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VICTORIAN MP BACKS REALITY OVER GENDER IDEOLOGY

By Australian Newsletter

Western Victoria MP Bev McArthur has bravely taken a stand against radical gender ideology. McArthur criticised the Australian Academy of Science position that a woman is ‘anyone who identifies as a woman.’ The MP has called for women to sign a petition and for the Victorian Minister for Women to act. McArthur said, “It is most unfortunate that a body as highly-regarded and reputable as the Australian Academy of Science would blatantly politicise scientific definitions, particularly without properly considering the pernicious consequences that it could have for biological women. The prevailing far-left ideology of intersectionality and identity politics that seemingly now permeates all of our institutions, is out-of-touch with mainstream Australians.

As I expressed in the Parliament when opposing Labor’s legislation allowing Victorians to change the sex on their birth certificate at will, I support the rights of individuals to live their lives according to their identified gender, but this cannot come at the cost of scientific fact or the rights of women. The potential impacts on women’s sport for instance, cannot be understated. There is nothing to stop biological males citing the definition provided by Australian Academy of Science and asserting that they will participate in women’s competitions, to the detriment of fairness and women’s safety, due to the undeniable physical advantages possessed by males. Binary spokeswoman, Kirralie Smith, applauded the politician’s courage to defend truth and biological reality.

“So few politicians have been prepared to speak out against the radical gender agenda. They fear being bullied into silence, or simply ignore the dire consequences for women in all the scenarios. Bev McArthur has displayed rare courage and integrity by raising these concerns and being willing to act on them” Smith said.

Source: Binary

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AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY PARENTS RIGHTS TRASHED

By Australian Newsletter

The ACT Legislative Assembly recently passed legislation under the pretext of banning ‘gender conversion therapy’. What this law in fact does is restrict parents’ rights to raise their children in accordance with orthodox biblical teaching. Further, it prevents church leaders from requiring adherence to biblical standards in areas of sexual standards and ethics. Unfortunately, the ALP/Greens Government’s 14 MPs outvoted the Liberal Opposition’s 11 MPs and the Sexual & Gender Identity Conversion Practices Bill passed. Under pressure from constituents the government made a minor amendment which indicated that “mere expression of a religious tenet or belief” will not be a banned conversion therapy practice.

Alistair Coe, the leader of the Canberra Liberals, proposed 2 important amendments in an attempt to improve the Bill. One was an amendment to exclude parents, teachers and counsellors from the application of the criminal provisions of the Bill and the other an amendment to protect faith-based schools and churches.  When those amendments were defeated, The Canberra Liberals then took a principled stand and voted against the Bill. Thousands of ACL supporters in the ACT sent 10,000 emails and made 1,000 calls to local members, voicing opposition to this dangerous law. ACL will now be making this an important election issue in the upcoming ACT election. This would not have happened without the courage and commitment of so many ACL supporters in the ACT and beyond.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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VICTORIAN LEGISLATION ATTACKS STUDENTS SPIRITUAL NEEDS WITHOUT REASON

By Australian Newsletter

The Victorian State Parliament may only be sitting occasionally due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that has not dissuaded Reason Party Leader Fiona Patten MLC from slipping a bill into the Upper House targeting student spiritual support through school chaplains. The bill claims to ‘deal with religious privilege and uphold secular values.’ “The Education and Training Reform Amendment (School Employment) Bill 2020 will prevent a public school hiring non-teaching staff through a third-party provider. This is intended to prevent schools engaging Christian chaplains,” Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Victorian Acting Director Jasmine Yuen said. “This move diminishes spiritual support for children in public schools. It tells children their faith does not matter and that relevant questions cannot be answered for students with faith” Yuen said.

“Fiona Patten’s Bill marks a new wave of attacks on faith-based freedom and support in schools. Providing counselling for students through a chaplain has been a very good thing for student wellbeing. Nobody is seriously claiming otherwise. “Right now, with so much uncertainty, spiritual guidance forms part of a holistic support strategy. Parliament should see this brazen attack on student’s spiritual and emotional needs during the darkness of a pandemic for what it is and reject this unreasonable bill” Yuen concluded.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS CALL A SOLEMN ASSEMBLY

By Australian Newsletter

A number of Indigenous Elders have joined together to invite the people of Australia and other Indigenous Elders to join with them and together seek Gods face according to 2 Chronicles 7:14, and Joel 1:14, ‘for the healing of the land’. Spokesman Pastor Peter Walker said “We have been working towards a National Solemn Assembly for the last nine years. This is the moment we have been waiting for. We are praying for ‘times of refreshing’ and the ‘healing of the land’ as the scripture says in Acts 3:19, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” The ‘times of refreshing’ from the presence of the Lord that Peter the Apostle is talking about is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that is found in Acts 2:1-21 That is what Australia needs.

