Assisted dying outrages religions
Islamic and Jewish leaders have joined the churches in slamming any rollout of voluntary euthanasia in Queensland, the latest state t0 weigh the right to die. In a joint statement, 16 religious leaders headed by president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, former primate of Australia and Anglican archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall, president of the Islamic Council of Queensland Habib Jamal and Rabbi Levi Jaffe of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation warned that voluntary assisted dying was "not dying well".
"We believe that the Queensland government should main-tain the current laws and improve palliative care for a flourishing Queensland based on human freedom, human dignity and the common good," the statement said.
A modified version of the voluntary assisted dying (VAD) law that came into effect in Victoria in June passed the lower house of West Australian parliament last month, but faces a sterner test in the Legislative Council, possibly by the end of the year.
Queensland is at an earlier stage of assessing VAD but its unicameral state parliament means the process will be smoother if an all-party committee endorses the need for legislation and the state Labor government grasps the nettle.
This happened with abortion law reform in 2017, to the dismay of
the churches. Their effort to block euthanasia shows signs of being more concerted and co-ordinated. The joint statement argued that VAD offered a misleading choice: "You can choose to die horribly or you can take your own life."
But Everald Compton, of the Dying with Dignity organisation and an elder of the Uniting and Presbyterian churches, rejected the religious leaders' position. "I fundamentally disagree with the unreasonable position taken by my church and all the other churches -- which is based on creating fear and misrepresentating what voluntary assisted dying is all about," he said
The religious leaders said the provision of high-quality palliative care was paramount, so that death did not need to be terrible or feared. "High-quality palliative care is not merely a third option; it is best practice," they argued. "Queenslanders do not yet have universal access such as specialist palliative care that addresses the physical, psycho-social and spiritual needs of people."
The statement said VAD would undermine efforts to curb suicide in a state with the nation's second highest rate of self-inflicted death.
Other signatories were: moderator of the Uniting Church Queensland Synod Reverend David Baker, Reverend Peter Barson of. the Presbyterian Church, Conference president of the Churches of Christ Geoff Charles, moderator of the Queensland Congregational Fellowship Dr Joe Goodall, state chairman of the International Network of Churches Pastor Gary Hourigan, Elder Carl Maurer of The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints, Pastor Carl Mutzelburg of Acts 2 Alliance, acting general superintendent of Queensland Baptists Reverend Stewart Pieper, Reverend Rex Rigby of the Wesleyan Methodist Church South Queensland, Bishop Paul Smith of the Lutheran Church, district and state ministries director of Christian Churches Queensland-NT Pastor Gary Swenson.
From "The Australian" of 28/10/2019
Pressure rising for drivers of electric cars to pay their way
Electric vehide drivers should be charged road-user costs, with 76 per cent of Australians calling on green-car owners to contribute to transport infrastructure, and almost one-in-two declaring it unfair they avoid paying fuel excise.
New polling obtained by The Australian reveals pushback against electric vehicle owners, with Australian motorists warning "there shouldn't be one rule for them and another for us". The sample of 1500 Australians, conducted by pollster Toby Ralph for the Australian Automobile Association, shows an "overwhelming sentiment that all road users should pay to fund the roads, not just those using petrol or diesel".
The research, based on 1400 quantitative and 100 qualitative interviews across the nation in July, also revealed concerns about Australia holding 50 days of fuel stocks, with 55 per cent saying it was insufficient and 31 per cent unsure.
AAA managing director Michael Bradley said the data spoke to the fact that "Australian motorists are incredibly price sensitive and very focused on high transport costs". "People understand motoring taxes build and maintain the roads and rail networks we all need, and Australians clearly want that burden shared equally," Mr Bradley said.
"Low emissions vehicle technologies are evolving rapidly and while no one wants the adoption of cleaner, safer cars stifled, Australia's tax system needs to be updated if it is to be ready for the changes coming.
"The task in front of government is to fix a structural flaw in the federal budget by creating a national road access charge for low emission vehicles, which brings this growing fleet into the tax system without disincentivising uptake."
According to Infrastructure Australia, electric vehicles are projected to account for 70 per cent of new vehicle sales and 30 per cent of the vehicle fleet by 2040. In February, the Electric Vehicle Council welcomed IA's identification of the need to construct a national electric vehicle fast-charging network as a "high priority initiative for Australia".
According to interviews conducted for the AAA-commissioned research, respondents raised concerns over electric vehicle owners not paying the fuel excise of 41.6c for every litre of petrol. "It's their choice to get (an electric car) but they should pay too," a respondent said.
Others said "when you think about it, it's like tax avoidance", "why should I subsidise them" and "it's only fair they pay something".
Debate over electric vehicles peaked ahead of the federal election after Bill Shorten flagged an electric vehicle target of 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030.
Both major parties have baulked at funding a major rollout of recharging infrastructure across the nation and supporting generous subsidies for electric vehicles, which have been adopted by some overseas governments.
The AAA research showed while a majority of Australians knew about the fuel excise, they were unaware of how much it was worth, and only older motorists knew it was used to pay for roads. Excise rates on fuel and petroleum products are indexed twice a year in line with the consumer price index.
