Monthly Archives:February 2019

Australia is a world leader in multiculturalism, with most newcomers hailing from England, New Zealand and China, a report has found.

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A whopping one quarter of the total population is born overseas, far ahead of other OECD countries which average 11 per cent.

A large majority of those entering the nation do so under the skilled migration program, making up about 62 per cent – or 115,000 people – of the total intake in 2008, according to the latest AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report.

England and NZ remain the two major source countries, totalling about 30 per cent, while in the decade to 2006, China toppled Italy for third place, accounting for five per cent of those relocating Down Under.

But the nation’s humanitarian intake amounted to just seven per cent, with asylum seekers totalling about one fifth or less of this group.

Overall, Australia has a ratio of 10 refugees per 10,000 head of population, compared to 87 per 10,000 in Sweden and 50 per 10,000 in Canada, the report found.

And it appears in many cases the skills of highly educated newcomers from non-English speaking countries are not being utilised, NATSEM author and research fellow Riyana Miranti said.

About 38 per cent of people in that category were found to be working in low or medium skilled occupations, compared to 19 per cent of Australian-born tertiary-educated people aged 35 to 54.

About 20 per cent of migrants from mainly English speaking countries in that age group were working in low-or medium skilled jobs.

The Calling Australia Home report, released on Wednesday, also showed non-migrant households are wealthier than migrants in general, but the scenario was reversed when judged on property assets alone.

Migrant households led their Australian-born counterparts with $262,700 in property compared to $250,800 for non-migrant households, the data revealed.

AMP Financial Services managing director Craig Meller said migration had significantly contributed to the country’s economic well being and culture.

“Migration is embedded in our history … and will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping Australia’s longterm future,” he said.

The majority of data used in the report is sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 Census of Population and Housing, and unit record data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey.

Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton “has warmed our nation’s heart”, Governor-General Quentin Bryce says, as both the PM and NSW Premier sent the couple their congratulations.

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The second in line for the throne announced his engagement on Tuesday after a long courtship with Middleton.

“Your Royal Highness, on behalf of all Australians, Michael and I send our heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to you and Miss Catherine Middleton upon the announcement of your engagement to marry next year,” Ms Bryce said on Wednesday in a message to the Prince.

“I am sure that Australians look forward with anticipation and excitement to hearing of your wedding preparations as they unfold.

“It is a unifying time of much joy and celebration.”

Ms Bryce said Australians had “thoroughly” enjoyed William’s visit to Australia earlier this year.

“Our time with you in Sydney was memorable and thoroughly enjoyable,” she said.

“Your genuine fondness for Australia and Australians shone through in all your interactions, and I know that these feelings are very much reciprocated.

“Naturally, we will take immense pleasure in welcoming you both on the occasion of your first visit to Australia together some time in the future.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the newly engaged couple have the nation’s best wishes.

Ms Gillard said in a statement it was a “happy time” for the royal couple, who will be married next year.

“The Prince is well known for his charity work and for his ongoing service in the British Royal Air Force,” she said.

“Prince William left a strong impression on many Australians during his visit at the beginning of the year.

“Ms Middleton will no doubt strengthen this remarkable reputation and she has the nation’s best wishes and support.”

Meanwhile, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally says she is happy about the royal engagement despite being a supporter of

Australia becoming a republic.

Ms Keneally said she had the pleasure of meeting Prince William during his trip to Sydney in January this year.

“On behalf of the families of NSW, I congratulate Prince William and Kate Middleton on their engagement and wish them all the best for the future,” she said.

“Everyone knows we Keneallys support a republic, but I had a nice smile when I heard the news.

“They are a lovely couple and would make a wonderful future king and queen.”

A Tanzanian man accused in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies was cleared of terror charges Wednesday, but could still face life in prison in a dramatic end to the first civilian trial of a former Guantanamo Bay inmate.

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A jury in New York federal court returned the surprise verdict after five days of deliberations, finding Ahmed Ghailani not guilty on all but one of 286 charges.

He was found guilty only of conspiracy to destroy US property, which carries a sentence of at least 20 years and up to life in prison. Sentencing was set for January 25.

The trial of Ghailani, a baby-faced 36-year-old, has been closely watched as a test of President Barack Obama’s plans to shut down the notorious prison at a US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and move inmates into the civilian justice system.

Opponents have doubted the courts’ ability to handle such cases, while some observers question how defendants who have been deprived of all rights, often for years, can then be prosecuted in the same way as ordinary suspects.

