VCAT ruling says some rights more equal than others

Christian Today
The recent ruling of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to fine a youth camp owned by a Christian organisation for seeking to operate in accordance with its religious creed and ethos sets a dangerous precedent for religious freedom in the state, the Australian Christian Lobby’s Victorian Director, Rob Ward, said today.   “The decision of VCAT to fine Christian Youth Camps Limited, established and owned by the Christian Brethren, for refusing to accommodate Cobaw Community Health Service's Way Out project, which supports same-sex-attracted young people in rural areas, was a clear case of rights ideology triumphing over common sense.   “Although the State has a legitimate obligation to protect its citizens’ right to equality and freedom from unreasonable discrimination, it is equally obliged to protect the rights of religious believers to live in accordance with their genuinely held religious beliefs, as individuals and in community.

Voters still unable to split the parties

Matthew Franklin  - The Australian
Voter's remain evenly split on who should be running the nation.  A new Newspoll shows political allegiances have barely moved since the August 21 election delivered a hung parliament.   A Newspoll conducted exclusively for The Australian over the weekend found Labor and the Coalition at 50 per cent each in two-party-preferred terms.  The only big shift was a nine-percentage-point plunge in voter satisfaction with Tony Abbott -- from 48 per cent to 39 per cent -- and an increase in the Opposition Leader's dissatisfaction rating from 38 per cent to 47 per cent.

Newspoll Graphic

First patient treated with embryonic stem cells

Kim Landers - ABC
US doctors have begun treating the first patient in the world to receive human embryonic stem cells.   Details of the landmark clinical trial are being kept confidential and the patient's identity, gender and medical condition are not known.

Abortion trial is not just about women

Nina Funnell - SMH
Today, a young Cairns couple go on trial charged under the archaic abortion section of Queensland's criminal code with procuring an illegal abortion. If found guilty, the young woman could face up to seven years in prison, and her partner could face three years.   Reading about their experience threw me back to a recent phone call from a rather distressed friend. He and his girlfriend had left Sydney to move to Queensland for work. After arriving they discovered that she was pregnant.  They had discussed the situation at length and both were in firm agreement that they wanted to terminate the pregnancy. Neither one felt that they were emotionally or financially ready to have a baby. Nor did they feel comfortable with adoption. After considering their options, the girlfriend stated that she wanted to use the termination pill, RU486, and her boyfriend supported this decision.

Abortion law stuck in the 19th century

George Williams - SMH
Queensland's first abortion trial in 24 years begins today in the Cairns District Court. It will determine whether a young couple are jailed for terminating an unwanted pregnancy. The proceeding is possible because Queensland law, like that in NSW, still treats the termination of a pregnancy as a criminal offence. Parliaments in both jurisdictions have failed in not reforming the law.  It is alleged that Tegan Leach, 20, and her partner, Sergie Brennan, 22, imported the abortion drug misoprostol from the Ukraine and used it to terminate Leach's eight-week pregnancy. They face jail terms of seven and three years respectively.

The public prosecution of private decisions

This week, a woman and her partner will be put on trial in Queensland for a crime that should not be on the statute books.   Tegan Leach and her partner, Sergie Brennan, have been charged under sections 225 and 226 of the Queensland Criminal Code 1899. These sections prohibit a woman procuring her own miscarriage and a person supplying drugs to procure an abortion. The case presents us the chance to reflect on the current state of the law and compelling opportunity us to consider what the reform might look like.

An (un)convincing argument

Caroline Taylor - Online Opinion
"A 12-year-old Tasmanian girl is forced into prostitution by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, while in the care of community protection workers. They advertise her as “Angela, 18”. She is used by at least 120 men in an ordeal that last two months and leaves her with a sexually transmitted illness. The mother and boyfriend are jailed. What happens to the men? Nothing."   Last week, the Tasmanian Director of Public Prosecution, Mr Tim Ellis, released an eight-page Memorandum of Advice to the Tasmania police which instructed that at least 120 men who had paid to have sex with a 12-year-old ward of the state will not be charged with breaking the law.

A Greens dream is a nightmare for the rest of us

Bronwyn Bishop -   The Punch
Why do the Greens hate people?   At every turn they want to reduce the quality of life for human beings or in the worst case authorise a doctor to help kill some via euthanasia.   How can any political party charged by the constitution with the responsibility of governing for the peace, order and good government of the Australian people be taken seriously when the people always come second. And be under no illusions, the Greens are part of the cobbled together Labor government.

