Government cuts payments to asylum seekers in Australia for medical treatment

Close to 100 asylum seekers are no longer receiving welfare payments, after a decision by the Turnbull government came into effect.

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The men and women had been brought to Australia from detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island for medical treatment, but have now been told their fortnightly payments will stop.

They also have just three weeks to move out of government-supported accommodation and find somewhere else to live.

The individuals will be moved onto a new visa called a “final departure Bridging E Visa”, or BVE.

The government’s BVE fact sheet says the visa allows people to stay temporarily while they finalise arrangements to leave Australia, and return to a regional processing country or anywhere else they may have a right of residence.

While the visa grants work rights, it does not allow asylum seekers aged over 18 to undertake studies of any kind.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of again targeting the most vulnerable.

“Any person who is sick and ill and who requires Australian assistance in Australia, should get that assistance. That’s not about politics, that’s just about being a decent human being. I say to you Malcolm, we want these people resettled in third-party nations, we want to see the US deal come off, we don’t want to see the people smugglers back in business. But do you really have to make a hero of yourself by mistreating, in a weak and cowardly and cruel fashion, the most vulnerable people in the world?”

The government says it doesn’t believe it’s unreasonable to stop taxpayer support for asylum seekers who refuse to return to offshore detention centres.

Government policy states those who come to Australia illegally by boat will never be settled on Australian shores.

Treasurer Scott Morrison says Mr Shorten doesn’t understand the changes, which are designed to catch out people who have done the wrong thing.

“What we’ve seen from Bill Shorten on this latest episode on border protection is that he just doesn’t get it. Labor never, ever gets it. This is a targeted change to less than 70 people, who gamed the system to get to Australia, now are trying to lock themselves out of being sent back to Nauru or Manus. And to stay here at taxpayers’ expense and in taxpayer-funded housing, and Bill Shorten thinks that’s okay.”

Both Labor and the Greens have hinted they are looking into the possibility of overturning the decision.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale says the move is callous and doesn’t represent the view of all those in parliament.

“Just unspeakable cruelty. Remarkable here, that we have a minister, in secret, saying to members of the community, ‘we are going to take food off your table and kick you out of your homes.’ That is not who Australia is.”

Human rights advocates have slammed the changes, saying those affected haven’t been given any time to prepare.

They maintain that while 100 people will be affected immediately, long-term as many as 400 could feel the impact.

Human Rights Law Centre executive director Hugh de Kretser says all these people want is safety and stability.

“We’ve had babies taking their first steps, speaking their first words, in Australian parks, we’ve got kids who are going to Australian schools, we’ve got families who have been part of our community for years. And now, out of the blue, the government is effectively going to throw them out on the streets in an attempt to force them back to harm. The Prime Minister must stop this. The only sensible, the only decent, thing to do is to let these people stay in the Australian community, let them get on with rebuilding their lives in freedom and in safety.”

 

Soliola back to face Storm after ugly hit

Canberra prop Shannon Boyd has warned Melbourne to “look out” for Sia Soliola when the Raiders backrower returns from a five-match NRL suspension this weekend.

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Soliola’s ugly high and late hit on Billy Slater knocked the Storm star out cold in round 20, sparking anger as well as the most anticipated judiciary hearing of the season.

But far from going into his shell, Soliola won’t take a backward step – according to Boyd – when the two sides resume hostilities at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

“He’s a big boy Sia. He’ll be ready to go out and get into them after what happened last time we played them, so look out,” Boyd said.

Soliola has knuckled down at training, with marathon gym sessions helping him to add some bulk while suspended.

“He’ll be massive for us against Melbourne,” Boyd said.

“He’s a good leader and he always shows the boys the way and leads out front.”

While the NRL later admitted Soliola’s shot on Slater should have seen him sent off, the versatile forward has an outstanding off-field reputation and isn’t considered a dirty player.

Raiders fullback Jack Wighton doesn’t believe the incident will heighten tensions between the two sides.

“We give it, we get it and it’s just the way it works sometimes,” Wighton said.

“There was no hard feelings, it was just one of those things you can’t take back that’s happened.”

Canberra will be playing for pride against the minor premiers after their faint finals hopes were extinguished when Manly won in Auckland on Sunday.

The dead rubber comes almost a year after the Storm eliminated Canberra with a preliminary final victory at the same venue.

“They’re on fire down there in Melbourne so it’s going to be a big job if we’re going to do it,” Wighton said.

Wighton was adamant the Raiders only have themselves to blame for their slide down the ladder this year after losing eight games by six points or less.

“We really let ourselves down in tight games so it’s something we’re going to have to fix next year if we’re going to be contenders,” he said.

Work to start on Adani mine in October

Indian mining giant Adani has announced it will start early works on its Carmichael coal mine in Queensland in October.

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Company chairman Gautam Adani has issued a statement confirming the start of works for the $16.5 billion project in Queensland’s Galilee basin, with the first coal to be produced by the facility in March 2020.

Adani’s Australian head Jeyakumar Janakaraj said Charters Towers-based civil contracting firm GA Services would be among the first regional contractors to benefit from the start of works.

