Monday, April 08, 2013

Asylum seeker flood highlights weakness in Malaysia people swap deal, opposition says

MORE than 800 asylum seekers - the amount the government wanted to send to Malaysia under its people swap deal to stop ongoing arrivals - have arrived in Australia in only a week.

Authorities yesterday reported two more new boats over the weekend, capping an extraordinary week-long period when 12 boats were intercepted between March 31 and April 6.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison yesterday seized on the arrivals to claim they showed the Malaysia solution cap would expire too easily given the frequent flow of boats.

In the latest arrival, a boat carrying 56 people was helped on Saturday after seeking assistance east of Christmas Island.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare also confirmed yesterday that another boat carrying 86 people also sought assistance northwest of Christmas Island on Friday afternoon.

"Border Protection Command has now transferred the passengers from both vessels to Christmas Island, where they will undergo initial security, health and identity checks and their reasons for travel will be established," he said in a statement.  "People arriving by boat without a visa after August 13, 2012, run the risk of transfer to a regional processing country."

Calls to Mr Clare's office about the amount of arrivals in the past week were not returned last night.

Mr Morrison said the continuing arrivals and Labor's insistence on championing the Malaysia solution showed it was time "for this government to go".

"People smugglers, cashed up from five years of profit under Labor, would have always easily overwhelmed the 800 cap on the Malaysia people swap deal and now they have shown they can do it in just one week," he said.

"Labor would rather cling to policy failure than immediately act to restore the full suite of Howard Government policies that got the job done."

A total of 37 boats arrived during March after 16 in February and 10 during the quieter monsoon season in January.

Since the government announced its offshore processing policy backflip in August, a total of 233 boats have arrived carrying almost 14,000 people.


Improved China ties

AUSTRALIAN and Chinese currency will be traded in China for the first time under a deal to be announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

And a major tourism and investment campaign will be run in Shanghai in late 2014 to take advantage of China's booming middle class and fast-growing economy.

Under the currency agreement, the Australian dollar will be directly convertible into Chinese yuan, easing costs for mining companies and other global industries.

China only has deals of a similar kind with the United States and Japan.

"This reflects the rapid growth of our bilateral trade and the value of two-way investment - and it also creates opportunities for new financial integration," Ms Gillard will tell the China Executive Leadership Academy in Shanghai on Monday.

"This is good news for the Chinese economy and good news for the Australian economy."

Ms Gillard said she hoped the deal would advance China's policy of greater internationalisation of its currency.

The prime minister is in Shanghai leading Australia's largest political delegation, which includes Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Trade Minister Craig Emerson.

She said Australia Week, hosted by Shanghai in the second half of 2014, would further boost Australia's reputation as a world-leading destination and a valuable tourism, trade and investment partner.

Events will include contemporary performing and visual arts, a gala dinner in Shanghai and meetings with potential Chinese investors.

It will coincide with Tourism Australia's Greater China Travel Mission, which attracts more than 120 Australian tourism operators.

A record 625,000 Chinese visited Australia during 2012, up 16 per cent on the previous year.

Ms Gillard on Sunday held her first official meeting with Xi Jinping, who became China's president in March.

She also spoke at the opening of the Boao Forum on Asia.

The Australian delegation will head to Beijing on Monday night.


Bad students get away with flouting rules, as figures show 64,324 suspensions and exclusions from the state's schools last year

UNRULY schoolchildren are abusing the system as teachers struggle to crack down on bad behaviour, Queensland's Education Minister says. John-Paul Langbroek said he was appalled at the latest figures which showed there were 64,324 suspensions and exclusions from the state's schools last year.

Mr Langbroek accused some students of "playing the system to suit" and attracting multiple suspensions because they knew that teachers and principals were limited in what they could do to deter their violent, abusive and disruptive behaviour.

"I know that's happening at schools. I want to stop it," he said.

Mr Langbroek said teachers were only allowed to hand out maximum lunchtime detentions of 20 minutes or after-school detentions of 30 minutes.

And while principals have the power to exclude students, the process takes up to 25 days. Even then, parents are able to lodge a final appeal with the director-general.

Mr Langbroek said he believed principals and teachers were fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.

"Principals and teachers can be confident that we are not just going to tinker at the edges," he said of his discipline reform plan.

"We want perpetrators to know that we're serious about making sure that principals have got autonomy to run their schools, and students who get in the way . . . they can't use the system."

