Speak English, respect our values: PM’s citizenship crackdown

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes a selfie with new n citizens Lydia Banda-Mukuka and Chilandu Kalobi Chilaika after the citizenship ceremony on Day in Canberra on Tuesday 26 January 2016. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew MearesWould-be ns will face tough new hurdles – including a new English language and “n values” test – and have to wait several more years before being eligible for citizenship, under a major shake-up of the migration program.
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Migrants could be asked whether they support female genital mutilation and forced marriages, or whether it’s acceptable to strike a spouse at home, under proposed values-based citizenship test questions to be put to the public for feedback.

Applicants will also have to demonstrate they have attempted to integrate into n society, providing evidence of a job, the enrolment of their children in school, and even membership of community organisations.

Under the current system, migrants enter on a range of visas. They can then become permanent residents but have to wait a further year before applying for citizenship. The one-year wait will rise to four years under the redesigned scheme.

The new measures are the second tranche of changes to ‘s immigration system in less than a week. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton announced the 457 foreign worker visa program would be axed and replaced by an “ns first” approach to skilled migration.

The two-step push underscores the Turnbull government’s shift to the right on immigration and border protection, which has been driven in part by Mr Dutton and other leading conservatives. They will probably be welcomed by the conservative base of the Coalition and nationalist parties such as One Nation, but some sections of ‘s migrant communities could feel targeted.

The changes are due to take effect from Thursday, but they will have to pass both houses of Parliament, opening a fresh political fight with the Labor opposition and crossbenchers.

Mr Turnbull said the citizenship changes, to be announced on Thursday, would put “n values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements”.

“Membership of the n family is a privilege and should be afforded to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better . We must ensure that our citizenship program is conducted in our national interest,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Any conduct that is inconsistent with n values will be considered as part of this process. Criminal activity including family violence or involvement in organised crime is thoroughly inconsistent with n values.”

Mr Dutton said ns “shouldn’t be embarrassed to say we want great people to call home”.

“We want people who abide by our laws and our values and we should expect nothing less,” he said.

A third tranche of changes is expected and could include the creation of a “provisional visa” class which would tighten access to social security payments, as Fairfax Media revealed in November.

At present, citizenship applicants sit a 20-question test and must correctly answer at least 75 per cent. The quiz asks factual multiple-choice questions about Anzac Day, ‘s system of government and the colours of the Aboriginal flag.

The new quiz will not dump these questions, but “values-based” questions will be added to assess would-be citizens’ understanding of and commitment to “n values”.

If a person fails three times, they will have to wait two years before trying again.

A stand-alone English language test examining reading, writing and listening skills will also be introduced.

A permanent resident has most of the same rights as an n citizen, though they must have a valid visa with authority to travel if they wish to return to . They also can’t vote in elections, unless they were enrolled to vote as a British subject before 1984.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Wednesday said the 457 changes were “already unravelling”, pointing to an analysis by the ALP that showed just 8.6 per cent of people currently on foreign worker visas were working in jobs that would be excluded under the new visa system. Mr Dutton disputed that claim.

About 7 million permanent migrants have settled in since 1945. In 2014-15, 190,000 places were available for permanent migrants in ‘s immigration program.

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Anies Baswedan poised to be next governor of Jakarta after bitter contest

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JAKARTA, INDONESIA- APRIL 19: Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama (L), with his wife Veronica (R), and son Nicholas (C) arrive to cast their ballot the second round at a polling station in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 19, 2017.?? Photo Jefri Tarigan. Photo: Jefri TariganJakarta: Anies Baswedan is poised to become the next governor of Jakarta in October after one of the most bitter and polarising elections in the history of Indonesia’s nascent democracy.
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Two hours after voting closed Mr Anies had an unassailable lead over the incumbent, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who is ethnically Chinese and Christian, following a peaceful polling day.

The election has been portrayed as a test of Indonesia’s much vaunted pluralism and an ominous presage of the role sectarian politics could play in the 2019 national election.

Mr Anies’ victory is also a fillip for former army strongman Prabowo Subianto, whose Gerindra party endorsed Mr Anies and his multimillionaire running mate, Sandiaga Uno.

Mr Prabowo, who was defeated by Joko Widodo in the 2014 elections, has signalled he intends to re-stand for president in 2019.

On the eve of the election, Mr Anies compared the gubernatorial election to the Battle of Badr in 624 CE, considered a turning point in the Prophet Muhammad’s struggle to establish Islam and defeat his pagan opponents.

“Tonight’s meeting, heading towards the Badr war tomorrow, at the time the Prophet said that help from God will arrive if our intention to go to the war is to fight for the poor, to defend the oppressed,” he was quoted saying in the media.

President Joko Widodo, who is an ally of Ahok but said he would remain impartial during the elections, urged Jakartans to willingly accept whomever was voted leader.

“Political differences between us should not divide our unity because we must remember we are all brothers and sisters,” he said while casting his ballot in Central Jakarta.

Mr Anies and Mr Sandiaga embraced after learning of the early count results, a sample of final results from polling stations, which are generally a reliable prediction of election outcomes.

“We are committed to safeguard diversity and to fight for unity at the same time.”

Mr Sandiaga said: “We are all friends. Jakarta is united. We will forget the months that have passed, we will look at Jakarta for the next five years.”

A remarkably upbeat and philosophical Ahok congratulated his opponents but said they would wait for the formal result.

He said he hoped Mr Anies and Mr Sandiaga would complete the programs he had started.

“We will forget all the problems we had during the campaign. Jakarta is the home for everybody.”

Ahok said God gave power and took power away.

Eight months ago Ahok’s victory in the gubernatorial elections seemed assured.

His brash, take-no-prisoners approach in City Hall made him some enemies including among those who were evicted or opposed the Jakarta Bay reclamation.

However he was widely admired for his tough stance on corruption and can-do attitude to flood mitigation, overhauling a stodgy bureaucracy and addressing Jakarta’s traffic woes and polls found the majority were satisfied with his performance as governor.

But Ahok’s destiny was forever changed last September when he told voters they had been deceived by opponents who used a scripture from the Koran – Al-Maidah – to argue Muslims should not be led by a non-Muslim.

The ill-advised comments were seized on by Ahok’s opponents, including the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

Ahok was put on trial for blasphemy amid mass rallies calling for his incarceration that threatened the political stability of the capital.

Mr Anies, a former university rector and education minister who had a reputation as a moderate Muslim, has been accused of running a dog-whistle campaign by controversially reaching out to hardline groups like the FPI.

Religion was omnipresent during the election campaign.

Politics even infiltrated schools: Dilla Rosa, a 43-year-old Muslim housewife, told Fairfax Media she was disturbed when her Grade 5 son came home and said his religion teacher had told students they had to elect Muslim leaders.

“Politics was taught there – for elementary students it is not appropriate. The school wasn’t even in Jakarta,” said Ms Dilla, who voted for Ahok because he had “clear programs and real results”.

Telling children how Muslims should vote “put pressure on them” if their families had different beliefs. “It was upsetting.”

At 4am on voting day, Fairfax Media went to Al Azhar, a mosque in South Jakarta.

This was where organisers behind Tasmaya Al-Maidah – an app that urged Muslims from outside Jakarta to uphold Islam by “guarding” polling booths – had held a press conference on Monday.

The police had banned the mass mobilisation but Tasmaya Al-Maidah committee member Gimy said they were powerless to prevent them. But the police conducted “sweeping” raids of buses on Jakarta’s borders, and the 500 expected to assemble at Al Azhar were no-where in sight. About 30 people listened to a moderate sermon, during which the Imam prayed for a peaceful election.

Indonesia’s police chief Tito Karnavian said the election had run smoothly with no major incidents. Isolated complaints by Ahok supporters of intimidation at polling booths were “misunderstandings”, he said, that had been exaggerated by the media.

On Thursday, the embattled Ahok must meet his next Waterloo, when prosecutors make their sentence demand for his alleged blasphemy.

He faces being jailed for a maximum five years. However the sting will have been taken out of the court case and its attendant protests, which at times threatened political stability, following Wednesday’s election loss.

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Robert Dillon: Seven Days in League

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ThursdayTHE NRL has announced a crackdown on slappingbut Broncos coach Wayne Bennett reckons it’s not enough.
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Benny also wants head-patting outlawed.

“It shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” he declares. “I think it is disrespectful.

“That’s not what it is about to me. I don’t want them [Broncos] doing it — I told them that.”

It’s a fair point. I mean, in this era of concussion and litigation, how long before a player suffers career-ending brain traumafrom a pat on the melon?

It’s also evidence that the great coach is getting soft in his old age.

It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that Brisbane enforcer Gordy Tallis went ballistic and punched holes in Penrith’s Ben Ross, after which Bennett observed: “That’s football, no one condones it [fisticuffs] but that’s what makes the game what it is.

“They’re tough menandbig men,andit’s going to happen from time to time …it’s no more than an isolated incidentandthat’s how it should be treated.”

Meanwhile, Laurie Daley announces asquad of 52 Blues contendersand there is not a singleNewcastle player in it.

What an outrage. What about, or, or umm … or.

Yeah well, bloody typical. Newcastle treated as second-class citizens. Again.

Queensland, conversely, will pick and stick as usual. Knights flyer Dane Gagai will be on their right wing, and no doubt he will score at least one hat-trick in the series.

Bugger it. Seven Days ischeering for the Banana Benders this year. Go you Toads.

FridayI note with interest a newspaper investigation into the war of words during last week’s grand final re-match between the Storm andSharks.

Apparently in a half-time flare-up, Melbourne’s Will Chambers calledPaul Gallen a drug cheat, and the Cronulla skipper responded by labelling the Storm salary-cap rorters.

All of which raises the question of who deserves the high moral ground?

Call me a mercenary, but I could live with copping a free speedboat or thousands of dollars paid in a brown-paper bag. Not so sure I’d be that keen on injecting a product labelled “for equine use only”.

But each to their own.

In the Friday night clash between the Knights and the Roosters, a high-tempo contest entertains a bumper crowd of21,412.

All except the long-suffering journalists and photographers wrestling with the McDonald Jones Stadium wifi, which is officially the worst on the planet.

If not for my trusty homing pigeon, there would be no match report in Saturday’s Newcastle Herald.

SaturdayNewcastle Jets lose their last game of the season to join their rugby league counterparts, the Knights, in the competition cellar.

In what seems a classic case of “anything you can do, we can do worse”, our two footballing flagships now have three wooden spoons apiece.

While Jets fans are suicidal, graphic artist/photographer extraordinaire Grant Sproule sees a tourism opportunity.

Coffs Harbour has the Big Banana. Goulburn has the Big Merino. Ballina has the Big Prawn.

Why can’t Newcastle have the Big Spoon, proudly on display at McDonald Jones Stadium?

Good thinking, Sprouley.

You’re such a stirrer.

SundayMemo Newcastle Knights. When the Sharks visit in round 26, lay on the VIP treatment for their nearest and dearest.

I suggest transporting wives, girlfriends and kids of the Cronulla players to the game in stretch limos, then entertaining them in the plushest corporate box.

Don’t spare the Dom Perignon and lobster. Maybe a bouncy castle and face painting for the kids.

Whatever you do, don’t repeat the silly mistakePenrith make before their 28-2 belting from the Sharkies at Pepper Stadium.

“I couldn’t believe ourwivesandpartners got general admission tickets,”Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen fumes. “Ourwivesandpartners sat on the hill. They are supposed to get seats …that was extra motivation for us, too.

“I thought that was pretty ordinary.”

Given that the Sharkies hammeredthe Knights 62-0 in their last visit to McDonald Jones Stadium, it might be wise to roll out the red carpet.

MondayKnights chairman Brian McGuigan confirms the NRL is deep in negotiations to sell Newcastle’s NRL franchise to the Wests Group.

In keeping with the looming change in ownership, Seven Days suggests a fresh start with a new team nickname might be appropriate.

The Newcastle Maggots has a nice ring to it. Well, at least compared to the Ipswich Knights.

Elsewhere, Jack Bird’s dad and Sharks coach Shane Flanagan appearto have contrasting viewson why he signed with the Broncos.

“Everyone is giving him shit about it, saying he is money-hungry … but it’s not about the money,’’ Mick Bird says.

Coach Flanagan begs to differ: “In the end, it’s probably about money.”

The bottom line for the Knights, unfortunately, is that Bird brushed them, as did his namesake Greg a few months ago.

As they say, Birds of a feather …

TuesdayNewcastle coach Nathan Brown confirms the club’s interest in signing Warriorsplaymaker Kieran Foran.

I suppose there’s no harm in asking …but if I had a dollar for every player linked to the Knights in recent times, I’d be docked competition points for breaching the salary cap.

TOURIST ATTRACTION: Why can’t Newcastle cash in on our status as multi-code wooden spooners? Digital carve-up: Grant Sproule

WednesdayOff-contract Wests Tigers skipper Aaron Woods discusses his options on his weekly radio segment, just as he did last night on his weekly Foxtel segment.

He’s about the only player in whom the Knights haven’t expressed interest. Watch this space, perhaps?

Government hints Powerhouse may stay

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The state government has given its strongest indication yet that the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo could remain open in some form, a move that has concerned some of those backing its relocation to Parramatta.
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Minister for the Arts Don Harwin announced on Tuesday a new period of consultation and preparation of a final business case for the planned move of the museum which the government said “could include keeping some Powerhouse presence at the current site in Ultimo”.

The announcement drew criticism from advocates of moving the museum to western Sydney.

Labor leader Luke Foley described the announcement as a “stab in the back” for people in Parramatta.

Mr Foley cited a promise made by former premier Mike Baird that the museum would be “entirely located” in Parramatta.

“Now that he’s gone, [Premier Gladys] Berejiklian and Mr Harwin are prepared to trash that promise,” he said.

But campaigners against the controversial move welcomed the suggestion.

“There are strong arguments for Parramatta to have a museum of its own,” said Grace Cochrane from the Powerhouse Museum Alliance. “But the Powerhouse has been there for over 100 years and it’s so significant to Ultimo. It’s [a place] people come [to] from around the world”.

Head of the Western Sydney Business Chamber, David Borger, said: “It’s disappointing that the entire museum is not moving to Parramatta”.

Speculation has been rife since Gladys Berejiklian took over the Premiership that the state government could reverse its contentious plan to move the museum, which critics note could cost more than $1 billion.

But soon after being sworn in as Premier, Ms Berejiklian affirmed the government’s plans, asking whether critics of the plan felt that western Sydney “did not deserve world class a cultural institution”.

But a plan to sell the museum’s current site at Ultimo has also drawn criticism from architects.

Any sale would reap up to $200 million for the state government, according to estimates cited in a parliamentary inquiry.

Mr Harwin said a final business case for the move would be released later this year and expand on options for the Parramatta move, with additional public consultation also to open “soon”.

“The NSW government is committed to building a truly iconic museum in Western Sydney,” Mr Harwin said.

Parramatta Council said it welcomed the government’s announcement of further consultation, but said it would also launch an online campaign to highlight the depth of community support for the museum’s relocation, to be entitled We Want the Powerhouse Museum.

The state government was criticised for the degree of secrecy on the project at a recent parliamentary inquiry into the sale at which the state government did not produce the preliminary business case for the project.

The Museum’s current director Dolla Merrillees told parliament in February that the campaign against the move had made it difficult to attract sponsors for the new facility, rebadged as the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

Three measures by which China’s students are ahead of Finland’s

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n students are twice as likely to say they expect to go to university as students in Finland, nearly 35 per cent more likely to say they want to be one of the best in their class, and three times as likely to have a paid job while they’re at school, a global study into student wellbeing has found.
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They are also placed far higher than the OECD average in these areas, according to a new report released worldwide on Wednesday night, which is based on the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results.

The findings suggest n students are more motivated to do well during and after high school than students in countries such as Finland, which has long been viewed as having the optimal education system.

The report also provides a different view of n students after recent concerns about ‘s declining academic results in international and national assessments.

The 2015 PISA results showed that n students are doing worse in reading, maths and science in real terms and in comparison to other countries, and are now just above the OECD average.

The 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) report found that has seen little improvement in these areas since 1995, and last year’s NAPLAN results also found that literacy and numeracy results have flatlined.

However, the latest PISA report, which focuses on student wellbeing, has found that more than 54 per cent of n students expect to undertake a university degree, compared with an OECD average of 44 per cent, and more than 74 per cent say they aim to be one of the best students in their class, compared to an OECD average of 59 per cent.

Nearly 35 per cent of n students work while they are at school, compared with an OECD average of about 23 per cent.

Peter Goss, school education program director at the Grattan Institute, attributed ‘s strong performance in these areas to the school system and the nature of available jobs.

“One glimpse might be that the year 12 and HSC systems strongly reward high performance,” Dr Goss said.

“The returns for students doing higher education are high in compared to other countries because our economy has a higher-level service sector with fewer lower-skilled manufacturing jobs.

“And that may focus their minds in school.”

The focus on broader wellbeing in may also play a part in students performing better than average in non-test measures.

“Different cultures value different things,” Dr Goss said.

“There are some countries where academic performance is paramount and some countries where a broader education is seen as most important, and working may play a part in this.”

Sue Thomson, the director of educational monitoring and research at the n Council for Education Research, said she was surprised by the findings and that it was good to see that students have high levels of motivation.

However, now needs to focus on the 30 per cent of n students who only intend to complete high school, far higher than the OECD average of 18 per cent of students, she said.

The extremely low popularity of vocational education is also cause for concern, Dr Thomson said, with 3 per cent of n students aiming to do a VET course compared with an average of 15 per cent of students in OECD countries.

“The jobs that students who only have year 12 can do are disappearing and kids who are most at risk are those without plans for when they finish school,” she said.

“I think VET hasn’t been organised very well in the last few years and we need to promote it as a good alternative past finishing school.”

The importance of doing well in school and going on to university could also be leading to greater anxiety among n teenagers, with 68 per cent saying they feel very anxious about tests even if they are well prepared, compared with an average of 55.5 per cent of students across OECD countries and 49 per cent of Finnish students.

