Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Australia will stop sending detained asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea and refugees given the option of permanent citizenship or transfer to Nauru

The federal government is ending offshore processing in Papua New Guinea for asylum seekers detained after trying to reach Australia by boat.

The arrangement was set up in 2013 under the then-Labor government and authorised regional processing in PNG.

Under a timeline announced on Wednesday, processing in PNG will permanently end on December 31.

As of July this year, there were 124 asylum seekers in PNG.

From January, PNG will have responsibility for those who remain, the Australian and PNG governments said in a joint statement. This means any asylum seekers still in PNG will be offered a pathway to permanent migration, including citizenship.

PNG will also provide support to those temporarily in the country awaiting transfer to a third country.

Prior to the December deadline, Australia will offer asylum seekers in PNG 'voluntary transfer' to its offshore processing centre on the Pacific island of Nauru.

'This government's strong border protection policies - including a commitment to regional processing - have not changed,' Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said. 'Anyone who attempts to enter Australia illegally by boat will be returned, or sent to Nauru.'

Ms Andrews said PNG and Nauru had been longstanding partners in the fight against people smuggling. 'I thank them for their close cooperation and support,' she said.

The federal government in September signed a new agreement with Nauru, which began offshore processing in 2012, to continue that arrangement. There are about 107 detainees in Nauru.

Between 2008 and 2013, more than 50,000 people arrived in Australia on more than 820 boats and at least 1,200 died at sea, the government said.


High-profile real estate agent is SACKED after posting a 'racist' comment about China

A Melbourne real estate agent has been given the sack after a 'racist' comment he posted online sparked public outcry. Matthew Scafidi has been permanently stood down from his position as franchisee director of real estate agency Jellis Craig in the inner-city suburb Mitcham.

The self-confessed 'home gym enthusiast' questioned the origins of a piece of workout equipment in a post to his personal Facebook page on Monday. 'No Australia Made logo on this one, can I assume on this and price that it's a Chinese import? Wanting to avoid Chinese imports if I can,' he asked.

The since-deleted post quickly caused a stir on social media with other Facebook users claiming Mr Scafidi's sentiments were 'racist'.

One woman re-uploaded a screenshot of the offending post and claimed the real estate agent was making the following points.

'1. Chinese imports are cheap and shoddy and 2. People with Chinese origins are not part of Australian community,' she wrote.

'It is disturbing to see this comment from an individual like Matthew who runs business in Mitcham where the three largest ancestries in 2016 were English, Australian and Chinese.'

Several members of the wider community also took offence to the post and expressed their grievances in the Google reviews for Jellis Craig.


Jewish College asks parents, relatives for vaccination certificates

Moriah College in Sydney’s eastern suburbs has asked parents for copies not only of their own vaccination certificates, but also those of everyone in their house aged over 12 and all people who are in regular contact with students.

The school sent a letter to parents last week, asking them to email the information to the school by October 11. “Vaccination status will only be considered as confirmed on receipt of a copy of a vaccination certificate,” the letter said.

“[The information] will assist us with the planning of events and activities as we analyse the risk of inviting parents and family members onto campus.” All information would be confidential, it said. A spokeswoman for the school said supplying the information was not compulsory.

“As the School prepares to reopen and as a part of our COVID-safe plan, we are asked to examine our risk exposure to the virus,” Moriah’s letter said. “The School will therefore be asking parents to provide information about their child/ren’s vaccination status in much the same way as we ask for other vaccination details.”

Other schools - such as Kings, Trinity Grammar, Kincoppal Rose Bay and SCEGGS Darlinghurst - have asked parents to update their children’s vaccination status. Santa Sabina has asked for the vaccination status of both parents and students.

“Sharing this information is completely voluntary and confidential but will assist in reducing the intensity of the response should there be a case here at Santa Sabina,” principal Paulina Skerman wrote. Some, such as St Catherines and MLC School, have not requested any student or parent information.

Teachers are required to be fully vaccinated by November 8, but no such government rule applies to students aged 12 or over who are eligible for vaccination. There is no rule preventing the children of unvaccinated adults from attending school, or their parents from picking them up.

When businesses reopen at 70 per cent community vaccination, only vaccinated patrons will be allowed inside. However, schools differ from businesses such as pubs, restaurants and beauty salons because education is legally compulsory.

Moriah’s letter did not tell parents there would be consequences if parents, siblings or family members were unvaccinated.

“Health advice from the NSW government is that high-vaccinated school communities will help to minimise the transmission of COVID-19,” the letter from the college’s vice principal, Roberta Goot, said.

“The college has accordingly been advised by the Association of Independent Schools (AIS) to communicate with our families and gather information about their vaccination status to assist in the safe opening and operation of the college.

“We therefore ask you to complete the attached table with the names, year groups and vaccination status of any student at Moriah College; the names and vaccination status of all other members of your household aged 12 years and over, and the names and vaccinations status of anyone else who is in regular contact with your children, e.g. grandparents who drop off or collect children on a regular basis.

“All information provided will be treated as confidential. Please email the completed table to [the school] together with copies of all the relevant vaccination certificates by Monday October 11.”

If family members were awaiting their second vaccination, the school asked that their certificates be forwarded as soon as that dose was received.

The head of AISNSW, Geoff Newcombe, said the association passed on NSW Health advice directly to member schools, including the Public Health Order, which all schools must follow.

