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UNDERSTANDING THE TIMES IN WHICH WE LIVE

By Australian Newsletter

Editors Note: This article is written for the members of the Australian Prayer Network, Christians who we believe would have a biblical understanding of the concepts shared.  It is not written, nor intended to be distributed to unbelievers, therefore we ask for discernment to be exercised before passing on to others.  Thank you for your understanding.

Few would argue that we are living in a time when there is much shaking taking place.  Everything than can be shaken is being shaken.  That shaking is taking many forms and is not confined to Australia but is world-wide.  It is important for us in understanding the times to reflect what the Bible has to say on the subject and how the spiritual and natural realms interact and speak to us of what is happening.  The Bible tells us that the earth groans awaiting the revelation of the sons of God (Romans 8: 19)  In Romans 8: 22 it says again “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now”.  In verse 23 of the same chapter it reminds us that not only the natural creation, but we ourselves (also of course His creation) …. groan inwardly as we eagerly await adoption as His sons (and daughters).

Our groaning reflects the struggle we have to overcome sin in our lives in the spiritual battle in which we are engaged, and the biblical passage relates that the battle is also felt and manifested within God’s natural creation.  So we can gain understanding of the battle in the spiritual by observing what is happening in our natural world.  I am indebted to Kathleen Mitchell of Cleft in the Rock Ministries, an Intercessory prayer ministry in America for the following research, and interpretation of the results discovered, which I share with you for your edification and discernment as to what God may be wanting to say to us at this time.

Those, who stand against biblical values, truth, and righteousness, are coming out in fits of rage to displace at all costs, those, who embrace the authority, way, and word of God.  The Bible indicates that a great instability of the earth’s structures would be a sign for us. I recently checked the latest earthquake reports at https://earthquakes.volcanodiscovery.com   These statistics were correct at the time of writing this article.  Take a look at this report but note, these are only quakes larger than 1.5 in intensity.

**There have been 131 earthquakes in the past 24 hours
**There have been 1,243 earthquakes in the past 7 days
**There have been 5,485 earthquakes in the past 30 days
**There have been 60,283 earthquakes in the past 365 days

If you were to look at the stats from years past, you would note that the instability of the earth’s crust and tectonic plates is increasing significantly with each passing year.  Surely this is a sign for us to note.

As societies shake and crack under the weight of rebellion against God and His word, the earth itself reflects the upheaval.  I won’t give you the volcano statistics, but take note that since the beginning of 2020, volcanic activity has been picking up around the globe.  What has been dormant is now moving into a state of unrest; raising up warnings of possible future eruptions.  We have eruptions ongoing in Japan, Indonesia, The Philippines, Puerto Rico, Africa, Mexico, etc. etc., etc.  Without a doubt, the spiritual climate is heating up, as the two opposing Kingdoms are expressing their differences … and as human beings are making their choices regarding which Kingdom they will serve.

All this is not to cause fear and panic, but rather to confirm the scriptures.  Whatever is developing beyond our view and understanding, the Lord has it firmly gripped in His loving hands. His plan is perfect, and it is GOOD.  We don’t need to be afraid, and we surely don’t have to be silent to avoid the outcry of atheists and sceptics.  We are to be like the sons of Issachar; being aware of the season and responding wisely to the signs as we take note of them.  We point to the signs, but most importantly to the Messiah.  We intercede for the perfect will and plan of the Lord to be manifested on the earth NOW, and in the days ahead.

Brian Pickering

National Coordinator

Australian Prayer Network

Source: Australian Prayer Network

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HOW CHRISTIAN CHAPLAINS ARE MEETING EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL NEEDS OF AUSTRALIANS

By Australian Newsletter

While emergency services and charities are responding to Australia’s relentless bushfire crisis in practical ways, there’s another army working quietly to meet peoples’ emotional and spiritual needs: the chaplains.  A constant presence in places like evacuation centres, chaplains are people of faith, mostly volunteers, who are equipped with the skills to support people in crisis.  In times of national emergency and disaster like this fire season, the organisation that heads the chaplaincy response is the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network (DRCN).

Led by Rev Stephen Robinson, it’s a network of chaplains from a wide range of Christian denominations, who are trained to help people affected by grief, loss, displacement and trauma.  One of their many partner organisations is Chaplaincy Australia: a ministry of the Australian Christian Churches, founded 21 years ago in response to the Port Arthur Massacre.  National director Ralph Estherby said around 40 of their 500 chaplains are currently deployed in bushfire response centres around the nation.  “A chaplain can be a friend, a support, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to stand with them in the midst of a crisis” Ralph said.  “And a lot of people are finding that very helpful.”

“They’ll be deployed into evacuation centres, to calm and support people displaced because of this emergency.  They work with people who have lost their homes; or where a loved one has been lost, they’re able to offer grief and loss support.  “They are there to be a buffer for the other services such as Red Cross and the Salvation Army, who provide very practical help.”  While emergency services like rural fire brigades have their own chaplains who care for their staff and volunteers, chaplains in the DRCN often end up being a support to charity workers too, who are often overwhelmed by the very great needs they are facing, and the intense emotions people are going through.

“When it comes to being able to handle strong reactions of grief, loss, anger, disappointment and confusion, it’s important that we have people on the ground who’ve had prior training in those areas,” Ralph explained.  “Chaplains are able to handle that type of experience.  They are well equipped to deal with those painful times that many would just find completely overwhelming.”  Ralph said chaplains sit somewhere between the simple support a friend can give, and professional mental health therapy.  To make sure they are looked after themselves, disaster chaplains have a robust debriefing process they go through, to help them reset back into the normal rhythm of life.

While chaplains are people of faith themselves, many of the people they are ministering to, will either have a different belief, or no faith at all.  Ralph stresses that chaplains aren’t there to push people to think or talk about religious or spiritual issues, if that’s not what they want.  “31% of Australians or so say they have no religion, but what I find is that in crisis many of those will either look to some type of faith or some type of belief to hold onto because everything is shaking all around them,” he said.  “Often, people will find talking to a chaplain who is a person of faith, even though they’re not talking about ‘faith things’ they are able to get some comfort and support from that.”

“It needs to be said, these are not times that the chaplains in any way, at any time, would try to force their beliefs on anyone else.  If faith is something they want to discuss, or they’re asking questions or wanting to gain assurance or support, the chaplain will go out of their way to help facilitate the individual’s faith needs, whether that is Christian, or whether it’s from another faith, or whether it’s a different denomination than they are.  “They will always seek to help the person find comfort in that which they believe, from their own worldview.”  Often people find it comforting simply knowing that a chaplain has a connection to God.

