THE union movement has emerged as a key financial backer of the advocacy group GetUp!, with six unions pouring more than a million dollars into its election purse in the past three weeks alone. GetUp! has splashed nearly $1.5 million on TV advertising since the campaign began, meaning the unions have effectively supplied two-thirds of its advertising budget. The organisation's director, Simon Sheikh, refused to name the six unions yesterday, saying they wanted their identities kept secret until after donor returns are filed with the Australian Electoral Commission.
LABOR is bracing for a backlash, with a final round of internal party polling and today's Newspoll figures revealing the vital undecided vote has swung to Tony Abbott in the past 72 hours. In key swinging seats of western Sydney, Labor appears to have failed to win over remaining voters who until yesterday had not made up their mind - and who could decide the outcome. With pre-poll votes to be included for the first time in ordinary votes, counting may continue into tomorrow, with the possibility a result may not be known tonight. A hung Parliament has become a very real possibility.
HUGE swings against the Gillard government in the states of Queensland and NSW in the dying days of the campaign have split the national vote. Labor and the Coalition are going to the polls today in a photo-finish. According to a Newspoll survey, conducted exclusively for The Weekend Australian with 2500 voters from Tuesday to Thursday, Labor has 50.2 per cent support on a two-party-preferred basis to the Coalition's 49.8 per cent. Based on preference flows at the 2007 election, Labor has suffered a 2.5 percentage point swing away from it since the election and a 1.8 point swing against it since last weekend. Labor's primary vote is 36.2 per cent, with the Coalition on 43.4 per cent and the Greens on 13.9 per cent.
THOUSANDS of marriages conducted by celebrants may be invalid because the wrong words have been used in the ceremony. Celebrants must recite precise words from the Marriage Act for a wedding to be valid beyond dispute. But almost 80 per cent of the ceremonies the federal Attorney-General's department examined last year did not comply with requirements. Of the 336 sample ceremonies submitted by celebrants as part of their five-yearly review, 261 did not comply with sections 45 and/or 46 of the act, a spokesman for the department said.
THE electrical industry has contradicted Julia Gillard over the costs of connecting to the National Broadband Network. It has argued that some households could pay up to $3000 in rewiring costs to take full advantage of the superfast internet service. As the Prime Minister defended the NBN, vowing that connection of fibre to the house would be free, it emerged the government made a new cash injection into the project despite the fact that it is yet to respond to the implementation study into the $43 billion project. Documents filed to the corporate regulator reveal the government put a further $350 million into the project on July 21 -- two days after the writs were issued for the election.
HOW does one get a job as a professor of public ethics? It is a question I often ask myself as I scrub the toilet or lie awake at 3am counting the cars and squeaky tiptoes that signal my adolescent children's return from some rock 'n' roll debauchery. Being a professor of public ethics would be so much simpler. From my academic eyrie I could simply lay before my recalcitrant brood the right way of living steeped in the cardinal virtues (and presumably they'd take more notice than they do now) and, presto, all would be well. Shanahan children would scrub the loo with a smile on their face and a song in their heart, and probably do weekend duty at Vinnies. And I'd be sleeping the whole night through.
LABOR is clinging to a fragile lead over the Coalition as voters go to the polls today to elect the nation's 43rd Parliament after one of the most extraordinary election campaigns in years. The final Herald/Nielsen poll shows Julia Gillard's Labor government leading Tony Abbott's Coalition on a two-party-preferred basis by 52 per cent to 48 per cent. Such a result would typically assure victory to Labor but with deep anti-Labor sentiment in NSW and Queensland pointing to large losses, today's election will be decided in the marginal seats in these states.
Cracks are appearing in the Greens as the party stands on the edge of unprecedented power in parliament. A steady stream of emails detailing dissent over policy and preference decisions has been leaked to newspapers and websites in recent days. And a power struggle is developing between Bob Brown loyalists and the Tasmanian Greens and the hard-left NSW party and its lead Senate candidate, Lee Rhiannon, a scion of one of Australia's most unapologetically pro-Soviet families. Greens sources say party figurehead and leader Senator Brown plans to retire at the end of his term in three years, but he's avoided public comment for fear of fostering disunity.
THE dumping of a dead newborn girl in a shoebox in Sydney has prompted calls for "baby safe haven" facilities across Australia. The NSW opposition's spokeswoman for women and community services, Pru Goward, believes such havens should be considered. "I've never in my lifetime known children being abandoned or murdered in such great numbers as we have at the moment," Ms Goward said. "We have to do something about it."
HEADS of independent and Catholic schools have written to parents urging them not to vote for the Greens or Labor today to protect school funding arrangements that deliver more than $2.7 billion in ''overpayments''. Ross Tarlinton, the headmaster of St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, which receives $3.5 million in Commonwealth and $1.7 million in state government funding each year, has written to parents warning them against voting for the Greens. ''Australians thinking of voting Green as a protest or frustration vote, to send a message to the major parties, should be aware that if the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate there could be serious consequences for the future of non-government schools,'' he said.
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