Sunday, September 12, 2010

Big fall in migrant arrivals - 32 per cent fall in the past year

This is a misleading report. The fall is off an initial high level. The numbers are still around twice what they were under Howard

AUSTRALIA is heading towards recording its biggest drop in immigration numbers in 90 years. Although official data will not be published until next month by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, analysis of long-term entrant figures - an advance indicator of official migration levels - show a 32 per cent fall in the past year.

Demographic experts Macroplan Australia said the number of long-term and permanent entrants - including permanent settlers, students and temporary workers - fell by 111,000 people, from 341,000 to 230,000 in the 12 months to July 31.

"The fall is the greatest since just after the First World War, when arrivals were boosted to record numbers of returning soldiers," said Robert Hall of Macroplan. "The following year, numbers obviously subsided back to normal levels." That aside, the decline in the 12 months is the largest since 1901.

"If there is only a small change in overseas arrivals then you should not take much notice, but if there is a big difference drop then you would expect that to filter through to our official migration figures," said Neil Scott, assistant director at the ABS.

Immigration was a hot issue in the federal election, with the Coalition promising to cut net migration to 170,000 each year, a figure Labor said would be achieved anyway through a natural decline from the high numbers recorded before the GFC.

The Intergenerational Report, produced by the Treasury, has assumed average annual migration of 180,000 from 2012 onwards, but Labor has been careful not to enshrine this figure as a target.

Macroplan said for net migration to fall below 200,000, the government would have to introduce a variety of new restrictions on migration quotas and visa restrictions.

It says the fall in arrivals in the past year was due to a combination of factors including the GFC, government policy reducing the number of visas available, and reports of racist violence against Indian students.

Robert Hall said a drastic cut in immigration would be disastrous. "Over the past 20 years our economic growth has been 3.4 per cent a year, but if migration falls to the Government's target of 180,000 a year, it would fall to 2.7 per cent - meaning a big drop in our standard of living," he said.


Visa win for HIV refugee

Why is Australia rewarding fraud and lawbreaking?

AN HIV-positive African woman who masqueraded as someone else to enter Australia on a refugee visa has been allowed to stay in the country. A Family Court judge has expressed concern that treatment for the woman, given the name of Ms Freye in court documents, would probably cost taxpayers $250,000.

Despite police being told she had falsely claimed to be the wife of a male refugee already in Australia, the department had not revoked her visa, the Family Court in Brisbane heard. Ms Freye had also won custody of the other refugee's children, while their mother remains in Africa.

Details of the woman's entry were made public by Family Court Justice Virginia Bell in a custody decision delivered in Brisbane on August 20.

The male refugee, called Mr Goombe in the court decision, came to Australia in 2005 with three of his five children, as well as Ms Freye's daughter. Mr Goombe claimed he sent money to his wife for care of his two other children in an African refugee camp and applied for humanitarian visas for them.

In 2008 Mr Goombe was told his wife and children had arrived in Australia, but said he was shocked to meet Ms Freye instead of his wife. He told police that she had fraudulently posed as his wife, but they took no action, the court heard.

Ms Freye claimed she was welcomed into Mr Goombe's home, but after he made untoward advances she left, although she returned each day while he was at work to look after the children.

In his decision over who would have custody of the children, Justice Bell expressed concern about the circumstances surrounding Ms Freye's entry. "May I say that the thing that concerns me is, notwithstanding that Ms Freye came into Australia by way of masquerade, she was HIV positive at the time of the application for a visa," Justice Bell said.

"It was indicated to the Immigration Department that in fact this woman would, in all probability, cost the taxpayers of Australia some $250,000 because of the necessity of treatments. "To me this is quite staggering . . . that the Immigration Department allowed this woman to proceed.

"I have been informed that there is little likelihood of her visa being withdrawn, notwithstanding the fact the Immigration Department is now aware that she was not the person she was purported to be and was aware that in fact she was suffering from AIDS."

An Immigration spokesman said Australian law did not prevent a visa being granted to a person with HIV. [That's not the point]


The DLP is back!

The old nemesis of the ALP

IT WAS 90 seconds before emotion got the better of John Madigan. In a factory kitchen in northern Melbourne on Friday, his children Jack and Lucy were startled when, mid-speech, their father broke down, overwhelmed by his improbable victory.

The Ballarat blacksmith, the Democratic Labor Party candidate in the Senate race, had called a news conference to announce he was set to become Victoria's most unlikely new senator - the winner in a tight, three-way contest between fellow conservatives and anti-abortionists Family First senator Steve Fielding and Liberal senator Julian McGauran.

Twice Madigan, 44, broke down during his speech, and little wonder. Here was a father-of-two whose hands are stained by the black of his trade. A man who, in a weatherboard shed in Hepburn Springs, sweats over a forge and bends pieces of hot metal to his will. Now a space waits for him on the Senate's red leather in Canberra.

Despite few witnessing this speech - The Sunday Age was the only media outlet to make the trip to the copper manufacturer in the Campbellfield industrial estate - it was yet another bizarre moment in a remarkable election. If, as expected, Madigan's win is officially confirmed this week, he will be the first DLP senator elected in 40 years.

Like Fielding, Madigan will be a socially conservative presence in the Senate, but a much less relevant one. From next July, the Greens will hold the balance of power and legislation will not depend on Madigan or independent Nick Xenophon.

But for many of its opponents, the DLP is the party that simply will not die. With a socially conservative, pro-worker, anti-abortion, anti-communist agenda, the party split from Labor in the 1950s and seemed to peter out after the 1974 election, when its balance-of-power senators were wiped out.

The party staged a Lazarus-like revival in Victoria's 2006 election when, out of the blue, Peter Kavanagh was elected to the upper house. An ugly leadership battle ensued, resulting in party officials making a complaint to police about former secretary John Mulholland and the disappearance of potentially tens of thousands of dollars from party coffers.

