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AUSTRALIA has delivered a blunt message to India that it is selling education, not visas, even as the Rudd government deploys its most senior ministers to patch up relations damaged over a series of Indian student assaults.

Trade Minister Simon Crean, whose visit to India this week overlaps that of Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, outlined to the Confederation of Indian Industry yesterday federal government measures to crack down on shonky education and training providers in Australia.

But he said the crackdown could be successful only if similar action were taken in India to close down shonky education and immigration agents running scams to secure permanent Australian residency through student visas.

“Let’s be clear, we are offering a quality education in a safe environment,” Mr Crean said yesterday. “The quality of our education is what we are promoting, not the visa attached to it.

“For this to succeed, we also need the co-operation of the Indian government. The fact that politicians in both countries have been forced to focus on the issue improves the odds of coming up with a better system.”

Ms Gillard is understood to have delivered a similar message during meetings with Indian Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal and, late on Tuesday night, with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, where greater engagement between the two countries on defence, energy and climate change were also discussed.

Mr Crean denied Australia’s international education industry needed to be remarketed in India, despite the fact it is widely seen — and in some areas promoted — as a pathway to permanent residency.

But he conceded better co-operation between Australian government agencies was also needed to help stem student visa abuses.

What the student issue has done is shed a light on the importance of interaction between Austrade, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and those that market our services in the Department of Education, Employment and Work Relations in the protection of our brand,” he said yesterday.

In just eight days, India will have hosted three of Australia’s most senior politicians, Mr Crean, Ms Gillard and Wayne Swan.

By the end of the year, a total of eight Australian ministers will have graced Indian soil.

The ministerial offensive is aimed at patching bilateral relations, damaged by a recent series of attacks on Indian students in Australia, as well as building trade relations with the emerging Asian superpower.

Mr Crean, who is in India for a two-day meeting of G20 trade ministers ahead of the next Doha round of WTO talks in Pittsburgh later this month, said Australia’s trade relationship with India had historically been “underdone”.

The ministerial visits — which will culminate in a tour by Kevin Rudd later this year — were designed to correct that.

“We understand the fundamental importance of India to our future, just as we do China and the rest of Asia. This is going to be the fastest-growing region in the world for the next couple of decades, it is the place to be,” he said. “Australia fortunately positioned itself for that a couple of decades ago but we have to renew the effort.

“Obviously, if there is a hiccup in the relationship, as there has been here over student safety, of course we have to address it. Visits here are an important part of that.”

Canberra hopes that a successful culmination of the Doha talks — aimed at reducing international trade barriers — will help accelerate free trade agreement negotiations between Australia and India, still at the feasibility stage.

It was also concentrating on building trade ties in infrastructure and energy security areas, with particular focus on investments in gas and coal.

Mr Crean denied that Australia’s refusal to sell uranium to India — a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — would hurt the progress of the talks, despite Mr Singh again raising the issue during his meeting with Ms Gillard.

Source  :  The Australian

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A new international agreement will boost Australia’s ability to detect and identify immigration fraud and cast a wider net when checking the backgrounds of unauthorised arrivals and other people held in immigration detention.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said today that an agreement for biometric data-sharing between Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom was signed last night. Under the partnership, Australia will be able to securely and confidentially cross check fingerprints with Canadian and UK databases.

Currently, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship collects fingerprints from all people in immigration detention, including irregular arrivals and illegal foreign fishers. It is expected fingerprint collection will be progressively rolled out to other people in the immigration caseload in the future.

‘The Australian Government’s ability to detect immigration and identity fraud will be greatly improved as a result of new biometric data-sharing arrangements with partner agencies in Canada and the United Kingdom,’ Senator Evans said. ‘This data-sharing will help to establish the true identities of unknown people, and ensure that fraudulent cases are dealt with appropriately through the improved ability to detect inconsistent identity and immigration claims.

It will also help authorities to increase the chance of detecting people with criminal histories and other people of concern, aid in the timely removal of unlawful non-citizens where their identities and/or nationalities were previously unknown or uncertain, and improve detection of fraudulent immigration practices and trends.

The new biometric data-sharing plan was developed at the Five Country Conference, which is a forum on immigration and border security between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The US is expected to join the data-sharing arrangement in due course.

The benefits of international biometric data sharing were highlighted recently when an individual claiming asylum in the UK was found to have previously been fingerprinted in the USA while travelling on an Australian passport.

The individual was subsequently confirmed as an Australian citizen wanted for sexual assault. The man was removed to Australia to face court, and is now serving a jail sentence.

Senator Evans said the new data-sharing arrangements would not affect privacy laws.

‘The protection of personal information is important to all the countries involved in these arrangements. All data shared by my department will adhere to the Privacy Act 1988,’ the minister said.

