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There’s more pain on the way for Australia’s borrowers with the Reserve Bank today raising interest rates for the third time in as many months.

As widely tipped, the central bank lifted its key cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.75 per cent following its monthly board meeting. It’s the first time the RBA has lifted rates three months in a row. (Click here for economists’ reaction, including Michael Pascoe and Peter Martin.)

”In Australia, the downturn was relatively mild, and measures of confidence and business conditions suggest that the economy is in a gradual recovery,” RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said in a statement accompanying the rates verdict. The central bank’s ”gradual” increases in rates will ”work to increase the sustainability of growth in economic activity,” he said.

For a typical mortgage holder on a $300,000 mortgage, today’s rate rise will add about $47 to monthly repayments, assuming commercial banks match the RBA’s move. Officials for most of the major banks this afternoon said their rates policies were under review.

The Reserve Bank has made regular public comments in recent weeks that it sees no need to keep interest rates at ”emergency” levels as the economy rebounds from a slowdown during the past year. Ric Battelino, the RBA’s deputy governor, last week said the economy’s growth is likely to extend ”for a few more years yet.”

More to rises come

Still, the economic data continue to provide mixed readings. A measure of manufacturing activity in November out today showed the sector continues to grow with companies adding jobs, although the stronger Australian dollar slowed the pace of expansion.

Overall building approvals, meanwhile, surprisingly fell 0.6 per cent in October, according to other figures out today. A 5 per cent gain in approvals for private homes was countered by a 19 per cent drop in permits for flats and townhouses.

Even with today’s rate increase, the Reserve Bank’s efforts to tighten monetary policy are likely to be far from over.

”The big change in this statement was their reference to the increases so far as being material,” ANZ’s head of Australian economics Warren Hogan told Reuters.

”I read that as implying that they’re ready to now sit back and watch how these increases affect the economy. And the hurdle for further rate hikes will be much higher than we have seen so far.

“So I think our view that they’re going to 4 (per cent), 4.25 then sit there for much of the year is the right one. There’s every chance they’ll do it in February and March, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s dragged out over a number of months.”

JP Morgan’s Chief Economist Stephen Walters agreed that the RBA may make it four rate rises in a row: “With inflation likely to creep up, and the worst in the economy having passed, there is no need to keep rates at very expansionary levels.”

“We think they will again lift rates in February,” Mr Walters

said. ”The RBA does not meet in January, but I think they will hike when they return after the break. The word ‘gradual’ is still there in the RBA statement and I think they will start going slow in lifting after February.”

Before today’s move, investors were betting that rates would rise to at least 4.75 per cent in a year’s time – equivalent to four more rate rises over the period. Three weeks ago, however, the betting was for rates to rise to 5.25 per cent, indicating confidence in the economy’s strength has recently diminished.

The RBA’s board is not scheduled to meet again until next February.

Political view

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the rate rise would pinch household funds.

”This is tough for families…when rates go up it has an impact on the family budget,” Mr Swan told reporters.

He took aim at old comments from new Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that the government’s billion-dollar stimulus had led to interest rates rises.

”That is laughable and it comes from a political leader who is prone to making erratic statements,” Mr Swan said.

”Mr Abbott is in denial of the fact that this country has performed well in the global recession.”

Even with the latest jump, these rates were last seen in 1967, Mr Swan said.

Mild downturn

A year ago, the Reserve Bank was in the midst of a series of deep interest rate cuts as Australia joined other countries in attempting to limit the damage from the global financial crisis.

Last December, the RBA sliced one full percentage point from its cash rate, lowering it to 4.25 per cent on the way to a fifty year-low of 3 per cent by April. After a pause, the central bank has started to lift rates back towards more normal levels as fears of an economic crunch abate.

”The effects of the early stages of the fiscal stimulus on consumer demand are fading, but public infrastructure spending is starting to provide more impetus to demand,” Mr Stevens said in his statement today.

The jobless rate has been one of the surprises, with Australia’s unemployment holding well below 6 per cent when many had predicted a level in excess of 8 per cent. Business investment has also held up well in large measure due to the sharp rebound in China and India – leaving Australia as one of the few countries to start raising rates.

”Prospects for ongoing expansion of private demand, including business investment, have been strengthening. There have been some early signs of an improvement in labour market conditions,” Mr Steven said. ”The rate of unemployment is now likely to peak at a considerably lower level than earlier expected.”

