Bob Brown all talk, no Defence

Paul Toohey - The Daily Telegraph
Greens leader Bob Brown has not sought a briefing on operations in Afghanistan since the Diggers were first sent there in 2001. The Defence Department confirmed last night Senator Brown had never asked Australian military officials to background him on the engagement in the Oruzgan province, or the Middle East generally. Senator Brown, who asked Julia Gillard to facilitate a debate on Afghanistan, set down for Tuesday, said last week: "All MPs owe it to our troops to be fully informed on Afghanistan and the reality that military success is not on the horizon". Yet Senator Brown, who advocates withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan, has not matched his own rhetoric with action.

Report slams insulation push

Katharine Murphy - The Age
The Rudd government ignored advice from officials to roll out its botched insulation scheme over five years, choosing instead to deliver the program at twice that speed in an effort to stimulate the economy. The Auditor-General yesterday published a stinging indictment of the administration of the scheme, revealing chaotic administrative processes in the Environment Department, obfuscation by under-resourced officials about the growing problems and a substantial underestimation of the program's inherent risks. The auditor identifies the speed of the rollout as being a factor in its problems - a decision ultimately driven by Kevin Rudd and the leadership group of the government who were focused on the threat of the economic downturn.

Bible Society Australia - A new entity, under one banner

Christian Today
Jesus. All About Life, the multimedia campaign which the ABC’s “Gruen Transfer” called a "smart marketing job for brand Christianity", has staked another branding victory – this time, for the very organisation behind the campaign. The Bible Society, after operating in Australia for over 200 years as federated state-based units, has now merged all activities and management into a new single legal entity. The new Bible Society Australia (a Not For Profit Company Limited by Guarantee) will commence immediately. A new national board will govern the business and will consist of those who were previously chairmen of their respective state Bible Society boards.

Giant Altona banner for making of a saint

Hobsons Bay Leader
A giant banner has been unfurled inside an Altona church to mark the canonisation of Mary MacKillop. The banner is on display at Our Lady Help of Christian Church, better known as St Mary’s, in Railway St. Pastoral associate Sister Yvonne Harte said the banner was similar to the official one to be shown in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome during the canonisation ceremony on Sunday, October 17. Sister Yvonne, who is also a sister of St Joseph and will be travelling to Rome for the special event, said the Altona banner recognised and celebrated of “an icon”.

Muslims in Bekasi, Indonesia oppose another church building

Compass direct
Islamists decry ‘center of Christianization’ in West Java, where anti-Christian hostilities fester.   Islamic organizations have mounted a campaign against the planned construction of Mother Teresa Catholic Church in West Java Province, where Christian leaders report 20 other churches have faced Muslim hostility since 2009. Muslim leaders said plans for the Mother Teresa church in the Lippo Cikarang property project in the Cikarang area will make it the largest church building in Bekasi City. Adang Permana, general chairman of the Bekasi Islamic Youth Movement, said Bekasi area Muslims oppose the church building because they fear it will become “a center of Christianization,” according to the Islamic website “This church will become the center of apostasy and clearly disturb the faith of Bekasi citizens, who are mostly Muslims,” Permana said, according to the website. “In addition to rejecting this parish church, we also call for the disbanding of all unauthorized churches in Bekasi Regency,” he stated. A church leader, however, said area residents had approved the presence of the church.

Cover-up held back Mary MacKillop's cause for decades

Peter Wilson - The Australian
Mary MacKillop's recognition as Australia's first saint might have come 20 years earlier if not for a delay that is still formally unexplained.  A hundred and one years after her death and 84 years after she was set on the road to sainthood, Mary MacKillop's canonisation tomorrow has not been particularly slow by the standards of a church that can take centuries to recognise somebody as a saint.   But MacKillop's recognition as Australia's first saint might have come 20 years earlier if not for a delay that is still formally unexplained but says much about the tribulations the Melbourne-born nun faced at the hands of her male colleagues in the Catholic Church.

Dollar hits parity with US greenback

The Australian dollar has reached parity with the US dollar for the first time since the currency was floated in December 1983.  The local currency rose to $US1.00 at about 11.18pm AEDT in overseas trading last night.  It was the first time since July 28, 1982, that the Australian dollar has traded at one US dollar.   The dollar hit parity as US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke last night gave his strongest hint yet that the US central bank will step in to help the country's fledgling economic recovery by financial stimulation.