“The fact is that many people don’t have faith at all, and at times of stress and pain it becomes a very, very disturbing time for them,” Ralph explained.  “So, often, they will find talking to a chaplain who is a person of faith, even though they’re not talking about ‘faith things’, they are able to get some comfort and support from that. “I’ve had many reports myself, as I’ve sat with people in extreme grief and loss, that the assistance we’ve offered, even though it seems only a small thing, has been greatly accepted.”

Source: 103.2FM

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JOHN ANDERSON SPEAKS OF MADNESS CONFRONTING AUSTRALIANS OF FAITH

By Australian Newsletter

A crowd of 500 people gathered recently in Western Sydney to hear political and academic speakers address the growing pressure on religious freedom in Australia.  The event, organised by Lalor Park-based Anglican minister Mark Tough with the support of various faith and law-based organisations, was held at Blacktown’s Bowman Hall.  It attracted a mixture of Christians (including evangelical and Catholic), as well as leaders from the local Sikh and Muslim communities.  It was designed to inform, educate and activate people about the issue of how religious freedoms are coming under threat in Australia, and about federal legislation being drafted to address the issue.

Political speakers included former Australian Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, an outspoken Christian and defender of religious freedoms.  He spoke of the “madness” of some the litigation being pursued in courts across the nation, in which people of faith are being sued, ostracised, or sacked by employers, for expressing their faith often in very quiet, innocuous ways.  Also speaking was the ALP’s Michelle Rowland MP, Federal Member for the local Blacktown seat of Greenway, who urged her audience to write and speak to their local members about their concerns, in order to help politicians take the matter seriously.

Ms Rowland said she believes the issue won’t be decided along party lines, and also spoke of the need for not only a Religious Discrimination Bill, but also a Religious Freedom bill that protects the right of all Australians to practice faith.  “We keep hearing about the ‘quiet Australians’, and we need to be people who aren’t so quiet.” John Steenhof, managing director of the Human Rights Law Alliance told stories of individuals who’ve had cases brought against them for of their faith, such as Jason Tey, the West Australian photographer who was sued for discrimination after telling told a lesbian couple that he was a Christian, despite not refusing them his services.

A West Australian couple were labelled as “unsafe” by a foster care agency they’d approached in the hope of being respite carers for young children.  Their application to be foster parents was rejected, due to their traditional Christian beliefs about gender and sexuality.  The Alliance handed out a brochure on the night, recounting more than 30 different cases of this nature.  Event organiser Reverend Tough said it was good to see so many people of faith wanting to get informed about such a vital issue.  The Blacktown event represents a growing groundswell of support for religious freedom among Australians of all ages, religious beliefs, and socio-economic backgrounds.

Source: Hope 103.2FM

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PASTOR AND FAMILY SAVED IN FIRESTORM

By Australian Newsletter

Central Coast dad and father-of-four Andrew Flaxman is lucky, or blessed, to be alive, along with his wife, four kids and his sister’s family of five, who were all rescued by boat in the middle of a firestorm on New Year’s Eve.  In an interview with Hope 103.2, Andrew spoke about the terrifying minutes at Lake Conjola on the NSW South Coast, when he realised they were surrounded by a wall of fire on all sides, with no way of escape, when a “hero” came out of nowhere on a boat to save them.  “On New Years Eve they said ‘There’s fires coming, but don’t worry, they’ll be 50 or 100 k’s away, and the wind will turn and it’s going to be fine,” Andrew explained.

“We were out on the lake playing with our kids, and at 11:59am, we could see the fires over the hill, starting to rage and you could see the glow and the smoke.  And at 12:09, we were on a boat fleeing across the lake for our lives.  Within ten minutes we were surrounded by fire.  There was darkness, there was smoke, you could hear the fire roaring behind us.  “The situation escalated so quickly that it went from us taking selfies, to ‘Oh my Lord, there’s fire all around.”  Calm in a crisis: Michael Cripps helped everyone on the boat to stay calm, while his son Brett, who drove the boat, refused to be called a hero.

Andrew’s wife Jillie gathered the children together close to the water and kept them calm, and that was when salvation came, in the form of a stranger on the water.  “A boat pulled up in front of us…he was just yelling to us, ‘run to the jetty, run to the jetty’, and so we ran to the jetty and jumped in his boat and he took off.  And 45 seconds later, bang, my car goes up, my caravan catches fire, the other car goes up, the other car catches on fire, and we were out in the middle of the lake.  “If he hadn’t turned up… I don’t want to think what would’ve happened.”  “It happened so quickly.  We went from having a great day to five minutes later surrounded by fire, and fleeing for our lives.”

With 17 people crammed aboard, the small boat stayed in the middle of Lake Conjola where they were safe from the flames, for the next three hours.  Brett’s father Michael Cripps, in his 70s, was a quiet, stabilising presence, who set the tone on the boat and helped everyone else to remain calm.  It’s a remarkable effort, considering that Michael and his son Brett had just watched their own house burn to the ground only moments before the rescue.  “In his darkest time… he pulled in to save our little family,” Andrew said of Brett.  “Absolute hero. If he hadn’t turned up, I don’t know what would’ve happened, I don’t want to think what would’ve happened.”

Andrew and his wife Jillie, who are Pastors at C3 Church in Tuggerah on the NSW Central Coast, lost their car and caravan and many possessions, but are grateful to have everyone alive.  “So many people said ‘we feel so sorry for you, you lost all your possessions’, and we stopped them and said ‘We didn’t lose anything, today we actually won’”, said Andrew.  “’We saved our kids, we saved our lives. All this stuff we have is worth nothing compared to the safety of your loved ones.’”  “Houses burnt to the ground.  So a lot of people lost a lot more than we did. I actually came back and saw everything burnt and gone and felt blessed that I could look at my kids and they were there.”

Over the next couple of days, the local community of Lake Conjola surrounded Andrew and his family with love, fed and clothed them, the local caravan park putting them up in a deluxe cabin on the beach.  “It was phenomenal,” said Andrew.  The family’s trip home, although long (24 hours!) was “amazing”, said Andrew, when during a 10-hour holdup on the freeway, generous locals came out offering food and water and looking after them up until 1am.  “People went above and beyond to make sure strangers were doing okay in this crisis time of need,” Andrew said.  “It was so beautiful to see everyone come together and work together in community. It was amazing.”