The RBA believes economic growth ”is likely to be close to trend (in 2010) and inflation close to target.

Market response

In the aftermath of the rates news, the Aussie dollar initially dropped before recovering to about 91.5 US cents in recent trading, close to its level before the RBA statement.

Shares, also turned mildly lower before recovering to be about 0.2 per cent higher for the day with less than an hour of trading left.

Source :   www.theage.com.au

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Free Seats are back! AirAsia, the world’s best low cost airline is today giving away 1 million free seats*, to over 70 hot destinations including China, India, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and many more across our extensive network of over 130 routes; stretching across 20 countries.

The free seats promotion kicks off from 11 – 15 November 2009 (booking period) for the travel period from 1 May – 30 October 2010. Guests may log on to http://www.airasia.com or mobile.airasia.com to find out more about these exciting great deals.

AirAsia’s Regional Head of Commercial, Kathleen Tan said, “To usher 2010, this is the biggest and most exciting promotion of the year. With no fuel surcharge, and no administration fee, it’s a real deal, offering fantastic value to our guests. When the economy is tough, people seek cheaper traveling options which offer them better value for money and there is no better option than flying with AirAsia for Free! This is also our gesture of saying a big thank you to our guests and the public who supported and contributed to AirAsia’s success. Without them, we would not have been conferred the recent “Airline of the Year 2009” award from the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), flying over 80 million guests to date.”

“AirAsia always observe the importance of low fares to ensure everyone can fly; and bringing back our highly popular free seats promotion will give our guests the greatest value ever. What’s more? To compliment the free flights, GoHoliday, AirAsia’s one stop travel portal is also offering sizzling deals and fantastic packages, including “Free Rooms” for over 180 Asia Pacific hotels online at http://goholiday.airasia.com. With this incredible offer, guests can plan their holidays ahead to enjoy great bargains, take this opportunity to be creative and map their holiday routing via AirAsia’s ten hubs (Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Bangkok, Phuket, Bandung, Jakarta, Surabaya and Bali, Penang and Johor) across our network at ultra low fares. For instance, guests from Australia, Europe or the Middle East may explore exotic ASEAN and beyond to some of the world’s most popular island resorts such as Bali, Phuket, Langkawi, and vice versa. With these great deals, AirAsia’s guests with huge appetite for travel will be spoilt for choice as we not only cater to the leisure market but also the adventure seekers, diving enthusiasts, historical and heritage explorers, shopaholics, and keen golfers all within our vast route network.” concluded Kathleen.

Guests can fly from Kuala Lumpur to domestic destinations such as Penang, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and many more from as low as RM6 (All In Fare)*. Popular international destinations such as Jakarta, Bali, Yogyakarta, Bangkok, Phuket and even Tianjin are offered from as low as RM25 (All In Fare)*.
The best part is that, AirAsia’s long haul affiliate, AirAsia X recently launched routes such as Abu Dhabi, and Chengdu are also offered within the same period with special fares from as low as RM 99.00* (All In Fare)* only. AirAsia X highly in demand “Kangaroo Routes” to Australia such as Gold Coast, Melbourne and Perth are offered from as low as RM149.00 (All In Fare)* and the popular London route is also on offer from as low as RM499 (All In Fare)*.

Promotional seats are limited and available on first-come, first-served basis and made exclusively online via http://www.airasia.com and mobile.airasia.com.

Stay tuned! Follow AirAsia on Twitter, Facebook, and AirAsia’s Blog where we will provide real time updates on our latest promotion.

Source  :  www.tourismtravel.com

 

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A new report has found Australia’s migration program is more effectively meeting the needs of employers with a 60 per cent increase in the number of employer-sponsored skilled migrants to Australia in 2008-09 compared with the previous year.

The Report on Migration Program 2008-09 shows that the Rudd Government’s targeted approach to overseas workers is helping to fill critical skills gaps in the healthcare, engineering, financial services and IT sectors.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said that changes introduced in January including the Critical Skills List (CSL) of high value occupations and prioritising employer-sponsored or state/territory-sponsored skilled migration visa grants were having a significant impact.

Overseas workers who were sponsored by employers comprised 33 per cent of the 2008-09 skill stream compared to 22 per cent in 2007-08 and 17 per cent in 2006-07.
“A properly targeted migration program will ensure we have the right sized and appropriately skilled labour force to meet Australia’s needs now and into the future as our economy recovers and grows.”

The Government cut the 2008-09 permanent skilled migration intake in March 2009 by 14 per cent from 133 500 to 115 000 and reduced planning levels for the permanent skilled migrant intake in the overall 2009-10 migration program to 108 100 places.

“This is in direct response to the economic slowdown and represents an overall drop of almost 20 per cent on previous planning levels,” Senator Evans said.

“The migration intake in the coming year reflects the economic conditions while ensuring employers can gain access to skilled professionals in industries still experiencing skills shortages such as healthcare and engineering. “The reduction is being achieved through a cutback in places in independent skilled migration rather than in the high-demand employer-sponsored category or in areas in which Australia has critical skills shortages.”

Across all permanent skilled visa categories, the top three occupations for successful applicants were accountancy (6238), computing professionals (3879) and registered nurses (3355) while the top three countries of citizenship under the skill stream were the United Kingdom (23 178), India (20 105) and China (13 927).

“Australia’s migration program is better targeting the needs of Australian employers who are still experiencing skill shortages,” Senator Evans said.

Source  :  www.manmonthly.com.au

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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is strengthening checks on student visa applications to stamp out fraud and ensure students have the financial capacity to live and study in Australia.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans said today that applications for student visas grew by 20 per cent to 362 193 in 2008-09, with almost 28 000 student visas refused, an increase of 68 per cent on the number of refusals in 2007-08.

‘While overall student visa compliance rates remain high, there are elements of concern within this large caseload,’ the minister said.

The targeted measures will address the potential for document fraud and other issues around financial capacity, identification and bona fides in some parts of the student caseload. The measures implemented with immediate effect include:

  • upgrading the interview program to build a strong evidence base around fraud;
  • removing or restricting eVisa access for some agents where there is evidence of fraud or inactivity, and
  • restricting access to eVisa for some segments of the caseload if analysis demonstrates restricted access would allow for better control of fraud.

The measures will target parts of the student visa caseload in India, Mauritius, Nepal, Brazil, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

‘These measures are consistent with those used by other countries that receive large numbers of student visa applications, such as the United States,’ Senator Evans said.

‘Australia’s student visa program supports the entry of genuine international students. For those students, the department provides a convenient, efficient service.

‘The message is clear: genuine international students remain welcome in Australia, but we will not tolerate fraud in the student visa program.’

The measures are part of the Government’s ongoing response to any changes in risk in visa programs and will build on work already conducted across the student visa program to combat fraud as it emerges. Similar arrangements are already in place for students from other countries, such as Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

‘Student visa requirements are aligned to the immigration risk presented by an applicant. The greater the risk identified, the more evidence required to be granted a student visa. Risk is determined by an objective analysis of visa compliance,’ Senator Evans said.

The next formal review of student visa risk framework is scheduled for 2010. The data obtained from the enhanced checking of student visa applications will help inform future reviews.

Source  :  http://www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/media-releases/2009/ce09075.htm

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Immigration to our shores is running at record levels and so too is the boom in illegal immigrants.

Some are scamming permanent residency is to catch and marry single Aussies. Immigration officials are cracking down on fake marriages, but  sometimes impossible to know when love is true or false. 

Over the last ten years spousal visa applications to Australia jumped from 26,000 to 40,000 a year. Many phoney fiancés and spouses were kicked out last year. 

Less than three per cent of applicants are investigated. 

The process requires foreign spouses to live with their partner for two years and they may be tested on their truthfulness by the Bona Fide units, set up in states across the country.

Differentiating between love and fraud is not a given, what we are interested in determining is that the evidence and the paperwork and the documentation put before us is true and accurate that it is not a forged document. 

They’re even more brazen in India where migration agents and internet surfers state plainly what they want, with posts including: “Paper marriage for Australia” and “Looking for a girl to do a paper marriage just to get residency in Australia.” 

The Times of India newspaper detailed how brides and grooms are contracted to marry, just so they can move here. 

If they are operating in India, or in China, or in Canada, or in the UK or anywhere overseas, our laws don’t control their activities

Act, under visa fraud it can include cancellation of the visa, and ultimately removal from the country. In the least we can refuse and we often do in 3000 instances to grant a visa in the last financial year. 

Dob-In Line: 1800 009 623

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