PM Julia Gillard fires up workplace war

Matthew Franklin and Imre Salusinszky - The Australian
Julia Gillard will fight an attempt by NSW Premier Kristina Keneally to welsh on a deal to create uniform national workplace safety laws.  The Prime Minister insisted that the reforms are central to her productivity agenda.   Ms Gillard said last night she would hold Ms Keneally to account on delivering the changes, insisting her attempts to wriggle out of the deal would hurt workers.   Ms Gillard's passionate support for national occupational health and safety laws came as business groups savaged Ms Keneally's demand for a special deal for unionists working on the Barangaroo development, an urban-renewal project on the western fringe of the Sydney CBD.

'Return power GST to the poor': AGL

Annabel Hepworth  - The Australian
Australia's biggest energy retailer is demanding governments siphon part of the GST windfall from skyrocketing electricity prices into rebates.  In landmark modelling obtained exclusively by The Australian, AGL Energy finds that soaring power prices could lead to a GST windfall of between $400m and $550m a year from NSW and Queensland alone within five years.   The price increases threaten to tip 343,902 households in those states into "fuel poverty", where they are spending about 10 per cent of their disposable income on electricity, according to the new research.

Heated backlash forces Murray inquiry

Matthew Franklin - The Australian
Labor has recoiled from an angry public backlash about plans to cut water use in the Murray-Darling Basin.  The federal government has responded by appointing NSW rural independent Tony Windsor to head an inquiry into its human consequences.

Liberals roll out the gaming to clubs

Andrew Clennell - The Daily Telegraph
Clubs would be given the power to install as many multi-terminal gaming machines - featuring blackjack, roulette and other casino-style games - as they want under a Coalition government.  The State Government accused Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell of trying to set up "mini-casinos" throughout the state after it emerged part of the deal he signed on Sunday with clubs to cut pokie tax included the provision to lift a cap on multi-terminal machines.  In the signed memorandum of understanding, Mr O'Farrell agreed to "remove limitations on installing multiple terminal gaming machines in clubs".

Apple's sex filter patent may end explicit texts

Andrew Colley -  The Australian
Apple's vision of a mini-censorship officer for mobile phones could bring the era of the school sex-text scandal to an end.  The US patent office has granted the company intellectual property rights for a system that would let parents classify messages children received on their mobile phones as "G, PG, R or X, or any other appropriate ratings".    Apple wrote in the patent application that the system would let a parent or guardian select a rating "to filter incoming and outgoing messages for that user".

Nuns establish MacKillop pilgrimage on the streets of Rome

Peter Wilson - The Australian
Thirty-eight Mary MacKillop fans plunged into the streets of Rome last night to launch a pilgrimage set to become a permanent feature.  Led by Sister Mary Cresp, a former head of MacKillop's Josephine order of nuns, the first group set off on a three-hour walk to places where Mary MacKillop stayed or prayed during her own time in Rome from 1873 to 1875.   Fifty-one other nuns are scheduled to lead between 2000 and 5000 people on the same tour in the lead-up to Sunday's canonisation of MacKillop, and future Australian visitors are likely to visit the same sites.

Vatican gala out of place, says abuse victim

Paola Totaro -
It has been a long, lonely journey for Mark Fabbro - a road that plunged his early life into demons and darkness - and has now brought him to Rome to seek respite.  Just 11 years old when he was raped in broad daylight by a priest at a Jesuit school in Melbourne, the Italo-Australian was sent to board at St Ignatius' College in Sydney soon after.  Haunted by an overwhelming sense of shame, he held on to his terrifying secret through a turbulent adolescence and into an angry, uncontrollable youth.

Reform unlikely after abortion verdict

Rick Feneley and Evan Schwarten
The NSW government has no intention of changing its abortion laws following the acquittal yesterday of a young couple in Queensland on charges of procuring an abortion and supplying drugs for the abortion.   A jury in Cairns District Court took less than an hour to find Tegan Simone Leach, 21, and her partner Sergie Brennan not guilty. They were charged after police found empty packets of the abortion drugs RU486 and Misoprostol while searching their home in an unrelated investigation in February last year. Ms Leach gripped her partner's hand as the jury's verdict was read out before tearfully thanking her legal team and hugging family members.