Andrew’s advice to anyone facing a similar crisis, is to put your family first, and remember that possessions are nothing compared to the value of your loved ones.  Brett Cripps said that he was “not a hero” and was “just in the right place at the right time”.  “It wasn’t just me, there were a lot of local residents with boats and jet skis helping people out.  I just happened to be in the spot,” he said.  But Andrew has swapped numbers with Mr Cripps and plans to stay in touch, and hopes that his rescuer can be honoured somehow.  “I would like to think he would get a bravery award,” he said.  “He saved 11 people, who, I think if he hadn’t popped up, potentially wouldn’t be here.”

Source: 103.2FM

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BEACH MISSION TEAMS EVACUATED DURING BUSHFIRE CRISIS

By Australian Newsletter

As bushfires began to close in on the South Coast of NSW across Christmas and New Year’s Eve, among the many people affected were hundreds of Christians camping in holiday parks for Beach Missions.  Run by Scripture Union, Beach Missions are annual family camps held every summer, where residential communities of Christians spend up to two weeks camping, running programs for kids and families, and sharing the hope of Jesus.  There are over 40 camps held each year on NSW beaches and some inland holiday locations.  Simon Flinders from Scripture Union NSW said that 8 teams on the NSW South Coast, south of the Shoalhaven River, were evacuated and sent home.

“We’ve had 7 or 8 teams affected to varying degrees, some in very scary situations,” Simon said.  “We’re very thankful to God that our teams have all been kept wonderfully safe in some difficult situations.  Due to the fires however we made the decision to evacuate them.  They’ve headed back home, there are no longer any teams in that region continuing their ministry.  “It’s a regrettable decision but for the safety of the team member and for the sake of the emergency efforts in those places we felt it was the best thing to do. So they’re all safe and sound now.”

Simon said stories are now coming in about the ways teams have reached out to help families and communities affected by the fires.  Beach Mission teams have to prepare Risk Management Plans every year before they head on their trips, but nothing quite prepared them for how dangerous the situation became this year.  “This year we asked all our teams to have a Bushfire Plan, so the teams were well prepared, and team directors have followed those plans and communicated well with our Emergency Response Team.  “But no doubt there are good things for us to learn from this year. It probably has been more serious in parts than we could have ever imagined.”

Source: 103.2FM

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SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PRO-PIMP PROSTITUTION MODEL

By Australian Newsletter

Prior to rising for the Christmas break last year the South Australian House of Assembly rejected the latest attempt at prostitution law reform, with a private member’s Bill rejected by 24 votes to 19.  “This is a victory for South Australian women,” Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) South Australian director Christopher Brohier said.  “It is a victory for the courageous prostitution survivors who spoke from the heart against this Bill.”  Many ACL’s supporters attended the crucial vote and have lobbied members of parliament to consider proven and superior reform.

“This is the 13th attempt in 25 years to change the prostitution law in South Australia (SA), with most previous attempts comprising a pimps’ protection model.  SA clearly needs a new approach, namely, adopting the internationally successful Nordic model of prostitution law reform.  This Equality Model decriminalises the selling of sex, criminalises the buying of sex and provides real exit strategies for prostituted people.  The Nordic model has been adopted in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Canada, Northern Ireland, France & Ireland, and comes into force in Israel in 2020.  The ACL calls on the South Australian Parliament to adopt this Model urgently.” Brohier said.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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BUSHFIRES

By Australian Newsletter

We will not be providing a running commentary on the bushfires or drought situation in our nation as the wall to wall media coverage means that all aspects of the situation is covered better than anything we can provide.  We will however pass on any reports we receive that give greater spiritual understanding of what God may be saying to us through the current crisis we are experiencing.  We will also endeavour to provide any statements issued by Christian leaders or articles that are considered of interest and relevancy to Christians as we focus on and pray into the current and ongoing crisis.

In response to our recent article on the bushfires we have been inundated with dozens of emails, each suggesting what God may be saying to us as a nation, however there has been no single theme that has come through.  The Australian Prayer Network does not pass on prophetic words from individuals but rather waits on God until several confirmations are received from a number of sources before going public.  Our earlier article conveyed the word received by thousands of individuals who sought the Lord for 40 days on the matter.  Nothing has yet come through that surpasses or challenges what we believe is the accuracy, relevance and timeliness of that word.

As well as praying for all in any way affected by the bushfires we also suggest prayer for our Prime Minister, State Premiers, State Emergency Service Commissioners and all in positions of authority and leadership, that they would be given wisdom to make right and impactful decisions that will address the individual and corporate needs of the people of our nation at this critical time.  Pray too that they will not be diverted from their task nor personally impacted by criticism, and that their marriages and families will be protected given the amount of additional time that they will be required to commit to the recovery task ahead.

Below are some organisations and initiatives that have specifically been operating to provide support to bushfire victims throughout the eastern states of Australia.  Give what you can, your generosity could make a world of difference to those who have been hardest hit.

List of Organisations Dealing with Disaster Relief
(click on the name of the organisation for more information)
Information supplied by Rev Fred Nile – NSW Member of Parliament

NSW Rural Fire Service
Donations to the NSW Rural Fire Service directly benefit the volunteer firefighters on the frontline. You can donate by contacting your local fire service or by clicking the link above and following the instructions.

Geoffrey Keaton, Andrew O’Dwyer and Samuel McPaul Family Support
You can also donate to the young families of Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer, who were killed during the Green Wattle Creek fire, and Samuel McPaul, who was killed at the Green Valley fireground.

The Salvation Army

The Salvos have launched a disaster appeal to support the communities affected by the devastating bushfires.  To donate to the disaster appeal, you can call 13 SALVOS (13 72 58), donate at any Woolworths checkout, or follow the link in the name above.

Australian Red Cross

The Red Cross has specialist emergency volunteers who are providing psychological first aid, working at evacuation centres and helping people to get in touch with their loved ones.  You can help by clicking on the link above.

The St Vincent De Paul Society

The St Vincent De Paul Society is running a bushfire appeal to help those affected rebuild their lives with food, clothing, furniture, other essentials, and funds to pay bills.  They explain exactly where your money might go:

• $50 “can provide food for a family who have been evacuated from their home.”
• $150 “can help with bills and unexpected expenses for a household recovering from a bushfire.”
• $300 “can provide clothing for a family who’ve had to leave their belongings behind.”
• $1,100 “can help those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed to set up again with bedding, furniture and appliances.

Givit

Charities like Givit specialise in goods, where the exact items people need are listed via charities and the public can match that or register the items they have, in case someone has use for them.  Givit is currently running two specific campaigns supporting NSW and Queensland bushfire victims.

Foodbank

Foodbank is delivering emergency food relief and water to East Gippsland, helping firefighters and local communities caught up in the bushfires.  It is fundraising to send about 5,000 food relief hampers in the coming days.

Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund

The Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund was established in 1978, and is operated by local volunteers for Gippsland communities affected by natural disaster events.  Donations can be made via Paypal at gerf.org.au or at any branch of the NAB across Australia, or in person at Alan Wilson Insurance Brokers at 40 Argyle St, Traralgon.

Bendigo Bank Bushfire Disaster Appeal

Bendigo Bank have partnered with The Salvation Army to establish an appeal that will raise funds for fire affected communities including East Gippsland, Hume, southeast New South Wales and Adelaide Hills.

Airbnb for NSW and the Victoria

Airbnb have set up pages to share free accommodation for people who are evacuating the fire zones. Find emergency housing or list your property via the NSW or Victoria page.

WIRES

To help the NSW wildlife victims, you can donate to the NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) by clicking the name above.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

More than 2000 koalas are feared to have perished in NSW since September.  The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital have raised money for the wildlife affected in that area, with the initial aim of using the money to distribute automatic drinking stations in the burnt areas to help in koala and wildlife survival.  The organisation are now sharing the funds with other wildlife organisations in the fire affected regions across NSW.

Kangaroo Island Wildlife Emergency Fund

Kangaroo Island is well known for its thriving koala population however over 150,000 hectares has been lost due to recent events, this will affect our koala population dramatically.  The Fund is working around the clock with a highly experienced, qualified and dedicated team of volunteers including qualified vets, vet nurses and wildlife carers to rescue, rehabilitate and care for all of the animals coming in from the bushfires.

MogoZoo

Raising money to aid Mogo Zoo Foundation Fire Recovery and to provide care for injured, sick and displaced wildlife.  Through the overwhelming commitment of staff all 400 Zoo animals were saved.  The Zoo staff and vet will assist injured wildlife and will play a vital role in getting Mogo and the surrounding towns on their feet in the coming weeks and months.

Source: Australian Prayer Network

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CREEPING UNIVERSITY ‘CRINGE’ FAILS AUSTRALIA

By Australian Newsletter

The nation’s top universities are “not interested in promoting the study of things Australian” and are “failing in their responsibilities as national institutions”, leading academics and historians have warned.  Greg Melleuish, a professor at the University of Wollongong, has told a parliamentary inquiry that universities are “primarily international in their loyalties” and are becoming “highly authoritarian”.  Dr Melleuish’s view was supported by one of Australia’s leading historians, Stuart Macintyre, a former dean of the Faculty of Arts at Melbourne University, who said that universities should “pay some regard to their national responsibilities”.

Flinders University English professor Robert Phiddian said international scholarship was ranked more highly than local scholarship.  The role played by the higher education sector in framing Australian identity and democracy is being examined by a Senate inquiry.  The committee’s deputy chair, Amanda Stoker, warned that identity politics and postmodernism had “shamed” ordinary people into abandoning the political centre ground.  She said that “academic disdain” for Australian culture and identity had contributed to minimising the study of Australian history and resulted in a diminished sense of national pride within the university sector.

In his submission to the legal and constitutional affairs references committee, Dr Melleuish said:  “It is positively disadvantageous to have an Australian focus to one’s research, especially in the humanities and social sciences.  “Articles on Australian topics rarely make it into ‘top-level international journals’ and Australian journals are generally not highly ranked.  There is little incentive for academics, especially in the humanities and social sciences, to pursue Australian research projects.  “There is a strong argument to be made that Australian universities, funded by Australians, are failing in their responsibilities as national institutions.”

Professor Macintyre said some fields of Australian research were being disadvantaged because of “silly” university policies.  “Universities, partly because they are competing for international students, need to score well in international research rankings. And they are based primarily on journal citations on an international basis,” he said.  “That has disadvantaged various fields of Australian research.  It arises from the competitive nature of the system with deans who issue lists of journals you can and cannot publish in, which are starving these fields.  And it’s particularly silly because most of the deans haven’t done research in decades.

Professor Macintyre said it was a “form of competition” that was disadvantaging the national interest.  “We put an enormous amount of money into enabling Australians to go to university and a smaller amount into supporting research at universities,” he said.  “We should expect them to pay some regard to their national responsibilities.”  Professor Phiddian agreed that universities’ focus on doing well in international rankings had resulted in Australian and also New Zealand studies, being downgraded.  “International scholarship is more highly ranked than local scholarship,” said Professor Phiddian of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres.

Professor Phiddian went on “It probably makes perfectly good sense in chemistry and mathematics.  But in the arts and humanities, it generates a bias against Australian and New Zealand research.”  He said Australia had university leaders “who think universities are machines for generating university rankings”.  Maurice Newman, a former chancellor of Macquarie University, said opposition to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation exemplified a major problem in Australian universities.  “Western civilisation is something which is impossible to defend in a modern university,” Mr Newman said.  “What is inferred to us is that we are part of an inferior culture.”

“It goes to the whole issue of how we came here and questions the legitimacy of our civilisation and our society and that’s what seems to be pretty much the broad view in universities these days” Newman said.  He said universities and the corporate world were “looking more to the global view than to national interests” and adopting theories on climate change and identity politics without critical assessment.  Professor Melleuish, a political conservative who has specialised in political ideologies and systems, used his submission to sound the alarm on universities being increasingly motivated by rising in international rankings and attracting as many foreign students as possible.

He said universities had shifted from being institutions with a “strong democratic flavour to ones that are run top down by individuals who see themselves as absolute rulers”.  “Australian universities have increasingly become highly authoritarian institutions,” Professor Melleuish said.  “There is clearly a connection between their desire to become international institutions and their increasing authoritarianism.  They have moved away from being national institutions, devoted to the national interest and imbued with the Australian democratic spirit to being something quite different that is inimical to the democratic culture of Australia.”

Senator Stoker said universities played a “key role in shaping identity and culture”.  “There is some force in Professor Melleuish’s submission that academic disdain for Australian culture, combined with measures of performance that align incentives with international rather than Australian interests, have expunged our history and national pride from the curriculum,” she said.  “They have been replaced with cultural cringe, embarrassment about our history and aspiration to a globalist outlook.  As a consequence, students can fail to appreciate the freedoms that made our nation rise so swiftly, or the history that shows our democracy is worth valuing and protecting.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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RELIGIOUS LEADERS UNITE AGAINST EUTHANASIA

By Australian Newsletter

Queensland’s most senior religious leaders, have united in a bid to push against the legalisation of euthanasia in that State.  An open letter signed by 16 religious authorities urges “high quality palliative care” over voluntary assisted dying.  Catholic Archbishop Coleridge, along with Anglican Archbishop Aspinall, Uniting Church Rev David Baker as well as Jewish, Islamic, Wesleyan, Lutheran, Baptist and other leaders wrote that voluntary assisted dying (VAD) is “not dying well”.  “The Queensland Government should maintain the current laws and improve palliative care for a flourishing Queensland based on human freedom, human dignity and the common good,” the letter stated.

