Sunday, May 24, 2015

Australia preparing to transfer refugees to Cambodia, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says

Australia is in the process of transferring a small group of refugees to Cambodia under a resettlement deal between the two countries, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says.

It is believed the four who accepted the deal were an Iranian couple, a single Iranian man and an ethnic Rohingya man from Myanmar who were taken from Nauru to Darwin about two weeks ago.

The four were being housed on Nauru after trying to reach Australia by boat.

Mr Dutton said the Government hopes more refugees on Nauru will take up the offer to be resettled.

"In time that is certainly the Government's aim and we've had a first small group that we have been working with to send across to Cambodia," he said.

"I welcome very much the partnership we have with the Cambodian Government."

It is unclear when the four will be flown out.

In September, Cambodia agreed to resettle potentially hundreds of refugees held on Nauru in exchange for an extra $40 million in aid from Canberra.

International human rights groups have condemned the deal, saying Cambodia is incapable of providing proper care for asylum seekers.


Australia one of world’s richest, most equal countries: OECD

Australia is not only one of the wealthiest countries in the world but also has one of the most equal distributions of wealth.

A new OECD study on inequality shows that Australia also stands out as one of the only advanced countries where the distrib­ution of income has become more equal over the seven years since the global financial crisis.

The study blames the spread of part-time and temporary work for the worsening of inequality elsewhere in the world but finds that in Australia non-standard working arrangements often generate higher incomes.

The richest 5 per cent of Australian households have a net wealth equivalent to $US2.2 million ($2.78m), which is marginally above the OECD average, while the richest 1 per cent have net wealth equivalent to $US4.5m, slightly below the average.

However, the middle 60 per cent of households have net wealth of $US211,000, which is 41 per cent higher than the OECD average of $US140,000.

By contrast, in the US — which has the greatest inequality of wealth — the richest 1 per cent have assets of $US15m while the median household has assets of only $US56,724.

The four countries with more equal distributions of wealth than Australia are all, with the exception of Spain, much poorer than Australia.

The only countries with higher average net wealth than Australia are the US and Canada.

Australia’s high house prices help explain its relative wealth, although the principal residence, which represents 51 per cent of the average Australian’s wealth, is in line with the average share across the OECD, as is the 18 per cent of wealth held in investment and other real estate.

The study shows that Australia is closer to the middle of the advanced­ nations in the dis­tribution of income, with the best-paid 10 per cent of the population earning 8.8 times more than the worst-paid, which is slightly below the OECD average of 9.6 times. The US again stands out for its unequal­ distribution, with the top earners getting 18.8 times as much as the poorest 10 per cent.

The OECD shows that Australia is among a small minority of countries where income distrib­ution has become more equal since 2007, a result possibly influenced by tax cuts.

Australia is one of the few countries in which the bottom 10 per cent of the population improv­ed their incomes over the period of the global financial crisis while the top-earning 10 per cent earned less.

The OECD blamed the rise of casual, temporary and part-time work for the increase in inequality in advanced nations since the financ­ial crisis.

It said that standard full-time and permanent jobs had dis­appeared in the middle of the distribution of both income and skill.

More than 40 per cent of jobs in Australia are either part-time, temporary or self-employed, which is one of the highest shares in the world. The study found that part-time workers in Australia earn more per hour than those on standard full-time positions, regardless of age or skill, while there is no difference between people on permanent and temporary work arrangements.


Gillian Triggs too busy with her own rights and playing the victim

And so it has come to pass that the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission seems to be preoccupied with her own rights.

That Gillian Triggs remains in her job is a mystery and probably says as much about the government’s timidity in tackling the Green-Left groupthink of our universities, public broadcasters and other institutions as it does about her own chutzpah.

Triggs has been exposed for delaying an inquiry into children in detention under Labor because of what she openly testified were political reasons.

Her various statements on these matters have also exposed a series of erroneous and contradictory positions.

Apart from diminishing the public standing of the AHRC, this has led to the situation where Triggs, a statutory officer, has criticised members of the government for scrutinising her actions.

This is an untenable situation.

But the government seems to be frozen into inaction; not having the stomach for a distracting fight when the economy is the main game.

Yesterday we saw a sharp contrast in the commission’s work that must confound the human rights lawyers, progressive journalists and other political activists who tend to support Triggs.

We saw the best of the AHRC and the worst – a contrast in pragmatic work versus self-indulgence.

In Broome the controversial commissioner appointed by the Abbott government, Tim Wilson, co-convened a landmark meeting aimed at promoting private property rights and the private economy to help redress indigenous disadvantage.

