Catholics divided over Pell's criticism of Greens and   Christians told it's OK to vote Green

A division has emerged in the Roman Catholic Church over whether or not Christians should vote for the Greens.  The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, warned Catholic voters on the weekend to be wary of the Greens, describing them as "sweet camouflaged poison".   But other Catholic leaders disagree. They say it does not reflect well on the Church when a man of Cardinal Pell's position uses that kind of language.   The stoush between the Greens and the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) started late last week when the ACL accused the party of refusing the scrutiny of Christian voters.

Priests at 20 paces

In an election that threatens to become a crusade between Christianity and atheism, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, can only have asked one question upon reading Frank Brennan's political potshot: "Will no one rid me of this turbulent Jesuit?"   In the Epistle of George to the Murdoch Sunday newspapers, Australia's most senior Catholic cleric displayed a certain distaste for the Greens, describing them as "sweet camouflaged poison".

Debate continues between Cardinal Pell, Australian Green Party

A clash between Cardinal George Pell of Sydney and the leaders of the country’s Green Party has continued, with other Church leaders entering into the fray.  While Cardinal Pell charged that the Green Party advances an “anti-Christian” agenda, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) complained that Green leaders had not been forthright in responding to questions about their political stands. ACL director Jim Wallace charged that the Green party “doesn’t act honestly before the electorate.”

Richard Dawkins compares burqa to 'bin liner'

BRITISH academic and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins has angered Muslim groups by comparing the burqa to a trash bag.  The 69-year-old author referred to the burqa as a “full bin-liner thing” in a magazine interview while discussing his forthcoming documentary about the dangers of faith schools.  Muslim organisations reacted angrily to the throwaway comment.

$90m for filters, cyber safety: Coalition

THE Coalition will allocate $90 million for PC-based filters to block internet nasties and boost cyber-safety education.  This approach is in stark contrast to Julia Gillard's plan to force all internet service providers to censor the internet.  The Coalition scheme unveiled today by communications spokesman Tony Smith is akin to NetAlert, a plan under the Howard government which provided free software filters to families.  NetAlert was discontinued by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy after Labor won the 2007 election.

Shacking up for the future

The Australian Institute of Family Studies recently held its biennial conference, celebrating 30 years of "advancing understanding of Australian families". The conference recognised key statistics that illustrate some of the dramatic changes in the landscape of families, including declining marriage rates and the increase in cohabitation and ex-nuptial births.  One only has to glance at the 500-plus comments expressing outrage at Bettina Ardnt's "backward opinions" (which suggested that Prime Minister Julia Gillard's de facto relationship might not be setting the best example for young female onlookers) or more generally at widely held attitudes towards our Prime Minister's relationship status, to conclude that we seem to have reached consensus: cohabitation is another stage on the pathway to a family.  When it comes to children's wellbeing, AIFS director Professor Alan Hayes recognises that the function of the family unit is what matters, rather than the form. What is crucial is that children have an example of a loving relationship that doesn't disappear before their eyes; that they're brought up in an environment of love.

Abbott battles to defend 'grab bag' broadband plan

AN Abbott government would enlist the private sector to upgrade internet services, rejecting Labor's $43 billion national broadband network.  The government has strongly challenged Tony Abbott's $6.32bn alternative policy, insisting it would deny fibre technology to at least 1000 cities and towns, including Darwin, Bathurst, Port Lincoln, Launceston and Toowoomba.  Communications Minister Stephen Conroy called it a "a grab bag of policies" that would leave Australia in the "digital dark ages". And industry experts have questioned the Coalition policy for being an interim response rather than a plan for nation-building.

Fibre not a healthy option

I TOO would like a Ferrari, but why should it be subsidised by the government?  True, fibre is the long-term communications future for almost all of us, but not always at taxpayer expense, and not without a competitive business plan or cost benefit analysis of the suggested $43 billion of government outlays.  The tech heads who would love a big spend on a mandated high-speed information highway across Australia must explain why they should be subsidised relative to others who will get speeds of five to 10 times what they get now.

Labor struggling in key states

LABOR faces the loss of up to 16 seats in NSW and Queensland alone.  Any gains in Julia Gillard's "home states" of South Australia and Victoria likely to be offset by losses in an increasingly hostile west.  Labor continues to hold a narrow lead in national polling on a two-party-preferred basis -- 51 per cent to 49 per cent -- but the latest figures from Newspoll, published exclusively in The Australian today, reveal huge differences in voter support between the states.

Retailer ditches web sex toys for brothel

STOCKMARKET-LISTED sex toy retailer is to begin selling the real thing.  It announced  yesterday a $20 million takeover deal for a Sydney brothel in a backdoor listing.  The company is set to buy the Stiletto brothel in the inner-west suburb of Camperdown, where clients can experience a "unique mixture of style, sex and theatre" for $200 a half-hour.

Welfare payments linked to child health checks

JULIA Gillard will today unveil new rules requiring parents of four-year-olds to take the children for health checks before getting benefits.  At stake for the parents is the  $726.35 family tax benefit.  The new rules for the payment of Family Tax Benefit Part A are part of a radical new plan to link welfare with behavioural change.  The Prime Minister will announce in Melbourne today a major extension of the government's welfare reform plan that began with the dole and payments to single mothers.

iPhone meat market sparks gay sex revolution

A location-aware iPhone app has spawned a sexual revolution in Australia's gay community by providing what is effectively a meat market enabling people to meet other gay men who may be just metres away from them.  In bars, restaurants or just walking down the street, users of the Grindr application can fire it up and see a list of other gay men in their area sorted by how far away they are. They can choose to start up a chat through the app or walk over and say hi. The app, which uses the phone's GPS to pinpoint users, has taken Australia by storm with Sydney and Melbourne placing fifth and ninth on Grindr's list of top cities. It has about 100,000 local users, making Australia the third largest Grindr community behind the US and Britain.