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New priority processing directions for certain skilled migration visas – 23 September 2009

The Minister has set a new priority processing direction which comes into effect on 23 September 2009 and applies to certain skilled migration visas.

See: http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/general-skilled-migration/pdf/faq-priority-processing.pdf

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Sprinklers will be permanently switched off during winter from next year after the State Government today to retain this year’s trial sprinkler ban.

Yesterday’s decision follows a two-month trial ban during July and August, which Water Minister Graham Jacobs said saved about 2.2 billion litres of water, equivalent to filling 880 Olympic-sized pools and enough to supply towns the size of Manjimup or Collie for a year.

The permanent ban will apply from June 1 to August 31.

 The trial ban – for most scheme users south of Kalbarri – was introduced after water usage earlier this winter was running at 800 million litres a day, 300 million litres above average.

Dr Jacobs said today that the ban saved 50 million litres a day, while an independent survey last month indicated 93 per cent of residents supported the move.

“This is an outstanding community achievement because while there has been reasonably consistent rain, we are still well below the long-term annual rainfall average,” Dr Jacobs said

Dams were now at 45.5 per cent of capacity, their second-highest level this decade. They are holding 19 per cent more water than the same time last year.

Water Corporation figures show rainfall in all but one of the catchments for dams supplying Perth are below their historical averages for the year-to-date.

Dr Jacobs said the exact area of the permanent ban, and any adverse impact for industry and local government users would still have to be worked out.

This would occur “soon”, and some areas that took part in the trial ban – which ran from Kalbarri to Esperance and east to Kalgoorlie-Boulder – could have a case to be excluded.

These users were asked to voluntarily stop using bores during the two-month ban period, while garden bore users were allowed to turn them on for maintenance reasons.

“A lot of people say garden bores are not pulling on the scheme, but we all realise our underground water resources are all related,” Dr Jacobs said last month.

Source  :  www.watoday.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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THE Rudd Government has dumped one of its key election promises, the Grocery Choice price monitoring website, after supermarkets failed to provide enough information to make the site reliable.

After a meeting today with major supermarkets, Competition Minister Craig Emerson announced that the measure – an election promise that was aimed at keeping grocery prices low – would not proceed, The Australian reported.

“Upon close examination of the data requirements for reliable price information, I have formed the view that it is not feasible to generate that information in a timely manner, “ Dr Emerson said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    website cost of living in oz

The scheme had been due to be up and running next week.

The dumping of Grocery Choice comes after the Government last year abandoned FuelWatch after it was defeated in the Senate.

Mr Rudd campaigned heavily prior to the election on easing the cost-of-living pressures on working families and increasing competition in the petrol and grocery sectors.

Both FuelWatch and Grocery Choice were criticised for not putting downward pressure on prices.

Earlier this month it emerged that the consumer advocate Choice would be forced to go it alone on the website as the major supermarket chains continued to drag their feet over supplying price data.

Choice took over the running of the website from the Rudd Government, which launched it after campaigning on easing cost-of-living pressures before the election.

The $13 million site, which originally launched last August, was heavily criticised for displaying information that was too general and outdated to be useful.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Finally after a decade of trying to get plans to develop on the banks of the Moore River, they have been given the go ahead to build 2000 newmoore river homes. 

Planning Minister John Day told parliament Cabinet had approved a smaller development that is allowing a population of up to 6000 people.

Original plans have been cut by 60 per cent which would have allowed a population of around 15000 people.

Marcus Plunkett the developer has said ” this will ensure that the shire of Gingin will have a major residential and tourism development which will bring much needed infrastructure to the area.”

This development will still need to put forward plans for approval, a revised plan is expected to be released for public comment.

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lending moneyTHE Rudd Government will give the $21 billion margin lending industry three weeks to digest a proposed overhaul of the regulatory and legislative regime.
The Minister for Corporate Law Nick Sherry will today release a draft copy of the legislation with a view to introducing it into parliament next month.

The legislation includes new national laws to regulate margin lending under a standard national regime, reports The Australian.

Margin lending is not currently regulated in Australia and is considered to have been one of the main destroyers of investor wealth as the stockmarket collapsed last year.

It cost some investors their homes as their margin lending accounts blew up, triggering margin calls many couldn’t afford to pay.

Mr Sherry said yesterday taking out equity on a family home was a key area of interest to the Government.

“One area where we have had a high level of concern has been where people have been advised to take equity out of their family home and then to use this debt to leverage into buying shares through a margin loan.

“This double-debt trap, with a home as security, is of serious concern,” he said.

“Under our new responsible margin lending laws the lender will be required to assess a person’s true loan-to-value ratio

“This means the lender can no longer assume the money brought to the table is not itself debt, a major new improvement” that would reduce the risk of people losing their homes.

Properly geared margin lending, backed by full disclosure, had a place, but the Rudd Government would not tolerate ordinary Australians being misled into grossly inappropriate margin loans that could cost a family everything they owned, including their home, he said.

Under the new laws, lenders will be regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and be required to hold an Australian Financial Services Licence, be members of low-cost external dispute bodies, clearly disclose fees and commissions before lending, and lend under a tailored margin-lending-specific set of responsible lending obligations.

Between June last year and December 30, the number of margin calls received by 205,000 Australians with margin loans increased 458 per cent, as the share market dropped 40 per cent.

http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/money/story/0,26926,25441887-5015860,00.html

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