Migrant, Indigenous bodies say new budget measures are discriminatory

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) says proposed stricter residency requirements for the age pension, as well as the new foreign worker levy could be discriminatory.



FECCA’s concerns come as the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative body, the National Congress of Australia’s First People, argues parts of the budget continue to treat Indigenous Australians unfairly.

FECCA said extending the requirement to 15 years of continuous residency, including five years of a person’s working life, would adversely affect many within the migrant and refugee community. 

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An exception would be made for people who have lived in Australia for at least a decade without claiming any social security payments.

The measure is projected to save the government $119 million over five years.

FECCA chairperson Joe Caputo described the proposed measures as a callous move.

“In terms of the measures they will impact the most vulnerable of Australian migrants, including those who have worked in low-wages occupations – carers, refugees and migrants who have arrived in Australia at an older age and end of their careers,” he said.

“The cost-saving measure is callous and it’s targeting some of Australia’s most vulnerable people.”

FECCA said it was also worried about the costs associated with changes to parental visas, which would see children who sponsor such applications required to pay for private health insurance and a financial bond to secure visa approval.

There is also a new foreign worker levy to be imposed under changes to temporary skilled migration.

From March next year employers who have taken in foreign workers on some skilled visas will be required to pay a levy towards what’s known as a “Skilling Australians” fund.

Mr Caputo has questioned the message the new foreign workers measure sends.

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“We at the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils welcome measures to support the development of Australians from all backgrounds to improve job skills, but this measures links migrant workers to Australia’s skills shortage and unemployment implying that migrant workers are responsible,” he said.

“Overseas workers fill key positions and local employees cannot be recruited, caring for old Australians, supporting our national agricultural industry and growing Australia’s IT and hi-tech companies.”

In an interview with SBS World News, the federal Treasurer Scott Morrison defended the measure.

“You pay a simple levy on each and every foreign worker for the time they’re there on a temporary visa and if it’s a permanent one you pay a one off levy,” he said.

“That goes into a skilling Australians fund which supports every Australian whatever your background is, wherever you’ve come from. So you can get the skills you need to have a successful future in Australia.”

There are also concerns about the effect the budget will have on Indigenous Australians.

The federal government says it wants to focus on driving Indigenous jobs, growth and investment.

Watch: Treasurer Scott Morrison delivers budget 2017

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Youth mentoring and support for people who are looking for work after leaving prison are part of a $55 million investment dedicated to employment programs for Indigenous Australians.

Over the next four years almost $147 million from the government authority – Indigenous Business Australia – would be moved to the prime minister’s department to support Indigenous businesses.

The government also wants to spend more than $50 million for a research and evaluation strategy of Indigenous policies and programs, $10 million of which would be set aside for a new Indigenous Research Fund.

But the National Congress of Australia’s First People says the 2017 budget still doesn’t restore some $540 million stripped from Aboriginal affairs in 2014.

The Congress’ co-chair, Jackie Huggins, told NITV the budget neglected areas of vital need.

“We had heard it was going to be a fairly brutal budget in relation to Indigenous affairs and I think once you set the bar so low you can’t help to be disappointed,” she said.

“So we weren’t disappointed. And it was a bit of the same old, same old apart from Indigenous businesses, which are thriving – and good on them,

“I think that’s really great – but we’ve got to look at the fundamentals and where our people are at in terms of their low socio-economic positions, the poverty, low forms of housing, homelessness etc.

“I think we’ve got to look at those kinds of issues before we move onto more of an economic power base.”

Ms Huggins said a decision to extend the Cashless Welfare Card program, which quarantines part of a social security recipient’s payment, represents unfair treatment of Indigenous people, who form the majority of those affected.

“To treat us still like children, to have punitive measures such as this – I’ve heard of a man going on hunger strike in the Kimberley because he [doesn’t agree] with the cashless debit card,” she said.

“I think, when it takes $18 million for 2000 people to roll out, and sometimes it equates to about $10,000 per card – I think the government has to have a real hard look at itself in terms of that expenditure.”

Watch: Saul Eslake on budget 2017

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Landslide win for Moon in South Korea election

The ballot was needed after Park Geun-Hye was ousted and indicted for corruption, and took place against a backdrop of high tensions with the nuclear-armed North.


Voters were galvanised by anger over the sprawling bribery and abuse-of-power controversy that brought down Park, which catalysed frustrations over jobs and slowing growth.

They gave Moon, of the Democratic Party, who backs engagement with the North, 40.2 percent support — some 11.4 million votes — according to the National Election Commission (NEC).  

S.Korea will wake up to a new leader, Moon Jae-in. I think this moment best captures the emotions felt by supporters in Seoul @SBSNews pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/B4Zo15vxz7

— Katrina Yu (@Katmyu) May 9, 2017

Conservative Hong Joon-Pyo — who dubs Moon a “pro-Pyongyang leftist” was far behind on 25.2 percent, with centrist Ahn Cheol-Soo third on 21.5 percent.

