Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tough talk on immigration a boost for Australia's Leftist government

JULIA Gillard could be forced to accept onshore processing of asylum-seekers because of a political deadlock over legislation to revive Labor's Malaysia Solution.

Yesterday, Tony Abbott crushed the Prime Minister's people swap deal with Malaysia by saying he would process asylum-seekers in third countries only if they were signatories to the UN convention on the treatment of refugees.

The Opposition Leader's stance ruled out Malaysia but allowed him to cling to his alternative proposal of processing asylum-seekers on the Pacific island of Nauru using facilities built by the Howard government.

As the impasse continues, a Newspoll indicates Ms Gillard's battle for offshore processing has coincided with an increase in her personal popularity among voters.

After two weeks of daily battle over her plan to circumvent last month's High Court ruling, which scuttled her Malaysia Solution, voter satisfaction with the Prime Minister's performance lifted from her lowest level on record.

According to the latest Newspoll survey, taken exclusively for The Australian last weekend, voter satisfaction with Ms Gillard jumped from 23 per cent to 27 per cent and dissatisfaction fell seven percentage points from 68 per cent to 61 per cent.

As the Coalition stridently opposed the Malaysia Solution, Mr Abbott's personal approval fell five percentage points to 34 per cent and his disapproval rating climbed from 52 per cent to 54 per cent.

The government's bid to revive offshore processing remained deadlocked last night, as neither major party has the numbers to prevail, while the Greens, who control the Senate, oppose offshore processing in any form.

Last night, as he attacked the Coalition's position, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen conceded that if Labor's amendments, to be introduced to parliament tomorrow, were not passed, offshore processing would remain unlawful - the Greens position. "Therefore the obvious result of that is onshore processing," Mr Bowen said.

Last week, Ms Gillard, determined to press ahead with the Malaysia plan to deter people-smugglers from bringing asylum-seekers to Australia by boat, proposed an amendment to the Migration Act that would allow offshore processing in a location to be determined by the government of the day.

Yesterday, responding to concerns from the opposition and Labor's Left faction about the human rights of those sent to Malaysia, Ms Gillard proposed new amendments that would clearly specify that Malaysia could not send any asylum-seekers back to their country of origin and that would guarantee asylum claims would be processed in Malaysia, which is not a signatory to UN conventions.

She later told parliament the changes delivered on the "basic tenets" of the UN convention and, when coupled with agreements between the Australian and Malaysian governments, provided ample protection for the rights of the asylum-seekers.

"The eyes of the Australian community are upon us," Ms Gillard said during question time. "At the end of the day, this is not a debate between two competing policy positions - it is about executive government having the power to put in operation arrangements it sees as appropriate.

"Australians want us to resolve this issue and put it behind us. Australians want us to find common ground on this and get this done."

Mr Abbott said he was not prepared to back the Malaysia plan because it was bad policy. He said offshore processing only in those nations that had signed the UN refugee convention would "restore offshore processing, while retaining offshore protections". "It's a much superior proposal to what the government has put forward," he said. "Our proposal is a win-win."

Mr Abbott said the Coalition's policy position had been "crystal clear" for a decade. He invoked former prime minister John Howard's declaration that "we will determine who comes to this country and the circumstances under which they come".

Last night, Mr Bowen said the opposition wanted to stop the Malaysia agreement being implemented because Mr Abbott feared it would work.

But a meeting of Coalition MPs endorsed Mr Abbott's position. "If Julia Gillard wants to stop the boats she should support the Coalition's proposed amendments," Mr Abbott said after the meeting. "The right way to stop the boats is the combination of Nauru, temporary protection visas and turning boats around where it's safe to do so.


A remarkably wise Grand Mufti

Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohamed feels duty to 'cure' radicals

HOMEGROWN Muslim radicals are like "ill" patients in need of guidance and whose extremism is often fuelled by examples of injustice abroad such as the simmering conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Australia's new Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, told The Australian young Muslims who were in the orbit of extremist preachers must be "corrected".

