Thursday, November 15, 2012
New Zealand criminal gets "asylum" in Australia
There's an invitation to the crooks of the world!
A FORMER New Zealand bikie, given refugee status in Australia after seeking asylum from fellow criminals, has become the centre of a new political row in Canberra.
A tribunal decided that the 36-year-old Kiwi, who was in a witness protection scheme before flying to Australia in 2005, faced a threat of significant harm in his home country.
News Limited reports that Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen appealed the ruling in the Federal Court. But the court cleared the man to stay because of the government's own protection visa rules.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said the Labor government's new asylum laws had allowed a convicted criminal from New Zealand to gain asylum from "fellow crims and bikies back in New Zealand who want to settle some scores.
"What's next? An 'underbelly visa'? This absurd farce is just another mess of Labor's own making," Mr Morrison said.
News Limited says the man was warned when he arrived in Australia that if he committed one offence on his temporary visa he could be removed.
However, he went on to drink and drive, commit forgery, and breaching his bail conditions. He has also been charged with weapons and drugs offences, and receiving stolen property.
His Eminence replies to the opportunistic local politicians who think they can get a worldwide church to violate a canon dating back at least 1,000 years
The miserable and aggrieved end of politics versus the cheerful end
So rancorous are relations between the government and the opposition that even the humble Christmas party invitation is being used as a political weapon. At least in Labor's case.
With the festive season approaching - and for many in this place, the temporary lull cannot come soon enough - the usual round of Yuletide knees-ups are being organised for the final sitting week, which is the last week of November.
The Coalition invitation, extended to MPs, senators and staffers, features an innocuous Christmas tree illustration. The most frightening aspect is the revelation that the Northern Territory Country Liberal Party senator, Nigel Scullion, will be plying all and sundry with his "famous mango daiquiris".
Labor's invitation is far more foreboding. It features Tony Abbott, portrayed as the evil Christmas Grinch, poised atop Parliament House, his pointy fingers holding a bright red Christmas bauble upon which is inscribed the word "no".
The portrayal of Mr Abbott as the Dr Seuss character - a bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling creature with a heart two sizes too small - has not gone unnoticed in the Coalition.
"There's a clear choice this Christmas: enjoying Nigel's famous mango daiquiris, or a Labor Party obsessed with Tony Abbott. Which would you rather attend?" said one senior Liberal figure.
Moreover, the Coalition party is free. Depending on who you are and when you pay, Labor's shindig costs between $25 and $50 a head. Mr Abbott may be the Grinch but Labor is Scrooge.
A Labor staffer returned fire: ‘‘The Coalition’s has to be free otherwise no-one would turn up. They’ve got to bribe staffers with free booze.’
Eyes are averted from indigenous abuse
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard's, decision to establish a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse has received overwhelmingly public support. We know, on the available evidence, that the wide-ranging and expensive inquiry will focus on past crimes and whether people in authority, in Gillard's terminology, "averted their eyes" with respect to abusers.
We also know, on the available evidence, that indigenous children in some Aboriginal communities are being sexually assaulted in 2012. Despite the efforts of Commonwealth, state and territory authorities, these crimes continue. Moreover, regrettably, there is scant public outrage about this contemporary abuse.
Sections of the media have focused on the Catholic Church's deplorable inability in the past century to stop the crimes of some priests and some brothers with respect to primarily male children.
However, as the Jesuit priest Frank Brennan said on Lateline, the Catholic Church reformed its handling of sex abuse allegations in 1996. Soon after Pell became Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, he set up the Melbourne Response, which was aimed at confronting abuse of children by clerics and assisting victims.
The terms of reference for the royal commission will be announced before the end of the year. However, the Prime Minister has indicated the inquiry will not be limited to the Catholic Church or, indeed, other Christian churches. All religions will be covered, as will secular bodies. This approach is supported by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. On Tuesday, child migrant David Hill said "you won't hear only kids from Catholic institutions coming forward … I think it will go to all of the children's institutions over the last 40, 50 years".
The Gillard government faces a difficult task in drawing up appropriate terms of reference. If they are too limited, there will probably be accusations of a cover-up. If they are too wide, the financial costs could be huge and the inquiry might drag on for years with few if any recommendations of prosecutions.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney is a media target. Many journalists do not like Pell since he is a moral conservative who publicly upholds the Vatican's teachings on abortion, same-sex marriage and divorce.
Pell was interviewed by Geoff Thompson for the Four Corners "Unholy Silence" program which aired in July. The Cardinal made it emphatically clear that, as Archbishop of Sydney, he is only responsible for his own diocese and reports to the Vatican.
Four Corners not only failed to run Pell's comment. More seriously, it edited the extended interview (which is on the ABC's website) and deleted the Cardinal's comment about the extent of his authority. This reeks of censorship but the decision has been supported by ABC managing director Mark Scott.
The failure to understand the structure of the Catholic Church has led to confusion. In recent days there has been criticism of Pell on such programs as Lateline, Mornings with Linda Mottram, Radio National Breakfast and Paul Murray Live where suggestions have been made that he should resign or be sacked because of mishandling of sexual assaults in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. The journalists involved should be aware that Pell has nothing to do with, and is not responsible for, the Catholic Church in the Hunter region or anywhere else outside the Sydney archdiocese. He is the most senior Catholic in Australia but he is not managing director of the Australian Catholic Church.