“We are praying that Australia will get a revelation of the love of God through Jesus Christ. Matthew 18:20 gives us the key, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them.” We thank the National Council of Churches Australia and the National Day of Prayer & Fasting and other groups who are helping to facilitate the National Solemn Assembly on behalf of the First Nation People. We encourage you to pray together in your churches, in your homes and on the hills as we lift our nation up before God. Join us as you are able on Zoom between 9AM – 9PM any time on Saturday 26th September and/or Sunday 27th September at meeting room number 776881184: https://zoom.us/j/776881184

Source: National Day of Prayer and Fasting

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VICTORIAN INJECTING ROOMS EXPAND

By Australian Newsletter

The Andrews government’s first injecting room in North Richmond has brought a host of social problems, particularly during COVID-19. This has not dissuaded the government proposing a second at Victoria Market, nor have the injecting room activists held back from proposing another at St Kilda. “Accidental drug overdose deaths are tragic, but injecting rooms are not the answer,” the Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) spokesperson Jasmine Yuen said. “Social problems arising from the North Richmond facility, and the recently confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in the facility add more frustrations to the already trouble-stricken community.” “The North Richmond injecting room has been an abject failure of public policy. Just as ACL previously warned, drugs have become more prevalent near the injecting room, creating a hotspot for drug dealers.

Proposing more injecting rooms for Victoria, despite the increasing problems around the North Richmond facility, pushes open the floodgates, turning more Victorian communities into drug dens and damaging the safety and livelihood of local communities. “ACL calls upon the Andrews government to reject calls for an injecting room at St Kilda, abandon its proposed Victoria Market site and close the failed North Richmond experiment. The government should instead send the clear message that illicit drugs are never safe, make drug rehabilitation mandatory for addicts and strongly police street selling. The City of Port Phillip should reject the St Kilda proposal immediately and send a strong message that illicit drug use is not welcome.”

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMISSION ACTION AGAINST SENATOR GAGS FREE SPEECH

By Australian Newsletter

The anti-discrimination system in Tasmania is a wrecking-ball to free speech, as a farcical situation surrounding Tasmanian Senator Claire Chandler has demonstrated. The Senator’s recent opinion piece for the Hobart Mercury, advocating that women and girls’ sport should only be for the female sex, now sees her effectively gagged and dragged before an anti-discrimination tribunal. “The Anti-Discrimination Commission is acting beyond power, and in a way that threatens the functioning of our democracy,” ACL Tasmanian Director Christopher Brohier said. “The Commission’s action against the Senator effectively silences all Tasmanians who wish to speak the truth on these issues. “The Australian Constitution contains an implied freedom for all Australians to engage in political communication. This is essential for the functioning of our democracy. That freedom bars all governments from gagging Australians speaking truthfully in public.

“The ACL has consistently called for the repeal or restriction of such gag laws in Tasmania and Australia. Senator Claire Chandler’s case shows why. Laws should be repealed or ruled unconstitutional if they attack an MP for discussing an issue of great concern to her constituents. As Senator Chandler has said, this case is an attack not only on the freedom of speech but an attack on truth.” ACL called on the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner to reject the complaint and for the Tasmanian Parliament to repeal these gag laws.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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SUPPORT FOR PRAYER IN BRISBANE CITY COUNCIL

By Australian Newsletter

Strong public support has been shown for prayer to continue in Council meetings. Many signed the ACL petition to the Brisbane City Council which opposed the call to remove Christian prayer from Council meetings. The petition affirming Christian prayer being included in the opening to Council meetings closed with 1,323 signatures. The petition for the removal of Christian prayer from Council meetings closed with 862 signatures. These numbers are encouraging. But even more encouraging has been support of the Lord Mayor for prayer in Council and the conversation that has ensued both publicly and privately regarding the importance of prayer. “As the reading of a prayer is a long standing tradition in all levels of government in Australia, this practice will continue to be followed during Council meetings” said Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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ASSISTED SUICIDE BILL BEFORE TASMANIAN PARLIAMENT

By Australian Newsletter

From 24-26 August, Professor Ian Olver AM and a representative of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) had the unique opportunity of speaking to most Tasmanian MPs in relation to Mike Gaffney’s assisted suicide Bill. In three days they spoke to five Government Ministers including the Attorney-General and the Health Minister, the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and a number of other Labor members, the Leader of the Greens, the Speaker and last but not least to the Legislative Council members. It was good that so many MPs and Ministers gave us their time. It was also good that Professor Olver as one of Australia’s leading oncologists and bio-ethicists gave his generous support on this vital issue.

