Ted Baillieu set to take power in Victoria

Milanda Rout and Matthew Franklin - The Australian
Ted Baillieu is set to become Victoria's 46th premier after the Coalition pulled ahead in the crucial marginal seat of Bentleigh last night. This all but guaranteed victory against John Brumby and his 11-year-old Labor government. While the Coalition would not declare victory last night and Mr Brumby refused to concede defeat, it seemed almost impossible for Labor to retain government, with the Liberals poised to win a 45th seat last night.

'Fighting Greens, ignoring suburbs' to blame, says Bill Shorten

Patricia Karvelas and Milanda Rout - The Australian
Federal Labor minister and key Victorian powerbroker Bill Shorten has begun the recriminations over the disastrous state election result. Shorten declared the party was distracted by the Greens from fighting its main enemy, the Liberals. "You can't get obsessed with them," Mr Shorten told The Australian. "The pressure the Greens put on Labor distracted from our efforts against the Liberals and took resources away. The Greens took up valuable energy."

Penny Wong's gay push 'will hurt ALP'

Michael Owen and Samantha Maiden - The Australian
Finance Minister Penny Wong's decision to openly declare her support for gay marriage has sparked a warning to Julia Gillard. The warning came from a key factional backer, saying the government has been "hijacked" by the Greens. Senior cabinet ministers now believe it is "inevitable" that a conscience vote on same-sex marriage will be endorsed at the ALP's national conference late next year, setting the scene for parliament to debate legislative reform in 2012.

Chilly Victorian winds could cause shivers in Canberra

Michelle Grattan - The Age
There are messages for Julia Gillard as well as Greens, independents. Victoria's voice carries lessons and implications for Julia Gillard. While the flow-on effects shouldn't be exaggerated, life in Canberra could get tougher for Labor as a result of this state thumbing its nose at her old mate John Brumby. There are national messages for Greens and independents, too. Ted Baillieu's tough-minded preference decision has punctuated the Greens' rise, at least with a semicolon. This election has exposed their vulnerability, rather than reinforcing their strength.

Faithless are coarse, uncaring and without purpose, says Cardinal Pell

Jacqueline Maley - SMH
The lives of people without faith have ''nothing beyond the constructs they confect to cover the abyss'', Cardinal George Pell said yesterday at a Mass to install the former Defence Force chief General Peter Cosgrove as chancellor of the Australian Catholic University. ''A minority of people, usually people without religion, are frightened by the future,'' Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, said during his homily at the St Mary's Cathedral Mass.

Should our kids learn about ethics?

Daniel Hurst - Brisbane Times
Queensland’s education minister will keep an “open mind” to the possibility of allowing ethics courses as an alternative to religious instruction in public schools. The New South Wales government will next year give parents the choice to place their students into secular ethics classes instead of religion lessons, after declaring a pilot program a success. About 530 year 5 and 6 students from 10 schools took part in the trial, spearheaded by the St James Ethics Centre which developed a 10-week lesson program delivered by volunteers.

Most voters want new election as Gillard's status quo too fragile

Emma Chalmers - The Courier-Mail
Julia Gillard has failed to convince Queenslanders her fragile Government can work, with more than half of the state's voters backing a return to the ballot box. An exclusive Galaxy poll for The Courier-Mail found almost one in four voters are disappointed with the minority Labor Government, while the jury is still out for another two in three people. Three months after winning over the Independents to take power, barely one in 20 Queenslanders is satisfied with the Government's performance. The poll found 52 per cent of the state's voters would support a fresh election to give Labor or the Coalition a chance to govern in its own right.

Christians slam Minchin for aiding charity

Religious groups have lined up to slam Tim Minchin for his atheist Christmas song – after he donated it to a Christian charity. His track White Wine In The Sun appears on a new CD called The Spirit Of Christmas, which raises money for the Salvation Army’s charity work in Australia. The song – which celebrates the joy of family reunions over any religious meaning – was dubbed ‘disrespectful’ and ‘a sick joke’ by campaigners… even ones supposedly supporting family values. Even the Salvation Army itself said it was disappointed with the track, with spokesman Neil Venables saying: ‘We do not in any way support the statements made in this song.’

Electoral landslide could give Coalition two houses of Parliament

Tim Colebatch - The Age
The Coalition last night was on the verge of pulling off an improbable quinella - not only winning government, but winning control of both houses of Parliament. The electoral landslide that swept across Victoria could give the Liberals and Nationals up to four new seats in the 40-member Legislative Council, mostly at Labor's expense. Only one seat has clearly changed hands. As expected, the Liberals won a third seat in their heartland of Southern Metro, with Georgie Crozier unseating Labor's Jennifer Huppert. But Coalition candidates were also well placed to pick up three other seats, although final results could be weeks away. The Coalition needs to win all three to give it a majority of 21 seats in the new upper house. But if its vote climbs slightly as pre-poll, postal and absentee votes are counted, it could do just that.

Don Farrell on gay marriage

“Delegates, on the issue of marriage I think the reality is that there is cultural, religious, historical view around in respect of this. “The party position is very clear, that this is an institution matter between a man and woman.” *** Interjection: ((calls of ``shame'' from floor)) **** “Not my words delegates, they were the words of Senator Wong, who I understand up to about two minutes ago, supported that position.

Asylum-seekers kept in dark on failed cases

Paul Maley - The Australian
Immigration authorities are not informing asylum-seekers for months that their refugee assessments have failed. The tactic is an effort to avoid adding to tensions in Australia's overcrowded and increasingly chaotic detention centres. In what has been described as a "systematic" and illegal practice, the Immigration Department has delayed notifying failed asylum-seekers their claims have been rejected, in some cases for almost five months. News of the practice comes just weeks after the High Court ruled there were serious deficiencies in the way the Immigration Department was processing asylum claims and significantly expanded the role of the courts to increase oversight of refugee assessment decisions.

