Monday, May 04, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is skeptical about the swine flu panic. He thinks it might be drummed up by "the usual suspects"

Illegal immigrants who overstay visas will no longer be put in detention camps

Instead they will be invited in for chat and given coffee -- I kid you not -- JR

ILLEGAL immigrants will no longer be locked up and deported when caught by authorities, in a major softening of immigration procedures. Instead, people who overstay their visas will be invited into an immigration office and could even get temporary bridging visas. Immigration officers have been instructed not to detain visa violators unless they are known to be violent criminals or have previously been instructed to leave.

Until last week, illegal foreigners were immediately detained at detention centres and put on planes home within weeks. The new approach is in line with a general softening of immigration policy by the Rudd Government. Under the policy, officers are required to issue illegal foreigners with bridging visas and work with them to get them home. "We basically have to invite them into the office for a coffee," an insider within the department said. "They can get a couple of weeks or six months, whatever it takes to get them home without detaining them."

Mandatory detention was axed last year, but until now only asylum seekers have been allowed to live in the community. The new directive from Immigration Minister Chris Evans' office was issued to immigration officers verbally last week.

There are almost 50,000 visa overstayers living illegally in Australia. More than one in 10 is from China. Entrants from the US, Malaysia and Britain are also big overstayers. Most come in on tourist visas, but about 3600 are foreign students who disappear into the community when their course is over.

The Government has also closed down offshore processing facilities on Nauru and Manus Island.

Senator Evans' directive has divided opinion within department ranks, with some fearing the softer approach could send a dangerous message. "I guess it says people can pretty much do whatever they want now," the insider said. "They've been caught, but they can stay and go home when they want."

The move could open the floodgates for unwelcome visitors. "It certainly could be open for exploitation," the insider said. "Prisons are not nice places to be in. Many of these people are not criminals, but I guess it doesn't convey a strong message."

Senator Evans said detention would only be used as a last resort. "The presumption will be that persons will remain in the community while their immigration status is resolved," he said. "If a person is complying with immigration processes and is not a risk to the community, then detention in a detention centre cannot be justified. "The department will have to justify a decision to detain - not presume detention."


The ever-growing flood of "boat people"

Detention renovations as island struggles with influx

OUTDOOR areas will be dormitories and dozens of bunks have been flown to Christmas Island's detention centre before the arrival of 136 asylum seekers. There are already 262 asylum seekers in various forms of detention on the remote island - the highest number since the mass arrivals that preceded the Tampa stand-off in 2001.

The surge that began last September has so far delivered 411 asylum seekers to Christmas Island, and the rise in numbers, although good for local businesses, has created an expensive challenge for the Government. Last week, the Department of Immigration reverted to bringing in staff, contractors and supplies on commercial flights to save about $70,000 it had been spending each Thursday on a charter flight from the mainland.

Since 2001, the commonwealth has invested more than $500million in detention-related infrastructure on the island, including 162 bedsits, five duplexes and two houses for staff and community detainees, but shortages are now being felt keenly. Negotiations are under way that could allow guards and staff to live at the island's mothballed 156-room casino, and the department's review of accommodation on the island has included talks over two more blocks of flats in the suburb of Poon Saan.

The department's stock of accommodation has become strained as increasing numbers of families and minors are granted community detention; last month, a group of five Sri Lankan asylum seekers was moved out of a department-owned duplex in the suburb of Drumsite and back to transportable huts on the site of the island's old detention centre to make room for new community detainees.

The old detention centre, built as a temporary measure after the Tampa incident, is also being used again by immigration officials processing asylum seekers from the adjacent family compound, which houses 41 adults and children. The compound initially had a capacity of 50, but has been adapted and has held as many as 61 in recent weeks.

The island's main detention centre now holds 193 single men and, as HMAS Tobruk prepares to deliver a further 136 people, it is being readied for what its staff term "surge capacity".


Sex instruction book Where Did I Really Come From? aimed at toddlers

A BOOK which teaches children about lesbian mums getting pregnant using sperm donors is being pitched at kids as young as two. The controversial publication, Where Did I Really Come From?, also features a drawing of two gay men holding a baby in a chapter about surrogacy. The publisher's marketing spruiks the book, which includes in-depth descriptions of sexual intercourse, as suitable to be read to two-year-olds.

