Friday, September 12, 2014

Immigration minister proposes releasing asylum seekers onto Australian mainland under TPV plan

Asylum seekers who arrived by boat last year could be offered temporary protection visas and allowed to live in the Australian mainland community, in a major policy backflip by the Abbott government.

Until now, asylum seekers who arrived after July 19, 2013, were subject to offshore processing after a policy change by the Rudd Labor government, which meant they would be processed in centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

The policy was adopted by the Coalition and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has consistently maintained asylum seekers who arrive by boat after July 19 would be subject to offshore processing. 

In November, Mr Morrison said: "I want to stress all those on Christmas Island who are there now - those who arrived after July 19 will be going to Nauru or Manus Island. There will be no exceptions, whether you're Syrian, Iranian, single, married, adult, child, they will all be going to Nauru or Manus Island and will not return to live in Australia."

But the minister told an audience at the National Press Club that the government was now looking at TPVs as an "alternative" option for the 2700 people, including 450 children, who arrived by boat and many of whom are being held on Christmas Island. He is currently negotiating with crossbenchers in the new Senate to reintroduce TPVs after Labor and the Greens twice blocked the controversial measure that prevents refugees from gaining permanent residence in Australia.

"Now while it will continue to be the policy of the government that anyone who arrives illegally by boat will be transferred to offshore processing . the government is open to alternatives for the earlier July 19 to December 31 caseload, but not those who may arrive now or who have already been transferred," Mr Morrison said in the speech.

"Combined with other measures, TPVs will also give the government an alternative option for those who arrived after July 19 and before the end of last year, including over 450 children. Seventy five per cent of this group, including children, turned up under the previous government and had not been transferred to offshore processing centres."

Until now, only asylum seekers who arrived before July 19 have been considered eligible for TPVs, if such a measure is reintroduced.

Mr Morrison told Fairfax Media on Wednesday it was no secret he was in negotiations with the crossbenchers, including Clive Palmer, to allow the use of TPVs.

The policy change would not affect any boats that arrived this year. The only asylum seekers travelling by boat who reached Australian shores this year arrived in July. All 157 asylum seekers have since been transferred to Nauru.

The shift could signal a disintegration in the offshore processing policy that the government has so vehemently defended.

Mr Morrison acknowledged that the processing on Papua New Guinea was "challenging".

Until now, not one asylum seeker has been resettled in the country. There are 1084 asylum seekers being detained on Manus Island.

He also said negotiations with Cambodia, which the government hopes will resettle refugees, were ongoing.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said on Wednesday the government's offshore policy was "falling apart".

"Dumping the government's commitment to offshore processing like this is a major policy backflip from the Coalition on the back of a serious policy failure," she said.

"The Abbott government has conceded that it has to process these people's claims in Australia and is simply using TPVs as a distraction."


Fishing interests loom large in Abbott government review of marine parks

The Abbott government's overdue review of Australian marine parks has been launched with representatives of the fishing industry dominating advisory panels.

The previous Labor government established a vast network of new marine reserves throughout five stretches of Australian ocean and set out rules for how much fishing could occur in each one, if any at all.

Heading into the last election the Coalition promised to tear up the management plans for the new parks and to carry out a review, claiming anglers had been locked out of the process.

As part of the review, which was formally launched on Thursday, an overarching expert scientific panel will be set up to take carriage of the process.

The expert panel will be chaired by Bob Beeton, an associate professor at the University of Queensland's School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management and the former head of the Australian Threatened Species Scientific Committee.

The government has also created five advisory panels for each region of Australian ocean where the new parks were set up - the north, north-west, the east, the south-west and the Coral Sea - which are dominated by members of the commercial or recreational fishing industries.

Details of the review had initially been promised by the government by early this year.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the review would examine the management arrangements for the new marine reserves, which had been "rushed through" by the previous government.

"Unlike the previous government, we are committed to getting the management plans and the balance of zoning right, so we have asked the expert panels to consider what management arrangements will best protect our marine environment and accommodate the many activities that Australians love to enjoy in our oceans," Mr Hunt said.

He added that the government was "determined to ensure a science-based review of Commonwealth marine reserves and zoning boundaries, while maintaining our strong commitment to the marine reserves and their estates."

But Michelle Grady, Oceans director for Pew Australia, said the review was unnecessary, created more red tape and was a threat to Australia's marine protection.

"Regardless of who they put on these panels, this puts Australia's marine protection at risk and also the Liberal Party legacy of putting in place large and important marine parks," Ms Grady said.

"It's the Liberal Party who started this [protection] in the Fraser and Howard years."


TAFE response to Industry Minister Hon Ian Macfarlane’s removal of some vocational education regulation

TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) today applauded announcements by the federal government to remove red tape under the regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), and provide greater delegations to low risk vocational educational and training providers.

TDA has strongly argued that the cost and burden to the nation’s TAFE Institutes of regulation and the ‘VET bureaucracy’ has got out of hand.

Martin Riordan, Chief Executive of TDA, said the ‘one size fits all’ approach to regulation adopted by ASQA had failed to adequately recognise that low-risk Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) such as TAFEs need less regulation.  By changing the alignment, as the Minister has announced today, ASQA will be directed to focus its resource on weeding out those high-risk providers that are having a negative impact on quality across the VET system.

Martin Riordan said: “TDA welcomes the changes announced by the Minister today in both regulation and the way Training Packages will be managed.

“These are steps in the right direction - however we urge the Minister not to stop there.

“The nation’s TAFE Institutes are high performance, low-risk providers. TAFEs should receive delegation to manage their own scope of course registration and have the ability to accredit courses.”

TDA is currently reviewing the operations of ASQA, and delegations, and will report to Minister Macfarlane and the Department of Industry’s VET Reform Taskforce as early as next week, on how delegations may better operate – for public and private low risk registered RTOs.

Martin Riordan added: “Another big overhead cost for TAFE Institutes and VET providers generally has been the multiple and frequent changes or ‘churn’ to Training Packages, documented by ASQA under the Industry Skill Councils (ISCs).

“TDA supports the Minister’s announcement today that a more competitive environment may operate for Training Packages. We also acknowledge that industry’s frustration with the current VET system needs to be urgently addressed.”

Martin Riordan said TDA had released a Policy Position Paper arguing that Australian VET public funding be allocated to skill sets and not restricted to the time-based qualification based solely on Training Packages set by ISCs.


New in-school program allows students to start their own business

A NEW pilot program giving students from across Victoria an exciting opportunity to unleash their creativity and boost their innovation, enterprise and financial literacy skills was officially launched today at Carrum Downs Secondary College.

The $20 Boss program has been developed by The Foundation for Young Australians in partnership with National Australia Bank (NAB) and the Victorian Government and will soon begin in schools across Victoria.

Through the pilot, students are given the opportunity to plan, budget and market their business idea, and then one month to run their business.

Minister for Youth Affairs Ryan Smith said the Victorian Government was thrilled to support the program, which would help students get ready to take on the world of work.

"$20 Boss is a fantastic way to engage young people - not only does it allow them to build enterprise skills and boost their confidence, it also makes them more likely to be job creators in future," Mr Smith said.

NAB General Manager, Small Business David Bannatyne said NAB was proud to support an innovative program like $20 Boss.

"We're the bank behind small business in Australia, which is why we want to encourage and inspire a new generation of young Australians to start their own business and create their own opportunities for the future" he said.

"Introducing young people to the idea of a purpose-driven business and showing them how businesses can create both commercial and social value will have great flow-on effects not only for the students involved but also for the wider community."

Foundation for Young Australians CEO Jan Owen said the students with the best and brightest ideas and businesses would be celebrated with awards at an event to showcase the innovation and success of students throughout Victoria.

"Unleashing the creativity of young people is crucial in preparing them for their future roles as innovators and creators of social change so we're very excited about the potential of the $20 Boss program," she said.

"Rethinking business education in this way is critical in tapping into the incredible potential of this generation of students for entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.

"There has never been a generation so willing or so able to embrace and create change."

The $20 Boss program is made possible through a $1.3 million commitment from principal partner NAB and a $200,000 investment from the Victorian Government to support the development of the educational tools and resources to build enterprise and financial literacy.


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