Debate on Clover Moore's same-sex adoption bill has been rushed forward to begin today, as supporters and critics ramped up their lobbying ahead of a conscience vote in the NSW Legislative Assembly which could take place this week. As church groups held a fiery rally at Parliament House, it emerged that the head of Uniting Care NSW.ACT, Harry Herbert, had urged MPs to support the bill, which would make gay and lesbian couples eligible to adopt in NSW. In a letter to MPs, Reverend Herbert said the experience of Uniting Care Burnside, which provides fostering services but not adoption, showed there was ''no one rule'' about the most appropriate foster carers.
The most significant conscience vote in State Parliament in decades - whether to allow gay couples to adopt - is dividing major parties and led to claims it would increase the number of abortions. While committed Catholic Premier Kristina Keneally will support the Bill to allow same-sex adoption, Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell and most senior Liberals yesterday refused to reveal their stance. Mr O'Farrell's spokesman said that was because he did not want his view influencing his MPs. Opposition treasury spokesman Mike Baird said: "I can't put my hand on my heart and say it's a good thing to deny future kids the chance for a mum and dad." Senior ministers, including Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt and Treasurer Eric Roozendaal, will support the Bill.
A NSW Council of Churches public meeting was held at parliament today to oppose the bill, which would grant adoption rights to same-sex couples. A committee set up to investigate same-sex adoption in 2009 was evenly split on the issue and mirrored division within the community, NSW Upper House MP David Clarke said. "Why is it back on the agenda?" he asked. "Has Kristina Keneally done a deal with the Greens?
Julia Gillard will support an independent speaker in a bid to secure the backing of the crossbenchers who will decide government. The Prime Minister said yesterday she believed parliament should be overhauled and an independent Speaker of the House of Representatives appointed. Tony Abbott has previously promised "root-and-branch parliamentary reform". Now he has advocated keeping Harry Jenkins in the role, which would take a crucial vote from Labor. Labor's leader in the house, Anthony Albanese, said the Speaker did not have to come from Labor ranks. "No, we're not necessarily talking about a Labor MP," he said. "It could be just an MP who would be independent of the process."
Equal opportunity officials will have new powers to ensure Victorian employers give more jobs to women, gays and religious and racial minorities. Employers could be made to increase wages for low-paid staff and become more family friendly under the sweeping changes. The Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission's beefed-up laws will also be used to ensure employers don't discriminate against parents, people with disabilities and other minority groups. The Herald Sun can reveal employers and business owners will have a legal duty to act against discrimination in partnership with the commission.
The Coalition's plan to reintroduce temporary protection visas could fall victim to the uncertainty of a hung parliament. That could be the case if Labor, the Greens and the independents combine to block the controversial measure. With the outcome of the federal election still in doubt, Labor yesterday broadened its campaign for office, suggesting the Coalition would be unable to get its border protection policies through a divided parliament. Meanwhile, authorities intercepted a boat north of Christmas Island yesterday carrying 36 passengers and two crew.
Steve Fielding could yet be returned to Parliament. For all the delay and confusion about the make-up of the lower house, the election result for the Senate is mostly straightforward, with results tallied in almost all states. In Victoria, however, one position remains up for grabs, and it has come down to a three-cornered contest between the Family First senator and candidates for the Liberals and the Democratic Labor Party.
Julia Gillard has failed in an initial bid to win the backing of key Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie, as negotiations intensify over who will form the next Australian government. Hours after Ms Gillard yesterday pitched a parliamentary reform agenda aimed at securing the support of non-aligned MPs, Mr Wilkie said Labor's written response to a list of issues he had raised was unacceptable. Rural independents' decision is likely by Friday. ''I've now received a formal proposal from the ALP for my support,'' Mr Wilkie told The Age in Hobart last night. ''It's confidential, and unacceptable to me,'' he said. ''I'm now waiting for one from the Coalition.''
The world has made the least progress towards the Millennium Development Goal that aid groups argue is "not rocket science" and should be the easiest to fix. Little progress has been made to meet the global commitment to provide universal access to maternal health services, which the groups say could substantially reduce the number of women who die in childbirth or from problems related to pregnancy. "One woman dies every minute from maternal birthing issues," said Liz Sime, regional director of Marie Stopes International Australia.
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