Thursday, May 05, 2011

Victorian council pays for Muslim swim screen

Money for Muslims but no money for pensioners??

RATEPAYERS will finance a $45,000 screen at a public pool so Muslim women can have privacy at female-only swim sessions. The City of Monash has approved the financing despite dissent from a female councillor. Cr Denise McGill said the issue had been divisive.

An Islamic women's group agreed the screen was unnecessary, Cr McGill said. "There are sharia swim suits and other modest forms like three-piece swim suits that are generally acceptable for the Muslim community," she said.

Cr McGill said she supported women-only swim sessions at Clayton pool but said the $45,000 earmarked for curtains could be better spent.

In February, Monash won an exemption from equal opportunity laws to offer fortnightly classes. But the Victorian Multicultural Commission rejected the council's application to help meet the cost of privacy curtains.

Council agreed to offer the female-only sessions for "cultural reasons" after being approached by Muslim women from various backgrounds.

Monash mayor Greg Male said community consultations had found support for improved privacy at pools.

A plan to offer pensioners a $50 rate subsidy was voted down by council.


Solar panel silliness slowly fading away

THE Federal Government is set to cut $1000 off the solar panel subsidy to cool an overheating market which has started to push up electricity prices.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the subsidy would be reduced to around $3700. "We will be announcing today a reduction in the level of Federal Government support for the installation of solar panels on people's roofs," he told ABC Radio. "However, the cut we are making still means that a subsidy of around $3700 will be available."

Mr Combet said there had been such strong demand for the solar panels that it had resulted in higher electricity prices. "The Government is very keen to take pressure off prices," he said.

The problem stems from feed-in tariffs, particularly in NSW where the former Labor government introduced a very high rate to encourage solar panel take-up, the minister said. Under feed-in tariffs people who install solar panels are paid for electricity they feed back into the electricity grid.

Mr Combet said the tariffs paid by states and territories supplemented the Federal Government subsidy to install panels and the NSW tariff had been a key driver of demand. "There just needs to be some heat taken out of that market while we still provide encouragement for people to use renewable energy in this way," he said.


Teen mums face welfare crackdown

This may actually do some good. Doing nothing is certainly a poor option -- JR

WELFARE dependent teenage mothers will be forced back to school in a crackdown on inter-generational poverty.

Their children will be forced to attend pre-school or receive specialised early learning services if deemed necessary to break a culture of underachievement.

The Advertiser has learnt Tuesday's Budget will contain draconian measures designed to end welfare as a lifestyle, and increase the pool of skilled workers available for employers.

It is understood Prime Minister Julia Gillard will reveal some details of the changes as early as today.

Ten local government areas selected for their high levels of welfare dependency will be used to trial the changes.

One site is likely to be in Adelaide's northern suburbs.

The radical measures follow a recent speech in which Ms Gillard nominated generation-to-generation joblessness and whole communities missing out on progress.

"The girl in Woodridge, south of Brisbane, who didn't fit in at school, now she's alone with a baby of her own, she needs more education and so will her child ... The Salisbury teenager who has drifted from education . . . I want young people to have a fair go, to have an opportunity in life, never to be held back by economic circumstance or social expectation," she said.

Teenage mothers and fathers receiving the Parenting Payment, of which there are 825 in SA and 11,000 nationwide, will be cut off unless they enter into stringent new workforce "participation requirements".

The benefit is paid at the rate of $626 a fortnight for a single; $429 if partnered; and $514 a fortnight if partnered but separated by prison, illness or the need for respite.

The trial rules will stipulate that from January 1 next year, welfare dependent teenagers with children aged six months or older, will be required to attend "compulsory" Centrelink support and engagement interviews.

That will then step up to compulsory school attendance and certificate level training once the child has reached 12 months of age.

The Government plans to defend the changes, which appear more stick than carrot, as necessary to break a self-reinforcing cycle of intergenerational poverty and social dysfunction.

It aims to address the problems created when children are raised by semi-literate parents - barely adults themselves - who start adult life behind the eight ball and never achieve full integration into the productive workforce.

It has long been recognised that teenage birth rates in socio-economically disadvantaged areas of Australia can be as much as eight times higher than normal.

Teenage parents are often under-educated, and frequently show up as having poor literacy, numeracy and confidence levels, rendering them unable and often unwilling to break into the workforce.

Government data suggests as many as eight out of every 10 have not finished school to Year 12 standard.

The figures show half of those receiving the payments had begun a life of welfare dependency with at least 12 months of Centrelink support under their belts before becoming parents.

Failure to comply with the new rules will see payments cut until compliance is achieved, although it remains unclear how a government can simply cut payments to a family which has no other economic means.

The policy is just one aspect of the Budget designed to unlock the productive capacity of the long-term unemployed, and force some on the Disability Support Pension into the job market.

The Government sees the changes combining overdue social reform with economic imperative.


A world of long-term welfare for "refugees"

Muslims particularly useless

MORE than 60 per cent of refugees to Australia have failed to get a job after five years, according to a damning Federal Government report into the humanitarian settlement program. And 83 per cent of those households now rely on welfare payments for income.

The greatest unemployment rate was recorded among new arrivals from Iraq and Afghanistan, with less than one in 10 finding full-time work and 93.7 per cent of households receiving Centrelink payments.

The statistics are contained in a Department of Immigration and Citizenship report released last Friday under the cover of the royal wedding. It is the first investigation into settlement of refugees in more than a decade.

The study of more than 8500 humanitarian entrants revealed that only 31 per cent of humanitarian refugees were considered "employed" after five years.

The remainder were unemployed, retired, studying full time, engaged in caring duties, doing voluntary work or trying to start a business from which they had yet to receive income. More than 60 per cent of those people without jobs had a poor command of English.

"Humanitarian entrants are most likely to be unemployed, even after five years of settlement," the report said. "There needs to be a greater understanding of migrants' personal or household dependency on Centrelink payments."

Statistics for skilled migrant intake and family migrant intake were more positive, with 84 per cent of skilled migrants working and a little over 50 per cent of the family migrants employed.

The report did find positive outcomes for humanitarian entrants, with almost a quarter completing a trade or university qualification within five years of arriving.

The Federal Opposition said the report was a "shocking wake-up call" for the Government's settlement services policy. "Low levels of employment, welfare dependency, lower income levels and poor English skills are a toxic social cocktail that can lead to enclaving and serious intergenerational social problems." Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.

Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship Kate Lundy has said the Government was trying to improve conditions for refugees. "While the settlement outcomes for refugees improve over time, the report does find that there are difficulties, especially in the early years, in securing stable employment," she said.


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