Monday, May 11, 2015
Temporary protection visas: Labor plans to dump measure which has twice stopped illegal immigration
LABOR will dump John Howard’s successful temporary protection visas for illegal arrivals, which have twice stopped the boats, and consider reopening detention centres as “reception centres” under the party’s draft policy.
The policy for the National Labor Party Conference has revealed a plan to “abolish” the successful TPV policy, while immigration spokesman Richard Marles said he was “open-minded” to the idea of reopening the Pontville Detention Centre in Tasmania.
The federal government last night slammed the plans as being “music to the ears of the (people) smugglers”.
Stopping the boats has enabled the Abbott government to close 13 detention centres.
Reopening a detention centre would cost $51 million over the forward estimates.
TPVs allow refugees three years access to Australia, including work rights and access to Medicare, but they will never be offered permanent protection visas. They end the possibility of people-smugglers promoting Australia as a permanent home.
Mr Marles yesterday said Labor remained “100 per cent” behind offshore processing and rejected using Pontville as a detention centre.
Immigration minister Peter Dutton slammed the ideas, saying it would make Australia attractive to illegal arrivals again. He said TPVs, which former immigration minister Scott Morrison reintroduced last year, had played a key role in stopping the boats.
“The Coalition was able to close the Pontville detention centre — one of 13 closures — because we’ve stopped the boats,” Mr Dutton said.
“The idea of dressing it up as a shiny new ‘reception centre’ sends entirely the wrong message; that is, that a weak Labor Party will again go soft on border protection.”
Labor had previously been open to negotiation on TPVs.
It remains unclear if Labor will support turning back boats before they arrive. The draft also indicates Labor will not refer to boat people as “illegals”. “Labor rejects the practice of referring to asylum seekers as ‘illegals’,” it says.
The issue may well split the party during the conference in Melbourne in July.
Fremantle backbencher Melissa Parke yesterday called on the Labor Party not to embrace the turnback policy.
Last year Mr Marles conceded turnbacks had worked but was hammered by his own party for making the remarks.
Not allowed to teach monogamy in NSW schools
ANGLICAN church leaders have slammed an “unprecedented” interference by the Department of Education after it banned three books used by the church’s scripture teachers on the basis they promoted only monogamous heterosexual relationships.
Scripture teachers were told this week they were not allowed to use books called Teen Sex By The Book by Patricia Weerakoon, You: An Introduction by Michael Jensen, and A Sneaking Suspicion by John Dickson because the texts violated departmental policy.
The texts were used in Special Religious Education (SRE) classes at state schools — classes parents choose to send their children to.
Castle Hill Liberal MP Ray Williams, whose electorate covers much of Sydney’s “bible belt”, said he was requesting an urgent explanation on the book ban from Education Minister Adrian Piccoli.
“Several Anglican leaders in my community have contacted me today saying they are completely shocked at the heavy-handed, reactionary response of the department by demanding these books be removed,” he said.
“I believe the principle of a ‘one partner’ relationship is a fundamental value upheld by society, regardless of whether people are religious or not.”
Mr Piccoli said he had asked the department to review the decision to ban the books: “Department officials will meet with SRE providers to discuss the issue.’’
A Department of Education spokesman denied the decision to ban the books was because of a pro-monogamy message but because they potentially breached the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 and other legislation.
Parent lobby group Fairness in Religion in Schools has campaigned against Ms Weerakoon’s book, saying it contained dangerous anti-gay and anti-divorce messages.
“I think its disgraceful that books that teach traditional Christian teachings in scripture classes have been banned.”
But Sydney Anglican SRE director Jon Thorpe said the church community was outraged it was being banned from teaching Christian values in scripture class.
“The legislation allows SRE providers to educate students in the chosen faith of the family,” Mr Thorpe said.
“The Sydney Anglican SRE curriculum focuses on teaching students a Christian world view from the Bible. We are seeking urgent clarification.”
Powerful Christian Democrats crossbencher Fred Nile said he wanted Mr Piccoli to immediately reverse the “disgraceful” ban on the books.
“I think its disgraceful that books that teach traditional Christian teachings in scripture classes have been banned,” Reverend Nile said.
“The material [scripture teachers] are using obviously would not be atheistic.”
Australian winemakers see red over 'perverse' and 'absurd' subsidy for New Zealand growers
Australia's winemakers have given the Government legal advice on how to end what they describe as a "perverse" and "absurd" subsidy for the New Zealand's industry.
The wine equalisation tax (WET) was introduced to make up the difference when the GST replaced higher wholesale sales taxes.
In a move initially designed to support smaller winemakers and grape growers, the Government allowed them to claim a rebate of up to $500,000.
Under the terms of Australia's free-trade deal with New Zealand, trans-Tasman producers are also eligible to claim the benefit.
Subsidising their competition has local winemakers seeing red. "We are extending rebate provisions, on preferential terms, for those imports to continue," Paul Evans, chief executive of the Winemaker's Federation of Australia (WFA) said. "It is a perverse and absurd situation.
We have a situation where New Zealand producers are preferred — not only over local producers, but other foreign producers.
Paul Evans, Winemaker's Federation of Australia
"The New Zealand producers are laughing at us; they don't believe how gullible we are."
Victoria Angove, a fifth-generation winemaker from South Australia, said the arrangement meant Australian and New Zealand wines were not competing on a level playing field.
"The situation with New Zealand gives them a very definite cost advantage," she said. "They don't have any of the compliance costs that we, the Australian winemakers have.
"We need to lodge our income tax returns, we need to register and pay our GST, we need to apply and pay for our liquor licences for every state that we operate within. "New Zealand producers don't have those compliance costs."
Eliminating New Zealand will save money
One retailer, who did not wish to be quoted, has told the ABC it can make an equivalent bottle of New Zealand wine up to 30 per cent cheaper.
Since becoming eligible, Kiwi claims have grown from $5 million eight years ago, to approximately $25 million today.
The WFA wants the Government to cut New Zealand producers off as part of a broader overhaul of the rebate scheme.
"We have provided the Government with compelling legal advice on how they can abolish this separate New Zealand scheme without contravening our bilateral and multilateral trading agreements," Mr Evans said.
Rather than shunt this reform off to the white paper process, they've indicated they will fast-track the reforms. I'm hopeful that the reforms will be in place by the next vintage.
Eliminating New Zealand and phasing out the rebate for bulk wine and cleanskins would save the Government $278 million, the Federation's costings show.
In return, it is seeking an additional $25 million over four years for international marketing and promotion. "That will allow us to seize the opportunity recently created by the decline in the Australian dollar," Mr Evans said.
Government willing to consider change
The push has the backing of South Australian Liberal backbencher Tony Pasin, who said New Zealand's eligibility "wouldn't pass the pub test".
Mr Evans argued there was "unprecedented unity" within the wine industry for the proposed changes, which are also aimed at combating the big supermarkets' use of the scheme.
Assistant Treasurer John Frydenberg has promised to consider changing the scheme, announcing a discussion paper separate to the tax white paper.
That response has angered some, with industry publication Wine Business Monthly labelling it a "smackdown".
But Mr Pasin, who represents more winemakers and grape growers than any other federal MP, argued that the Government's willingness to consider the idea should be seen as a win.
"Rather than shunt this reform off to the white paper process, they've indicated they will fast-track the reforms," he said.
"I'm hopeful that the reforms will be in place by the next vintage."
Government sources have told the ABC they anticipate any move to cut the rebate to New Zealand producers would likely be met with significant opposition.
They have cited New Zealand's previous success in trade disputes with Australia, in particular a 2010 World Trade Orgnisation ruling which overturned a 90-year-old ban on imports of Kiwi apples.
School taken over by Muslim extremists
FOR years it was the pride of the Muslim community, a school that reached out to its neighbours and helped promote cultural understanding across Adelaide.
Migrant students from across the globe were taught to be proudly Australian, regularly singing the national anthem and their own school song. But they don’t sing any more.
A deep rift between parents and management threatens the future of the Islamic College of South Australia.
Relations have soured to the point where hundreds of parents kept their children at home on Friday in protest against the school’s board and they say they will organise more boycott days until the board resigns.
The warning signs began three years ago when principal Julia Abdelale was sacked, beginning a revolving door of school leaders who, parents say, are at the mercy of the board.
Many experienced teachers have been shown the door and replaced with younger ones, who earn less and are considered less likely to challenge board decisions, such as the controversial edict that all female staff wear headscarves.
Parents say educational standards are plummeting and a modest music program has been scrapped. They are also appalled at plans for a mosque and more classrooms on a school site that lacks playspace.
This year, a small band of parents began organising small public rallies but it was the sacking of beloved teacher and imam Brother Khalid Yousef last month and the expulsion of senior students for supporting him, that sent the school community into a frenzy of protest.
The prime target is chairman, Farouk Khan, who is constantly present at the school.
A long-serving teacher, who was fired without warning on the last day of school in 2013, said she feared for the education of the school’s “amazing” multilingual children.
“It’s a very radical board, very strict, almost like being their own Islam; it’s not like a (moderate) Australian Islam,” she said.
“I can remember how hard it was (dealing with board) and how frustrating they were. It was difficult for Australian women who are used to being treated a bit more equally.”
The teacher said the school used to have choirs performing in the local community but the demise of the music program was symbolic of a change to a stricter form of Islam. “They don’t sing the national anthem anymore (and) we used to sing it every week,’’ she said. “They have a piano hidden in the school because it’s ‘evil’.”
She said her dismissal was typical of the board’s behaviour, which has recently began marching staff off school grounds under the watch of security guards.
“I never got a chance to say goodbye to the parents and kids and the other teachers,” she said. “Then to my dismay, I heard that the next year the staff were told I chose to leave.
“They are getting rid of a lot of teachers because they are the highest paid teachers. “You must have a balance of experienced and new teachers so they can learn from the older teachers.”
The Independent Education Union says the college causes more industrial issues than any other. “They are ripe for regime change because I would like to deal with some people who respect normal industrial process ... but they are a law unto themselves,” state secretary Glen Seidel said.
“It is really encouraging to see the community trying to sort out the quality of the management of the school. “The union has had quite a lot of matters before the courts and commissions to try to keep the school on the right path but true change has to come from the community.”
The roadblock parents face is that they have no say in the makeup of the board, which is appointed by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
Souraya Serhan, the mother of Rami, 15, one of two boys expelled for protesting, vowed to continue campaigning until the board stepped down, despite its conditional offer for her son to return. She said it was pleasing that “half of the school was absent” on Friday.
Obese, smokers and elderly more likely to be turned down for surgery
Obese people, smokers and the frail elderly are increasingly being turned away from surgery because the risks outweigh the benefits for them, surgeons say.
There is also a growing feeling that people whose lives are coming to an end would be better off skipping major operations that could cause them more harm than good. It may also mean the difference between dying in hospital over a long period of time rather than dying comfortably at home.
A meeting of surgeons in Perth last week heard that while doctors are getting better at operating on the frail and critically ill, serious risks remain for the obese, smokers and elderly people whose cognitive functions are deteriorating along with their strength and mobility.
Perth bariatric surgeon Harsha Chandraratna said an increasing number of severely obese people were being told they had to lose weight before they could have surgery. In some cases, these people were lining up for weight-loss surgery, such as lap bands, to help them improve their fitness for other operations because they could not lose weight in other ways.
Dr Chandraratna said obese people suffered higher rates of infections and wound breakdowns after surgery, and that research suggested they had a five-fold increased risk of dying during major orthopedic surgery compared to people of a healthy weight.
"A one per cent risk of death becomes a five per cent risk of death," he said at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' annual scientific congress last week.
Mark Newman, director of cardiothoracic surgery at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, said smokers also had up to 15 times the risk of an infection or wound breakdown after surgery – a fact that should be taken into account if people wanted non-life saving procedures such as hip replacements and breast augmentations.
He said wound breakdowns were particularly problematic for plastic surgical procedures because it meant there was a high risk of a bad cosmetic result. For this reason, some surgeons declined to operate on people while they were still smoking.
"It's not that we're opposed to performing surgery because you're a smoker and we think you're bad and bringing this on yourself. It's because the outcomes of the surgery are worse," he said.
David Cooke, a general surgeon at Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth, said smokers also struggled with kidney dialysis procedures. He said fistulas for dialysis – joining a vein and an artery together to make the blood vessel larger and stronger – failed six times more often in smokers, reducing their chance of effective treatment for kidney failure. "You can only do it four or five times and then you run out of veins," he said.
David Bruce, a geriatrician and hospital administrator, said surgeons were increasingly dividing elderly people into the healthy and frail to assess their risks. The latter tend to have early signs of dementia and cognitive deficits, a slow gait, sedentary lifestyle, unexplained weight loss and poor grip strength in their hands. While their precise age was irrelevant, he said people who presented as frail carried much greater risks of not coming out of surgery well.
Dr Newman agreed, saying: "There are people in their 90s who you know will do well, or you get a pretty good idea they'll do well … but there are many people in their late 70s who you think 'I'm not going to touch you'."
Dr Cooke said while most people feared death on the operating table, it was rare. "The far worse outcome is not to die on the table, but to survive and then spend two months in intensive care having festering wounds and mainly intubated, so they might as well be dead because they can't talk. They may never recover," he said.
"The aim now is to prolong life, not prolong death."
Dr Newman said the size of the surgical procedure also mattered, causing different degrees of trauma.
"If you can perform operations endoscopically with small incisions, patients will do a lot better even if they're frail," he said.
"If you do a major open operation with large incisions, a large incision over about six centimetres seems to trigger a major trauma response. If you can keep a small wound, you can do all the things we do like put them on heart lung machines for two hours, but you need a small hole and people do much better."