Qld, NSW voters turn on Labor

LABOR could lose enough seats in NSW and Queensland alone to be turned out of office or left relying on independent MPs.  The Coalition has raced far ahead in those states since the election campaign began. With a strong "state of origin" factor at work, Kevin Rudd's home state of Queensland has lurched towards the Coalition since he was removed, Tony Abbott's home state of NSW has boosted the Coalition ahead of Labor for the first time since the last election and Julia Gillard's two home states -- South Australia and Victoria -- have lifted Labor back to the highs of the Rudd government.

Pope envoy quits to 'slow down'

FORMER deputy prime minster Tim Fischer will quit as Australia's ambassador to the Holy See in Rome after his three-year term.  Visiting Penola, the South Australian town where soon-to-be saint Mary MacKillop taught from the 1860s, Mr Fischer said he would not seek an extension to the job given to him by Kevin Rudd in 2008.  "I want to return home and to my family farm and slow down," said Mr Fischer, who was deputy prime minister in the Howard government from 1996 to 1999.

Abbott to keep oldies in workforce

TONY Abbott will today announce plans to keep older Australians employed by paying employers up to $3250 to hire workers more than 50 years old.  The policy is targeted partly at 60,000 Australians aged over 55 who, despite wanting to work, have given up looking and count themselves as unemployed because employers consider them too old to hire.   The new seniors employment incentive payment -- worth $250 a week to an employer -- would be paid as a lump sum after six months of continuous employment of the eligible worker.

Henson hysteria claim

A TEACHERS' group has defended the right of artist Bill Henson to discuss and display his work in schools.  The photographer's pictures of naked children were not pornographic and the reaction to his work was hysterical, Art Education Victoria executive officer Marian Strong said on Tuesday. "I thought the hysteria was an indication that too many people in our society have not been able to enjoy a good art education," she told the Herald Sun.

Tobacco ads aimed at plain packaging

THE tobacco industry is readying a gloves-off advertising campaign aimed at overturning legislation that insists cigarettes be sold only in plain packaging after next July.  In a move reminiscent of the mining industry's offensive against the resource tax, the ads will run from later this week via television, radio, newspapers and online. They will attempt to persuade people that the world-first Australian laws will not prevent smoking but will instead hamper small businesses and cost jobs.

Research shows no big swing but local fights

LIBERAL PARTY polling is showing an erratic pattern of voter sentiment across key marginal seats, confirming theories that this election will be a series of individual battles, rather than a uniform national swing towards one party.   The Liberals, like Labor, are tracking groups of about 100 voters in each of about 16 seats across the country, gauging their views regularly and building up a representative sample size as the campaign wears on.

Homelessness has a female face

If you were to picture the face of a typical homeless person, whom would you conjure? A teenager in a hoodie? An old man with a brown paper bag? Maybe a single mother with two kids in tow? All reasonable guesses, but you'd be better off picturing your grandmother.   Workers in the sector are increasingly seeing that the face of homelessness is older and female. Older women are invisible – on the streets, parks and public spaces they keep a low profile to avoid both the law and lawlessness.

Policy on 'national obscenity' of homelessness a rare triumph

Rudd's strategy must be continued regardless of who wins the election.   It is a pity that so far the federal election campaign has failed to focus on homelessness, one of the most serious problems facing our nation. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was a complex man and may well have been unelectable, but when it comes to homelessness, he did leave Australia with at least one great political achievement, and through it, Julia Gillard has inherited a social policy triumph.