Monday, July 30, 2012

Australia's Leftist government has put up a huge magnet to attract illegal immigrants

The truth is stranger than fiction:  $10,000 packages given to some illegal arrivals plus no wait for welfare payments  -- plus free mobile phones and free healthcare

It is a lie that will not die. It has been sent to tens of thousands of Australians in an email that has been circulating for years. The latest variation compares the amount paid to Australian aged pensioners with the benefits available to refugees. It claims the weekly allowance for pensioners is $253 while the weekly allowance for refugees is $472.50, plus a weekly hardship payment of $145, meaning refugees are eligible for more than twice as much government support as pensioners. It's a concoction. The problem for the federal government is that the truth is in some ways worse than the lie.

As long ago as 2009 the Department of Immigration felt compelled to issue this press release: "Figures quoted in these emails bear no resemblance to income-support payments to asylum seekers and refugees settling in Australia … Asylum seekers in Australia who have not yet had their protection claims decided have no access to Centrelink benefits.

"Irregular maritime arrivals are subject to thorough security and identity checks and must satisfy the character test before a decision is made about protection … In Australia, refugees granted permanent visas have access to benefits on the same basis and at the same rates as other Australian permanent residents."

Things have loosened up since then. Some asylum seekers now do qualify for welfare before their claims have been decided. The system of "thorough security and identity checks" has been compromised. This has damaged the federal Labor government, damaged the reputation of the Prime Minister, and damaged the traditional links between blue collar workers and the Labor Party. It has inflicted as much political damage on Labor as the carbon tax about-face.

In trying to understand the persistently dreadful opinion polls for the Gillard government, I keep coming back to this issue, a policy debacle for which Kevin Rudd, not Julia Gillard, bears primary responsibility, though on her watch it has gone from embarrassing to potentially terminal.

What follows are half a dozen elements that are already of concern to the Australian Federal Police, but about which the AFP must remain mute:

  The police have not seen as large a gap in quality control in the flow of unskilled and welfare-dependent arrivals since the refugee flow from Lebanon in the 1970s.

About 90 per cent of those who arrive via illegal boat entries have been granted permanent residence, yet the overwhelming majority have entered Malaysia or Indonesia by legal means, then destroyed their identity papers with the intent of making it difficult for Australia to check their bona fides.

The amount of workplace participation among refugees and asylum-seekers remains low for some time. After four years, only about 25 per cent are engaged in full-time work. (The issue is examined in a Department of Immigration report, Settlement Outcomes for New Arrivals, published in April last year.)

Under intense political pressure, the federal government is emptying the detention centres by issuing bridging visas which allow detainees to enter the community, work, and receive welfare benefits before their final status has been determined. This has slashed the average time spent in detention from nine months to three months but the quicker turnover has compressed the scrutiny process.

Some of the high take-up of welfare payments among asylum seekers and refugees is being recycled into bringing relatives to Australia, including via people smugglers.

The Royal Australian Navy is being used as a pick-up service by people smugglers who call navy vessels to advise them of their need for assistance.

Little wonder that numbers are exploding. In the three years before the election of the Rudd government, 71 people arrived on 10 illegal boats. It took a year for the impact of Labor's dismantling of the previous border security regime to kick in. Over the past three years 341 illegal boats have brought 20,248 asylum-seekers. Another 363 have drowned. Uncounted others have perished or turned back.

All these problems are personified by "Captain Emad", who fled Australia in June even though he had been under investigation by police. The man, Abu Khalid, was a people smuggler who came to Australia by passing himself off as an asylum seeker. He brought his wife, three children and a grandchild. All received refugee status, settled in Canberra and were provided with public housing despite using different identities to those they used to enter Indonesia from Iraq. Yet even after Khalid's activities were exposed by the ABC's Four Corners program, he was allowed to leave.

Systemic deceit has been rewarded by systemic support. Even some asylum seekers who have avoided immigration control, destroyed their identity documents and not yet had their claims decided are eligible for support under the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme.

Among the benefits that can be made available to those granted protection visas, and those granted refugee status, is a one-off household formation package of up to $9850. Families can be eligible for education assistance of up to $9220. People granted refugee status become eligible for welfare payments immediately without having to wait the two-year period set for immigrants. Single applicants are eligible for a Newstart Allowance. Parents are eligible for Centrelink's parenting payment. Refugees, and some on bridging visas, also receive Medicare assistance for medical, hospital, dental, medicine and optical costs. Mobile phones are provided to those who arrive as unaccompanied minors.

This is the honeypot that has combined with civil strife to cause entire villages to empty in Sri Lanka and thousands of young men to travel from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan to get on illegal boats to Australia.

The viral email about Australia's generosity to refugees may be wrong in its details, but the truth is a story of government gullibility without end.


Australian household wealth up 20 per cent from 2004-2010 as US drops 30 per cent

Australian households are doing very nicely, thankyou very much.    AVERAGE household wealth jumped by more than 20 per cent between 2004 and 2010, new Treasury figures show.  In comparison, median household wealth in the US declined by more than 30 per cent in the same period.

Treasurer Wayne Swan claimed his Government's credit for the figures.  "Contributing to this was our stimulus response to the GFC, which protected hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as our decent social safety net and government policies that spread opportunity," Mr Swan wrote in his economic note released yesterday.  Mr Swan said Australia had not been immune from global turbulence.

