Nothing to fear but timidity in Brown's bill


A political storm has erupted over a seemingly innocuous proposal to do away with the federal government's veto over ACT laws. The bill, introduced by Senator Bob Brown, has attracted strong opposition due to a belief that it will leave the ACT free to enact Australia's first same-sex marriage law. This concern is based on false reasoning. The ACT can already pass its own gay marriage law, which could be overridden by the Commonwealth even if Brown's bill is passed. The Commonwealth held a referendum in Canberra in 1978 on whether the ACT should gain self-government. A majority of 64 per cent favoured the status quo. Despite this, the Hawke government forced self-government on the ACT a decade later. This democratic deficit undermined the legitimacy of the transition to self-government. At the first election for the 17-member ACT Legislative Assembly in 1989, three seats went to the No Self Government Party and one to the Abolish Self Government Coalition.

K.O! Mortal Kombat loses Round 2 against censors

Australian gamers will miss out on a reboot of one of the world's most popular fighting franchises. Censors last month refused classification to Mortal Kombat, banning it from sale and import. The game's publisher today said an appeal against the decision had failed.

Julian Assange challenges Julia Gillard over 'treason'

The Australian

Julia Gillard has been ambushed by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and confronted over her decision to break her pre-election promise not to impose a carbon tax. Appearing on the ABC's Q&A program last night, the Prime Minister conceded she had walked away from her promise on the carbon tax but had always been committed to an emissions trading scheme. After the election, she had faced a "stark choice" on whether to act or not on climate change after failing to win a majority and had decided to act. "I didn't intend to mislead people," she said.

PM's nightmare is a by-election

Herald Sun

There's is one thing that must terrify Julia Gillard -- a surprise by-election. While the next general election is due around August-October 2013, the Prime Minister could face judgment at the hands of voters much earlier. What keeps Labor strategists awake at night is the fear an MP will drop dead, retire due to illness or simply quit. Any by-election would be an immediate referendum on the carbon tax and Gillard's leadership. "We're history if there's a by-election," says one long-time Labor MP.

Forget that razor-sharp view of life

Herald Sun

Being a girl isn't what it used to be. These days you get to skip that phase of life entirely and swing straight into early womanhood. And to get the little dears on their way as quickly as possible there's a lovely new doll -- with come-do-me eyes and pouty lips -- that promotes plucking and shaving. What? No complimentary razor? Or is it straight to the waxing salon these days?

Use foreign labour sparingly, says ACTU

The Age

Foreign labour should be used ''sparingly'' as Australia still has a high number of people looking for work or who want to work more hours, the ACTU has argued in a pre-budget submission. While unemployment has fallen since the global financial crisis, there is a growing number of Australians on long-term welfare and the under-utilisation rate - which combines the unemployed and those wanting more hours - is still high at 12 per cent.

Wages only just cover fees for care

Herald Sun

The rising cost of childcare is a double-edged sword for Jadranka Skrivanek. Mrs Skrivanek, 38, says her career in customer service comes second to raising her children, and the money she does make from part-time work is used mostly for childcare. "It's always been very expensive for two kids, but we have just had another rise in fees," Mrs Skrivanek said. "I can't afford to go to work every day because the cost is just too high. Five days is just too much." When daughter Emma, 4, and son Thomas, 2, do attend childcare in Keilor Downs, the rate is $75 a day each, recently up by $10.

Abortions skew sex ratios in Asia, study finds

Herald Sun

Abortions of female fetuses have led to a massive surplus of young unmarried men in India and China, raising fears of an outcast group that could threaten the social fabric, a study says. The trend took root in the 1980s when ultrasound technologies made it easier for families to detect fetal sex early and to abort if it was not what the parents desired, according to the analysis, which is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Sons have traditionally been preferred over daughters in many parts of China, India and South Korea due to social, cultural and financial motivations. Sex-selective abortion is outlawed but can be difficult to enforce.

Same-sex marriage bill falls short in Maryland

New York Times

Lawmakers in Maryland on Friday failed to gather enough votes to pass a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry, withdrawing it from consideration after hours of emotional debate and effectively killing the bill’s chances for passage this year. The speaker of Maryland’s Democratic-controlled House of Delegates, Michael E. Busch, said that the bill, the Civil Marriage Protection Act, had fallen short of the 71 votes required for passage and that Democrats had decided to withdraw it instead of holding a vote that would fail.

Brothels boom in the suburbs

Herald Sun

Sex parlours are opening throughout Melbourne in huge numbers - more than 2500 are now registered to operate freely across suburban locations. Figures obtained from the Victorian Government show 2530 people were registered to offer owner-operated sex services, often doing business out of private homes and small shops. Industry insiders fear they are dodging licensing requirements by registering as sole traders rather than full-scale brothels, which are monitored more closely. At least 214 people applied to operate small sex businesses last year. There are also an estimated 400 illegal brothels currently in Melbourne.

Is Islam to blame for stagnation?

Nicholas Kristof - The Age

Colonialism and capitalism do not explain why the Mid-East has lagged the world. A wise visitor from outer space who dropped in on Earth a millennium ago might have assumed that the Americas would eventually be colonised not by primitive Europeans but by the more advanced Arab civilisation - and that as a result Americans would all be speaking Arabic today. Yet after about 1200, the Middle East took a long break. It stagnated economically, and today it is marked by high levels of illiteracy and autocracy. So, as the region erupts in protests seeking democracy, a basic question arises: what took so long? And a politically incorrect question: could the reason for the Middle East's backwardness be Islam?

Nordic nations show the way to lift children out of poverty

The Age

If they can do it so can we, and taking action now will save a whole lot of grief later. It is scandalous that more than half a million - or one in eight - Australian children continue to live in poverty. Various political and economic commentators have called lately for bold reforms, but the kind of ''reforms'' many have in mind - such as further privatisation, deregulation or other measures that would increase inequality - are not what is needed. Instead, cutting child poverty in Australia towards the much lower levels achieved in the Nordic European nations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland would be a genuinely bold reform deserving of support.