Friday, October 26, 2012

Asylum rioters rewarded with visa to stay in Australia

ASYLUM seekers convicted of participating in riots that caused more than $5 million damage to the Christmas Island detention centre have been handed protection visas to stay in the country.

Just one of seven offenders convicted over the riots had his visa application rejected by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on character grounds.

Three men found guilty of offences relating to the March 2011 riots - in which accommodation and administration facilities were burned down and rocks thrown at police - have been granted protection visas to remain in Australia.

Two others convicted were found not to be refugees and another has a current protection claim but is appealing against his conviction. Six of the seven remain in Australia.

At the time of the riots, Mr Bowen talked tough about the 200 participants, most of whom had their faces covered. Only 22 were charged, leaving just seven with convictions.

"Again, a group of around 200 protesters seem to think that violent behaviour is an acceptable way to influence the outcome of their visa application or influence government decision-making," he said at the time.

A month after the riots, Mr Bowen said he was toughening the character test provisions "to make it very clear that anybody who commits an offence, regardless of the penalty, regardless of the sentence, while they are in immigration detention will fail the character test and can be denied a permanent visa".

It has been revealed to parliament that the three rioters given protection visas received a warning on their character assessment before being handed their visas.

The character test clearly states if an asylum seeker has been convicted of an offence while in detention they fail the test. Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said that the rioters' visa applications should have been rejected.

Australian Federal Police and dog squad in riot gear prepare to relocate asylum-seeker detainees within the detention centre on Christmas Island, following the March riots.

"Minister Bowen has proved himself a soft touch on our borders at every opportunity," Mr Morrison said.

"Every chance he has had to send a strong message on our borders, he has rolled out the welcome mat.

"The fact that he granted permanent visas to those who rioted and burnt sections of detention centres to the ground on his watch is a disgrace."


Testing the new teacher - the plan to lift classroom quality

TEACHER graduates should be tested on literacy and numeracy skills, ability to communicate and passion for teaching before fronting a classroom, the Australian Centre for Educational Research said.

ACER chief executive Geoff Masters said quality teaching was the key to lifting achievement levels in Australian schools, a key goal of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Governments must enhance the status of teachers so the best and brightest are attracted to the profession and admission to teacher education programs is highly competitive, he said.

"Teaching can be highly rewarding, but is also increasingly complex," Professor Masters said.

"Teachers must keep abreast of rapidly changing technologies and provide support for a wide range of personal and social issues that students now face. Work of this kind requires highly skilled, caring individuals."

Speaking ahead of World Teacher Day today, Prof Masters said one way governments could enhance the status of teachers was to ensure that teacher graduates met minimum national standards of literacy and numeracy, as well as the standards for teaching these skills.

Second, make entry to teacher courses more competitive by reducing the number of teachers trained and setting higher hurdles for course admission.

Governments should also develop research-based descriptions of effective teaching practices, provide professional learning to develop practices and recognise and reward great teaching.

High-performing school systems also assess interpersonal and communication skills and the candidate's commitment to teaching as a career.

The state government has released a discussion paper on improving the quality of teaching amid concerns that it is becoming an easy career choice.

As a way of attracting quality people to the profession, responses have suggested a minimum ATAR requirement, increasing teacher wages and universities being more willing to fail unsuitable candidates.

Education department Director-general Michele Bruniges, Board of Studies president Tom Alegounarias and Institute of Teachers chief executive Patrick Lee will make recommendations to Education Minister Adrian Piccoli early next month.


Aboriginal MP lashes gas hub protesters

THE first indigenous woman elected to an Australian parliament has come out swinging against Browse gas hub opponents, saying the Broome community is not divided over the proposal and it's only a small but vocal group causing all the fuss.

Outgoing Kimberley MLA Carol Martin has told the West Australian parliament that she supported a bill underpinning the Woodside-led Browse project because many indigenous people in the Kimberley region believed it would benefit them, not just state revenues.

Premier Colin Barnett has long argued that a land agreement signed with native title claimant groups, which included a substantial benefits package, was "the most significant act of self-determination by an Aboriginal group in Australian history".

Ms Martin agreed, saying Aboriginal people needed to take control of their own destiny.

The Kimberley's indigenous communities were still mired in abject poverty, she said, and they did not want to keep living with a welfare model that was not only humiliating and demoralising, but made some young people feel as if they did not have a future, leaving them contemplating suicide.

After being colonised by "the British", "do-gooders", "missionaries" and "industry", indigenous people were now being colonised by "the bloody greenies" who opposed the hub, who should "go and check the headstones".

"They have loud voices, they have the media on their side and they have bands," she said, referring to a recent, free John Butler concert in Broome that anti-hub activists said had been watched online by "tens of thousands in over 65 countries".