A parliamentary committee has been tasked with assessing aged care, end-of-life and palliative care and VAD.  It is due to report back by March this year.  The religious leaders argue that to legalise VAD “is a failure because we have done nothing to improve the circumstances that lead to people experiencing such unnecessary and avoidable suffering in the first place”.  “We have failed in our responsibility to affirm the worth of every Queenslander and the meaningfulness of every life, leading some among us, especially the most vulnerable, to believe that they are worth nothing and that they would be ‘better off dead’,” the letter stated.

They added that VAD “undermines efforts” to tackle the “crisis of suicide”.  “We believe better end-of-life care begins with better conversations about death and dying and how we can die well in ways that do not undermine the foundational values of our society,” they wrote.  The leaders said Queenslanders didn’t yet have universal access to specialist palliative care that addresses the physical, psycho-social and spiritual needs of people.  Independent MP Sandy Bolton has urged the major parties to work together to ensure parliament voted on new laws to legalise euthanasia before the State Election in October 2020.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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AUSTRALIAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION DITCHES PARENTAL RIGHTS

By Australian Newsletter

The Australian Psychological Association (APA) is making moves to totally exclude parents where transgender children are concerned.  Children under 16 should be allowed to go ahead with irreversible transgender surgery against the wishes of both parents and without mandatory counselling, the Australian Psychological Association says.  In an unpublished law reform submission, the peak body representing 24,000 psychologists says opposition of both parents should not stand in the way of a child under 16 consenting to surgery, such as a double mastectomy, as long as the doctors are “competent” in assessing the child’s capacity to make decisions.

Currently court approval and counselling is required prior to surgery.  But the APA say this creates an “an unnecessary burden” as the child would have had enough medical care by that point.  The APA say parents can be a “a significant barrier” to children seeking to transition.  The APA would prefer hospitals and the courts have authority over children.  Not all experts agree.  A paediatrician with more than two decades’ experience said the brain’s frontal lobe, crucial to complex decision-making, does not reach maturity until the age of 25.  “Young people are making life-changing decisions about their bodies before their brains and cognitive function have fully matured,” he said.

Source: Binary

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STRONGER PROTECTION IN NEW RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL

By Australian Newsletter

Scott Morrison has released the government’s updated draft religious discrimination bill, which includes stronger protections for faith-based groups and individuals and provides a clearer definition of vilification as “incitement of hatred or violence”.  The major overhaul of the initial draft bill, comes after a backlash from major religious groups and others.  The Prime Minister, who delayed tabling the religious discrimination bill in the final week of parliament, said the second draft of the religious discrimination legislation incorporated “many of the key changes that were suggested by religious bodies and other stakeholders”.

In a joint statement with Mr Porter, Mr Morrison said submissions in response to the new religious freedom draft bills would close on January 31.  “The release of the revised bill for a further period of consultation will provide all members of the Australian community an opportunity to consider these revisions and whether the amended bill further addresses the issues they have raised,” they said.  “As we have said, this is not a process that should be rushed.  What is important is that we get this legislation right and deliver lasting reforms that provide real protections for all Australians.”

Following extensive consultation on the religious freedoms package, including almost 6000 submissions and Mr Porter meeting with close to 100 stakeholder groups, the government has decided on several key changes to the original draft bill.  These include making it clearer for religious bodies to implement staffing and other decisions based “upon faith” in line with existing federal law.  Religious benevolent institutions will also be included in the definition of ‘religious bodies’.  Provisions aimed at supporting existing conscientious objections processes have been narrowed so that they apply only to nurses, midwives, doctors, psychologists and pharmacists.

Conscientious objections provisions have been made clearer in relation to not allowing a right “to discriminate against particular individuals based upon gender or other characteristics”.  As previously flagged by Mr Porter, there are also new provisions for faith-based hospitals and aged care facilities.  The new bill supports that “the current status quo under federal law is maintained, allowing religious hospitals, aged care facilities and accommodation providers (such as retirement homes) to employ staff to preserve a religious ethos, with additional specific protections for religious camps and conference centres”.

Mr Morrison and Mr Porter confirmed amendments had been made to clarify certain provisions, which had been described by legal experts as “ambiguous”.  “The term ‘vilify’ has been defined as incitement of hatred or violence,” they said.  “In addition, a definition of ‘conscientiously object’ has been included in response from a range of stakeholders, including the Australian Medical Association.  “Any form of discrimination will not be tolerated by our government.  We already have in place laws that protect people from discrimination on the basis of their race, sex, age or disabilities.”  Controversial religious statements made at work Christmas parties will not be protected.

Mr Morrison said it made sense that religion “should be included so that Australians are free to live their lives in the way they choose to”. “We also understand that this process is about striking a balance and that the protections we deliver must be a shield from discrimination, not a sword.”  Christian Schools Australia director of public policy Mark Spencer welcomed the updated religious discrimination bill, thanking Mr Porter for “getting into the Christmas spirit”.  “The revised exposure draft shows that the government has been listening to the concerns of faith communities, and other groups, and provides much needed clarity around a number of areas,” Mr Spencer said.

“It is vital that we take the time to get this legislation right.  The second draft shows that we are well on the way to doing so.”  Mr Spencer called on the government to include consultation with the Opposition on the legislation”.  “We know that parents across Australia were saying to us how important the protection of values, beliefs, and freedom of religion are to them, our national polling during the election indicated that 66% of Australians support legal protections for religious freedom,” he said.  “Ordinary Australian, mums and dads, people of faith across Australia, want to see the major parties work together to get this legislation right.

Mr Morrison is open to further changes and the Coalition will work with Labor on amendments ahead of the legislation being finalised in February.  Mr Porter has clarified that a religious school or church does not discriminate if they preference staff and students on their faith.  “A Catholic school could fill a position with a Catholic simply because their preference is it be filled by a Catholic,” Mr Porter said. Association of Independent Schools NSW chief executive Geoff Newcombe said amendments appeared to address the original concern of faith-based schools over their right to preference the employment of teachers of the same faith.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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WESTERN AUSTRALIA PASSES ASSISTED DYING LAW

By Australian Newsletter

The McGowan Labor government will introduce Australia’s most liberal voluntary assisted dying laws following a marathon parliamentary debate.  The West Australian government was forced to drop one of the most contentious elements of its planned laws; a clause that gave authority to about 70,000 people from 16 occupations to suggest voluntary assisted dying to a person with a terminal illness.  This included podiatrists, optometrists, dental hygienists, chiropractors and people practising Chinese medicine.  The amended bill that passed the WA upper house 24-11 last week still allows doctors and senior nurses to raise the subject of voluntary assisted dying with a patient.