On paying to increase fuel stocks to 90 days, 59 per cent of those surveyed said nothing and 21 per cent flagged they would likely pay less than 2c. Asked if they were aware Europe's petrol is "cleaner" than Australia's fuel, 72 per cent said they weren't and only 41 per cent of respondents were likely to pay more for cleaner fuel that would "reduce emissions and improve community health".
From "The Australian" of 28/10/2019
‘Unconscionable conduct’: private college fined $4.2m
A private education college that deliberately targeted disadvantaged and illiterate prospective students by offering them free laptops has been fined $4.2 million by the Federal Court.
Unique International College, which operated out of a single room in Granville in Sydney’s west, sold online diploma courses worth up to $25,000 often targeting vulnerable communities in former Aboriginal missions in regional NSW.
In six separate cases, Unique International College was found to have failed to inform students of the cost of the course they were signing up to, did not tell them they would incur a debt and did not give them copies of the contract they signed.
One judgment, relating to a 19-year-old with learning conditions who was signed up by Unique in Wagga Wagga, stated it was “exploitation of an obviously very vulnerable person for financial gain”.
“(Unique’s conduct) involved the exploitation of an uneducated indigenous person with no understanding of what he was agreeing to in return for a laptop which was worth substantially less than the debt which was being incurred,” Justice Nye Perram found in his Federal Court judgment on Thursday.
“It is difficult to imagine unconscionable conduct which could be worse.”
Each of the six people were left with a VET FEE-HELP debt of $26,400, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
“These students enrolled by Unique were unlikely to be able to complete the courses, but would have been left with significant lifetime student debt,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Some of these consumers enrolled in courses by Unique had poor literacy skills, and others could not use computer or did not have an internet connection.
“The ACCC will always prioritise taking action against businesses which engage in egregious conduct impacting vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers,” Mr Sims said.
Using the new VET FEE-HELP student redress measures, the government in the process of cancelling the debts of eligible consumers enrolled by Unique.
In 2017 the Federal Court found the college made false or misleading representations and engaged in behaviour amounting to unconscionable conduct, following evidence that more than 3100 students never completed a single unit of any of the college’s management or marketing courses, costing taxpayers more than $47 million in student loans.
During the trial the court heard evidence that the owner of the college, Amarjit Singh, transferred $22 million from his business account to his family’s account on one day in 2015, in addition to transferring a $5.7 million Kenthurst property owned by the college to another family member in the same year.
But in 2018 the company successfully appealed, with the Federal Court finding there was insufficient evidence that its conduct amounted to a system of unconscionable conduct beyond the six consumers still currently involved in the matter.
Justice Perram found Unique acted deliberately in remote communities on a number of occasions, including Walgett in October 2014, Wagga Wagga in March 2015 and Bourke in June 2015 but “was ignorant” to the fact it was contravening consumer law.
“One of Unique’s employee witnesses stated in cross-examination that he had not in fact heard of (Australian Consumer Law),” Justice Perram wrote.
The college has been found to have acted unconscionably in connection with goods or services, made false or misleading representations, failed to inform of a termination period, did not give a required document to a consumer and contravened requirements for all unsolicited consumer agreements.
It has previously had its registration cancelled and is no longer operating. The college operators have 28 days to pay the fine.
How water rats are killing toxic cane toads in massive numbers by ripping out their HEARTS with 'surgical-like' precision to avoid being poisoned
Scientists have discovered water rats are learning to kill cane toads without dying from their toxins.
Cane toads have been devastating Australia's ecosystems since they came Down Under from Central America in the 1930s.
But now, water rats are killing the animals by eating certain parts of them that are free from their toxins.
Reproductive biologist Dr Marissa Parrott was working in Western Australia's Kimberly region when she saw the dire effects cane toads had on local wildlife.
Even large crocodiles are found dead with small cane toads inside their stomachs.
Dr Parrott said that while working near a creek in WA's Emma Gorge, she saw more proof of water rats killing off cane toads.
'I found a number of very large dead cane toads, and all of them were lying on their backs with almost surgical type incisions down their chest. Every day I went there, there were up to five new bodies,' she told VICE.
'We found that in all the cane toads, the heart and liver had expertly been removed, and the gallbladder, which contains toxic bile salts, had been removed and placed outside the body.'
Dr Parrott set up infrared cameras and discovered that local water rats were behind the deaths.
She said that within just two years of cane toads moving into the region, water rats had figured out how to disable, kill and eat the toads, despite them having killed a number of predators.
Despite not being able to get a close-up of the killing, Dr Parrott believes the rats most likely sliced opened the toad's chests with their teeth - which is less poisonous than their backs.
She said the rats would then use their paws to take out the toads' organs.
'They didn't eat as many medium-sized toads, but when they did, it was fascinating to note that as well as the heart and liver they had also eaten one or both of the thigh muscles after stripping away the toxic skin,' she said.
'We're not sure if they just wanted a bigger payoff for their efforts in overpowering the toad, or if it was easier to subdue the toads by holding down the legs first. Interestingly, they never attacked the leg muscles on the larger toads.'
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