Australian Christian Lobby managing director Jim Wallace should have known better than to tweet the following on Anzac Day (please excuse the broken syntax as well as his imputations): "Just hope that as we remember the Australia they fought for - wasn't gay marriage and Islamic." Wallace quickly issued a media release clarifying that he was talking only about "the nature of the Australia" Diggers such as his father fought for, rather than pushing a homophobic or racist line. Phew, here I was thinking Wallace was being insulting. It is easy to understand why some jumped to that conclusion.
Michael Shmith is a senior arts journalist with The Age. His mother's second marriage was to Lord Harewood who, as well as being an opera impresario, is a grandson of George V and a first cousin of the Queen. Shmith has spent a good deal of time in the company of his stepfather and that branch of the family, so his response to the news that the Chaser team had been prevented from providing a running commentary on the royal wedding on ABC2 came as something of a surprise.
The British royal family has underlined Australia's importance to the Commonwealth with the Queen summoning Prime Minister Julia Gillard for a private chat during the royal wedding day. The Australian leader, who makes no secret of her republican beliefs, was called to "an audience" with the Queen in private apartments at Buckingham Palace, the monarch cutting short her time at grandson Prince William's wedding reception.
It took the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher almost a decade to gain preselection for a winnable Conservative constituency in parliament. She made five bids for Tory endorsement before snaring the safe seat of Finchley in north London. Say what you will about Thatcher's agenda - her love of the Chilean tyrant Augusto Pinochet, her attacks on the rights of employees, her policies that spread poverty and unemployment - the woman knew what she believed in and pursued it, even to the point of her own destruction.
A speaker at a childhood conference in Sydney has accused the advertising industry of using the same tricks as sexual predators to sell products to children. Speaking at the Right 2 Childhood conference, social researcher Maggie Hamilton says there is growing evidence that modern media and advertising is having negative mental health impacts on children as young as three. She says medical professionals, parents and teachers are all reporting an increase in problems in young children.
Advertisers would have to publish "impact statements" detailing how their ads could harm youngsters, under a plan being pushed by a children's lobby group. Australian Childhood Foundation chief Joe Tucci said children as young as six were showing inappropriate sexual behaviour, which he blamed on saturation levels of violent and sexually explicit images in advertising, music videos, and computer games. If successful, the plan would be expanded to include those music videos and computer games, as well as magazines and television shows, Dr Tucci said.
Mining giant Rio Tinto has added its weight to calls for Julia Gillard to reassure big polluting industries that her carbon tax plans will not damage Australia's international competitiveness, warning it is unwise to act before China and the US. In an exclusive interview with The Weekend Australian, Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis urged the Gillard government to rethink its carbon pricing policy and timing, saying it threatened the Australian economy when other leading economies appeared to be stalling on climate change action. "The question is, how and when does Australia move in the light of the disappointment of the Copenhagen conference and in light of the fact there are very few signs the big gorillas - the US and China - really are going to be moving," the London-based Mr du Plessis said in Sydney.
Tony Abbott has completed a week of election-style campaigning with a prediction the Gillard government will crumble before completing its term. The Opposition Leader has criss-crossed the nation in the past week, swooping on the advantage given to him by Julia Gillard's absence from the country to further exert pressure on a government he now views as unsustainable. He has sought to squeeze Labor's most sensitive political points, highlighting asylum-seeker unrest, community discontent with the carbon tax and ongoing violence and alcohol abuse in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.
Three detainees accused of attempting gang-rape of a fellow asylum-seeker last week may become the first test of proposed "character" rules. A guard called for help from Australian Federal Police at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre on April 21 after allegedly encountering a partially dressed detainee being held down by three others. The alleged victim had appeared highly distressed, The Weekend Australian has been told. "The AFP can confirm it responded to a request to attend the North West Point Immigration Detention Centre on 21 April 2011," a spokesman said.
Barry O'Farrell was a good opposition leader, maybe too good. A failure to make the mental leap from opposition to government is one possible explanation of how the NSW Premier this week got himself into a tangle over the state of NSW finances. Late last month, O'Farrell sent NSW Treasury boss Michael Schur on leave after a briefing that, O'Farrell claimed, revealed a $4.5 billion "black hole" in public finances. "They have cooked the books like never before and treated the public like fools," O'Farrell said of the former Labor government and -- by extension -- the Treasury. He claimed $4.5bn was the gap between the NSW budget bottom line, as portrayed in the mid-year fiscal review last December, and as revealed to him by Schur.
The South Australian Labor MP on child pornography charges is considering taking his seat in parliament next week as an independent as the ALP prepares to suspend his party membership. The ALP state executive is due to meet on Monday, the day before parliament resumes, to recommend the MP's suspension from the party. A special meeting of the ALP national executive is also being organised for Monday to remove all impediments to the suspension and give the state branch the green light to proceed.
The charge laid against two young men involved in the Australian Defence Force Academy Skype scandal is a relatively new offence created to deal with crimes committed on the internet and social media sites. Daniel McDonald, 19, and Dylan De Blaquiere, 18, were yesterday charged with using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence. Documents tendered to the ACT Magistrates Court allege Mr McDonald -- who is facing an additional charge of committing an act of indecency -- struck up an agreement to have consensual sex with a female cadet.
Independent MP Tony Crook is considering formally joining the Coalition against the Gillard government if the Labor budget fails to contain more than $800 million in support for regional areas in Western Australia. If Mr Crook joins the Coalition it will consolidate Tony Abbott's position in parliament on contentious issues such as the carbon and mining taxes because Labor is in a minority and relies on independent and Greens MPs to pass legislation and stay in power. Elected as a WA Nationals member for the seat of O'Connor at the August election, Mr Crook refused to join the Coalition and has voted with Labor on key issues such as the $1.8 billion flood levy.
As the daughter of European refugees, I'm hard-wired for empathy rather than judgment on the subject of asylum seekers. But even I felt a ripple of indignation over the recent violent protests at Villawood, in which nine buildings were torched. At some level, the attempt to hold the authorities of an enlightened country to ransom smacked of opportunism and bad faith. And I couldn't help questioning the wisdom of letting in people who are so contemptuous of the rule of law and so willing to risk the safety of others.
Quentin Bryce travelled to London to embrace the royal wedding but at home the Queen's representative has been quietly Australianising the office of governor-general. It is understood that Ms Bryce has taken three unpublicised steps in her 2½ years in the job, all small but significant in the evolution of the custom-bound office. She has broken a precedent stretching back to British settlement in 1788 by ending the practice of writing letters to the monarch detailing Australian political and official affairs.
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January 23, 2018
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