Gillard opens door on euthanasia

Jewel Topsfield - The Age
The terminally ill could be granted the right to die after Prime Minister Julia Gillard backed a conscience vote on restoring the authority of territories to legalise euthanasia. Fourteen years after the Northern Territory became the first place in the world to legalise euthanasia - only to be overridden nine months later by the Howard government - Greens leader Bob Brown pledged his first priority would be a bill to restore the territories' power to pass euthanasia laws.

Brown seeks 'full-on' debate to legislate euthanasia

Samantha Maiden- The Australian
Julia Gillard says a conscience vote is likely for Labor MPs if the Greens push ahead with their plan to demand a debate on euthanasia. Greens leader Bob Brown signalled his intention yesterday to kick-start a new debate on laws that prohibit the Northern Territory and the ACT from legalising euthanasia. If successful, his push would not legalise the practice, but would reinstate the power of the territories to legislate on the issue. Under the new agreement between the Gillard government and the Greens, the party has greater powers to demand debate on private members' bills, and weekly meetings with the Prime Minister when parliament is sitting.

Muslim women protest against push to ban burka in Australia

Sally Neighbour - The Australian
Muslim women have rallied in their hundreds to oppose moves to ban the burka in Australia, condemning the push as part of an orchestrated "war on Islam" in the West. Women swathed in veils and wielding placards declaring "my burka - conviction not coercion" and "leave my mum alone - we love nikab" gathered yesterday in a park in Punchbowl, southwestern Sydney. The first public protest against calls to ban the veil, the rally was co-ordinated by a coalition of Muslim groups known for their often hardline views. The organisers included the Islamist political party, Hizbut Tahrir (Party of Liberation), which favours the creation of an Islamic caliphate, and the fundamentalist Ahlus Sunna wal Jamaah Association.

Brown sees red over NT euthanasia rights

Nadja Hainke - NT News
Greens leader Bob Brown will again try to overturn a ban that prevents NT from passing euthanasia laws. The call came after a NT News survey found most Territorians want the right to die legalised. Senator Brown has previously been unsuccessful in his bid to lift the ban but said restoring the issue was once again on top of his agenda. "What is unarguable here is that the (NT and ACT) should have their rights to legislate on euthanasia restored," he told Channel 10.

Battlegrounds for belief

Barney Zwartz - The Age
Which groups of Australians most worry other Australians? Muslims, gays and - astonishingly - witches. That apparently anachronistic result appears in a survey of public submissions to a national inquiry into freedom of religion and belief in the 21st century, from which the draft report was submitted last week to the Australian Human Rights Commission. On the other side of the religious coin, there seems something approaching paranoia among some atheistic and secular groups and individuals. Reading those of the 2037 submissions that the commission has posted online, it seems some atheists fear Australia is in imminent danger of becoming an Iran-style theocracy run by Christian mullahs. Meanwhile, some Christians apparently believe they are on the brink of a Roman-style persecution. These views do not reflect mainstream opinion; it takes a certain passion and effort to make a detailed submission, so only those most involved or committed will do so. But they provide a fascinating window into contemporary concerns about religion. And they are the latest battleground for a very real political debate: whose rights rule, and which rights? What freedom of religion is being protected? Every belief? Anybody's belief? Who gets to decide - parliaments, the courts or anti-discrimination bodies? Do we need federal legislation on freedom of religion? There is none now. What protection does the constitution provide?

Get used to changes, warns Gillard

Michael Gordon, Michelle Grattan and Adam Morton - The Age
Julia Gillard has declared that climate change and some other election promises will not be kept to the letter by her minority government - and ''people are going to have to get used to it''. The Prime Minister said ''new paradigm'' politics would mean the policies emerging from negotiations with non-government players would be ''slightly different from what our first view was''. Ms Gillard is refusing to rule out a carbon tax coming from negotiations that could include BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers and economist Ross Garnaut, despite insisting before the election there would be no carbon tax.

Promises may not be kept: PM

Promises made by the government in the run-up to the federal election no longer necessarily apply because of the "new environment" created by a hung parliament, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says. "It's not business as usual for measures that require substantial legislation," Ms Gillard said in an interview with Fairfax Newspapers published on Saturday. This included "big picture reforms - and anything associated with climate change is obviously one where we're in a new environment", she said. Ms Gillard on Thursday said Labor remained committed to working towards a price on carbon but said there were complex policy questions that must first be addressed.

Out of mouths of babes - religious will rise as secular birth rates fall

Eric Kaufmann - SMH
Pope Benedict's recent visit to Britain has been just as controversial as John Paul II's tour of 1982. But the 180-degree shift in the axis of conflict reveals how British society has changed over the past 28 years. John Paul, the first pontiff to set foot on British soil, raised Protestant hackles. Today, Benedict riles Britain's rising secularists, who decry Catholic paedophilia, conservatism and superstition. Among the few Protestants who still practise, many now see Catholics as their religious allies and support the papal visit. The faithful fear, and seculars cheer, the idea that the end of Christianity is nigh. But is it? On the face of it, the trends seem unassailable: the Eurobarometer finds that across 10 west European countries between 1975 and 1998, the proportion of weekly attenders plummeted from 38 per cent to 16 per cent. In Britain, where just 7 per cent of Christians attend church each week, half of those between the age of 18 and 34 say they have no religion compared to just 20 per cent of over-55s.

Anglicans move to bring Aboriginal students into mainstream

Barney Zwartz - The Age
Every Anglican school now has a program to help Aboriginal education or at least improve awareness of the plight of indigenous Australians, according to the head of the Australian Anglican Schools Network. The Reverend Peter Laurence said the schools had taken on the message from Aboriginal leaders that the best way to end disadvantage was to bring students into mainstream education. The programs range from boarding Aboriginal students, visiting remote communities and hosting members in return, adopting elders and ''aunties'', to teaching an indigenous perspective on history and culture, he told the national Anglican parliament meeting at Melbourne Grammar at the weekend.