Saturday, April 24, 2010

Joyful Christianity banned after 9pm?

The Tokaikolo Christian Church choir's joy and dancing banned by local council. Noise restrictions for all other activities cut in at 11pm so this seems discriminatory. And where is the vaunted multiculturalism of the Leftist NSW government? This church is of Tongan origin. The people of Tonga are Polynesians with their own distinctive traditions.

A SMALL western Sydney church has been hit with a $3000 fine by the local council because its choir was singing too loudly and some choristers were caught dancing.

Council officers raided the Granville church and were alarmed to discover choir members dancing in the carpark and the door of the church open an hour after it was supposed to be closed.

The dispute has gone all the way to the office of Treasurer Eric Roozendaal, who has been asked by his fellow minister David Borger to show mercy to the musical Christians and waive the penalty.

The Tokaikolo Christian Church choir was practising Christmas carols and other songs on the evening of December 3 last year.

The "infringement" occurred at 10pm as the rehearsal was finishing. A week later the church was hit with a $3000 fine from Parramatta Council. It has been unable to pay the fine, which has been referred to the State Debt Recovery Office - which slugged the church another $50.

The council claims the church violated the conditions of its development consent by being too noisy and hosting activities outside its approved "hours of operation", which are supposed to end at 9pm.

A spokesman said: "During a site inspection conducted at 10pm on December 3, 2009, the following observations were made: Three males were observed walking up the driveway on the northern side of the premises, towards the kitchen area; a large group of people were observed dancing in the basement carpark area; and the front door of the premises was open."

Reverend Nesiasi Kolo told The Telegraph parishoners would end up footing the bill.

Local MP Mr Borger is lobbying Mr Roozendaal to have the controversial fine waived. "In considering the difficulties the church faces in balancing their community activities with their impact on their neighbours, I would suggest that strong consideration be given to the waiving of the fine and the issuing of a stern warning," he said.


Australian Federal Government gets tough on foreign ownership of real estate

This will be a generally popular move but if a conservative government had done this, it would be "xenophobia' or "racism". As a move to restrain rises in real estate prices, however, it is just tokenism. High levels of immigration and Greenie-inspired land-use restrictions are the big causative factors there

FOREIGN students and temporary residents will face tough new rules when buying a house and will have to sell on leaving Australia.

The Federal Government's crackdown, to be announced today, reverses its December 2008 decision to relax foreign ownership rules.

Bowing to public pressure, the Government will also introduce a hotline for concerned locals to "dob in" foreigners they suspect of breaching the rules. Under the rules, temporary residents and foreign students will be:

SCREENED by the Foreign Investment Review Board to determine if they will be allowed to buy a property.

FORCED to sell property when they leave Australia.

PUNISHED if they do not sell by a government-ordered sale plus confiscation of any capital gain.

REQUIRED to build on vacant land within two years of purchase to stop "land banking". Failure to do so would also lead to a government-ordered sale.

There have been growing claims that real estate prices have been forced up by wealthy Asian families, especially from China and Korea, buying up property and outbidding locals at auctions.

The Government is concerned by anecdotal reports that foreigners are "collecting" houses, often in the same street, and leaving them empty when there is a shortage of housing.

Assistant Treasurer Senator Nick Sherry said he wanted to ensure foreigners did not put "pressure on housing availability for Australians".

Treasury is investigating 50 suspicious residential buys by foreigners in Melbourne.

Senator Sherry said the changes would "ensure that investment is in Australia's interests and in line with community expectations". He said the Government would catch cheats with new powers allowing it to cross-match information from Land Victoria and the Immigration Department.

It will also rely on members of the public to report suspicious property buyers to a new hotline: 1 800 031 227. "I want to make sure everyone in the community has a direct line to report their concerns," Senator Sherry said. "If you do the wrong thing, you will be found out."

New penalties, which may be linked to the value of the property, will apply to buyers, sellers and estate agents.

There is no data showing how many properties have been bought by temporary residents.

Since the Government's 2008 change, the median house price in Melbourne has risen from $450,000 to $524,500.

Foreigners living overseas are still prevented from buying existing homes and only allowed to buy or build new ones.


Kevin Howard is emerging

Disorder in home country not enough to warrant asylum says Rudd's immigration spokesman -- very reminiscent of skeptical Howard government policies

IMMIGRATION Minister Chris Evans has indicated the Rudd government is poised to issue further rejections for Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum-seekers who arrived before the government's April 9 suspension of claims from the two countries.

