Christian lobby slams Labor's gay moves

Michael Magnusson - Gay News Network
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has labelled the Labor Party's planned funding of a gay rights advisory body as a disgraceful act, pandering to a small minority. Last week, The Age newspaper reported the ACL had published responses to 21 questions they believe fundamental to Christian voters from all political parties in the upcoming state election. ACL chief executive Rob Ward said the proposed gay rights advisory body on issues affecting the gay community was a ''disgraceful act of undemocratic process'' by Labor's part to regain support on the left of the political spectrum.

Judge Meryl Sexton moved to tears by Hannah Roberts statement of baby's death

Paul Anderson - Herald Sun
A judge wiped tears from her eyes as a woman who lost her unborn child in a crash caused by a dangerous driver told the court about the daughter she will never know. Crash victim Hannah Robert was 34 weeks pregnant when a four-wheel drive smashed head-on into her vehicle after being clipped by another car driven by Amrick Sing Thind. Reading her victim statement to the County Court during Thind's plea hearing yesterday, Ms Robert told how her life was shattered in "one stupid moment". She now cherishes 36 photos of the baby who was removed by caesarean.

Jenny Macklin backs Constitution bid

Patricia Karvelas and Sarah Elks - The Australian
Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says she is open to a push for recognition of indigenous Australians in the Constitution. But she has ruled out a treaty. "This process is about recognising indigenous people within the Australian Constitution. It is not about a treaty," she told The Australian. "We are not going to pre-empt what options the expert panel may identify and we expect their consultations to canvass a range of issues."

Aussie bishop joins exodus to Catholic Church

Jared Owens - The Australian
A retired Australian Anglican bishop has joined an exodus of British bishops to the Catholic Church. David Silk, a former Bishop of Ballarat, has joined four other bishops who yesterday expressed their "dismay" and "distress" at the church's liberal direction and announced they would join the Roman Catholic Church. In a statement yesterday, the British bishops said they believed that modern reforms, including women bishops, were "incompatible" with historic Anglicanism.

Girls interrupted: same-sex couple banned from ball

Henrietta Cook - SMH
On the night of her school formal, Hannah Williams found herself all dressed up with nowhere to go. After inviting friends to her home for ''pre-drinks'', the 16-year-old stood on her doorstep and watched her classmates file into the darkness to attend one of the highlights of the school year. Instead of joining them, Hannah took off her heels and black dress and went to bed. A few weeks earlier a teacher had told the year 11 student she couldn't attend the dance with her 15-year-old girlfriend, Savannah Supski. She was asked to bring a male instead. ''It made me very upset. I thought it was unfair so I didn't go,'' she said.

$5m training plan to urge a return home

Yuko Narushima - SMH
Asylum seekers will be offered sweeteners to return to the countries they fled under a $5 million reintegration program announced by the government yesterday. The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, would not say how much each asylum seeker would be offered in cash, saying most of the money would fund job training and small business start-ups once they were home. People might receive money to set up a taxi or motorbike service or a corner shop. ''Reintegration assistance will be tailored to individual circumstances and will primarily consist of in-kind support such as vocational training, small business start-up and job placement support," Mr Bowen said.

Labor decides to hammer Greens in inner city seats

David Rood - The Age
Labor will blitz inner-Melbourne households with leaflets attacking the Greens after secret party research revealed traditional ALP voters are preparing to deliver a protest vote against the Brumby Government at the state election. The Age has obtained the results of a study of so-called ''soft'' Labor voters, conducted last week, that found they perceive the Greens to be ''harmless, quirky environmentalists'' with the aura of a ''trusted uncle''. ''Soft Labor voters also clearly believe that they can safely protest against Labor while at the same time not risking the election of a Coalition government,'' the research stated.

Private schools get $200m pledge

Jewel Topsfield - The Age
Independent and Catholic schools would receive a 40 per cent increase in funding from a re-elected Labor state government, with Premier John Brumby acknowledging many parents choose to send their children to private schools. Under a $199.7 million boost, private school students would receive 25 per cent of the cost of educating a student at a public school from the state government. Teachers from needy non-government schools would also receive $5 million for professional development. Catholic and independent schools welcomed the historic funding boost, which would see a future Labor government increase funding to $711 million by 2014. However, the Australian Education Union said it was surprising given it pre-empted the outcome of a federal review into the contentious private school funding model.

PM plans crackdown on pokies

Jason Dowling and Katharine Murphy - The Age
The Gillard government is investigating the use of sweeping federal taxation powers to impose new curbs on poker machines across Australia. Documents released by Treasury show that as part of the government's deal with independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie, it is considering using its tax power in the constitution to ''pursue unilateral legislation'' for poker machine reforms. Law experts say the tax power would give Canberra wide-ranging scope to regulate all types of gaming venues - corporations, clubs and pubs - in a move that would spark a strong backlash in several states. Victoria has already proceeded with many of the reforms being sought by Mr Wilkie, but Clubs NSW warned last night it would oppose a sweeping takeover by Canberra. ''It is our strong view that this should remain a state jurisdiction,'' said chief executive Anthony Ball.

Libs toying with a gift for Labor

The Age
Some in the Liberal Party want to give their main opponents a free kick. The Labor Party held the seat of Melbourne from 1904 to 2010. It held it through the split over conscription and through the split over communism. For 106 years it was never troubled by conservative candidates. The inner city suburbs of Carlton, Fitzroy and Collingwood were solid, working-class territory. Now the workers can no longer afford to live there, the university-educated professionals and academics have moved in. If anything, they are even more hostile to the Liberal Party. This is a wasteland for Liberal candidates. The Liberal Party has been wringing its hands in the past few weeks about how to allocate its preferences in such electorates. In Melbourne, in the 2010 federal election, it preferenced the Greens before Labor, just as it did in the 2007 election. Some say that in the state election the Liberals should preference Labor ahead of the Greens to keep the Greens out of these seats and Labor in. John Brumby, the Labor Premier, is urging that.

Euthanasia not for discussion: Morand

Emma Schmidt - Waverley Leader
Incumbent Labor MP Maxine Morand is the only Mt Waverley electorate candidate to refuse a debate on euthanasia and abortion. Democratic Labor Party candidate Des Kelly challenged his three opponents to a public debate on both issues, but Ms Morand last week declined.  “(The DLP) needs to accept that the Victorian Parliament debated this (abortion) issue and passed the legislation,” Ms Morand said. “The opportunity for debate has long gone.”

British couple fight for civil partnerships for hetrosexual couples

Freeman and Katherine Doyle are in love and want to tie the knot - but they don't want to get married. The 26-year-old Londoners think they should be allowed to have a civil partnership, a form of legal union available in Britain only to same-sex couples. Gay rights activists are backing the couple's bid in an attempt to legalise gay marriage. Activist Peter Tatchell says "denying heterosexual couples the right to have a civil partnership is heterophobic".  Marriage and civil partnership are virtually identical in law, and activists think both should be open to all couples.