Leaked costings add fuel to charter debate

VICTORIA'S charter of human rights has been used in more than 300 legal stoushes over the past five years, from sex offenders disputing their crimes to public housing tenants fighting eviction.

Leaked government documents also show that since the charter was introduced in 2006, taxpayers have spent $13.5 million teaching bureaucrats about it, or paying for departmental legal advice, administrative costs, and government grants to community groups which promote it.

The figures are likely to inflame tensions over the charter, which has divided the Baillieu government.
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'Legal savage' in a fight for secularity

IT WAS all too much for Ron Williams. The father of six had agitated for years about the presence of religious teaching in state schools. He had fired off letters of complaint about John Howard's national school chaplaincy program and conveyed his concerns in person to two education ministers and their departmental heads.

Then, in November 2009, prime minister Kevin Rudd gave the keynote address at the Australian Christian Lobby's national conference in Canberra. Announcing a $42 million extension of the chaplaincy program, Rudd praised the work of chaplains and claimed some of the credit for their introduction in Queensland schools almost 20 years earlier, when he was working for the Goss government.

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Righting the wrongs in ethics

IN A Sydney Morning Herald article last week, 11-year-old Charlie Fine called on NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell to stand up to ''religious conservative'' Fred Nile over the mad reverend's efforts to abolish - no, really - ethics classes in NSW schools. Charlie also politely addressed the Rev directly: ''By all means, Mr Nile, you go out and be as Christian as you want; I respect that … But that does not give you and your supporters the right to attempt to shape a future generation of adults in your mould … Your views are out of step with modern society, so I would ask you to reconsider your actions and continue to allow parents and children a choice in their classrooms.''

How strong is that?

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Second boat arrives post-Malaysia deal

ANOTHER boat carrying asylum seekers has been intercepted in Australian waters.

It's the second vessel to be stopped since the Gillard government signed its controversial swap deal with Malaysia last month.

There are thought to be 50 passengers and two crew on board.

The boat was intercepted by border protection command northeast of Christmas Island.

It comes as Christmas Island residents have launched a formal protest over the federal government's Malaysia solution.


Scientists coax sperm from stem cells

SCIENTISTS in Japan say they have for the first time succeeded in coaxing sperm cells from mouse embryonic stem cells, a breakthrough that could one day help humans overcome infertility.

The sperm were used to fertilise eggs and were found to produce "healthy offspring that grew into fertile male and female adult mice," said the study in a special online edition of the US journal Cell.

Potential use of the technology in humans is at least a decade away, the Kyoto University team said.


Undercover mum exposes web of sex

Nathalie Brown set up a Facebook account under the alias Jessica Taylor. Picture: Ben Swinnerton Source: Herald Sun

A MELBOURNE mum has gone undercover as a teen on Facebook, exposing minors rating each other's sexual performances, vulgar exchanges and bullying.

Nathalie Brown, 42, easily penetrated the cyber world of Victorian teens by posing as a 14-year-old in an experiment that will shock parents.

With just a few clicks, she found a page where a 15-year-old girl was being trashed by a 16-year-old boy as a "drunk slut" after she wrote that he tried to rape her.