Australia forms commission to investigate church sex abuse

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a national inquiry into the Catholic church’s responses to child sex abuse after a series of scandals involving paedophile priests.

Gillard made the announcement on Monday in the wake of claims by a senior policeman that a Catholic Church in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales destroyed evidence and silenced investigations.

“There have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes from this evil,” Gillard said. “I believe in these circumstances that it is appropriate for there to be a national response through a royal commission…”

Gillard had been under growing pressure to establish a national inquiry after the recent allegations but she said the probe would be broader than just the Catholic Church.

This is not a royal commission targeting any one church,” Gillard said…

In early November, a senior police investigator…alleged that the church had covered up sexual abuse of children in the Hunter Valley, just north of Sydney, to protect paedophiles and its own reputation.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox said it was his experience that the church not just covered up, but silenced victims, hindered police, alerted offenders, destroyed evidence and moved priests to protect the church…

Gillard said the more recent allegations were heartbreaking.

“These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject,” she told reporters in Canberra.

Gillard said she did not yet know how far back the commission would investigate. She commended victims for speaking out.

Overdue. Long justified. Something you cannot count on churches to do on their own.

But, then, self-policing usually concerns itself more with “self” than “policing”.

Australia in the Asian Century

An ambitious plan aimed at maximising links with booming China and other Asian economies will power Australia into the world’s top 10 wealthiest nations by 2025, the government has said.

By engaging in more business with China and India in particular, Australia aims to lift Asia’s impact into its economy to one third by 2025, from 25 per cent now.

“Whatever else this century brings, it will bring Asia’s return to global leadership, Asia’s rise. This is not only unstoppable, it is gathering pace,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Sunday.

The sweeping policy blueprint, titled “Australia in the Asian Century”, sets a series of goals for the next 13 years to seize upon Asia’s rapid ascent as a global economic powerhouse…

It also targets more Asian investment into Australia and lower trade barriers, although does not recommend changing Australia’s foreign investment rules, which include intense scrutiny of planned investments from overseas state-owned firms…

“It is not enough to rely on luck – our future will be determined by the choices we make and how we engage with the region we live in,” the prime minister said…

Gillard said her vision was for Australia to “stand strongly as a mature and confident power” in the region, supporting greater participation by China and other Asian powers in decision-making while remaining a key US ally.

“We accept China’s military growth is a natural, legitimate outcome of its growing economy and broadening interests,” the policy document said.

Australia will have to balance its defence and security ties to the US with supporting China’s military growth and stronger role in the region, the document said, adding that any policy aimed at containing China would not work.

RTFA for an expanded view of what they project for Oz in a changing world. RTFA for a snapshot of a nation that intends to grow into the future on the basis of education and commerce. Admittedly topics that receive lots of lip service here in the US. And little else.

Australia PM calls out opposition leader for sexist remarks

Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister, has verbally attacked the country’s opposition leader, labelling him as a hypocrite and a misogynist during a tirade in parliament that has garnered international media attention.

During a heated day in parliament on Tuesday, Gillard unleashed on Tony Abbott’s character after he called for the dismissal of Peter Slipper, the speaker of parliament, for lurid text messages he sent to a former member of staff…

In a fiery response, Gillard accused Abbott of possessing double standards when it came to sexism.

“I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man. I will not,” she said.

“And the government will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by this man. Not now, not ever.

“If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror, that’s what he needs.”

She then recounted previous…quotes by Abbott, which she said had repeatedly offended her personally.

I wish Democrats understood they might actually increase the tiny edge of respect they have over Republicans by calling them out for their bigotry and backwardness.

Julia Gillard defeats Kevin Rudd – Why did he even try?

Julia Gillard will remain as Australia’s prime minister after winning the resounding backing of her Labor party colleagues in a leadership ballot against Kevin Rudd.

The party room voted 71 to 31 to retain Gillard as leader of the party and therefore the country. It ends a week of vicious bloodletting by Labor parliamentarians, brought to a head with Kevin Rudd’s resignation as foreign minister to mount a challenge.

“This is an absolute massacre,” Michael Glesson, strategist at political lobbying firm Hawker Britton, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Before the vote it was clear that the numbers were hardening against Rudd. He reminded fellow Labor MPs that he was more popular with the public. But, that’s not how you manage leadership in a parliamentary government, dude. He should have known better.

Labor members on all sides upped their calls for unity following the vote. Blah, blah, blah.

Questions over the Labor leadership have dogged the party since Rudd was removed from office in 2010 in an internal party coup. The centre-left Labor party scraped through elections later that year to lead a minority government in a hung parliament. The party’s support has been flat-lining at around 30% of the primary vote for months, though a poll out on Monday did show a slight improvement.

The conservative opposition has again called for an election. They will be ignored. If they had sufficient support they could press a vote for no confidence in parliament. Obviously ain’t about to happen.

This was all happening on a Monday morning in Oz – Sunday evening in the United States. Which happens to be an evening with a certain amount of time parceled out for CNBC Asia and BloombergTV Asia in our household. The network and cable snooze channels are busy, tonight, covering the usual allotment of two or three “news” stories. One will be the Oscars – boring. Another will be the Republican primaries – worse than boring.

Watching business news channels gets us a modicum of realistic news throughout whatever region is being covered – which, on a Sunday night, will be Asia and Oceania.