Fewer than 4.2 million votes cast in the election were still to be counted and the NEC was expected to name Moon the president-elect after its official vote count was completed.

The result was “a great victory of great people” who wanted to create “a country of justice… where rules and common sense prevail”, Moon told cheering supporters on Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul — where vast crowds gathered for candlelit protests over several months to demand Park’s removal.

The graft scandal plunged the country into political turmoil and bitter division, but Moon promised healing, telling the crowd: “I will be president for all South Koreans.”

Ballots are brought into a vote-counting centre in Seoul, the official count begins! #SOUTHKOREA @SBSNews pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/gaQ8jxcUsC

— Katrina Yu (@Katmyu) May 9, 2017

On the square among the crowd, Koh Eun-Byul, 28, told AFP: “I am so happy because now there is hope for some meaningful change.”

Washington, which remains Seoul’s most important ally and has a large security presence in the South, on Tuesday congratulated Moon on his landslide victory.

“We look forward to working with president-elect Moon to continue to strengthen the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea and to deepen the enduring friendship and partnership between our two countries,”  White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement.

National elections are public holidays in South Korea and figures showed a turnout of 77.2 percent — the highest for 20 years in a presidential poll.

SBS Asia correspondent Katrina Yu is in Seoul

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The campaign focused largely on the economy, with North Korea less prominent. But after a decade of conservative rule Moon’s victory could mean significant change in Seoul’s approach towards both Pyongyang and key ally Washington.

The 64-year-old — accused by his critics of being soft on the North  — advocates dialogue to ease tensions and to bring it to negotiations. He is seen as favouring more independence in relations with the US, Seoul’s security guarantor with 28,500 troops in the country.

Their presence, he told reporters during the campaign, was “important not only to our own security but also to the global strategy of the US”.

The North has carried out two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since the start of last year in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

Washington has said military action is an option, sending fears of conflict spiralling.

South Koreans vote for a new president

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More recently US President Donald Trump has softened his message, saying he would be “honoured” to meet the North’s leader, Kim Jong-Un.

Moon also says he would be willing to visit Pyongyang to meet Kim and advocates resumption of some of the inter-Korean projects shuttered by his predecessors, including the Kaesong joint industrial zone.

@SBSNews speaks to S.Korean voters: “What Park Guen-hye did wasn’t so wrong. Lonely people are susceptible to befriending the wrong person.” pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/MROvNrxCEL

— Katrina Yu (@Katmyu) May 9, 2017Acute division

But corruption, slowing growth, unemployment and even air pollution from China topped voters’ list of concerns.

South Korea’s rapid growth from the 1970s to 1990s pulled a war-ravaged nation out of poverty but slowed as the economy matured, and unemployment among under-30s is now at a record 10 percent.

Frustration over widening inequality in wealth and opportunities fuelled anger over Park’s scandal, which exposed the cosy and corrupt ties between regulators and powerful family-oriented conglomerates, known as chaebols, that have endured for decades.

Park is in custody awaiting trial over corruption for offering governmental favours to top businessmen — including Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong — who allegedly bribed her secret confidante, Choi Soon-Sil.

Moon, Ahn and other candidates promised to reform the chaebols, which dominate the economy and have long been criticised for operating with little scrutiny.

RelatedS.Korean presidential elections @SBSNews speaks to voters in Seoul: “The impeachment was democratic, this is the last step in that process.” pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/Sa1oqUjZ63

— Katrina Yu (@Katmyu) May 9, 2017

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Budget 2017: Winners and losers

Budget measures will relieve future generations of ‘mountain of debt’: Turnbull

Budget 2017 shows ‘basic inequalities’: Shorten

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison’s hard-hitting budget has made losers out of banks and foreign investors, finding billions in revenue through a banking levy and tighter capital gains restrictions.


But with an increase in the Medicare levy of half a per cent scheduled to start in 2019, all Australian workers will be forced to help out balancing a budget the Treasurer says is “about making the choices to secure better days ahead”.

All dollar amounts cover the four-year forward estimates period. 


WATCH: Treasurer Scott Morrison talks to SBS

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The government is overhauling assistance to veterans by renegotiating deals with private hospitals to save $171 million over four years to reinvest in veterans services.

$34 million will be used to expand mental health services for veterans, alongside $10 million for a new scheme to prevent veteran suicide and $9 million for the veterans’ counselling service.

$12 million has been allocated for two new programs helping veterans back into the workforce.

And a new $167 million “veteran centric” reform aims to deliver support to the veterans who need it.