New figures show there were nearly 400 more suspensions, exclusions and mature-age student enrolment cancellations in state schools in 2012 compared with 63,936 in 2011. Exclusions increased about 30 per cent to 1331, up from 1030 in 2011.
Bad students get away with flouting rules

Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek  John-Paul Langbroek said he was appalled at the latest figures which showed there were 64,324 suspensions and exclusions from the state's schools last year.

The majority of suspensions and exclusions, about 34,911, were handed out for physical or verbal and non-verbal misconduct.

Drug, cigarette and alcohol-related misconduct accounted for about 3200 disciplinary absences.

Five students were deemed to be so bad they were excluded from all state schools in Queensland.

The figures come as the Newman Government puts the finishing touches on its plan to overhaul state school discipline, handing principals more power to crack down on misbehaviour.

But the Queensland Teachers' Union has called for the Government to focus instead on providing support to teachers and to reoffending students to help them change their ways.

QTU president Kevin Bates said while some students were attracting multiple suspensions and knew how to work the system, he believed they needed greater support to curb that behaviour.

"As a teacher, there are those students that you know are probably out there looking for reasons to be sent away from school," he said.

"They're the ones you tend to work that much harder to keep in the school context because that's where they are going to get the support they need."

He called for the Government to increase the number of positive learning centres for students around the state.

The way students are disciplined has continued to evolve, with corporal punishment now only adopted in some private schools.

But Australian Primary Principals Association president Norm Hart said he believed there was less tolerance of misbehaviour in schools now than there used to be.

"I think students are subject to more discipline than they used to be," he said.

Mr Hart said principals generally preferred to work with the families of misbehaving students to teach them a better way of dealing with their problems.

"But in the end we need to make sure that schools are safe places for everybody and that includes other students," he said. "Sometimes kids have to be either suspended or excluded but that is only used as a last resort.

"If these figures are increasing, then perhaps there's a message there about the way Australian society is changing and the way that children are acting out their emotional issues."


New tool to catch lawless drivers

It takes just a ride around the block in this all-seeing, all-dancing police car to realise you would be off your rocker to indulge in road rage or even allow yourself to get very, very, cross while behind the wheel.

This is because every second motorist out there appears to be a Mad Max throwback who cruises around listening to Motorhead while munching on methamphetamines.

But the frightening thing is it is virtually impossible to pick the law-abiding from the loon-bags without high-tech assistance.

The trick, you quickly learn, is to ignore the obvious. The most unlawful may not be the tradie in a hot ute with a slobberer in the back (that would be the blue heeler, not the apprentice) but those driving everyday sedans.

Behind the wheel is Road Policing Enforcement Superintendent Dean McWhirter, who is trialling the Bluenet Automatic Number Plate Recognition car that can scan thousand of plates an hour.

It has a large video terminal visible to both driver and front passenger, front and rear cameras and four number plate trackers on the roof that can be set in any direction.

It is to police what Thunderbird 2 was to International Rescue - a high-tech gizmo that has the capacity to make a huge difference. The car is blue, bright and obvious. And yet the woman who pulls up next to us at the lights continues to gasbag on her mobile.

Go figure.

The computer system has Victoria Police and Sheriff data downloaded so any plate scanned is instantly checked to see if the vehicle is suspect.

Within 30 seconds we get the first ping - a Subaru parked outside Media House turns out to be unregistered (it is probably owned by a gin-swilling photographer).

We sweep around to South Melbourne and the extremely well-heeled Middle Park, where a disturbing number of residents seem to think the payment of fines is a discretionary spend.

Certainly any socio-economic stereotyping quickly goes out the power window. "One of the highest hit rates we have had is in an operation in Toorak Road," says the good superintendent.

Sort of Sam Newman's "Street Talk" in reverse.

Our best guess is the machine that goes ping fires up every 40 seconds, notifying police of a potential suspect vehicle.

There is the polite lady in a late-model VW behind us who appears to be a law-abiding driver until the machine says the registered owner owes the Sheriff $923.

There is a parked late-model Volvo that is unregistered with $3771 in fines owing, and a Mazda 3 whose owner is $11,000 down the toilet.

In a run of eight parked cars, four are unregistered or owned by unlicensed drivers.

One is a top-of-the-range Audi registered to an unlicensed driver who also owes $2000 in fines. Maybe that's why he can't afford to take the bus.

As we cruise around, the side camera checks every parked car and provides a photo of ones that are recorded as of police interest.

According to Superintendent McWhirter, the ANPR car "is like having another set of eyes, it has fantastic potential". So much so that another four units are likely to be on the road later in the year as part of the pilot project.