“The PHO makes it clear that parents and other visitors who are doubly vaccinated may only come onto a school site for purposes such as volunteering or coaching. However, the guidelines applicable to a school’s LGA should be followed,” Dr Newcombe.

“For any other situation, schools conduct their own risk assessment based on their individual circumstances.”

Vaccination rates are high in NSW, with the state expected to hit 70 per cent double vaccination for eligible adults sometime on Wednesday, and first dose rates close to 90 per cent.

Face-to-face learning is due to resume for the youngest and oldest students in the greater Sydney lockdown area on October 18. Years 2, 6 and 11 return on October 25, and the remaining students go back to school on November 1.

Masks will be compulsory for teachers and high school students, and will be strongly recommended for primary school students. Moriah’s back-to-school brochure said masks should be worn indoors and outdoors unless eating or drinking.


Bald Hills Wind Farm cover-up exposed

IT’S a wind farm, not a mushroom farm.

But as the Supreme Court of Victoria heard last week, that old adage about keeping them in the dark and feeding them on horse manure, certainly applies to the relationship between the operators of the Bald Hills Wind Farm and neighbouring farmers.

What can only be described as an extensive cover-up to hide such things as evidence of the highly irritating noise coming from faulty turbine gearboxes, came to light during a searching cross-examination of key Infrastructure Capital Group (ICG) employee, James Arthur.

It revealed, among other things, how the owner-operator of the Bald Hills Wind Farm, the IC Group, tried to remove, avoid or hide evidence of non-compliance, even to the point of accepting “liquidated damages” payments because of “tonal audibility defects” with a majority of the Senvion turbine gearboxes, while at the same time denying the complaints of neighbours about exactly that issue and pursuing the State Government for compliance approval.

In a feature of Day 9 at the Supreme Court hearing last Friday, Georgina Costello, barrister for the plaintiffs, local landowners, John Zakula and Noel Uren, demonstrated how ICG had known about the “special audible characteristics” coming from the faulty turbine gearboxes, not only from the complainants, but also from Marshall Day Acoustics, their own acoustic experts, and the turbine manufacturers Senvion Australia, as early as April 2017, but by 2021, the problem has still not been rectified.

Since the demise of Senvion in May 2019, ICG has been working with Vestas Australian Wind Technology Pty to try to fix the problem which may ultimately require the replacement of the gearboxes in most, if not all 52 turbines.

In August 2020, Vestas provided a condition report to ICG which included the following details:

“The Bald Hills Wind Farm, completed in 2015, consists of 52 Senvion MM92 wind turbines. Since commissioning, Senvion had been working with the owner, Infrastructure Capital Group, ICG, to resolve a gearbox tonality issue present in the majority of the turbines which breached Senvion’s contractual noise warranty and generated noise complaints from the community.”

Ms Costello pursed Mr Arthur over Vestas’ statement:

“There’s still a tonal problem affecting the turbines today, isn’t there?” Ms Costello asked Mr Arthur.

Mr Arthur: “That’s correct, yes.”

Ms Costello had earlier demonstrated that by April 2017, Marshall Day Acoustics had also told the Bald Hills Wind Farm operators that there was a tonal noise issue with the gearboxes in the turbines.

It was around the same time as Mr Arthur acknowledged reading letters from John Zakula complaining “the noise was causing him considerable disturbance and seriously affecting his sleep” as well as “affecting his health, causing anxiety, stress, headaches and other issues”.

Mr Zakula said: “The noise is severe and at its worst at night and it’s continuous through the entire nights and days… exceeding night-time levels as specified in the planning permit,”

And he also specifically reported, in October 2016 and November 2016, that “there are significantly notable special audible characteristics”.

Ms Costello went on to say that while the operators of the wind farm claimed to have successfully implemented a curtailment program, to reduce noise levels under certain conditions, it hadn’t been operating successfully in 2015, 2016 and 2017 when neighbours started complaining about the noise.

Ms Costello also demonstrated how uncertain wind speed measurement, due to interference from surrounding turbines, meant some turbines continued to operate in unrestricted mode, and are still making excessive noise.

Ms Costello went on to describe how the Wind Farm operators had changed its complaints’ handling process without telling the neighbours, effectively allowing them to ignore any repeated issues.

A company secretary for ICG said in an email (May 12, 2017): “We don’t want to engage with the complainants until the Marshall Day report confirming that the wind farm noise is compliant with the regulations is confirmed by the EPA”.

Mr Arthur agreed, that in consultation with “the relevant government department” and “the National Wind Farm Commissioner”, they didn’t believe they had to investigate repeat complaints and the policy was changed in 2018 without telling the neighbours until 2020.

Ms Costello: “So you didn’t tell the plaintiffs – Mr Uren or Mr Zakula – that you were going to change the complaints handling process so that you weren’t going to investigate repeat complaints, did you, until much later? That’s right, isn’t it?”

Mr Arthur: “That’s right, we didn’t tell them at the time, that’s correct.”

Ms Costello: “And poor old Mr Zakula kept writing to you, didn’t he, before you told him that you weren’t going to bother investigating repeat complaints. That’s right, isn’t it, Mr Arthur?”

Mr Arthur: “Yes, Mr Zakula was still writing, I believe, yes.”




No comments: