Friday, August 24, 2012

Australia Increases Refugee Quota in Broad Immigration Reform

 Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday ordered an immediate increase in the number of refugees that her country accepts yearly, part of an immigration reform package aimed at encouraging migrants to use official channels for asylum rather than long and dangerous boat journeys.

The increase in the annual refugee intake — to 20,000 from 13,700, the biggest increase in 30 years — caps two weeks of bruising debate after the release of an expert report on immigration commissioned by the Australian government. The debate has led Ms. Gillard’s governing Labor Party to reverse its longstanding opposition to reopening remote offshore detention centers that were closed when the party came to power in 2007.

“This increase is targeted to those in most need: those vulnerable people offshore, not those getting on boats,” Ms. Gillard told reporters. “Message No. 1: If you get on a boat, you are at risk of being transferred to Nauru or P.N.G.,” she said, referring to a small Pacific island nation and to Papua New Guinea.  She continued, “Message No. 2: If you stay where you are, then there are more resettlement places available in Australia.”

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced that the camps would cost 150 million Australian dollars, or $157 million, through the 2012-13 fiscal year. Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea could begin accepting detainees within days, he said, depending on negotiations.

But Mr. Bowen told reporters that the Nauru center would house only 1,500 people when fully operational, while Manus would hold 600 refugees, raising questions about their efficacy as deterrents. A total of 8,439 asylum seekers have arrived by boat in Australia this year, according to local news reports.

Graham Thom, an expert on immigration at Amnesty International, said that while the increase was a positive step, given the complex factors driving people to seek asylum, it was far from clear that camps of the type outlined Thursday would actually deter desperate refugees.

“For people fleeing violence and persecution, how they move and where they move is a complex interplay of both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors,” Mr. Thom said. “With the situation in countries like Afghanistan likely to continue to force significant numbers to flee, whether or not they choose to continue to try and reach Australia, even with the reintroduction of offshore processing, remains to be seen.”

Thousands of people try to reach Australia each year on rickety, overcrowded vessels, leading to accidents at sea that have killed more than 600 people since late 2009. Around 90 asylum seekers are believed to have died in June when their boat capsized south of the Indonesian island of Java, reigniting a debate that has smoldered for more than a decade.

Australia has tried for years to formulate a policy that would deter would-be immigrants from trying to reach Christmas Island, a territory in the Indian Ocean that is Australia’s closest point to Indonesia. Ms. Gillard had proposed sending asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing, but the plan was rejected by Australia’s highest court and negotiations over a replacement plan broke down.


Defiant Pickering says he's not finished with PM yet

Regardless of what you think of Pickering's toons,  he's got a solid point in the sentence I have highlighted below

WHEN Julia Gillard lashed out at the "misogynist nut jobs on the internet" yesterday, she had in mind one man above all others, the famed former political cartoonist Larry Pickering.

Gold Coast-based Pickering began his career as a proof reader at The Canberra Times and got his break by posting cartoons on the door of the men's toilet. "There was only one dunny in the place, so I knew the editor would have to see them eventually," he said last night.

By the end of the '70s, Pickering - who last night claimed to have played for Richmond but is not listed in the encyclopedia of footballers - was at The Australian and his annual calendar of nude political portraits, Pickering's Playmates, was on many suburban toilet doors.

These days, he runs a blog, The Pickering Post, where he posts a cartoon and a column most days. His attack on Ms Gillard is seven entries into a planned 20-part series. Part eight may not be up today because he's waiting on some FOI material from Melbourne. But nothing in yesterday's press conference will deter him.

"I've got more material than ever. She's dodged every question she was asked," he said.

The site's commenters tend towards a passionate hatred of the PM common at the "nut job" end of the internet, and sexism features heavily. This one is typical, but only partly publishable: "Have you heard about the new Juliar KFC meal ….. 2 fat juicy thighs …" The rest is best left to the imagination. Or not.

Pickering frequently depicts the PM with a dildo hanging over her shoulder (it used to be a strap-on until Facebook censored him). Yesterday he rendered her as a pinata.

He refuses to concede there's anything misogynist about his treatment of her. "As for me being sexist, that's crap. I've never written a sexist thing about her. And as for the strap-on, Jesus Christ, you should see what I draw for the blokes."

Despite labelling his website "vile and sexist", the Prime Minister has ruled out suing, which is a disappointment to Pickering. "I'd love her to sue me," he said. "If she sues anyone, this will open up like a can of worms."

It may just be that Larry Pickering feels he's playing a game he can't lose. He claims to be broke, saying his ex-wife "took the helicopter, took the car, and took my kid". He's 70, and a simple pensioner, he insists.

It's a solid defence. Fairfax writer Michael Pascoe this week labelled Pickering "an inveterate liar, a bankrupt conman with a seedy history of fleecing the gullible". But, he added, "there's no point trying to sue a bankrupt".


Bill introduced into Queensland Parliament to scrap job security for public service

A slaughtered sacred cow!

A Bill scrapping job security for Queensland public servants was last night passed in State Parliament. 

The Public Service and other Legislation Amendments Bill was passed easily in the house, with 60 Members of Parliament voting in favour.  All seven Labor MPs, two members of Katter's Australia Party and two Independents voted against the Bill.

The Labor Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller urged public servants to "flex off tomorrow" to protest the legislation.

In a move that stunned union leaders, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie yesterday introduced the Bill to permanently remove job security from the government workforce, except for police.

The Government had tried to do that by "industrial instruments" known as directives but faced a Supreme Court challenge by unions, who said the move was unlawful.  But Mr Bleijie's move to amend the Bill yesterday invalidated that Supreme Court action.

Mr Bleijie said the amendments showed the Government was "committed to providing an affordable public service for Queensland".  It has claimed the state had "20,000 more public servants than it can afford".

But Together Queensland secretary Alex Scott said the legislation was a vicious attack on workers' rights that would allow the Government to sack health workers as well as other public servants.  "It's clear they're leaving no stone unturned to sack 20,000 workers," he said.  "By including health workers, it completely removes any guarantees that health jobs won't be outsourced."

As well as stripping job security and contracting out clauses, the Bill removes the requirement for workers to be consulted about workplace changes.  The amendments also mean regulations that reduce an employee's conditions will not have to be enshrined in law.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said the state's workers were considering their legal options.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Bill was ill-conceived, rushed and had not allowed for sufficient consultation.   "We cannot in all conscience support a Bill that has not been adequately scrutinised by the committee system and had the required input from stakeholders," Ms Palaszczuk told Parliament.


NSW Govt. takes control of teacher numbers and class sizes

A NEW staffing arrangement for teachers was imposed on the profession yesterday, giving the state government discretion to control teacher numbers and class sizes.

The Department of Education gave the NSW Teachers Federation an ultimatum to sign a new staffing agreement by 5.30pm on Wednesday, but the federation refused. So the agreement was introduced as government policy instead of a formal industrial agreement, which means it does not legally bind the government.

The Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, said he was committed to maintaining existing class sizes as "policy" and said the federation could still sign the agreement to make it formal until 2016.

"The principals wanted the flexibility to determine their mix of staff and we've given that to them," he said.  The existing staffing agreement is due to expire within weeks.

The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maurie Mulheron, said he was not able to sign the agreement at "short notice" on Wednesday without first consulting his executive.

One of the sticking points in negotiations was the government's refusal to guarantee the number of senior teaching positions. It will be left to school principals to decide the number within a set budget.

Mr Mulheron said the staffing agreement would have formalised class sizes, but these were now at the minister's discretion.

He said the minister's action "confirms the fears of principals, teachers and parents that the government is intent on reducing the number of permanent classroom, executive and specialist teaching positions".  "Without a formal staffing agreement, the class size policy can be changed at any time from term 4, 2012, onwards."

In a letter to staff, the director- general of education, Michele Bruniges, said four months of negotiations with the Teachers Federation over new staffing arrangements arising from the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms had failed.

"Unfortunately these negotiations have not resulted in an agreement and as such the department will implement the new staffing procedures from day 1, term 4, 2012, by way of policy," Dr Bruniges said. "A key element of the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms is putting an end to the centrally determined one-size-fits-all staffing model.

"The Minister and I have been very clear that the Local Schools, Local Decisions staffing reforms will maintain a statewide staffing system, which has greater opportunities for teachers to be selected at the local level to better meet student needs; maintain the department's class size policies".

The opposition spokeswoman for education, Carmel Tebbutt, said the new arrangement meant there was no protection for the present number of teachers or class sizes. "These will now be at the whim of the minister," she said. The Greens MP John Kaye said: "Classroom sizes and important administrative positions in schools have now been completely deregulated."


Tony Abbott fights no-fishing bid in Coral Sea

PLANS to lock-up the Coral Sea as the world's biggest marine park face a fresh attack with Tony Abbott to push a Bill through Parliament to stall controversial new marine park protected areas.

The Opposition Leader, in opening the Brisbane Boat Show, will today detail a Coalition bid to stop a plan for a network of marine reserves around Australia.

He said commercial and recreational fishermen were not "environmental vandals".

"They want to be able to catch fish tomorrow as well as today, in the next decade as well as this one," Mr Abbott said. "That's why they're normally the strongest conservationists of fish stocks."

Furious fishers believe the proposed closures will kill access to fresh seafood with losses also in the Gulf of Carpentaria prawn industry.

High-profile advocates like Virgin founder Richard Branson and musicians Jackson Browne and Neil Young, calling themselves "Ocean Elders", have publicly backed the Coral Sea proposal.

The Coalition will support a private member's Bill from Member for Dawson George Christensen to put on hold any proclamation on new conservation areas and obtain independent scientific, economic and social analysis.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke yesterday rubbished a report showing a billion-dollar hit to Cairns alone as a "scare campaign".

"Their figure of $1 billion would only be correct if you were taking the impact of the marine parks over the next 200 years," Mr Burke said.

"I'm surprised that council would spend rate payers' hard earned money on a scare campaign like this."

Cairns Regional Council is asking Mr Burke's office to unveil a breakdown of its detailed cost analysis after an independent report by Cummings Economics revealed a $1 billion loss to the far north Queensland economy over three decades.

"We are all for protecting the Great Barrier Reef and our outer marine environment," said CRC officer Fiona Wilson.

"But this is not just the loss of a couple of fishing businesses, but a vast widespread impact, and we worry there is a risk they have heavily underestimated the cost.

"We want them to show us the modelling."

Protect Our Coral Sea advocates believe the green zones over nearly 1 million km sq will protect iconic marine species, fish stocks and coral reef in pristine waters.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Better people than Pickering have been pursuing this in a far more articulate manner. I think Pickering is a disinfo artist, providing Gillard with a "straw-man" that she can use to discredit the whole AWU story by portraying it as emanating mostly from this crude, unpleasant "blogger". The Leftist hacks that support her are in fact aiding her in this I note.