Broad buy-in from indigenous leaders delivered a fresh approach to the crucial issues around economic development and empowerment of indigenous communities.

Can any reader provide a better example of practical community engagement by the AHRC, looking for solutions rather then merely addressing grievances? I’d be interested to know.

The counterpoint came, tellingly enough, in Canberra, where Triggs was speaking at a forum about female leadership.

She was busy claiming victim status for herself and declaring her intention to dig in and serve out her term.

“Now, no human rights commission in the world could have turned its back on the number of children held in prolonged and indefinite and mandatory detention as asylum seekers,” said Triggs, conveniently turning on its head the main criticism of her actions.

Triggs must know she has not been criticised for investigating the issue of children in detention but for failing to investigate that very dilemma when Labor was in power and the numbers being detained were escalating towards their peak. Under questioning she has openly attributed her delay in holding an inquiry on political considerations.

“So as far as I was concerned I was simply doing my job according to the law,” she went on yesterday, “But what I didn’t realise was that I forgot about the politics.”

No, Triggs didn’t forget about politics. Her testimony to various parliamentary committees, while inconsistent, has generally held that she avoided calling the inquiry, at least in part, because she took election timing into consideration (even though she seemed to make obvious errors about that timing).

Triggs has not undermined public faith in her commission by forgetting about politics but by seeming to be influenced by political calculations. Remember, she once denied discussing these issues with Labor ministers when they were in government, thousands of children were going into detention and she was not conducting an inquiry — then later had to admit to meeting not one but two separate Labor ministers and discussing these issues.

Triggs took over as president in July 2012 when the boat-people crisis was running out of control but didn’t launch her inquiry until early 2014, after a change of government, when the boats had stopped, children had stopped going into detention and the numbers being held had already started to fall dramatically. The AHRC president is not a victim.

With the plight of asylum-seekers creating dilemmas for governments around the world, practical human rights issues about how to combat exploitative people-smuggling while assisting genuine refugees could hardly be more pressing. Yet that seems to be what the AHRC is incapable of focusing on.


Bjorn Lomborg confident of finding Australian university partner after UWA pull-out

Controversial Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg says he is confident he will find another Australian university to host his 'Consensus Centre' despite a fierce backlash in Western Australia.

A self-described 'sceptical environmentalist', Dr Lomborg's planned Australian Consensus Centre was allocated $4 million in this month's federal budget, but plans to host it at the University of Western Australia (UWA) were abandoned after protests from students and staff.

"I'm sure we'll find somewhere in Australia to do that but I'm not sure [where] just yet," Dr Lomborg said.

Dr Lomborg was speaking from Nairobi, Kenya, where he is addressing an aid conference on new United Nations development goals.

Dr Lomborg declined to say which institutions he was negotiating with but said he was confident he would get the go ahead.

"I can understand that, given what happened at the UWA, some people are going to be a bit more reluctant," he said.

Bjorn Lomborg's history of controversy

Lomborg is an author and director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, a non-profit think tank addressing global issues. In his 1998 book The Skeptical Environmentalist (English 2001), he said he accepted manmade global warming, but used statistics to argue the global environment had actually improved.

He was found to have been objectively scientifically dishonest in his book by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty, but had the finding rescinded by the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

On his website, Lomborg says reducing carbon emissions is prohibitively expensive, and that investment non-carbon emitting technologies is the "smartest solution" to global warming.

Papers published by the Copenhagen Consensus Centre say climate change from 1900 to 2025 has mostly been a net benefit and has improved global welfare.

The Copenhagen Consensus Centre advocates a value-for-money approach to global problems and engages economists to perform a cost-benefit analysis proposed development goals.

"Do they want to engage in this? But again, I think it's a big shame in the sense of saying we work with more than 100 of the world's top economists, seven Nobel laureates, lots of interesting people."

Dr Lomborg accepts the science on climate change but has argued poverty and disease are more pressing problems.  He argues the UN should scale back its goals to ensure money is spent effectively.

"Basically they're promising everything to everyone and we need to find a way to make sure we focus on the very smartest targets," he said.

"That's what I'm here in Kenya to talk about and that's where we could also talk about... where Australia would spend its $5 billion to do a lot more good, potentially four times as much good."

Dr Lomborg is frustrated his views on climate change have hijacked the debate on his new centre in Australia.  "The decision from UWA was very clearly a very emotional one," he said.  "A lot of people got very involved and talked about, oh, this is a climate centre and Bjorn is a climate denier and all that, which is just not true."  "I think if they had given it a chance they would've seen this would actually be a real opportunity for Australia."


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