Call for less hate in marriage debate

Campaigners for the yes and no same-sex marriage cases have called for more civil and informed debate, with parliament passing rules banning hate speech during the survey.

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Advocates of both sides of the argument say they have faced abusive comments for holding their views and expect more to come.

To keep a lid on the worst forms of hate speech, Labor backed a government bill on Wednesday to put in place a set of rules – backed up by penalties of up to $25,200 – for the campaign, which will end on November 15 with the declaration of the postal survey result.

It will be an offence to vilify, intimidate or threaten to cause harm to a person on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or religious conviction during the survey.

Advertisements will need to be authorised and broadcasters must ensure opposing views go to air.

“We want this process to be fair and for Australians to get the opportunity to have their say in an appropriate environment,” cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said.

Liberal Party vice president Karina Okotel said she had witnessed a “phenomenal” level of vitriolic abuse for opposing same-sex marriage, which she said was a “fundamental shift” in a long-held tradition.

“A culture has developed whereby it’s acceptable to vilify, mock, abuse and shame anyone who stands in the way or even raises questions about whether we should legalise same-sex marriage,” she told the National Press Club.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson told parliament legalising same-sex marriage could result in a ban on children calling their parents “mum and dad”.

Senator Hanson said she would ignore a majority “yes” result of a postal survey.

“I feel it’s a sham, it’s farcical and it’s a waste of money,” she said of the $122 million exercise.

Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek agreed the survey was unnecessary but the protections were needed to put some rules around what was already an “awful debate”.

Greens senator Janet Rice – who married her transgender wife Penny 30 years ago when she was Peter – said she wanted to be able to hold her partner’s hand in public, the way they used to, without fear of abuse.

“We used to hold hands, we used to kiss in public but over the last 13 years we self-censor,” she told parliament.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has written to the prime minister calling for more funding for counselling services during the survey.

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Lobby told a Senate inquiry such funding was vital following a flood of offensive messages.

“Suchmaterial hassignificantimpacton the mentalhealthofsomanyLGBTIQAustralians,” it said in a written submission.

“YoungLGBTIQpeopleareatasixtimes greater riskofsuicide andthismaterialwhich perpetuateshatefulandoffensive commentsis notlikelytoimprovethissituation.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is aiming to get the survey forms out to 16 million voters by September 25, with the first in mailboxes this week.

Whitfield signs new AFL deal with GWS

Greater Western Sydney continue to lock away their in-demand AFL stars, with former No.

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1 draft pick Lachie Whitfield the latest to re-sign.

There had been speculation Whitfield could leave the Giants in the post-season trade period despite having another year to run on his contract.

But instead of chasing a pay rise at a rival club, Whitfield has penned a new deal that will result in him staying at GWS until at least the end of the 2020 season.

Whitfield joins Dylan Shiel, Jon Patton and many other teammates to re-sign this year, with all eyes switching to classy midfielder Josh Kelly.

“These negotiations all have their own timelines. Over the course of the last six months, we’ve probably had six or seven players recommit to our footy club,” GWS coach Leon Cameron said.

“It hasn’t been the smooth-sailing year that everyone wants but, in the background, these players have put pen to paper. It’s a great signal to our footy club and the rest of the competition.

“They want to be here.

“No doubt a number of footy clubs would have been looking at Lachie, and rightfully so – he’s a terrific young player.”

Whitfield described it as a “pretty easy decision”.

“This has been my home since I arrived five years ago and this is where I want to play my football,” the 23-year-old said.

“We’re building something special.”

Whitfield made a delayed start to the season after his six-month ban for evading a drugs test.

He has been one of the Giants’ best in an injury-marred campaign but had been notably quiet in last week’s qualifying-final loss to Adelaide.

“He’d be the first one to walk in and say ‘nah, it’s unacceptable’,” Cameron said.

“We’re expecting some good things from Lachie this weekend. He played really well in last year’s finals series.”

Australia lags behind other developed countries on early childhood spending: OECD report

The latest snapshot of the education system has revealed government spending is the seventh-lowest in the 35-nation group, and highlights the country’s reliance on private funds.

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Early learning advocates are particularly unhappy, pointing to the low participation rate for three-year-olds and the comparatively small share of its gross domestic product allocated to early childhood education.

In contrast, five per cent more four-year-olds than in the previous year are taking part in pre-primary education.

CEO of Early Childhood Australia, Sam Page, said the fact that the government funds pre-school education for four-year-olds but not three-year-olds discourages many families.

“I think most families would like their children to be in education, but cost is often a barrier,” she said.

Ms Page told SBS World News that other obstacles include a lack of affordability, distance and a lack of knowledge around the benefits of early learning for children.

Furthermore, many children are starting school when they’re not fully ready, having not yet developed adequate social and cognitive skills.

According to Ms Page, one in five children are developmentally vulnerable, while that number jumps to two in five for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

She said that’s where early education is more important than ever.

“What children benefit from is being with other children, learning together, learning to cooperate, learning to regulate their own emotions, learning to join in group activities and to be curious,” she said.