Porn no barrier to preselection

Damien Murphy and Leesha McKenny
The state politician Paul McLeay single-handedly shot his political career in the foot last month after an audit of parliamentary computers found he was a peruser of pornography. Premier Kristina Keneally sacked him as Minister for Ports when his extra-curricular activity became public. McLeay fessed up to being ''humiliated and embarrassed'' after telling the three women in his life of his situation - his wife Cassandra Wilkinson (who works in Keneally's office), Keneally herself and his mother, in that order, and walked the plank. Along with Graham West, David Campbell and Ian Macdonald, and the parliamentary secretary Karyn Paluzzano, McLeay was the fourth government minister to resign since Keneally's reign began last December. With the election looming, other MPs may be rushing for the doors and their superannuation, but not McLeay. Yesterday he tweeted he would stay on: ''my nomination for ALP candidate for Heathcote was received. confirmed. I am unopposed. Now, on with the job.'' Which of course begs the question what atrocity or stupidity is enough to lose Labor preselection in NSW. Fortunately for McLeay, his political breeding insulates him from harm. His father Leo, a NSW Right heavy, was a federal politician for 26 years and is mainly remembered for the $60,000 he trousered in 1990 after suing federal Parliament for letting him ride a hired pushbike. Unlike McLeay the Younger's recent foot injury, McLeay the Elder suffered a broken arm but no damage to his political career.

Call for anti-abortion law to be scrapped

Evan Schwarten and Kym Agius  - AAP
Pro-choice advocates have welcomed the acquittal of a Cairns couple charged over a home abortion and have called on the Queensland government to reform the law.  A Cairns jury today took less than an hour to find Tegan Simone Leach, 21, and her partner Sergie Brennan, 22, not guilty of charges of procuring an abortion and supplying drugs to procure an abortion.

Cairns abortion trial: jury delivers not guilty verdict

Melanie Petrinec - The Cairns Post
A Cairns couple accused of using foreign drugs in a home abortion have been found not guilty in less than an hour after trial which sparked debate over Queensland's 111-year-old abortion legislation.   Barrister Kevin McCreanor urged the eight women and four men charged with deciding the outcome of the landmark case not to convict Tegan Simone Leach, 21, and Sergie Brennan, 22.   Police allegedly found three empty blister packs containing traces of the drugs in a walk-in wardrobe during a search of the couple’s Mount Sheridan home on February 1, last year.

Technology and faith thrill us all

The Daily Telegraph
Consider how much the world has changed since August 5.   In Australia alone, we've gone through an entire election campaign and then an unprecedented post-election campaign. We've had massive finals matches and celebrity scandals.   Globally, more than 24 million people were born while another 10 million died.  But for 33 miners trapped 622m below the earth's surface in Chile's copper-rich Atacama desert, every day since August 5 has been just like the last.

This abortion trial should never be repeated

Peter Michael - Courier-Mail)
It was like a morning after pill. That’s what Tegan said. That’s how they do birth control in Russia.   Except by the time she took them – five tiny pills over 48 hours – she estimated herself to be about five weeks pregnant. “I woke up with a period the next day. And other than that I was fine,’’ she told police brightly, in explanation.  It begs that hoary chestnut: When does life start? When sperm meets egg? When there is a heartbeat? When newborn child emerges from womb and opens eyes and lungs to the world? It does not matter. Not in this case.

Faith in doctors can hurt at death

Terry Sweetman - The Courier-Mail
Any sensible person of a certain age or with an uncertain future would be chewing over a Brisbane surgeon's plea for people to consider their end-of-life options. In an open letter to The Courier-Mail, the surgeon - anonymous because of the peculiar rules that so constipate debate in the medical profession - presented three options for the terminally ill to consider.

ACL congratulates NSW Govt for declaring Easter Sunday a public holiday
The Australian Christian Lobby has today congratulated Premier Kristina Keneally for declaring Easter Sunday a public holiday from 2011.   ACL NSW Director, David Hutt said it was appropriate for the government to recognise the importance of Easter Sunday. “This is a sensib e decision that I know will be welcomed by many people,” Mr Hutt said.

Adopt, abort or keep?

