An Australian news roundup

Just a few items that I personally found interesting:

Leisel evolves into a lovely mermaid: "It's a face her mother hardly recognises: Leisel Jones, rosy-cheeked with golden, braided hair, staring out from the cover of a glamour magazine. It marks the 20-year-old Queensland swimmer's transition from precocious talent to confident world beater. "I went and bought it yesterday and showed Mum," the world's dominant female breaststroker said of the magazine. "Mum thought I looked like Paris Hilton. I would like to look like Paris but I would not want to be like her. While Hilton's never been accused of lacking self-esteem, Jones revealed this month that she battled personal demons. After bursting on to the scene at 15 with a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, she failed to fulfil her expectations and grew to hate herself. But that's finished. About three months before she revealed her battle with low self-esteem, she stripped to a G-string and some electric blue orchids for the February-March edition of Aura magazine. "It was a little bit daunting at first. I've never done anything like that before but I really enjoyed it," she said."

Flag burning kits to be sold: A socialist youth organisation wants to sell hundreds of flag burning kits to university students next week .. to highlight anger at the Federal Government. Resistance says the kits contain an Australian flag, a lighter, a fire lighting cube and Resistance material. They'll be sold during university orientation week for five dollars. But National President of the RSL, Major General Bill Crews finds the plan highly offensive. He says the Australian flag shouldn't be a vehicle for protest and burning it should be a criminal offence. [The libertarian view is that they are entitled to burn it if they own it]

Victorian smokers hit: "Smokers have just 11 days before being banned from puffing away at train stations. From March 1, smoking will be banned in the sheltered areas of bus and tram stops as well as railway stations. Public transport ticket inspectors will have the power to fine offending commuters. The new laws, passed by State Parliament last year, will also clamp down on so-called buzz marketing and non-branded tobacco advertising. Smoking, and the sale of cigarettes, will be banned at underage music and dance events. The new bans will extend to all enclosed workplaces, with the exception of licensed premises. Drinkers can continue to smoke with their beer until July next year. Other workplace exclusions include sole-operated businesses not frequented by visitors, inside vehicles, prison cells and exercise yards, immigration detention centres and Crown's high-roller rooms."

Abortion Bill celebration attacked: "Fallout from this week's heated showdown over abortion continued yesterday after supporters of the new law were pictured celebrating their victory. Victorian Liberal MP Chris Pearce criticised a group of female MPs and senators for sipping champagne soon after Parliament paved the way for RU486's use in Australia. Senators Lyn Allison, Judith Troeth and Fiona Nash, and Labor MPs Kelly Hoare and Julia Gillard were among those drinking to their success after the conscience vote. Mr Pearce, who backed the Bill, said it was a tasteless gesture. "Pictures of the women sipping champagne was outrageous and over the top," he said yesterday. "Members and senators had to dig very deep to make decisions on this. That kind of celebratory behaviour is very wrong." With many on both sides of the debate agreeing there are too many abortions in Australia, the Howard Government is to consider a $60 million plan to boost counselling for women with unplanned pregnancies. Medicare-funded counselling and a 24-hour phone hotline are among initiatives to be examined. But Ms Gillard, who said no offence was intended by the champagne, said counselling should not be restricted to abortion".


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