Watch: Treasurer Scott Morrison on the Budget balance

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A supplied image obtained Tuesday April 28, 2015, Personal from Force Protection Element-2 (FPE-2) board a Royal Australian Air Force C130 Hercules Aircraft.AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE

First-home buyers

A $250 million package has been set aside to provide tax benefits for people using superannuation to fund a first home deposit.

Up to $30,000, based on contributions of $15,000 per year starting on July 1 – money that would otherwise go into superannuation – can be used in the scheme.

Both members of a couple buying their first home can use the scheme. 

The government wants to increase housing supply through several budget measures.AAP

Older down-sizers

Reducing one barrier between older Australians and down-sizing, the government will allow someone who sells their home a non-concessional superannuation contribution of up to $300,000.

The sick

More than $2 billion in “zombie measures” in health have been abandoned.

$1.2 billion in new medicines will be made available, the bulk billing incentive for diagnostic imaging and pathology will remain, and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payment will no longer increase as planned.

RELATEDWatch: Scott Morrison on Medicare and PBS

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Bunnies and rodents

Animals can no longer be used for testing of cosmetic products from July next year as part of a suite of reforms aimed at eliminating cruelty in the sector.

New data on cosmetic ingredients derived from animal tests will be banned as well, and the industry will be asked to sign up to a code of practice to standardise codes on labels. 

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In the lead-up to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, the government is spending $16 million specifically on athletes.

That funding is in addition to $34 million for the Defence Force to support the games and the Queen’s Baton Relay, and $12 million for other games operations. 


The taxpayer

An additional 0.5 percentage points will be added to the Medicare levy from 2019, generating $8.2 billion in revenue, under the guise of paying for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The cost to set up the body policing the use of parliamentary entitlements triggered by Bronwyn Bishop’s $5000 helicopter ride will also be met by the taxpayer – more than $13 million.

New migrants seeking welfare

Under changes to residency requirements for the age pension and disability support, people will now need to be in continuously Australia for 15 years – up from 10 years.

The 10-year threshold will still be eligible for those who have spent more than five years in Australia below the pension age or have avoided welfare for five years as part of their application period.



Smokers of ‘rollies’ cigarettes 

‘Roll your own’ tobacco will be stung with greater import excises to bring those taxes into line with regular cigarettes. 

The measure will earn the government $360 million.

Small business

The immediate write-off of tax deductible purchases up to $20,000 in place since the 2015 budget has been extended and the Government is also spending $15 million on the small business community about what programs and support are available to assist them.

However businesses hoping to employ foreign workers on temporary visas will pay an additional $1200 per visa per year for each employee on a Temporary Skill Shortage visa or $3,000 for each employee being sponsored for a permanent.

Visa charges will also rise with inflation from July, earning the government $410 million. 

Australian VisaSBS

Banks and executives

A mammoth $6.2 billion levy has been forced upon Australia’s big five banks for no reason other than, as the Treasurer said, they can afford to pay it as part of the effort to balance the budget.

A $4 million scheme to improve accountability will also mean the regulator can remove and disqualify senior executives, impose new penalties and defer remuneration for senior executives.

A composite image of signage of Australia’s ‘big four’ banks ANZ, Westpac, the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) and the National Australia Bank (NAB)AAP

Developing countries

$303 million will be withheld from foreign development assistance over two years from 2019 by pausing indexation.

It also means when indexation resumes in 2021, the level of assistance will grow only from the new figure – saving approximately $100 million for every subsequent year. 

Foreign investors

Investors in Australian property from overseas are major losers in the budget, losing $600 million in capital gains concessions on top of restrictions over investment in new developments and new charges for underutilised property.

$20 million has also been allocated to the Australian Tax Office to enforce the foreign investment rules.

Watch: Scott Morrison on foreign investment

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Interstate housing investors

Deductions for travel expenses related to inspecting, maintaining or collecting rent for a residential rental property will be barred from July 1st, but investors can still claim deductions for property management services.

This change earns $540 million.

Newstart recipients

Recipients of Newstart aged between 30 and 50 will need to pass more onerous activity tests – up to 50 hours per fortnight from 30 hours previously.

Those aged between 55 and 60 can only volunteer in order to meet half their activity obligations, and those between 60 and 65 will also need to seek work or volunteer 10 hours per fortnight.


Australia qualifies for Eurovision final

Australia has qualified for the Eurovision grand final after 17-year-old Isaiah Firebrace was voted through in the first semi-final of the global song contest.


The young singer from Moama in the NSW Riverina was third on the bill, performing the song Don’t Come Easy on a revolving stage in Kyiv in Ukraine on Tuesday night.

Firebrace gave a quick shout-out to people in Australia in a brief chat backstage after his performance.

“Hi everyone back at home I’m thinking about you guys and wow this is incredible,” Firebrace said.