Speaking just days after his appointment, Dr Mohamed said homegrown radicalisation, considered by security agencies to be the most serious terror threat Australia faces, was the result of a distorted view of Islam. "Our duty is to clarify those matters," Dr Mohamed said through an interpreter.

"An extremist is like an ill person, an unhealthy person. You need to cure him and find the right cure for him more than just to destroy him and finish him off."

Dr Mohamed has earned a reputation as a bridge-builder between Australia's disparate Muslim communities. One law enforcement source contacted by The Australian described the Islamic scholar as "highly respected and very influential".

Dr Mohamed urged Australians to have some perspective on sharia law, saying the Islamic legal code was largely misunderstood and punishments were only a small part. "Sharia also calls for freedom, justice, right of speech and this is something we are very fortunate to have," he said.

"These are all matters that we already implement here as Australians, and we're proud to have it as Australian values."


Electricity bills will soar for decades

VICTORIANS will be $1050 worse off under the looming carbon tax, according to the State Government's controversial modelling.

In a report that was last night dismissed by the Federal Government, Victoria's Coalition predicts electricity bills will soar for decades.

The state figures suggest the typical income in Victoria would be $60,504 by 2015 without a carbon tax and $59,445 with the tax.

There would be 35,000 fewer jobs and investment would be down 6 per cent according to the report, which does not include all federal compensation.

The numbers are contained in the final report by Deliotte Access Economics, which was commissioned by the Department of Premier and Cabinet to assess the impact of the carbon tax on Victoria.

The report provoked outrage inside the Gillard Government, which has previously attacked the integrity of Victoria's modelling.

"Victorians know that the Liberals have repeatedly misrepresented the facts in the climate change debate, and it seems Mr Baillieu's at it again here with this report by a paid consultancy firm," federal Treasurer Wayne Swan said.

The State Government defended the report, which it will release today. "The economic modelling assumptions underpinning the analysis in this report have been aligned, to the extent possible, to the recently-released modelling undertaken by the Commonwealth Treasury," a Coalition spokesman said.

The Deloitte report names Melbourne, Gippsland and Barwon as the Victorian regions hardest hit by the tax and estimates electricity prices will rise 23 per cent by 2030.

Federal modelling predicts a short-term jump of just 10 per cent.

Mr Swan, who will release updated federal modelling this week, said Victoria's modelling was out of step with other states and federal Treasury.

Mr Baillieu was criticised over preliminary Deloitte figures showing 23,000 fewer Victorian jobs in 2015.


Tasmania Parliament first to vote in favour of same-sex marriage

THE Tasmanian Parliament is set to become the first in Australia to vote in favour of same-sex marriage after Premier Lara Giddings indicated she would support a Greens motion on the issue.

Greens leader Nick McKim will today table a motion in support of marriage equality and calling on the Federal Government to reform marriage laws.

He says he will push state legislation if Canberra does not act by the end of the year. Ms Giddings said last night the Labor Party would support Mr McKim's motion.

"The Tasmanian Labor Party supports the principle of same-sex marriage, on the basis that it provides equality for all," she said. "We will be considering Mr McKim's motion over the coming days and we want to ensure that the language is strong, so as to send a clear message that we are prepared to see reform in this area."

The announcement came as it was revealed a majority of Tasmanians supported changes to the law to allow same-sex marriage.

The EMRS poll of 1000 adults found 59 per cent agreed that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to marry, with 35 per cent disagreeing and 6 per cent unsure.

Support for law changes was strongest among women, young people, those on higher incomes and those living in the state's south.

The survey's release coincides with a push by the Tasmanian Greens for the State Parliament to pass a motion in support of same-sex marriage.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said those opposing law reform were in the minority.

Liberal leader Will Hodgman said he was happy for his party members to vote according to their consciences on the issue. But he believed Parliament faced more important issues.


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