Friday, May 23, 2014

Student protests: Police clash with student Fascists at Liberal Party event at Sydney University

Police clashed with demonstrators who tried to storm a Liberal Party debate at Sydney University being adjudicated by Education Minister Christopher Pyne last night.

Senators George Brandis and Mitch Fifield, along with Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, were on the guest list for the John Howard Debating Cup at the university's St John's College.

At 7:00pm, about 45 minutes before Mr Pyne arrived, up to 30 protesters tried to enter the building but could not get in.

Police then arrived at the scene at which point there was a confrontation, described by ABC reporter Ben Worsley as "quite forceful", as a number of students were pushed to the ground.

"Within two or three minutes a heavy police presence arrived, probably a couple of dozen police approached the protesters," Worsley said.  "A number of the protesters were pushed to the ground quite forcefully but the group has refused to leave."

About 50 police from the NSW Public Order and Riot Squad remained on the scene until after the debate finished.

Student Liberals condemn 'riot' outside debate

The protest appears to have been attended by members of the Socialist Alternative and the National Union of Students, who coordinated nationwide protests yesterday against the Coalition's plans to deregulate tertiary education.

The Sydney University's Liberal Club released a statement on Facebook, saying Thursday's debating event was "subject to a violent riot by a fringe group of students on the extreme left".

"I'm sure all Australian students stand with me in condemning this unprovoked and violent riot," the statement quoted the club's president, Alex Dore, as saying.

"This riot was organised by the usual suspects from Sydney University's extremist rent-a-crowd, who have nothing better to do than to disrupt civil debate with their militant tactics."

The federal budget included plans to deregulate university fees from 2016, allowing universities to charge what they like for courses.

The interest rate on student loans will also increase and the income threshold for when students need to start paying the money back will be lowered.

Mr Pyne made it clear earlier on Thursday that despite protests from students there will be no changes to the education reforms.

"I don't swallow the argument that students are somehow being mistreated or burdened," he said.

"That doesn't change the government's mind. We have to do this for the county, and we have to do it for the students."

He rejected calls from Universities Australia for a delay to the start of deregulated fees in 2016 so universities could have more time to set fees.

"Delaying it is simply the easy way out because Universities Australia can't agree amongst themselves," he said.


Copper network switch-off begins as Telstra hands over infrastructure to NBN Co

Telstra will begin switching off services delivered over its decades-old copper today, marking the first time it has relinquished control over telecommunications infrastructure to NBN Co.

The switch-off will be undertaken progressively in the first 15 areas to have received fibre, with exemptions for customers who have signed up for the NBN but are yet to receive it.

NBN Co was urging those who had failed to sign up to the NBN in those sites to do so by close of business yesterday or risk losing access to their copper-based landline and internet services and having to rely on mobile-based communications services.

At the start of the month, 750 premises of the 19,000 with active copper lines in the first test release sites were yet to request the NBN.

As part of an $11 billion deal, Telstra agreed to disconnect its copper network within 18 months of the NBN being delivered to an area to ensure NBN Co did not face competition from services delivered over the copper network.

The first 15 sites where copper will be progressively switched off are:

    New South Wales - Armidale, Minnamurra and Kiama Downs
    Victoria - South Morang and Brunswick
    Queensland - Townsville, Aitkenvale and Mundingburra
    South Australia - Willunga
    Tasmania - Deloraine, George Town, Kingston Beach, Sorell, St Helens and Triabunna

Connecting to the NBN in those sites has not been smooth sailing for all. Kiama resident Andrew Seamons says it has been a frustrating experience.

"In 2013 we went down to readjust our internet plan to find that it was no longer available and that we were going to have to be forced onto the NBN. It's a move we didn't want to have to make," he told ABC Illawarra.

"We were quite happy with the service we were receiving, but due to the fact that it was going to be switched off, we had no choice. It's taken them nine to 10 months to actually change us over."

Measures to protect vulnerable customers

Telstra says it and other internet service providers will take steps to ensure vulnerable customers, such as those who have a copper-based medical alert service, are not left stranded by the switch-over.

"We will review communications sent to each customer to ensure they have been contacted a minimum number of times and are well informed about the changes," a Telstra spokeswoman said.

"A phased withdrawal of services will then commence starting with those customers who have already connected to the NBN or have confirmed to us that they do not wish to move to the NBN."

The construction of the NBN has been beset by delays, but telecommunications consultant Chris Coughlan says that is likely to benefit Telstra, at least initially.

"They will continue to earn better margins on existing ADSL and PSTN services than services provided via NBN Co," he said.

But Mr Coughlan says it could be a problem down the track.

"Telstra will start to become concerned when the number of services that can't be disconnected through some failure or delay of NBN Co impacts their ability to capitalise on the sale of assets, such as unneeded local exchanges," he said.

"Operationally, if the revenue from these few services does not meet the fixed costs of managing and maintaining the assets that facilitate them, then Telstra will also become concerned."


Nauru detainees informed about refugee resettlement in Cambodia

Some asylum seekers at the Australian-run immigration processing centre on Nauru have been advised they will be sent to Cambodia if they are found to be refugees.  The advice preempts the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Australia and Cambodia.

The ABC understands some family groups among the more than 1,100 asylum seekers on Nauru have been told their future is in Cambodia.

"No agreement has been reached with Cambodia," said a spokesperson for the office of Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

"The Minister has been advised no such messaging has been provided by the Australian Government to transferees at Nauru."

A statement from a Nauru government spokesperson said "asylum seekers have been told that if granted refugee status, they will be temporarily resettled on Nauru for up to five years, after which they will be settled in a third country".  "No one has been told that they will immediately be sent to a third country."

Australia 'not rushing' refugee deal

Cambodia's prime minister Hun Sen announced on Facebook this week that his nation will accept refugees processed on Nauru.  "[The] MoU with Australia will be signed soon to take refugees deemed to be genuine," he said.

Mr Hun Sen says those who are resettled will have the same opportunities to study and work like locals without discrimination.

Meanwhile, Mr Morrison says Australia is not rushing the refugee resettlement deal with Cambodia.  He says there is more work to do on the deal.

"You would have heard the comment made by Hun Sen. I think the reaction has been very positive, but we still have details to work through and we are not rushing this."

The resettlement advice has caused tension at the Nauru facility, with detainees understood to be hoping the deal will not go ahead.

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia, and relies heavily on foreign aid. In the 1970s and '80s, large numbers of its citizens fled war and starvation.

The Cambodian opposition has slammed the asylum seeker deal as a disgrace and unrealistic, saying the country is not equipped to take refugees.

First refugees released

The first group of asylum seekers to be processed on Nauru as refugees has been released into the community.

The Nauru Government handed down 20 refugee status determinations yesterday and is due to make another 21 tomorrow.

The first group of refugees includes nine people in three family groups and four single adult males.

Seven people who received negative refugee determinations remain in detention on the island.


Cory Bernardi on the budget

Bernardi thinks the budget was not tough enough.  Below is a Q & A about it

Q. I have noticed that the bulk of the new Medicare co-payment goes towards a medical research fund. Why doesn’t this revenue go to paying off our sovereign debt?

That’s a valid point, considering the enormous level of debt that the Labor Party left the country with after just six years in government. Personally, I would prefer to see the co-payment directed to debt reduction but the government decided otherwise.

Q.Why wasn’t more funding cut from the ABC?

An excellent question. As our budget is in a parlous state, the government needs to consider reining in expenditure across the board.

Yet the ABC has seen a measly 1% reduction in their budget of over $1 billion a year. If it was up to me I’d limit the ABC’s public funding to current radio stations and two television channels. Other than that they should have to compete on commercial terms. This could save the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Q. Why is the Coalition introducing a debt levy when it promised no new taxes?

As I’ve written before, the way to reduce our debt is to shrink the size of government while growing the economy. The best way to do this is to reduce taxes across the board.

But for better or worse, this is what the government decided. What Australians can do is make sure that this does in fact remain a temporary levy.

Q. Isn’t this six month exclusion period for under 30s from Newstart unfair to those who have just lost their job?

Encouraging young Australians to help themselves, to take opportunities and build a better life for their families is more rewarding for all involved rather than letting young people get stuck in a cycle of welfare dependency.

For the unemployed who are fully able to work, those first few months without a job are crucial. We need to make sure they are fully motivated to get back into work as soon as possible.

Q. Why is it that some climate change related bodies have been abolished while others have not?

It’s good news that the Budget abolishes the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and that the Government is still committed to abolishing the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. There is probably scope and justification to abolish more of these bodies established through AGW alarmism but this is a good start.

Q. Why are you targeting families with your changes to Family Tax Benefit B?

Family Tax Benefit was designed to help out those families on a single income and the income threshold for support has been lowered. Personally, I think a better way of supporting families is through the tax system- income splitting, tax free thresholds and so forth.

Taking taxes and then giving it back (minus a bureaucracy fee) seems inefficient to me.

Q. I read that the foreign aid budget won’t be increased over the forward estimates. As a wealthy country, shouldn’t Australia be contributing more to help the world’s poor?

Australia does have an international role to play in offering assistance to those who need help.

But this has to be considered in the context of our national interest and the government’s duty to its own citizens. Why should we pay billions of dollars in borrowed money to other nations when we have pressing issues at home?

Q. Why is the pension age being raised to 70 and when will this take effect?

With Australians living longer, the age we work until must increase. Pension eligibility will rise up to 70 years of age in the year 2035. Everyone born before 1965 will not be affected by this latest change.

If we do not make these changes Australia will be setting itself up to have an unsustainable welfare system.

Via email

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