Professor Olver told MPs that assisted suicide should not be considered until there was adequate palliative care treatment available to all in Tasmania. He explained that palliative care was not just pain relief but included counselling to help people find meaning for the last chapter of their lives. Interestingly, he said that 82% of those who accessed assisted suicide in Canada (they call it Medically Assisted Dying – MAD for short!) did not do so because of pain, but because they felt they were of no more use. ACL  points out that the Bill is more about encouraging assisted suicide than merely facilitating it. It does not require a person to be terminally ill, nor does it require a person to be currently suffering, the mere anticipation of suffering from the condition, complications or treatment at some time in the future is sufficient to access assisted suicide.

It also allows junior doctors to make life ending decisions and advise on matters like the particular condition of the person and its development, possible complications and treatment, psychiatric conditions, mental capacity and palliative care, when they may have little or no knowledge on these matters.  The Australian Medical Association also told the Legislative Council that the Bill was poorly drafted and conceived, riddled with ambiguity and rushed. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation have also expressed concerns about the drafting of the Bill. Mike Gaffney tabled his bill in the Upper House on 27th August. It will be debated on 15 September. Please take time to pray about this issue. Please encourage your church to pray. Tasmanians are asked to see, call or write to their local Upper House members and ask them to reject the Bill.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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IT IS TIME TO GET ACTIVE IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

By Australian Newsletter

On Wednesday, 23 September 2020 South Australia’s Lower House will resume debate on the ‘Exclusion’ or ‘Censorship Zones’ Bill. This is a critical bill which will create at least 12 large zones in the State in which public discussion about abortion and even public silent prayer will be made illegal. In addressing the Victorian version of the bill, which the SA bill currently mirrors, the South Australian Law Reform Institute said, “There is a clear argument that silent prayer would fall within the definition of ‘prohibited behaviour’ in Victorian law”. SA need not follow in Victoria’s footsteps with this bill. A specific amendment proposed to allow silent prayer in the SA bill is still a few votes short of being successful. It is critical for all South Australians to contact their Lower House MPs and ask them to support the amendment to allow silent prayer… and pray!

It is also anticipated that this month the Liberal Attorney-General’s abortion-to-birth bill will be introduced into the Lower House. This bill is a horrific abuse of human rights. Only 8 of the world’s 197 or so nations allow abortion-to-birth, which include North Korea and Communist China. Victoria also allows it. Again, SA need not follow Victoria’s bad laws. Abortion-to-birth must not become law in South Australia. Psalm 130 says, “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.” While we may feel we are in the depths, we can always cry to God. He will hear our voice. We hope in his saving Word and watch for Him to work; as we work we pray!

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS CALL A SOLEMN ASSEMBLY

By Australian Newsletter

A number of Indigenous Elders have joined together to invite the people of Australia and other Indigenous Elders to join with them and together seek Gods face according to 2 Chronicles 7:14, and Joel 1:14, ‘for the healing of the land’. Spokesman Pastor Peter Walker said “We have been working towards a National Solemn Assembly for the last nine years. This is the moment we have been waiting for. We are praying for ‘times of refreshing’ and the ‘healing of the land’ as the scripture says in Acts 3:19, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” The ‘times of refreshing’ from the presence of the Lord that Peter the Apostle is talking about is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that is found in Acts 2:1-21 That is what Australia needs.

“We are praying that Australia will get a revelation of the love of God through Jesus Christ. Matthew 18:20 gives us the key, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them.” We thank the National Council of Churches Australia and the National Day of Prayer & Fasting and other groups who are helping to facilitate the National Solemn Assembly on behalf of the First Nation People. We encourage you to pray together in your churches, in your homes and on the hills as we lift our nation up before God. Join us as you are able on Zoom between 9AM – 9PM any time on Saturday 26th September and/or Sunday 27th September at meeting room number 776881184: https://zoom.us/j/776881184

Source: National Day of Prayer and Fasting

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VICTORIA’S COURT OF APPEAL SAVAGED IN LANDMARK LEGAL STUDY

By Australian Newsletter

Victoria’s Court of Appeal has been rocked by a landmark legal study finding that 18 criminal judgments under its president, judge Chris Maxwell, have been overturned by the High Court. The report, by Victoria’s former chief crown prosecutor Gavin Silbert QC, concluded that during Justice Maxwell’s reign the court had “cast off its near-perfect record”. “The first 10 years of the Court of Appeal in its criminal jurisdiction saw its judgments affirmed on 10 occasions and reversed twice by the High Court,” Mr Silbert writes in his report, published in the Australian Law Journal.  “The next 14 years (under Justice Maxwell) have seen the Court of Appeal’s judgments reversed 16 times and affirmed on six occasions, with a large number of its decisions criticised, particularly in sentencing.”

The Silbert report delivers a major blow to the credibility of Victoria’s highest court, already reeling from April’s damning unanimous High Court ruling that quashed Cardinal George Pell’s child-sex convictions and freed him from jail. It finds the “Maxwell court” was overturned 16 times, and analyses each of those cases. It notes a further two cases were overturned after the report was completed, including the case of Cardinal Pell, bringing the number of High Court rejections to 18. The Silbert report covered the first 24 years of the Court of Appeal and contrasts the Maxwell court in unfavourable terms with the court under the decade-long rule of judge John Winneke from June 1995.

