Gillard pitches to Christian voters

JULIA Gillard will intensify her pitch to Christian voters with a major expansion of the school chaplaincy program.  Despite identifying herself as an atheist, Ms Gillard has been working hard to court the powerful Christian lobby. It comes amid concern that Labor's standing among religious voters has slumped following the overthrow of church-going prime minister Kevin Rudd.  Ms Gillard will today announce an allocation of $222 million to boost the number of chaplains in schools by more than one-third, which would mean about 3700 schools will be covered under the voluntary scheme introduced by the Howard government.

No school, no play

A NEW national school truancy and student retention plan would stop children from playing weekend sport if they do not attend school.  Called "No school, No play", the Labor policy will be launched today with the support of Australia's major sporting codes.  Employment Participation Minister Mark Arbib said people who did not finish year 12 were more than twice as likely to be unemployed and the link between education and sport could help keep children in school.

Threat to gay parents

ADOPTION agencies would be granted the right to refuse gay couples a child under an unprecedented State Government plan to appease the churches.  The Sunday Telegraph can reveal Premier Kristina Keneally will put the controversial proposal before Cabinet when it meets this week.  The move follows Anglicare, one of the State's leading child adoption agencies, writing to every state MP requesting that they oppose the proposed gay adoption laws.  Ms Keneally had granted MPs a conscience vote on the bill, which is set down to be debated when State Parliament resumes in spring, but she has decided to allow for a faith-based exemption to be incorporated in the legislation.

Prime Minister shaken by the ghosts of elections past

PRIME MINISTER Julia Gillard and deposed Labor leader Kevin Rudd will not appear together for the rest of the election, other than a brief appearance at the ALP campaign launch.  The decision was made yesterday as the pair came face to face in a carefully stage-managed appearance in Brisbane - just before she was accosted by another former Labor leader, Mark Latham. It was the first time Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard had been in contact - apart from text messages - since she took over as Prime Minister on June 24.

Family values are being lost in the welfare debate

Handout schemes which benefit the wealthy more than they help the genuinely needy make little economic sense.  POLITICIANS hand out taxpayers' dollars freely during election campaigns. While we should help needy citizens, most election handout beneficiaries aren't.  And the high cost of free lunches served to non-needy citizens is borne by us all, including those in need.  Few would begrudge extra support for those that are, almost by definition, needy – such as disabled citizens. But while politicians announce token assistance for these groups, they use “kids” as their prime handout rationale.

Greens find growing up is hard to do

IT'S pretty certain the Greens will hold the balance of power in the Senate.  But the prime position the Greens are about to hold in our democracy will be a big change for the party. It's going to be a very steep learning curve. The Greens are still a niche party, with niche party idiosyncrasies.  They're about more than climate change and fast trains. Niche parties are easily captured by interests within their membership that insist their peculiar obsessions get aired and adopted.  So the Greens are the only party with an ''animals'' policy. With 24 points, it includes things like a plan to ''foster community education about the needs of animals and our responsibilities to them''.

Henson leaves moral issues of his art unexposed

The photographer chooses to defend his work with arrogance and contempt.  YOU have to hope that Bill Henson has taken some good photographs in the past two years, because he certainly hasn't spent his time deep in thought.  Since he was rudely dragged out of art-world lionisation and into mainstream condemnation in 2008, Henson has refused to comment on his most controversial moment - the seizure by police of pictures of naked children that former PM Kevin Rudd branded revolting and pornographic.  Last week, though, Henson broke his silence at the launch of the Melbourne Art Fair. What we got was Artistic Arrogance 101.