The Labor Party's Left faction resolved yesterday to push for significant reforms in the party's rules and procedures at the ALP national conference scheduled for December. The meeting of the national Left in Canberra yesterday also reaffirmed that the push for gay marriage would be on the agenda at the conference, with the aim of changing party policy from one of opposition to that of a conscience vote. With a significant element of the Right also supportive, the policy change is likely to be effected. Sources said the meeting yesterday also discussed the government's increasingly harsh asylum seeker policy, including the proposed Malaysia plan.
Liberal veteran Phillip Ruddock is fighting a concerted push by the religious right to force him from his safe northern Sydney seat of Berowra in a stoush that has sparked allegations of branch stacking. Mr Ruddock, 68, last week wrote to members of the Glenorie branch seeking to block the membership applications of two former Family First candidates, raising concerns about the "volume of new membership applications" for the branch. The Australian understands 88 new members have applied to join Berowra branches in the past three weeks.
A provocative billboard carrying the slogan ''Jesus: a prophet of Islam'' has been vandalised one day after it was posted on one of Sydney's busiest roads. The billboard is one of three paid for by an Islamic group called MyPeace and features a phone number for people to call to receive a free Koran and other Islamic literature. The organiser of MyPeace, Diaa Mohamed, said the vandalism of the billboard at Victoria Road, Rozelle, ''validates the reason they went up in the first place''. Since the billboards were erected in Darlinghurst, Rozelle and Rosehill on Thursday and Friday, and featured in the Herald on Saturday, Mr Mohamed said he had been inundated with phone calls and emails.
Almost 300 reports of children at risk of abuse in the Northern Territory have not been investigated, despite an independent inquiry last year slamming authorities for allowing a backlog of cases that included a baby who later died. Just eight months after the NT Department of Children and Families was ordered to never allow a repeat of the backlog, it has confirmed there are 290 complaints of suspected child abuse it has yet to begin investigating. DCF chief executive Clare Gardiner-Barnes admitted yesterday that her department had so far been unable to clear the backlog, despite an increased budget and taking on extra staff from New Zealand. A "backlog team" was set up and completed 870 of the uninvestigated cases up to this month but, with an increasing number of complaints, the department has fallen behind again.
Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson has endorsed casino tourism, arguing the local industry is putting its money where its mouth is, investing in new upmarket hotels and celebrity chef restaurants. ''Casino tourism is real,'' Mr Ferguson told The Age yesterday. ''The casinos are where we have the investment in new hotels. ''Unfortunately, this is a fact of life - high-roller tourism is big-yield tourism.'' Mr Ferguson's comments come as the Gillard government is in the middle of a politically charged discussion about problem gambling reforms, and as the Packer gaming empire has signalled its desire to boost casino tourism. James Packer's new recruit, former ALP national secretary Karl Bitar, has indicated that his lobbying effort in Canberra will be focused on securing more targeted tourism initiatives.
The coal-fired power station shown in the new $1 million national carbon tax advertising campaign isn't even in Australia. It's in South London and was closed in 1983. The move has sparked criticism that environmental and union groups chose the Battersea Power Station instead of a local plant in the "Say Yes" commercial to allay fears a carbon tax would cost jobs. "It's designed to make Australians think the carbon tax will be painless. But it won't be painless," Australian Coal Association executive director Ralph Hillman said.
The Australian Federal Police and the FBI are jointly investigating untaxed and unregulated online casino sites, which take an estimated $1 billion a year from about 700,000 Australian punters. Australians have long used sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker even though the Interactive Gambling Act prohibits the provision of ''an interactive gambling service to customers in Australia''. Companies that breach the act, which applies only to casino games, are meant to face fines of $1.1 million a day. But the sites being investigated use Australian bank accounts to collect money from gamblers and PokerStars has a Sydney office - staffed by 200 people - through a subsidiary, GP Information Services.
Heroin addicts are being held in immigration detention centres and provided with methadone. But immigration officials - and the private contractors who provide medical services in detention centres - have refused to reveal how many detainees are serious drug addicts. Immigration insists the addicts brought their drug habit into detention. But The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the health bill inside our detention centres - which includes the methadone program - has blown out to $273 million over the past two years.
Ballarat MP Catherine King is the latest federal politician to weigh into the controversial debate on same-sex marriages in Australia. Ms King has used her official parliamentary website to launch an online survey asking constituents for their views. A House of Representatives motion passed last year called for all MPs to gauge community attitudes on the issue, but Ms King is one of only a handful of MPs to launch formal surveys ahead of a planned debate at Labor’s December national conference.
A red-faced Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge missed a key vote in parliament resulting in the defeat of the Coalition's much-hyped Equal Opportunity Bill. This is the first time in more than 30 years a government has seen its own Bill defeated in the Lower House. Ms Wooldridge is expected to face serious questions after her slip-up. Last night she admitted to being "embarrassed" at missing the division.
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February 15, 2019
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