During the four-week trial, prosecutors painted Ghailani as a scheming plotter who helped Al-Qaeda bombers prepare the truck bombs that slammed almost simultaneously into the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassies, killing 224 people and injuring thousands more.

His defense attorney, Peter Quijano, called no witnesses and Ghailani did not take the stand.

Instead, through cross-examination and a blistering closing argument, Quijano sought to undermine the credibility of witnesses produced by the government and he portrayed Ghailani as an innocent dupe who was used by Al-Qaeda, but who knew nothing of the plot.

Department of Justice spokesman Mathew Miller said the result was positive.

“We respect the jury’s verdict and are pleased that Ahmed Ghailani now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and a potential life sentence for his role in the embassy bombings,” he said in Washington.

But opponents of Obama’s stalled plans to shutter Guantanamo were likely to see the outcome as a blow to the White House.

In particular, skeptics could seize on the fact that the presiding judge, Lewis Kaplan, at the outset of the trial ruled to exclude the government’s star witness.

The barred witness, Hussein Abebe, was to testify that he sold Ghailani explosives.

But Kaplan said the witness was inadmissible because he had been located by US officers through information obtained from Ghailani while under extreme duress in CIA custody.

The ruling severely weakened the government case. It also went to the core of what many consider to be the problem with applying regular legal codes to defendants who, like Ghailani, have been held in secret CIA prisons and have been tortured.

In another quirk showing how different the case was from ordinary criminal trials, Kaplan also wrote before the trial got underway that even if Ghailani were found not guilty he could possibly spend the rest of his life in jail as an “enemy combatant.”

Russia’s so-called ‘Merchant of Death,’ accused of running a global arms empire, pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, after he was extradited by Thailand against Moscow’s wishes.

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“He will plead not guilty,” a lawyer for Viktor Bout, 43, told a New York federal court.

Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered Bout detained until a hearing on January 10.

He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and minimum of 25 years if found guilty.

Bout is charged with attempting to sell Colombia’s FARC rebels an arsenal of surface-to-air missiles and infantry weapons between November 2007 and March 2008.

US prosecutors allege he ran one of the world’s most extensive arms trafficking networks and was trapped in a 2008 sting operation in which he believed he was selling a large arsenal to Colombia’s FARC narco-guerrillas, designated a terrorist organisation by Washington.

The FARC representative he allegedly thought he was meeting in Bangkok was in fact a US undercover agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Despite his allegedly lucrative weapons empire, Bout insisted to the judge that he needed a court-appointed lawyer.

According to Preet Bharara, US attorney for Manhattan, Bout planned to sell FARC more than 700 surface-to-air missiles, 5,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, landmines, millions of rounds of ammunition, and ultra-light airplanes that could be fitted with weaponry.

“It was an arsenal that would be the envy of some small countries,” Bharara told a news conference.

Bout arrived in New York late Tuesday after a dramatic exit from Thailand, which only agreed to his extradition after two years of legal battles, during which it was subject to intense pressure from both Moscow and Washington.

US Attorney General Eric Holder called Bout’s capture “a victory for the rule of law worldwide”, while Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told reporters in Bogota that Bout “should pay”.

But Russia said the burly, mustachioed Bout had been subjected to an “illegal extradition”.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would support Bout “by all means” from “extreme injustice” and called for the US to grant him full consular access without delay.

“They (the United States) are obliged to fulfill international norms. We expect that this will be done urgently,” the Interfax news agency quoted him as telling reporters in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

“If there is a delay in the consular access then this will be another violation of the norms of international rules which have already been broken more than once in this case,” he added.

Bout’s clients have allegedly included the Taliban and al-Qaeda, with payments allegedly running from hard cash to blood diamonds.

His alleged exploits earned him the nickname “Merchant of Death” and “Lord of War,” after a movie starring Nicholas Cage who is said to have modelled his character on Bout.

“For more than a decade, Mr Bout is alleged to have plied a deadly trade in surface-to-air missiles, land mines, bullets, death and destruction,” said Michele Leonhart, acting administrator of the DEA.

“Fortunately, with his arrest, extradition, and pending prosecution in the Southern District of New York, his last alleged attempt to deal in death means that he will finally face justice.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is bracing for another fierce national debate about education, as the federal government prepares to launch its improved My School website.

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The online resource, which compares schools’ literacy and numeracy scores with the results of statistically similar institutions and to the national average, will be updated in December to make it more comprehensive and accurate.

Ms Gillard unveiled the original version of My School in January while serving as Labor’s education minister.

