Monday, January 20, 2014

Newman and Abbott governments plan for immigrants and refugees to be sent to regional Queensland towns

Decentralization generally does not work.  Any cheers for Albury/Wodonga?  But Qld. is already naturally decentralized with some very attractive smaller cities so this might be a goer

IMMIGRANTS and refugees wanting to call Queensland home will be required to live in regional cities and towns to alleviate future growing pains in the southeast corner.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the Newman and Abbott governments have begun initial discussions about developing a quota system aimed at funnelling new arrivals into cities such as Cairns, Townsville and Rockhampton to promote growth.

Requiring prospective Queensland residents to live in a predetermined city for a designated period would have to be considered as part of their residency conditions to prevent people circumventing the decentralisation policy by moving shortly after they've been granted access.

Premier Campbell Newman said Queensland had a unique opportunity to grow regional centres unlike NSW, Victoria, South Australia and West Australia which were virtually single-city states.

"I have actually already had a discussion with the Federal Immigration Minister and we will work on some sort of plan or policy together to try and get people to go as immigrants and refugees to regional Queensland,'' he said.

Mr Newman said the governments would work together with councils to consider ways to prioritise residency applications for people prepared to live in certain areas.

Past Queensland governments have promoted similar decentralisation policies but have failed to have any demonstrable impact on channelling new arrivals away from Brisbane or the Sunshine and Gold coasts.

The Department of Immigration has schemes in place to attract residents with particular skills, such as the one that operates in West Australia, although the Queensland model would be based on the cities where they are prepared to live.

About 100,000 overseas immigrants move to Queensland each year and the state's population is predicted to rise from 4.5 million to eight million in 30 years.

Under the Queensland Plan, the Government wants 50 per cent of the population to live outside the southeast corner by 2034, meaning the regions would have to cater for another 2.3 million people.

Mr Newman said the Government would "positively discriminate" its infrastructure priorities in regional Queensland to compliment this growth which could prove cheaper in the long-term.

Mr Newman said he did not believe immigrants would bypass Queensland because they were being asked to consider cities and towns outside the southeast.

"The wonderful thing about these cities already in a world sense, in an international sense, is they are actually pretty nice places to live,'' he said.  "I mean you go to all these places, they've got civic centres, theatre companies, wonderful parks, beaches, great recreational and sporting facilities.  "Great infrastructure is already there.''


Future Submarine project a farce that has missed a mention

The monster budget is coming, the one which, in a single blow, will make all the political debate since the federal election seem like an episode of Seinfeld, the show about nothing.

The strange thing is, as the government prepares its first budget and has set up the National Commission of Audit to prepare the way, one of the biggest, most dysfunctional, most wasteful and most misguided proposed programs has not even been mentioned. You could say it remains submerged.

Not a word has there been about this gold-plated, $30 billion sinkhole. The only sign that the Abbott government is preparing to confront this impending, unaffordable, inexcusable financial black hole was its announcement that former federal MP Sophie Mirabella was joining the board of ASC Pty Ltd, formerly known as the Australian Submarine Corporation.

ASC is a basket case. Its fingerprints are all over a sequence of expensive failures. It cannot be reformed, does not deserve to be saved and should be killed off before it can do any further damage to national security.

And yet the Royal Australian Navy expects that ASC will be the prime contractor of the most costly project in Australian defence history, the Future Submarine project, which it envisages will involve the construction of a dozen submarines, in South Australia, to replace the Collins-class submarines, also made in Australia and also a financial and operational sinkhole.

That this plan is even being put forward as a matter of policy by the defence bureaucracy shows how deeply ingrained is the cultural delusion and arrogance of the Australian armed forces.

The cycle of money-soaking arrogance runs like this: there is no hardware suitable for local conditions so the Defence Materiel Organisation must design tender specifications that are specialised for Australian needs. The local military-industrial complex will produce custom-modified, low-volume, high-cost military hardware that is the best in the world.

The reality, in a cycle repeated over decades, is the military-industrial complex produces gold-plated, high-maintenance products that never match hype and cost twice as much as they need to.

Whatever one may think of Mirabella, she is an economic dry and does not shirk the dirty work of confronting spendthrift bureaucrats, military brass and trade unions, all of whom have treated the Australian Submarine Corporation and the Defence Materiel Organisation as a giant honey pot.

Both organisations are impervious to competence. In 2011, the Labor government commissioned an audit of the navy's procurement process. It revealed a shambolic labyrinth that produced cost blow-outs and chronic delays. That same year, the navy received an SOS after cyclone Yasi smashed Queensland but was unable to deploy a single ship. All three of its large amphibious ships were out of service and two of them were so unseaworthy they never returned to service.

At the same time, the navy also had to scrap six large landing craft before they were even used, at a cost of $40 million, because they could not be loaded onto the motherships they had been bought for.

The opposition defence spokesman at the time, David Johnston, described all this as ''an absolute walking, living, breathing example of incompetence''. He is now Defence Minister, responsible for this fleet of foolishness.

The minister needs to be aware the military is as duplicitous as it is deluded. The culture of hazing and harassment, to which the military turned a blind eye for decades, proves that. In 2009, a report entitled Strategic Review of Naval Engineering delivered a scathing assessment of the navy's ability to keep ships in operation. That report was suppressed. It was kept from the then defence minister.

The idea that Australia should produce a dozen submarines in South Australia, at a projected cost of about $3 billion a vessel, is madness. One only need look at the the Collins-class submarines. They were manufactured in South Australia by the Australian Submarine Corporation at a cost of about $1 billion per submarine - far more than projected. The navy has never had more than two of the six submarines in service at any time.

The new submarines will have a unit cost that dwarfs the Collins-class subs if built here, or roughly three times the cost of acquiring the submarines from foreign shipyards. The navy disputes this disparity but history does not.

The grand South Australian submarine project is an unaffordable hold-over from Kevin Rudd's unbudgeted grandiosity. The government will save more than $20 billion if it brings this project down to size and offshore.

One only need to look at the navy's existing major procurement project, the Air Warfare Destroyer Program, to see costs blowing out and unforseen complexities. Every year produces another procurement embarrassment. This year, it is the fleet supply ship HMAS Sirius, commissioned in 2006. It will be taken out of service after just eight years because it cannot function adequately in rough seas.

Australia's defence establishment remains culturally fixated on big hardware when national security is increasingly determined by asymmetrical warfare, cyber security and intelligence gathering. A new and upgraded style of military security requires greater sophistication, rather than defence capacity being dominated by big boys with big toys. In this case, very complex, very conspicuous, very vulnerable and very, very expensive hardware at a time when software rules.


WA detention centres are 'dysfunctional'

Three asylum seekers escaped a Western Australia detention centre in 45 seconds last week, exposing major security flaws at the facility, a leaked report has revealed.

The January 12 break out was the third escape from the Yongah Hill Detention Centre in five months and an embarrassment for Serco, which manages Australia's detention centres and WA's prisoner transport system.

Documents reveal security weaknesses including asylum seeker access to the internet for maps, to book plane tickets and organise getaway cars through social media.

Detainees had also become more confident due to the number of recent escapes and the lack of penalties, while the voltage on the 3.2-metre electric fence at Yongah Hill was not strong enough to shock escapees and was easy to climb.

A Serco insider described the entire system as "dysfunctional" and said he was speaking out against "incompetence".

"There is no training given and everything is about money," he told The Sunday Times newspaper.

"Every time we have these incidents the main effort isn't improving, but more so passing the buck and looking for someone to blame."

Two of the Vietnamese detainees from the January 12 breakout have been caught, but the third remains on the run.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said recommendations made by Serco following any escape incident were considered and implemented if appropriate.

"There are service standards in place with regard to performance against the department's contract with its detention service provider, Serco, and compliance with these standards is regularly reviewed," she said.

"Security is a key performance indicator under the contract and there is provision for abatement for such breaches."

The incident happened a week after a rapist and alleged armed robber kicked their way out of a prison van at Geraldton Airport, prompting a 36-hour manhunt.

A third prisoner escaped from Serco's custody while being treated at Joondalup Health Campus on Friday afternoon and was caught on Sunday.

The prisoner ripped a metal rail off a wall and threatened staff, so guards shut him in a bathroom and it is believed he then climbed through the ceiling to escape.


One in every 40 serving police officers in NSW has committed an offence

THERE are 437 serving police officers with criminal convictions, that is one in every 40 officers.  It is an incredible increase of 230 per cent over the past five years.

Among the ranks is an inspector convicted of assaulting an off-duty ­officer and drink-driving while other offences include bashing, drink-driving, fraud, illegal use of guns and other driving offences.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the 437 officers have 591 convictions against them. That is 256 per cent more than 2008 when, according to freedom of information figures, there were 166 offences between 133 serving officers.

Among them are 14 inspectors, five senior sergeants, 80 sergeants, 236 ­senior constables, 20 probationary ­constables and 13 student officers.

Policing expert Michael Kennedy said the reason for the increase was probably due to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione taking a tough line and a culture of police reporting and prosecuting their own.

"On face value these figures appear to be negative for the police but on the other side, Scipione does not interfere," Dr Kennedy said.

Dr Kennedy, a former detective and lecturer in policing at the University of Western Sydney, said some police chiefs in parts of Australia had been known for "having a word" with officers facing the criminal courts so they could resign quietly.  "But Scipione does not do that. If they are charged, he lets the system deal with them," he said.

Former assistant commissioner Clive Small said: "An increase of over 200 per cent over five years is a worrying trend that the police and the ­government need to keep an eye on."

In cases still in the courts, a female officer has been charged with stalking, intimidating and bugging, a male officer has been accused of setting up a bathroom spy camera to secretly film people and theft, lying and corruption.

Mr Scipione said he had no tolerance for officers who broke the law and committed serious offences.  "If an officer's offence causes me to lose my confidence in them, I will sack them. They will not be part of this police force," he said.

However he said less serious ­offences should not warrant the end of a career but often the workplace penalties were worse than court penalties with officers demoted.

"Yes, there are officers still in this ­organisation who we have charged and who have recorded a conviction," Mr Scipione said.

"In the majority of cases, these officers will have been convicted of a low range PCA or similar offence. While I am not happy about that, I don't believe that warrants the end of a ... career."

Since he took over as commissioner in 2007, Mr Scipione has sacked 87 officers under section 181D of the Police Act, which states the commissioner has lost confidence in them.  Those are officers who have not been reinstated by the Industrial ­Relations Commission.

Senior police are known to be frustrated with the IRC which has forced them to reinstate an estimated half of all sacked officers after appeals.

The IRC has made it clear in their decisions that even a high-range PCA or similar offence could never be grounds for dismissal.

Former sergeant Andrew Lawrance, who the commissioner tried to sack in 2010 because he used his penis piercing to open beer bottles, was reinstated by the IRC.

Mr Scipione was warned about criticising the commission in 2009 by Justice Frank Marks, who considered contempt of court proceedings against the commissioner.


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