“The first 10 years of the court (under Justice Winneke) are notable on two counts; first, the relatively few grants of special leave by the High Court and, second, the fact that only two decisions of the Court of Appeal were reversed,” Mr Silbert finds.  “The next 14 years (under Justice Maxwell) are notable for an increase in the applications for special leave to appeal and the number of judgments reversed on appeal.” The cases analysed in the study are all criminal matters covering a range of sex crimes, murder, theft, drug-trafficking and dangerous driving offences.  The report suggests that under Justice Maxwell the Court of Appeal’s reputation, particularly on sentencing issues, has been compromised.

“Between 2006 and June 2019 there were 216 applications for special leave to appeal to the High Court from the Victorian Court of Appeal, of which 37 were granted,” Mr Silbert writes. “In that period, Victoria rose from the lowest number of grants of special leave among the mainland states to second only behind NSW, on 65. “Further, the Victorian Court of Appeal cast off its near-perfect record for being upheld and was reversed 16 times, behind NSW, which was reversed 32 times and well in front of Queensland and South Australia, which were each reversed 12 times, and Western Australia, which was reversed seven times.” The Silbert report is a second blow to the Victorian Court of Appeal’s legal standing, and follows the High Court’s demolition of its decision to uphold the guilt of Cardinal Pell on child sex-abuse charges.

In freeing the cardinal, the High Court found it was “evident that there is a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”. Mr Silbert’s report focuses much attention on the Court of Appeal’s record on sentencing for serious criminal offences. “The Maxwell court embarked on a series of decisions which had wide-ranging effects, particularly in the field of sentencing. The court was overruled by the High Court on an increased number of occasions,” he writes. Mr Silbert notes that the Maxwell court approved a practice whereby the crown prosecutor was obliged to provide a judge with a range within which it was submitted that a sentence should be imposed.

“The expressed rationale was to promote consistency of sentencing and reduce the risk of appealable error,” he writes, going on to blast this as a “fallacy”. “For the following six years, sentencing in Victoria proceeded as an auction, with the crown offering a range, the defence offering a lesser range and the sentencing judge splitting the difference between the two, effectively sandbagging the sentence from appeal by either party.” Mr Silbert notes that this practice was subsequently overruled by the High Court. In the case of Cardinal Pell, the Court of Appeal suffered a major blow to its legal reputation. The High Court was critical of the manner in which the VCA, including Justice Maxwell, ruled in its majority verdict, arguing that there was doubt around the convictions but that only judge Mark Weinberg had dissented.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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JACKIE TRAD MAKES EUTHANASIA A POLL ISSUE IN QUEENSLAND

By Australian Newsletter

The right to die will be an election issue in Queensland after former deputy premier Jackie Trad warned that voters would expect both Labor and the Liberal National Party to take a stand on euthanasia law reform ahead of the October 31 poll. Queensland is the third state after Victoria and Western Australia to go down the path to legalise voluntary assisted dying, but the COVID-19 emergency has blown any chance the legislation could be put to state parliament before voters go to the polls. A cross-party parliamentary committee in March found that terminally ill people should have the option to end their lives with the help of a doctor, and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called in the Queensland Law Reform Commission to prepare draft legislation. This reprised the process used by the Labor government to decriminalise abortion in Queensland in 2018.

The coronavirus onslaught bogged down the work, with Ms Palaszczuk now saying the commission is unlikely to report until next March. That puts the polarising issue of voluntary assisted dying in play at an election that could go either way, according to the polls. The still-influential Ms Trad, a supporter of voluntary euthanasia, said voters deserved to know where the major parties stood. “I have no doubt that as a government, we will do the same thing that we did with the termination of pregnancy and that is to respectfully consider the law reform commission’s suggestions and recommendations and draft legislation and present a bill,” she told The Australian. “Given how far we have come under Annastacia’s leadership on this issue, given that it is Labor Party policy, I think you can be confident Labor will keep this process moving forward.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has promised that LNP MPs will have a conscience vote but her office would not say whether the issue would be pursued if the party was restored to power. The issue is fraught for Ms Frecklington in light of the heat she took for allowing her MPs to vote their conscience on abortion law reform. LNP party policy remains opposed to Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD).  “It is unreasonable to speculate how MPs might vote before they have even viewed the legislation,” her spokesman said.  Ms Palaszczuk has spoken publicly of the impact on her of the “beautiful but horrific” death of her paternal grandfather, Leo, a survivor of World War II slave labour camps run by the Nazis and Soviets in Poland, without committing to a personal position on euthanasia.

