Two million Australians are living in poverty, with the number of "working poor" growing rapidly, research has found. A Roy Morgan report of 669 people commissioned by the Salvation Army indicates the working poor are finding it harder to make ends meet, with the rising cost of living and a lack of affordable housing causing financial stress for low-income families. About half of the country's low-income households report cash-flow problems, and more than a quarter need to increase credit card debt or borrow money from friends and family to stay afloat.
Irreverent Australian cheers echoed around St Peter's Square as the Pope recognised the battling nun Mary MacKillop as Australia's first saint. More than 8000 Australian pilgrims yelled and applauded and many wept as the Pope bestowed the new name "Saint Mary of the Cross" on the Melbourne-born teacher and founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. A religious journey that began when 24-year-old MacKillop opened a school for the poor in a converted stable in Penola, South Australia, in 1866 reached its climax with the bestowal of the church's greatest honour in an outdoor mass for 50,000 people under a glorious clear sky in the heart of the Vatican.
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, believes in miracles, and he says most of us should. Belief in supernatural intervention necessarily follows from being Christian, he says. Speaking to Channel 10 from Rome, where he is leading the parliamentary delegation for Mary MacKillop's canonisation, the former prime minister said he would not say whether he believed in the miracles that have qualified her for sainthood. But he said if he was asked that if as a Christian believer he accepted the ''proposition of the supernatural and supernatural intervention,'' the answer would be ''well, of course''. ''One follows from the other,'' he said. ''I think that would be the same applied to any person of the Christian faith, whatever their denomination or creed.''
Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks claims its funding has been blocked and that it is the victim of financial warfare by the US government. The Guardian reported that Moneybookers, a British-registered internet payment company, reportedly closed WikiLeak’s account on August 13. It claims the organisation had been put on a US government watchlist and an official Australian blacklist.
Julia Gillard has warned that withdrawing troops from Afghanistan prematurely could re-establish the region as a safe haven for terrorists. The warning came as parliament prepares for a historic debate on the deployment. In her first major address to parliament on foreign policy and Afghanistan, the Prime Minister will outline Australia's reasons for staying the course tomorrow, with ministers and MPs having their say throughout the week. However, while the parliamentary debate is the product of a deal struck by Labor and the Greens in order to form government, Ms Gillard signalled she would not embrace the Greens' push to withdraw from the Afghan conflict.
Liberal MPs have backed a push by the Greens and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to examine the plight of up to 700 children in immigration detention. Mr Bowen is believed to be seriously considering a plan to release asylum-seekers into the community as the government grapples with severe over-crowding in detention facilities. While Labor vowed before the 2007 election to release children from detention, 742 children are currently held in detention, including 382 unaccompanied minors, with 281 on Christmas Island and 461 on the mainland. While some are being held in hotels rather than detention centres, claims have emerged some were not attending school or allowed to mix with the general community.
The government has co-opted almost 40 union leaders, business, mining and industry executives, as well as environment groups and charitable organisations, to advise it on climate change policy. The full list, published yesterday, underscores the government's strategy of spreading as far as possible ownership of the policy to put a price on carbon, which is now likely to be decided late next year. While the policy will be devised by the parliamentary Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, comprising Labor, the Greens and independents, the government will take advice from two roundtables.
Sri Lanka's security supremo has called on Canberra to get tough with asylum-seekers amid claims most return home within a year. The call by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa came as terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna said 70 per cent of Tamils granted asylum in Australia and Canada had returned to Sri Lanka for a visit. Mr Rajapaksa said the navy and police, now with the command of the seas around the island, had stopped the flow of boats from Sri Lanka's shores. "We have not recently had a single case of people going from here in boats to seek asylum," he said. Now, instead, people travel to third countries by air and set off from there, he told The Australian.
When Kathy Hill's partner went back to prison, she was determined not to slip into the homelessness she endured as a younger woman. With two young sons to look after, Ms Hill found a two-bedroom unit to rent in Labrador on Queensland's Gold Coast. She was up front with the owners about her situation, but "the lovely couple", as she put it, gave her the place nevertheless. But being in the private rental market is setting her back $300 a week and soon the baby bonus will stop coming in for five-month-old Zacary. When it does, Ms Hill, Zacary and 17-month-old Nike will have $150 a week left from her single parenting payment, rent assistance and family tax benefit entitlements.
Kevin Rudd launched a vigorous defence of the Catholic Church's response to child abuse last night. And Mr Rudd said the canonisation of Mary MacKillop should prompt Australians to a fairer appreciation of the church's contribution to their nation's history. Addressing a press conference after an audience with the Pope, the Foreign Minister said while many people criticised the church it was time to more openly acknowledge its positive contributions. Asked about the church's response to clergy abusing children he said it had taken action and "I would like to acknowledge the enormous work which the church has done and other Christian churches in dealing with this blight on all of human kind".
The doctor who was instrumental in introducing the abortion pill to Australia has broken ranks with her colleagues. She warns that its use has effectively been decriminalised in the hold-out state of Queensland. Obstetrician Caroline de Costa said yesterday she had independent legal advice that the acquittal of a Cairns couple last week on abortion-related criminal charges had set a precedent that effectively decriminalised the use of RU486 by doctors. Her assertion is based on reviews by a retired judge and a senior barrister of the jury finding that cleared 21-year-old Tegan Leach and her boyfriend of procuring a drug-induced abortion for the young woman.
The East Melbourne abortion clinic where a security guard was murdered nine years ago has called for the Victorian government to create exclusion zones around all such clinics to prevent protesters from harassing patients and staff. A psychologist who works at the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne, Dr Susie Allanson, said that since abortion was decriminalised in 2008, protesters from The Helpers of God's Precious Infants had continued to hound people as they entered and left her workplace on Wellington Parade. She said clinic staff had called the police and Melbourne City Council almost daily to respond to complaints about the protesters, who thrust pamphlets at patients while telling them not to kill their babies.
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February 15, 2019
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