Pre-dawn survey sheds light on city's hundreds of homeless

Stephen Nash

A snapshot of those sleeping rough gives us the knowledge to help. Over three mornings last October, 80 volunteers from 21 different community organisations gathered in the dark to undertake an unprecedented investigation of the extent of street homelessness in inner Melbourne and the vulnerability and specific needs of those sleeping rough. They covered an area from St Kilda in the south to the Yarra in the east, Brunswick in the north and the Maribyrnong in the west. This innovative approach was part of a new model of responding to extreme homelessness known as Melbourne Street to Home. Similar models have been adopted around the country with the goal of providing co-ordinated housing and ongoing support services directly to those hardest to find and most in need of help.

Sex party jumps into gay debate

THE Australian Sex Party is weighing in late to the recent gay marriage debate. Last week, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) organised a public forum to speak out against gay marriage. Australian Sex party NT coordinator Seranna Shutt is regrouping and organising a counter-forum in support of gay marriage. Ms Shutt, who is not Christian, said that she will invite the ACL NT, amongst others, and is particularly keen to engage with their spokesperson, Lois Fong.

Malcolm Turnbull embarks on gay marriage poll

MALCOLM Turnbull is privately polling his own electorate's support for gay marriage, claiming the issue will go to a vote in Federal Parliament later this year. He has sent an email poll to constituents in his Sydney seat of Wentworth. Mr Turnbull said already about 68 per cent of 1800 people who had responded supported gay marriage. He acknowledged that community views on the issue were "changing" and that the current laws were inconsistent.

Liberal MPs warn of 'Islam danger'
AUSTRALIA risks becoming a nation of "ethnic enclaves" that unknowingly buys livestock slaughtered "in the name of Allah", senior Liberal MPs have warned. Opening up a new political faultline, former immigration minister Kevin Andrews lashed out at political leaders who failed to speak out on the rise of extreme Islam, claiming the silence contributes to the rise of One Nation-type movements. Another Liberal frontbencher, Mitch Fifield, warned of the danger of "parallel societies" developing as has occurred in Europe where hardline Muslim groups preached sharia law rather than Western values. Amid a robust debate in Europe over failed "state multiculturalism", Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi warned Australia must avoid the mistakes of nations that allowed religious fanatics to prosper "before it is too late".

Open slather on Easter Sunday shopping

WORKERS who are forced to work Easter Sunday should stand up to their bosses for their working rights, Fr Bob Maguire says. The State Government will today move to overturn an Easter Sunday trading ban to allow retailers the chance to cash in on tourists. The legislation will give all businesses the right to open on Christianity's holiest day, allowing big business and regional traders the chance to cash in on Easter tourism. Traders have welcomed the lifting of the ban but not all will open their doors for trade. Carlton restaurant owner Carl Masini, who co-owns Ti Amo restaurant, said he would not be forcing his employees to work even though the ban had been lifted. Mr Masini said he had always given staff Easter Sunday off before the ban and would continue to do so. “We work Sundays every week (so) we prefer to have a day off, relax and recharge. It’s nice for everyone to have a couple of days off,” he said.

Palestinian polls set for July

The Palestinian Authority late last night set long-overdue local council elections for July 9 in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but the rival Hamas government that rules Gaza promptly rejected the move. The push for Palestinian elections appears to reflect fears that two weeks of street protests demanding increased democracy in nearby Egypt could lead to similar calls in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Authority has not held elections since 2006, leaving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and members of parliament in office after their elected terms ended.

Union revolt on same-sex marriage ban

THE shop assistants' union led by right-wing powerbroker Joe De Bruyn faces a rank-and-file challenge to its ban on same-sex marriage, beginning in Brisbane tonight. Shop Distributive & Allied Employees' Association shop steward Duncan Hart, who works for Target, is organising a revolt against the union's position. He has called on members of the SDA, Australia's union for retail and fast food workers, to attend the quarterly members' meeting to raise the issue of same-sex marriage.

US 'deplores' religious killings in Indonesia
THE US has condemned an outbreak of religious violence in Indonesia that left three people dead and several churches badly damaged. The violence erupted on Sunday when a mob of 1000 Muslim extremists attacked members of the minority Ahmadiyah sect in West Java province. A video of the lynching shows the Muslim fanatics armed with machetes, sticks and rocks screaming "Allahu akbar" as they set upon their victims.

Indonesian mobs step up sectarian violence

THE brutal killing of three followers of the Islamic sect Ahmadiyah by a crazed mob over the weekend and assaults on two Christian churches yesterday have renewed concerns about growing violence against religious minorities in Indonesia and the unwillingness of authorities to contain marauding gangs of Islamist thugs. Coming as Indonesia celebrates ''interfaith harmony week'', the killings and assaults are acutely embarrassing for the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has faced criticism for more than a year for turning a blind eye to rising sectarian attacks, which almost always go unpunished by police.