Thursday, January 09, 2014

Australians want boat arrivals treated more harshly: poll

Most Australians think asylum seekers who arrive by boat are not genuine refugees and there is strong support for the Abbott government to treat boat arrivals more harshly.

A nationwide opinion poll by UMR Research shows that 59 per cent of people think most boat arrivals are not genuine refugees.
A poll shows most Australians want the government to treat asylum seekers more harshly.

Thirty per cent of Australians believe that most asylum seekers are genuine refugees, even though between 70 and 97 per cent have been determined to be refugees. Photo: Sharon Tisdale

The poll, based on a nationally representative sample of 1000 online interviews, shows only 30 per cent of Australians believe that most asylum seekers are genuine refugees while 12 per cent are unsure.

A strong majority of Australians, 60 per cent, also want the Abbott government to “increase the severity of the treatment of asylum seekers.”

Groups most strongly favouring harsher policies are older Australians (aged over 70 years – 68 per cent), and self-employed people (71 per cent). People in Queensland and Western Australia are slightly more supportive of a more severe approach (65 per cent and 64 per cent respectively) than in Victoria and NSW (both 62 per cent).

Only 30 per cent of Australians think asylum seekers should not be treated more severely, while 9 per cent are unsure.

A majority of Australians - 59 per cent - oppose refugees receiving government welfare assistance. Only 27 per cent believe that refugees should receive government support.

The latest polling results come as Fairfax Media reports that the Abbott government is buying up to 16 hard-hulled lifeboats - similar to those carried by cruise ships and oil tankers - to which asylum seekers will be transferred and returned to Indonesia if their vessels are unseaworthy.

Indonesian police have said Australia has recently turned back two asylum seeker boats, prompting Jakarta again to voice its condemnation of the policy.

In a standoff at sea in November, Indonesia refused to take back an asylum seeker vessel on the grounds that it was unseaworthy.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has refused to confirm or deny the purchase of lifeboats or the reported recent turning back of asylum seeker boats, citing the need to "protect the security of our operations".

The poll shows the government's current treatment of asylum seekers is approved of by 48 per cent of Australians and 39 per cent disapprove. The poll does not show, however, how many of those who disapprove think the government's policies are too lenient or too harsh.

According to the Australian Parliamentary Library's research service, between 70 per cent and 97 per cent of asylum seekers arriving by boat at different times have been found to be genuine refugees.

Under the former Howard government's "Pacific Solution", 1637 unauthorised arrivals were detained in the Nauru and Manus Island detention facilities between September 2001 and February 2008. Of those 70 per cent were found to be refugees and ultimately resettled to Australia or other countries.

During the Rudd government approximately 90-95 per cent of refugee assessments completed on Christmas Island resulted in protection visas being granted. 99.7 per cent of people from Afghanistan (the majority of whom arrived by boat) were assessed as genuine refugees. Grant rates for protection visas for people from Iraq, Iran and Burma, many of whom also have arrived by boat, were also high, ranging from 96-98 per cent.

However the latest UMR polling, conducted in the second week of December, shows that public perceptions of asylum seekers are quite different from official assessments.

Residents in NSW (61 per cent) and Queensland (66 per cent) are more likely to reject the description of most boat arrivals as refugees than Victorians (54 per cent). There is also a significant division in attitudes in metropolitan and regional Australia with people outside major cities less likely to see asylum seekers as refugees (25 per cent against 33 per cent of people in cities.)

People aged under 30 years (35 per cent) or who are university educated (39 per cent) are more likely to think people travelling to Australia by boat are genuine refugees. People who are self-employed (70 per cent), aged between 50-69 years (65 per cent), or over 70 years (67 per cent), or who have a TAFE or trade qualification (66 per cent) are more likely to think asylum seekers are not genuine refugees.


Public sector jobs in ACT drop to lowest ever recorded levels

Public sector job prospects in the capital collapsed late last year to their lowest ever recorded levels, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals.

The bureau's latest job vacancy snapshot shows just 300 government jobs were up for grabs in the ACT in November 2013, the lowest level since records began 30 years ago.

In November 2012 when there were 800 jobs available the government sector in Canberra.

There was dismal news too for the city's private sector workers with non-government job vacancies down by nearly 25 per cent from last year, way below the national Australia-wide trend that saw vacancies across Australia slump by 15 per cent.

There were just 2300 jobs vacant in Canberra's private sector in November 2013, according to the bureau, down from 3100 the previous year and way down from an all-time-high of 5500 in November 2010.

The numbers represent all government sector jobs the territory including the Australian Public Service, and broader federal sector as well as ACT Public Service and other government employers.

The figures were published on Wednesday and were taken in the wake of the Abbott government's hiring freeze on the Australian Public Service, Canberra's biggest employer, and several years of cost cutting and efficiency dividends under the previous Labor government which also cut into public sector jobs in the capital.

The previous lows of just 400 public sector vacancies in Canberra were recorded by the ABS between 1996 and 1997 as the then newly elected Howard government imposed deep cuts on public service numbers.

The highest ever recorded number of public sector vacancies in Canberra came in the dying days of John Howard's government in 2007 when 2400 government jobs up for grabs in the capital.


Baccalaureate studiers at private school top HSC's best performer

Eight International Baccalaureate students at one Sydney private school scored the top ATAR of 99.95 compared to six HSC students at James Ruse Agricultural High School, raising questions about whether the alternative qualification gives students an advantage in university admission.

The diploma, which is not allowed to be taught in NSW public schools, was offered at 15 private schools last year as an alternative to the HSC.

When results were released on Saturday, 11 of the state's 450 IB students, or 2.44 per cent, received the top score of 45, which translates to an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank of 99.95.

By comparison, 48 out of almost 55,000 ATAR-eligible HSC students achieved the same result, a rate of 0.087 per cent. While the IB students make up a tiny sample of the wider community of school-leavers, the year's results suggest they were 28 times more likely to achieve an ATAR of 99.95.

The president of the Board of Studies, Tom Alegounarias, said the top IB mark would be equivalent to several marks at the top of the ATAR scale for an HSC student.

"And you couldn't reliably differentiate any more specifically than that," he said.

The lowest score for a student who passed the IB translated to a 69.35 ATAR, which was higher than the median ATAR of 69.20 among HSC students.

The IB scores range between 24 and 45 and any score above 33 translated to an ATAR above 90.

The director of information services at the University Admissions Centre, Kim Paino, said the high performance among IB students partly reflected that it was only offered in "private schools of a particular demographic". But she said it would be hard to argue the top-ranked IB student deserved anything other than the top ATAR.

"I mean, that would be quite controversial," she said. "And if there are that many good IB students this year, then good luck to them."

The principal at the MLC School in Burwood, Denice Scala, said her IB students felt more in control of their study because their grades did not depend on ranking or scaling and there was not a limit on how many students could receive the top marks.

"They know, if they get the assessment results that they want, what their ATAR will be," she said. "So there are no surprises."

A third of the school's students chose the IB over the HSC last year and more than 90 per cent of those students achieved a score equivalent to an ATAR above 90. None of the school's HSC students received the top ATAR of 99.95. "We certainly don't choose to do the IB because of the conversion to the ATAR," she said.

"We chose to do the IB because of the fact that it's really rich in what it offers our students."

IB students must study six subjects, as well as a 4000-word research essay, study the theory of knowledge and undertake community service.

MLC School student Emma Williams, who received the top IB score of 45 on Saturday, said the IB "definitely" translated favourably to the ATAR. "I'd say that's probably one of the main advantages of the IB," she said. "If you're prepared to work hard in either course, I would definitely suggest the IB to anyone."


Labor's green tinge fattened the goat cheese circle of public servants in the big cities

KEVIN Rudd, his loyal deputy Julia Gillard and their trusted treasurer Wayne Swan were elected in November 2007 to look after the interests of Australian working families.

With such a high-powered team and a strong Australian economy, what could possibly go wrong? The Labor government had inherited a labour market that was generating almost as many jobs as could be provided annually by growth in the civilian population 15 years and older. Australia's participation rate was 65.2 per cent and rising, and the unemployment rate was 4.1 per cent and falling.

Between November 2007 and November last year we had the speed bump of the global financial crisis, but the stimulus temporarily returned job creation to Howard government levels in late 2010.

By then the NSW Right and their mates in the Australian Workers Union had ditched Rudd and replaced him with their former lawyer, Gillard. Swan was about to be elected as the world's best treasurer and all looked under control, especially after Labor's factional wide boys had frozen out that pesky Lindsay Tanner from finance and replaced him with one of their own, Penny Wong.

To mind the shop, throw in a few former house guests of disgraced former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid, such as Stephen Conroy and Tony Burke, and you had a real can-do cabinet. They even had AWU strongman Bill Ludwig's son Joe to keep the minutes. Then the team was able to crack on with extensive re-regulation of the labour market and the creation of Fair Work Australia and a wide range of sweetheart deals with its union mates at the ACTU.

In between Joe Ludwig found time to work his magic on live cattle exports and relations with Indonesia. We saw schemes from Conroy such as the National Broadband Network, which has 3000 staff including 400 on more than $200,000 a year. Actual homes connected? Well that's another matter entirely. But at least they had targets.

More modest efforts included Medicare Locals to take over after-hours schemes already run by local doctors, and these needed armies of public service administrators, accountants, lawyers and auditors.

There were deals with unions on coastal shipping routes and deals to take childcare money off working mums and give it to unions looking after childcare workers. This last one was probably not the smartest way to improve participation rates for working mums.

The real honey pot for the public sector teachers unions was locking the commonwealth into permanently funding public schools for state governments.

This was heaven on earth for the ACTU, now run by white-collar unions that were able to match the taxing powers of the commonwealth with one of the biggest state government spending obligations.

A marriage based on the self-interest of public sector unions and premiers was truly a romance for the ages.

Despite all this compassion and all the factional deals, by November last year the labour market was generating jobs for only one in four potential new entrants to the workforce.

When benchmarked against figures for November 2007, the participation rate was down 0.8 per cent and the official unemployment was up by 1.3 per cent.

Underemployment, which mainly affects part-time working women chasing more hours of work, was at 7.8 per cent compared with 7.9 per cent during the worst days of the GFC.

Particularly affected by underemployment were women aged 35 to 44, the group that funds consumer spending in younger working families. These would be the same working mums who could no longer afford four days of childcare a week because their money had been siphoned off to fund a union membership drive for childcare workers.

Labour force underutilisation (which equals underemployment plus unemployment) was running at 13.7 per cent in November last year, compared with 13.6 per cent during the GFC.

So what went wrong?

The politest way we can put it is that the people who hired themselves to look after the working families of Australia from November 2007 did very well, but those being helped did not fare so well, despite all the love and attention.

The official Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers summarised in The Australian's online Jobs Profile tell the story.

Six out of 10 or 576,000 of the additional 957,000 people employed between November 2007 and November last year obtained jobs in the combined industries of health, education and public administration. The combined industries grew from 23.7 per cent of the workforce in November 2007 to 26.7 per cent of the workforce in November last year.

There was, after all, a lot of help to be given to needy working-class families.

These predominantly white-collar jobs tend to be publicly funded or regulated, are strongly unionised and show in our election profiles as equally strong Greens voters. You may have noticed a few of them running the ACTU. By contrast, the combined industries of manufacturing, construction and transport are likelier to be employed in the private sector, are relatively unionised and show in our election profiles as strong Labor voters.

These three industries shared in none of the additional 957,000 jobs created during six years of Labor governments and in fact lost a combined 3300 workers. Their combined share of employed persons fell from 24.1 per cent in November 2007 to 22.1 per cent in November last year.

Both of these industry groupings started six years of Labor governments in November 2007 with about 2,500,000 workers. The white-collar group of helpers reached 3,100,000 by last November , while the blue-collar group being helped stayed on 2,500,000 and when Rudd lost office last year they were 600,000 jobs behind their white-collar counterparts.

This shedding of these blue-collar construction, manufacturing and transport jobs under Labor was concentrated in labour force regions in outlying suburbs such as Gold Coast North in Queensland, or Fairfield-Liverpool in NSW.

But conventional unemployment rates did not capture the real loss of employment opportunities in these regions as many joined the hidden unemployed outside the official labour market, while more mobile workers moved to regions of higher labour demand in Western Australia.

The best example of this trend, Gold Coast North, was losing up to one in four employees at various times between November 2007 and November last year, but at the same time was returning an unemployment rate of zero per cent, which invalidates the unemployment rate as an economic indicator in the present economic climate.

Given the high levels of discouraged workers and hidden unemployed in the labour market, a rise in official unemployment rates in some of our depressed regions such as Gold Coast North and Fairfield-Liverpool and perhaps even at the national level would be a sign of growing confidence in the economy rather than the reverse.

To neutralise the impact of hidden employment changes, our labour market profiles now place a higher priority on participation rates across the regions and pay more attention to underemployment and underutilisation at the national level.

When we ranked the 69 regions to show the greatest drop in participation rates we noted that the 18 hardest hit regions included seven of the 14 Queensland regions, indicating the serious decline of the Queensland labour market in the past six years because of a contraction of the tourist sector, a drop in population growth and a loss of building and manufacturing jobs.

We also saw a range of outer urban and adjoining rural areas across most states where regional economies had suffered substantial falls in workforce participation. This is where we traditionally find large proportions of the more activist religions, such as Pentecostals and Mormons, groups that had been loyal Rudd supporters in 2007. These postcodes are clearly identified in the interactive map in The Australian's online edition.

Also losing jobs from six years of Labor governments were middle-income families with four-bedroom McMansions and 30 to 34-year-old mothers of two children. When Rudd was first elected in 2007 these young mums lived in labour force regions with an average chance of getting a job; now they have as much chance as sea-change regions containing large groups of 70 to 74-year-old women.

These demographics represent the classic swinging voter group and no government can expect to be re-elected if it presides over a fall in participation rates for this key group.

We projected these trends on to federal electorates to show in our online Jobs Profile the 24 electorates with the biggest gains and falls in participation rates between 2007 and last year.

The electorates gaining jobs under Labor tended to be wealthy inner-city seats with high Greens votes, while the electorates losing jobs under Labor were lower-income, outer-urban seats with few Greens voters.

For the 12 seats that grew increasingly prosperous under Labor, the Greens vote averaged almost 16 per cent. For the 12 seats that lost jobs under Labor the Greens vote averaged 6.4 per cent.

The correlation between Greens primary votes and the improvement in participation rates was 0.78 and significant to 99.9 per cent confidence levels.

It seems that the biggest political losers from six years of Labor governments were young swinging voter families and traditional blue-collar Labor voters.

The biggest winners were well paid, public sector Greens voters living inside the goat cheese circle of our major cities. These helpful people in the ACTU public sector unions have prospered and continue to do so under Tony Abbott, who has declined to revisit Labor's re-regulation of the labour market in his first term and instead has come up with a paid parental leave scheme for rich kids that looks as if it could have been written by the Greens because it was.

If the Prime Minister doesn't ditch dopey ideas such as this one and refocus on the labour market for real working families he won't have to worry much about what he does in his second term because he won't get one.

Which won't concern the ACTU or the Greens or Labor's factional wide boys because then they can go back to sharing the love.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"even though between 70 and 97 per cent have been determined to be refugees."

Its kind of like how people determine themselves to be aboriginals these days. If you say so that's good enough for those who decide (at least it was under Labor).