Independent MP Rob Oakeshott has warned Tony Abbott to pull his wayward MPs - and the National Party - into line or "forget" about being anointed prime minister. And Mr Oakeshott - a former state Nationals MP - issued a stinging ultimatum to the Liberal leader: "It's time to step up. "Does he want to be PM or not?" he told The Sunday Telegraph. Mr Oakeshott also accused Nationals leader - and potential deputy PM - Warren Truss of allowing a smear campaign to be run against him.
Public support for a republic has slumped to a 16-year low with more Australians in favour of retaining the monarchy for now. A Sun-Herald/Nielsen poll conducted two weeks before the federal election showed that - when asked straight out if Australia should become a republic - 48 per cent of the 1400 respondents were opposed to constitutional change (a rise of 8 per cent since 2008) while 44 per cent said we should change (a drop of 8 per cent since 2008).
The three rural independents have not ruled out splitting from each other and negotiating separately to form government. Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, both of NSW, and Queenslander Bob Katter have effectively been acting as a bloc to aid the negotiating process. But Mr Windsor said it should not be assumed the arrangement would last. He said the three were acting in concert because they had common rural backgrounds and it was an efficient way of gathering information about policies and costings. ‘‘The three of us may or may not agree,’’ he said. ‘‘There is no three amigos in this. Anything could happen. Because we are the independents in the Parliament, we’ve been trying, based on the history of trust between us, to ask some of the same questions.’’
Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday met Andrew Wilkie, an independent candidate who might hold the key to her political future. The former whistleblower, who claimed victory in the Tasmanian seat of Denison yesterday, handed a wish list of national reforms and local concerns to the Labor leader during the hour-long meeting in Melbourne. He intends to present the same list to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott when in Canberra tomorrow.
Facebook has agreed to pass information about criminal activity on its site to Australian police, after revelations it had ignored repeated warnings about an international child pornography ring operating among its pages. The Herald yesterday revealed the web company's management had repeatedly failed to disclose to police the activity of an international child pornography syndicate operating on its site and had ignored continuing admissions by one of the ring's Australian members. Facebook spent yesterday trying to contain the public damage caused by the revelations. It issued several statements, one from a Californian spokeswoman and another from its chief of security, Joe Sullivan.
The number of teenage mothers has jumped after decades of steady decline and NSW has had the most significant increase. The teen fertility rate in NSW rose 15 per cent from 2007 to 2008, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Nationally, the number of teenagers giving birth rose 10 per cent, from 11,204 to 12,326. While the increase concerns some health professionals, others say it is in line with the overall baby boom.
Young people are being introduced to pornography while still in primary school because of the proliferation of explicit material on the internet. ''Children are becoming exposed to sex at an earlier age,'' said Dr Patricia Weerakoon, co-ordinator of the University of Sydney's graduate program in sexual health. ''The average age when a child is first exposed to pornography is 11 years. So they are being exposed to this explicit material at an earlier age.'' The average age of first sexual intercourse for men and women has dropped from 19 in the 1960s to 16 today. The sexual health group Sexual Health & Family Planning Australia has expressed concern that the earlier teenagers have sex, the more likely they are to have multiple partners and be exposed to the risk of sexually transmissible infections. Young people experience 10 to 20 years of sexual activity before committing to a life partner.
Victoria's Greens MPs, who have no official leader, will not change their party-room structure in the lead-up to November's election - despite running on a theme of leadership. The three upper house Greens - Greg Barber, Colleen Hartland and Sue Pennicuik - have told The Sunday Age they will keep their ''no leader'' policy despite upcoming battles with Labor in the inner-city seats of Melbourne, Brunswick, Richmond and Northcote. Entering Parliament in 2006, the three MPs decided to share jobs rather than appoint a face of the Victorian Greens. ''We don't see any point in changing it now,'' party parliamentary whip Ms Pennicuik said. ''It's worked well for us.'' Mr Barber is the MPs' spokesman and Ms Hartland liaises with the party.
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