Greens looming as Victorian kingmakers

Milanda Rout and Pia Akerman - The Australian
One in five Victorian voters is intending to back the Greens at next month's state election, leaving Labor at risk of losing its majority. Just days before the formal start of the campaign for the November 27 election, the latest Newspoll figures suggest an extremely tight result in keeping with this year's federal election and Tasmanian and South Australian polls. Primary support for the Brumby government has dropped to 35 per cent; the Coalition's primary vote has jumped four points to 40 per cent; and, most significantly, the Greens vote has surged to a record 19 per cent.

East Timor plan lacks action and credibility

Greg Sheridan - The Australian
The government's handling of the asylum-seeker issue has been embarrassingly inept. Before the election Kevin Rudd as prime minister considered the option of trying to open an asylum-seeker processing centre in East Timor and rejected it. It had often enough bubbled up in a bureaucracy desperate to find some action, or something that would at least look like action, on the illegal immigrant issue and the evident fact the government had lost control of illegal immigrant arrivals. On the day before he was dumped as prime minister, Rudd told Julia Gillard the idea was a dud. It wouldn't work. In fact it was basically a version of John Howard's Pacific solution, which involved a centre on Nauru, but unlike the Pacific solution the East Timor centre would not work if tried.

Two mums, one dad and a baby

For the state government, proposed surrogacy laws form the last leg of a trinity of controversial social issues to be pushed through Parliament before an expected change of government at the March election. Laws covering same-sex adoption and the Kings Cross injecting room have already been passed. Now legislation to approve altruistic surrogacy is before the Parliament. A parliamentary inquiry that looked into the subject a few years ago was hit hard by lobbying from religious groups who were opposed to the door being opened to surrogacy at all, with submissions and a number of groups arguing their case in public hearings. But for the medical profession, the case is clearer cut. ''You have a couple with a desperate need in front of you, and the only other way to redress it is to take the commercial alternative in the US, which I don't think is appropriate,'' says Associate Professor Mark Bowman, the medical director of the Sydney IVF Clinic, which is the largest provider of such procedures in NSW.

Bill on territory rights has good chance, says Brown

Mark Metherell - SMH
The parliamentary debate on the right of territory governments to legislate on such issues as euthanasia is expected to begin today and its chief advocate, the Greens leader, Bob Brown, says it has a good chance of success. The legislation is the first to be introduced under the new private member's bill arrangements agreed to by the minority Gillard government to retain power. It will be subject to a conscience vote, and few MPs have been publicly prepared to predict an outcome.

Third party will lead way on inner-city seats in play

Milanda Rout - The Australian
The latest Victorian Newspoll shows that it's game on. After a protracted cold war in which the parties patiently waited for voters to recover from their federal election hangovers before dragging them into another campaign and bombarding them with policies, the latest Newspoll should trigger the starting gun. The fall in Labor's primary vote to 35 per cent - 8.1 percentage points lower than when the party was re-elected in 2006 - is far from good news for the ageing Victorian government seeking a fourth term on November 27.

High-profile surrogate family welcomes push to change laws

Amy Corderoy - SMH
Families across NSW will breathe sighs of relief if state Parliament passes legislation to approve altruistic surrogacy. But the legislation will also have a deep and personal meaning to Senator Stephen Conroy - Australia's most high-profile surrogate parent. The Minister for Broadband and Communications and his wife, Paula Benson, had their daughter, Isabella, in Sydney. ''We are still in a situation where my wife has to adopt her own daughter,'' Senator Conroy said. If the legislation is passed Ms Benson could apply for a parenting order to recognise her as Isabella's mother, rather than pursuing adoption and being forced to wait several years.

Genuine choice for women still elusive

Lyn Bender - SMH
I recently received a petition by email to support the young Queensland couple acquitted of attempting to procure an abortion. I refrained from signing it. Not because I did not feel compassion for the couple; but because I felt resistant to the terms of the discourse. Termination is frequently presented as a two-sided argument and branded as a contest between the warriors who advocate choice and those who fight on the side of life. On the face of it the battlelines are oxymoronic. Choice or life: how could you decide between these? The paradigms are shrilly enunciated as the right of a woman to make choices about her own body, juxtaposed against the right of the foetus to life. The arguments have remained in my memory for more than three decades and arouse in me feelings of distaste irritation and anguish. I wonder when we may open up this discussion and admit that the decision to end a pregnancy is not simple, easy or a final solution.

Call for legal protection over prescription of painkillers

Julie Robotham - SMH
State laws should be changed to give formal protection to doctors who prescribe large doses of powerful painkillers to ease the suffering of dying people, a leading health ethicist says. Under the present situation, said Cameron Stewart, the director of Sydney University's centre for health governance, values and ethics, NSW doctors can prescribe doses that may accelerate a patient's death under a common law ''principle of double effect'' - which deems this acceptable provided the motive is pain relief. But because this is case law, there is no guarantee it would be accepted as a defence in a murder charge.