Kaitlyn Sawrey, Michael Atkin, Kate O'Toole, Irene Scott & John Barrington
This may come as a surprise but abortion is technically illegal if you live in Queensland or NSW.    Tegan Leach was 19 when Police charged her with procuring miscarriage and her then 21-year-old boyfriend Sergie Brennan was charged with unlawfully supplying abortion drugs.   Tegan & Sergie denied the charges to a jury in Cairns today, but if you've ever had an unplanned pregnancy - what did you do?

Banned Aussie dying ad to air in NZ

A euthanasia television advertisement banned in Australia for "promoting suicide" is set to screen in New Zealand, in an adults only time slot.  Its script, by Australian-based pro-euthanasia group Exit International, was approved this week by New Zealand's Commercial Approvals Bureau (CAB).

Assisted suicide campaign launched

Doctors and nurses who support assisted suicide for the terminally are launching a campaign to change the law on the right to die.  Healthcare Professionals for Change (HPC), a group of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, aims to challenge the views of bodies such as the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) which oppose such a move.

Abetz unmasks Get Up!
Now the dust has settled on the Federal election the lines are starting to be drawn as to which third party groups supported which side.  And the dust is not settling well on the so-called “independent” activist site, GetUp!.   In the words of its National Director Simon Sheikh, Getup! is: “a five-year-old movement … using the power of social media, defined broadly to include virally spread emails, to win campaigns and work towards a progressive Australia.”

Child advocate booted
Tasmania's outspoken Commissioner for Children, Paul Mason, has been dumped from his job protecting Tasmania's most vulnerable children. Premier David Bartlett announced yesterday that Mr Mason would not be re-appointed when his three-year term expires on October 22.

New ethics body 'has teeth'
Public-sector bosses in Tasmania have no obligation to promptly report suspected misconduct, says the chief executive officer of the new Tasmanian Integrity Commission.  Barbara Etter spoke at length at a public lecture last night about the commission and legislation underpinning it.

Peter Slipper should be subject to same rules as other LNP members, says Hajnal Ban

Emma Chalmers - The Courier-Mail
Peter Slipper should be called to account under the same rules as other members of the Liberal National Party, a dumped former candidate says. Hajnal Ban, who was disendorsed as the LNP's candidate for Wright, suggested the party was not taking disciplinary action against the disgraced MP because of the delicate hung parliament.   "I'd like to see how the party would react if the numbers weren't (tight)," she said yesterday.

West Australian's blasphemy case postponed

Correspondents in Cairo  - AFP
Egyptian police have postponed the court hearing of a group of Shiite Muslims, including a visiting West Australian, charged with insulting and denying tenets of religion, a judicial source said overnight.  The Shi'ites, who also include two Iraqis, were among two dozen men rounded up last week in a Cairo suburb, a security official said, adding that most of them have since been released.

Support for Labor, Premier plummets

Greg Kelton -  The Advertiser
Support for Mike Rann, the man who once was the most popular Premier in the nation, has slumped so far that barely a third of the state's voters support him and most believe he will not lead Labor to the next state election.  Mr Rann's fall to a preferred-Premier rating of 38 per cent - he once was on 84 per cent - is matched by a further drop in support for Labor since the March 20 election.   An Advertiser poll of 512 voters on Wednesday shows Education Minister Jay Weatherill, with 34 per cent, as the voters' choice to replace Mr Rann should the Premier step down before the next election.

Bingers back in their box

Nick Calacouras -
The Territory Government is preparing to ban the sale of two-litre casks of pre-mixed vodka drinks.  The new Smirnoff casks - pre-mixed with cranberry or blood orange juice - have hit the Territory's shelves.   The casks offer 10 standard drinks for $23 - or $2.30 a drink.  The product has been met with anger by medical professionals who believe it will encourage young people to binge drink.

Hawke says fanatics the danger, not religion

Tory Shepherd - The Advertiser
Right-wing "nutters" in the US are as dangerous as Islamic terrorists, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke said yesterday. Mr Hawke was in Adelaide yesterday welcoming the new head of the University of South Australia's International Centre for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding, Dr Salman Sayyid.  Mr Hawke said religion was not a problem but fanatics of all religious persuasions were, and said he hoped the centre, which he has helped found, would be a world-leading institution for creating understanding and banishing ignorance.