This Coalition's not for turning

Helen Kroger - The Australian
If a week is a long time in politics, try 11 years. Baggage accumulates and voter concern turns into disillusionment, then into resentment and ultimately into anger. If there are not enough police on the streets after 11 years in office, why should the public believe an incumbent government would, or could, fix that problem in the next four years? The same goes for transport, health, education and the economy. In fact, it applies to every area of service delivery. If a government saw a problem and agreed to fix it, why hasn't it been fixed after 11 years? What happened on Saturday shows that after a decade, the public takes matters into their own hands. They will give a government credit for past achievements, but are mainly motivated by what comes next.

Green by name, flaky by nature

Paul Sheehan - SMH
Adam Bandt's first major policy initiative as the only member of the Greens in the House of Representatives was always going to be loaded with symbolism. When that moment came, he used his political capital in support of same-sex marriage. What, you may ask, has this got to do with the environment? Nothing. Obviously. Same-sex marriage is now the No.1 issue of the hard left in Australia; therefore it has become the No.1 issue for the Greens. Bandt, a lawyer and academic, was a member of the Left Alliance and his doctoral thesis involved a consideration of Marx. His decision to make gay marriage his top priority reflected his electoral base, where concerns for the environment are subservient to the obsessions of the left. The Greens are a fraudulent brand. There are not enough letters of the alphabet to encompass the image fraud this party is perpetrating on the electorate. It is simply not a party preoccupied with the environment.

Open ticket next time, says Greens leader Bob Brown

Patricia Karvelas - The Australian
The Greens will find it more difficult to win lower-house seats in state or federal parliaments at future elections. Senior Liberals have vowed to use the Victorian template of putting the party last as a national strategy to cruel its chances of growing into a genuine third force. In the wake of the party's failure to gain any lower-house seats at Saturday's Victorian election, Greens leader Bob Brown will use the experience to rid the party of deals, instead pushing for open tickets that would leave voters to allocate preferences of their choice. "I think it's a salient point that the Greens shouldn't be held to ransom by Labor or Liberals over preferences and nor will we," Senator Brown said. "I think it's another very strong argument for us going open ticket in the future right across the country."

Labor's high-profile losers

Pia Akerman - The Australian
Among the victims of the swing against the Brumby government are several ministers and an independent who helped Labor into power. In the ultra-marginal seat of Mount Waverley, Children and Early Childhood Development Minister Maxine Morand had little chance. The former nurse won in 2006 by just 205 votes, allowing for only a 0.32 per cent swing against her. Instead, she was hit by a sledgehammer of more than 7 per cent.

Wikileaks releases 250,000 documents

Staff writers - news.com.au
Spying by the US on UN officials and sustained calls of Arab leaders to launch an attack on Iran are among the main revelations in the latest Wikileaks document release. The US State Department has a damage limitation exercise underway after the release of some 250,000 cables which reveal secret diplomatic backroom plans and frank assessments of world leaders. One of the most damaging is a directive issued in Hillary Clinton’s name to US diplomats, ordering forensic details collected on top UN officials, including the secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, seeking their passwords and other means of access to their private communications networks.

Crisis hit ALP facing disaster in three states

Andrew Carswell and Simon Benson - The Daily Telegraph
Labor is in crisis across three states and faces a political disaster nationally as its dismal standing with voters puts Prime Minister Julia Gillard's health reform agenda in serious doubt. As a shellshocked Labor copped a surprise electoral routing in Victoria, the national health plan is now likely to be a casualty, with both the NSW and Victorian Coalitions confirming they would refuse to sign up to the deal in its current form. Adding to the party's woes was a near union-led leadership coup against South Australian Premier Mike Rann and NSW Premier Kristina Keneally facing her own union-related crisis. Ms Keneally yesterday demanded the head of NSW Labor Party boss Bernie Riordan after his union told members to consider backing parties other than Labor at the March election.

Ordinations for broad church

Blair Richards - The Mercury
From Gen Ys to grannies, the Anglican Church in Tasmania is attracting people from all walks of life keen to take on ministries. Seven new church leaders were ordained yesterday by Anglican Bishop of Tasmania John Harrower during a special service at St David's Cathedral in Hobart. Those ordained as deacons were Gill Briggs and Josh Skeat, who will minister in the Burnie parish, Don George, in Launceston, Samuel Green, to serve at the University of Tasmania, Marilyn King, in Moonah, and Andrea Ward, who will work at the Royal Hobart Hospital. Kate Boughton, aged in her 20s, was ordained a priest and will continue her ministry at St David's Cathedral, and among youth and children.

Afghans accused of Christian conversion facing death penalty

Two Afghans accused of converting to Christianity, including a Red Cross employee, could face the death penalty, a prosecuting lawyer has warned. Musa Sayed, 45, and Ahmad Shah, 50, are being detained in the Afghan capital awaiting trial, the prosecutor in charge of western Kabul, Din Mohammad Quraishi, told AFP. "They are accused of conversion to another religion, which is considered a crime under Islamic law. If proved, they face the death penalty or life imprisonment," Mr Quraishi said. He said Sayed, who works for the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) had already confessed and there was "proof" against Shah.

Bono gives aid agenda thumbs up

The rock singer and activist Bono took some time out from his tour schedule to meet the Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, at the Sydney Opera House yesterday. The pair had a 45-minute meeting with the co-chairmen of Make Poverty History, Andrew Hewett and Tim Costello, where they discussed Australia's aid program and the challenge of global development. A spokesman for Mr Rudd said Bono praised Australia's bipartisan support to reduce poverty globally.