Julia Gillard is beginning to pay a personal price for Labor's continuing problems as she loses ground to Tony Abbott. The number of voters dissatisfied with Ms Gillard's performance as Prime Minister is now equal to those who are satisfied. For the first time since she became Labor leader in June, Ms Gillard has a zero net satisfaction rating. She has also dropped back to the lowest level of support on the question of preferred prime minister that she hit during her worst week of the election campaign. According to the latest Newspoll survey, taken exclusively for The Australian last weekend, voter satisfaction with Ms Gillard dropped three points to 41per cent and dissatisfaction rose four points to 41 per cent.
A Hobart couple says legalising same-sex marriage would help gay couples feel more included in Australian society. A Bill to legalise same-sex marriages will be introduced into State Parliament this week. It will be Greens leader Nick McKim's third attempt to get the Bill passed. Molesworth couple Tracey Wing, 43, and Sielito, 47, say though they won't rush to the altar if the Bill is passed, they will think seriously about tying the knot.
Aboriginal leader Marcia Langton has called on Julia Gillard's expert panel to go further than inserting something "lite" in the Constitution's preamble. Professor Langton's comments came after the Gillard government yesterday announced the establishment of the panel, with a brief to report back with options by December next year. Labor promised a referendum on the recognition of Aborigines in the Constitution during the election campaign, but it was first pledged by former prime minister John Howard, who said he would change the preamble. The Prime Minister said yesterday the referendum would be held at or before the next federal poll.
Austalia's onshore detention facilities are facing the same accommodation crisis as Christmas Island. The Department of Immigration admits the surge in boat arrivals has forced it to abandon previously determined bed limits. The latest immigration figures show the Curtin detention centre is housing hundreds of detainees above the announced capacity. The Scherger, Northern and Leonora facilities are also on the verge of spilling over.
The Pope last night called his cardinals to Rome for a November 19 summit to discuss the Catholic Church's response to cases of sexual abuse by clergy. The unprecedented talks, which come on the eve of a meeting that will formally recognise 24 new cardinals, will also discuss the procedure for accepting Anglican converts into the Catholic Church, the Vatican said in a statement last night. During an at times stormy two-day official visit to Spain at the weekend, Benedict XVI had disappointed campaigners against sex abuse within the church after he failed to voice sympathy with their cause. Spain has not been rocked by pedophile priest scandals in the same way as Ireland, Germany or the US. There have been only a dozen prosecutions of priests during the past 25 years. However, a 1994 study found high levels of clerical abuse during the Franco dictatorship, between 1939 and 1975, when the church was closely aligned to the regime.
The Right faction of the Labor Party is unlikely to support calls to change policy on gay marriage despite senior members of the faction calling openly for renewed debate. While the Labor Left supports gay marriage, its attempts to change Labor policy have long been defeated by the numerically superior Right. Over the weekend Senator Mark Arbib and a union boss, Paul Howes, both influential figures in the Right, stated their support for gay marriage.
The Victorian Parliament could have a debate on same-sex marriage, with the Greens candidate in a strong position to snatch the seat of Melbourne pledging to introduce a private member's bill on what has become a hot issue. Brian Walters told The Age that he would introduce a private member's bill to allow same-sex marriage if he wins Education Minister Bronwyn Pike's seat at the November 27 state election. With a hung parliament a real possibility, the Greens could be in a good position to negotiate for a conscience vote. But such a vote could only happen with the consent of the party leaders and the party room. Both Premier John Brumby and Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu have indicated they are opposed to same-sex marriage. Ms Pike, who is battling to retain her seat, has spoken out in favour of same-sex marriage.
Much of the debate around Bob Brown's euthanasia bill is misdirected. If enacted by the federal Parliament, it will not permit voluntary euthanasia. Nor will it restore the Northern Territory's 1995 law on the topic. The bill will only remove an impediment if the territories seek to legislate on the issue in the future. Brown's euthanasia bill ought to be passed - but not because it provides a step to legalising voluntary euthanasia. People who see the bill this way are likely to be disappointed. Even if freed to do so, no current territory government has indicated a desire to go down this path.
The former NSW attorney-general and Supreme Court judge John Dowd and the NSW Greens want all MPs and candidates to detail before the election their views on reforming the prison system. Mr Dowd called for an end to the ''usual law and order auction'' that dominates election campaigns. He said the Community Justice Coalition, a group pushing for reform of the criminal justice system in NSW, would send a questionnaire to all parties and candidates. ''It is about time political parties started to seriously address the issues relating to the prison system,'' Mr Dowd said.
Two Liberals, including the opposition Whip Warren Entsch, have advocated the Liberals be given a conscience vote on a Greens motion calling for MPs to consult their constituents on gay marriage. Mr Entsch, a campaigner for equality in financial matters for gays, said a conscience vote would be appropriate - although he personally thought the push for gay marriage was provocative and could distract from other issues, such as the rights of gays in aged care. Mr Entsch is canvassing colleagues about setting up an all-party parliamentary friendship group that would make it easier for gays to bring issues to MPs. West Australian Liberal Mal Washer said he thought it should be a free vote because it was a matter of MPs making a personal decision on behalf of the views of their constituents.
Recently Victoria's Catholic Bishops distributed to parishes their advice to voters in the November 27 state election. Entitled Your Vote, Your Values, it was quickly portrayed as an attack on the Greens, given its focus on euthanasia. The statement, however, was more complex and interesting than that description suggested. Its stated aim was to help voters make up their mind in a principled way on salient issues. It refrained from endorsing or condemning any party. It began by stating the central principle which governed its treatment: the Christian understanding of each human being. From this starting point, the document moved to the different areas of life in which human dignity is at issue: the family, education, health and community. On each of these areas it proposed questions that Catholic voters might profitably put to candidates. In all, it suggested twenty five questions.
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