Labor on a steady path to same-sex weddings

Phillip Coorey - SMH
At the hideously-confected affair that masqueraded as the 2009 ALP national conference, one rare area of real contention was gay marriage. The control blanket thrown over the conference resulted in not a single vote being taken on the floor but it failed to stop what was a feisty blue behind closed doors. The Left emerged from that blue with an incremental but important victory. It went largely unnoticed at the time but kept alive the hopes of those who advocated same-sex marriage. It also demonstrated that the push for gay marriage inside Labor was well advanced before the Greens entered the fray with their parliamentary motion last week. Before the 2009 conference, Labor's policy supported state-legislated civil unions so long as they did not ''mimic marriage or undermine existing laws that define marriage as being between a man and a woman''.

Childless couples face jail as part of international baby ban

Richard Noone - The Daily Telegraph
Childless couples face two years in jail or a hefty fine if they break new laws banning them from going overseas to use a surrogate mother. In a move that has outraged would-be parents - whose only option left for starting a family is to travel to countries like India or the US to pay a surrogate mother - the NSW Government has extended the ban on commercial surrogacy to arrangements made overseas. NSW residents who go overseas to countries where commercial surrogacy is a legal and thriving industry face up to two years in jail, a $110,000 fine or both on their return. The change is designed to deter people from dodging the local prohibition and to prevent the exploitation of poor foreign women.

Ethics right, refusal wrong for state schools

Sean Nicholls - SMH
Parents will have the right to ethics classes as an alternative to scripture in their child's school even if the principal and the majority of the school community opposes them. The state cabinet is expected to approve the introduction of ethics classes to primary schools today after a successful trial this year. They will begin as early as term one next year. While the classes will be voluntary for schools, the Herald has confirmed that parents who want their children to attend the classes will be able to appeal to the Education Department if the principal opposes them. As long as the St James Ethics Centre, which will run the classes, is able to provide volunteers and there is a reasonable number of children to attend them, the department will ensure they are offered.

Labor's support takes a beating ahead of this week's state election

Stephen McMahon - Herald Sun
Labor's core support base is evaporating just five days out from the election, with Ted Baillieu gaining ground in the latest polls. A private Galaxy poll - seen exclusively by the Herald Sun - shows Premier John Brumby will cling onto power but only with Greens preferences. The poll shows a collapse in Labor's primary vote, putting at least 18 government-held seats in jeopardy. On a two-party preferred basis Labor is leading 51-49 but the poll shows the Opposition Leader has not only secured his own supporter base but is eating into Labor's support in key outer suburbs and regional centres.

Rights for unborn babies

Damien Brown - The Mercury
Giving an unborn baby legal rights to protect it from alcohol and drug abuse by its mother has been touted as a solution to address a major killer of Tasmanian children. Released exclusively to the Mercury, a new report commissioned by the Tasmanian Greens has examined the link between substance abuse, tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use among pregnant women and poor foetal outcomes that affect the wider community. Greens health spokesman Paul O'Halloran, who commissioned the paper through the Parliamentary Internship Scheme, said Tasmania had the highest rates of women smoking during pregnancy. He said statistics for alcohol and illicit drugs were more limited, but known rates remained high.

Julia Gillard's carbon sweetener for farms

Graham Lloyd and Samantha Maiden - The Australian
Under government plans to test-run a carbon market for the sector, farmers will be able to cash in on measures to reduce carbon pollution. These will include tree planting and reducing fertiliser use. Climate Change Minister Greg Combet will today issue the first guidelines for the Carbon Farming Initiative, designed to facilitate the sale of carbon credits on the domestic and international market. Reviving significant elements of Labor's original emissions trading scheme, the legislation essentially carves out measures contained in the government's original Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation that was rejected by the parliament last year.

Condoms justified to stop AIDS: Pope

Verity Edwards - The Australian
The Pope has backed the use of condoms in some cases, such as male prostitutes seeking to prevent the spread of HIV. He also defended the efforts of Pius XII in protecting Jews from the Holocaust. Benedict XVI makes the comments in Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, a book-length interview with a German journalist to be released tomorrow. Church teaching has long opposed condoms since they are a form of artificial contraception.

Gillard would lose poll held now

Phillip Coorey - SMH
The Gillard government will enter the Christmas break haemorrhaging votes to the Greens, according to a poll which also shows most of the population supports gay marriage. The latest Herald/Nielsen poll finds Labor's position is slightly worse now than at the election on August 21 and if a poll were held now it would most likely lose. It finds no change from the last poll a month ago, with the Coalition leading the government on a two-party-preferred basis by 51 per cent to 49 per cent. Labor's primary vote is relatively unchanged from a month ago at 35 per cent, compared with 43 per cent for the Coalition and a still healthy 13 per cent for the Greens.

Hope for Christian sentenced to death in Pakistan

Kay Johnson - SMH
The family of a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam says it is hoping for a presidential pardon that could bring her home for Christmas. The case against Asia Bibi - which started with a spat over a sip of water - has renewed calls for reform of Pakistan's blasphemy law, which critics say have been used to settle grudges, persecute minorities and fan religious extremism. The President, Asif Ali Zardari, has asked for a report on the case and could issue a pardon even before a court announces its decision on an appeal against the verdict, said Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minority Affairs.

Swan, Wong toe party line

Michelle Grattan - The Age
Labor voters overwhelmingly back allowing gays and lesbians to marry, but deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan has joined his leader in rejecting their view. Mr Swan said yesterday that marriage is ''between a man and a woman'', but he also acknowledged that ''a number of my colleagues have a different view and they're perfectly entitled to express it''. In contrast to Mr Swan, Finance Minister Penny Wong, who is gay, refused to be publicly drawn on her view on the marriage issue, saying that she would operate through party processes.

Support for gays offers a way out for Gillard

Peter Hartcher - SMH
It keeps getting harder for Julia Gillard to hold the line on gay marriage. Today's poll shows that not only do most Australians support the legal recognition of gay marriage by 57 per cent to 37 against. It also reveals that there could be political advantage for Labor to pursue this idea. Why? Because of the way that opinion is distributed among the supporters of the three political parties. The Herald/Nielsen poll shows that gay marriage is accepted by almost 90 per cent of Greens voters, two-thirds of Labor voters and 51 per cent of Coalition voters. So by supporting such a policy Gillard would not only be moving to put Labor into the new community mainstream. She would also be representing the great bulk of Labor voters, while making Labor more appealing to almost all Greens voters.

Sex Party candidate attacked

The Age
A Sex Party candidate in the Victorian election has been bashed while trying to stop two teenagers throwing items at a paper mache head of Premier John Brumby at a gay rights rally in Melbourne. Sex Party candidate for the seat of Ferntree Gully, Martin Leahy, is nursing a broken nose and swollen lip after he tried to stop the pair throwing items at cartoon heads of Mr Brumby and Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu worn by party supporters at an Equal Love march through the city on Saturday. Mr Leahy said the violence started when he stepped in to stop the pair.