Refugee families will go into care

Paul Maley - The Australian
Thousands of asylum-seekers are to be placed in community care. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday announced the "majority" of family groups held in detention would be released over the next eight months. In what amounts to the largest shift in detention policy since the introduction of mandatory detention in 1992, Mr Bowen confirmed future asylum-seekers who arrived with family would be detained for basic checks before being moved into the community. Mr Bowen defended the government's decision to open detention centres in Western Australia and South Australia, despite growing opposition from local communities next to the proposed sites. Speaking on Sky News's Australian Agenda program, the minister acknowledged the need to deport more failed refugees as a deterrent.

Left turns up heat on battling PM

Phillip Coorey - SMH
The Labor Party's Left faction has demanded a social and economic policy shift to shore up the government's waning support as a new poll shows the Gillard government has gone backwards since the election and is continuing to lose votes to the Greens. The Herald/Nielsen poll also shows that the renewed debate about the war in Afghanistan has done nothing to change attitudes, with more people still opposing Australia's involvement. The poll of 1400 voters, taken from Thursday night to Saturday evening, shows the Coalition leading Labor on a two-party-preferred basis by 51 per cent to 49 per cent, meaning there has been negligible change since the election on August 21 when they tied 50-50. But Labor's primary vote has slipped 4 percentage points since the election to 34 per cent, while support for the Greens has risen 2 points to 14 per cent. Coalition support was virtually unchanged at 43 per cent.

Legalised gay marriage is inevitable, says Labor's Left

Michelle Grattan
The legalisation of gay marriage is an inevitability and should be supported by Labor, according to a meeting of the party's national Left yesterday. Co-convener Doug Cameron said this was the feeling of the meeting, which also believed the party had not properly engaged with key groups, including gays, unions and those concerned about climate change. ''There was a concern that Labor should have progressive policies and that we must reach out to all sections of the party and the community,'' Senator Cameron said. In an indirect reference to gay marriage, which is opposed by the government, the meeting resolved to promote ''law reform which allows Labor to reconnect with progressive Australians''.

Independent MP Craig Ingram warns Coalition over Greens

Pia Akerman - The Australian
A Victorian independent has warned that the Coalition will face a massive backlash if it preferences the Greens. The warning came from Craig Ingram, who could hold the balance of power with Greens in the state election. Mr Ingram, one of three country independents who helped Steve Bracks form government in 1999, said he would prefer to support a government that didn't need the Greens' votes. "The Coalition will cop enormous grief in regional areas if they preference the Greens in the city," he said. "No matter how much money they spend on advertising, if they preference the Greens in those inner-city seats, I think my vote will go up."

Windsor to be 'Labor's fall guy'

Lauren Wilson - The Australian
National senator Barnaby Joyce says he is concerned that independent MP Tony Windsor has set himself up for a fall. He says Mr Windsor has done this by heading a parliamentary inquiry into the social and economic effects of reforming the Murray-Darling Basin. His comments came as dissatisfied parties including representatives from irrigator groups, local governments, banks and the Australian Workers Union prepared to meet today in Sydney to discuss drafting a collective response to the controversial guide to the Murray-Darling Basin plan. Senator Joyce told The Australian that the guide, released earlier this month, should have been on the table before the August federal election and before the three regional independent MPs opted to support the Labor Party.

Ensuring pregnancy is just a pause for teens

The Australian
Stevie-Lea Pedemont says she lost most of her friends when she fell pregnant during Year 10. The Queanbeyan teenager stopped going to school and finished the year by correspondence as she juggled study with caring for her new baby girl, Charlie, now 2. "In that first term of Year 10, when I was starting to show, I really found it difficult," Stevie-Lea, now 18, tells The Australian. "The teachers would act totally different toward me and the students weren't really sure how to react to the situation. I did lose the majority of my friends. They didn't know how to communicate with me any more, even though I was still the same person." Two years on and the world is opening up for Stevie-Lea. She will graduate from Year 12 in a month and is starting architecture at the University of Canberra next year. Already she is working two days a week with an architectural firm, the job offer coming after doing work experience there.

Labor fails to stop slide to Greens

The early signs since the election in August suggest Australia could be restructuring from a two-party political system to a three-party one. The big structural shift in the past election was that Labor handed its bloc of progressive voters to the Greens. Without the half million extra votes the Greens took on August 21, Labor found itself unable to govern in its own right. Today's poll will trouble Labor because it shows that this trend did not stop on election day.

Teach kids how to think, not what to believe

Nina Funnell - SMH
Do you remember how you found out the truth about the jolly fat man in the red suit or the fluffy bunny who delivers chocolate once a year? How did you react at the time? Was it a painful process at all? For me I was about five or six. I was rolling around on my parents' bedroom floor when I suddenly spied a number of toys under their bed including one fluoro green hula-hoop (note to parents: hiding gifts under the bed is both predictable and silly as vertically challenged individuals can easily access this space.)

A woman's choice

Angela Mollard - Sunday Magazine
Pro-life or pro-choice? With 80,000 abortions performed in Australia each year and court cases in the news, the warring sides have never been more vocal. Recently, I was at the beach with a bunch of mums, watching our kids play on the sand, when one of them asked: “What’s the perfect number of children to have?” “Two,” said most. “Four,” beamed the Tarago-driving soccer mum, while “just one” came the weary cry from the friend who was constantly standing up from her towel to steer her toddler away from the waves and back to his bucket. “I’ve found three quite a challenge,” said one quietly. “That’s why I had to have an abortion when I became pregnant with our fourth.”