"I think the important point to make is that because a country is subject to civil disorder and great difficulty doesn't mean that everyone from that country is a refugee," he said yesterday during a visit to Christmas Island. "I think people comment on the situation in Afghanistan and say it is still fairly unsafe in certain regions, but that is not a convention-related reason for someone to be found a refugee."

The Rudd government earlier this month froze asylum applications from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, citing improved conditions in the two countries. While the freeze is in force, the government will review changes in the two nations to determine which applicants should be sent home.

Senator Evans was speaking as yet another asylum-seeker boat arrived in Australian waters yesterday - the 45th this year - with nine passengers and three crew aboard. The boat intercepted by the navy was also the ninth since the government announced the suspension of claims on April 9. Sixty-three Afghans who are subject to the new freeze have so far reached Christmas Island, a department spokeswoman said.

So far this year, 21 asylum-seekers have been sent home, including 19 Sri Lankans. Last year and in 2008, a total of 63 Sri Lankans were sent home.

No Afghan asylum-seeker has been returned in that period, although the government is believed to have issued rejections to a number of Afghans, who now have the option of an independent review. "There are indications that both cohorts are seeing increased rejections," Senator Evans said.

"We're waiting on the UNHCR review of country information as one source of information to use but already using the country information that we are getting, we are seeing a greater number of rejections based on other bits of information, saying things are safer for them."

Senator Evans yesterday inspected detention facilities on Christmas Island, which are operating under capacity for the first time in weeks following the transfer of almost 500 asylum-seekers to the mainland since last month.

Senator Evans did not expect the suspension of claims to have an immediate impact on arrivals, but it may do so in the long term.

He said asylum-seekers with small children were coming by boats in increasing numbers. Families cannot be held in the immigration detention centre for single men, and the government was struggling to find suitable places to house them on Christmas Island. Currently, they are in a former construction workers' camp but it is cramped and, according to the minister, not ideal.


Australia has only recently lost control of its borders

No issue in our national life produces more cant, hypocrisy, posturing and downright disregard for facts and history than that of illegal immigrants coming to Australia's northern shores by boat.

Two important recent developments are [conservative] Tony Abbott's announcement that no one who comes here illegally by boat will get permanent residency and the [Leftist] Rudd government's suspension of the assessment of asylum applications by Sri Lankans for three months, and Afghans for six months. The government also said the situation in both countries was improving and therefore more of those asylum-seekers could in due course probably be sent home.

The Rudd government is moving crab-wise towards a [conservative] Howard government position (effectively restoring indefinite mandatory detention), that they will be generous to refugees but the Australian government will choose which refugees come here.

This has virtually always been the Australian way.

John Howard's insight was to understand that it would be impossible to sustain support for a big immigration program if substantial numbers of illegal boats were coming.

No one is really qualified to express a view in this debate who has not read Christopher Caldwell's Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, which demonstrates categorically that asylum-seekers in Europe were not primarily refugees but extremely determined illegal immigrants.

That doesn't make them bad people, but it means the highly emotional response is misplaced.

Australia will always take refugees, but it is up to the government, representing the people, to determine how many and which ones. We might take all sorts of criteria into account, such as the degree of need, but also the prospects of such people settling well, whether they have relatives or other support here and so on.

Both sides of politics agree that we will take about 13,500 refugees a year, so any boatperson who is allowed in takes away the place of someone elsewhere in the program. No politician has argued that boatpeople be added to the total intake. There are really only two effective positions.

One is to deny the people smugglers the ability to deliver Australian permanent residency to their clients. They will then stop running the boats.

The other is to accept that whoever manages to physically get here gets to stay permanently. Life in Australia is a glittering and magnificent prize. A few months at a camp is unlikely to deter people who have that prize in sight. Sending them back home at the end of the detention period, as the government is foreshadowing, may well do so, though it would be better to do that quickly rather than slowly.

The Rudd government has lost control of the boats, with nearly 5000 people arriving since it came to office. Rudd should understand this plainly. That rate of arrivals will destroy support for the immigration program.

Previous governments have been much harsher than the Howard government was, but much less effective. The most anti-immigration modern prime minister was surely [Leftist] Gough Whitlam.

It is the fashion these days to be nice to Whitlam, because he is indeed a very nice old chap. But this should not obscure the central reality of his government, that it was a catastrophic failure in economic management and countless bad consequences flowed from that.

In 1975, under Whitlam, barely 50,000 immigrants came to Australia, and more Australians left permanently than immigrants came into the country, a stupendously shocking result.

