Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth among the world's most liveable cities

I have seen a fair bit of cities overseas and some do have their charms but I always feel like kissing the ground when I arrive back in Australia -- so I concur with the judgment below that Australia's State capitals are hard to beat for livability

One has to laugh a little bit, however,  over the fact that the people doing the rating were Engish  -- because 8 out of the top 10 cities were in either Australia or Canada, places in which English people tend to feel very much at ease because of similar language and customs.  You even keep the Queen as your Head of State when you move from Britain to either Australia or Canada!  But given U.S. crime rates, I am not surprised that no American city rated highly

FOUR of Australia's capital cities have been named among the world's most liveable - with Melbourne once again being named the best.

And in another coup for southerners unassuming Adelaide has overtaken Sydney in the fiercely contested rankings.

Melbourne outperformed 140 rivals to receive the Global Liveability Survey gong for a second year in a row with a near perfect score of 97.5 per cent.

It only lost points for climate, culture and petty crime.

Sydney dropped one place to seventh position despite an unchanged score, while Adelaide rocketed three places to joint fifth thanks to infrastructure improvements.  Perth was ninth, down one place.

Economist Intelligence Unit survey editor Jon Copestake said just 1.6 percentage points separated the five Aussie cities surveyed.

"Australian cities continue to thrive in terms of liveability not only do they benefit from the natural advantages of low population density, but they have continued to improve with some high profile infrastructure investments," Mr Copestake said from London.

"In Adelaide, projects completed in recent years under the Strategic Infrastructure Plan for South Australia have been enough to move the city above Sydney, whose score is unchanged," Mr Copestake said.

"Melbourne may claim national bragging rights (in topping the rankings), but four of the five Australian cities surveyed are in the top 10 of the global index, and are separated by just 1.6 percentage points," he said.

Elsewhere in the world the impact of the Arab Spring, and the fallout from the Euro zone crisis, are still being felt.

Many cities in the Middle East and North Africa have seen downward revisions of their scores due to civil unrest.

The ongoing civil war in Syria saw the capital, Damascus, fall furthest as violence intensified, dropping 13 places to 130th and into the very bottom tier of liveability with a score of 46.3 per cent.

London, which recently hosted the Olympic Games, saw a drop in score as a result of riots that took place in the UK last year, causing it to fall two places to 55th in the ranking.

Dhaka in Bangladesh has the unenviable title of being the least liveable location surveyed.

The global liveability report surveys 140 locations around the world to assess the best or the worst living conditions.

It originated as a means of testing whether human resource departments needed to assign a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages.

It has since evolved as a broad benchmarking tool used by city councils, organisations or corporate entities looking to test locations against one another.

Cities are scored on political and social stability, crime rates and access to quality health care.

It also measures the diversity and standard of cultural events and the natural environment; education (school and university); and the standard of infrastructure, including public transport.


Pervasive anti-man attitudes

NEWS that Virgin Airlines asked Sydney fireman Johnny McGirr, 33, to change seats on a flight because it was company policy that men not be seated next to unaccompanied minors, prompted a public backlash that has forced Virgin to review their stance.

A number of child abuse experts have come forward and denounced the policy, claiming it's an over-reaction and potentially discriminatory.

That Jetstar, Qantas and Air New Zealand share these guidelines was something Virgin was quick to point out last week.

What is significant about this entire situation is not that it's a reflection on these companies so much as it is on a society that persists in demonising men.

We live in a world where "stranger danger" is a catch phrase, but it's become a gendered/sexed term that constructs men almost exclusively as potential predators or, as McGirr bluntly stated in relation to the Virgin fiasco, potential paedophile(s).  In other words: guilty until proven innocent.

We've allowed fear to govern common sense and now inform policy - and at the expense of men.

Don't think for a moment this type of unfair reckoning is only happening in our skies. The notion that men can cause sexual and physical harm to children anywhere, anytime, is firmly grounded in our culture. You've only to talk to male schoolteachers (a vanishing breed) to discover how much aspects of their professionalism, for example, is curtailed on a daily basis purely because of their sex.

Men (and some women) of my acquaintance often express how uneasy they feel that they can no longer offer comfort to a child in distress, start conversations, coach, play with, be alone in a room or, God forbid, enjoy a light tussle, for fear of how their actions will be read.

The prevailing attitude that men are predators needing to be policed and leashed is affecting relationships everywhere - from the classroom to the family room.