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A PLAN to help up to 124,000 retrenched workers has united the states but drawn criticism in Canberra.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed a deal with the states and territories to give intensive help to unemployed people aged over 25.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) conference in Darwin agreed to give the jobless access to government-subsidised vocational training.

Labor says the “compact with retrenched workers” will help up to 124,000 people.

“Workers who have been retrenched as a consequence of this global recession have lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” Mr Rudd said.

“Acting to support young Australians who are finding it hard to enter the labour market … represents an important intervention by government.”

Under the agreement, the Federal Government’s new employment agency Job Services Australia matches retrenched workers, aged over 25, with a path to a qualification.

The state and territories would set aside training places.

The training is for people who have been out of work since January 2009 and who are registered with a Job Services Australia provider.

The entitlement is available from now until the end of 2011.

It follows an “earn or learn” COAG agreement reached in April to make youths aged 15 to 19 undertake training and guarantee places for 20-24 year-olds in skills development.

The Rudd Government says it has invested $300 million in programs to help retrenched workers, but it did not provide a cost for the latest one.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said COAG’s new scheme would prepare Australia for economic recovery.

“We know only too well how quickly this country can find itself in a situation of serious skills shortage.”

But Opposition employment participation spokesman Andrew Southcott said training programs for the unemployed had failed when Labor last took that approach in the mid-1990s.

“Training for training’s sake, without a job at the end of it, is cruel to the unemployed,” Mr Southcott said.

“The experience around the world is that a skills-first approach for the unemployed tends to be very expensive and you have poor outcomes.”

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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The Australian Tax Office has issued a warning to self-managed super funds (SMSFs) about people offering to set up agreements between funds and related parties to purchase assets, particularly properties.

Tax Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo says he’s concerned some of the arrangements on offer breach the in-house asset rules.

“These arrangements use a paid third party to set up an agreement, sometimes referred to as ‘a joint venture agreement’, between the fund and a related trust to purchase an asset that provides income for the trust and the fund,” D’Ascenzo says.

“This is clearly an attempt to circumvent the in-house asset rules as the transaction is really an investment by the SMSF in the related trust.”

“This alert serves as a timely reminder to trustees that we’re looking closely at SMSFs to ensure they’re meeting their obligations in relation to loans, in-house assets, borrowings and non-arm’s length transactions.”

The Taxpayer Alert (2009/16) on this issue is available from the Tax Office website at www.ato.gov.au/atp.

Source  :  www.apimagazine.com.au

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A SET of ancient Aboriginal remains found during a clearout of a house in northern England are soon to be returned to Australia.
Workers stumbled across the two femurs, three skulls and an assortment of other bones while sorting through the Cheshire home of university professor John Kempster, a former Aboriginal Rights Association president, after he moved to New Zealand in 2008.

He had instructed auction house Andrew, Hilditch and Son to clear out his home and sell anything they thought valuable.

“After the removalists finished the clear-out they found a small wooden crate and jokingly said to me they were the dog’s bones in there,” auctioneer Tom Andrew said.

“I said ‘Let’s open it and see what’s inside’ and we found three skulls and one or two other pieces.

“I also found in another briefcase two femurs wrapped in newspaper.”

Not realising that Britain had an agreement with Australia to return indigenous remains, the bones and a selection of weapons given to Prof Kempster while he lived in South Australia in the early 1960s were put up for auction in November 2008.

But after about 20 minutes of frantic bidding, the remains were dramatically pulled from sale after the Australian High Commission telephoned to stop the auction.

A scientist was sent to examine the bones, which were confirmed as being of Australian indigenous origin.

They will be handed over on Thursday to two Ngarrindjeri elders who flew from South Australia to London to collect 16 individual remains held by three museums and the auction house.

Mr Andrew said he was happy to know the remains would soon be on their way to the National Museum of Australia, which will try to determine which indigenous community they came from.

“I’ll certainly be on the look out for more,” he said. “I think there are more around than we think.”

The Liverpool museum has two more sets of remains it plans to return to Australia at a later date.

Further south, the Brighton & Hove City Council has agreed to return two skulls and two femurs for further study in Australia.

However, it is still debating whether to give back a skull modified to be used as a water vessel and which has been stored at the museum since 1925.

www.news.com.au

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The_Sky_Railway_TrackA consortium behind a multi billion dollar port and rail project in Western Australia’s mid west says construction will start in 2011.

Oakajee Port and Rail (OPR) locked in an agreement with the State Government in April to build a $4 billion port and associated rail infrastructure.

The Chief Executive of OPR, Chris Eves, has told a business gathering in Perth this morning that the consortium hopes to complete the project by 2013.

Mr Eves says $60 million has already been spent undertaking a feasibility study with another $100 million to be spent in the next 18 months.

http://au.biz.yahoo.com/090512/31/269qw.html

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