Fair and Responsible Surrogacy Reform Passes First Hurdle

Tasmanian Government Media Release

Legislation to allow altruistic surrogacy today was today passed by the Tasmanian House of Assembly, under the guidance of the Attorney-General, David Bartlett. The Surrogacy Bill 2011 removes discrimination, and helps many Tasmanians realise the dream of starting their own family. The legislation allows all people, regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation, to enter a formal surrogacy arrangement. In passing the Bill, the Labor Party and the Greens ultimately rejected a number of proposed amendments from the Liberal Party. “The Government listened closely to the proposed amendments, and carefully considered their consequences,” Mr Bartlett said.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell short of upper house majority

The Australian

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has declared the coalition's upper house election tally of 11 seats - out of a possible 21 - an "incredible result". But it still leaves him short of a majority, despite his thumping win at the March 26 poll. Only half the 42 upper house seats are up for grabs at each election, under the system of eight-year terms, which limited the O'Farrell landslide in the Legislative Council. The coalition now has 19 seats in the Legislative Council, Labor 14, the Greens five, and Christian Democrats and Shooters and Fishers Party two each.

Performing arts reveal naked ambition

The Australian

Nudity is back in fashion for the nation's major performing arts companies, judging by three new shows that opened in Melbourne in the past week. Melbourne Theatre Company's In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play, with Jacqueline McKenzie, opened on Monday featuring, as it did during its Sydney season, masturbation and full male nudity. In director Simon Stone's interpretation of Brecht's Baal at Malthouse Theatre, all the women are naked, as are two men. The play includes graphic simulated sex. Even the nation's venerable opera company, Opera Australia, is in on the act. Three non-singing actresses in its new La Boheme, which opened on Tuesday at the Arts Centre, portray topless prostitutes lounging and gyrating at the Cafe Momus.

Ethnic federation calls on PM to bolster multicultural policy

The Australian

The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia has warned the Gillard government it must bolster its new multicultural policy, calling for the National Audit Office to monitor the policy as well as mandatory cultural awareness training programs in all service sectors. In a submission to the government's population strategy development, the federation has called for roles to be created in all sectors for "multicultural officers, navigators or mentors". And it wants to change the focus in education for new migrants to "rights", arguing the current focus is just on responsibilities. The federation says new measures are needed to "ensure that migrants and their descendants are not seen as scapegoats and that their ongoing contribution to Australia is recognised and supported".

Why I won't talk about abortion, euthanasia: Newman

Brisbane Times

LNP leader Campbell Newman has declined to reveal his stance on abortion and euthanasia, describing the divisive social issues as a distraction. The alternative premier seemed genuinely surprised when brisbanetimes.com.au asked for his position on the issues, both topics of debate in state politics last year. "Why are you asking me about that? I have a lot more to think about than that," Mr Newman said.

A third of drinkers want to get drunk: survey finds

The Australian

More than four million Australians, one-third of all drinkers, say they consume alcohol with the intention of getting drunk. For younger people the figure is even higher, with 61 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds admitting they drink for the purpose of getting drunk, a new survey shows. The Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation annual alcohol poll, Community Attitudes and Behaviours, also reveals eight in 10 people believe Australians have a problem with excess drinking, but at the same time 70 per cent say they are comfortable with their own levels of consumption.

Watchdog to probe treatment of asylum-seekers

The Australian

Suicide prevention services in immigration detention centres and the use of force during the Christmas Island riots will be the focus of two new audits flagged by the government watchdog. Commonwealth Ombudsman Allan Asher yesterday announced he would commence an investigation into the Australian Federal Police and immigration service provider Serco over their decision to fire teargas and bean-bag bullets at about 250 asylum-seekers during a week of violent protests at the Christmas Island detention centre last month. Speaking to the University of Melbourne's Law School, Mr Asher revealed he was considering an investigation into the increasing rates of self-harm and suicide in detention centres.

Israel ban move opens rift in unions

The Australian

The push for a boycott of Israel has opened up divisions in the labour movement. One of the country's most powerful union figures has distanced himself from more than 20 ALP-affiliated unions who support banning trade and cultural links with the Jewish state. Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said yesterday the position of the anti-Israel unions -- which include the Queensland branch of the CFMEU and the Sydney branch of the MUA -- was divisive, at a time when unity was required.

Larissa Behrendt repents for Twitter slur on black leader Bess Price

The Australian

Larissa Behrendt was appointed to head the Gillard government's review of indigenous higher education on the same day it was revealed she used her Twitter account to describe watching bestiality on television as "less offensive" than Aboriginal leader Bess Price. The high-profile indigenous lawyer was yesterday forced into a humiliating apology to Ms Price, an Aboriginal woman who supports the federal intervention in Northern Territory communities, after indigenous leaders expressed outrage at the comment. After watching Ms Price appear on the ABC's Q&A program on Monday night, Professor Behrendt tweeted: "I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I'm sure it was less offensive than Bess Price."

Andrew Wilkie accused of ordering teen cadets to salute Hitler


The man who holds the balance of power in Federal Parliament has been accused of ordering teenage army cadets to salute the 50th anniversary of Hitler's rise to power in Nazi Germany. Maverick independent MP Andrew Wilkie last night admitted involvement in "bastardisation" at Duntroon Military College in 1983. As a senior cadet at Duntroon that year Wilkie was one of a group that allegedly ordered junior cadets to stand to attention and salute to commemorate Hitler becoming Germany's Chancellor on January 30, 1933.

Key player in pokies row away on jungle trek - and guess who's a sponsor?

The Age

In this week's vitriolic debate over poker machine reforms, which has sparked claims of death threats and smear campaigns, one key voice is missing. Rob Oakeshott, the independent MP whose vote on the issue that could topple the Gillard government will be crucial, is trekking in the Malaysian jungle. The trip is part-sponsored by Clubs Australia, one of the main lobby groups behind a $20 million campaign against pokies reform. The sponsorship money is going to 12 students on a trek commemorating the infamous Sandakan death march in World War II.

Big Gaming is pushing all the wrong buttons

The Punch

Yesterday in The Punch, David Penberthy ridiculed the gambling industry’s claims that pokie-reform was un-Australian. But the $20m campaign by Australian Hotels Association and Clubs Australia campaign about the so-called “licence to punt” is more than just shallow and bankrupt politicking – it’s plainly misleading. There is NO proposal to have a licence to punt and those concerned about the damage poker machines do are not calling for a licence to punt. The pre-commitment scheme currently under consideration applies only to poker machines (not punting more generally) and at its simplest is a basic consumer protection tool which will allow gamblers to pre-set a limit to how much they will spend. In fact, there are so many wrong or misleading things in these AHA/Clubs Australia adverts that it is hard to know where to begin.