The Virgin policy is simply a manifestation of this invidious creep in attitude towards men, one that has some women and mothers able to declare quite openly and without risk of being called to account, that they feel comfortable with Virgin's stance.

How can anyone be comfortable that an entire sex is basically maligned for the actions of a few depraved brutes? How can we accept that we're altering our behaviours and perceptions of others because of this?

Would these same women be comfortable if their intentions regarding their own and others children were called into question?

As McGirr stated, this kind of approach ignores the good that any male does regardless of his standing in society.

Sadly, no matter what measures we put in place, there will always be monsters who abuse children. I know, because I survived the sick attentions of one. Every day between the ages of nine and 11, my mother's then male partner sexually abused me.

In many ways, what happened to me reflects the statistics of abuse and that is, overwhelmingly, it's someone close to the child and the family (usually a man) who is the abuser - not a stranger.

Regardless of this awful statistic, abuse is not the norm. Yet, as a society, we allow the minority of sick and perverted people to govern our lives and, lately, the opportunity to form new connections as well.

Children need positive male role models. But if we keep construing men as potentially unsafe, how are children to discover them? How are good men to be given the chance to be these role models?

And let's face it, there are some evil women too - you can't let an entire sex off the hook here.

We make rules and laws to protect our children (and ourselves) from something that most likely will never happen. We regard men and strangers with suspicion, second-guess their intentions; look askance at their professional and personal conduct. Consequently, we develop a toxic and unhealthy relationship with each other.

We suffer the little children and turn them and those we silently accuse into victims of crimes that have never been committed, thus giving us all life sentences.


Child Safety Inquiry hears at-risk children in Queensland Indigenous communities has no easy solution

More children being "stolen", it seems

THE problem of poor parenting in Queensland Indigenous communities is rapidly getting worse, with four in ten kids removed from home coming from Indigenous households.

The Child Safety Inquiry heard this morning the problem of at-risk children in Queensland Indigenous communities had no easy solutions.

Commissioner Tim Carmody said 40 per cent of out-of-home care was needed by Indigenous kids who were staying there longer and "at significant cost to government."

Mr Carmody said Queenslanders had a right to ask what was happening to the millions of dollars in funding designed to remedy the problem.  "People who pay taxes have expectations, not unreasonably, that their money is well spent," Mr Carmody said.

Former Director General of the Communities Department Linda Apelt said the high rates of removal of Indigenous kids mirrored a serious social problem.  "It is a reflecion of what is going on in our communities," Ms Apelt said.  "Indigenous groups in Queensland continue to be some of the most marginalised, disadvantaged groups in Australia."

Ms Apelt said the troubled Indigenous community of Palm Island off Townsville had created a local group making positive steps in protecting vulnerable kids.

The Palm Island Community Company  was looking after at-risk children on the island using well trained local people, she said.

A safe house allowed children to be temporarily protected from violence and other dangers:

"There is absolutely no doubt now that children are better cared for than being picked up by a helicopter in the middle of the night and taken to some strange place elsewhere in Queensland," Ms Apelt said.



Three articles below

Coalition will back Nauru, Manus centres

Tony and Julia stared one-another down and Julia crumpled first. She needed to.  It is a great triumph for Abbott's political judgment.  The new scheme won't work under Labor but it gives Tony the tools to make it work when he gains power next year

URGENT government legislation to reinstate offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea will have the support of the federal opposition.

"We've been asking the prime minister to do this for four years," opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison told ABC television on Tuesday.

But the coalition won't back any attempt to resurrect the Malaysia people-swap deal through the "back door".

The legislation, likely to be rushed into parliament on Tuesday, will not nominate specific sites for offshore processing.

Instead that will be done by ministerial regulation, a measure that could be overturned by a vote of parliament.

Mr Morrison described the Malaysia deal, quashed by the High Court last year, as a "purely hypothetical" option.  Immigration Minister Chris Bowen welcomed Mr Morrison's support.

The man who headed an expert panel on asylum seeker policy options says processing centres in Nauru and on Manus Island in PNG will not operate as detention centres.

"It will be quite different to what was set up last time," former defence force chief Angus Houston told ABC radio.  "These will be much better conditions for people to live in."

However offshore processing would still act as a deterrent to people risking their lives at sea.

"We believe spending time at Nauru or Manus will reduce the attractiveness of the option of trying to come to Australia on a leaky boat," Mr Houston said.


No 5-star treatment for refugees: Abbott

ASYLUM seekers who may be stuck in tents on Nauru under new laws to revive offshore processing cannot expect five-star or even three-star treatment, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says.

New legislation before parliament, modelled on the recommendations of former defence chief Angus Houston's expert panel, is still being debated after a marathon session into Tuesday night.

It means offshore processing on Nauru and Papua New Guinea will be allowed to proceed with coalition support.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has conceded asylum seekers initially may be living in tents.

Mr Abbott says Ms Gillard could have had the centres ready by now.

"If they got cracking on Nauru at Christmas time, as they should have, the centre would be done and they wouldn't be living in tents," he told the Nine Network on Wednesday.

However, Mr Abbott said if people were living in tents, "so be it".  "People who arrive illegally by boat need to be treated humanely, but they can't expect five-star treatment or even three-star treatment," he said.  "The important thing is we have rigorous offshore processing.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne does not believe it is humane to house people in tents.  She also says it's costly to set up the tents and the army doesn't have the resources to man the centres.

"It just highlights, on the one hand Angus Houston is saying people will be treated better this time, and in the next breath we are going to be setting up these huge, temporary tent camps, and we are taking away people's human rights," Senator Milne told reporters.

Mental illness programs will be needed to deal with people who have been "driven to despair" by the situation, she said.

Nationals senate leader Barnaby Joyce says asylum seekers will regard the prospect of living in a tent as a better alternative than losing their life at sea.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon wants a robust parliamentary debate about the government's plan.  "It ought to be debated thoroughly, it ought not to be gagged," he told reporters.


Processing to start in weeks but detention to last years

THE first asylum seekers will be processed on Nauru and Manus Island within a month but kept there for years under plans by the government to speed up the establishment of detention camps on the islands.

The government said today these could include some 200 asylum seekers who have been picked up since 4.45pm on Monday, the cut-off time set by the government for being guaranteed processing on Christmas Island and resettlement in Australia.
The Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers comprised by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston c Professor Michael L'Estrange R and Paris Aristotle

With legislation to re-establish a harsher version of the "Pacific solution" set to pass the House of Representatives today, and the Senate by the end of the week, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will send a team of defence officials to each location on Friday to scope out sites for new detention facilities.

These will take several months to build, but Ms Gillard said the first people sent there would be housed in temporary accommodation, such as tents.

She reaffirmed that those sent there would be subject to "no advantage" principles and would be resettled no sooner than if they were in a refugee camp in Malaysia, Indonesia or elsewhere. The government would discuss with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees a suitable time but estimates range as high as four to five years.

The government is acting after an expert panel, comprising the former Defence Force chief Angus Houston, the refugee expert Paris Aristotle and the former diplomat Michael L'Estrange, issued 22 recommendations.

It said until a long-term regional solution was reached, short-term circuit breakers such as Nauru and Manus Island were needed. They also said the Malaysia plan was integral to stopping the boats but it needed further negotiated safeguards for vulnerable asylum seekers sent back to Malaysia before it should be implemented.

Ms Gillard rang her Malaysian counterpart yesterday to get talks under way, but even if a deal is reached, the Parliament would never allow Malaysia, meaning Nauru and Manus Island will become the centrepieces of the new policy.

Ms Gillard phoned the President of Nauru, Sprent Dabwido, and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill, yesterday to request the use of their territory. They agreed but last night a Papua New Guinean politician, Powes Parkop, protested against the use of Manus Island.

The opposition has agreed to pass the legislation enabling the "Pacific solution" but was merciless in in its attacks on the government yesterday for abandoning the policy four years ago.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said Ms Gillard bore responsibility for the 22,000 "illegal immigrants" who had arrived in that time, the almost 1000 who died trying to reach Australia and for the $4.7 billion hit to the budget.

Mr Abbott said he was not blaming Ms Gillard personally for the deaths but "the government's policy failures gave the people smugglers a business model".

"Let us thank God that after four years the government has come to its senses and admitted that it was wrong," he said.

Ms Gillard refused to engage but said as either Prime Minister, deputy prime minster or just an MP: "I accept responsibility for my actions".

Mr Aristotle said adopting the recommendations would not blow the budget but save money.

Presently, the government has budgeted $5 billion over four years to accommodate 450 boat arrivals each month but this figure would have blown out because about 1800 a month are arriving at the moment.

The panel was advised by the Department of Finance that all its recommendations, including Malaysia, would cost $4.6 billion over four years.


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