PM grants conscience vote, dooming gay marriage

JULIA Gillard will back a conscience vote for Labor MPs on gay marriage, as the Age/Nielsen poll shows a growing majority of Australians favour legalising marriage equality.

But in a stand that will deeply disappoint those arguing for change, the Prime Minister also wants opposition to gay marriage to stay in the ALP platform, which will be debated at next month's party conference.

Sixty-two per cent of voters would like to see gay marriage legalised, a rise from 57 per cent a year ago, according to the poll. Thirty-one per cent are opposed, compared with 37 per cent in November 2010.

Giving more students a better chance at school

FOR the first time since 1973, the federal government is reviewing the way schools are funded. An expert panel, headed by David Gonski, is due to report to the government by the end of this year. It has been looking at how resources are distributed, at what is working and at what improvements should be made. In describing her hopes for our schools, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said demography should not equal destiny. The idea here - that every child should have an equal opportunity to excel at school - is worth pursuing.

State backs private schools

THE Baillieu government is backing the campaign by private schools to maintain their share of federal funding, warning that any drop could push up fees and force thousands of families into public schools, costing the state millions of dollars.

As Canberra prepares to overhaul the way schools are subsidised, the government has released figures showing Victorians would be forced to spend an extra $17 million a year for every 1 per cent of students - or 3000 children - who abandon private for public schools.

A Labor conscience vote means gay marriage will eventually come to pass

Julia Gillard should let her party have a real debate on the issue.

A FORTNIGHT from Thursday, a group of men and women will crowd into Sydney's shmickly renovated Trades Hall for a standing-room-only chat about political strategy.

It will be the big face-to-face meeting of the National Right before Labor's national conference kicks off the next day, and the crescendo of many conversations about how to deal with a push to shift the party's avowed opposition to gay marriage.

Some occupy to protest, others to hamper, harangue and hurt

Occupy Melbourne was expelled from the City Square after just one week, but another group of protesters has targeted an East Melbourne footpath for more than 20 years. They are anti-abortion campaigners picketing the Fertility Control Clinic in Wellington Parade.

The Helpers of God's Precious Infants say they help women and offer information. But when I visited the clinic this week, I saw a blonde Helper in a purple shirt follow and call out to patients after they had clearly rebuffed her.

Wealth of Islamic culture bound for this space

FOREIGN Minister Kevin Rudd first heard about the proposed Islamic Museum of Australia from his counterparts in Turkey and Senegal.

Seven months after the idea came to public attention via an Age article, the $8 million project is only $1.5 million short of starting the first building stage in a former bottled water factory in Thornbury.

So widespread and positive has the publicity been that the museum has already had 20 offers of exhibitions from organisations believing the museum is already open, though that is expected to take two years.

Father Bob loses bid

Only direct intervention from Rome can save noted priest Father Bob Maguire now, after Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart confirmed yesterday he would insist the 77-year-old retire on February 1.
At a press conference, Archbishop Hart said Father Bob had been a wonderful priest but it was better for the priest and his South Melbourne parish to move on.

He said he was appointing Father Bob priest emeritus to show his gratitude. Father Bob was unimpressed. "That's the kiss of death," he said. "I'm conscientiously objecting."

Girl Guides may ditch God and the Queen

''I PROMISE that I will do my best: to do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country; to help other people; and to keep the Guide Law.''

These are the words a girl utters when she becomes a Girl Guide and they haven't changed in more than 40 years. But now the Girl Guide Promise is being reviewed to bring the 100-year-old organisation into the 21st century - and God and the Queen could be casualties.

Christian lobby joins pokies row

THE conservative Australian Christian Lobby has urged Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to rethink his opposition to mandatory pre-commitment on poker machines.

The lobby's managing director, Jim Wallace, yesterday urged the opposition to at least consider a trial of the system.

The government has been working with ClubsACT to hold a six-month trial across the territory's 55 pokie venues. The trial has the backing of the pokies industry.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/christian-lobby-joins-pokies-row-20111...

Father Bob could be set for third coming

SOUTH Melbourne's Catholics have been given new hope their high-profile priest Father Bob Maguire might be allowed to stay on after he met Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart yesterday.

The parish and Father Maguire's supporters were upset the archdiocese secretly invited the Capuchin religious order to take over running the parish upon Father Maguire's agreed retirement date of February 1.

South Melbourne Parish Council chairman Tony Long said yesterday he understood that if the parish and Capuchins could agree on a delayed transition, that might be acceptable to Archbishop Hart.

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