Julia Gillard's promise to install smart chips in every poker machine in the country in return for the support of independent MP Andrew Wilkie has angered Australia's powerful clubs industry. The deal with Mr Wilkie has increased Ms Gillard's chances of forming a government. She agreed to introduce the technology into the country's 200,000 pokies by 2014 and vowed to use constitutional powers to legislate if the state and territory governments resisted.
Birth parents who do not want their children to be adopted by a same-sex couple will be able to make their preference known without fear they will breach anti-discrimination laws by doing so. A bill granting gay and lesbian couples the same rights under adoption law as homosexual individuals and heterosexual couples was passed narrowly by the NSW Legislative Assembly by a vote of 45 to 43 yesterday. It will be considered by the Legislative Council next week, where the vote is expected to be similarly close. Christian adoption agencies, which have lobbied strongly against the bill, welcomed the amendment to allow people involved in each case to freely express their preferences about prospective adoptive parents' faith, ethnicity, family situation and sexuality.
Two missing MPs could have swayed a NSW Lower House decision to support a Bill allowing same-sex couples to adopt children. Yesterday's decision came down to two votes, with 45 members voting for the Bill and 43 voting against it after two days of vigorous debate. Premier Kristina Keneally and Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell were united in their view that same-sex couples be allowed to adopt, but their decision had split their parties. Labor party sources said Gaming and Racing Minister Kevin Green, who was against the Bill, was in hospital, while Riverstone Labor MP John Aquilina, who was also opposed, was overseas. Environment Minister Frank Sartor made an amendment to the Bill, introduced by independent MP Clover Moore yesterday, which allows adoption agencies to consider the views of the biological parents to have their child raised by a same-sex couple.
Labor has moved within two seats of retaining government after winning Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie's allegiance in exchange for extra health funding and poker machine reform. Julia Gillard has sought to win over the three remaining uncommitted independent MPs by attacking Tony Abbott as dishonest and unfit for office after Treasury analysis found a shortfall of up to $10.6 billion in net savings the Coalition had claimed to have made during the election campaign. Seeking to build momentum in the race for government, the Prime Minister also attacked the Opposition Leader's sense of probity after it emerged that he tried to win Mr Wilkie's vote by offering him $1bn to rebuild the Royal Hobart Hospital, 10 times what Labor offered upfront as part of a plan to upgrade the hospital.
Increasing numbers of single women over 45 are turning up at homeless shelters, unable to meet the cost of rising rents. Women make up 44 per cent of the nation's 105,000 homeless people, and many of them are mothers with young children. But the emerging problem for older single women has gained the attention of the Prime Minister's Council on Homelessness, which said yesterday it was a huge problem. "This is a large cohort, mostly of older women who haven't been able to accumulate assets over their lifetime because they've been in and out of the workforce as carers and for other reasons.
Julia Gillard's warm embrace of the Greens in Tuesday's historic Canberra pact has rattled and angered Labor powerbrokers in the Prime Minister's home state as they prepare a hostile defence of marginal inner-Melbourne seats. On Tuesday Ms Gillard struck a deal promising, among other things, parliamentary reform and greater access to ministers and the public service in return for a Greens' support for supply bills and confidence motions. But the media images of a smiling Prime Minister and Greens leader Bob Brown consummating a political marriage upset Labor powerbrokers intent on beating up on Green candidates ahead of the November state election.
Mervina Henry is the shy face of change in Queensland's remote indigenous communities, where alcohol consumption has been curtailed and children are staying in school. Five years after alcohol restrictions were imposed on the state's 19 communities, and two years after Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson won government and indigenous support for a trial of a welfare-linked school attendance scheme, the benefits are becoming manifest. Hospitals and police report that assaults and domestic violence have decreased markedly, and more children are going to school across north Queensland. In the large community of Aurukun on western Cape York, school attendances increased 10 per cent last year, and almost as much again this year.
Was it a good or bad election for the nation's million or so gays and lesbians? The start could hardly have been worse. Tony Abbott felt threatened by us, a Family First candidate linked gay marriage to child abuse, and Penny Wong sounded weak in defending Labor's policy against marriage equality. Things started to look up when Greens' vocal 'equal love' campaign was rewarded with a record vote. When Andrew Wilkie tabled a conscience vote on marriage as a priority the picture looked even better. The Labor-Greens agreement now leaves gays waiting hopefully at the altar. Gay marriage may be close to the heart of Adam Bandt – who has promised to introduce a private members' bill on the matter – as it is to Bob Brown and several Labor MPs.
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February 19, 2019
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