The organisers of the event did not ask the shire for a permit and interfered with an annual surf competition at Cable Beach, Ms Martin said.  "How disrespectful is that?" she asked.  "These people stuffed it up."

Those who attended the concert were not necessarily opponents of the gas hub, she said.

Ms Martin said she thought it was wrong that some activists had threatened Browse staff and police had been criticised for sending officers to Broome to protect them.

"The public has a right to know what is happening; these people are being assaulted on their way to work and at work.  "It is disgraceful. I do not support people who break the law, get arrested, and then stand as if they are some sort of martyr."

Ms Martin said the "200 people on the news" were not the 17,000 people who lived in the area.

Mr Barnett on Thursday said Ms Martin's speech was one of the most moving and passionate he'd heard in parliament.

It "might not suit the politically correct media that we have" and "an essentially urban, middle-class Australia".

"She talked about the famous, the rich and famous who would come to the Kimberly in a self-righteous way as if only they cared about the environment or only they cared about the whales or only they cared about the dinosaur footprints," he told parliament.

"And implicit in that is an attitude that we see too often ... that somehow this state is a redneck environment, that we don't care about heritage, that we don't care about the environment, and somehow we're not capable enough to look after marine life in the Kimberley."


Big fadeout for Greens in ACT

The ACT Greens slipped into deeper electoral trouble last night with updated vote counting showing for the second night running that their leader Meredith Hunter is heading for defeat.

And history is against Ms Hunter in her Ginninderra electorate, where no independent or minor party MLA has ever lasted more than one term.

Last night's updated interim preference figures show the Greens heading for a near wipeout, losing three of the four seats they won in their historic 2008 showing.

Last night's update has Labor challenger Yvette Berry in front of Ms Hunter for the fifth seat in the northern electorate in a result that would see the new assembly made up of eight Labor MLAs, eight Liberals and the Greens still hanging on to balance-of-power with one member in the chamber.

In Molonglo, senior Labor frontbencher Simon Corbell was ahead, for the second night running, of fellow ALP challenger Meegan Fitzharris but the Liberals' education spokesman Steve Doszpot has fallen behind his party colleague, newcomer Elizabeth Lee.

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury remains ahead of his colleague Caroline Le Couteur for the seventh Molonglo seat, and in Brindabella the Liberals' Andrew Wall still leads Green Amanda Bresnan for the fifth seat in the southern electorate.

Labor also nudged back into a narrow lead over the Canberra Liberals in the popular vote yesterday by just 55 votes across the territory, with 85,532 votes to the Liberals' 85,477.

Both Labor leader Katy Gallagher and her Liberals opponent Zed Seselja have claimed success in the popular vote as they have sought since Saturday's election to bolster their chances of forming government.

Vote counting will resume this morning and is not expected to be finished before tomorrow night, and it could even be Sunday before Ms Hunter and the other candidates in tight races know their fates.

But Ms Hunter's task in holding her seat is made more complex by the electoral history of the Ginninderra electorate.

Since its creation before the 1995 election, no independent or minor party MLA has managed to hold a seat in the Belconnen-based electorate for more than one term.

The first election, in 1995, established a pattern with the ALP and the Liberals each winning two seats and the final seat going to the Greens' Lucy Horodny.

Ms Horodny did not contest the 1998 election and independent Dave Rugendyke was elected in Ginninderra on a social conservative ticket.

In 2001 Mr Rugendyke was replaced by Australian Democrat Roslyn Dundas, who in turn was beaten in 2004 when Labor managed to get three MLAs elected in Ginninderra.

But in 2008, the ALP failed to retain their third spot and the final seat went to Ms Hunter, who now looks in grave danger of becoming another one-term MLA.

But Ms Dundas, now director of the ACT Council of Social Service, says she believes it is simply changing times that lie behind the inability of smaller players to last in Ginninderra.

"My election in 2001 was at a time when there was a real feel for a need to change and a focus on supporting women to get elected and a focus on big social issues that hadn't been treated in step with what the community was feeling," Ms Dundas said.

"But then in 2004, Jon Stanhope as chief minister did what party leaders do in seats, gathering more than 30 per cent of the votes, which made it hard for prefer-ences to flow to small parties.

"Then in 2008, we saw a reaction to [Labor] majority government which was then a swing back to the non-old parties … That's the great thing about democracy, new ideas will come forward and people will respond to those new ideas."

Ms Dundas says she believes the Greens now find themselves in such deep trouble because they failed to promote themselves as a party that had been in the Legislative Assembly for 17 years.

"There's been a Green in the ACT Parliament since 1995 … but the campaign they ran this year was much more short-term than that," she said.


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