Nearly 47 per cent of n students say they get very tense when they study, far higher than the average of 37 per cent and 18 per cent of students in Finland.

Girls were far more likely to experience anxiety, with nearly 74 per cent saying they worry about getting poor grades, compared with 57 per cent of boys.

“It’s clearly an issue,” Dr Thomson said. “Some groups are much more anxious than others and it could be a matter of tapping into this to see what we could be doing.”

The report is based on responses from students aged between 15 and 16 and school principals across the 35 OECD countries and an additional 37 countries.

Airbnb users left hanging for answers by NSW Government

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Airbnb watchers were left hanging on Wednesday when long-anticipated proposals for new legislation on short-term holiday lets were put on hold by the NSW government.
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Instead of making their position on short-term letting clear, the government stepped back from a parliamentary report and its recommendations that would have allowed a massive increase in short-term holiday letting in apartment blocks.

The government was due to provide a detailed response to the report from an 18-month parliamentary inquiry into holiday letting, including proposed regulations for Airbnb-style hosts.

Instead they posted a broad-stroke response that gave unqualified support to only three of its 12 recommendations and announced that “an options paper with approaches to implement a whole of government framework will be released for consultation.”

They gave qualified support to the other nine recommendations handed down by the inquiry.

Industry insiders say the holiday letting landscape has changed so quickly that the original report was out of date almost before it had started.

Now in what many apartment residents will see as at least a partial victory, the government has effectively questioned the main proposal to make holiday lets “complying developments”, which would have removed the legal basis on which apartment blocks currently pass bylaws excluding short-stay or holiday rentals.

The inquiry into holiday letting legislation – chaired by Nationals MP Mark Coure – was launched almost two years ago, prompted by Airbnb hosts being threatened with $1 million-plus local council fines for running unauthorised businesses in their homes.

However, since then Airbnb has grown exponentially in and recently announced that Sydney is among its top five cities in the world, in terms of usage.

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As a result, Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean have called for more consultation with key stakeholders to get a more up-to-date picture.

“The inquiry recommendations make sense, but the regulation of short-term letting needs broader engagement with the industry and the community to establish a model that enables it to continue to flourish and innovate whilst ensuring the amenity and safety of users and the wider community are protected,” Mr Roberts said.

“It’s sensible to take time on a complex issue like this, which is why we are releasing an options paper next month.”

“We don’t want a holiday accommodation market that’s so over-regulated it puts people off coming here but the rights of residents who live near these properties must be considered too,” says Mr Kean.

“While short-term holiday letting, if properly managed and respected by all parties, can be a boost to the local economy, the need to protect people’s rights to the quiet enjoyment of their own homes is equally important.”

Both critics and supporters of the Coure Report recommendations welcomed the government’s decision to consult more broadly with stakeholders.

Airbnb, which has over 40,000 listings across NSW with hosts earning an average of $4400 each year, welcomed the NSW government’s decision to look more closely at the issue.

“We appreciate that these things take time and that it’s important to get the balance right,” Airbnb country manager Sam McDonagh said.

“We’re confident that Premier [Gladys] Berejiklian and the NSW government will join the state governments in Tasmania and South to embrace home sharing, and introduce fair regulations that allow more people in NSW to share their extra space.”

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, 70 per cent of whose constituents live in apartments, sees the call for further discussion as an indication that the government is listening to the concerns of strata communities.

“It’s clear from the many constituents and various stakeholders who have engaged with both the government and myself, that further consultation is needed to ensure strata communities are empowered to make decisions for their buildings, while also acknowledging the role accommodation providers like Airbnb can play in a global city,” he told Domain.

“In parliament the Minister [Matt Kean] has demonstrated his respect for strata communities and stressed the importance of protecting people’s rights to the quiet enjoyment of their own homes.”

Leading strata lawyer Stephen Goddard, spokesman for the apartment owners lobby group Owners Corporation Network and its campaign Our Strata Community Our Choice welcomed the more considered approach.

“We look forward to a more detailed consultation on how to manage short-term letting in apartment buildings,” he told Domain. “Apartment owners deserve the right to decide if short-term rentals are permitted within our strata communities and if so on what basis it is permitted.”

The hotel industry, facing increased competition from online letting agencies like Airbnb, was also glad to be given the chance to restate its concerns.

“TAA looks forward to further consultation with government to ensure a resolution is reached that ensures the sustainability of the commercial accommodation sector which currently injects $2.3 billion directly into the economy,” says Carol Giuseppi, CEO of Tourism Accommodation .

However there is concern in the holiday rental industry that the government might move too far in the other direction, especially with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

“Short term rental accommodation is a key driver of tourism in rural and regional NSW,” said Jordan Condo, Director of Corporate Affairs for online holiday letting agency Stayz. “Stayz remains steadfastly opposed to any measures that restrict short-term rental options outside of metropolitan Sydney.”