Whitlam was extraordinarily cruel to Vietnamese who had worked for or associated closely with the Australian embassy and army in South Vietnam. By the fall of Saigon, two planeloads of orphans - 280 kids in all - and only 78 other Vietnamese had come to Australia. Hundreds associated with Australia were left to the tender mercies of the communists.

Malcolm Fraser [conservative] presents himself as a great saint on refugees, but no one participates in this debate more dishonestly than Fraser. In fact in opposition in 1975 Fraser had called for only a small number of Vietnamese to be brought to Australia. He was slow to allow any refugees to come to Australia after he became prime minister. In his seven years in office only 2000 Vietnamese came to Australia by boat.

I remember as a student campaigning hard to get Fraser to allow Vietnamese to come to Australia as refugees and this only happened towards the end of the 1970s and in the overwhelming context of a push led by the US for international resettlement. In that context it would have been inconceivable for an Australian government to do much less.

Fraser loves to laud his humanitarianism, but there is much less to it than meets the eye. The vast majority of Vietnamese who came here under Fraser did so either after being selected by Australian officials in UNHCR camps, just exactly as happens today with the majority of our quota of 13,500 refugees, or as a normal part of the family reunion migration program after other family members had been settled here. Fraser's record on eventually accepting substantial numbers of Vietnamese is good.

The Vietnamese have been a wonderful success in Australia. But exactly like Howard, Fraser was determined to stop people coming here directly by boat. Australians have a long history of being generous to refugees and to migrants generally provided they come to Australia in an orderly process supervised by the Australian government.

Many Afghans who come to Australia go through Pakistan, catch a flight to Malaysia, get another flight or boat to Indonesia, then join a boat to Australia and on the journey get rid of their documents. It is perfectly understandable that they want to live in Australia. It is not, however, a refugee situation.

Other nationalities who come on tourist visas and then claim refugee status have entered legally, they have documentation and they can be sent home if their claims are unsuccessful, which gives assessors more of an incentive to turn them down.

The assessment process on Christmas Island, in the absence of documents, is extremely subjective. The Rudd government's latest moves are not likely to stop the flow of boats. Nonetheless they are a move in the right direction.


Small classes for schools a 'costly mistake'

THE head of the Productivity Commission has attacked the emphasis on reducing class sizes in schools as "the most costly mistake" in education policy in recent years, stealing scarce resources from investment in teaching.

Productivity Commission chairman Gary Banks also pointed to the waste of money in highly bureaucratic state school systems, with NSW spending more money than Victoria per student to achieve similar results.

Mr Banks said the "performance of teachers appears not to have been a priority of education policy" and "if anything, attention to it seems to have been weakened over the years, at least until recently".

"Arguably the most costly mistake has been to spend scarce budgetary resources on smaller class sizes instead of better teachers, notwithstanding steadily accumulating evidence that smaller classes, in the ranges contemplated, were unlikely to achieve improved learning outcomes," Mr Banks said.

"While there are many more teachers in Australia than ever before. . .the average teacher who joined years ago seems to have effectively paid for this with a lower salary today."

Mr Banks's comments come as the federal government this week asked the Productivity Commission to look at the education and training workforce, including school teachers.

In a speech on the government's human capital agenda, delivered last week but released yesterday, Mr Banks said opposition to reform in the school sectors seemed "particularly strong and wrong-headed" but future policy needed to rest on the evidence of what worked.

Mr Banks said the debate over teachers' pay had to look not only at improving the overall rate of pay compared to other professions, but also paying more to certain types of teachers, such as maths and science teachers, who are in short supply.

"Currently, one finds little recognition in remuneration structures for experience or skill levels, let alone for scarcity, or the contentious matter of differential performance on the job," he said.

Mr Banks noted the $500 million partnership on teacher quality between the federal and state governments, which is trialling schemes to pay more to highly qualified teachers or those in remote or disadvantaged schools.

"The main constraint on their success -- or the scope to extend them -- may be resistance by teacher associations, rather than the budget," he said, pointing to objections by the NSW Teachers Federation to the introduction of a highly-paid teaching position for "highly accomplished teachers" in disadvantaged schools.

Mr Banks also championed autonomy for school principals, saying most had little or no say in hiring, firing or promoting staff. This ran counter to the trend internationally, with Australia being among the most centralised systems in the OECD.

"There is little between Victoria and NSW currently in relation to literacy and numeracy outcomes. What does seem clear is that Victoria's devolved system achieves comparable outcomes at a significantly lower cost per student than NSW's more highly centralised and bureaucratised one," he said.

"Or, to put it another way, NSW has achieved similar results to Victoria with additional resourcing."


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