Wong's joyous vote for new parenthood
December 14, 2011/the AGE
Early arrival: Senator Penny Wong holds hands with new daughter Alexandra in Adelaide as partner Sophie Allouache looks on.
WHILE Canberra was mesmerised with the base plots and B-grade intrigues of an end-of-year cabinet reshuffle, Penny Wong and Sophie Allouache were preoccupied with their own epochal moment - the joy of new parenthood.
The most anticipated newborn in federal politics - baby Alexandra - entered the world quietly, two weeks early, on Sunday at the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide.
It was a natural delivery for first-time mother Ms Allouache, a public servant. The ebullience of the new parents is captured in the above photo.
''My partner, Sophie Allouache, and I are thrilled to welcome the arrival of our baby daughter, Alexandra, born in Adelaide on December 11,'' the Finance Minister said last night in a statement.
''Both mother and baby are happy and healthy. Like any family welcoming a new addition, we are looking forward to spending time at home together and ask for our privacy to be respected at this time.''
The ever private Wong was still in the process of delivering the news to political colleagues last night. Prime Minister Julia Gillard led the congratulations.
''I am thrilled for Penny and Sophie - this is wonderful news, and Alexandra is beautiful and a source of joy,'' she said.
Despite the recent affirmation of gay marriage by Labor's national conference - a debate in which Senator Wong played a high-profile advocacy role - the Finance Minister has said consistently she does not want her personal life to be a political statement.
Yesterday Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd's sister, Loree Rudd, 61, quit the ALP, saying she could not support a party that ''endorsed homosexuals marrying''.
In confirming Ms Allouache's pregnancy this year, Senator Wong said: ''I can understand for some people it may give rise to a whole range of political and policy comment … the way I want to approach this in my own head has been to be very clear about the distinction between what is political and what is personal, what is my public life and what is my private life. I don't want to engage in the policy debate about these issues in the context of something that is so deeply personal and so lovely.''
Alexandra was conceived through IVF. The father will be known to the child.
Victorian nurses are threatening to resign en masse in a dramatic escalation of their pay dispute with the State Government.
One in ten jobs will be cut from Victoria's public service, over the next two years.
The State Government has released the mid-year budget update forecasting a surplus of $1.3 billion by 2014 - 2015
180 still missing after asylum boat sinking
Updated December 19, 2011 12:51:43
By George Roberts in East Java, staff/ABC news online
Australian search teams and police officers are heading to the area where an overcrowded boat full of asylum seekers sank on Saturday, killing as many as 180 people.
The vessel, carrying as many as 215 people, sank in rough seas off the coast of Prigi in East Java.
Indonesia rescue officials say 33 people have survived, while the Australian Government says it has been informed of 86 survivors. ...<cont>
The ABC understands that most of those on board were Afghans and Iranians. The boat is believed to have been heading to Australia.
It is the second time since the start of November that an overloaded asylum-seeker vessel has sunk off Java.
This morning Indonesia accepted Australia's offer of help in the search for survivors, and a surveillance plane and Navy ship are heading to the area.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare confirmed that Australian Federal Police officers were also on their way to Java to help in the hunt for the people smugglers who organised the boat.
He said the AFP officers were being sent at the request of Indonesian police.
"You've got people smugglers that act with a callous disregard for human life and the only way to tackle this effectively if you've got police forces in Australia and in Indonesia, police forces across the region, working very closely together," he told AM.
"The search went on till midnight last night, and they'll continue to search today aided by Australian assistance," he said.
"The 48-hour window is closing, it's almost been two days since the boat was sunk... the water is warm, but it's very, very rough.
"Today my focus is fairly and squarely on trying to rescue people. My view on this is offshore processing is the way to go, that's the Government's position, it's the Opposition's position as well.... we need to maturely and sensibly get together to implement offshore processing." ....<cont>
Photo: Policemen carry an injured man to a local health clinic for treatment in Trenggalek, East Java. (Dimas Aro: Reuters)
Abbott says 'no' three times to compromise on boat people
December 20, 2011 - 12:16PM/the AGE
Chris Bowen ... Mr Abbott is saying no. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has revealed a chain of letters in which the Gillard government has tried to open talks on offshore processing, but has been repeatedly rebuffed by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
Speaking to journalists in Sydney this morning, Mr Bowen said the Prime Minister wrote last Wednesday seeking talks on the asylum issue, and offering to recall Parliament if a compromise could be found.
Apparently Mr Abbott replied on Friday, turning down the offer.
In his first response letter to Ms Gillard, Mr Abbott wrote: ''If you do have a specific proposal to make and would care to do so in writing, my colleagues and I would be prepared to consider it.''
The Coalition's Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison reiterated the point in a late morning press conference, telling the government: ''Put forward a proposal and we'll sit down to talk.''
According to the Immigration Minister, Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan has written two subsequent letters to the Opposition seeking talks, but both have also been turned down.
Mr Bowen said the Australian people had had ''a gutful of politicking''.They wanted Labor and Liberal politicians who supported offshore processing to sort this out, he said.
They "are crying out" for a solution, but "Mr Abbott is saying 'no' to a meeting. He's saying 'No' to engaging."
Speaking before Mr Bowen's press conference, the opposition's immigration spokesman Scott Morrison called on the federal government to restore temporary protection visas before Christmas.
Mr Morrison told Sky News that the so-called TPVs would help dissuade asylum seekers from making the perilous boat journey to Australia.
He says the Coalition does not want to see a repeat of the latest tragedy, in which up to 200 people are missing after a boat heading for Australia sank off Indonesia's Java coast at the weekend.
Mr Bowen said the government will continue to argue for offshore processing, especially its swap deal with Malaysia. ..... <cont>