Tony Abbott offers bush deal as Julia Gillard mandate slips

Matthew Franklin and Patricia Karvelas -  The Australian
Julia Gillard's claim to government on the basis of winning the two-party-preferred vote in the election has collapsed, with the Coalition overtaking Labor last night by almost 2000 votes.   Tony Abbott has begun preparing to capitalise on his gains with plans to give a greater share of government spending to rural and regional Australia to appeal to the three rural-based independent MPs whose support he needs to form a government.   As horse-trading to determine the nation's next government finally began yesterday, newly elected Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie staked a late claim for recognition from the major parties, declaring poker machine reform and a new Royal Hobart Hospital were the issues he would consider when deciding which major party to support.   But Mr Wilkie said the only guarantee he would provide either party was that he would not block supply or support any "reckless" no-confidence motions.

Labor loses slender lead on crucial two-party vote

Phillip Coorey   - The Age
Labor has lost its hold on the national two-party preferred vote, one of the key elements Julia Gillard has relied on to argue her party has the better right to form a minority government.   Late last night, Labor's two-party lead had dramatically turned into a deficit of about 1900 votes - with nearly 10.7 million counted.   The Coalition now leads on both the primary and two-party vote.   Last week, when Labor held a healthy lead in the popular vote, Ms Gillard argued this gave her party superiority in the quest to form government.   One of the four independents holding the nation's future in his hands condemned both the main parties as he warned he might not support either when he announces his decision in coming days.

WikiLeaks sex scandal deepens as estranged son enters the fray

Asher Moses - SMH
Police statements made by the women involved in the sex scandal engulfing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange raise questions over Assange's claims that the charges against him were a Pentagon-initiated smear campaign.   Assange's statements that he was warned to expect the smears by "Australian intelligence" have also been called into question by Australian intelligence agencies.   Meanwhile, Assange's 20-year-old estranged son, Daniel, appears to have queried his dad's claims about the alleged "dirty tricks" campaign, and wrote in a Facebook posting that he "does have a way of making a lot of female enemies", the New York Post reported.

Churches get opt-out point on same-sex adoption bill

Sean Nicholls  - SMH
The independent state MP Clover Moore has moved to shore up support for her same-sex adoption bill by giving church adoption agencies the right to refuse services to gay and lesbian couples without breaching anti-discrimination laws.   Ms Moore wrote to MPs on Friday announcing she would amend the bill and reintroduce it to Parliament on Thursday.   She told the Herald she was amending the bill "in line with requests" from church adoption agencies to help ensure its passage through Parliament.

Rioters demand to be sent home

Paul Maley and Paige Taylor  -  The Australian
Nearly 100 asylum-seekers intercepted since election day arrived at Christmas Island yesterday as Indonesian officials said a two-day riot inside Darwin's immigration detention centre had been triggered by delays of up to nine months in charging the men.   Up to 117 Indonesians continued a second day of protest yesterday, scaling the roof and demanding to be sent home.   At one point, some of the rioters handed over a letter asking to be returned to Indonesia with a promise not to return to Australia.   The stand-off occurred as authorities delivered 84 asylum-seekers to Christmas Island, some of whom had spent nine days on board an Australian Customs vessel as it intercepted two more boats.

Harsh light of reality about to hit Greens

David Burchell - The Australian
Is there anything so unworldly or so little wise as that dusty stock of homilies and commonplaces that we like to call worldly wisdom?   Which woman ever truly reacted to an expression of scorn with a hell-like fury? Which two species of budget could actually be more unalike than those of the family and the nation? And who was it who determined that idealism is the preserve of the young?   In fact, what we like to term youthful idealism is often little more than the inability to take seriously any point of view about the world other than one's own - an incapacity which, it's true, does sometimes thrive among the pulsing egoism of adolescence, but which can survive at any time of life, provided that we retain a sufficiently blithe disregard to the intelligence of others. My heart tells me this is true, lisps the sweet, sing-song voice of so-called idealism. And surely nobody else's heart could speak to them in the same poetical cadences as mine.

Apologetic Abbott on heels of 'the devil'

Dylan Welch - SMH
Two phone calls in two days have been made by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, to the key independents to apologise for a series of phone calls from overenthusiastic Liberals.   Mr Abbott, who held talks with the independent trio of Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor yesterday, was forced to call Mr Windsor on Sunday and Mr Oakeshott yesterday to apologise for the calls.   Mr Windsor received a terse call from the maverick NSW Liberal Alby Schultz last week in which Mr Schultz told Mr Windsor to choose the Coalition to form a government.

Crises of world worsened while we looked the other way

While we've been busy with our domestic festival of democracy, events in the wide world beyond have not paused in deference to our distraction. Seven of the most serious dramas have escalated. All pose major problems for the world and, yes, that includes our island.   The election campaign has shut out almost all of these crises, four of which are slow-motion geopolitical crises concentrated in a single country or region; another three are systemic and global.  First is the rusting time bomb known as North Korea. For 20 years the West has expected that this dangerous dystopia would collapse under the weight of its own failures. We've been wrong. Not only has North Korea tested a nuclear bomb in the interim, the brutal regime of Kim Jong-il is about to renew itself. Kim, who inherited the leadership in the communist world's first dynastic transfer of power, appears to be preparing to hand power to a son, Kim Jong-un, thought to be 27 or 28.