Sex-change soldier Bridget Clinch wants to keep serving in Australian Defence Force

Ian McPhedran and Padraic Murphy - Herald Sun
Defence force chiefs have agreed to pay for the sex change operation of a soldier who wants to return to her old job training Diggers in extreme sports after her surgery. Army Captain Matthew Clinch, who served twice in East Timor, will become Bridget Clinch after gender reassignment-realignment surgery, funded by taxpayers.  Victorian RSL president Maj-Gen David McLachlan said he was surprised the Army was picking up the tab. "It seems a little odd that they would allow such an abnormal situation get this far," Maj-Gen McLachlan said.

Seeing the light in chaplaincy push

Stephen Lunn - The Australian
When barrister Phil Simpson offered to help his children's school pick a chaplain three years ago, he knew the ideal candidate: himself. Now, as chaplain for Blackburn Primary School, in Victoria, he says the two days a week he commits to the role are "incredibly rewarding". "I enjoy connecting people in the school community with each other, and connecting students with the help they might need," Mr Simpson says. "I enjoy seeing kids who are struggling getting on top of their issues." Mr Simpson, a church-going Christian, is funded through the National School Chaplaincy Program, an initially controversial Howard government initiative that, far from being wound back by self-confessed non-believer Julia Gillard, will be expanded after a $222 million election pledge.

Greens' same-sex call

Megan McNaught - The Mercury
Same-sex marriages would be legalised in Tasmania under a Bill being introduced into State Parliament this week. This will be Greens leader Nick McKim's third attempt at getting the Bill passed. The issue generated widescale debate at a national level last week after the Greens introduced a Bill to amend the federal Marriage Act and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh spoke out in support of gay marriages. Premier David Bartlett said he would not support Mr McKim's Bill because he did not believe the issue was a state matter.

Prime Minister restates opposition to gay marriage

Prime Minister Julia Gillard remains opposed to gay unions, putting her at odds with right-wing Labor powerbroker Mark Arbib. Senator Arbib is the first frontbencher to say he believes his party should support gay marriage. He says gay people should have the legal right to get married, and MPs should be given a conscience vote on the controversial matter. “If I was the parent of a gay son or daughter, I don't know how I could tell them they didn't have the same rights as I did,” Mr Arbib told The Weekend Australian.

Greens 'happy with numbers' on uncosted policies

Milanda Rout - The Australian
The Greens have refused to submit all their policies for costings, saying they would consider it on a "case-by-case" basis. This, despite declaring themselves a "major" mainstream political party. As the Greens officially launched their Victorian election campaign yesterday, they said some of their policies "lend themselves" to costings while, for others, the party was "happy with the numbers they have put around them". The party said it would save "billions of dollars" by refusing to buy water from the state's $5.7 billion desalination plant and this would help fund its policies.

Population bomb still a fizzer 40 years on

Oliver Marc Hartwich - The Australian
More than 40 years ago, American biologist Paul Ehrlich sketched a doomsday scenario for planet Earth in his book The Population Bomb. Adding more people to the planet would inevitably lead to mass starvation and ecological disaster. Since the publication of the book, the global population has nearly doubled but most of its gloomy predictions have not come true. However, this has not stopped its author from campaigning against further population growth, this time in Australia. As he prepared for a series of lectures to the Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide, Ehrlich warned that Australia was full.

Many levers to be pulled before pokie pledge is kept

David Marr - SMH
Last week Peter Shergold won $26 on the Melbourne Cup. Today he chairs the first meeting of the Ministerial Expert Advisory Panel to work out how the Gillard government can deliver on its promises to independent Andrew Wilkie - promises to rein in the poker machine industry that helped Labor win a second term. "The key task of the group is not to be a set of wowsers," said Professor Shergold. "It is to understand that there is a strong role in Australia for recreational gambling and to realise that for 10 or 15 per cent of regular pokies players there is a problem." He puts a figure of $4.7 billion a year on the cost of problem gambling in Australia.

Agitation in ALP to accept gay marriage

Michelle Grattan - The Age
Right-wing Labor power broker Mark Arbib wants the ALP national conference brought forward to next year to reverse the party's opposition to gay marriage. Senator Arbib, a junior minister, said members of both the Left and Right factions felt strongly about the issue. To change the party's opposition would require a decision at the conference, which is not due until 2012. But earlier Julia Gillard slapped down Senator Arbib - one of the key figures in delivering her the leadership - after he was quoted on Saturday declaring that Labor opposition to gay marriage should change and also favouring a conscience vote on the issue.

Binge-drinking law call

The Age
Children supplied with alcohol by people other than their parents are up to six times more likely to binge drink, a study has found. The Australian Drug Foundation is expected to release today some of the findings of a Deakin University study that questioned nearly 4000 children aged between 10 and 14 on under-age drinking. Foundation chief executive John Rogerson said only Queensland and Tasmania had laws penalising the supply of alcohol to people aged under 18 without parental consent.

Enough stalling on games classification

Laura Parker - The Age
The debate over Australia's lack of an adult classification for video games rages on. Despite an overwhelmingly positive response to the government's national public consultation into the issue in December last year, little progress has been made in past 12 months. Classification ministers are yet to be convinced that the introduction of an R18+ classification — something that would put Australia in line with other Western nations — warrants any kind of concern. Most would argue that having a unified, fair and consistent classification scheme should be of national priority, but so far this issue has been largely met with indifference on the part of the government and classification ministers. They do not believe that enough Australians care about video game classification in order to take the issue seriously, and so continue to find new methods of stalling and deliberation when it is brought up.