Julia Gillard has restated her absolute rejection of gay marriage and hotly disputed opposition claims the Australian Greens have hijacked Labor's political agenda. But her comments come amid division within Labor's powerful Right faction, with Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes yesterday backing gay marriage, putting himself at odds with other key right-wing powerbrokers. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said she could overturn an earlier Labor decision, to back a bill put forward by Greens leader Bob Brown that would remove the ability of ministers to overturn territories' laws.
The perception that Julia Gillard is giving too much to the Greens, that she's ceding her authority to Bob Brown and giving precedence to briefing independent and Greens MPs ahead of her ALP colleagues, is taking hold among her vital constituencies: the public, business and her own parliamentary party. From specific issues to broader concepts and fundamental policy, Labor's pact with the Greens for their support in a minority government is having an increasingly corrosive effect on the Prime Minister's authority and confidence that the government can deliver its own agenda.
Imagine that the federal parliament were today to pass a law that would allow the Prime Minister, on a whim and without reference to anyone else, to instruct the Governor-General to overturn any, or indeed every, piece of legislation the Queensland parliament passed on behalf of the people of that state? Imagine that Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott decided tomorrow that Tasmania, with a population of about half a million, was really too small to be trusted to legislate on the same matters as other states, and that the Prime Minister ought to be able to overturn any of its laws, without mounting an argument, without going to court, just on a fancy.
Over the past year, surrogacy has moved from the fringe of reproductive techniques towards the mainstream. Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman lead a long list of people, celebrity and otherwise, who have used surrogacy to fulfil their wish for a child. Reporting has focused on best-case outcomes: happy couples, happy infants, happy surrogates. Few commentators have explored the moral ambiguities, most of which apply to commercial surrogacy, where a surrogate mother is paid (usually on delivery of the infant to the new parents) to bring a child to birth.
Julia Gillard has been urged to take action against one of the kingmakers who delivered her the leadership as the Left faction struck back against an assault by the Right on the push for gay marriage. Incensed that a delegation of right-wing Labor senators had prevailed on Ms Gillard on Wednesday to withdraw support for a Greens bill to give territory governments more authority, a delegation of five factional conveners from the Left met the Prime Minister late yesterday.
It’s time to get out the body paint and spray on some glitter – Mardi Gras has arrived in Sydney. While the Mardi Gras often conjures images of decadent costumes, exuberant dancing, and general frivolity, it is important to remember that it also commemorates a historic moment when people took to the streets demanding an end to discrimination. In 1978, a group of marchers demanded an end to laws that treated their relationships as criminal. Despite brutal violence and harassment, they rallied together to demand public recognition and equality in terms of their sexual and cultural diversity.
The recent Drum articles by Christian sexual conservative Melinda Tankard Reist are based on appeals to presumed universal truths and values. Melinda is in the business of creating totalising cultural narratives, rather than finding solutions to concrete issues women face. Totalising narratives quite rightly arouse the healthy ire of thinking people, even more so when they are sexually proscriptive. Faced with these attempts to legitimise as universal the limited authority of one particular perspective, a thinking woman has to lodge her protest. So, Melinda, pornify this.
New services provided via the national broadband network could make it harder for the Australian Federal Police to track people downloading and sharing child pornography. The bipartisan Parliamentarians Against Child Abuse and Neglect group was briefed yesterday by the AFP on possible services that could be part of the NBN. The officers told the group that the increase of service providers and different modes available would make it harder for police to monitor suspects.
No, it wasn't a Monty Python sketch. A human sexuality class really did get a live sex show in an auditorium at Chicago's Northwestern University. The topic of the day was bondage, swinging and other fetishes. Then, after the class was officially dismissed, students were told they could stick around for a demonstration of sex toys and the female orgasm. About 100 students - and apparently one of their mothers who was sitting in on the class that day - were in the auditorium when an exhibitionist couple offered to perform.
Some of the NRL's biggest clubs - including reigning premiers St George Illawarra and the Brisbane Broncos - claim they will be dealt a death blow by the Gillard Government's proposed poker machine caps. Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph reveal leagues clubs will lose more than $200 million if the mandatory pre-commitment scheme is enforced. This would strip $25 million from 11 NRL teams, especially the Dragons, the Eels, the Broncos and the Bulldogs. Another $15 million would be stripped from junior clubs. Souths Juniors alone gives $3 million to their up-and-comers, and that would be slashed.
Julia Gillard has a full-blown internal party revolt on her hands. As much as she and her deputy Wayne Swan would like to play it down, conservative Labor MPs have had a gutful of the Green-Left alliance that has dominated Labor policy since the August election. As The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday, three senior MPs - NSW senator Steve Hutchins, South Australian senator Don Farrell and Queensland senator and president of the Senate John Hogg - voiced their deep and valid concerns about the party's direction to Gillard, Swan and Trade Minister Craig Emerson on Wednesday.
Australia is a rich and generous country, but something we have never got right is how we empower Australians with a disability and their carers. The bottom line is we can do better. So it is testament to the power of ideas that even in a frenzied parliamentary climate there is an emerging bipartisanship on reforming disability support services. This week the Productivity Commission released an important draft report as part of its inquiry into support for Australians with disability.
On Tuesday, before the House Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that the Obama administration had not spoken out enough on behalf of religious minorities in the Middle East. “This has not gotten the level of attention and concern that it should,” she said, the first time the administration has acknowledged that shortcoming. I think we need to do much more to stand up for the rights of religious minorities . . . we have to be speaking out more.” In the same breath, she condemned countries using defamation laws to “execute and otherwise oppress religious minorities.”
The State Senate voted 21 to 13 Wednesday in favor of a bill that would require women to wait 72 hours before they could have an abortion and to submit to counseling about why they should not go through with the procedure. The measure goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican who generally opposes abortion rights but has not said if he will sign it. Several states make women wait a day before having an abortion. But abortion rights advocates say the 72-hour wait would be the nation’s longest. The bill’s Republican sponsor says it will better protect women from being pressured into having abortions and inform them of other options.
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