It is being advertised at some Sydney book stores and inside the cover as being part of the New South Wales Attorney General Office's Learn to Include program. A spokesman for the Attorney General was unable to confirm yesterday if the book had been funded by the State Government.

In a chapter on assisted conception, the book tells children: "Sometimes, a woman really wants to have a baby but she doesn't want to have intercourse with a man. "Some women want to bring up a baby by themselves, or with another woman, so the baby gets two mums."

However, angry family advocates claim the book targets children too young. "It devalues the traditional family unit and at the very least desensitises us," Focus On The Family spokeswoman Deb Sorensen said yesterday.

The book was first penned in the early 1990s, but has been updated and relaunched by Learn to Include, which has published a range of books featuring child characters whose parents are gay. Learn to Include's website said that the book's "simple, non-judgmental explanations of sexual intercourse, assisted conception, pregnancy, birth, adoption and surrogacy were "suitable for 2-12 year olds".

Author Narelle Wickham defended the book, describing it as a mainstream publication which just went further about ways of conceiving children. "It is just trying to normalise to children that there are many ways to conceive a child," she said.


Bureau of Meteorology backs down from a claim that temperatures at Australia's three bases in Antarctica have been warming

THE Bureau of Metereology has backed down from a claim that temperatures at Australia's three bases in Antarctica have been warming over the past three decades. A senior bureau climatologist had accused The Weekend Australian of manufacturing a report that temperatures were cooling in East Antarctica, where Australia's Mawson, Davis and Casey bases are located.

The trend of temperatures and ice conditions in Antarctica is central to the debate on global warming because substantial melting of the Antarctic ice cap, which contains 90 per cent of the world's ice, would be required for sea levels to rise. While calvings from ice shelves in parts of West Antarctica have generated headlines, evidence has emerged that temperatures are cooling in the east of the continent, which is four times the size of West Antarctica. Contrary to widespread public perceptions, the area of sea ice around the continent is expanding.

The Weekend Australian reported last month a claim by Bureau of Metereology senior climatologist Andrew Watkins that monitoring at Australia's Antarctic bases since the 1950s indicated temperatures were rising. A study was then published by the British Antarctic Survey that concluded the ozone hole was responsible for the cooling and expansion of sea ice around much of the continent. The head of the study project, John Turner, said at the time that the section of Antarctica that included the Australian bases was among the areas that had cooled.

Dr Watkins said The Weekend Australian had misrepresented the results of the BAS study, which made no findings about temperatures at Australian bases. When it was pointed out to Dr Watkins that Professor Turner had been quoted directly, Dr Watkins said his bureau, and not the BAS, was the agency collecting temperature data.

"You kept going until you got the answer you wanted," Dr Watkins said. "You were told explicitly that the data collected by the Bureau of Metereology at the Australian bases shows a warming for maximum temperatures at all bases, and minimum temperatures at all but Mawson."

However, Professor Turner told The Weekend Australian the data showed a cooling of the East Antarctica coast associated with the onset of the ozone layer from 1980 onwards. Professor Turner said the monthly mean temperatures for Casey station from 1980 to 2005 showed a cooling of 0.45C per decade. In autumn, the temperature trend has been a cooling of 0.93C per decade. "These fairly small temperature trends seem to be consistent to me with the small increase in sea ice extent off the coast," he said.

Dr Watkins did not dispute the figures referred to by Professor Turner. Referring to the bureau's data collection since the 1950s, Dr Watkins said Professor Turner's figures were "only half of the full data set". However, Dr Watkins admitted that analysis of the data might show "an ozone-induced cooling trend in the latter half of the record" -- a reference to the past three decades.

Dr Watkins declined to release the temperature data to The Weekend Australian. He said it had still to be fully analysed by the bureau.


Note as an addendum to the above story that Anthony Watts has a lot of pictures of Australia's Antarctic bases and that the temperature monitors are clearly shown as located within a few yards of the buildings. So the extra heat put out by the expanding base should inflate the readings on the temperature sensors. The bases create their own little heat islands, in other words. Temperature time series from such sensors are hence useless at best and misleading at worst. Dr. Watkins would have been much wiser to keep his head right down

No comments: