Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Illegal imigrants dilute charity resources

PROCEEDS from the $5.3 million Vinnies CEO Sleep Out will be shared with asylum seekers, leaving one high-profile participant "disappointed".

Dozens of high-profile business leaders slept rough for a night last week to raise the money for the St Vincent de Paul Society's homeless services, which also help asylum seekers.

Australian Hotels Association CEO Paul Nicolaou, who is also a former Liberal Party state candidate, raised $88,000 and says he is "disappointed" a charity like Vinnies is needed to help asylum seekers paid 89 per cent of the dole.

"There are 100,000 people who are homeless across the country. If we are allowing refugees to go on the streets and not providing for them and it has to be funded by charities like St Vincent De Paul, there is a huge problem, the federal government needs to pick up its act," said Mr Nicolaou, who is nursing a cold after his night on the streets.

"The resources (of St Vincents) are needed to help existing people."

The Coalition condemned the government for putting more than 14,000 asylum seekers into the community and leaving charities to provide additional support.

"Labor's community dumping policy of illegal boat arrivals is occurring without any consultation or thought for the consequences on communities and organisations like St Vincent de Paul who do their best to provide much needed services to our most needy," Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor's spokesman said the welfare payments to asylum seekers were "adequate but not generous" because the government did not "want the provision of support to be an incentive that encourages people to put their lives in the hands of people smugglers".

A spokeswoman for the charity said it did not discriminate and some of those assisted would be refugees living in the community.

"The St Vincent de Paul Society provides assistance to the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our community and has done so, without discrimination, for close to 160 years in Australia," she said.

"The Society in NSW runs over 30 homeless services across the state assisting men, women and children including rehabilitation and learning centres. The society assists all people at risk of or experiencing homelessness and this would include people living in our community as refugees."

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr told caucus colleagues that Iranians were coming to Australia by boat to escape an economy crippled by international sanctions, not to flee persecution.

Mr Carr also told colleagues people smugglers were fuelling the trade and the economic boat migrants were taking places from the humanitarian program for genuine refugees.

Of the more than 13,000 people who have arrived this year, 4136 have been from Iran, compared to just 2749 for all of last year.

Mr Carr's comments came during a fiery caucus meeting, during which Victorian backbench MP Laura Smyth told Mr O'Connor the government's no-advantage policy was "indefensible."

Under the policy, asylum seekers could be left in the community without their refugee claims being processed for as long as they would have waited if they were in an overseas camp.


Melbourne households will suffer an increase of up to $222 a year in water bills, mainly to pay for Greenie desal plant

Melbourne water bills will rise between $167 and $222 in the coming financial year.

WATER bills for Melbourne households will surge up to $222 a year, mainly to pay for the southern hemisphere's biggest desalination plant.

The drain from July 1, approved by the Essential Services Commission, means costs have more than doubled in six years for many families.

Customers with the biggest three retailers face average 19 to 25 per cent annual price rise before inflation, then CPI rises for the following four years.

ESC analysis reveals that once inflation forecasts are factored in, typical residential bills for Yarra Valley, South East and City West Water will climb 33 to 40 per cent over five years.

That is before any water is drawn from the controversial $24 billion Wonthaggi desal plant.

ESC chairman Dr Ron Ben-David said that "two-thirds to three-quarters" of the new increase covered desal plant costs.

2Yarra Valley bills for an average home will rise $222 in 2013-14, and by an estimated total of $354 over five years.

South East Water's will rise $221 initially, and by $344 by 2017-18.

City West customers face a $168 jump next financial year, and a $282 rise over five years.

Bills for Western Water, which is less exposed to the desalination plant, will increase $47 next financial year and $270 for five years, up 28 per cent.

Customers will be slugged a total of $12 billion over five years. This is about $1 billion less than requested after the regulator identified savings from lower financing, labour and energy costs.

"This represents a significant reduction from the increases originally proposed by the businesses," Dr Ben-David said.

Consumer Action chief executive Gerard Brody said: "The community should be pleased the ESC has made a genuine effort to limit price rises but, for those households already struggling to pay their bills, this will hit hard."


Australian economy set to record 22 years of consecutive growth

THIS coming Sunday evening, the Australian economy will achieve a remarkable milestone, closing off the books on 22 years of consecutive economic growth.

It will be a remarkable achievement. But it will mask enormous turmoil in the Australian economy.

And, of course, the more important question is: where to from here?

The winds of economic change have been blowing a gale. But the Prime Minister is right: we're going to be OK.

On Monday, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, delivered a warning against "unreasonable pessimism" about Australia's economic future.

There are indeed reasons for optimism, which I will get to.  But it is also important to recognise the period of intense economic change we have all lived through since the global financial crisis.

The economy today is barely recognisable to the one Labor inherited just five and a half short years ago.

On the eve of the global financial crisis, the Australian economy was growing between 4 and 5 per cent a year.

Economic growth today is running at 2.5 per cent - far from recession territory - but below its long term average of about 3.25 per cent.

The inflation genie that so troubled the later years of the Howard government has been vanquished.

Just prior to the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers in late 2008, Australia's rate of inflation hit a whopping 5 per cent. Today, it's a tepid 2.5 per cent.

Lower inflation has meant sharply lower interest rates.

