NT rights bill splits parties

Mark Metherell - SMH
The Senate has begun debate on the bill to restore the right of territory assemblies to legislate on euthanasia amid conflicting views on just what the debate was really about. Northern Territory senators from rival parties backed the Greens leader Bob Brown's argument that the aim was to reinstate democratic rights of territorians. But opponents attacked the bill as a front to promote voluntary euthanasia. After the initial two hours of debate, four of seven senators who indicated a position supported the bill.

Why does one sexual orientation earn you a greater say?

Andrew Bolt - Herald Sun
I detest homophobia, but are more laws really necessary? And isn’t this pandering to activists from yet another “identity group” divisive - an elevating of one group of citizens over another in the political process: Laws against homophobia will be strengthened and the rights of same same-sex couples to adopt children will be reconsidered if Labor wins next month’s state election. In a pitch for the ‘’pink vote’’, Premier John Brumby has also promised to give the gay community a greater say in shaping government policy…

Legal euthanasia does not increase rate, says Belgian expert

Julie Robotham - SMH
Legalising voluntary euthanasia has little effect on the number of terminally ill patients whose lives are ended by a doctor, but it does reduce the proportion of cases that occur without the person's explicit request, an international expert will tell a forum at NSW Parliament today. Between 1998 and 2007 there was no change in the percentage of patients whose death was brought about by a doctor, the Belgian oncologist Jan Bernheim will tell the meeting, organised by the advocacy group Dying With Dignity NSW and the NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, who will introduce a private member's bill in support of voluntary euthanasia.

Digger hits Army for sex change surgery

Mark Dunn - Herald Sun
The Defence Force is considering paying about $10,000 towards a sex change operation for one of its soldiers. A psychological and medical assessment is being conducted to determine whether Defence money can be used because the male officer has a medically diagnosed gender identification issue. The case follows a policy review ordered by Defence chief Angus Houston after a transgender member launched a complaint with the Human Rights Commission over moves to discharge him.

Hospital use of abortion drug RU486 approved as doctors call for reforms

Janelle Miles - The Courier-Mail
Two Queensland public hospitals are about to begin prescribing the abortion drug RU486 for the first time as doctors renew calls for terminations to be decriminalised. The Therapeutic Goods Administration recently authorised specialists at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital to prescribe RU486 amid claims Queensland abortion laws were a barrier to best patient care. And obstetrician Caroline de Costa - the first Australian doctor permitted to prescribe RU486 in private practice - was recently given approval to use the drug at the Cairns Base Hospital. A Queensland Health spokesman said about 14,000 abortions were performed in the state annually, including 140 - or 1 per cent - in public hospitals. Under Queensland legislation, abortions can only be performed legally if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother's life.

Senator backs NT's battle for right to die

NT News
Labor senator Doug Cameron supports voluntary euthanasia, having seen too many people die unpleasantly from mesothelioma, he says. He will use his conscience vote to support a Bill allowing the NT and the ACT to make voluntary euthanasia legal without fear of a Commonwealth veto. Senator Cameron said he fundamentally supported euthanasia.

Kristina Keneally numbers hit rock bottom

Imre Salusinszky - The Australian
The Keneally government is officially the most unpopular Labor government there has ever been in Australia. Labor's primary support in NSW has sunk to a disastrous 23 per cent of voters, according to the latest Newspoll, which was conducted exclusively for The Australian over the past two months. The only lower figure recorded by Newspoll was the National Party government of Mike Ahern in Queensland, which recorded 22 per cent support in 1989 in the aftermath of the Fitzgerald inquiry into police corruption.

Opposition Leader challenges business to lead push

Patricia Karvelas - The Australian
Tony Abbott has committed the Coalition to pursuing a radical overhaul of the tax system. The overhaul is aimed at ending poverty traps and moving people off welfare and into work as part of a welfare and productivity agenda. The Opposition Leader last night challenged the business community to lead the push for major reform. Delivering the 43rd Alfred Deakin Lecture at the University of Melbourne, Mr Abbott said he was partial to the recommendations in Treasury secretary Ken Henry's taxation review that would allow welfare recipients to earn money without facing brutal cuts to their payments.

Victorian Liberal MPs gagged on preference swaps

Milanda Rout - The Australian
The Victorian Liberals have put a gag order on all state and federal MPs. The Mps have been banned from talking publicly about any preference deals with the Greens at the upcoming state election. Reprising memories of Jeff Kennett's infamous gag order at the 1999 election, which contributed to his downfall, Liberal state president David Kemp yesterday sent an email to members warning them to keep quiet on the controversial preference issue. Increasing numbers of senior Liberal figures, including former prime minister John Howard and Victorian senator Helen Kroger, have publicly expressed concern about the party preferencing the Greens in the inner city.

Social media and mobiles require new response to teen cries for help

Kate Benson - SMH
Suicide is on the rise among teenagers - and many are choosing mobile phones and social networking sites to alert friends and family to their plans, presenting mental health experts with new challenges. Seventeen teenagers killed themselves last year, up from 12 in 2008, according to yesterday's annual report of the NSW Child Death Review Team. Six children called friends using their mobile phones and one wrote a blog, but most teenagers did not know who to contact once they had received such a message, said Megan Mitchell, the NSW commissioner for children and young people. The team had recommended people be educated to ''identify and respond to warning signs, tipping points and imminent risk factors'', in light of the communication mediums used by children to inform peers of their intention to kill themselves, she said.

Policy change will not be made law

Yuko Narushima - SMH
A push to end the detention of asylum seeker children is likely to fail after the government refused to commit its recent policy changes to law. The Greens yesterday proposed laws that would prevent future governments from resuming the practice of holding children and their families in immigration detention centres. While the Human Rights Commissioner, Catherine Branson, commended the attempt, neither Labor nor the Coalition are likely to support it. The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, will instead use his discretion to release certain children and their families.