Pell backs calls for a second nun saint

Peter Wilson - The Australian
Cardinal George Pell has backed calls to consider a second Australian nun for sainthood after tomorrow's canonisation of Mary MacKillop.  The nation's most senior Catholic cleric said during an interview in St Peter's Square that he believed Sister Irene McCormack was a worthy candidate for sainthood.   A West Australian-born teacher who belonged to the Sisters of Saint Joseph, the order founded by MacKillop, Sister McCormack was killed by Shining Path guerillas in 1991 while working with the poor in Peru.

Paean proves there's something about Saint Mary

Tom Dusevic - The Australian
Mary MacKillop is the vernacular saint for a people who deify the battler, are democratic, tilt against authority and are yet traditional.  Saint Mary of the Cross will be canonised in Rome tomorrow. Australia's first saint, a home-grown folk hero and non-material girl, is being celebrated here well beyond the minority Catholic community of five million, who have long kept her as their own.   "You don't need to be a Catholic to understand her basic teaching: Never see a need without doing something about it ," says Renee Borg, a student leader from Mary MacKillop College at Wakeley, in Sydney's western suburbs.

Governed by a bare margin for error

Malcolm Mackerras  - The Australian
The federal election reveals mining and non-mining voting blocs.  September 17 produced the publication of the final election statistics. We learned that the aggregate two-party preferred votes were cast as follows: 6,216,451 votes (50.12 per cent) for Labor and 6,185,913 for the Liberals-Nationals. Labor's majority in votes was 30,538.  And so to a new seats pendulum. The old pendulum was, in principle, simple to construct. All 150 seats were shown according to their two-party preferred percentages. Thus, New England was shown as a very safe seat for the Nationals, though with the designation "independent" by its side. Lyne was shown as fairly safe, with the same designation.

O'Farrell offers soft line on gambling

Sean Nicholls - SMH
Barry O'Farrell has promised to allow new types of gambling technology and games into NSW clubs if he is elected premier, while ruling out proposed reforms to poker machine laws.  The NSW Opposition Leader has also promised to ease a cap on the number of electronic roulette and blackjack games in clubs.   The concessions are part of a memorandum of understanding struck between Clubs NSW and the Coalition that includes $300 million in tax breaks on their poker machine profits.

Assaulting our senses, and our sensibility

Lisa Pryor - National Times
Rape is extraordinarily popular. For some time it has troubled me just how popular it is judged by the number of times stories of sexual assault are viewed on news websites around the world. We sit down at our desks with paper cups of latte, shake the mouse to get rid of the screensaver and put off work for a few more moments with a glance at some news. A story about interest rates, a slideshow of the worst red carpet looks, a court report about a woman viciously assaulted.

Time to groom Labor's great Right hope

Sean Nicholls - National Times
The question of leadership change is back in the minds of powerbrokers within NSW Labor. But Julia Gillard and Kristina Keneally have no cause for alarm.  The plotting this time is all about the options should there be, as expected, a violent uprooting of the state government after 15 years next March. The subject of most discussion is the Transport Minister, John Robertson.   It is no secret that many in Labor see Robertson - a former electrician and trade union organiser - as their best hope as opposition leader to take on an O'Farrell government.

Transport MinisterJohn Robertson's quest for a safe seat

Andrew Clennell - The Daily Telegraph
Transport Minister John Robertson may run for the seat of Riverstone in a bid to become Labor leader after the state election, sources have confirmed.  Sussex Street hardheads have been trying to encourage either Blacktown MP Paul Gibson, who holds his seat with a margin of 22.5 per cent, or Richard Amery, who holds Mount Druitt by 25.4, to step aside to allow the former union boss a seat in the lower house.   But the pair have not budged, with Mr Gibson threatening to run as an independent if head office rolls him. Former speaker and minister John Aquilina is retiring in Riverstone and discussions have also centred around whether Mr Robertson should run for that seat, to bring him down from the upper house.

Kristina Keneally's sad memories of a stillbirth 10 years ago

Zoe Taylor  - The Daily Telegraph
To her family, baby Caroline Keneally is very real. She lives in the bedtime prayers of her brothers and in the hearts of her parents.  She is mentioned at every fami y gathering and treasured in photographs of her parents cradling her just after she was born.   Her mother, Premier Kristina Keneally, credits Caroline with giving her a new dimension to the meaning of love and making her determined to help others.