With the new technology, when police pull over a car they will know much about the owner before they even reach a dead stop.

As all systems are connected to the police database, they know if the owner is licensed, has a criminal record or a history of violence. This can be particularly important when police work one-up in the country.

In the prototype car the forward camera is activated as soon the police emergency lights are engaged and automatically records any police pursuit.

It records any interaction between police and motorist. "This can be an important tool to protect members from false complaints," Superintendent McWhirter says.

It will also protect motorists from any copper with an anger management problem, as the knowledge the incident is being recorded can take the edge off even the shortest temper.

The data provided by this ANPR car, along with 10 similar devices that can be set up on any road in Victoria, has exposed a massive problem. There is a dangerous number of illegal drivers out and about who are prepared to roll the dice, believing they won't get caught.

Well, the odds are shortening.

Last year police scanned 2.3 million plates and recorded 36,700 detections.

In one case they pulled over one car registered to a driver who had lost his licence. He was found to be sitting in the passenger seat, which was good. Unfortunately the bloke behind the wheel had never had a licence, which was bad.

The ANPR unit pinged a car with the wrong plates down on the peninsula. Turned out he had been driving daily for the past six months using stolen plates on his unregistered car. A stickler for detail, he had even made a matching false registration sticker to complete the sham. He was a resident of nearby Safety Beach.

You can't make this stuff up.

In other jobs they intercepted a family-friendly Toyota Tarago in Docklands after it was pinged with stolen plates. A search found the smiling occupants were not on their way to the Spanish doughnut van for a snack or to stare at the stationary Southern Star Ferris wheel. Inside the car, police found imitation handguns, balaclavas, bolt cutters and other items used in a Braybrook armed robbery.

In Heathcote, the all-seeing camera suggested the Holden Commodore towing the big boat in front should be fitted with an alcohol interlock device.

A quick check showed not only was the device not fitted, the car was unroadworthy and there were drugs and weapons on board.

And the boat was stolen.

Another ping in Richmond found an unlicensed driver behind the wheel and a stack of counterfeit money in the boot.

You lose your licence when you accrue 12 demerit points. Police found one zombie in a combi driving around with 34. He was just 20 years old.

In one operation in Bendigo, police pulled up 10 unregistered cars every hour.

Police have only started to explore the potential uses for the new system that may one day be in every police car. A sweep of a pub car park can record patrons' number plates to be checked if spotted on the road hours later.

Serial drink-drivers, burglars, or bail jumpers could be targeted with the system.

"Our aim is to have this sort of technology available to as many police as possible, as it will open up a suite of enforcement options," says Superintendent McWhirter.

Police and the Sheriff's office regularly conduct joint operations, often in shopping centre car parks, where fine evaders can find their cars clamped until the debts are paid. This does nothing for the state of the offender's bank balance nor the condition of the Neapolitan log thawing in the supermarket trolley.

"This technology has dramatically increased the effectiveness of the Sheriff in identifying people with outstanding warrants across Victoria," Sheriff Brendan Facey says.

And for those who say such technology is just another revenue-raising gimmick, let us consider the facts. Unlicensed drivers are way over-represented in car crashes - and why would that surprise anyone?

Selfish, stupid and criminal motorists who think the law doesn't apply to them are much more likely to ignore the road rules. And those who are caught are given minimal punishment.

Let's make this clear, those who continue to drive after their licences are cancelled are really guilty of contempt of court and yet are treated no worse than misguided jaywalkers.

As Road Policing Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill points out, 10 per cent of fatal collisions involve unlicensed or unauthorised drivers.

He makes no apologies for using every resource he can find to deal with the road toll, pointing out that Victoria has fallen from first to 12th in the world ratings for road safety (while local police are still internationally recognised as world leaders).

The figures are stark. Drive for more than 20 minutes in Melbourne and you will inevitably come within a car length of a motorist who shouldn't be there.

"These people have had their licences removed for valid reasons and yet choose to continue to drive. They are a danger to themselves and other road users and it is our job to identify them," he says.

Static red light and speed cameras snap around 18,000 unregistered vehicles a year and police are finding up to 1500 unlicensed drivers each month. Police are issuing an infringement notice for an unregistered vehicle every 12 minutes.

Which confirms what we already know. There are more nuts out there than in a squirrel's retirement fund.


1 comment:

Elijah said...

Say goodbye to privacy. What will they do with plates that are scanned but not suspicious? What's to stop them from keeping the location of the scanned plate? More government intrusion on citizens' movements.