Casey schools in homophobia fight

Jason Gillick - Casey Weekly
Two Casey schools have drawn a line in the sand over homophobia and subsequent bullying as part of a Victoria-wide push for tolerance of sexual orientation in schools. Hallam Senior College and Pearcedale Primary School have joined some of Melbourne's most prestigious private schools and other state institutions in joining the Safe Schools Coalition. So far 11 schools have joined the state government-backed intiative while others have existing gay-straight alliance groups which work to reduce ignorance and harassment toward gay students.

'Bully' claim over comments denied

Jason Gillick - Casey Weekly
Australian Christian Lobby state director Rob Ward has distanced himself from comments made by a candidate for the Make The State Pay election ticket about Narre Warren South MP Judith Graley. Bob Halsall, a one-time ALP member and husband of former Casey mayor Janet Halsall, emailed the Premier John Brumby claiming Ms Graley "bullied" Mr Ward and "sabotaged" a meeting he had offered to convene that the group had organised. In an emailed response, Mr Ward said: "A number of people suggested to me that facilitating this public meeting could compromise my independence. These were open and honest discussions but I do not feel that I was bullied in any way."

Concerns raised that Barbie doll camera could be used by paedophiles

Greg Thom - Herald Sun
Experts have slammed a new Barbie doll incorporating a hidden video camera, as a potential paedophile's paradise. Barbie Video Girl encourages children to get creative and film themselves playing. A tiny camera is built into the doll's necklace. Recorded footage can be viewed on a screen on Barbie's back, edited on computer and shared via the net.

Family First bill aims to wind back abortion in SA

Australian Conservative
Family First introduced a bill in the South Australian parliament last week that could reduce the number of abortions performed in that state. The party’s Amendment of the Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995 requires doctors to provide information about the alternative options of adoption and foster care available to women who are seeking an abortion. Family First’s SA parliamentary leader Dennis Hood told Parliament: “It is important that women seeking abortion have the information regarding these alternatives made available to them. In jurisdictions where laws like this one have been introduced, the abortion rate has dropped substantially.

Malaysia holds back on refugee support

Matthew Franklin and Paul Maley - The Australian
Malaysia has withheld formal support for Julia Gillard's proposed regional refugee processing centre. The south-east Asian nation has questioned the cost and asking for more information about its implications. As the Prime Minister conceded yesterday that her planned regional approach to dealing with refugees could require many Asian governments to change their policies, Malaysia expressed guarded support for the concept and agreed to continue discussions. After meeting Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Ms Gillard said although her plan was complex, the problem of asylum-seekers could be managed only through regional action. Unilateral action by single countries would cause problems to "mutate" and emerge elsewhere.

John Brumby out of the traps early to launch election campaign

Stuart Rintoul and Milanda Rout - The Australian
Victorian Premier John Brumby yesterday signalled the formal start of the state election campaign a day earlier than planned. Mr Brumby invited the Governor to issue the writs for the November 27 poll and making his central pitch for a "competent, stable, experienced government" to be returned. Describing as inappropriate the fixed-term quirk that would have seen his visit to Government House clash with Melbourne Cup barbecues across the state, Mr Brumby later visited a TAFE campus, brickie's trowel in hand, to announce more funding for vocational education and flag "the biggest ever building program in our history". Latest polling suggests Victoria's 11-year-old Labor government will be narrowly returned.

Out in the cold: Rudd held fake budget meetings to stop leaks

Phillip Coorey - SMH
Kevin Rudd and his senior ministers were so suspicious of Lindsay Tanner that they used to hold fake pre-budget meetings to ensure their plans did not leak. According to accounts of the meetings of the now abandoned Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee, nicknamed the gang of four, some meetings with Mr Tanner would deliberately be light on detail. After the meeting concluded and the then finance minister had left, the other three members of the committee - Mr Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan - would reconvene and discuss their budget plans in detail. Departmental sources said the tactic was motivated by a suspicion that Mr Tanner was behind the leaking of budget stories early in the first term of the Rudd government.

Newspaper publishes list of gay people to 'help them live responsible lives'

A controversial newspaper in Kampala has published photos, names and home addresses of gay Ugandans for the second time, prompting a rights group to seek a legal injunction against the publication. The paper's managing editor, Giles Muhame, says he plans to continue publishing photos of gay men to "help them live responsible lives". Earlier this month the paper - called Rolling Stone but not linked to the American magazine of the same name - published a front page story featuring a list of what the paper said were Uganda's 100 "top" homosexuals. Rights activists said the story prompted attacks against at least four gay Ugandans.

Pokie wins put pensions at risk

Kirsty Needham - SMH
Hundreds of thousands of elderly Australians gambling on RSL and pub poker machines could be putting their pensions at risk as their winnings are recorded by smart cards introduced to track gambling habits. Centrelink has already used data tracked from pensioners using swipe cards at big casinos to count wins - and losses - as earnings, and demanded repayment. But Centrelink has refused to tell welfare services whether other regular gambling wins need to be declared as income. Until now, it was impossible to track pokie wins. Smart cards that identify each user on a national poker machine network will be introduced from 2012, recording how much has been won and lost, under a deal struck by the federal government with the independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

Child protection gaps hit neediest

Carol Nader - The Age
Melbourne's rapidly growing northern and western suburbs are experiencing the brunt of the shortage of child protection workers, accounting for half the vacancies in the state. Government figures reveal that at September there were 43 vacancies for child protection workers, of which 21 were in the north-west region, where child protection reports have grown by 59 per cent in nine years. The region has the highest number of child protection workers, with a government target of 294 workers for this financial year. But other regions with a similar workforce do not seem to be suffering the same shortfall.

Hostages massacred in church

John Leland - The Age
US and Iraqi anti-terrorist forces stormed a church where gunmen had taken almost 100 hostages in an afternoon of chaos that became a bloodbath. At least 37 hostages, including two priests and seven children, were killed and 56 people wounded, according to the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Iraq's Defence Minister Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi, said most of the hostages were killed or wounded when the gunmen set off at least two suicide vests as they took over the Sayidat al-Nejat church in central Baghdad on Sunday.