Parents welcomed the site, but school groups railed that it was too simplistic and could lead to the creation of league tables naming and shaming poor-performing institutions.

The government has sought to address those concerns by publishing more information online, including each school’s 2009 recurrent income and capital expenditure, broken down by source of funding, in an Australian first.

School profiles will detail the proportion of students from language backgrounds other than English, while literacy and numeracy test results will show academic trends over time, now three years of figures are available.

Giving a preview of My School version two on Wednesday, Ms Gillard said the additional data would help parents make more informed decisions about where to send their children.

It was also expected to reignite the education debate.

“(Parents) should go down and talk to the principal, you should go down and talk to the various consulting forums that schools have about what this means for your school, and what’s going to happen next,” she told reporters in Canberra.

“I suspect that people will have a lot of conversations with us (too), and I’ll have a lot of conversations with state governments. I think they’ll be pretty good conversations.”

School Education Minister Peter Garrett warned that with the amount of funding spent on each child in every school soon to be available for parental perusal, the government would be putting

lacklustre institutions on notice.

“Remember that the commonwealth is now making significant investments through the national partnerships … in teacher quality, literacy and numeracy,” he said.

“We are also going to be able to effectively monitor the worth of that investment over time. That will be a very powerful tool for policy makers.”

FIFA’s Oceania chief Reynald Temarii, who was suspended for 12 months by FIFA’s ethics committee in a World Cup bidding scandal, was expected to gift Australia a vote when the FIFA executive meets to decide the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

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The decision to sideline him from the voting process is potentially a huge blow to Australia’s hopes of hosting the 2022 showpiece.

The Tahitian says world football’s governing body must review the selection process.

Temarii said he was resigned to being sidelined from the vote to choose the hosts on December 2, although he intends to appeal against the sanction.

“I obviously respect the ethics committee’s decision even if I do not entirely share its (view),” he said after the ruling in Zurich.

“I intend to come back to FIFA and be one of the drivers that will allow FIFA to correct its structures. We need to considerably improve (its) internal organisation,” Temarii told AFP.

“Is it ethical or desirable that members of the executive committee belonging to federations that are candidates for the World Cup can take part in these votes? That’s one of the questions that needs to be asked internally.”

Temarri underlined that European football governing body UEFA ruled out the practice in its decision-making for its championships.

Out of the nine World Cup candidates, only Australia has no representation on the FIFA executive committee, with just 22 members now able to vote.

Temarii claimed FIFA faced a “serious problem” because he had stated that his votes for the 2018 and 2022 hosts would have reflected the choices of the Oceania confederation’s executive committee.

Temarii was suspended for one year for breaches of the governing body’s code of ethical conduct. Allegations of bribery against him were not upheld.

The suspension followed a British newspaper report last month alleging undercover reporters posing as lobbyists for the US bid filmed Temarii demanding $NZ3 million ($A2.36 million) to set up a sports academy in Auckland in return for his support.

The result of his six-hour ethics hearing was “relatively positive to the extent that… the allegations of corruption that I have been subjected to by the Sunday Times have definitely been ruled out by the ethics committee,” Temarii said.

He claimed he was tricked as just over four minutes of some 90 minutes of edited video was published by the newspaper.

“During the interview I must have said 15 times… that in no way was I interested in voting for the United States.

“I clearly said: ‘Keep your money’.”

England, Russia and joint bids by Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium are in the running to host the 2018 World Cup, while Australia, the United States, Japan, Qatar and South Korea are bidding for 2022.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says he will never sign former deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz’s execution order, despite his sentencing to death last month.

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“No, I will not sign this kind of order because I am a socialist,” Talabani, a Kurd, told France 24 television during an interview.

“I feel for Tareq Aziz, because he’s an Iraqi Christian, and he’s also an elderly person over 70-years-old. That’s why I will never sign this execution order.”

Aziz was given the death penalty on October 26 for a crackdown on Shi’ite religious parties in the 1980s, and is also on trial for a crackdown on Iraqi Kurds.

Iraq’s supreme criminal court found the long-time international face of the Saddam Hussein regime guilty of “deliberate murder and crimes against humanity”, sentencing him to death.

The verdict provoked a wave of appeals for clemency from around the world, including from rights groups, the European Union, Russia and the Vatican.

Aged 74 and in poor health, Aziz has been in prison since surrendering in April 2003, a month after the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Talabani has previously said that he is generally against capital punishment, and declined to confirm some court execution orders but without preventing the hangings going ahead.

