Australians want a new election - now

Robert Burton-Bradley -
Australians want to go back to the polls - sooner rather than later, a social trends report has found. The report found that a surprising amount of voters have serious concerns about the stability of the new government and are in favour of another election, even if it meant another campaign and more cost to the taxpayer. Adding to Julia Gillard's woes is the fact that many voters are deeply uncomfortable about how she became Prime Minister. The Ipsos Mackay Mind and Mood October report, which measures Australian attitudes to a wide range of subjects through extensive group surveys, said that the ousting of Kevin Rudd was still an issue for voters.

Aid rots as tsunami victims die

Anne Barrowclough - The Times
Tonnes of aid have been left rotting in the monsoon rains on the docks of Padang in West Sumatra as Indonesia struggles to cope with twin natural disasters. About 160km away across the Mentawai sea, tonnes of more aid were stuck yesterday in warehouses in the port of Sikakap on the island of North Pagai. As victims of last week's tsunami continued to die in atrocious conditions in the villages of the Mentawai islands, there was fury at the way in which the Indonesian authorities responded to the disaster. Meanwhile, international airlines halted flights to airports near Indonesia's most dangerous volcano yesterday as lava lit the rumbling mountain's cauldron and plumes of smoke blackened the sky.

Preferencing Greens may be Libs' best option

Paul Kelly - The Australian
Labor is fighting on two fronts and the Coalition should be taking advantage of that. John Howard is surely wrong. The most contentious remark by the Liberal Party's elder statesman last week was not about Peter Costello but was Howard's assertion the Liberals should not preference Greens at state and federal polls. The arguments against Howard are convincing. It would be a shock if either the Victorian or NSW Liberal Party took the Howard line at their coming elections. This is consistent with the federal decision to give Liberal preferences to the Greens at the August election, helping to turn the seat of Melbourne, held by Lindsay Tanner, from Labor to Green. The justification for such decisions is simple: the real contest for power in Australia is Labor v Liberal. The main opponent and rival of the Liberal Party is the Labor Party. The idea that the Liberals should defy this reality in making preference decisions demands the most serious scrutiny.

Remote Northern Territory schools bleed pupils

Mark Schliebs - The Australian
School attendance rates are plummeting in several remote Northern Territory communities. Both Territory and federal governments are struggling to find ways to keep indigenous children in class. At one school, attendance rates have nearly halved in two years to a low of 37.2 per cent. The NT government believes the minimum attendance rate in remote regions should be at least 80 per cent, which equates to the average child attending school four days a week. More than 60 schools across the Territory recorded attendance rates below 80 per cent in June, according to government figures, with an estimated 2000 children not even enrolled. Five schools had attendance rates below 50 per cent.

Labor to push social reforms

Patricia Karvelas - The Australian
The head of the Gillard government's newly elected social policy caucus committee has flagged sweeping reforms. The reforms to aged care, mental health and disability are to be delivered during Labor's second term, on the basis that the sectors are unsustainable. The chairman of the committee, Queenslander Shayne Neumann, who will meet regularly with Julia Gillard to push ideas developed by his group, told The Australian a major social reform agenda was needed in the three key areas. It comes after the Prime Minister revealed she wants to bury the culture of Kevin Rudd, where MPs had trouble raising policy and objections, by creating six caucus committees charged with sharing their thoughts with her directly. She will meet frequently with the committee heads and wanted them to be in the "ideas-generation business".

Coalition vows to go back to square one on bail laws

Joel Gibson - SMH
Bail laws will be rewritten all over again if the Coalition is elected in March because of widespread dissatisfaction with the haste and secrecy of a current review. Most groups involved in the justice system have criticised a draft bill, saying it will worsen the growing trend for people, particularly juveniles, being locked up while they await trial. The Police Association has argued the draft bill does not provide adequate guidance for bail decisions even though it was intended to ''tidy up'' bail laws and make them clearer. All groups contacted by the Herald agreed that a two-week period for comment on the draft bill was dangerously short and could lead to the passage of flawed laws.

Australia will spend $500m to upgrade Indonesian schools

Tom Allard - SMH
Australia will spend $500 million building 2000 new schools in Indonesia in an effort to improve the prospects of Indonesia's youth and moderate the influence of the country's religious schools. The five-year initiative was announced yesterday at a joint press conference by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. A commitment to forge a broader economic relationship was endorsed, and people-smuggling and the fate of Schapelle Corby and the Bali nine were also discussed.

Poll-driven Labor urged to return to basic values

Michelle Grattan - The Age
Federal cabinet minister Greg Combet has warned Labor not to subordinate good policy to focus group research and declared Labor must rebuild its reputation as ''the party of progress''. ''We have a responsibility to lead, not follow,'' he said. Mr Combet, from the Left, was buying into a hot Labor debate. The Right of the NSW Labor Party in particular has been accused of being focus-group driven. He said focus groups and polling had a role to play, noting they were crucial to the success of the union campaign against WorkChoices, which he spearheaded before the 2007 election.

Kept in the dark on child protection

Joe Tucci and Chris Goddard - The Age
The bureaucracy hides the awful truth about a system in meltdown. Stand up and walk down your street. Stop outside the house of someone you do not know. Open the gate and walk up to the front door. Ring the door bell. As you wait, be aware of your environment. Can you hear a dog barking? Are there any empty beer cans in the garden? What if the person who answers the door is drunk or affected by drugs? What if a seven-year-old girl opens the door and tells you that she is alone and not sure when mum or dad will return? Your heart has started racing. Your hands are shaking. You are nervous. You do not know what will happen next.

Canadian Parliament starts debate today on bill to stop forced abortions

Steven Ertelt -
The Canadian Parliament starts debate today on a bill that would make it a criminal offence to coerce a pregnant woman into having an abortion. Roxanne’s Law (Bill C-510) receives its first reading today and it would protect women who do not want to have an abortion but are feeling pressured by a husband, partner, family or employer to do so. “There is no reason that this legislation should not become law but some politicians will conclude that this is a ploy by the pro-life movement to ban abortions,” the pro-life group Priests for Life Canada said. “Obviously, this bill does not do that, it simply protects pregnant women against coercion.” The legislation is named after Roxanne Fernando, who moved to Canada from the Philippines in 2003.