Now, again, the party has defied electoral odds, pushing out McGauran and Fielding for the sixth Victorian Senate spot with only 2.3 per cent of the primary vote. It increased its primary vote to 74,639, about 2400 votes fewer than the Australian Sex Party. Madigan barely campaigned - he was blacksmithing. The budget was tiny, press coverage almost zero. And yet, with 94 per cent of the vote counted, he is 7200 votes ahead of Fielding, whose party got 2.6 per cent of the vote, and 23,000 ahead of McGauran at the point where one or other is eliminated.

How did he do it?

First, there was the decline of the Liberal vote in Victoria, which one party source described to The Sunday Age as "a collapse, quite frankly". The Coalition vote was 34 per cent for the Senate, down from 39.4 per cent in 2007. This meant the Coalition had nowhere near enough votes for three Senate quotas in its own right. The third spot was open for business (the other three went two to Labor, one to the Greens).

The DLP was then able to use its preference deals from the micro parties to cobble together enough votes - 14.3 per cent - for a quota. Here Madigan was helped by preferences from One Nation, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Democratic Party. The latter is the real surprise: the LDP disagrees with the DLP's views on gay marriage, stem cells and abortion, but its policy is to preference minor parties before major parties.

Madigan says he will approach each bill on its merits, act on his conscience and "equally represent all Victorians". He's not fond of the media spotlight and is unlikely to dress up in a giant beer bottle costume, like Fielding famously did in 2008.

Madigan - who says he is "unashamedly pro-life" but has no plans for specific private member's bills in the area of reproductive rights - comes across as authentic and earthy, a country bloke, but not blokey. On his fridge is a picture of the Pope and stacked around his house are books about former prime minister Ben Chifley, son of a blacksmith, long-serving Melbourne archbishop Daniel Mannix and the influential Catholic, anti-communist and DLP progenitor B.A. Santamaria. (Madigan, whose family has always been DLP voters, once belonged to Santamaria's youth group.)

Unlike his fellow Victorian senators, he is not of the political class. Questions about political ambition lead always to blacksmithing. In many ways, like his party, Madigan is a blast from the past. He's a nostalgic blacksmith, sentimental about Australia's diminished manufacturing industry and a man who yearns for some of the simple things of yesteryear. He names a few: higher levels of home ownership, economic stability, more family time, shops shutting at midday on Saturday. He believes in better tax arrangements so mothers have more choices to stay at home.

"I know we can't turn the clock back but I think we need to reassess what really matters to people," he says.


Australia now has a new government

KEVIN Rudd is back in Cabinet after Julia Gillard gave him the globetrotting job of Foreign Affairs Minister just 11 weeks after she ousted him as the Prime Minister.

Today Ms Gillard confirmed that Mr Rudd - a Mandarin speaking former diplomat who was Labor foreign affairs spokesman while in opposition - would take over from Stephen Smith who moves to defence.

Following his dumping as PM, Ms Gillard promised Mr Rudd a senior frontbench position with speculation covering foreign affairs plus some other possibilities. Early in his Prime Ministership Mr Rudd was criticised for spending too much time abroad and earned the nickname 'Kevin 747' but now that role will be part of his job description.

He used his first public appearance since his appointment to underline the importance of Australia's relationship with the United States.

Accompanied by US Ambassador Jeff Bleich, Mr Rudd faced the media on the shore of Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin, and observed that Saturday was the ninth anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks in New York and Washington.

Many diplomatic challenges and opportunities were ahead for Australia, its friends and partners, he said. "The cornerstone of Australia's foreign policy and security policy is our alliance with our great friends and partners in the United States," Mr Rudd told reporters.

The two nations were bonded by their resolve to defeat terrorism and were fighting side by side in the war in Afghanistan. "Let us on this day and the period ahead reflect carefully and solemnly reflect on those who have lost their lives, not just there but in terrorist attacks around the world," he said.

Mr Bleich said the US and Australia faced critical challenges. "It is great to have a government formed and the announcement of a cabinet so we can renew our effort on those important challenges," he said.

Mr Bleich said he and President Obama already had spoken to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, congratulating her on forming government. "We are confident we are going to continue our extraordinary relationship with Australia under her leadership," he said.

The US knew Mr Rudd "very well" having worked extraordinarily well with him when he was prime minister, he said. "He is a great friend and we are very happy to have the chance to work with him in this critical role," Mr Bleich said.

A group of passing school children clapped and cheered the former prime minister as he spoke to the media. "This was not organised by the department of foreign affairs," Mr Rudd quipped.

Earlier this week Ms Gillard promised: "I gave Kevin Rudd a commitment that he would be a senior member of my ministerial team, a cabinet minister, and he will be. "Kevin's status as a former party leader and his undoubted capacity meant he is deserving of a senior portfolio where the Government can best use his skills. "'His experience and intense interest in foreign affairs makes this the obvious choice."

Meanwhile fellow Queenslander Craig Emerson, the former small business, competition policy and consumer affairs minister will take over the trade portfolio from Simon Crean.

Ms Gillard has also rewarded the men who helped her oust Mr Rudd to become prime minister by giving them key jobs in her new ministry. Right-wing powerbroker Bill Shorten, who convinced Ms Gillard to challenge Mr Rudd, has been promoted to the outer ministry as assistant treasurer and minister for financial services and superannuation. Mr Shorten's NSW counterpart Mark Arbib has been given "greatly increased responsibilities" for indigenous employment and economic development, social housing and sport.

Two other factional leaders, Don Farrell and David Feeney - who both played prominent roles in ending Mr Rudd's Prime Ministership - have been promoted from the backbench to become parliamentary secretaries.


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