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QANTAS BARS RELIGIOUS LEADERS FROM CHAIRMAN’S LOUNGE

By Australian Newsletter

Qantas has quietly purged several Australian religious leaders from its Chairman’s Lounge as part of a drive to create efficiencies and reward the biggest spenders on the airline.  It is believed the airline has been working on reducing the Chairman’s Lounge list for up to four years.  Religious leaders across faiths have received letters removing them from the exclusive list over the past several years.  While Cardinal George Pell has been stripped of membership, it is understood the purge is wider than just the convicted Catholic, who has been jailed for child-sex offences.

Qantas does not comment on who is on the list and senior church leaders have either declined to respond, or simply declared they are not on the list.  The Australian media has contacted several Catholic and Anglican archbishops to determine the extent of the purge.  Sources said the Qantas letter referenced the fact the purge related to religious leaders across faiths and was not related purely to the Catholic Church.  The purge began several years ago but has not been reported.  Anglican primate of Australia Philip Freier is overseas and the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, is not a member of the Chairman’s Lounge.

Qantas’s purge is believed to have started before the same-sex marriage debate and was part of a long-running strategy.  The Chairman’s Lounge is considered the peak club for high flyers but would-be members can’t buy their way in and are invited by the Qantas hierarchy based on their suitability.  Benefits include free alcohol and food, showers and communications facilities.  Club memberships extend to members of parliament, chief executives and celebrities but Qantas increasingly has focused its attention on CEOs and those who have significant control over flight expenditure.

The decision to purge religious leaders has raised the eyebrows of some, with the major churches spending millions each year on travel.  The Catholic Church has health and education networks worth billions of dollars and its senior clergy and staff are constantly travelling to Rome for meetings and development programs.  The Anglican Church’s welfare programs are in place across Australia and it also has a significant schools network.  Controversy about the membership intensified after journalist Phillip Adams, who coined the phrase “Spirit of Australia” for Qantas, had his lounge membership withdrawn.’

The Weekend Australian columnist, Radio National broadcaster and former advertising executive was dismayed when told by Qantas, which came after Senator Fraser Anning was expelled from the Chairman’s Lounge based on the censure motion passed against him over his Christchurch shooting massacre commentary.  “Because of age and decrepitude, I haven’t been using it much at all, but that’s not the point,” Adams said.  “I was hardly cluttering up the facility and I was really quite surprised because I do have a large media footprint.”

Source:  Compiled by Australian Prayer Network

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AUSTRALIA ELECTS A NEW GOVERNMENT

By Australian Newsletter

Editorial staff of the Australian Prayer Network have returned to Australia from overseas prayer assignments to the reality of an unexpected win for the Liberal National Coalition in the recent Federal election.  In what was a surprise for most Australians the former Government was returned with an increased majority thus maintaining a significant history of Christian Prime Ministers who have occupied the senior political position in our country.  Scott Morrison himself described the victory as a “miracle”.  A miracle of course is an act of God, so in saying that he was acknowledging the part that God played in the victory.

Thank you to all who engaged with us during the 35 days of prayer we called prior to the election, asking for God’s will to be done in and through the election process.  We can now see what that looks like in reality.  The cleaning out of much of the old guard on both sides of the Parliament gives opportunity for the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to both bring renewal to their parties and the Government/Nation as a whole and to escape from the revolving door of leadership change that has dogged our Federal Parliament over recent years.

The return of the Coalition opens the door for considerable reform to be enacted to protect freedom of speech and religious freedom in our nation, which many feared would come under pressure had the Labor/Greens parties occupied the majority position in Parliament.  It will however require all of us to continue to pray for Prime Minister Morrison and his parliamentary colleagues as they grapple with the many issues that face our nation at present.  We must also pray for the opposition Labor Party which will hopefully learn from this that we are still at heart a conservative Christian nation not wanting to jettison the Christian values that have undergirded our laws since European settlement, and align their future policy decisions to that reality.

A nation is at its strongest when there is a strong God fearing Government in control, kept honest by a strong God fearing Opposition and supported and informed by a strong Christian conscience.  We as the Church in Australia need to rise into our position as the visible and audible prophetic witness of God to the whole nation.  When all 3 of those pillars are in place is when we will see our nation return to its former pathway of godly laws and values which will direct our path back to prosperity and a biblically informed national character.  Let us pray that God will guide our path towards that objective in the days to come.

Source:  Compiled by Australian Prayer Network

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FEWER STUDENTS IDENTIFING A RELIGION FUELS PUSH TO SCRAP SCRIPTURE

By Australian Newsletter

This is an abridged version of Australian News prepared before our editorial staff left for overseas prayer assignments.  The full edition will return on Wednesday 5th June.

The number of NSW public school students who do not identify with a religion surged by 13 per cent in the three years to 2018, making non-believers the fastest-growing group, ahead of Islam and Hinduism.  About 43 per cent of students did not nominate a religion last year, Department of Education figures show.  They come as principal and teacher groups push for mandatory Special Religious Education (SRE) to be scrapped from high school.  The least religious primary schools in Sydney with more than 100 students were Australia Street Infants’, Camdenville Public and Darlington Public.  The most religious were Auburn West, Wylie Park Public and Mount Lewis Infants’.

Among high schools, the least religious schools were Newtown School of Performing Arts, Sydney Secondary College and Marrickville High.  The most religious were Punchbowl Boys, Auburn Girls and Granville Boys.  While the majority of religious students still identified as Christian, that category suffered the biggest decline in numbers, with more than 24,000 fewer students identifying as Anglican, Catholic, Uniting Church or Protestant.  Meanwhile, 3500 more students identified as Muslim, and 3000 more identified as Hindu between 2016 and 2018.  The number of students choosing either no religion or leaving the section blank grew by about 40,000 over the 3 year period.

