Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Asylum seekers must respect the law: Bowen

ASYLUM seekers being housed in the community, in places like university campuses, must respect Australian law, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Bowen says.

A Sri Lankan asylum seeker is due to face court in Sydney on Wednesday after being charged with the indecent assault of a 20-year-old student at Macquarie University on February 21.

Asked if campuses were appropriate places to house asylum seekers, Mr Bowen said the law should be allowed to take its course.

"Australian law applies to everybody, including those who are being housed in the community as asylum seekers," the former immigration minister said.  "The law should be allowed to take its course."

The 21-year-old Sri Lankan man was arrested on Tuesday.  An immigration department spokeswoman said on Tuesday the man was not living in student accommodation at the university.

Campus Living, part of Transfield Group, provides services for asylum seekers, including temporary accommodation, under a 2012 agreement with the Red Cross' Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS).

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison called on immigration minister Brendan O'Connor to review his department's system for releasing people into the community.

"Such a review needs to look at where the 10,000 people currently are across Australia that have been released into the community," Mr Morrison told reporters in Melbourne.

He said the government had been asked last year if asylum seekers were being housed at Macquarie University.

"It's important that the government find out where these people are," he said.

"They need to look at appropriate guidelines and what is an appropriate form of accommodation for people who are released into the community on bridging visas."


State Government plans to allow logging in areas earmarked for national parks

THE State Government is about to reopen logging in about two million hectares of environmentally sensitive land put aside by the previous government.

The move will see timber felled in prime conservation areas that were earmarked for national parks.

Logging will resume in southeast Queensland, the western hardwoods area, cypress regions in the west, central Queensland and north Queensland.

A leaked email from Agriculture Department director-general Jack Noye to National Parks Department director-general John Glaister says Agriculture Minister John McVeigh has approved the logging.

The email also notes that it is proposed that logging be conducted without Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service approval for codes or harvest plans.

It sparked a vicious response from Greens environment spokeswoman Larissa Waters, who said the letter confirmed Premier Campbell Newman was an environmental vandal.

"The reopening of native forest logging will trash invaluable habitat for native wildlife, destroy carbon stores and is an economic risk, given plantation forestry is more sustainable and provides reliable employment into the future," Senator Waters said.

Mr McVeigh said the areas being reopened were not World Heritage-listed forests.

"They are areas that have been previously available and they will ... meet the highest forest sustainability management standards," he said.

"Many of these robust, former state forests had been sustainably harvested for a century and more, supporting regional towns before being locked up by Labor in its dirty preference deals with the Greens."

He said the Greens wanted to shut down local forest industries, which forced greater reliance on imports.

It is expected about 30,000ha per year will be logged on a 30 to 40-year cycle.

In 1999, the state government signed the South East Queensland Forests Agreement with the Queensland Timber Board and conservationists.

Its aim - and other agreements that followed - was to end disputes over what areas should be logged or conserved and for producing plantations such as between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast to gradually replace native forest logging over 25 years.

But logging companies in country towns such as Monto and Mundubbera, often major local employers, complained that the agreements starved them of logs.

Senator Waters said Mr Newman was determined to repeal all environmental protection.


High Court blocks mall preachers

THE High Court has upheld the Adelaide City Council's right to stop two brothers from preaching in the city's main shopping precinct.

In a judgment on Wednesday the court ruled against previous orders from the Full Court of the South Australian Supreme Court which said the council's action had infringed constitutional freedoms.

The case centres on brothers Samuel and Caleb Corneloup who are members of a group called Street Church and want to preach in the Rundle Mall without permission.

They fought against a council by-law which prohibited preaching, canvassing or haranguing on any road without a permit.

After the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the brothers, the South Australian government took the case to the High Court, which rejected the argument that the council's action was constitutionally invalid.

Justice Kenneth Hayne said the provisions were appropriate to prevent the obstruction of roads.

He said the council's action was compatible with responsible government.


Graduates failing bosses

THE literacy standards of higher education graduates have failed to satisfy more than four in 10 bosses in a survey, while 36 per cent are not impressed with numeracy levels.

The views are revealed in Australian Industry Group research to be unveiled at a tertiary conference in Canberra starting on Wednesday.

The survey of 500 companies from all sectors of the economy, but mainly in manufacturing and construction, asked employers how satisfied they were with university graduates, higher education providers and the training system that applied for positions with them. Only 58.8 per cent of bosses were satisfied with graduates' basic literacy. Views on basic numeracy were only slightly better, with 64.1 per cent of bosses giving graduates a pass.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox will tell the higher education conference most of the ratings were generally satisfactory.

"It is hard, however, to look past the figure that only 58 per cent of employers are satisfied or very satisfied with basic literacy and English of graduates," he will say, according to speaking notes.


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