Her spokesman said “The Premier believes the issue is intensely personal and deeply sensitive and will make her decision, having heard and considered all views, when the laws come before parliament.” Ms Trad said VAD would be an election issue because those on both sides of the emotive debate would want firm signals from Labor and the LNP on what the parties would do in government. “I do think there will be groups like Dying with Dignity and a whole range of others who really do want to get a clear understanding, given how far this issue has come, of what the major political parties will want to see happen when the Law Reform Commission reports,” she said.  “All of these people will want some sort of perspective or answer from the Labor Party or the LNP.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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MORRISON TO TEAR UP VICTORIA’S BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE DEAL WITH BEIJING

By Australian Newsletter

Scott Morrison will legislate to tear up Victoria’s multi-million-dollar Belt and Road Initiative agreement with Beijing, creating laws that will also ban a raft of other deals with foreign governments found to be against the national interest.  In an unprecedented move against Chinese interference and the protection of state secrets, the use of external powers under the Constitution to direct state, territory and local governments on national security issues will effectively kill dozens of agreements with foreign governments and institutions.  The Foreign Relations Bill, which will be introduced to parliament next week, also extends to universities and captures any questionable agreements between Australian public institutions and foreign governments.

In a major flexing of its constitutional powers, the Morrison government will cast its net over all foreign relations agreements struck by lower tiers of government, amid fears that national security has been compromised by often secret deals between state governments and foreign powers.  The move could have rippling effects for the private sector, with the Foreign Minister given powers to review any private infrastructure contracts that a state government signed as part of a BRI agreement with China. The list of agreements that could be scrapped under the proposed legislation will range from sister city agreements, popular with local governments, to memorandum of understanding deals and include all legally and non-legally binding arrangements.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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CHURCH LEADERS RAISE ETHICAL CONCERNS RE POSSIBLE COVID 19 VACCINE

By Australian Newsletter

Three of Australia’s leading religious voices have written to the Prime Minister with their concerns that the COVID-19 vaccine will be “ethically tainted” by aborted fetal cells.  Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies and Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Australia Makarios Griniezakis raised concerns about the deal with AstraZeneca that would ensure Australians would be among the first in the world to receive the Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine if human trials are successful. In the past, cell lines from humans and fetuses have been used in successfully creating the Rubella component of the MMR vaccine and a chickenpox vaccine called Varivax.

The letter had three demands of the government: that the Oxford vaccine not be made mandatory, that people who decline it for religious beliefs not be punished and that the government ensure a different “ethically uncontroversial” vaccine also be made available. “Please be assured that our churches are not opposed to vaccination: as we have said, we are praying that one may be found,” the letter said. “But we also pray that it be one that is not ethically tainted.” The letter from the religious leaders said some Australians may be concerned “not to benefit from, nor trivialise in any way, the death of the little girl whose cells were taken and cultivated, and not to be encouraging the fetal tissue industry.”

Monash University head of microbiology Professor Stephen Turner said human embryonic kidney cells, being used in Oxford’s vaccine research, had been widely used in cell biology research for decades. The cell line was originally derived from cells grown in tissue taken from an aborted female fetus. “They’re not collecting recent fetal tissue and using those. These are cell lines that have been around for years,” he said. “Basically, we call these the cell lines immortalised, as they continually grow,” he said. “The reason you want to use human cells in a vaccine is because, as the proteins of the virus synthesise, they modify. So you can see the changes in the cells would be the same as in a person.” He said the cell lines had gone through “rigorous testing”. “These cell lines are tested to make sure that anything that comes out of them is safe to put into people.”

In a post on his Facebook page, Mr Fisher outlined concerns about the use of aborted human fetuses in a cell line used in research and urged readers to raise the issue with their local MPs. “Whether this vaccine is successful or not, it is important that the government does not create an ethical dilemma for people,” Mr Fisher said. “There are currently 167 vaccines being researched, many of which do not use fetal cells in their development.”  A statement from the Prime Minister’s office said the Prime Minister respected the views of Australia’s many religious communities and understands the issues being raised. “The government is investing in research and technology that we hope will produce a range of vaccines that will be suitable for as many Australians as possible,” the statement read.

The statement went on “Many vaccines in development do not contain these cell lines, including the UQ vaccine candidate which the government is already supporting with $5 million. The government will always follow the medical advice and will be encouraging as widespread use of the vaccine or vaccines as is possible.” Senior religious figures in North America raised similar concerns a few months ago, scientific research publication ScienceMag reported. “It is critically important that Americans have access to a vaccine that is produced ethically: no American should be forced to choose between being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus and violating his or her conscience,” members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and other anti-abortion advocates wrote to Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ONE IN TEN STUDENT TEACHERS FAILING BASICS

By Australian Newsletter

Nearly 10 per cent of Australia’s aspiring teachers are failing to meet basic literacy and numeracy standards, a significant deterioration in four years. New test results for teacher education courses at universities show 9.3 per cent of students failed the numeracy benchmark, and 8.3 per cent failed in literacy. Those results, from the 2019 Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students, are a slight improvement from the previous year but much worse than in 2016 and 2017. Education consultants, including MultiLit senior research fellow Jennifer Buckingham, told The Australian it was important to identify literacy and numeracy issues “much earlier” than at the end of a course.

