Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Community release" -- Australia's new euphemism for allowing illegal immigration

HUNDREDS of asylum seekers will be released from high security detention and allowed to live in the community under a plan being drafted by the Gillard government.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is believed to be preparing to announce the community release to relieve overflowing detention centres on the mainland and on Christmas Island.

Asylum seekers who are not considered a security risk would be eligible for community detention, including family groups, children and unaccompanied minors. The government has been in discussion with charities, church groups and refugee welfare organisations to find accommodation. This would include hostels and houses owned by the groups.

Welfare groups contacted by The Age yesterday said discussions with the government about community detention for asylum seekers predated the August 21 election.

It is understood priority would be given to families with school-age children and that release from detention centres would be staggered as housing becomes available.

According to the Immigration officials, 742 children are detained by authorities, as well as 382 unaccompanied minors. Of the children, 281 are on Christmas Island and 461 are in mainland centres.

All up, 5056 asylum seekers are now in detention, of whom 2769 are on Christmas Island. A record 106 asylum-seeker boats have arrived this year, already 20 more than the previous record of 86 in 1999.


Australian dollar hits parity with US dollar

A final tribute to the fact that Australia's banks were deregulated -- while America's banks were regulated to death. The Australian unit has risen as the U.S. unit fell

THE Australian dollar has reached parity with the US dollar for the first time since the currency was floated in December 1983. The local current rose to $US1.00 at about 11.18pm (AEDT) in overseas trading. It was the first time since 28 July 1982 that the Australia dollar has traded about one US dollar.

Earlier on Friday the local currency was hovering around 99 US cents ahead of the release of US CPI data, retail figures and a Federal Reserve speech that could indicate how much quantitative easing will take place. Quantitative easing is a process whereby the US Federal Reserve increases the amount of US dollars in the economy by buying US Treasuries.

The Australian dollar touched a fresh 27-year high of 99.94 US cents overnight, the closest it has been to parity with the US dollar since it was floated in December 1983. At 5pm (AEDT) on Friday the Australian dollar was trading at 99.28 US cents, down from Thursday's close of 99.61 cents. Since 7am (AEDT), the local unit traded between 98.92 US cents and 99.46 cents.

Nomura Australia economist Stephen Roberts said traders had been waiting patiently throughout the domestic session in the absence of any local data. "It might be a bit of a patient wait for parity, but we will get there," Mr Roberts said.

He said the release of the US economic data and a speech by US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke would drive the momentum of the local currency. "Those factors will certainly have some influence," Mr Roberts said.


Queensland wants to get rid of dummy teachers

But you would have to be a dummy to take up teaching in Qld. schools these days. Some new teaching graduates walk out after a week when they encounter the reality of it

QUEENSLAND'S teaching profession is facing a crackdown on university entrance standards in a bid to boost quality in the classroom.

Students will have to attain an OP score of 12 or better to gain entry to a teaching degree under a proposal being considered by the State Government. OP cut-offs have been as low as OP19 at some Queensland universities in recent years, fuelling concerns over the quality of newly graduate teachers. Students will also have to obtain a minimum standard in English, mathematics and science.

The proposals are among 21 recommendations put to the State Government in a review of teacher education and induction, part of the Flying Start project.

The review, currently being considered by Queensland education stakeholders, follows consultation on proposed national entry requirements for undergraduate pre-service teacher programs. Proposed national standards require a minimum level of mathematics and English for Year 12 students, but not science, as suggested in Queensland.

As of next year, Queensland primary school teaching graduates will be required to sit a test in English, maths and science to become a registered teacher.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said while he did not oppose the idea of having an OP12 cut-off for a Bachelor of Education, moves including paying teachers more were needed. "It is quite clear that we need to try to attract the better students in terms of OP scores into the teaching profession but the problem we have got is that the OP score is demand driven," he said.

Mr Ryan said many students who didn't achieve an OP12 could be wonderful teachers. The Christian Heritage College's Colette Alexander agreed, warning some universities which catered for lower-scoring OP students might be badly affected. "Academic performance during school does not guarantee quality teaching," she said. "What makes a difference with a teacher is whether a person wants to teach."

Professor Peter Renshaw, head of the School of Education at the University of Queensland where the OP cut-off was 11 this year, agreed that a student's OP didn't always reflect their capability. But he said the OP cut-off would be good for the perception of teaching. He also said the OP requirement did not apply to many Bachelor of Education graduates at his university, with many coming from other degrees rather than straight from school.

Queensland Deans of Education Forum chair Professor Wendy Patton said contingencies built into the proposal meant most universities supported the cut-off. Under the proposal, students with lower OPs can be granted entry in exceptional circumstances. "It provides the opportunity for individuals to say 'I can put forward a case' and for institutions to say 'well, let's have a look at this case'," Professor Patton said.

The teacher training review follows an investigation into the state's education system last year, when Professor Geoff Masters raised concerns about the competency of beginning teachers.


"Green" scheme bungles blamed on bureaucrats

The Auditor-General has found that bad advice and misinformation from the environment department caused the home insulation scheme to fail. Mustn't blame the clueless politicians concerned

A DAMNING report into the government's $2.8 billion home insulation scheme says the full extent of fraud is unknown and that almost one-third of the 1.1 million homes insulated could have installation or safety problems.

The federal Auditor-General's report, released yesterday, lays much of the blame on the federal Environment Department but attributes most of its bungling to the pressure it was under.

In a new book, The Party Thieves, by the ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy, the frontbencher Gary Gray says it was wrong that the environment minister Peter Garrett was demoted over the debacle because the program was driven by Kevin Rudd's office - if not the prime minister himself. ''How can you have a situation where Rudd executes complete and total influence, micro-manages everything, yet not the home insulation program?'' he says.
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The report says $1.4 billion was spent insulating homes before the scheme was scrapped after it was linked to four deaths and 207 house fires.

Because of the problems, the scheme fell short of its aim to create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By March this year, about a month before the scheme was abandoned, 29 per cent of the almost 14,000 houses inspected had problems ranging from ''minor quality issues to serious safety concerns''.

The report says the uncontrolled nature of the scheme meant the number of installers blew out to almost 11,000. Since it was scrapped, 4000 potential cases of fraud have been identified with 100 under investigation. ''The full extent of fraud is still unknown and the conclusion of cases under investigation is likely to take many more months to complete,'' the report says.


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