Premier John Brumby and Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu will be grilled by Christian leaders tonight in the first town hall-style debate of the state election campaign. In the grand final-eve forum the leaders will address members of the Australian Christian Lobby at Parliament House before taking questions on issues including late-term abortion and recent changes to the Equal Opportunity Act. In much the same style as the town hall forums that dominated the recent federal election campaign, the party leaders will not appear together or directly debate each other.
The Christian lobby is seeking assurances that Victoria's major parties won't adopt Greens' policies on euthanasia and same-sex adoption should they need the minor party's support to form government. Premier John Brumby, a mad Magpies supporter, and Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu, a Cats fan, will spend part of AFL Grand Final eve answering questions from the state's Christian lobby at Parliament House. In the leaders' first town hall-style meeting before the November 27 poll, they will answer questions from Christian leaders on Friday night but are not expected to debate each other.
Preparations for the new parliament next week have descended into bitter recriminations amid Labor being forced to govern with a one-seat majority. The fate of the Speaker of the house and of government support remained unresolved last night after the Prime Minister said the Opposition Leader had broken his word about parliamentary reform. Three issues - a carbon tax; euthanasia, which is being championed by the Greens; and overturning the Queensland government's wild rivers legislation, which is being put up by the Coalition - threaten to create early pressure on the minority Labor government. The government's legislative agenda largely comprises housekeeping bills left over from the previous parliament, which Ms Gillard said would not make "the 6pm news bulletins" but would help people's lives over time.
Residents in Tony Windsor's largely conservative electorate have vented their anger at the independent MP supporting a Labor government. Mr Windsor appeared at a community forum in his home town of Tamworth, NSW, last night and vigorously defended his decision to back Julia Gillard over Tony Abbott as prime minister. Farmer John Scott got the forum off to a fiery start by asking Mr Windsor if, having supported a Labor government, he was prepared to accept responsibility for the Prime Minister's choice of cabinet. "How can you have faith in the Gillard government to understand the needs of regional Australia, let alone deliver, when every member of the cabinet are metropolitan based and most of them have a background in trade unions or as political staffers?" Mr Scott said.
This minority government is in danger of falling down a policy rabbit hole. Jujia Gillard, provided she doesn't find a Liberal rat and decides to appoint the long-suffering, second or third-choice Harry Jenkins as Speaker, faces a majority of just one vote in the House of Representatives. It's going to be hard-ball politics and the independent MPs of the "new paradigm" will find themselves confronted with the fact that their vote is going to count on every issue, and they are going to have to be there to support the Labor government they backed into office. While there is a dramatic sense of theatre about every division deciding the fate of the Gillard government and threatening to send Australia back to the polls, it's exaggerated: under the new standing orders, the government is not about to be brought down by an MP trapped in the toilets during a division.
The nation's 4000 clubs have launched a highly organised campaign against Julia Gillard's deal with Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie. The government agreed to mandate smartcard technology in poker machines to dramatically limit gamblers' losses. The clubs are targeting all 150 federal MPs, warning them that the new anti-gambling measures will slash jobs and community support. The MPs are being presented with details of the number of clubs and members in their electorates and the predicted hit to the clubs' bottom line.
Kevin Rudd has started his new job as Foreign Minister with aid to African countries. The Foreign Minister has pledged $140 million in extra assistance towards maternal and child health programs in some of the world's poorest nations. The package will see millions of dollars spent in some of the world's most corrupt countries, where deep concerns exist about aid reaching its intended target. The $140m in new African aid will go to Ethiopia, Tanzania and southern Sudan.
Australia's Anglican Church is merely papering over the cracks of serious internal fractures and is running out of time, the Sydney Archbishop, Peter Jensen said. Dr Jensen said the triennial General Synod (national parliament), which ended in Melbourne yesterday, was a missed opportunity. ''It's a business meeting, but we needed a vision meeting,'' he said. The church needed to bring together visionaries with fresh ideas about how to minister to people, not politicians from the various dioceses.'' He said he had proposed that the synod be replaced with such a meeting and several bishops were interested, but the idea ran out of steam.
Another bid to legalise voluntary euthanasia would be made in the next term of parliament after it was voted down in WA early this morning, Greens MLC Robin Chapple said. Debate in the WA upper house over the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill began on Tuesday and stretched through to 1.30am this morning when it was taken up again yesterday. The bill was introduced by Mr Chapple and both Premier Colin Barnett and Opposition leader Eric Ripper allowed a conscience vote on the issue.
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