“Universities need to show responsibility for passing the cohort not meeting the test requirements for passing them for four years and taking their money,” she said. “It’s really important we identify problems with literacy and numeracy much earlier, these students put a significant investment into their studies, never mind public funding. Universities have a choice on when education students sit the literacy and numeracy test, but most schedule the exam in the final year of the degrees. The LANTITE results show 91.7 per cent of teaching students can read and write properly, an improvement from the 90.4 per cent recorded in 2018. In 2016, 95.2 per cent of teaching students met that standard. The results also show 90.7 per cent passed the numeracy standard in 2019, up from 90 per cent in 2018 but down from 92.3 per cent in 2017 and 94.2 per cent in 2016.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said standards for future teachers had to remain high, especially in the midst of the post-pandemic recovery, as he seeks to recruit more students into teaching, English and maths ­subjects at university through cuts to student fees. “We need our teachers to have strong literacy and numeracy skills to impart that knowledge on to our children, as the chief scientist says, if you don’t have the basic skills you will never expand your learning,” he said. “Our government introduced the LANTITE test to ensure teachers entering the profession have the skills they need to provide the best education outcomes for students.” Proposed university reforms, which would lower the cost of priority degrees for students, would reduce the cost of teaching courses by 46 per cent, Mr Tehan said.

“We will also make it cheaper for students to study units in Eng­lish, science and maths which will help improve the literacy and numeracy of future teachers.” Mr Tehan is pushing state and territory governments to provide clearer state-by-state data. “The federal government continues to urge state and territory governments to release more detailed test data to provide greater transparency to students, families and educators,” he said. State governments say the test results are largely kept by ­universities. Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said “any data collected through the test is not ours to share”. The LANTITE was introduced in 2016 following concerns about a lowering of academic standards and a decline in school per­formances compared with other countries.

The most recent rankings, the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment, showed the reading literacy of the nation’s 15-year-olds had fallen from fourth in the world in 2003 to 16th. In that time, numeracy figures fell from 11th to 29th. Students typically have three chances to pass the ­LANTITE during the course of their degree, with many questions in the test requiring basic calculations. Hundreds of teaching students had petitioned Mr Tehan to remove the requirement to sit the LANTITE, claiming the testing authority was struggling to meet online testing demand, preventing them from graduating. Blaise Joseph, an education research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, said the figures would likely improve now some states had introduced tougher standards for high school students applying to study education at university.

Source:  Compiled by APN from media reports

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AVIATION STAFF MAY FALL PREY TO GANGS

By Australian Newsletter

Australian Federal Police (AFP) have warned of an increased risk of organised crime groups paying or blackmailing aviation staff for their security cards and inside information. The AFP is concerned the pandemic has made sacked or stood-down airport and airline workers more vulnerable to being targeted by crime syndicates, as reduced air travel disrupts traditional drug trafficking operations and leads to a spike in prices. “It is likely criminal groups will take advantage of a perceived shift in the focus of police and border authorities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ said AFP commander Krissy Barrett.  “Airline and airport staff may possess the necessary skills, expert knowledge, sensitive access, diversion expertise and contacts to assist organised crime groups with their criminal ventures.”

Baggage handlers, passenger screening officers, ­security guards and federal officials, including Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force officers, are among those issued with an Aviation Security Identification Card, showing they have undergone a security check. Commander Barrett said the majority of airport workers were honest and law-abiding but organised crime groups were “unscrupulous and enterprising”.  “The AFP anticipates they may look to target vulnerable airline and airport employees who have been stood down or have lost their jobs recently,” she said. “Airline and airport employees possess insider knowledge of aviation operations, which could leave them open to exploitation for unlawful purposes.”

“If any worker is approached to hand over or sell their Aviation Security Identification Card they should immediately alert law enforcement” Barrett said. Police have reported a doubling of the street price of methamphetamine, or “ice”, and cocaine in some regions after the close of international and state borders and restrictions on interstate travel, indicating scarcity of supply. Crime syndicates are understood to be stockpiling illicit drugs in countries such as Myanmar and Mexico, ready to flood the lucrative Australian market, when border restrictions ease. With the pandemic forcing crime groups to adapt to a changed environment, a small number of outlaw motorcycle club gang members and people with long-term links to the gangs are known to have returned to Australia after basing themselves overseas for years.