The media would be well advised not to adopt double standards when dealing with child molestation. It is now accepted the late Sir Jimmy Savile was one of the worst paedophiles in British history.
Yet the media initially engaged in a cover-up. Freelance journalist Miles Goslett could not get his article linking the long-time BBC star with attacks on young girls published and had to rely on The Oldie, where his article was printed last March. As is now known, the BBC spiked a Newsnight program on Savile's criminality so as not to upset a program scheduled for Christmas 2011 praising the molester.
And then there is the case of the late Fairfax columnist Peter Roebuck. Roebuck's work for the ABC as a cricket commentator increased after he was convicted of common assault on two young African men. There are now claims that Roebuck was a sexual predator who targeted young black males.
Despite this, when Roebuck died last year he was lauded by journalists - particularly at Fairfax and the ABC. Even yesterday, sections of the media remembered the first anniversary of Roebuck's death but conveniently forgot that he was an offender.
The good news is that the proposed royal commission will cover all instances of child abuse and not just crimes committed by Catholic clergy. Tragically, it is not likely to stop attacks on young Aboriginal boys and girls.
Queensland private schools announce fee hikes of up to 7 per cent for 2013
Fees at Eton are approx. $48,000 p.a. at current exchange rates. But that includes full board, which is not discussed below. Considering the standard at Eton, one imagines that food and accomodation accounts for around $20,000 of that. So Australian private schools are well funded, considering that they get substantial Federal money as well
ELITE private schools have announced fee hikes of up to 7 per cent for next year, with one charging parents $19,880 for annual tuition.
Brisbane Girls Grammar School (BGGS) has posted the most expensive "all inclusive" tuition fee so far of $19,880, just above the 2012 tuition fee for Brisbane Grammar School (BGS) for Year 8 to 12 students.
In a letter to parents, BGGS board of trustees chairwoman Elizabeth Jameson said the 6.4 per cent fee rise reflected "the lowest percentage increase in many years and the school's concerted effort to constantly contain the impact on our families".
"Brisbane Girls Grammar remains one of the few independent schools which does not impose additional levies on top of our tuition fees," the letter states.
Brisbane Boys' College (BBC), Clayfield College and Somerville House have posted the biggest fee percentage increases so far of about 7 per cent each.
BBC is charging $17,920 for annual tuition in Years 7 to 12 next year while Somerville House is charging $17,776.
Extra levies and other school costs mean BBC Year 12 parents will pay more than $20,000 next year for the cost of education.
BGS parents are expected to pay more than $20,000 for tuition in senior year next year - the first time in Queensland a tuition fee would have risen above that mark.
The all boys' school, which is also the state's most consistent top performer in OP rankings and NAPLAN, charged Queensland's top 2012 tuition fee of $19,635. Parents of Year 8 to 11 pupils also paid $1005 for a tablet PC levy.
Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said fee increases generally reflected the rising cost of education. Education costs have gone up 6.1 per cent over the past year according to Australian Bureau of Statistics Consumer Price Index figures.
"Around 70 per cent of a school's expenditure generally goes to teachers' salaries," Mr Robertson said.
"Education costs include increases in salaries, capital costs for new buildings and maintenance programs plus implementation of the Australian curriculum."
Somerville House principal Flo Kearney said fees needed to go up "because of the increasing cost of delivering a quality education", including recruiting and retaining the best teachers.
"There are things that are out of our control as well such as significant increases in the cost of insurance and also meeting growing costs of compliance," she said.
Cairns-based Trinity Anglican School principal Christopher Daunt Watney said they tried to keep their costs to a minimum.
Crackdown on fat bus drivers in Tasmania
Obesity does limit mobility but it depends on how "obese" is classified
METRO'S move to ban drivers who are obese may be discriminatory, says Tasmanian anti-discrimination commissioner Robin Banks.
Bus drivers have lashed out at Metro after being told employees who weigh more than 130kg will be banned from driving, put on other duties and placed on a weight-loss program.
Ms Banks said obesity had been classified as a disability in successful anti-discrimination cases in other states.
"As I understand it, there's certainly the potential for it to be unlawful under the Anti-Discrimination Act," she said.
"It will depend on whether or not Metro is able to show that a person of 130kg or more couldn't perform the inherent requirement of their job."
Overweight employees of the Government-owned bus company have six months to lose weight.
Ms Banks said employers were only allowed to discriminate on the basis of disability if the employee could not fulfil the requirements of the job, or the cost of modifying the equipment created an unjustifiable hardship for the employer.
Rail, Tram and Bus union branch secretary Samantha Simonetis said the cost of installing new sturdier seats into the Metro fleet was going to cost $750,000.
Ms Simonetis said while the union had campaigned for years for a health program, the office had been inundated with calls from upset Metro drivers.
"Drivers not even affected by the new obesity rule say that people are getting on the bus and looking at them wondering how much they weigh," she said. "They feel like they are being publicly humiliated and they are."
Metro advertisements for casual bus drivers on the weekend said people over 130kg need not apply because of bus seat design limits. Metro CEO Heather Haselgrove said the obesity law was designed to ensure employees' health and safety and the seats were rated only to 130kg.
Ms Haselgrove said weight should not get in the way of employees performing their duties and using equipment.
Australian Psychological Society chairman Darren Stops said it was positive if Metro was looking after employees' health and it was an unfortunate spin-off if it meant drivers were subjected to public scrutiny.