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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

It was a slow-news day yesterday in Australia with small comfort for newshounds in that the Vatican made some more noises about whether prophylactics could be used to combat sexually-transmitted diseases and North Korea lobbed a few live shells onto a small island located about 100km west of South Korea's capital city, Seoul.

On the home front, some of my friends made appreciative noises about the New South Wales Department of Education and its decision to run ethics classes for school students in lieu of religious instruction. The battle will continue in the media today as journalists anticipate that the state government will likely lose an election coming up soon. The Opposition conservative party says that it will not support the classes if it wins in March, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
''While the NSW Liberals and Nationals understand the importance of ethics we do not believe it should be positioned as an alternative to special religious education,'' the opposition education spokesman, Adrian Piccoli, said.
''We don't think that students should have to choose between special religious education … and ethics classes.''
A jaundiced eye might read this statement and think that the conservative Liberal Party sees ethics classes as the thin edge of another wedge designed to separate the state's unsuspecting residents from an active relationship with the God of the Christian scriptures. It's not a stretch. There is no doubt that the Libs have been moving to the right in recent years, with Labor following dutifully behind.

One Queensland resident and prominent blogger-in-residence at the Herald's stablemate the Brisbane Times called politicians like Piccoli "mouthbreathing fuckwits" in a public space (Facebook, in case you're even vaguely interested in this rather tawdry public spat, even if - as seems likely - it will inflate and so become a major NSW election issue). The fellow obviously belongs to the camp of cold, intellectual, inner-city elites which is responsible for Australia's cataclysmic (for the Libs) drift to the Dark Side as evidenced by the success of the Greens in the September federal elections. In Victoria, where residents go to the polls in less than a week, the Libs made their desires known by pulling the carpet out from underneath the Greens through the most efficient mechanism at their disposal: they have given their voting "preferences" to Labor.

The Greens achieved an historic result in the federal election - one Greens MP is now sitting in the Lower House - due to Liberal preferences going to the Greens instead of Labor. The electoral system used in most Australian constituencies is designed to give one party majority control over the lower house of whichever parliament is being contested, and so votes that are given to a losing party are subsequently "given" to an alternative party during vote counting "in preference" to any other party. Parties announce where their preferences will go before polling takes place. Tasmania is the only constituency in Australia that does not use this system, and there power is currently shared by a coalition of Labor and the Greens. The Greens originated in Tasmania, a large island located off the south-east coast of the continent.

Pic credit: Martin Schutt

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