breaks in the workplace. The Australian Breastfeeding Association yesterday welcomed new federal laws making it illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers. But it said the laws should go further by including paid lactation breaks across all workplaces. Some Victorian workplaces already have breastfeeding breaks for new mothers. But ABA president Querida David said they should be legislated across all industry sectors.
The federal government's push for the plain packaging of tobacco is set to whistle through Parliament regardless of what Tony Abbott decides. But Labor's plan to means-test the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate is in danger of collapse, with the independent MP Bob Katter saying yesterday he would not support the measure. The government intends to introduce the plain packaging legislation into Parliament in July, by when the Greens, who support the measure, will control the Senate. The government needs four extra votes in the House of Representatives should the Coalition, which is divided over the issue, oppose it. Yesterday those four votes were guaranteed.
Parenting plans developed before a child is born should not be legally enforceable and sperm donors should not have an automatic legal right to be on a birth certificate, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby says. ''The paramount consideration when providing parentage/parenting orders is to protect the best interests of the child, not the expectations or interests of parents,'' a senior policy adviser at the group, Senthorun Raj, said. ''[However], there needs to be greater consideration on whether it is appropriate to broaden the scope of parenting plans, to permit greater recognition of donor fathers who wish to have an ongoing parenting role.''
Teenage boys tend to have a harder time than girls in adjusting to their parents' separation, and are more likely to want them to re-unite, a study shows. More boys than girls surveyed felt it would have been better if their parents had stayed together. The study, Views of Adolescents in Separated Families, released yesterday by the federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, is based on 623 teenagers aged 12 to 18 whose parents separated between July 2006 and September 2008.
Peter Murphy, CEO of Christian Super, has encouraged Christians to take advantage of the government co-contribution superannuation scheme as a means to help fund ministry opportunities in retirement. The federal government currently offers to match personal super contributions of low to middle income earners dollar for dollar up to a maximum of $1000. In a media statement, Mr. Murphy said this scheme could be beneficial for Christians who wished to give their time to voluntary ministry when they retire. “Having the extra tax free dollars from the government when you retire, means you can use that money for ministry opportunities that arise in this new stage of life,” Mr. Murphy said.
Asylum seekers shipped overseas under the proposed "Malaysian Solution" face the prospect of caning if they step out of line in detention. Living conditions at refugee camps in Malaysia have also been condemned as crowded and unhygienic, with some inmates reported to have died from disease spread by rats. According to Amnesty International, Malaysia flogs up to 6000 detainees a year, using a rattan cane that causes visible injuries and scarring. The law allows guards to punish children.
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