This is not permitted in Victoria, which in June became the first state to make voluntary assisted dying legal.  There, the onus is on the patient to tell their doctor they want help to die.  The WA bill, which is due to become law after the lower house approves amendments is more practical than Victoria’s, according to Perth doctor Alida Lancee, who became the face of Australia’s euthanasia debate in 2015 when she admitted giving a lethal dose of morphine to an 80-year-old woman with end-stage emphysema.  The woman had tried to take her own life twice.

Dr Lancee said the WA laws would be better than Victoria’s which placed too many obstacles in the way of a terminally ill person who wanted to die well.  In WA, a doctor with a conscientious objection to voluntary assisted dying will be able to refuse to help a patient die but still must give the patient standardised information about the steps they can take and how.  In Victoria, doctors with a conscientious objection are under no obligation to provide information about voluntary assisted dying to a patient who asks.  “If you are in dire straits, the last thing you need is a doctor who gives you judgment,” Dr Lancee said.

Greens MP Robin Chapple, who helped usher the bill through the upper house, said he was proud to be part of a decades-long movement “to ensure we all have the comfort of choice at the end of our lives”.  “This is a momentous occasion, and I am beside myself with relief and happiness,” Mr Chapple said.  The bill was supported by 12 Labor MPs, two Liberals, four Nationals, four Greens and one MP each from One Nation and the Liberal Democrats.  Seven Liberal MPs were opposed along with one each from Labor, One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, and one independent.

The WA laws will make voluntary assisted dying available only to adults who have been given a terminal diagnosis, are in intolerable pain and have between six and 12 months to live depending on the illness.  This is the same as in Victoria.  But under the WA laws, a patient will be able to get help to die provided they have been independently assessed by two doctors.  Both doctors can be GPs so long as they have 10 years of experience.  The process is stricter in Victoria, where one of the assessing doctors must have “specialised knowledge or qualifications” in the illness that the patient is dying from.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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BRIAN HOUSTON INVITED TO THE WHITE HOUSE AND PRAYS FOR TRUMP

By Australian Newsletter

Hillsong leader Brian Houston has attended a faith briefing at the White House alongside worship leaders.  In September, Houston denied reports that the White House rejected having him at a state dinner with Australian leaders.  The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is friends with Houston, wanted him there but that the White House turned down the PM’s request.  In a video put up by the White House, Houston said he had just been praying for Donald Trump in the Oval Office and that “I do, as an Australian, really believe that we need a strong America in the world, and when America is strong the world is a better place.”

He praised administration initiatives which he said were helping freedom of religion and to just see, generally, the great spirit in the White House where people are optimistic about the future.  “Praise God for the opportunity” Houston said.  Also in attendance were worship leaders Kari Jobe and husband Cody Carnes who prayed in the Cabinet room and Oval Office, listening to the faith briefing.  “The thing that moved me the most is just how everyone is so for making sure we’re changing people’s lives and not leaving aside those that are marginalised and those that have been trafficked.  I’m just so thankful to have been part of this to just see what God is doing.”

Source: Premier News Service

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ISRAEL FOLAU SETTLES WITH RUGBY AUSTRALIA

By Australian Newsletter

After eight months of waiting, there has been a mostly-positive outcome between Israel Folau and Rugby Australia (RA).  The two parties agreed to settle out of court for an undisclosed sum. Out-of-court settlement is, by definition, a compromise.  As such, there were wins for Israel and for religious freedom. But there were some potential losses as well.  First, it is great that the two parties were able to come to an amicable agreement before the fight got dirty in the courts.  Secondly, it is heartening to see that Rugby Australia apologised to Israel Folau for the hurt they caused him and his wife, Maria.  Thirdly, though we don’t know the amount, Israel was compensated financially.

This sends a message to all Australian employers that discriminating against an employee on the basis of their religious faith will hurt the pocketbook.  But the Israel Folau saga has exposed some concerns about religious freedom in Australia, too.  For one, the outcome for Israel was only as good as it was because of his celebrity profile.  If it were you or me, we might have lost our job without anyone noticing. Indeed, an increasing number of Australians are facing various forms of discrimination like this.  Consider also that despite Rugby Australia’s apology, CEO Raelene Castle went right back to repeating the mantras that she used to unfairly sack Folau in the first place.

“We stick to our values that inclusiveness is absolutely core to the key of rugby,” she said after the settlement.  “Everybody in rugby needs to be included regardless of what their background is.”  Neither she nor anyone at Rugby Australia seems to understand the glaring irony and stark hypocrisy in such pronouncements.  Israel Folau was explicitly excluded for his faith.  Because he believed and paraphrased the Bible, he somehow doesn’t count in the “everybody”.  The reality is that for Rugby Australia and many other bodies that have bought into the new “woke” ideology, tolerance is only extended to those who think exactly the same as them.

Israel is to be commended for how he has carried himself throughout the dramas of 2019.  He possibly conceded more than he should have in the settlement.  The statement he signed said, “Mr Folau wants all Australians to know that he shares RA commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.”  But if RA’s commitment to inclusiveness and diversity is what drove them to sack Israel in the first place, should he share that commitment?  Inclusiveness and diversity are good values.  But only if they leave room for people who believe the Bible, too.  This is why we were glad to hear of the government’s plan to write a new draft of the Religious Discrimination Bill for release next year.

The first draft on offer lacked clarity, and what clarity was there seemed to make life harder for Aussies of faith, not easier.  We welcome the government’s new draft, and ask you to join us in praying for those God has appointed to write it.  Events like this can seem haphazard and circumstantial.  But in Daniel 2:21 we read that “God changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others.  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”  Nothing is outside of God’s care or oversight.  He is the one directing the affairs of mankind, including Australia’s laws that protect us from tyranny.  So please, join with us as we ask God to advance Australia fair.

Source: Canberra Declaration

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CALL FOR MEDICARE TO PAY FOR TRANSGENDER SURGERY

By Australian Newsletter

Transgender surgery, such as “facial feminisation” with a price tag of up to $70,000, should be made available in public hospitals and subsidised by Medicare, says a report to Victoria’s government.  A “critically low” supply of trans-skilled surgeons is driving people overseas for costly surgery that sometimes fails and is difficult to repair in Victoria, says the 2018 report feeding into what Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled in April as Australia’s first Trans and Gender Diverse Health Care ­Initiative.  The report cites the “rapid ­increase” of patient demand in Victoria’s gender clinics at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and Monash Health.