Investigators are monitoring their movements and say gang members have increased counter-surveillance measures and have turned to using the mail for drug distribution. A Mongols member who flew from Victoria to Queensland recently caught the attention of police, while similar movements have been observed between NSW and Victoria.  Commander Barrett said while flights had been reduced the AFP continued to “saturate” airports with armed ­officers. New Response Teams were conducting targeted operations focused on high-risk threats, that could ­be ­exploited by insiders. “We work closely with partner agencies to gather and share intelligence relating to security vulnerabilities,” Commander Barrett said. “Criminal groups may attempt higher-risk jobs using the scarce flights that are available. An insider could assist in facilitating this.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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MAJORITY SUPPORT INDIGENOUS VOICE TO PARLIAMENT

By Australian Newsletter

Campaigners for a constitutionally enshrined indigenous voice to parliament have been buoyed by polling indicating support for the concept is increas­ing. According to research commissioned by the From The Heart campaign and conducted by CT Group, 56 per cent of Australians would vote yes to a constitutionally enshrined voice if a referendum were held today. Successive prime ministers have categorically rejected the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart’s call for an indigenous voice in the Constitution. Malcolm Turnbull then Scott Morrison described it as a proposal for a third chamber of parliament. While the Morrison government supports a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenou­s Australians, it sees the voice as separate.

However, the statement presented to the Australian people after dialogues with indigenous people around Australia earned the support of two former chief justices and big corporates, including BHP, which donated $1m for an education campaign ahead of a referendum. Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt has asked indigenous leaders Marcia Langton and Tom Calma to oversee the co-design of a voice to government that would be enshrine­d in legislation, rather than the Constitution. But high-profile supporters of the Uluru statement have not given up hope that the full intent of the document can be realised. Latest polling shows support for a yes vote for a voice to parliament increased by 7% in three months, to 56% of voters.

According to the latest research, only 17 per cent of Australians would vote no, which is down 3 per cent since March, when the question was put by CT Group to a sample of 2000 voters. The polling, conducted last month, asked: “If a referendum were held today, how would you vote on the proposal to change the Constitution to set up a new body comprising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that gives advice to federal parliament on ATSI issues?” The earlier research in March indicated support was higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: 71 per cent said they would vote yes for a constit­utionally enshrined voice to parliament.

Mr Wyatt has repeatedly urged pragmatism on the issue. He says Australians are conservative, especially when it comes to the Constitution, and has express­ed fear that any form of constitutional recognition would fail at a referendum if a question about a voice were included. From The Heart director Dean Parkin says this research shows momentum is on the side of support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart. He believes the polling backs the call of Uluru dialogue leaders including Noel Pearson, Megan Davis, Pat And­erson and Roy Ah-See that there should not be a compromise. “More and more Australians are joining the movement for a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament,” Mr Parkin said.

“People can see it is fair and practical that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a say over matters that affect them. They understand it’s not polit­ic­ians and bureaucrats in Canberra that know what works best in the Kimberley or Cape York but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from those regions. “Those suggesting alternatives are at odds with the Australian­ people,­ who increasingly support the call for a voice to parliament from the Uluru Statement from the Heart.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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MORE REMOTE INDIGENOUS GOING HUNGRY

By Australian Newsletter

Indigenous people in remote communities are running out of food more often, despite millions of dollars being paid to support government-owned retailers such as Outback Stores. According to Australian Nat­ional University research, the proportion of indigenous people living in very remote communities who ran out of food rose from 37 per cent to 43 per cent between 2013 and 2019. That’s partly because between 2006 and 2016 incomes for indigenous people in those areas fell for most households. Outback Stores have been accused of sending unwanted fruit and vegetables to stores and leaving them to wear the cost of subsiding the waste.

Another retailer, Community Enterprise Queensland, was selling some staples at five times mainstream supermarket costs, according to a comparison by the Torres Shire Council. Moccona coffee usually costing about $15 sold for $55.72, it found. ANU researchers Francis Markham and Sean Kerins, in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the issue, wrote that bringing food prices in remote areas into line with those in cities would cut the proportion of households running out of food “by about 10 per cent”. However, the submission notes, even if cheap food were able to be delivered to remote communities, “a significant proportion of residents of remote indigenous communities would still be going without sufficient food,” the researchers wrote.

The increase in the number of households going without food has occurred despite the establishment of Outback in 2006, with the federal government contributing $40m to help improve food security in the bush. In subsequent years, Outback received a further $45m and has so far spent about $39m of the total, including on subsidising “unviable” remote retail outlets. Outback operates stores in almost 40 remote communities on a fee-for-service basis. In its submission to the inquiry, the retailer attacked critics of the $20m in rebates Outback had collected since 2008, saying it was “simply simplistic to link responsible management of rebate income to high sell prices.