Aziz was the latest member of Saddam’s fallen regime to be ordered to die, but Talabani said it was time to turn the page on the punishment, barring for some sectarian crimes.

“I think that the page of executions needs to be turned, except concerning the crimes committed at the cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and crimes against Shi’ite pilgrims and holy sites,” he said.

At least 46 hostages, including two priests, were killed during a hostage drama with al-Qaeda gunmen in Baghdad’s Sayidat al-Nejat Syriac Catholic cathedral during Sunday mass at the end of last month.

Like every gracious leader, the head of Taronga Zoo’s gorilla pack knows when it’s time to call it a day.

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After more than 14 years overseeing his large family, the zoo’s oldest and most impressive silverback gorilla, Kibabu, will soon call it quits and move to New Zealand to enjoy his twilight years.

In a rite of passage, the 33-year-old silverback and two of his sons will leave in 2013 to form a “bachelor group” in a specialist habitat at the Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch.

New Zealand currently has no Western Lowland Gorillas, the most common gorilla seen zoos and a critically-endangered species worldwide.

The move by Taronga’s patriarch and his “blackback” sons, Fuzu and Fataki, is designed to mimic a natural occurrence in the life cycle of male gorillas in the wild, zoo primate manager Louise Grossfeldt told AAP on Thursday.

“They [younger gorillas] reach that age-bracket when they need to leave the group, which is normal … and move off and find other family groups,” said Ms Grossfeldt, who has worked with the group since they arrived at Taronga in 1996.

“If they’re a boy then they need to go and hang out with other boys for a while and do the bachelor boy thing.”

If Kibabu were to remain in the group at Taronga, his reduced agility and increased reluctance to engage in family politics would see him challenged by his sons or driven away by the females, Ms Grossfeldt said.

Too bad if he had retirement in mind though – Kibabu’s presence will be crucial for keeping the younger boys in check and educating them about their future roles.

“Kibabu is actually a very good gorilla to learn from,” says Ms Grossfeldt.

“With him being the leader of the bachelor group, he will actually be a very good role model for Fataki and Fuzu to continue to learn from.”

Since Kibabu arrived at Taronga in late 1996 from Holland, the close-to-perfect 210kg male has fathered 14 offspring.

Now, to maintain genetic diversity in the Australasian region, Taronga must seek out an new, unrelated male to take over breeding, Ms Grossfeldt said.

“The male really is the glue that hold the gorilla troupe together. Without him, the females would start to fight or move away.

“It’s good for us to keep the group moving forward, keep the females together and bring a new male to step in and continue to move the group into the future.”

Keepers from Taronga will assist in settling Kibabu, Fuzu and Fataki into their new home in Christchurch, but are definitely sad to see him go.

“There is a part of me that will miss him immensely,” said Ms Grossfeldt, who added that he was a “magnificent” gorilla.

“It’s a legacy to Kibabu and the group that he’s built that we continue to move the group forward and help support the conservation of this species. This is the way to do that.”

The immigration department says there will be an inquiry into yesterday’s events at the Villawood Detention Centre, where detainees rioted, climbed onto a building’s roof, and set three fires outside the building.

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The latest unrest came after the death of 41-year-old Ahmad Al Akabi, who reportedly killed himself at the centre on Monday after being held in detention for more than a year.

Inmates showed banners pleading for protection in Australia.

A man in his 40s was treated for unknown injuries.

Jamal Daoud of the Social Justice Network says scores of police descended on the centre which was put into lockdown with angry detainees escorted to their rooms.

His death follows that of a 36-year-old Fijian detainee at Villawood in September.

Lawyers have called for an inquiry into the deaths, while mental health experts have slammed conditions inside Australian detention centres.

Protest ends

Fires started by detainees had been put out and all five demonstrators – who climbed onto the centre’s roof on Wednesday afternoon – had come down voluntarily by about 10pm (AEDT), officials said in a statement.

But inmates last night told refugee rights campaigners that the detention centre remained “volatile and tense” after the chaotic scenes in the wake of Ahmad Al Akabi’s death.

“The police are searching rooms, for unknown items,” said Jamal Daoud, of the Social Justice Network, who had been waiting outside the Villawood centre throughout the day.

“Some detainees, who were on the rooftop and others who set furniture on fire, are fearing that they will be sent to maximum security.

“The others are fearing that the police and authorities could confiscate belongings, like mobile phones.”

An immigration department spokesman said the priority now was to ensure the detainees’ “safety and well-being”.

“We are pleased this group chose to end their action,” the spokesman said.

“While we acknowledge this is a difficult time for people inside the centre following a death early on Tuesday, our clear message this week to detainees is that these types of actions simply will not assist or alter the outcomes of their visa applications.”

Upon climbing down, the protest group was offered food and liquids, while also being assessed and monitored by medical staff, the department said.

“The detention services provider will provide a detailed report of the incident to the department,” the spokesman added.

There had been a small fire which resulted in minor property damage to a mattress and several plastic chairs and tables, the department said.

Inmates want inquiry

Inmates and campaigners are calling for an inquiry into the death of Mr Al Akabi, a 41-year-old father of three young daughters, who killed himself at the centre after being held in detention for more than a year.

As well as the dramatic rooftop scenes, other protesters had stopped eating out of protest, campaigners said.

Mr Daoud and members of the Iraqi community were staging a vigil outside Villawood, mourning Mr Akabi’s death, when Wednesday’s demonstration started.

He said three spot fires had been lit but all of them had burnt out by 6pm (AEDT).

Australian Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young expressed concerned for the safety of the asylum seekers involved.

“Understandably, the stress of long-term detention of asylum seekers has continued to build tension and frustration, coupled with the tragic events of this week,” she said.

“It is important to maintain calm and ensure everyone’s safety.”

The Greens and refugee groups have called on the federal government to take measures that ensure the safety of detainees suffering mental illness.

Refugee rights activists say 160 detainees began a hunger strike on Tuesday morning and around 22 Iranian nationals continued their strike into Wednesday.

The federal government denied there was a hunger strike, saying a handful of detainees had refused to eat out of grief.

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Big names Matt Giteau, Benn Robinson and Will Genia have been demoted to the Wallabies’ bench in sweeping changes for the weekend’s Test against Italy.

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Robbie Deans and co-selectors Jim Williams and David Nucifora responded to last week’s 35-18 loss to England – or decided to experiment – in making five changes to the run-on side and nine overall.

While halfback Genia’s relegation can be explained by a rib injury picked up at Twickenham, Giteau and Robinson’s are major shocks.

Inside centre Giteau has not been benched on form since 2006 and loosehead Robinson last sat with the reserves in 2007.

Giteau has been replaced at No.12 by midweek captain Berrick Barnes, Genia by Luke Burgess – despite his tough night in the Tuesday loss to Munster and Robinson by highly rated youngster James Slipper, who will make his run-on debut.

Joining the star trio in dropping to the bench is lock Mark Chisholm, replaced by another run-on debutant, 21-year-old Queenslander Rob Simmons.

One change to the starting line-up was forced by winger James

O’Connor’s dash home to attend a funeral and, as expected, his place has been taken by Lachie Turner.

Three players dropped out of the match squad – bench forwards Huia Edmonds, Dean Mumm and Richard Brown.

Edmonds makes way for the return of hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who will play his first Test of the year after surgery on an ankle.

Chisholm takes Mumm’s spot among the reserves, while the hard-working Matt Hodgson gets a chance from the bench after wholehearted performances in the midweek games at openside flanker.

Brumbies back Pat McCabe will make his Test debut if he takes to the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence on Saturday (0100 Sunday AEDT) after taking Turner’s bench spot.

Five-eighth Quade Cooper survived, despite Deans warning this week he needed to get his defence right or face the axe.

The mass changes fly in the face of Deans’ repeated statements after a run of injuries about the need for team continuity.

He has used matches against lowly-ranked Italy to experiment before, but was also clearly nonplussed by the defensive effort at Twickenham.

Australia’s midfield defence, in particular, has taken a hammering after Cooper missed six tackles against England and Barnes could be seen as part of the solution there.

Giteau has done little wrong but also hasn’t penetrated with his attack, while he relinquished the goalkicking duties before the Test against Wales.

Barnes, Cooper and Kurtley Beale will be the candidates to take on those responsibilities while O’Connor is on leave.

Slipper is largely seen as the future when it comes to righting Australia’s scrum, while a lack of depth among the country’s locks could be behind Simmons’ promotion less than a year out from the World Cup.

Mumm and Brown have paid the price for making little real impact in their cameos from the bench on this tour.

Australia: Kurtley Beale, Lachie Turner, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Quade Cooper, Luke Burgess, Ben McCalman, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom (capt), Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper. Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Mark Chisholm, Matt Hodgson, Will Genia, Matt Giteau, Pat McCabe.