Making a vow for change

Carol Nader - The Age
With the Greens' motion backing same-sex marriage set for debate in Federal Parliament, support for an end to discrimination is gathering pace. The grooms wore black suits, no ties. It was an intimate affair with just 12 guests. Lake Ontario glistened in the background as Ashley and Glenn Anderson-Buick were married. Random onlookers congratulated them. ''Where's the bride?'' asked a homeless man who had watched the exchange of vows. Ashley pointed to his new husband, who was promptly offered 50¢ as a wedding present. A year later, the wedding was re-enacted in a more lavish fashion for an audience of 65. The suits were upgraded to tuxedoes and black ties and the backdrop was the Rocky Mountains. Australian friends flew in to Canada to observe an event that for years has been legal in that country - but remains politically contentious in Australia.

MPs set to debate gay marriage law

Carol Nader - The Age
Federal Labor member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby has called for any same-sex marriage legislation to provide protection for religious ministers so they are not forced to perform those marriages. As parliament prepares to debate a Greens motion on same-sex marriage next week, Mr Danby said he agreed with Labor Right powerbroker Mark Arbib that change was coming. ''When and if such legislation is passed, it must be tightly framed to exclude established religions being forced to perform such unions,'' he said in a statement to The Age. ''Gender-pluralism does not mean forcing Archbishop [Denis] Hart to perform a gay marriage at St Pat's.''

Labor losing support as Victoria heads towards a hung parliament

Stephen McMahon - Herald Sun
Victoria may be heading for a hung parliament with the polls tightening sharply as the Brumby government's support slips. The latest polls show the Ted Baillieu led-Coalition is winning support with its strong attacks on 11 years of Labor government and its shoddy service delivery. Voter anger about the myki debacle, fears about law and order, frustration with public transport and rising household bills are hurting Premier John Brumby with Labor's led falling to 51:49 in two-party preferred terms in the latest Australian Newspoll - from 52:48 last month. Only two weeks out from the election this could leave the Greens as kingmakers.

No happy endings for councils in fight against brothels

Nick Tabakoff - The Daily Telegraph
Sydney councils are fundamentally failing to cope with an illegal brothel crisis that is seeing many operating out of residential apartments. A Daily Telegraph investigation has found evidence of illegal brothels that have managed to stay in business simply by jumping from area to area before councils clamp down. One of those has recently been operating in this residential apartment tower in Sergeants Lane, St Leonards, where an illegal brothel hides among apartments worth up to $2 million. Others have used a false cloak of legitimacy as a means of disguising illegal brothel activities. Chris Seage, who runs consulting firm Brothel Busters, which investigates illegal brothels on behalf of councils and the legal brothel industry, said: "Illegal brothels are everywhere. They are creeping into residential units, and they're masquerading as health, beauty and therapeutic massage businesses."

Victorian Liberals close on Labor: Newspoll

Milanda Rout - The Australian
The Victorian election has become a mirror image of the federal campaign, as the state heads towards a hung parliament. And an increasingly unpopular Labor leader struggles to remain in office. The latest Newspoll also shows a collapse in support for the Greens, with their primary vote dropping more than a quarter from the previous survey, from 19 per cent to 14 per cent. The poll, conducted exclusively for The Weekend Australian from Tuesday to Thursday, reveals that the Liberal Party has increased its primary vote from 36 per cent in September-October to 39 per cent while Labor has slightly improved its primary vote from 35 to 37 per cent.

Clubs escape political donation ban despite gaming, alcohol links

Sean Nicholls - SMH
Registered clubs will still be able to donate to political parties in NSW despite a ban on donations from organisations with gambling and liquor interests. The ban, which passed State Parliament this week as an amendment to the government's election funding bill, with support from the Greens, prohibits for the first time political donations from hotels and their umbrella organisation, the Australian Hotels Association. The legislation also bans donations from the supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths because of their ownership of liquor retailers. Star City casino and its owner, Tabcorp, are also prohibited from making political donations, while a ban on donations from tobacco companies has also been implemented. However, under an agreement between Labor and the Greens, clubs are exempt from the ban.

Get Up! funded anti-Abbott ad with union's $1m gift

Ben Schneiders - SMH
The advocacy group GetUp! accepted a record $1.12 million donation from a large union just before the federal election, at the same time supporting a ban on political donations from unions and business. The donation from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union funded a prominent TV advertisement that attacked the Liberal leader Tony Abbott's ''archaic'' views on women and social issues in the days before the election in August. It went to air as a GetUp! advertisement with no reference to being largely funded by a big Labor-affiliated union. The high-profile group, which says it has more than 300,000 members, pursues issues such as climate change and refugees.

Greens in for a kill

The Age
Labor regarded Greens support as a phase voters would go through, a form of political adolescence. Labor was dead wrong. Perhaps the koala-suited protester and his small group of Labor mates who waved their ''A vote for the Greens is a vote for the Liberals'' signs at Bob Brown in the city on Thursday got what they wanted by getting their message into the media. But they also highlighted the confusion and contradictions that sit at the heart of the Labor Party's pitch at every election now that support for the Greens has reached critical mass. This week, the negotiations between the Greens and the ALP over preferences have been furious and fractious, and the mini-protest by the koala group was tied up with all of that - an attempt to embarrass the Greens over what Labor believes is that party's decision to run open tickets in the vast bulk of lower house seats, thus hurting the ALP.