Depriving gay people of marriage 'wicked'

Former High Court justice Michael Kirby says it is "ridiculous and wicked" to deprive same sex couples of the right to marry.  But Mr Kirby, who is openly gay, says he and his long-term partner would not necessarily tie the knot if gay marriage was legalised in Australia. "We talked about this and I don't think we would get married if it was there in the law because you'd have to be careful of changing the dynamics," he said, in a light-hearted and humorous address at La Trobe University in Melbourne on Monday.

Three shipwreck orphans to stay. $320,000 spent on asylum-seeker funeral travel costs

The Australian
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen will allow three children orphaned by the Christmas Island boat tragedy to stay in Australia permanently, as his department conceded the cost of flying 21 asylum-seekers to Sydney to attend last week's funerals was more than $320,000. Deputy Immigration Department Secretary Jackie Wilson -- directly involved in organising the arrangements -- told Senate estimates yesterday the costs to taxpayers could be broken down to $314,000 for the charter aircraft to and from Christmas Island, $6300 for accommodation in Sydney and $1500 for additional arrangements from Sydney to Perth for one detainee to visit a family member. But a senior Immigration official told The Australian that costs could top the $550,000 mark, including translators and on-hand psychologists.

Reports of warplanes bombing protesters in Tripoli

There are reports from Libya's capital that warplanes are bombing protesters in the city, where veteran dictator Moamar Gaddafi clings to power. There are conflicting reports out of Tripoli, with some saying they could hear gunfire in Tripoli and a political activist telling Al Jazeera warplanes were bombing the city. But Adel Mohamed Saleh, who called himself a political activist in Tripoli, said the aerial bombing had initially targeted a funeral procession.

Julia Gillard calls for Scott Morrison's resignation amid racism row

The Australian
Jujia Gillard has set Tony Abbott a deadline of the end of the week to sack his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison or put at risk decades of bipartisan rejection of racism. The Prime Minister has accused the Coalition of recycling anti-immigration One Nation policies after Mr Morrison's criticism last week of spending on funerals of asylum-seekers killed in December's Christmas Island boat tragedy. Ms Gillard's attack in parliament yesterday blunted the Opposition Leader's question time assaults on Labor's recent policy backflips on issues including health and student assistance. But, despite emerging relatively unscathed from question time, Ms Gillard faced further pressure over unity within the Labor Party, as dumped former prime minister Kevin Rudd called for "the elimination of the power of factional leaders and factions".

Greens membership tops 10,000 as Labor feels the heat

Richard Willingham - The Age
Grassroots national membership of the Greens has surpassed 10,000 for the first time, with Labor admitting it is facing its first viable threat on its left wing. Membership figures for the Greens, seen by The Age, show that the party grew from 1538 members in 1998-99 to 10,429 in 2009-10. The party's membership is dwarfed by Labor, which says it had 37,500 members in 2009-10, but the ALP's membership is in decline, especially since its most recent peak, around the time of Kevin Rudd's election, when there were just under 50,000 members. A review of Labor's 2010 federal election campaign, written by former state premiers Steve Bracks and Bob Carr and Senator John Faulkner, was released last week and highlighted the need for the party to attract new members.

Kimberley in grip of suicide emergency

The Australian
The Kimberley is again in the grip of an Aboriginal suicide crisis, with seven young people, including a 13-year-old girl, taking their lives since last month. The tragedy has affected communities across the remote region, including Broome and Fitzroy Crossing, and led to renewed calls for a regional alcohol management plan and more prevention services. The most recent death occurred last Wednesday when a 20-year-old Fitzroy Crossing Aborigine took his own life. The oldest person to have died in this latest spate was aged 30. The deaths follow a coronial inquest into the suicides of 21 Kimberley Aborigines in 2006. In his 2008 findings, West Australian Coroner Alastair Hope attacked a lack of leadership in indigenous affairs and criticised a "seriously flawed" delivery of health and education services to remote communities.

Remembering captives - Afghan Christians linger in jail

Mindy Belz - World Mag
British advocacy group Barnabas Fund announced a petition drive on behalf of Sayed Mossa, the Afghan Christian jailed in Kabul since a May crackdown on Christian converts from Islam—after "high-level talks involving U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and representatives of the French and German governments have failed to move Afghan President Hamid Karzai to act on his behalf." International director Patrick Sookhdeo said Mossa's plight "can be seen as a test case for how Western governments are going to respond to the treatment of converts to Christianity in the Muslim world."