Brutal reform only hope of saving Labor

Rodney Cavalier   - The Australian
Restoring power to party members is a vital first step.   I'll begin with numbers because numbers have a clinical cruelty about them.   Item. Roselands branch ALP, safe Labor territory, federal electorate of Watson. Fifty members on books. Only five satisfied the minimum qualifications for a preselection vote at a credentialling at the beginning of this month.   Item. Preselection of ALP candidate for Macarthur 1995. Voters qualified: 247. Macarthur preselection 2010. Voters qualified: 43.

Gillard sets out reform agenda

Michelle Grattan  - The Age
Julia Gillard has promised to ''walk the reform road every day'', positioning herself as a Labor leader committed to extensive economic and social change and ready to use market approaches to achieve it.   The Prime Minister has also pointed to the new challenges of having ''deep reform conversations'' in the short attention span of the new media environment.   ''Not everything can be reduced to a tweet,'' she said. ''We are in a media environment now where you could make a blockbuster [announcement and] as you're doing the press conference, a journalist is doing a stand-up, using you as a backdrop.

Afghanistan debate looms

Michelle Grattan  - The Age
The long-awaited parliamentary debate on Afghanistan will begin next Tuesday, with statements by Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.   Announcing the timetable, Ms Gillard said it was important all Australians understood the critical mission in Afghanistan.  The debate was pressed for by the Greens and new Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, who are opponents of the commitment.

Anglicans warned church is on its knees

David Marr - SMH
The Anglican Church in Sydney is in diabolical trouble. Already battered by the global financial crisis, the diocese is planning further savage spending cuts.   The archbishop, Peter Jensen, told the annual synod on Monday: "The financial issues are grave."   One of the biggest and richest dioceses in Australia, Sydney leveraged its huge investment portfolio in the boom and sold when the market hit rock bottom. After losing more than $100 million, it was forced to halve its expenditure. "There was considerable pain," the archbishop told the annual gathering of clergy and laity in Sydney. But it wasn't enough.

Atheist's creed a joint effort, sans Koran

Imre Salusinszky - The Australian
I am an atheist and wish to promulgate my creed.  It has been put to me that I might emulate the efforts of Queensland lawyer Alex Stewart, who produced a YouTube video in which he smoked several large joints using the pages of the Bible and the Koran.   This is an excellent idea and I will be taking it up, with one minor deviation: I will be smoking the pages of the Bible but not the Koran.

Bartlett rejects inquiry call

The Mercury
Tasmanian premier David Bartlett has rejected calls for a powerful independent inquiry into child protection, saying it would cost the government too much.   Mr Bartlett said he would prefer to see the “tens of millions of dollars” cost of a Royal Commission instead directed to help vulnerable children.  The Liberal Opposition tabled a Bill in parliament this morning calling for a full Commission of Inquiry into state Child Protection Services and the care of children who are state wards.

Tas Government orders review into child sex laws

Felicity Ogilvie -  ABC      refer also previous story
There's been heated debate in the Tasmanian Parliament about the case of the 12-year-old ward of the state who was sold for sex.    The Opposition is calling for a Royal Commission-style inquiry. The Government is rejecting that call but it will review the state's child sex laws.   An independent group of lawyers will determine whether Tasmania's laws about consent and mistaking the age of children should be changed.

Couple accused of procuring abortion not ready for child, court hears

Sarah Elks  - The Australian
A man who allegedly gave his pregnant girlfriend foreign drugs to cause her to miscarry told police he did so because he wasn't able to give his child "the best", a court has heard.   Sergie Brennan, 22, this morning pleaded not guilty in the Cairns District Court to one charge of supplying drugs to his girlfriend, 21-year-old Tegan Simone Leach.   Ms Leach pleaded not guilty to one charge of attempting to procure her own miscarriage.

Abortion trial reinforces Queensland stereotypes

Sarah Jane Collins - National Times
Growing up in Queensland, you get to know what the rest of Australia thinks about your home state. Backwards, small-minded, ignorant, bigoted. These are all words that get used regularly by southern neighbours who seek to disparage us.   Some of the worst offenders are ex-Queenslanders, who fled the state and have never looked back other then to snipe. Most of the time, knowing many wonderful people who still call Queensland home, those criticisms grate.   But not this week. The case of Tegan Leach and Sergie Brennan just reinforces all of those prejudices. What 21st century secular society allows the state to prosecute a scared young man and woman for procuring an abortion?

Stem cell trial in humans welcomed

Deborah Smith - The Age
Australian scientists and patient groups have welcomed the world's first human trial of an embryonic stem cell therapy as a historic achievement, while calling for more funding for stem cell research here.   US biotech company, Geron Corporation, announced that a patient with spinal injuries in Atlanta has been injected with stem cells derived from days-old IVF embryos.   Animal research shows the controversial approach can restore some movement after spinal injury, but the initial aim of the human trial involving up to 10 people is to test the safety of the therapy.

Mary MacKillop bronze sculpture unveiled at Sydney cathedral

Catholic News
A larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Mary MacKillop and two young children by an internationally-acclaimed Melbourne sculptor has been installed on the exterior of St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.  The three figure sculpture by Louis Laumen stands on a large granite plinth beside the steps leading to the entrance of the Cathedral's western transept on College Street.   It was lowered into place using a crane and the expertise of engineers and experts from the foundry where the artwork was cast, said a media release.

As Mike Rann's end nears, who is in line to be Premier?

Michael McGuire, Daniel Wills - The Advertiser
The end is nigh for Premier Mike Rann - but when will it happen and who will take his place?  South Australia will have a new Premier before the next election in 2014; the only things which remain to be seen are whether Mike Rann is pushed or departs of his own accord, and who takes his place.  This week's outburst of union unhappiness after the Rann Government's slash-and-burn September Budget is only another crack in the dam wall for Mr Rann and his Treasurer, Kevin Foley.

Editorial: Pokie system fails our most vulnerable

The Advertiser
It seems the only thing that changes in South Australia's near 20-year poker machine debate is the increasing bottom line of those who own large numbers of the machines and the Treasury which taxes them.   Poker machines and the rules they operate under have consistently been shown to be against the community interest in this state, and only in the interests of an extreme minority. The problems caused by the machines have never been adequately addressed, especially the impact on the unfortunate addicts who fall under their spell.  Revelations in today's edition of The Advertiser that only 142 of an estimated 20,000 people with (or developing) a gambling problem had been evicted temporarily from their local pokie haunt is a damning indictment of a system which we were assured would minimise the impact of the machines on the most vulnerable.

ACT Greens, Labor ponder changes to pact

Peter Jean - Canberra Times
Labor and the Greens are considering tinkering with their parliamentary agreement as the second anniversary approaches of the minor party's decision to assist the Stanhope Government to remain in power.  The ACT Government and the Greens met yesterday to discuss progress towards the implementation of their parliamentary agreement, which was signed on October 31, 2008.  The agreement allowed Labor to remain in power with Greens support after a hung parliament was elected at the 2008 election.

President Runoff Narrows in Brazil

Paulo Prada - WSJ
The presidential election is evolving into a tighter-than-expected contest as Brazilian voters prepare for a runoff scheduled for Oct. 31.   Dilma Rousseff, the front-runner and candidate of the leftist party that has held the office for the past eight years, earlier this month fell short of a majority in an initial round of voting. Amid increasing attacks from José Serra, her centrist rival, Ms. Rousseff is struggling to maintain her once-commanding advantage and adopting defensive postures.