Friday, December 20, 2013

Misbehaving asylum seekers to be sent offshore

ASYLUM seekers living in the community who breach laws like shoplifting and drink driving will risk being sent offshore under new rules.

The government will today release a code of behaviour that people on bridging visas will have to sign and follow, or risk being sent for processing on Nauru or Manus Island.

It comes as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison reveals 35 people have had their bridging visas cancelled since the election for charges and convictions including murder, domestic violence, rape, the sexual assault of a minor, people smuggling, shop lifting and driving under the influence.

Four of those cases were in Victoria.

All are now in detention in Australia, but people who breach laws from now on could be sent off shore, with the promise they will never be resettled in Australia.

"In serious cases, those who breach the code could be liable not just to be taken back into detention but transferred to offshore processing centres at Nauru and Manus Island, regardless of when they first arrived," Mr Morrison said.

The code says all laws, including road laws, must be obeyed, a person must not harass, intimidate or bully others or engage in "anti-social or disruptive activities that are inconsiderate, disrespectful or threaten the peaceful enjoyment" of others.

Mr Morrison said the code explained to people what Australian society expected of them and provided the opportunity for early warnings for less serous behavioural problems.

"The behaviour code makes it clear that anti-social as well as criminal behaviour will not be tolerated," he said.

More than 20,000 asylum seekers are living in the community on bridging visas.


The kneejerk ignorance of the Left

WHEN Tim Wilson arrived in Sydney for his introductory meeting with the Human Rights Commission yesterday, we caught up for coffee.

Minutes after our friendly chat, I saw firsthand on Twitter how his appointment as the new "freedom" commissioner has made him a prime target for the paranoid disdain of the digital Left. Someone had surreptitiously snapped a picture of us and tweeted it with the comment: " 'Freedom Commissioner' briefing News Corp just now. Easier to bypass the middleman I suppose."

The general social-media response to Wilson's appointment has been much more abusive - most people who argue against the Green Left Twitter zeitgeist expect no less.

Yet the descriptors of the former Institute of Public Affairs policy director have been wildly inaccurate, revealing both the ignorance of the critics and the strangely binary nature of the Twitter wars.

"Conservative", the tweets have screamed, "very right wing conservative" and "ultra-conservative right nutter".

ABC social media reporter Latika Bourke tweeted that she "initially thought it was a joke but not" and Labor MP Laurie Ferguson tweeted that the appointment was part of a "campaign for conservatives to denigrate minorities".

Because Wilson was a Liberal Party member, does not flow with the Green Left tide and has been appointed by the Coalition, Twitter has declared open season on him. Because there is no appetite or propensity for nuance in these digital debates, he is slated as a conservative.

Wilson is classically libertarian - driven by principle rather than ideology and sceptical of government intervention. He values individual freedom and responsibility.

So on the Twitter Left and love media's totemic issue - gay marriage - Wilson is a fellow traveller, or at least an intelligent advocate for marriage equality.

He has also opposed the interventionist welfare of Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme; has spoken out against Queensland Liberal National Party Premier Campbell Newman's legislative restrictions on association aimed at bikie gangs; and even cheered this week's High Court victory by unions over the NSW Coalition government's political-donation laws.

Is it fair to portray Wilson as right of centre? Sure. Is he a provocative and forthright advocate? Indeed. Conservative? I don't think so.

If his critics are to get the better of him, they'll have to get a fix on him first. And argue issues on their merits rather than resort to abuse and misplaced labels.


Tony Abbott announces final bailout for Holden workers

The Abbott government has unveiled a $100 million package to create new jobs for Holden workers facing redundancy, but flagged an end to so-called corporate welfare, insisting struggling manufacturers must fend for themselves.

In a clear warning to companies such as Toyota, Qantas and SPC Ardmona - all of which have been eyeing government support - Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday stepped up his rhetoric against company bailouts.

Insisting "no country has ever subsidised its way to prosperity", he said the federal government would concentrate on getting the "fundamentals" right by creating a good environment for business, rather than rescuing individual troubled companies.

He vowed he would not "make knee-jerk, piecemeal decisions in response to the crisis of the moment" - a reference to his government's refusal to promise subsidies to Holden and Toyota to keep the companies in Australia.

"This government will be very loath to consider requests for subsidies," he said. "We will be very loath to do for businesses in trouble the sorts of things that they ought to be doing for themselves."

His comments came after car maker Holden announced last week it was shutting its manufacturing operations in Australia in 2017, with the direct loss of about 2900 jobs, plus thousands more in the car components industry.

Mr Abbott announced a $100 million economic "growth fund" to help plug the holes in Victoria and South Australia left by the car maker's looming exit.

South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill blasted the fund as "hopelessly inadequate". He said his state would spend at least $50 million repairing the damage left by the Holden exit, but refused to commit to co-ordinating that with the federal package. Even Mr Abbott's Liberal colleague, Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, stressed the $100 million was a "first step" only, saying Victoria would need further federal help.

The $100 million will be used for grants and other support for manufacturing companies that hire former auto workers, car component companies that increase exports or switch to making other products and companies that commercialise new ideas for the auto industry.

Canberra has committed $60 million of the $100 million, and Victoria has pledged $12 million.

The rest is expected to come from South Australia and Holden itself, though neither was committing to a figure on Wednesday.

Mr Abbott also announced reviews into the Victorian and South Australian economies, which will consider how to retrain workers laid off by closures and look at moving Commonwealth services to regions hit by closures.

They will also consider the concerns of the naval shipbuilding industry, which says it faces a "valley of death" in Victoria and South Australia as work dries up.

Mr Abbott will chair a national taskforce looking at innovation, investment, productivity and the cost of energy.

Federal Labor attacked the size of the growth fund. Opposition industry spokesman Kim Carr said Australia was facing "probably the biggest manufacturing crisis in our history".

The Abbott government has cut $500 million out of the Automotive Transformation Scheme, set up under Julia Gillard, reducing it from $1.5 billion to $1 billion. It has also cut $215 million in funding that was to go to Holden to ensure it stayed here past 2020. It took out these hundreds of millions, Senator Carr said, but put only $60 million in the "rescue package".

Holden recently told the Productivity Commission that between 2001 and 2012 it averaged federal government assistance of $153 million a year and made an average profit of $50 million.

Glenn Thompson, assistant national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, described the assistance package as "cruel", accusing the Abbott government of chasing the car industry out of Australia. "According to conservative estimates, this will tear $21 billion out of the nation's economy," he said.

Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox said the package would help develop Australia's manufacturing strengths "and areas of competitive advantage".


Renewable energy target faces cut by Abbott

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has signalled his government is preparing to slash Australia's renewable energy target citing "changed circumstances" and a desire to be an "affordable energy superpower".

Speaking in Canberra, Mr Abbott said the government supported the "sensible" use of renewable energy, but added the target was causing significant electricity price rises.

The target ensures that 20 per cent of Australia's electricity comes from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro by 2020. It was first established by the Howard government, but was later beefed up by the Rudd government.

The Coalition has vowed to review the target next year. Some large companies, such as Origin Energy, have lobbied for the scheme to be reduced because falling energy demand means the target will likely be overshot and instead mean 27 per cent of Australian electricity will come from renewable sources by decade's end.

Mr Abbott said Australia had a comparative advantage in cheap energy that had to be maintained. He said when the Howard government first established the target very little renewable energy was being used, but now things had changed.

"We've got to accept though that in the changed circumstances of today the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be a large superpower," he said.

"I mean, this country ought to be an affordable energy superpower."

The independent Climate Change Authority reviewed the target last year, recommending against a reduction because it would hurt investor confidence in clean energy projects.


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