Stayz and the Tourist Association of shocked observers recently when they issued a joint statement calling for curbs on holiday letting of residential homes in city areas.

The statement called on the government to introduce “restrictions on short-term rentals in residential buildings in metropolitan areas in order to mitigate the effects that such rentals have on housing affordability and accessibility.”

The Project launches campaign to ban plastic bags in three states

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Channel Ten’s The Project has launched an ambitious campaign with Clean Up to ban plastic bags in New South Wales, Victoria and Western .
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In an editorial on the show on Wednesday night, written by host Waleed Aly and The Project’s managing editor Tom Whitty, state premiers were urged to have the courage to ban the bags to save the environment.

Aly, a Fairfax Media columnist, challenged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Victorian Premer Daniel Andrews, and WA Premier Mark McGowan to step up.

“A Senate Inquiry into marine plastic pollution from last year recommended the federal government support the states to ban plastic bags,” Aly said.

“Unless we give them a push, nothing will change, and you and I will keep using plastic bags. But we can change this. You can change this. So now’s the time to be heard.”

Clean Up , a national not-for-profit organisation that organises the annual Clean Up Day, has endorsed the push.

If the states agree, there will effectively be nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags – South , Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT have already banned them, while Queensland plans to ban them from next year.

Viewers have been urged to sign a Change苏州模特佳丽招聘 petition to show their support for a ban, as well as writing to each state premier. The petition attracted almost 6000 signatures in half an hour.

A similar petition calling for plastic bags to be banned in NSW, launched in February, attracted more than 15,000 signatures.

Aly said each plastic bag is used for an average of 12 minutes – then up to 6 billion each year are thrown into landfill across , where they will take hundreds of years to break down.

Terrie-Ann Johnson, managing director of Clean Up , said people don’t really think about the environmental impact of plastic bags.

“It’s really frustrating because these things are having an enormous impact on the environment. They’re killing our precious wildlife. We don’t need plastic bags,” she told The Project.

???”Let’s put aside landfill for a minute and think about the 80 million plastic bags that end up in our litter stream. Think about the poor animal in the marine environment that chokes or it starves because it’s got a gutful of non-nutritious material. It’s a horrible, horrible death.

“Internationally, is really lagging behind the rest of the world.”

China, Taiwan, France, Italy, The Netherlands and Kenya are among other countries which have already banned plastic bags.

Federal environment minister Josh Frydenberg told The Project he supported all states introducing a ban, while supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths said they would comply with such a ban.

Aly urged viewers to sign the petition, tweet the premiers, and “email them, call them, hit them up on their Facebook pages”.

“Show them that there’s plenty of political goodwill in having the courage to ban the bag,” Aly said.

“And we’ll all wait and see who will lead the way. NSW, Victoria or WA? Who’s going to ban the bag first?”

Meet the 48 millionaires who pay no income tax

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Forty-eight of ‘s highest earners paid no income tax in 2014-15, not even the Medicare levy, according to an analysis of Tax Office data that lends weight to calls for legislated minimum tax payments.
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Each of the 48 earned more than $1 million before deductions, an average of $2.46 million each.

All were able to drive their taxable incomes down below the $18,200 tax-free threshold. Thirty-four reported taxable incomes of zero, while 12 reported combined losses of $13.9 million.

Extraordinarily, the biggest deduction claimed by 19 of the 48 was “cost of managing tax affairs”, averaging about $1.07 million each.

On the face of it, the figures suggest these people spent almost half of their reported incomes managing their tax affairs, a proportion so high as to raise suspicions that their actual incomes were higher.

The Tax Office defines “cost of managing tax affairs” as including the cost of preparing and lodging tax returns, the fees paid to recognised tax advisers, the cost of court appeals and interest charges imposed in relation to tax disputes.

Bizarrely, a handful of the highest earners who escaped the Medicare levy were forced to pay the Medicare levy surcharge. The surcharge is meant to be charged on top of the levy for high earners who don’t have private health insurance, but a budget change in 2008 applied to a broader measure of income than the levy itself.

The levy itself applies only to taxable income, which 579 people earning more than $250,000 managed to cut to less than the tax-free threshold.

Ten claimed a combined $28.5 million for gifts or donations to charities and political parties, equating to $2.8 million each. Two claimed deductions for uniforms or clothing, amounting to $353 each. One claimed a deduction for work-related travel of $863. Two claimed deductions for personal car use averaging $5300 each.

Only eight of the 48 were negatively geared, claiming combined rental losses of $1.54 million.

Most earned their income from businesses, farming or capital gains Several carried forward losses.

The number of million-dollar earners escaping tax has come down in recent years, suggesting some success on the part of the Tax Office, which promised to closely scrutinise high earners with large deductions. At the turn of the decade, 70 million-dollar earners paid no tax. By 2013-14 the number had fallen to 56.

But the continued presence of millionaires who escape the Medicare levy while spending more than $1 million each on their tax affairs has sparked renewed calls for a “Buffett rule” in , under which all high earners would be required to pay a certain proportion of their gross income in tax and the Medicare levy whatever their deductions.

The rule is named after billionaire American investor Warren Buffett, who in 2011 said it was wrong that he should pay less tax, as a proportion of income, than his secretary.

That year then president Barack Obama proposed a minimum tax on the 0.3 per cent of Americans making more than $1 million a year. They would still have been able to claim legitimate expenses as deductions, but they wouldn’t be able to reduce their tax payments below 35 per cent of their pre-deduction income.

In the idea has been taken up by the Greens, who went to the 2016 election promising a minimum tax rate of 35 per cent on the 1 per cent of ns earning more than $300,000 a year.

Greens Treasury spokesman Peter Whish-Wilson was outraged when shown the Tax Office data.

“Currently we have a system where the government is heavying Centrelink recipients for false debts of a few thousand dollars while a wealthy few are getting away with claiming a million dollars each in tax deductions for paying their accountant to exploit gaps in the tax laws,” he said.

“The Greens took a Buffett rule to the last election, and we will take it to the next. Labor grassroots members want their party to do the same, but it inexplicably has ruled it out.

“If Scott Morrison wants to raise revenue to address budget shortfalls then surely there would be no more popular way of doing it than closing these ridiculous loopholes.”

The Treasurer was unavailable for comment.

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Public housing debacle: 10-year wait list despite numerous empty homes advocates claim

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File photo: iStockThirty public housing homes in the Bega Valley sit empty at the same time NSW government figures show no public housing is available in Merimbula for at least 10 years.
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Thatis the claim of the Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast, who believe acentralised maintenance service for public housing isthe issue’smajor contributor.

Now an increasing number of concerned voices are calling for maintenance to be carried out by a local contractor so the homes can be used by Bega Valley families in need.

Any maintenance work required for public housing is organised via a centralised contract in Nowra. Prior to a new tenant taking over, public housing properties must be checked, but if any maintenance is needed, however simple, someone must come from Nowra.

The local Social Justice Advocates (SJA) have been working at the coalface ofrehousing the homeless and those in need.

Mick Brosnan of the SJA said while there were 30 homes unavailable in Bega Valley, there were“well over 1000” homes sitting empty in the state.He placed the blame on a planning decision to centralise maintenance.

Mr Brosnan said the Social Justice Advocates hadcontacted Member for BegaAndrew Constance and have suggested that local maintenance contractors are used to speed up the work needed on public housing homes.

However, there appears little hope of public housing becoming available particularly in Merimbula where according to the Department of Housing’s own figures there is a wait of more than 10 years for any type of property.

The same figures show that residents could wait more than 10 years for a one or three-bedroom propertyin Eden and between two and five years for two or four-bedroom properties.

The department figures show residents of “Bega Valley”(separate from figures for Merimbula or Eden) havea wait of between five and 10 years for one and two-bedroom properties, more than 10 years for a three-bedroom property, but for those looking for a four-bedroom home the wait is two to five years.

In the last couple of years the homeless situation has become so bad in the Bega Valley the SJA purchased caravans, which they use for those finding themselves with nowhere to live. SJA said the crisis shelter at Merimbula’s St Clement’s Church is constantly in use.

“In the last three and a half years we have provided between 500 and 600 nights of accommodation. Our vans are constantly full,” Gavin Bell of the SJAsaid.

The Social Justice Advocates will be presenting their findings to Bega Valley Shire Council prior to the next meeting on April 26 and will be calling on council to partner with them to push for a new maintenance arrangement for existing government housing.

“We also want to unlock Crown Land to get people off the streets and into homes,” Mr Bell said, adding the SJJA would buy cabins to put on any land made available.

The group is looking for practical support for the establishment of a micro housing scheme.

Council is being urged to make representations to Pru Goward, Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister for Social Housing.

“Councillors have asked BVSC to write to the minister and ask for the situation to be rectified,” council’s director community, relations and leisure Anthony Basford said.

His comments followed a question by councillorRussell Fitzpatrick at the last meeting, who asked if council could assist in ensuring maintenance of social housing was transferred to a local provider – either a not-for-profit or non-government agency – to ensure housing repairs were made to properties to make them available for tenants.