A media cyclone has us all in a spin

Laurie Oakes - The Daily Telegraph
Julia Gillard has decided to take on the news cyclone. It used to be called the news cycle, but things move so quickly in the new media age that cyclone is a far more accurate word. The Prime Minister described the phenomenon and how it affects politicians after delivering a speech in Brisbane on the need to continue economic reform.  "We are in a media environment now where you could make a blockbuster announcement," she said.

Labor threatened across inner city

David Rood - The Age
Labor's inner-city election battlefront has widened with prominent anti-St Kilda-triangle campaigner Serge Thomann declaring he will run as an independent for the bayside seat of Albert Park.   In a potential blow to sitting Labor MP Martin Foley, Cr Thomann will send his preferences to the Greens but then split his how-to-vote card between the ALP and the Liberals.  Yesterday, he told The Age that the state government was manipulating the community over planning and integrity issues simply to achieve its own goals.

Our man at the Vatican

Barney Zwartz  - The Age
Tim Fischer has always been something of an eccentric. Even his former Coalition colleagues, when they reminisce, seem vaguely surprised that he rose to be a long-serving deputy prime minister and trade minister, so one can only speculate what the polished sophisticates of the Vatican make of Australia's ambassador to the Holy See.  Government Senate leader John Hogg had a chance to see for himself on a recent visit to the Vatican. Fischer still wears his trademark black Akubra, so the Swiss Guards (responsible for security) always know who he is. When he arrived with Hogg, one guard, who has an aunt living in Warrnambool, saluted, stuck his hand out and said, ''Hello, Tim.''

Mary MacKillop will attract new flock

Tony Vermeer  - Herald Sun
Australia's senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal George Pell, is predicting Saint Mary MacKillop may draw legions of lapsed Catholics back to the church.  While the church was defying predictions it was doomed in Australia, the Archbishop of Sydney said the good news about Australia's first saint would provide a welcome boost to Catholic morale.  "Please God, it will strengthen us, encourage us, it will help us. But the church in Australia is pretty strong. We're not in supremely good health, but there's plenty of life," he said before tomorrow's canonisation.

Bank of Queensland to use lottery tickets to attract customers

Staff writers - Courier Mail
Critics have slammed a new Bank of Queensland savings account that will offer lottery tickets to entice additional depositors.   The "lottery-style" account will allow deposit holders who deposit a minimum of $250 a month to be entered into a monthly draw for a chance to win a $20,000 cash prize.   The account will be available from November and was revealed during the bank's profit announcement yesterday.

Community homophobia

Hannah Martin - The Mercury
A growing number of homosexuals are being harassed by their neighbours, advocates say.   Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome told a Parliamentary inquiry yesterday that homosexuals were being abused and having their property damaged by neighbours.

Call to cut pub hours

Hannah Martin - The Mercury
Pubs and clubs should close earlier to help curb alcohol-fuelled violence, a Parliamentary inquiry has been told.  And the legal drinking age should be raised to 21, the Legislative Council committee inquiring into community violence heard yesterday.

Ten more MPs for parliament

Tasmania's parliament will have 35 members again from 2014 after all three parties agreed to increase its size, Premier David Bartlett says.  Mr Bartlett met his Greens and Liberal counterparts Nick McKim and Will Hodgman last month and the three signed an agreement to take a set of resolutions to their respective party rooms, which included restoring the size of the House of Assembly.

Charity group links raise alarm

Gary Adshead - The West Australian
A WA-based children's cancer charity run by a convicted thief and closely linked to a former Liberal Party branch president is being investigated for falsely claiming to have a fundraising licence.   Kids Cancer Australia is one in a group of five charities that have folded, been taken to court or investigated in recent months.  The West Australian has followed an extraordinary paper trail that reveals how a telemarketing company billed the charities for millions of dollars for fundraising campaigns.

The Australian Sex Party gets registered in Victoria

AVN Media Network
Platform aims to attract people who have a vision for Victoria as being the most progressive state in Australia.  The Australian Sex Party has just been officially registered by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). Party President, Fiona Patten, said that the party would now field candidates for both upper and lower house seats in the Victorian state election on Nov. 27.

Law unto itself: abortion crime still lurks in legal shadows

Rick Feneley - SMH
A couple escaped conviction this week, but others can still be jailed in NSW and Queensland for terminating unwanted pregnancies. Rick Feneley reports.  We do not know what police were looking for when they searched the young couple's home, but it is clear they stumbled upon something entirely different: two blister packs emptied of their pills.