It urges more surgical training and says Medicare should recognise that “gender affirming” surgery is not cosmetic but helps a trans person lead “a productive and meaningful life”.  The RCH clinic for children and adolescents, directed by paediatrician Michelle Telfer, offers puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and once patients turn 17, they are on track for the Monash adult clinic.  But Dr Telfer told ABC News last year that RCH should consider “top surgery”, such as a double mastectomy claimed to make a girl feel more like a boy and reduce suicide risk.

“The evidence that we have from a medical perspective is that it can be really helpful, it’s therapeutic,” she said.  “When you still have prominent breasts, it’s very distressing and actually leads to quite a lot of discrimination, stigma, bullying at school.”  RCH and Health Minister Jenny Mikakos would not comment when asked about any plans for enabling under-18s trans surgery.  Ms Mikakos has said last year’s clinical guidelines issued by Dr Telfer’s RCH team represent “the most stringent safety standards”.  Those standards, also hailed as “the world’s most progressive”, say top surgery is regularly performed overseas where a 16-year-old can consent.

The overseas-led trend has been to ever younger social transition to medical treatment.  In the US, “gender confirmation surgery” for biological females identifying as male rose 346% from 1497 operations in 2016 to 6691 last year, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported.  It gave no age breakdown.  Physician Johanna Olson-Kennedy, the high-profile director of the largest US youth gender clinic, at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, told a conference last year that people under 20 made all kinds of life-altering decisions successfully.  “Here’s the thing about chest surgery, if you want breasts at a later point in your life, you can go and get them,” she said.

Critics of the “child-led” affirmation approach say its pro-trans bias may not serve the welfare of the often troubled teenage girls suddenly going trans and pleading for testosterone.  At RCH, referrals have risen sharply, from three in 2003-07 to 228 last year.  Dr Telfer, who claims “gender is mostly a biological entity”, said people did ask how very young children could know they were trans.  “We have two or three-year-olds who verbalise very clearly how they feel about their gender, and we listen,” Dr Telfer said.  She said research clearly showed that “if you support the child to express themselves and be who they are, their long-term mental health outcomes are very good”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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GOVERNMENT FORCED TO DELAY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL

By Australian Newsletter

Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the government was forced to delay plans to introduce religious discrimination laws until 2020 as some religious groups weren’t satisfied with the protections offered under the draft legislation.  “Some groups are saying there are issues that need to be tackled, that’s why we’ll do another round of consultation, but it’s not like we’ve been sitting on our heels,” Senator Canavan said.  Canavan said he understood religious groups needed “greater certainty” on who was exempt from the provisions, but praised Attorney-General Christian Porter, for the “fantastic job he had done in consulting widely with a range of groups”.

“We’ll put out an updated bill with some changes from the previous one and more consultation before we take to the parliament directly.  And then there’ll be a parliamentary inquiry I’d imagine as well.  So there’ll be a lot of time here to try and get this right,” he said.  “At the fundamental level, we’ve got to get this right.  These sort of legislative changes have long standing ramifications over time as courts interpret them, it’s very important that we get that as correct as possible.”  Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to Facebook to announce he was delaying the bill until 2020.

“So, we’re going to take a bit more time to get this right.  We’ll have the draft exposure bill out over the summer to get it in and next year, bring a bill into the parliament to make it law,” Mr Morrison said in video, filmed in front of a Christmas tree.  “There will be some who will try to make this process more difficult or be opportunistic or try to derail it.  They’re not engaging in good faith. I’m engaging in good faith with the Australian people and people of all different beliefs to ensure that we can get this law right.  It’s an important protection for our society in Australia.”

Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher supported the prime minister’s decision to delay the bill for further consideration.  A spokesman for the church said: “The Archbishop of Sydney has said that he is pleased that the government has listened to the concerns of people of faith and welcomes the opportunity for further consultation and looks forward to seeing the second exposure draft very soon.” Attorney-General Christian Porter initially promised the bill would be introduced before Christmas.  Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen described the bill as “friendless”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ABORIGINAL LEADER WARNS ON LEGALISED EUTHANASIA

By Australian Newsletter

The father of Aboriginal reconciliation, Pat Dodson, fears that legalised euthanasia will create a barrier to indigenous people getting medical care, deepening the health crisis in remote communities.  The widely respected Labor senator is the first major figure on his side of politics to speak out against voluntary assisted dying, as the ALP-governed states continue to champion the law change.  Senator Dodson says legislation passed in the West Australian lower house lacks indigenous input and could backfire if enacted.  “Fears and suspicions of ‘whitefella’ medicine will only increase, and the capacity to ascertain informed consent will be difficult,” Senator Dodson said.

The state is the second after Victoria to bring forward a government-backed bill for voluntary assisted dying (VAD), while a parliamentary committee in Queensland is well advanced on assessing the case for legislation there.  Liberal governed South Australia is also eyeing reform, two decades after VAD became law in the Northern Territory but was voided by John Howard’s federal government.  “The Northern Territory experience in the 1990s suggests that the mere presence of this legislation may be a barrier to First Nations peoples receiving healthcare,” Senator Dodson writes.

He says supporters of the bill are building their case on an individualist rights agenda.  “Such a perspective emphasises the rights of an individual and ignores the wider influence of such decisions on those around them, families, friends and communities,” he writes.  “Individual choice is an important component of this but it should not be the only factor because other humans are going to be required to live with the consequences of their part in ending the life of another.  “In an increasingly atomised world, we are finding it harder than ever to understand the interconnectedness of our social structures and the political choices that hold them together.”

Asked how a VAD law in his home state of Western Australia would compromise indigenous medical services, Senator Dodson said:  People are very suspicious of the whole health system generally.  If they find it is associated with potentially the capacity to end your life, as much as to save it, I am fearful people will then, despite their need, start to move away.”  Senator Dodson said his thinking on euthanasia bridged his life experience as a one-time Catholic priest, his spirituality as a Yawuru man and the founding role he played in the reconciliation movement.  He agreed it was at odds with progressive sentiment in the ALP.

“I think there are things about my way of thinking that may not necessarily sit squarely with all of my comrades,” the 71-year-old said.  “Then again, we live in democracy, so it’s up for debate.”  Putting forward “another avenue to death” was confronting for First Nations peoples when they lived shorter lives than other Australians, had babies that were more likely to die of preventable diseases and lost too many friends, cousins and siblings to suicide.  “As representatives and legislators, surely we must be focusing our attention to enacting laws that help prolong life and restore the right to enjoy a healthy life,” he said.

