Monday, March 01, 2021

Medevac detainees in Brisbane released with others in Darwin and Sydney also expected to walk free

More than 20 medevac detainees have been released from Brisbane immigration detention, with dozens more around the country expected to follow this week, some after spending more than a year in a hotel or a alternative place of detention.

The detainees were brought to Australia for medical treatment under the now repealed medical evacuation laws

A number of men detained at Kangaroo Point Central Hotel and Apartments were in the process of being released after being transferred to Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) early on Monday.

The lawyers of one of the men set to be released said the detainees would be given a seven-day humanitarian visa, which would be followed by a six-month bridging visa.

Sixty-nine people are expected to be released this week from Darwin, Brisbane and Sydney, according to a number of lawyers representing the group.

The detainees were brought to Australia for medical treatment under the now-repealed medical evacuation laws.

After the release of dozens of refugees and asylum seekers from hotels in Melbourne in January, advocates said more than 120 asylum seekers and refugees brought to Australia for medical treatment were still in detention.

A spokesperson for the the Department of Home Affairs said in a statement the detainees were given bridging visas so they could temporarily reside in the Australian community while they finalised their medical treatment.

However, the department did not explain why other asylum seekers remain detained, or why it could not send people back to their processing countries.

"Government policy is steadfast — persons under regional processing arrangements will not settle permanently in Australia," a statement said.

"A final departure bridging E visa allows individuals to temporarily reside in the Australian community while they finalise their arrangements to leave Australia.

"These final departure bridging E visa were granted with work rights and access to Medicare."


Forest Lake State School stops names on senior shirts to protect privacy and boost inclusion

Students and parents of a Brisbane primary school have been left disappointed by the axing of a senior class tradition this year. Year 6 students at Forest Lake State School will no longer wear the full list of classmates' names on the back of their senior shirt as had previously been tradition.

The move, however, was made to protect the privacy and identity of some students and to ensure all students were made to feel included.

The explanation of why the change happened was recently shared with families via email after it was met with pushback. “Firstly, every parent or guardian needs to consent to having their child’s name on the shirt.

“Secondly, there are a number of privacy factors which impact on parent willingness to give consent,” the email read. “There are often factors which mean consent cannot be given.

“Thirdly, the discrimination act encourages us to operate in an inclusive environment,”

The email said the school decided to move away from the names on shirts tradition “so that those students, who are most vulnerable in our community, and through no fault of their own cannot have their name on a senior shirt, are not alienated or made to feel invisible, as though they do not belong.

“While this is disappointing for students who have looked forward to this tradition, the senior shirt will indeed be unique, three will not be another senior cohort of 2021 and the design of the shirt is unique itself. “This will be a valuable memento for students as they look back.

“In addition, as a result (of) fundraising in 2020, the P&C is funding the total cost for every student to receive a senior shirt for free.

“I cannot in good conscience offer a shirt to those students whose names will not appear on the back and feel that I have made them included.

“It has been suggested that first names only be used.

“We have many students from divers cultural backgrounds with unique names and students whose spelling of their name would lead to clear identification.

“So this is not a viable solution either.”

While some parents said they understood the reasons for the change — which is understood to have made its way through a number of Brisbane primary schools in recent years — others say their children have been left disappointed.

Mum Jelena Rosenberg said her little girl was left in tears by the news.

“My daughter just moved to this school this year with her siblings and the one thing she was excited about was the Year 6 shirt,” Ms Rosenberg said.

“When I told her there will be no names on it she was upset and cried about it as this was special to her being her last year.

“I’m absolutely shattered about this because her old school is still doing names on shirts.

“I’ll be sending my child to school with a permanent marker so her new friends can write on her shirt.

“I just don’t understand why no names are allowed as domestic violence is always going to be around and people that didn’t want their child’s name on should have just opted out, instead we all suffer because of a few people that didn’t want their child’s name on.

“I was never asked about having or not having names on and a few other mums and dads I’ve spoken to as well never got that option. It seems to have just been a school decision, not parents.

“The P&C are paying for them so they are free for parents but I find that extremely insulting as I feel I should have the option to have my child’s name on the shirt.”

An Education Queensland spokesperson said the decision was aimed at ensuring all children felt equal. “Forest Lake State School encourages an inclusive environment and P&C fundraising efforts will ensure all senior students receive their shirt, designed themselves, for free.

“Arrangements for senior shirts are school-based decisions and every day in state schools, principals respond supportively to the needs of their students.”


Queensland house prices 'through the roof' as interstate migration at 20-year high

The latest monthly data on Queensland home values has confirmed what buyers already know — prices are booming. Figures released by property analysts CoreLogic showed prices grew in almost every region of Queensland in February.

Across Brisbane, prices rose by 1.5 per cent in one month, taking annual growth to 5 per cent. The February increase is the steepest rise since November 2007, when the monthly growth rate was 1.72 per cent. In Brisbane's east, house prices went up by nearly 10 per cent in 12 months.

The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast also posted strong price hikes, rising 2.6 per cent and 2.5 per cent in February, which pushed the 12 month gains up to 10.5 per cent and 11.2 per cent.

Townsville was the only region to record a drop with prices falling 0.6 per cent in February.

But the north Queensland city still posted a 12-month increase of 6.2 per cent.

CoreLogic's Head of Residential Research Australia Eliza Owen said there were several key factors pushing prices up. "The main drivers are record-low mortgage rates and relatively low levels of stock on the market and that's something that's driving an upswing across most areas of Australia," she said.