Religious leaders should not be the only Muslims allowed to speak

Shahram Akbarzadeh - The Australian
Multiculturalism won't survive unless a plurality of voices have a public platform. Multiculturalism is under severe strain. Not from detractors such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel who confuse having an ethnically mixed society with a policy of social integration designed to cope with and cherish ethnic diversity. No, multiculturalism is undermined because religious groups, more specifically Muslim groups, have come to supplant ethnic ones. This has been a slow, almost inevitable process. The problematisation of Muslim identity in the wake of terrorist attacks have presented Muslims in the West with difficult questions. In the pre-September 11 era, issues of socioeconomic integration dominated, often focusing on the experience of distinct ethnic groups rather than the community of faith. Unemployment, wealth disparity and educational achievements were the issues of concern.

ALP 'must stem' the greenslide

Patricia Karvelas - The Australian
Labor elder statesman John Faulkner has warned his parliamentary colleagues in the party's Left they must confront the growth of the Greens and convince voters of why Labor deserves their support. Senator Faulkner said the party was facing a "growing electoral force" in the Greens that could not be ignored. He told a meeting of Labor's Left-faction MPs this week that existing evidence indicated the Greens were growing as an electoral force. It was "silly" to overlook this and Labor needed to put its case "strongly to the electorate". His comments came after left-winger and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese reminded the MPs the Left faction had won many battles over the past 10 years, including the winding back of industrial relations laws and the national apology to the Stolen Generations.

New Coalition committees to form bottom-up approach on policy

Patricia Karvelas - The Australian
The Coalition will empower seven backbench committees to create policies for the opposition as it prepares for a potentially early election. Coalition policy development committee chairman Andrew Robb has confirmed he wants a bottom-up approach to developing policy. The new committees are: economics and finance; education and industry; legal and social affairs; foreign affairs, defence and trade; communications; rural and regional affairs, agriculture, environment and water; and resources and energy. The new power given to backbenchers gives the Coalition the chance to review election policies, including industrial relations, which is a source of contention. Mr Robb has said he will look at issues such as unfair dismissal laws and the reinstatement of individual workplace contracts.

Watchdog looks to safeguard ever-changing web

Mitchell Bingemann - The Australian
Web content that promotes terrorist acts, child sexual abuse, bestiality, violence or drug use can be banished from public view if reported to ACMA. The Australian Communications and Media Authority, the media watchdog, maintains a database, or black list, of individual web pages that have been refused classification and thus banned from public consumption. The list also contains content under other classification ratings, such as R18+. The black list is compiled through a complaint mechanism where members of the public notify ACMA when they come across potentially prohibited material.

Easy laughs: why Hollywood loves mocking Christians

Naomi Tsvirko - The Punch
It was a rainy Thursday night and my thirteen-year old cousin was pleading with me to take her to see the movie Easy A. “Please take me to see it. Please, I’ll even wash your car,” a long pause followed. After being scolded by her over-protective mother for taking her to see Vampires Suck, I was cautious. So I checked out a parental film review website which outlined strong sexual themes and made an interesting comment about the film’s depiction of Christians, “while the script condemns the idea of judging others, it does nothing to negate the negative stereotype of Christians portrayed in this film.” This struck a chord, so I decided to investigate the issue. I started by seeing the film.

Opposition pledges no new casino in Mildura

Jason Dowling - The Age
Plans for a $400 million casino and convention centre development in Mildura are dead, with the opposition pledging no second casino in Victoria under a Baillieu government. Casino developer John Haddad and Mildura Grand Hotel owner Don Carrazza applied to the Brumby government to build a second casino complex, the ''Mildura Jewel'', near the Murray River in Mildura. The government established an ''interdepartmental committee'' to consider a second casino, but said it would need bipartisan support.

Men who hate porn

Kira Cochrane - The Age
A new website aims to get men facing up to the brutal trajectory of the $100 billion global porn industry and the self-destructive effect on the millions who consume it. It was in the cerebral setting of a university library that Matt McCormack Evans noticed how pornography was shaping his life. He was watching a female librarian stack books on shelves, stretching for the highest recess, when it occurred to him he ''should look up some librarian-themed porn that evening'', he says. ''I remember making that mental note, and then catching myself.'' McCormack Evans was 20 at the time, and he had been using pornography regularly for a year or so, since starting university and having private access to a computer. At first, he didn't think this was a problem.

Senator rounds on ABC over 'childish' shoe tweet

The Age
Liberal senator Eric Abetz demanded to know what ''great'' editorial scrutiny was undertaken before the ABC broadcast a ''childish, stupid and offensive'' tweet on Q&A suggesting someone throw a shoe at former prime minister John Howard - 69 seconds before an audience member did just that. During Senate estimates hearing, he also asked why ''convicted terrorist'' David Hicks had been allowed to pose a pre-recorded video question. ABC managing director Mark Scott said there was ''no correlation'' between the message and the shoe being thrown, as the tweets were not shown to the audience. And he said Mr Hicks was ''a member of the public and certainly entitled to ask'' a question on the program.