Independents ready for hung parliament

If there is a hung parliament three Independent MPs will decide whether Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott becomes prime minister.  The decision will be made in a "lockdown" meeting based on demands that include a ban on banana imports and breaking up the supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths.  Australia's three sitting independent federal MPs, Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, have pledged to meet and discuss which side they would help to form a minority government if the August 21 election is a hung result.  Long-serving Queensland MP and former state Nationals minister, Bob Katter, doesn't think a minority government is likely but he's been holding "balance of power" meetings in his far-north Queensland electorate to find out what his constituents want him to ask for.

People warm to a leader at their level

TONY Abbott casually took to the floor at the people's forum at the Rooty Hill RSL Club last night and won over some undecided folk of Sydney's west.  In a spirited and confident performance at a venue where he once boxed, the Opposition Leader marked himself as a man at ease in the suburbs and a leader who would not only listen, but would solve their problems: from health to congestion, drug abuse to the rising cost of living.   Ninety minutes earlier, Julia Gillard had come to western Sydney's iconic club, armed with a $2.1 billion promise for a rail link between Parramatta and Epping. But she found herself haunted again by the ghost of Kevin Rudd and cynicism over years of the NSW Labor government's broken promises.  Gillard gave an assured, warm and confident performance, but the audience, while being respectful, was not daunted or intimidated by the prime ministerial presence.

'Unrepresentative swill' will still hold upper hand

Whichever side wins the election, they won't control the upper house, writes David Humphries.   It's always a federal election's poor cousin, an afterthought, mostly because a Senate majority doesn't decide the prime ministership.   As the events of 1975 demonstrated, however, the muscle of the Senate - that "unrepresentative swill", as Paul Keating derided it - is every bit as potent as the House of Representatives, and much more a thorn in the side of government.

Hear what the candidates have to say

FIND out what Holt and Flinders hopefuls have to say at a candidates’ forum on Sunday.  Organised by TurningPoint Family Church and Cranbourne Christian Ministers Association and Australian Christian Lobby, the forum will be open to 13 local churches and the public in Cranbourne.  The purpose of the forum is to get to know the candidates in both electorates and to help voters make an informed decision.  For more ACL forums.

Gay zombie porn to screen in Melbourne

BANNED gay horror porn film LA Zombie is slated to screen in Melbourne on August 29 in defiance of the federal censor.  The movie, from American director Bruce LaBruce, was scheduled to appear in the Melbourne International Film Festival, but on July 20 it was refused classification by the Classification Board, meaning it could not legally be screened in Australia.  Despite that, Richard Wolstencroft, director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, yesterday announced his intention to stage a ''public disobedience freedom of speech event'' on August 29.

Danby talks up prospect of gay marriage, then retreats

ALP backbencher Michael Danby was last night retreating from comments in which he suggested that Labor would move towards legalising same-sex marriages in its next term.  Mr Danby, the member for Melbourne Ports, told a local candidates' forum on Tuesday night that he expected ''serious movement'' within the party on the issue of gay marriage.  ''I'm not saying that at this election that I support changing the legislation for gay marriage, but it's coming, and in the next government I will expect there will be serious movement within the Labor Party on that issue, and I know a number of other people apart from myself will be running with it,'' Mr Danby told the forum, attended by Melbourne Ports candidates.  But last night Mr Danby claimed his comments had been misinterpreted after Secular Party candidate Gregory Storer said they showed a shift in Labor policy.

Indonesia launches campaign against web porn

INDONESIA, gripped in recent months by a sex scandal involving local celebrities, will mark the start of Ramadan this week with a campaign against internet pornography.  Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring, a member of the conservative Islamic party, called a news conference on the eve of the month-long period of dusk-to-dawn fasting at which he renewed a promise to act against porn sites.  Quoting a poem, Mr Sembiring called on Muslims to "keep hearts clean in the holy month" and said that he would target websites and media that carried sexual content. Already 200 internet service providers in Indonesia have since last month agreed to block sites that displayed sexual activity and nudity, and "their efforts are extraordinary", Mr Sembiring said.