Greens step up fight for the city

Farrah Tomazin and David Rood - The Age
The Greens' bid to win their first lower house seat in the Victorian Parliament has intensified, with federal leader Bob Brown throwing his weight into the battle for the knife-edge seat of Melbourne.   Last night Senator Brown launched the campaign of his friend and former legal adviser, Brian Walters, SC, a human rights lawyer who is trying to unseat Education Minister Bronwyn Pike after 11 years in office.

Abp Peter Jensen Presidential Address 2010

This afternoon, Archbishop Peter Jensen delivered his Presidential Address to the 2010 meeting of Sydney Synod. Here’s one encouraging excerpt:

Canonisation of Mary MacKillop is not an Olympic event

Sarrah Le Marquand - Daily Telegraph
Let's just hope (or should that be pray?) that our competitive spirit doesn’t get the better of us when Australia’s first saint is canonised this weekend.   While the Vatican’s ultimate recognition of Mary MacKillop will be an historic moment, it runs the risk of kickstarting a new national obsession.  Why stop at one saint when we can have two? Or even two dozen? Already there are warning signs we won’t be happy with a lone sainthood in the trophy cabinet.

MacKillop cancer prayers 'betray a false thinking'

Amy Corderoy - SMH
The celebration of Mary MacKillop's miracle cancer cures is a worrying example of the lack of scientific literacy in the community, says an expert in evidence-based medicine.   The question is not whether the NSW mother Kathleen Evans recovered from her cancer after praying to MacKillop but how many others prayed and did not go into remission, said Chris Del Mar, a professor of primary care research at Bond University.  Professor Del Mar said popular acceptance of MacKillop's miracle was part of a wider problem of people not understanding scientific and mathematical methods, exemplified by newspapers printing horoscopes and people using alternative medicines that had little evidentiary support.

Election promises face new umpire

Alexandra Smith -  SMH
NSW Treasury officials will have no role in scrutinising promises made by political parties and candidates before the state election in March, a significant shift aimed at ending the kind of accusations of dishonesty that dominated the federal campaign.   Under a proposal to go to cabinet today, Treasury would no longer be involved in policy costings and instead a parliamentary budget office would be set up immediately to examine all promises before the election.

Unions angry with Rann team

Greg Kelton  - The Advertiser
Senior parliamentary colleagues of Premier Mike Rann and Treasurer Kevin Foley have rejected calls for them to be replaced.   A senior member of the Right said yesterday the faction was solidly behind both men and that talk of replacing them was coming from a section of the union movement still bitter over controversial changes to WorkCover. Australian Workers Union state secretary Wayne Hanson stepped up the anti-Rann pressure yesterday on radio, saying the community was fed up with the spin of Mr Rann and Mr Foley's arrogance.

Most West Australians want a national ban on women wearing the burqa, according to the latest Westpoll

The West
The poll found that 65 per cent of respondents supported a ban on women wearing the full traditional Muslim garment in public.  South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi, who is drafting a private member's Bill on a national ban, said he was not surprised by the strong support for outlawing the traditional face-covering garment, commonly referred to as a niqab or burqa.

Israeli Cabinet passes loyalty bill, Arabs angry

Aron Heller - Associated Press
Israel's Cabinet approved a bill on Sunday that would require new non-Jewish citizens to pledge a loyalty oath to a "Jewish and democratic" state, language that triggered charges of racism from Arab lawmakers who see it as undermining the rights of the country's Arab minority.   The measure was largely symbolic, since few non-Jews apply for Israeli citizenship. Nevertheless, it infuriated the Arab minority and stoked tensions with Palestinians at a time when fledgling peace talks are deadlocked over Israel's refusal to extend a moratorium on new building in West Bank Jewish settlements.

Banned Egypt party Muslim Brotherhood to run in poll

Egypt's biggest opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, is to stand in a third of the seats in next month's parliamentary elections.   The Islamist group, which is banned, won 20% of the seats in parliament in 2005 by fielding candidates as independents.   Leading opposition figure Mohammed ElBaradei had earlier called for a boycott of the vote.