“Adani Australia’s regional content initiatives will have long-term benefits for Queensland, particularly for contractors like GA Services who help us meet our indigenous content targets,” said Mr Janakaraj said in a statement.

Queensland Resources Council boss Ian Macfarlane welcomed the announcement.

“I congratulate Adani on its ongoing commitment to source contracts locally and the company’s leading practice targets for indigenous employment and participation,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Adani have had a clear objective on working with local suppliers to maximise the opportunities for regional Queensland right from day one.”

The company decided to move forward on the project after the Federal Court dismissed two legal bids to stop it from going ahead, from traditional owners and environmental groups.

Appeals lodged by the Australian Conservation Foundation and traditional land owner Adrian Burragubba were dismissed on Friday.

However, the Environmental Defenders Office said it would continue to examine the lawfulness of the mine.

ACF campaigner Basha Stasak said the announcement by Mr Adani referred to using money from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, however the NAIF is yet to formally announce any funding for the Camichael mine.

“This is all part of Adani’s ongoing shake down tactics to force the Turnbull government into tipping cash into a dirty polluting project that no Australian bank will touch,” Ms Stasak said,

“Public money should not go to any project that will pump billions of tonnes of carbon pollution into the atmosphere and threaten the survival of our Great Barrier Reef.”

The Palaszczuk government has long been in favour of the project, although it has caused deep divisions between the party’s Left and Right factions. The Left headed by Deputy Premier Jackie Trad is ideologically opposed to the mine on environmental grounds while the Right lead by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, has been spruiking its boost to the state’s coffers.

A government spokesman told AAP on Monday they “welcome any support for Queensland jobs.”

Charities ‘attractive’ to terror backers

Australian charities and not-for-profit organisations continue to be targeted by backers of terrorism to help secretly fund overseas operations.

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Nearly 30 suspicious matters related to terrorism financing were reported between 2012 and 2016 worth $5.6 million, according to new research.

“This is a significant amount in the current terrorism financing environment,” money movement watchdog Austrac said in a report, released on Monday.

While not-for-profits were not the main source of terrorism financing in Australia, they were “attractive” to financiers.

“What this shows is that NPOs have the capacity to quickly raise and camouflage the movement of large amounts of funds offshore to support individuals or groups engaged in foreign conflict,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan said in a statement.

Austrac rated the threat of terrorism financing to the sector as “medium”, noting that self-funding – through salaries, loans or credit cards – is the dominant method of terrorism financing in Australia.

Money laundering also posed a “medium” risk, but the greatest criminal threats to NPOs came from fraud and theft.

Between 2012 and 2016, 249 matters were reported for suspected criminal misuse with a total value of $57.8 million.

A majority (155) related to money laundering offences, 69 were linked to offences against the commonwealth, state or territory laws, while almost a dozen related to tax evasion.

“The fact that criminals are seeking to target a sector founded on helping our most vulnerable just shows that they are the lowest of the low,” Mr Keenan said.

Ten sale sparks new media reform debate

The decision by US media giant CBS to buy the Ten Network has sparked a new debate over the Turnbull government’s media ownership reforms.

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The American broadcaster announced on Monday it had entered into a binding agreement to acquire the business and assets of the troubled Australian media company.

Labor leader Bill Shorten welcomed the news, noting the government’s argument for abolishing the so-called two-out-of-three rule was to save Ten.

“Well, CBS has saved Channel Ten so we don’t need to tamper with media diversity laws,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said that was akin to saying there was no need for umbrellas after a day of no rain.

“The entire media industry says the government’s media reform package is needed and Bill Shorten’s response is to talk gibberish,” he said in a statement.

Senator Fifield, who wouldn’t comment on the Ten deal as it was still subject to a number of approvals, accused Labor of pretending Australia’s media organisations weren’t facing major challenges.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the package of changes was not a “Channel Ten amendment agenda”.

“This is about ensuring the sustainability of the entire media,” the prime minister told reporters in the NSW Snowy Mountains.

The existing provisions were drafted in a pre-internet era and newspaper companies, such as Fairfax Media, and regional broadcasters were screaming out for reforms.

“We need to have media ownership laws that enable the industry to respond competitively to the threat from the internet, from companies like Netflix and Amazon and so forth,” he said.

“If Channel Ten is bought by CBS, fine … but you have got the rest of the industry.’

By opposing the package in the Senate, Labor was guaranteeing foreign companies would advance at the expense of the Australian business.

“It’s about time (Mr) Shorten woke up to himself and recognised that the only beneficiaries of his opposition to media law reform are Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon,” Mr Turnbull said.

“They’d be cheering Bill on, because they’d say – the more divided the Australian media sector is, the easier it is to pick them off.”

The government is still in negotiations with the Nick Xenophon Team to secure passage of its reforms through the Senate when parliament resumes next week.

Senator Xenophon told AAP his party is still pushing for measures including tax subsidies for media outlets with an annual turnover of less than $25 million to boost support for public interest journalism.

NXT noted that its preference was for a local purchaser for the Ten Network.