Four days after asylum-seekers torched buildings at Sydney's Villawood detention centre, detainees and refugee advocates on the other side of the country were showing signs of defiance last night, with hunger strikes and demonstrations being staged at the Curtin and Christmas Island facilities. As rooftop protests continued inside Villawood, The Australian has been told at least one detainee at Christmas Island's main immigration detention centre -- the scene of massive riots last month -- was found yesterday with their lips sewn together.
Support for an Australian republic is at its lowest level since the mid-1990s as growing ambivalence on the need for a home-grown head of state saps the nation's will for constitutional change. With renewed interest in the monarchy as Friday's royal wedding approaches, a special Newspoll puts support for a republic at just 41 per cent, with only 25 per cent strongly in favour.
The community's desire for comfort in the aftermath of natural disasters contributed to the surge in church-goers over Easter, according to religious leaders. Peter Catt, the dean of St John's Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane, where congregations were said to be up by 50 per cent on last Easter, said many were turning to religion after experiencing a strong sense of community during Queensland's summer of disasters. Parishes such as Ipswich and Grantham, which were devastated in January's floods, also recorded higher-than-normal attendance figures, Dr Catt said.
Labor powerbroker Mark Arbib has advised his NSW state colleagues to model themselves on Tony Abbott if they want to be an effective opposition. The federal Sports Minister, who was instrumental in the political assassination of Kevin Rudd and installing Julia Gillard as Prime Minister, said new NSW Labor leader John Robertson should look to the federal Coalition leader.
Pope Benedict XVI marked the holiest day of the year for Christians by stressing that humanity isn't a random product of evolution. He emphasised the biblical account of creation in his Easter vigil homily in Rome on Saturday, saying it was wrong to think that at some point "in some tiny corner of the cosmos there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it".
Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt has urged Julia Gillard to call an election and seek a mandate on the carbon tax if Labor fails to get the controversial proposal through federal parliament. Mr Hunt yesterday said the "minority government experiment" had already failed but it would be far worse for the Prime Minister if it could not pass the carbon tax.
Funding school chaplains to tackle mental health problems they are not qualified to treat makes the federal government complicit in ''dangerous professional behaviour'', says the body that represents psychologists. A review of the National School Chaplaincy Program, which was introduced by the Howard government in 2007 and extended by Labor, is under way as the place of religion in state schools sparks passionate community debate.
The Productivity Commission has launched a rare public attack on its critics as the fight over new measures to reduce problem gambling intensifies. Commission chairman Gary Banks has accused Clubs Australia of selectively using data to argue problem gambling has been significantly reduced.
Sue Isles is in her 50s and, until recently, was kicking back, enjoying the view. Now she is so fired up that for first time in her life she has become a political agitator. During the past month she has joined rallies in Canberra, Macquarie Street and Blacktown. In doing so, she placed herself right on the fault line opening up in Australian politics. She and her husband have sold their small business, put away savings, have no debt and their children have graduated and are working. This has freed them to actively join in grassroots politics. When I asked her why she had suddenly become passionate about politics she replied: ''I've never had the sense before that we are disconnected from the government. We spent our lives in small business and this government is just making it harder and harder. This new carbon tax was the last straw. This government seems disconnected from people's lives, and disconnected from the truth.''
At least federal Labor still has two years to turn things around. That's the wishfully positive line currently being run by the few remaining optimists in federal Labor. It is more likely federal Labor is currently where NSW Labor was in 2009. Down, and on the way further down. When favourable polling is somewhere at 30 per cent, that means voters who have never cast a ballot for a party other than Labor are now in play.
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March 24, 2019
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