The Reserve Bank's official cash rate stood at an eye-watering 6.75 per cent in the last few months of the Howard government, no doubt contributing to the mood of discontent.

Today the cash rate is at an historic low of 2.75 per cent, providing much relief for mortgageholders.

We survived the global financial crisis - thanks to China, interest rate cuts and the Rudd Government's quick stimulus - but it has hardly been plain sailing since then.

Australia's jobless rate has begun a slow march north, from 4 per cent in early 2008 to 5.5 per cent.

The high Aussie dollar has sounded the death knell for many manufacturers. Ford Australia is closing its doors and Holden is warning of more to come.

It is difficult to understate the enormity of the changes being wrought on the Australian economy right now by a still high Australian dollar and the winding down of the mining boom.

The reforms of the 1980s which made our economy more flexible - like floating the dollar and decentralising wage bargaining - have allowed the economy to undergo a period of intense structural change.

More recently, the tidal wave of mining investment has crested and its pullback will detract from growth in coming years.

Sharemarkets have been on the slide in recent weeks on market expectations central banks in the United States and China will soon start tightening policy, bringing to an end the days of cheap money.

But there are silver linings to a lot of these economic storm clouds.

It would be a good thing if China's maturing economic growth could be made more sustainable by authorities there curbing a recent credit boom.

Similarly, the world's biggest economy - America - is picking itself up off the floor, meaning the central bank there will soon stop printing money.

As the rest of the world recovers, other currencies are becoming more attractive to investors, meaning the Australian dollar has taken a tumble to around US92 cents.

Again, this is a good thing.

The falling Aussie dollar will relieve pressure on our struggling industries such as manufacturing, education services and tourism, all of which are significant employers.

In another positive development, mining investment has peaked, but exports remain strong and will continue to contribute to national income.

And it's only a matter of time before housing construction picks up, given you can walk into a bank and get a home loan rate with a "4" in front. And rates can go even lower still.

Meanwhile, Australian households are sitting on a war chest of savings, having spent the last five years using lower interest rates to pay off their mortgage faster.

This is a very different economy than it was six years ago. But we're managing the transition surprisingly well, so far.

There will, of course, always been doomsayers.

The investment bank Goldman Sachs recently predicted there is a 20 per cent chance Australia's dream run of 22 years consecutive growth will soon end in recession.

Their central case, however, remains that growth slows to 2 per cent this year and 1.9 per cent next year as the mining investment boom wanes and the dollar remains relatively high.

"While a recession in Australia is possible we believe there is still time for the economy to respond to the combination of better global growth, domestic policy stimulus, and a lower Australian dollar."

I'm not a betting man, but 80 per cent odds of success sound pretty good to me.


Victoria to tighten parole laws in wake of Jill Meagher's murder, to be 'the toughest in Australia'

Victoria's Premier says the state's new parole laws, which will make breaching parole a criminal offence, will be the toughest in Australia.

Under the new laws, which will be introduced in the Victorian Parliament later this week, breaching parole will now be classed as a separate offence.

A breach of parole may mean breaking a curfew, or breaching an alcohol ban.

Denis Napthine says he found it extraordinary that breaching parole was not already an offence in Victoria.

The penalty for breaching parole includes up to three months' jail, and or a $4,200 fine.

"The bill also gives police new powers to arrest and charge a parolee for a breach of parole terms and conditions, whether or not it involves further offending," Dr Napthine said.

"This means police effectively have extra powers to deal with parolees before they have committed further offences, by arresting them for parole braches and putting them back behind bars."

While police will have the power to detain people suspected of breaching parole, it does not say for how long people can be detained before they are charged.

The legislation will also require police to notify the parole board of any alleged breach with 12 hours.
'Listening to the community'

The further toughening of the parole regulations come in the wake of the murder of ABC employee Jill Meagher.

Convicted killer Adrian Earnest Bayley raped and murdered Ms Meagher last year while on parole, in a case which sparked outrage amongst the community and criticism of the Parole Board.

Dr Napthine says the move will make Victoria's parole laws the toughest in Australia.

"Anybody who breaches the conditions of their parole will be taken off the streets," he said.

"The further strengthening of our parole system is what the community expects and this is what the Coalition Government is delivering."

The changes build on reforms passed earlier this year.

Dr Napthine says the Government is listening to the community's concerns.

"Our community Victoria has a fundamental right to protection and safety," he said.

"It's absolutely essential that we have the laws and the police powers in Victoria to make sure we have a safer community."

Corrections Minister Edward O'Donohue says the Government has also commissioned former High Court justice Ian Callinan to carry out a review of the Adult Parole Board's Operations.

He says a review is currently underway.

"These sweeping changes to Victoria's parole system form part of the strengthening of law and order in Victoria, which the Coalition was elected implement," Mr O'Donohue said.

"These reforms include the recruitment of an addition 1,700 police and 940 Protective Service Officers to patrol railway stations in Melbourne and regional centres, and the introduction of tougher sentencing, in line with community expectations."

Opposition MP Jill Hennessy says Labor will work with the Coalition to reform the system.

"We will look forward to working co-operatively with the Government to try to insure we are able to address the deficiencies that have been so painfully identified in recent times," she said.


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