“That’s the most important thing we can do for younger children, is to give them confidence and create children that are keen to learn and will learn through their lifespan.”

Ms Page says she is particularly concerned about a statistic that shows 30 per cent of children enrolled in early learning aren’t attending for the whole government-funded 15 hours per week.

And she believes the economy would also benefit from a boost to early learning.

“There are three areas where it returns benefits to the economy. One is the taxes paid by working families, the second one is the better education performance from more children staying and finishing school and going on to tertiary study, and the third is – the major return to the economy, is reducing disadvantage,” she said.

RELATED READINGNot just teaching factories

Almost half of all Australians aged 25 – 34 have a tertiary qualification, outstripping the OECD average of 43 per cent.

Australia also has one of the lowest numbers of students choosing to student overseas, compared to its intake of international students which stands at 15 per cent.

Add to that, a comparatively low share of graduates in engineering, manufacturing and construction among tertiary-educated adults, 11 per cent compared to an OECD average of 17 per cent.

Labor’s education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the report reveals the importance of the nation’s higher education sector.

She has told the ABC, the system must keep up with the needs of Australians.

“This is about providing the best possible education for Australian students,” she said.

“Universities aren’t just teaching factories, they are drivers of research and innovation.”

The government is trying to pass higher education changes through the Senate, reducing university funding and raising fees.

People will also be required to repay loans sooner.

 

 

 

Qld premier takes aim at LNP M1 petition

Queensland’s premier has rubbished opposition claims a second M1 between Brisbane and the Gold Coast would cost just $500 million and asked which assets would be sold to fund the estimated $2.

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4 billion project.

Annastacia Palaszczuk avoided directly answering questions about duplicating the the state’s busiest motorway, instead saying her Labor government was focused on public transport.

She said the light rail extension between the southern Queensland cities would mean fewer cars on the road.

“Once that second stage of the light rail is complete, we will start seeing a lot of people move off the roads and on to public transport,” Ms Palaszczuk told reporters in Bundaberg on Wednesday.

Her comments come a day after Queensland Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls launched a petition calling on the government to commit to the project, while refusing to promise his Liberal National Party would build it if it won the next election.

It proposed building the first stage of the second M1 through an already-earmarked 36.5km corridor between Stapylton and Nerang.

“The opposition talk clearly about a petition – no plan to build that,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Wednesday.

Mr Nicholls defended his costings of the project, saying they came from reputable sources.

“Our costings are in the mid-range. They’re the costings that are supported by the South East Queensland Council of Mayors,” he told reporters in Innisfail.

“Once we have an election date … we’ll be making all our policy announcements, including announcements to deal with relieving congestion in southeast Queensland.”

A duplication of the M1 has not been a vote-winner in the past.

Former Labor premier Wayne Goss famously lost eight seats in the 1995 state election, partly due to his second motorway plan, which was dubbed the “koala toll road” because it would have cut through a koala habitat.

The RACQ has already signalled its support for a second highway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

We just need certainty, energy exec says

The head of energy infrastructure owner Jemena has joined the chorus of energy sector executives calling for clear government policy, saying uncertainty is jeopardising large investments.

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Managing director Paul Adams, a 30-year veteran of the sector, has called for a bipartisan approach during the transition to renewable energy.

“I think there are three or four right answers, but our view is just pick one and we’ll find we have actually got it sorted,” Mr Adams told AAP.

“Where people have different answers you are not sure you are investing under one set of rules or another, and that just costs everyone a lot of money.”

His comments come amid a heightened debate over energy as the federal government pushes AGL Energy to keep its Liddell power plant running for an additional five years beyond the end of its life in 2022.

Canberra also intervened in the gas market earlier this year, introducing the threat of export curbs on Queensland’s giant LNG projects after the market regulator warned of energy shortages and spiralling prices.

Mr Adams acknowledged the government is reacting to the situation, but his biggest concern is the lack of bipartisan policy.

“What we need is the policy certainty so that we can actually build the infrastructure, fund it and get the solution happening,” he said.

“It sounds easy but for some reason it has got hard.”

Jemena operates $10.5 billion worth of major utility infrastructure on Australia’s east coast, and is backed by the State Grid Corporation of China and Singapore Power.

It is building the $800 million Northern Gas pipeline to connect gas reserves in the Northern Territory with east coast gas markets, and has faced its share of policy uncertainty, particularly a moratorium on fracking introduced by the NT government in late 2017.

Mr Adams said the ban had impacted Jemena’s project, but he is hopeful the government would work out areas where fracking can still be carried out.

“From a short term perspective, it has created some delays in signing up gas contracts,” Mr Adams said.

“On the other hand we are a long term investor and we would rather go through a full detailed study and come out with a long term solution.”

Gas is expected to flow through the 622 kilometre pipeline between Tennant Creek and Mt Isa in Queensland by the end of 2018.

Jemena has so far signed up only Incitec Pivot as a foundation customer on its pipeline, but Mr Adams says negotiations are continuing with other parties.