"But what's really special about south-east Queensland in particular is the fact that internal migration is so strong.

"The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast have been top destinations for internal migration for years now.

"In an environment where there's no international migration, that internal movement is really benefiting markets relative to other parts of the country."

Ms Owen said prices were expected to keep rising in 2021.

"In terms of prices steadying or falling across Queensland, I wouldn't expect to see that until we get a significant uplift in the amount of stock on the market which is unlikely as people aren't really moving as much at the moment," she said.

"Or we see the cash rate increase, and as such mortgage rates would increase, and again that's not something we would expect until the inflation target is between 2 and 3 per cent.

"[We would then] see the unemployment rate being really tight at around 4.5 per cent."

The CoreLogic data also revealed the increase in house prices was widely spread across Australia.

Finance professor from the University of Queensland, Shaun Bond, said a strong up-tick in demand was affecting house prices.

"We've had a lot of people moving back to Australia from overseas, we've had almost half a million people by the latest count, we see record low interest rates," he said.

"Plus, we see a lot of people rethinking their options, people choosing not to be in inner-city apartments, they're choosing to think about lifestyle areas, they're going for coastal areas, sometimes they're looking at regional areas, even within a city like Brisbane they're starting to think about larger suburban properties."

Professor Bond said while price growth was strong, he would not classify it as a bubble. "There's a lot of debate about whether bubbles even exist, but we tend to think of bubbles being driven by speculative excess and I don't believe we're seeing that in this case.

"Yes, we're seeing a strong up-tick in demand, but I feel like that can be explained by several of the factors we've discussed, plus the strong economic recovery we're seeing in Australia as well — Australia has weathered the COVID crisis very well.

"The underlying economy is actually in a much better place than people thought it would be at this stage."

Professor Bond said the rollout of the Coronavirus vaccine in Australia could affect the housing market.

"One of the things may be that it suddenly gives people more choices, so maybe some of those expats who returned from overseas may decide that they're going to go back to the US, back to the UK to work or resume their careers there — people might start to travel again."

Interstate migration at 20-year high

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) demographer Andrew Howe said over the last year Queensland had a net inflow of about 25,000 people.

"That's the highest Queensland's been for around 20 years," he said.

"Although [it's] still not quite as high as the peak years for interstate migration to Queensland in the early 1990s."

Provisional internal migration figures from the ABS showed Queensland had a net gain of 7,237 people in the September 2020 quarter.

The number of people arriving in Queensland from other states fell in comparison with the previous quarter.

But, crucially, fewer people left Queensland, with departures at their lowest level since December 1994.

In net terms, Queensland gained more than 4,000 people from New South Wales in the September quarter.

Last week, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told parliament more people were moving to Queensland's regional areas rather than to Brisbane.

"This is contributing to the highest investment in new houses in Queensland since 1994," she said.


Bresse to impress: the world's best chicken is now available in Australia

If chefs seem more excited than usual this weekend it may be because finally – after decades of false hope and failed attempts – Bresse chickens are set to be available to Sydney restaurants.

Bresse is a 400-year-old chicken breed many chefs believe is the world's most delicious thanks to its juicy, deeply flavoured, buttery meat.

By law the birds must be raised in the eastern French region of Bresse to earn their protected name (in the same way champagne can only be made in Champagne), meaning the prized poulet will be sold as "Australian Bresse" in NSW.

"The French guard Bresse genetics with their life," says Luke Winder, founder of Tathra Place Free Range farm in Wombeyan Caves, 50 kilometres north of Goulburn. "There are only two companies in the United States with the rights to Bresse genetics, for instance. It takes a lot of money and dedication to transport the eggs outside of France."

With his wife Pia, Winder is breeding Australian Bresse in partnership with NSW business CopperTree Farms, which specialises in supplying retired dairy cow steaks to hatted restaurants.

In addition to online sale through Hudson Meats and Two Providores, the chickens are set to debut at Crown fine-diner Woodcut in a fortnight, plus Firedoor in Surry Hills and Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, Bondi.

A whole two-kilogram Bresse is expected to be priced around $200 to share, with variance depending on the restaurant and preparation. Certainly more expensive than Ross and Cobb breed chickens common to the commercial chook market, but still a far cry from the €290 ($490) it costs for Bresse poached in pig's bladder at the three-Michelin-starred Epicure restaurant in Paris.

Winder is tight-lipped on how much CopperTree Farms paid for Bresse genetics rights, but The Sydney Morning Herald estimates it was more than $1 million, based on previous import costs in the US and Australia.

Winder's Bresse, however, are proud and handsome birds with a French tricolore of white plumage, red combs and steel-blue feet. Most of their days are spent scratching for worms and insects on Tathra Place pasture, guarded by loyal Maremma sheepdogs against foxes and other predators.

Whereas French Bresse spend their last eight to 15 days in a small cage being fattened with maize and milk, Winder "finishes" his chickens in a coop where they can still move freely.

"A few Australian farmers have tried to breed Bresse commercially over the years, but no one has been successful," he says. Tathra Place now has 850 Bresse and Winder is growing the flock to sell 1000 chickens per week.

"I was told by other farmers that the males aren't fertile, the laying rate is low and, even if you can get some eggs to hatch, you'll lose 50 per cent [of chicks] in the first week. But I managed to get them healthy and they've gone from laying at around 20 per cent up to 75 per cent."




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