A Department of Family and Community Servicesspokeswoman said that the department worksquickly to ensure a prompt turnaround when properties become vacant.

“Like the private sector, FACS is required to inspect vacant dwellings and ensure they are clean, safe and in a habitable standard in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act before they can be relet. LAHC will undertake any necessary repairs to restore to a standard ready for an incoming tenant. There are currently 13 properties undergoing works before they can be relet in the Bega Valley Shire LGA.

“On any given day there are approximately 1,100 of the 117,000 FACS public housing properties across the state where vacant work is being undertaken.

“FACS contracts maintenance for social housing to the private sector across NSW. Lake Maintenance is responsible for maintenance in the Bega Valley area.

“Tenants are encouraged to report maintenance issues directly to the call centre on telephone 1800 422 322, 24 hours, seven days,” the spokeswoman said.

Social housing is also available through theSapphire Coast Tenancy Scheme, which is based at the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, Merimbula.

The scheme is a non-profit community housing organisation that became incorporated in January 1987 with a voluntary board. It has worked tosecureaffordable and appropriate housing for people on low to moderate incomes that have inequitable access to housing options.

The scheme is not controlled by Housing NSW and now has 107 properties, many of which are allocated for specialist need groups or managed on behalf of other not-for-profit organisations in the area.

Merimbula News

Why the maker of Nurofen should have been penalised $54 million more

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When Nurofen-maker Reckitt Benckiser was found guilty of misleading consumers about its painkillers last year, the news was bittersweet.
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How was a $1.7 million penalty adequate for a pharmaceutical giant enjoying $15 billion in sales a year?

Under legislative changes proposed in the n Consumer Law Review: Final Report, released on Wednesday, maximum financial penalties would be increased from $1.1 million to at least $10 million per breach.

In this scenario, Reckitt Benckiser, which made misleading claims about “targeted” pain relief, would have been hit with a $60 million penalty.

“The report is terrific news; we’ve been pushing for greater penalties because they have to be of a size that will have an impact and not simply be seen as a cost of doing business,” said n Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims.

“We were able to increase the Nurofen penalty to $6 million, but I think the public would have wanted a penalty closer to $60 million.”

In its report, Consumer Affairs New Zealand (CAANZ) proposed 18 further legislative changes, which would lead to stronger consumer rights, wipe hazardous products from shelves, and force online sellers to provide accurate prices.

The group, consisting of consumer policy officials, said businesses should ensure products are safe before selling them, as required in countries such as Canada and Singapore.

Some business have argued that this requirement will push up costs, but the report said it will increase their awareness of their responsibility towards providing safe products.

Had this proposal been in place when it took Woolworths to court over knowingly selling unsafe products – such as a fryer with loose handles and a drain cleaner with a faulty safety lid – the ACCC would have had an easy case on its hands.

“This proposal would change that landscape as it would make it illegal to have sold those unsafe goods in the first place,” said Mr Sims. “These are big changes.”

The report also said that it should be easier for consumers to obtain a refund for a faulty product.

It said if a product fails to meet the consumer guarantees within a short specified period of time, the consumer should be able to get a refund or an exchange without needing to prove a “major failure”.

Also, it said the law should be changed so that multiple “non-major” failures were equal to a “major failure”, therefore giving a consumer the right to choose a refund, exchange or opt for a repair.

“If you buy a car and by the time you get it down the street the transmission fails, you’d be entitled to a refund or a replacement without having to show anything else,” said Mr Sims.

“I think these changes plus what we already have are more than what lemon laws can do.”

The report also said that online sellers, including airlines, should be required to show a headline price that includes all extra fees and charges, in a bid to stop consumers being lured by cheap prices, only to be surprised later.

In regards to financial penalties, the report said this should be aligned with competition law. The maximum penalty could be $10 million per contravention, or three times the value of the benefit the company unlawfully gained, or 10 per cent of the annual turnover during the preceding 12 months.

Consumer Affairs Ministers will vote on the proposals in August. If they are supported, the changes will need to be passed by Parliament.

Federal Small Business Minister Michael McCormack said he will soon discuss each proposal.

“While the feedback indicates improvements may be necessary in some areas, evidence from people who use the law every day is that it is working well,” he said.

The Labor opposition said increased maximum penalties was one of its election promises, and it was urgently needed.

“Following on from last week’s Productivity Commission report into the n consumer protection regime, there is a clear agenda for reform in the national interest,” said shadow consumer affairs minister Tim Hammond.

“So far we have just seen the Government dither and do nothing. It’s time for meaningful reform.” Savvy Consumer – Interact with us on FacebookLatest consumer affairs news

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