Primary school students were more likely to have a religion on their enrolment form than high school students.  The NSW Department of Education does not track SRE enrolments, so religious affiliation is the only indicator of the subject’s popularity.  However, even that data will no longer be available from this year due to changes to SRE enrolment procedures.  The new process makes it easier for parents to select non-scripture but means the department no longer collects centralised information on religious affiliation.  Many expect the procedural changes will lead to a fall in SRE enrolments.

Pressure is mounting on SRE in NSW public schools, with the NSW Teachers Federation and the Secondary Principals Council, calling for an end to mandatory SRE.  Chris Presland from the council said removing SRE from secondary schools was a simple way to “free up”  40 minutes a week amid concerns about an over-crowded curriculum.  “We don’t have a problem with religion,” he said.  “If parents want their kids to have religious education that’s fine, but it’s like swimming school.  It’s a parenting responsibility, not an educational responsibility.”

Daniel Guenther from Fairness in Religion in Schools said “Non-scripture students are not allowed to engage in meaningful activity while their peers are in SRE class.  If that many students are sitting idle, and we estimate hundreds of thousands, that’s the most obvious place they should be looking.”  A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education said the department did not believe it was the best use of public resources to establish a state-wide system of monitoring attendance.  Christian SRE spokesman Murray Norman said SRE in schools was about giving parents the right to choose what they wanted for their children.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ECSTASY USE BY SCHOOL STUDENTS DOUBLES IN 3 YEARS

By Australian Newsletter

This is an abridged version of Australian News prepared before editorial staff left to undertake overseas prayer assignments. The full version of Australian News will return on Wednesday 5th June.

The proportion of high school students using ecstasy has more than doubled in three years, prompting a leading drug educator to warn about the normalisation of the illicit drug’s use among young people.  Paul Dillon, the founder of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia, said the latest Australian Secondary School Students’ Alcohol and Other Drug study revealed an “alarming” increase in the consumption of ecstasy by students.  Ecstasy use among students aged between 12 and 17 has increased from 2 per cent in 2011 to 5 per cent in 2017, according to a study of almost 20,000 high school students.

Mr Dillon said he was concerned about the blasé attitude of students towards MDMA (the main ingredient in ecstasy).  “All drugs have risks and the minute you don’t have respect for drugs, you start doing things that are much more dangerous,” he said. “We’re going to see young people die.”  The survey of almost 20,000 high school students around Australia found 16 per cent of 17-year-old boys had tried ecstasy in 2017 compared to 9.2 per cent three years earlier.  The proportion of 17-year-old girls who had consumed the party drug increased from 4.7 per cent in 2014 to 9 per cent in 2017.

Cocaine use by 16 and 17 year olds increased from 3 to 5 per cent between 2014 and 2017, but the use of other illicit substances appeared stable and consumption of alcohol and tobacco declined.  The study found high levels of students using multiple substances such as alcohol and cannabis (58 per cent) or cannabis and ecstasy (43 per cent) at the same time.  It also found much higher rates of substance use by high school students with a mental health diagnosis.  A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said any increase in drug use was concerning.

Other studies have found young drug users are shifting towards higher purity ecstasy and an increase in the number of MDMA poisoning cases in NSW.  Mr Dillon, a drug educator for more than 25 years, said ecstasy was readily available through friendship networks and could be purchased by students for as little as $10.  Some students he encountered seemed to believe there was little risk in consuming large amounts of ecstasy in the mistaken belief that MDMA was safe.  Mr Dillon also expressed concern about the use of DIY pill-testing kits such as the EZ test to find out the contents of a pill, questioning whether young people were able to accurately interpret the results.

He said the increased use of ecstasy by young people would lead to fatalities beyond the nightclubs and music festivals where drug reform campaigners and some politicians have called for the introduction of pill testing.  Mr Dillon supports pill testing because it provides information about the contents of the drug that is tested, but he does not believe it is a “silver bullet” to prevent festival deaths.

Mr Dillon said the study revealed three concerning drug trends among students: the normalisation of ecstasy, and increasing use of cannabis and inhalants such as nitrous oxide.

“When people don’t have respect for drugs or perceive there is some kind of risk involved, that’s when you see tragedies occur,” Mr Dillon said.  Melinda Lucas, a spokeswoman for the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, said the use of ecstasy by secondary students is low, but “it is important for everyone to understand that is no safe level of drug use and any use increases the risk of harms such as accidents, injuries and overdose”. “It is important young people understand that taking drugs is not the norm, only a small number of high school students consume illicit drugs,” she said.

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AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S PARTY IS RUN BY A MAN

By Australian Newsletter

This is an abridged version of Australian News prepared before editorial staff left to undertake overseas prayer assignments. The full version of Australian News will return on Wednesday 5th June.

Feminists and transgenders are increasingly at odds as biological men attempt to appropriate women’s gender.  The media has reported, “Divvi De Vendre registered The Women’s Party in January and is running candidates at the upcoming Federal Election but the Lismore based transgender woman has clashed with Sydney’s feminist movement which has raised questions about laws governing the self-identification of gender.”  In an effort to shed light on the fact a man had started the political party claiming to represent women, Australian feminist Anna Kerr wrote an article entitled “Are women voters being duped?”.

Her work was censored as it was deemed “insensitive and potentially offensive to the trans community”.  “Isn’t it ironic that a biological male is claiming to be a woman but doesn’t welcome transparency when it comes to biological facts?” said Kirralie Smith, spokeswoman for Binary.  “Voters need to understand who they are voting for.  They need facts so they can make informed decisions at the ballot box.  Transgender people and real women are not the same.  If people want to vote for a trans candidate that is their right, but candidates need to be honest about who they are,” said Smith.

Source: Binary

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