Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Privacy laws stop cops tracking lawless "refugees"

PRIVACY restrictions are preventing police being told where asylum seekers are living in the community.

The Immigration Department has told a parliamentary committee that "due to privacy reasons", police were not told where boat arrivals on bridging visas are.

More than 10,000 asylum seekers who have been released have had initial security checks, but are yet to undergo screening by ASIO.

Four people in community detention have been charged with animal cruelty, theft and assault, while four on bridging visas have been charged with stalking, custody of a knife, and assaults.

Police have been called to asylum seeker housing five times over assaults from November 2011 to December last year. Four asylum seekers living in the community have since absconded and are yet to be found.

In detention centres across Australia, asylum seekers who have not had their refugee claims processed since the government began a "no advantage" policy in August have been involved in 56 critical incidents and 155 major incidents in two months to October.

Acting Opposition immigration spokesman Michael Keenan claimed police had asked for locations of asylum seekers.

"This is not only because of their responsibilities, but also because asylum seeker families particularly may require protection," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said character checks, consideration of behaviour and co-operation were taken into account before people were released and that they then had to report to the department regularly.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor's spokesman said: "This is lazy, fearmongering journalism, given that less than half of one per cent of people in community detention or on bridging visas have been criminally charged and that people are only released into the community after security checks are completed."

The revelations came as a boat carrying 82 asylum seekers arrived on the Cocos Islands, and another boat carrying 126 people was intercepted off Christmas Island, taking arrivals for May to 2963 and just over 35,000 since Julia Gillard became PM.

Since the start of the year, 10,137 people have arrived, compared with 3428 in the same period in 2012.

Immigration Department Secretary Martin Bowles yesterday told Estimates arrivals this financial year could end up reaching 25,000.

However, the Government has only budgeted for 13,200 people next financial year, in part because only 483 people arrived in the monsoonal month of January.


Northwest Qld rivers opened up to farms

The Greenies won't be happy but the Qld govt. has given them lots to fight lately so they may just lie down on this one

SIX northwest Queensland farms are now allowed to use water from Gulf river systems for irrigation after the state government granted the first licenses.

Twenty-two applicants applied for a licence to undertake irrigated farming along the Gilbert and Flinders rivers last year, Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps says.

Three of the licence holders have access to a combined total of 80,000 megalitres from the Flinders River catchment while the remaining three licence holders will be able to use 14,220 megalitres from the Gilbert River catchment.

Mr Cripps says it's an important step towards creating a sustainable irrigated agricultural industry in the Gulf Country.

The release of water strikes the right balance between development and sustainability, he added.

"It is important to note that the volumes of water we have released had been identified as unallocated under the Gulf Water Resource Plan, after environmental flows had been taken into account," Mr Cripps said.

More water from the rivers might be released for irrigation in future.

The minister said he would fast track a CSIRO and government review on the volume of water from the Gilbert and Flinders rivers that could sustainably be released.


Australia the world's happiest nation: OECD

These ratings all have an element of arbitrariness but it is interesting that Australia scores highly on many variables

Australia is still the world's happiest nation based on criteria including income, jobs, housing and health, despite some signs of a slowing economy, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Australia kept the top spot for the third straight year, leading Sweden and Canada, the Paris-based group's Better Life Index showed, when each of 11 categories surveyed in 36 nations is given equal weight.

More than 73 per cent of people aged 15 to 64 in Australia have a paid job, above the OECD average of 66 per cent, while life expectancy at birth in Australia is almost 82 years, two years higher than the OECD average, the survey showed.

Australia, the only major developed nation to avoid the 2009 worldwide recession, remains at the top of the OECD index even as the mining boom powering economic growth crests and the government forecasts unemployment will rise to 5.75 per cent by June 2014, from 5.5 per cent last month.

“Australia performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index,” the OECD said.

The average household net-adjusted disposable income was $US28,884 a year, well above the OECD average of $US23,047. "Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards," the OECD noted.

But the organisation also pointed out that there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20 per cent of the population earn six times as much as the bottom 20 per cent.

The data also showed Australian work fewer hours a year than their OECD peers. The average Australian works 1693 hours, compared with most people in the OECD who work 1776 hours a year.

Australians also share a stronger sense of community than the OECD average. According to the the report, 94 per cent of people "believe they know someone they could rely on in a time a need, higher than the OECD average of 90 per cent.

Moreover, more Australians participate in the democratic process than anywhere else in the OECD, with 93 per cent voter turnout during the last election, the highest among the surveyed countries. The average is 72 per cent.

Australians are also more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 84 per cent of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 80 per cent.


Conservative think tank gets practical

Almost 10 years ago, the leader of an East Arnhem Aboriginal community arrived unannounced at CIS asking for help. His community’s children were not receiving any education so he feared that they would be condemned to a life on welfare. This plea led to the CIS finding practical assistance for the community and the development of our Indigenous program.

Since then, with volunteer helpers, the community has moved forward in parallel with CIS’ Indigenous policy development. Our research exposed the failure of ‘culturally appropriate’ Indigenous education while the Baniyala community now has an excellent school with the highest Indigenous school attendance in the Northern Territory.

From education, the focus has moved to housing. The community wants decent homes instead of the sub-standard dwellings into which they have been crowded. In keeping with the CIS’ liberal philosophy, we support home ownership as an alternative to public housing.

Over the last 50 years, 20% of Australia has been returned to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ownership. Few know that this land was returned without the provision for individual land title. Australia’s Indigenous lands are the largest area on earth where you are not allowed to own your home. All prosperous societies combine good governance of communal assets such as roads, parks and hospitals, with private ownership of homes and business. On Australia’s vast Indigenous lands, communal governance is poor and private ownership is non-existent. The misery of remote communities on Indigenous lands is the result.

This East Arnhem community commenced negotiations with governments and their statutory organisations to introduce 99 year leases for private housing. Progress has been slow.

To move private housing along, two modest houses have been built in Baniyala for private rental. These houses have kitchens and bathrooms - unlike the public housing provided in remote outstations. Two families now rent these houses. One family – parents plus children – was previously ‘housed’ in an 18 feet ‘donga’ container. The other family shared bedrooms in a dwelling that would be condemned as ‘unfit for human habitation’ outside Aboriginal Australia. In their new houses, these families are planting gardens and taking advantage of ‘quiet enjoyment’ – the right of a tenant or landowner to undisturbed use and enjoyment of property. When leases over the housing blocks are issued, the tenants have the option of getting a mortgage and buying these houses.

These first two houses built for private rental and ownership have easily disproved the mantras about housing on Indigenous land. For years it has been claimed that construction costs are too high and Indigenous incomes too low, and that unlike other Australians, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders do not want to own their homes. These are excuses used to hide the discriminatory state and federal policies that deny individual property rights on Indigenous land. The CIS and a handful of volunteers are helping a remote Northern Territory community to drive changes in these policies.


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