Queensland disaster victims who turned to pubs and clubs for meals and other support contributed to record poker machine losses of almost half a billion dollars in the first three months of the year. Welfare and problem gambling support groups are convinced flood and cyclone victims were drawn to pokies to relieve stress. The big jump in gambling losses also coincides with millions being handed out in Federal Government support to victims of the summer disasters.
Christian lobbyist Jim Wallace has apologised after an "ill-timed" tweet declaring the Anzacs didn't fight for an Australia characterised by gay marriage or Islam. But his apology was directed at the Anzacs, not at gay people or Muslims. The Australian Christian Lobby managing director and retired brigadier yesterday stood by the sentiments he expressed, amid a torrent of online criticism. He said his comments had been seized upon "by everyone with an intention to discredit". "I believe in and value Anzac Day and our veterans too much to have ever intended a slight on the day, and apologise unreservedly for having even tweeted the thought on this day. It was not my intent to see it used this way," Mr Wallace said. He made the provocative tweet as he sat at home in Canberra beside his 96-year-old father watching the Anzac Day march on television. "Just hope that as we remember servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for -- wasn't gay marriage and Islamic!" he wrote. Critics responded almost immediately. "What they fought for was freedom from prejudice and persecution. For all Australians!" said one. Another tweeted: "Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby should be ashamed, using Anzac Day to push a homophobic and racist agenda."
Julia Gillard has refused to rule out clearing the way for same-sex marriages in Australia if Labor members change the party's policy at their national conference in December. Despite emphasising her belief that marriage takes place between a man and a woman, the Prime Minister has told The Australian she will not pre-empt party debates on same-sex unions. "My view is clear and my view won't change," she said in an interview in Seoul. "But I also think that it's fair to the participants in national conference to let people come along and have a discussion about the issues they want to have a discussion about. "I'm going to take it a step at a time." Ms Gillard's decision not to attempt to control the conference debate highlights the precarious nature of her balancing act as she governs in minority with the support of the Greens -- who peeled support away from Labor in last year's federal election with a policy favouring same-sex marriage.
Government agencies cannot agree on whether Canberran Peter Hyndal is a man or a woman. The 38-year-old is trapped in what he describes as ''no-man's land'' his birth certificate reads female and his passport says male. The Australian Tax Office says he's a man but the Family Assistance Office says he's a woman. Mr Hyndal spent the first 25 years of his life living as a woman but now identifies as being a man. He is lobbying to be recognised as male on his birth certificate without having to undergo the reproductive organ alterations required to do so. ''I refuse to have a government dictate to me what I should and shouldn't do to my body,'' Mr Hyndal said. As the ACT Government considers reforms to protect the rights of transgender and intersex people Mr Hyndal is calling on the Australian Government to adopt a nationally consistent approach to the legal recognition of sex.
Some priests do not view the molestation of boys as a breach of their celibacy vows, a retired Catholic bishop has claimed. Geoffrey Robinson, the former auxiliary bishop of Sydney, blames the absence of women from church life as a catalyst for the sexual abuse crisis enveloping the faith. In an interview with The Australian Women's Weekly, Mr Robinson says boys suffered more than girls at the hands of paedophile priests partly because they were more available to them, with nuns tending to play a greater role in the religious education of young girls. There was also a view among some offenders with whom he had worked that a priest's celibacy vows weren't broken if a boy was involved.
There is no surer way of bringing the simmering debate about the role of religion in Australia to a full boil than by invoking the money and tax concessions given by government to fund certain religious activities. In no time, what already tends to be a fairly uncivil argument devolves into bitter invective against the supposedly theocratic designs of the churches from one side, and dismissive assertions of a kind of historically legitimate Christian "exceptionalism" from the other." I believe that both extremes in this debate are wrong: the "secularists" because they assume that once religion is removed from public-political life, and consigned to interiority (where they assume it belongs, if anywhere), the secular space that is left will be neutral, benign and inherently just; and the Christian "exceptionalists" because they think that God's providential care of the world can be mediated through political coercion, and because they do not believe that being on the payroll of the state is hazardous to the soul of Christianity itself.
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