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International News Archive
January 10 - January 16, 2000


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This page contains news for the period Monday, January 10, 2000 through Sunday, January 16, 2000.





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Friday, January 14, 2000

Unemployed singles in Australia live below poverty level

A story published today by AEST reports that unemployment benefits for single people under 21 were 33 per cent short of the official poverty line, the Australian Council of Social Service said today.

And benefits for those over 21 were not much better at 21 per cent below the Henderson poverty line, it said.

ACOSS deputy president Gordon Gregory said new research by ACOSS revealed one million Australians were living on unemployment benefits of just $163 a week.

"They have just $23 a day to eat, travel, wash, socialize and meet the extra costs associated with job searching," Mr Gregory said in a statement.

"It is time for the government to show its credentials on the idea of a social coalition. Only the government can fix the fact that social security payments for single unemployed Australians are far below the official poverty line."


Wednesday, January 12, 2000

Australian government to focus on family policy and personal responsibility this year

A story published today in the Australian reports that Prime Minister John Howard has decided to place social policy at the heart of his second-term agenda.

The Australian leader is putting new emphasis on "bedrock institutions" such as the family and old values like personal responsibility.

According to the story, as part of its overview of social policy, the Government has completed a review of family policy and is going to release its revised strategy early this year.

"As we approach the dawn of a new century, we are looking for solutions that are less driven by ideology and more by the straightforward test of what works," Howard wrote in The Australian today.

"Few Australians still believe that the answer to pressing social problems lies solely in the hands of government. Even fewer believe that simply spending more taxpayers' money is the answer," he said.

"That is why the Government has fostered the notion of social coalition."

Howard said he had "remained true to a modern conservative approach to social policy that supports bedrock social institutions such as the family and promotes enduring values such as personal responsibility, a fair go and the promotion of individual potential".

Such a social coalition "is relevant and progressive, providing real incentives for people to maintain strong families and communities and it embraces prevention as much as cure".

Family and Community Services Minister Jocelyn Newman has taken the Howard credo to heart in the new family policy, giving prevention of family breakdown a priority.

"It is a national family strategy involving federal and state governments aimed at the prevention of problems with families and early intervention when problems begin to show up," she told The Australian.

"There was a time when research was being produced which said children didn't suffer from divorce," she said.

"I think that is now regarded as being pretty passe and may have been self-serving.

"Anything that can prevent marriages foundering is important. I refuse to accept it is inevitable that we have the break-up rates we do now."


Tuesday, January 11, 2000

Egypt debates changing lopsided divorce law

A story published today by Reuters reports that millions of Egyptian women may find divorce easier if parliament passes proposed legal changes due to be debated this month.

Under current law an Egyptian man can get a divorce simply by filing a paper with the marriage registrar. He does not need to inform his wife. Women seeking divorce face years in court.

New proposals scheduled to come before parliament later this month would give new family courts the power to grant women a divorce within months if they waive alimony rights and return their dowry under an Islamic precept called 'khula'.

The courts would review requests by either party to prevent the other from travelling abroad. At present husbands can prevent their wives from obtaining a passport.

The law would also recognize divorce in the rising practice of unofficial marriages between young people who cannot afford today's crushing costs of engagement and marriage.

The story says that liberals are protesting that the proposed changes are too tame. Conservatives argue they will erode the family.

Government statistics put the number of divorce cases filed at 1.5 million a year in a population of about 64 million. Currently seven million people are seeking legal separation.

Under the current system, any divorce case would entail seven or eight cases looked at by seven or eight courts and each case would be delayed by the other. A women would spend up to 10 years without a conclusive result.'

But the bill, which has provoked widespread debate, has angered conservatives and Islamist writers who say it grants individual freedoms at the risk of disintegrating the family.

Some civil rights groups express reservations about the rights a woman seeking a divorce may have to waive.

"How can any woman of limited means give back her wedding dowry? She will have to give her flat back if it is not registered in her name,'' says Magda Adly of the Nadim Centre, which provides free legal and psychological help to women.

Egypt has no women judges, though the government has recently talked of appointing them, and Adly said male judges in family courts will be prejudiced against women.

Rights activists say the law is the most the government feels able to grant women in Egypt's current political climate.

Opposition from the religious establishment scuppered previous plans to let couples write into marriage contracts divorce rights for women if the husband took a second wife.


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