Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Draft legislation boosts homosexual marriage

THE federal Attorney-General's Department is in the early stages of drafting broad anti-discrimination legislation that will make it illegal to discriminate on gender or sexuality grounds and includes a policy suggestion that is a step towards legalising gay marriage.

In its secret Red Book to the incoming Gillard government, the department proposed prohibiting marital and relationship status discrimination "in consolidated bill to include same-sex couples".

The Attorney-General's Red Book says that while commonwealth law prohibits sexuality discrimination in employment, it does not prohibit gender status discrimination.

"This policy commits to including new protections against sexuality or gender status discrimination in the consolidation of commonwealth anti-discrimination laws, which is currently under way," it says.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland was quick to clarify that the Gillard government remains opposed to gay marriage, and has not changed its position.

Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Rodney Croome said it was untenable for the government to outlaw discrimination against same-sex relationships and yet remain the "ultimate offender by continuing to prohibit same-sex marriages".

"Even if the government refuses to admit this is a step towards allowing same-sex marriages, it's clearly a concession to the majority of ALP members and the majority of Australians who support that reform," he said.

The ALP will debate ending its ban on gay marriage at its national conference late next year.

A Greens motion urging MPs to seek the views of their electorates on changing marriage laws was passed in the House of Representatives last month with Labor's support.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General's Department said the extract in the incoming government brief prepared by the department refers to the consolidation of anti-discrimination laws project, which is part of Australia's Human Rights Framework.


Schools should embrace Ramadan as well as Christmas?

SCHOOLS that celebrate Christmas should also embrace other non-Christian religious festivals, Muslim leaders say. Keysar Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, called on the Victorian Education Department to include the traditions of other religious faiths as part of the formal school curriculum.

"Schools have religious programs - but generally they're elective, they're not compulsory," he said. "To have an awareness of these festivals can be very enriching for all students, including people who go to secular schools."

His comments follow Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu's recent move to protect Christmas celebrations at state schools so that all children can enjoy the "simple pleasures" of the holiday.

Mr Trad called on Mr Baillieu to extend the same level of support to other religions as well. "When the Premier of the state makes a statement in that manner, one can't help but feel that he is giving an official stamp to one religion to the exclusion of the other," he said. "To be a Premier for all Victorians, I look forward to his instructions to schools to teach about the important religious festivals for all faiths."

Mr Trad added that Muslim people should be able to take leave from work during Eid, the three-day holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

Sherene Hassan, vice-president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, also endorsed the incorporation of Ramadan and other religious festivals in the classroom. "Conversations about increasing awareness of different cultures and religions are already taking place and have been happening for some time among educators," she said. "The ICV believes this is a positive way of fostering respect between children."

Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem, spokesman for the Australian National Imams' Council, said that schools could hold anything from lessons to full-blown celebrations, depending on the number of pupils of that particular faith. "Christmas here is celebrated, although the majority of Australians are not Christians but probably consider themselves to be secularists or atheists," he said. "Exposure to other cultures in a multi-racial country is a good thing, especially in schools."

Mr Baillieu and the Victorian Education Department declined to comment when contacted by the Herald Sun.


Even top marks in English may not indicate proficiency

Sarah Michael

Until my first year of university last year, when one of my tutors quite bluntly pointed it out to me, I had always written "definately" instead of "definitely".

I went through 12 years of schooling and completed both Advanced and Extension 1 English during my HSC in 2007 without knowing how to spell the word. I was also still unclear about the difference between "its" and "it's". And I had no idea when it was appropriate to use a semicolon (I still have to Google "semicolons" to remind myself).

Many people my age have an appalling grasp of spelling and grammar. Some blame instant messaging and the wide use of abbreviations. Others blame the (arguably) apathetic members of Generation Y. I blame the high school English curriculum.

The NSW Board of Studies years 7-10 English syllabus aims to teach students to "speak, listen, read, write, view and represent" and "use language and communicate appropriately and effectively". Punctuation, spelling and grammar are itemised in the curriculum, but there seems to be a lack of focus on spelling and grammar in the classroom.

And what message does it send in HSC English exams, when students are not marked down for spelling or punctuation errors? Bad spelling and punctuation only count against them when the marker cannot understand what it is they are trying to express.

One English teacher told me: "I think they just assume teachers will just put [spelling and grammar] into their program when they do their own individual programming in the school. But the issue there is that the syllabus itself is so full of all this other stuff that they are requiring us to teach kids, that there isn't much time left when I'll only see one class five times every two weeks."

Personally, I have vague memories of learning the definitions of nouns, adjectives, pronouns and prepositions in primary school, which I remember to this day. I also remember doing a weekly spelling test. But high school English was different. I learnt how to spot a simile and metaphor from a mile away. I learnt to be critical of the books I read and the films I watched. I learnt to question why an author or a filmmaker would phrase something a certain way or use a certain type of camera shot. What I did not learn about was spelling or grammar.

If I made a mistake, my teacher would circle it in red pen. Sometimes I caught myself wondering whether I should be using "it's" or "its". But, being a typical 15-year-old, instead of bothering to find out, I would go online and try to download another episode of The O.C. or something.

Many internet browsers have spellcheck functions but none seem able to check grammar. This is odd, considering the amazing advancements in technology over the past decade.

Perhaps it is because a computer program cannot pick up on the context of a sentence and tell whether a person means "it's" or "its". Computer spell checks have made people lazy when typing.

Logging on to Facebook is a quick way to discover how far-reaching the problem is. The majority of my 400 or so friends would be between 16 to 25, making my news feed the perfect place to survey the grammatical know-how of Generation Y. And for the most part it is pretty grim.

I am not talking about people writing all in lower case. But in more than half the posts, I see people mix up "their", "there" and "they're". They confuse "your" and "you're". And, of course, "it's" and "its" are highly interchangeable.

Not all Facebook users are grammarless fools. There is a community of vigilant social networkers who take their spelling and punctuation very seriously, creating Facebook groups such as "'Let's eat Grandma' or 'Let's eat, Grandma' - Punctuation saves lives" ' and "You use 'your' and 'you're' properly? Excuse me while I undress myself". Both have more than 191,000 members.

The draft years 7-10 Australian Curriculum for English on the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority website includes a specific focus on spelling and grammar. Let's hope this means that the next generation will finish school knowing how to construct a proper sentence.

Spelling and grammar remain important because one error can completely distort the meaning of what we are trying to say. Just ask grandma.


Victorian Coalition wins control of Upper House

THE Coalition has seized control of both houses of the Victorian parliament, with counting in the Upper House finalised today. The Liberal/Nationals won 21 of the 40 Upper House seats, handing them the balance of power in the Legislative Council.

Liberal Craig Ondarchie clinched the final fifth seat in the northern metropolitan region after enduring a nail-biting two week count. "What an honour, what an honour for democracy and what an honour for myself and the Liberal Party, that we now look like we'll get a strong representation in the Upper House to take Victoria forward," he told reporters at the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) tally room.

With minutes to go before the eight Upper House seats were declared, the coalition was set to increase its membership of the house from 17 to 21.

Labor was likely to lose three, taking its numbers to 16, the Greens were on track to retain their three seats, and the Democratic Labor Party had lost its sole seat.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Gay marriage. Symbolism, distraction. Still can't see the point and won't be doing it unless there's a really good legal reason that I still haven't thought of. If people in their personal relationships need public displays of "legitimaization" so they can feel good about themselves, then you have to wonder about the worth of their relationships to begin with.