Even there, Bernie Lo on CNBC was so heartbroken when it was obvious that Gillard would retain her position as PM that he resorted to the questions conservatives have used to whine about parliaments since Cromwell. “Won’t the world worry about Australia having a government that isn’t united?” Conflicts between the rank-and-file and the parliamentary members are common. Bernie knows better.

Cripes. How does the world look at a government like ours – with a stonewall Congress refusing to do any work at all?

Nope. All elections are local is a pretty apt slogan. Folks in Australia will mostly vote in the next national elections for the representatives they believe will do the best job for their locality. A certain portion of that equation will include their feelings about party leadership. But, that ain’t the killer that it can be in the United States where the range of our choices include the resident at 1600 Pensylvania Avenie in DC.

Personally, I’d rather vote for a parliament – one that at least is capable of calling a snap election and allowing us to kick the bums out in 30 days or so.

Oz TV lambasted for comedy skit about Prime Minister

Australia’s national broadcaster faced calls for a review of funding on Tuesday over a television comedy scene with a fictional Prime Minister Julia Gillard draped in a national flag after having sex on her office floor.

Conservative opposition lawmakers said the Australian Broadcasting Corporation had overstepped good taste with a scene in which actors playing Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson cuddled naked and used the flag — with its historic ties to Britain and Australia’s Queen Elizabeth — as a sheet.

“Having sex in the prime minister’s office under the Australian flag is the last straw for me. It is sick. I’m offended and we should take a stand,” one lawmaker who could not be named told a closed door meeting of MPs, a conservative spokesman told a press briefing.

Another MP called for a rethink of taxpayer funding for the ABC, saying the program degraded the office of prime minister, currently held by center-left Labor rival Gillard, while monarchists said the use of the flag was disrespectful…

Gillard herself has laughed off controversy over the satireGood for you, Julia!

An ABC spokesman for the program said Gillard had only been shown in a “very gentle, tender scene.”

“If it’s okay for others to drape themselves in our flag for all manner of occasions, I really don’t see why it can’t be draped over our prime minister as a symbol of love,” the spokesman said.

And the answer from reasonable adults, hopefully sophisticated, certainly couched in free speech is — “tell the stiffs to stuff it where the sun don’t shine!”

Cowardly reactionaries of every land wrap themselves in the national flag every time they feel threatened by present or future freedom. Letting people speak, letting people laugh, is no longer a choice governed by monarchists and conservative fops.

New Australian prime minister is an atheist

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Julia Gillard, the new Australian prime minister, has said that she does not believe in God, but has “great respect for religion”.

Why? Hasn’t served much of a purpose since the Stone Age.

Ms Gillard, who replaced Kevin Rudd as leader of the country in a dramatic political coup last week, said she had been brought up in a Baptist family, but had “made decisions in my adult life about my own views”.

I’m not going to pretend a faith I don’t feel,” she said. Ms Gillard’s views on religion are in stark contrast to those of Mr Rudd, who was a regular at Canberra church services, and those of her rival, Tony Abbott, who once trained as a priest and is known as a devout Catholic.

Since taking over from Mr Rudd and becoming the country’s first female prime minister, Ms Gillard has presided over a lift in the polls for the Labour government.

The last Nielsen Poll on the topic found that 75% of Australians could care less if political leaders believe in God – or Yahweh – or Allah – or [cripes] even the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Only a century or two ahead of American voters.

Julia Gillard is Australia’s first woman prime minister

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Australia has its first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, after Kevin Rudd stepped down as Labor party leader, avoiding a ballot he was certain to lose.

In an extraordinary day in Australian politics, Gillard told a media conference in Canberra’s Parliament House she was “truly honoured” to become prime minister.

The 48-year-old who came under attack in 1998 when she entered parliament for being single and childless, said it was also an important milestone for Australian women. “I think if there’s one girl who looks at the TV screen over the next few days and says ‘Gee, I might like to do that in the future’, well that’s a good thing,” Gillard told reporters…

Gillard said she would stay in Altona, a suburb in Melbourne’s west, and not move into the prime minister’s Canberra residence, The Lodge, until after she had won the next election…

“Indeed, I believe it is appropriate for me to stay there until we have an election and I have fulsomely earned the trust of Australian people to be prime minister…”

Rudd, who was once regarded as Australia’s most popular prime minister which led to him being known as “Mr 60 Percent”, for his high approval ratings, has seen his support plummet to record lows this year as the nation reacted angrily to a series of government U-turns on key election promises.

The most damaging was the decision to shelve its flagship emissions trading scheme until 2013. He also came under fire over plans to tax the “super profits” of the key mining sector by 40%, earning the wrath of resources firms and their many shareholders.

Rudd, the first Labor prime minister to be dumped by his party before he could complete a term in office, was in tears today as he declared “I have given it my all…”

Much like the current situation in Japan – and should I say it, the United States? Voters don’t like being sold out on issues that change an election.

The American case involves a candyass Congressional delegation of Democrats – true. But, Japan’s case is a real parallel. Kowtowing to the United States over Okinawa military bases after opposition to the bases becoming a swing issue.

The latter case got the Japanese PM bounced. We’ll see what happens in 2012 in the U.S. – since we haven’t the advantage of a Parliamentary system or, for that matter, any political parties with backbone.