Call to import 'peaceful pill'

EUTHANASIA campaigner Philip Nitschke has asked federal health authorities to import ''the peaceful pill'' Nembutal for six dying patients who want to use it for sedation.

The head of Exit International has applied through the Therapeutic Goods Administration Special Access Scheme, which is used by doctors to source drugs that are unavailable in Australia for seriously ill patients.

Dr Nitschke has asked the TGA to approve 100 100-milligram tablets for each patient so they can take a safe dose of one tablet nightly for three months. He said he was not trying to aid or abet suicide.

Double-edged sword

There are two sides to distrust between the West and the Islamic world.

''There's an osmosis in war,'' declares the once idealistic army lieutenant Hearn in Norman Mailer's classic novel The Naked and the Dead. ''Call it what you will, but the victors always tend to assume the . . . the, eh, trappings of the loser.''

Sex abuse led to 26 suicides says policeman

AS MANY as 26 Victorians have committed suicide after being abused by two notorious paedophile clergymen, according to information gathered by a senior Victorian detective.

In interviews with a university researcher, Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson of the Ballarat Crimes Investigation Unit has revealed that during his investigations into Father Gerald Risdale and Christian Brother Robert Best - which led to both being convicted - he discovered that up to 24 young men had killed themselves in the years after they were abused by one or both of the men.

Labor's Right slams gay reform

MORE ALP right-wingers, including a factional convener, have spoken out against liberalising the party's stand against gay marriage, as senior Labor figures are trying to contain a potentially distracting fresh outbreak of the debate.

Don Farrell, one of the Right's conveners and a parliamentary secretary, said Labor should stick with its present opposition to same-sex marriage.

This followed New South Wales backbencher John Murphy, from the Right, this week strongly opposing change.

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Law firm offers free advice on sex-abuse claims

PROMINENT human rights lawyer George Newhouse has offered to give free legal advice to alleged victims of sexual abuse at Yeshivah College over whether they can sue for damages.

Mr Newhouse and Shine Lawyers - who have acted for dozens of people in high-profile sex abuse cases against the Anglican Church - have assembled an expert team to work with the alleged victims in the Jewish community.

Mr Newhouse said the legal team was separate from any criminal proceedings that might arise.

Call for clarity over breaches by school chaplains

THE Commonwealth Ombudsman has called on the federal government to clarify what actions breach the ban on school chaplains trying to convert students.

In a report released yesterday, Commonwealth Ombudsman Allan Asher said the federal Education Department must improve its management and oversight of the controversial national school chaplaincy program.

He made eight recommendations including a clarification of what constitutes proselytising, minimum qualifications for chaplains and protocols for complaints.

Slaughter without stunning not an act of faith

Religious freedom has its limits.

'IF SLAUGHTERHOUSES had glass walls,'' Linda McCartney once said, ''the whole world would be vegetarian.''

It was a fine slogan but it somewhat fails the reality test, as anyone who has lived on a farm or been to an Asian market would attest. Nor, indeed, is there much evidence that those who work in abattoirs incline to vegetarianism. As horrible as the business of slaughter may seem to the modern city dweller, humans are more than capable of looking their dinner in the eye.

Outrage grows on ritual killing

THE head of the meat industry has joined animal welfare groups in opposing the religious slaughter of sheep while they are conscious, amid calls to ban the ''unnecessary and unconscionable'' practice in Australia.

At least 15 Australian abattoirs - including four in Victoria - have government approval to slit sheep's throats without stunning them for local and international halal (Muslim) and kosher (Jewish) markets.

A leading Jewish identity told The Sunday Age that about 500 sheep are killed by the kosher method in Victoria each week.

Doctors, church want rights charter extended to unborn

VICTORIA'S charter of human rights should be overhauled to protect the rights of unborn children and the rights of health professionals to object to abortions, according to doctors and the Catholic Church.

Three years after abortion was decriminalised in Victoria, the contentious right-to-life debate reignited last week when several doctors, nurses and Catholic bishops urged a state parliamentary committee to change the human rights charter, which is under review.

The God complexity: a faith war in our schools

IT'S on for just 30 minutes a week and it's taught in fewer than half of all public primary schools in Victoria, but religious education has the power to stir mighty emotions.

Steve Bracks and his education minister Lynne Kosky tasted its power in 2005 and 2006 as they overhauled education laws, and considered changing the rules governing ''special religious instruction'' - religion taught by church volunteers and decried by opponents as indoctrination.

This unleashed a relentless campaign by the religious lobby to defend their patch.

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