Senator Dodson said the WA legislation contained “significant deficiencies” in terms of content and process.  A key provision in the benchmark Victorian law that came into effect in June, banning doctors from raising VAD, had been reversed in an error by Perth’s lawmakers, he insisted.  Asked what was wrong with a doctor broaching assisted dying with a terminally ill patient, he said:  “This is a fine line where the reservoir of knowledge is deemed to be in the professional, when in fact this is about someone else’s life.  This is about an individual having to weigh up and consider whether this is an option they really want to take.

“Now, to instigate that discussion. requires a broader context for First Nations people.  They are not just nuclear families, most of us have extended families and not everyone in those relationships see eye to eye.  It’s about reaching consensus on the way forward that enables communities to stay together, rather than ones that simply decide they are going to allow individuals to make decisions for everyone else. “If it’s then removed off to a doctor without any reference to the community about him initiating discussions with the loved one, then I think that also starts to undermine the trust you place in a medical system to look after your health rather than find ways to end your life.”

The consultation with indigenous communities was not only inadequate but rushed, Senator Dodson said.  “This is a matter that should be done over a period of time, not at one meeting in one community.  That’s not a way to really consult with First Nations people on a complicated issue like this, that is about the sanctity of life itself, not just about an individual’s life,” he said.  His intervention came after recent polling in Western Australia showed that nearly three quarters of those living in regional and remote areas of the state supported improved access to palliative care over voluntary euthanasia.

The research, for the End of Life Choices Working Group backed by palliative care specialists, found that 56% of the 1900 respondents didn’t believe patients should be helped to die without their loved ones being informed, another point of contention in the WA legislation.  The Anglican bishop of North Queensland, Keith Joseph, told a committee of state MPs in August that remote indigenous communities were strongly opposed to VAD, echoing Senator Dodson on its potential to erode trust in the public health system.  The WA bill cleared the Legislative Assembly last month by 44 votes to 12, but the numbers will tighten in the upper house.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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CANNABIS USE INCREASES RISK OF PSYCHOTIC CASES

By Australian Newsletter

Regular use of cannabis doubles the risk of psychotic symptoms including schizophrenia and is closely associated with anxiety disorders, depression and psychosis, says official advice to the Morrison government triggered by the passage of new laws in the ACT.  The briefing paper prepared for Health Minister Greg Hunt reveals extensive links between cannabis use and adverse mental health affects, which have increased as marijuana is decriminalised.  In the 3 page brief the Health Department lists five “key issues” to consider after the ACT Legislative Assembly passed a private member’s bill allowing adults to possess 50gm of cannabis and grow two plants.

The department notes there has been a sizeable body of work analysing the adverse physio­logical and mental health effects of recreational cannabis use, despite marijuana being decriminalised only in a small number of jurisdictions.  It points to research from the US state of Colorado that found daily or near-daily cannabis use was associated with the development of a psychotic disorder.  The review of medical literature also examined Australian research, which concluded that regular cannabis users doubled their risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms, including schizophrenia, and were at an increased risk of screening positively for psychosis.

“The evidence base regarding adverse health effects linked to cannabis use has broadened considerably since the gradual decriminalisation, and in some cases legalisation, of the substance in certain international jurisdictions,” the department says.  “Adverse health outcomes as a result of regular cannabis use are not limited to mental health and psychotic symptoms.”  The department advised that a 2018 Canadian Medical Association Journal report found an overwhelming volume of evidence outlining the biological harm of cannabis use, including brain changes, adverse cognitive outcomes, negative pregnancy outcomes and testicular cancer.

The briefing also says a psycho­active component in cannabis called tetrahydrocannabinol, the main chemical responsible for the drug’s psychological effects, increased by almost 30% throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.  This was linked to exacerbated symptoms of anxiety, depression and psychotic symptoms in “naive” users and increased psychotic symptoms and dependence in “experienced” users. In Colorado, the first US state to legalise marijuana, emergency department visits due to cannabis increased slightly while the acute effects of THC, including hallucinations, paranoia and delusional beliefs, markedly increased with higher doses.

Government sources said the departmental advice was a “devastating confirmation” of the health and mental health effects of recreational cannabis and urged ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr to explain what health advice he received before supporting the legislation.  The federal government also wanted to know whether the territory government was aware of any studies that contradicted the broad global evidence of real and significant mental health effects from cannabis use.  Mr Hunt said he was “deeply concerned about the very real risks cannabis can pose to physical health and, in particular, to mental health”.

“This is why cannabis is a highly regulated drug,” Hunt said.  “Legalising recreational cannabis is dangerous and medically irresponsible.” A spokeswoman said the ACT government consulted experts on the health impacts that might arise from legalising cannabis and stressed that the laws related to personal cultivation and use of cannabis.  “It does not allow for the sale of cannabis or large-scale commercialisation and development as has been seen elsewhere, particularly in the US,” she said.  Therefore, direct comparisons between the ACT legislation and that of other countries should be treated cautiously, she said.

“The government is not anticipating a significant long-term increase in usage of cannabis in the ACT.  “This is based on examining legalisation and decriminalisation internationally where no clear causal link between the legal status of cannabis and usage patterns was observed” the Government spokeswoman said.  Attorney-General Christian Porter is awaiting a copy of the final version of the ACT bill before deciding whether the federal government should override the territory legislation.  He has warned Canberrans that owning any amount of the drug was an offence under commonwealth law.  The ACT law is due to take effect from January 31.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS OPPOSE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN EUTHANASIA PUSH

By Australian Newsletter

Over 770 medical professionals have written to all Members of the Western Australian Parliament opposing the latest push to legalise euthanasia in that state.  The letter warned them not to be persuaded by misleading research based on the Victorian state Coroner’s study of just 118 cancer patients.  The medical practitioners state that the Victorian research has been intentionally or recklessly misinterpreted to suggest that euthanasia laws would reduce self-harm and suicide among the terminally ill.  Almost half of the cases in the Victorian report claimed that it was the burden of care, not the illness itself, that was the issue.  Only 14% of the cases received palliative care.

In a press release Rev Hon Fred Nile NSW MLC and leader of the Christian Democratic Party comments: “It is obvious to those who have taken the care to investigate the study that the real issue is the provision of palliative care to those who suffer terminal illness.  Instead of directing resources to where they are needed, state policy setters are choosing to allow the vulnerable to simply die by killing themselves.  This is yet another example of the ‘death creep’ that we see washing over Australia.  The Christian Democratic Party will continue to oppose these draconian, inhuman and barbaric laws.”

Source: Compiled by APN from various sources

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