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb attacked the Government for taking the most optimistic forecasts available to develop its Budget.  "The Budget was predicated on everything going well around the world," Mr Robb told Network Ten.

Median wealth in Australia in 2010 was a little less than $400,000, compared with mean wealth of almost $700,000 [now], according to the RBA figures.


Australian private schools deliver the goods

THEY are some of the state's most expensive schools, but academic results show parents are getting what they pay for.

Analysis undertaken by The Courier-Mail shows Independent schools have consistently produced the highest OP1-15 student percentages in Queensland over the past five years, with girls' schools also doing particularly well.

But it is the all-boys' Brisbane Grammar School that has proven its academic superiority by topping the bracket among schools with more than 30 OP-eligible students, with 94.2 per cent of its OP-eligible Year 12s receiving an OP1-15 on average between 2007 and 2011.

The rankings are revealed in comparisons taken from The Courier-Mail's Queensland Schools Guide website, which now carries OP percentages as part of its database.

BGS, which is also the state's top performer in NAPLAN in Year 9, is one of Queensland's most expensive. It cost more than $20,000 to send a student there this year.

Brisbane Boys' College, which is also one of the state's most improved, was equal in second place in the OP1-15 five-year averages alongside Brisbane Girls Grammar School.

Educators system-wide acknowledge a student's socio-economic background is a factor in their outcomes, but Independent Schools Queensland said its schools would not consistently pull the top OP percentages without their academic focus and commitment to excellence in teaching.

Overall, only 10 schools statewide had an average OP1-15 percentage higher than 90 per cent between 2007 and 2011, including two tiny but consistent performers - the Exclusive Brethren's Agnew School in Brisbane's east and The School of Total Education at Warwick.  All Hallows' School in the Catholic sector was also among those 10.

In the state system, smaller schools of distance education did particularly well, as did regional high schools such as Biloela, Gin Gin and Centenary Heights.

But it is the flagship Brisbane State High School that remains the system's top performer among larger schools, sitting 27th on 84.8 per cent in the OP1-15 five-year bracket with more than 50 OP-eligible students.

The Brisbane School of Distance Education, which ranked 22nd in the more than 30 OP-eligible bracket, had 87.4 per cent.

Of those with more than 30 OP-eligible students, seven in the top 20 were all-girl schools, while four were all-boys, including St Joseph's College - Gregory Terrace and Toowoomba Grammar School.

Regional grammar schools also performed well, with Rockhampton and Townsville grammar schools ranking among the top 25.

OP1-15 percentages have been the traditional academic hallmark of top performances, with the Queensland Studies Authority scrapping the category this year, citing schools being league-tabled as one of the reasons. OP1-5 numbers, but not percentages, have been released since 2010, with Brisbane Grammar School also dominating that category.

Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said the schools at the top of the OP1-15 charts over five years were not surprising because of the effort they put in.

But he said parents needed to look further than just the OP when choosing a school, including how a school "value-added" to their child.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said an OP score wasn't the be-all-and-end-all.   "The Newman Government is committed to providing Queensland students with a quality education experience that opens up as many opportunities as possible," Mr Langbroek said.

"While it's important for students to work hard to achieve good results, they also need to be aware that there are lots of other pathways they can follow to reach their career aspirations."


Like truffles?  Come to Australia

Interesting that Australian truffles are up to French and Italian standards,  Chinese truffles are regarded as inferior

THEY'RE black, ugly, pungent and mouldy - and worth almost their weight in gold.

The kerfuffle over West Australian truffles wafted to a new high today with a record estimated 25,000 fungi fanatics eating their way through the annual Mundaring Truffle Festival in Perth's Hills.

Now in its sixth year, the festival celebrates the state's burgeoning truffle industry, which produces more of the aromatic fungus than the rest of Australia combined.

With its damp, well-irrigated soils and Mediterranean climate, most WA truffles are grown around the southwest orchard town of Manjimup, about 300km south of Perth.

Fetching anywhere from $2000 to $9000 a kilogram, WA's "black gold" harvest now attracts chefs from around the world.

Celebrity chef and Rockpool founder Neil Perry, who conducted a truffle master-class during the festival, said the local produce was as good as anywhere in the world.

"A great Australian truffle is as good as a great French one," he told AAP.  "I think it's amazing Australia has been growing its own truffles and we've been doing it now for near on 10 years.

"Each of the seasons is getting better and better, with more volume, and the price is becoming more affordable."

Which is good news for those who would otherwise be put off by the price.

But then, a little truffle goes a long way, according to Mr Perry, who rates his favourite fungal dish as the simple truffle omelette.

"Truffles are best done simply," he said.  "A truffle omelette, cooked under a chicken skin, truffle and egg, or served grated over pasta.  "All those classic, simple dishes are great because they make truffle the hero."

A good truffle, Mr Perry said, should be "firm and dry, but should still have a slight spring to it and be nice and black through the centre with very fine, white veins and a really beautiful aroma - almost like a petroleum smell".  "It's got this amazing taste, a sort of a rich, earthy, umami, concentrated intense mushroom flavour," the celebrated chef said.

The Perth festival was inspired by local French chef Alain Fabregues, owner of the internationally-acclaimed The Loose Box in Mundaring, who had been watching the rapid growth of WA's truffle industry and believed, as in France, a festival should be held in a small village to celebrate each harvest.

The event now attracts truffle aficionados from around the world.


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