Outback defended its pricing and said comparing them to mainstream supermarkets was “unrealistic”. “We suggest a national-level collaboration is required between a broad range of stakeholders to first recognise the disproportionate impact of the high cost of acquiring goods in remote retail environments and then collectively work towards putting mechanisms in place to improve affordability for remote community stores,” Outback wrote in the submission. Aboriginal Investment Group, a critic of Outback’s practices, has provided evidence that rebates accounted for $8.80 in the $33.70 price of a tub of baby formula. The same product could be sold for just $24.90, AIG said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ONLINE GAMBLING SOARS DURING LOCKDOWN

By Australian Newsletter

Poker machine gambling is way down, but online gambling rates have surged during the COVID 19 lockdown. An Australian study had revealed a 67% increase in online gambling for the period March and April 2020. An earlier study of children aged 8-16 in Melbourne found that many have already gambled, and that online sports betting is particularly attractive to them. “Kids are getting these ideas from TV advertising” said Hannah Pitt, Deakin University researcher and the Melbourne study’s author. “They’re hearing people say “bet now” and “just click this” and they pick up on the positive messages they’re getting.

Betting advertising is banned in Australia during the “G” classification TV timeslots, but sports broadcasts watched by many children are exempt. Children cannot watch a game of football on TV without exposure to online gambling advertising. They cannot watch the evening news bulletin without seeing gambling that is advertised during the sports report. Sports betting is on the rise , and it’s a problem for teenage gamblers. Research reveals that between 60 and 70 per cent of children have gambled despite being underage , and one in 25 teenagers has a gambling problem. FamilyVoice National Director Peter Downie said  “we need to protect children by banning advertisements for online gambling during news broadcasters or sports programs.

Source: FamilyVoice Australia

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NATIONAL EUTHANASIA UPDATE

By Australian Newsletter

‘Euthanasia’ comes from the Greek meaning ‘a good death’. Assisted suicide advocates claim that their form of ‘a good death’ will assure a peaceful death free from suffering. However, wherever assisted suicide or ‘voluntary euthanasia’ is legalised, it puts pressure on the elderly, terminally ill and people trapped in fear or despair to end their lives. The fear of “being a burden” consistently ranks high in requests for assisted suicide and euthanasia. While coronavirus has slowed the pace of many things, it has not slowed the push for assisted suicide and euthanasia across Australia. Advocates for allowing these practices doggedly pursue their agenda in every state.

Most alarming is Tasmania, which in around September will consider a private member’s End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020. This extreme euthanasia law will allow assisted suicide for those who are not terminally ill, including those who are disabled, as well as those not experiencing physical or emotional suffering related to their condition, no need for a specialist doctor and a turnaround of four days. Thankfully, calls for the bill to extend to children under the age of 18 were rejected. Regrettably, without even seeing the bill, Tasmanian Labor has pledged to back it. Western Australia legalised euthanasia last year and the laws are set to come into effect in June 2021.

The operation of WA’s scheme is currently in the hands of their Health Department’s ‘Implementation Team’. More lax than the Victorian euthanasia law, the WA bill has fewer conditions on doctor qualifications and patient eligibility. Shockingly, an amendment which sought to ensure people living in remote areas had the same level of access to palliative care as they will have to euthanasia was rejected. From next year, terminally ill people living in remote WA may feel that taking their lives is their only state-supported response to their suffering. South Australia is waiting for a report from the new Parliamentary Joint Committee on End of Life Choices, established last year.

Put on hold due to social distancing restrictions, the committee is now expected to report in July-August. To date, South Australia seems to be particularly inoculated against euthanasia, having defeated assisted suicide bills 15 times. In New South Wales, the ‘progressive’ elements within the parliament are still feeling bruised after a painful abortion bill campaign last year, during which the Premier made a commitment that she would not bring forward any more conscience votes before the 2023 election.  The Queensland government deferred the debate on any euthanasia bill until after their 31 October state election. The Premier has tasked the Queensland Law Reform Commission to present a report to the next Attorney-General on 1 March 2021.

The territories, guided by federal law, still do not have the authority to legalise euthanasia. The Northern Territory’s 2018 attempt to win back the right to legislate on matters like euthanasia was voted down.  Assisted suicide became legal in Victoria on 19 June 2019. In the first six months, 50 Victorians ended their lives in this way. This number more than quadrupled the modest estimate of 12 Victorians annually (safe, legal and rare?) promised by euthanasia advocates before assisted suicide was legalised in 2018. This number is expected to rise further as people fear dying lonely deaths due to social distancing protocols. Tragically, the law will only be reviewed on its 5th anniversary, not after the current surge in demand.

During the last week of May, Australia celebrated National Palliative Care Week. A KPMG report found that an investment of only $350 million in palliative care would save more than $450 million in the wider health care system. By comparison, and in the name of keeping the most vulnerable safe, the federal government committed to various economic stimulus measures during lockdown totalling $180 billion. Why is it, that when vulnerable people need fair and equitable funding for palliative care, the resources are denied?

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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