The first taste of Eurovision for 2017 didn’t disappoint with some wacky performances including a man in a horse’s head for Azerbaijan, inexplicably standing on a ladder.

But it was also a night for favourites with Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson opening the competition with the catchy pop number I Can’t Go On and Portugal’s Salvador Sobral performing the jazzy-ballad Amar Pelos Dois.

Both are placed just behind Italy, who is favourite to take home the overall prize on Saturday night.

The new SBS host pairing of Joel Creasey and Myf Warhurst made their debut at Eurovision, taking over from Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang.

The pair commented on the first few songs during the live SBS broadcast early on Wednesday morning in Australia, but mentioned technical problems and disappeared until the 11th performance of the night.

Creasey did get the chance to make a clever quip about Ukraine’s trio of hosts Oleksandr Skichko, Volodymyr Ostapchuk and Timur Miroshnychenko.

“Let’s celebrate diversity with three white males,” Creasey said.

‘Celebrate Diversity’ is Eurovision’s motto for 2017.

While the viewers’ voting took place, last year’s Eurovision winner from Ukraine, Jamala, performed the song 1944.

The Eurovision jury from each country cast their votes based on the second dress rehearsals. Their votes counted for 50 per cent, with the viewers’ votes deciding the other 50 per cent during the live show.

Australia was one of 10 countries going through to the grand final on Saturday out of the 18 who performed in the first of two semi-finals.

The second semi-final takes place on Thursday night, and Australia has a vested interest, as Danish entrant is 2014 The Voice Australia winner Anja Nissen is from the Blue Mountains in Sydney.

* Eurovision semi-final 1 qualifying countries











* SBS will broadcast the semi-final 2 live on Friday at 5am and the grand final live on Sunday at 5am (AEST).

Trump delays decision on Paris climate deal

Divisions within Trump’s administration have left in doubt the participation of the world’s number two carbon polluter — after China — in the landmark 2015 agreement to limit global warming.


After months of uncertainty, Trump had appeared to be edging toward a decision.

But the White House postponed a key meeting scheduled for Tuesday that could have determined the fate of the 196-nation accord, and hours later said there would be no decision before the end of the month.

Trump will “not be making an announcement regarding that agreement until after he returns from the G7,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer Tuesday, referring to a meeting in Sicily that ends May 27.

Despite hardline pre-election rhetoric against the deal, Trump’s inner circle has been tasked with providing the president with a range of policy options.

The group includes Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, White House strategist Steve Bannon, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, as well as Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Administration officials said the crunch sit-down may now take place next week, before Trump departs for a bumper first foreign trip that will take in Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican and Brussels before ending in Sicily.

“The president wants to make sure he has an opportunity to continue to meet with his team to create the best strategy for this country going forward,” said Spicer.

One option said to be under consideration is full withdrawal from the Paris accord, fulfilling Trump’s campaign promise to “cancel” the deal as president.

Bannon and Pruitt are said to be among those arguing for a tough line, rejecting global agreements they believe tie the hands of US industry.

Pruitt, the US government’s leading environmental official, has rejected the scientific consensus that humans are the “primary contributor” to global warming.

Ivanka Trump has meanwhile become a talisman for those who believe she can be a moderating influence on her father.

But her stance on the Paris accord and her influence inside the cut-throat world of White House politics are unclear.

Full withdrawal would roil Washington’s allies and seriously undermine global efforts to limit carbon emissions, which the vast majority of experts say are changing the climate in dangerous ways.

– Kyoto, take two? –

For US allies, Trump’s wavering has uncomfortable echoes of president George W. Bush’s decision to withdraw from the 1992 Kyoto Protocol.

That move scuttled a carefully worked global compromise and effectively delayed climate action by two decades.

It would also wreck Trump’s careful diplomacy with China, which the White House wants on-side to tackle North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The core of the Paris deal was an agreement between Chinese President Xi Jinping and then US president Barack Obama. Both men have pressed Trump to stay on board.

“It’s important that big countries that are big emitters like the US and China… lead the way,” Obama told a conference Tuesday in Milan, in one of his first public appearances since leaving office.

– Middle road –

Another possible option for Trump, according to officials, is to remain within the agreement, but rework US emissions targets.

Obama set targets to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Sue Biniaz, a former State Department legal adviser who supports the accord, said Trump does not need to make a binary choice between leaving or staying.

“It is clear from the agreement that if you do change your target, you are encouraged to change it in a more ambitious direction,” she said.

“But it is equally clear that you are not legally prohibited from changing it in any direction that you choose.”

The US wavering left UN climate negotiators — who happened to be gathered in Bonn to thrash out the nuts-and-bolts of the deal — in limbo.

They are gathered to start designing a “rulebook” for implementing the global deal to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.

This is the ceiling at which scientists say the planet can avoid worst-case-scenario climate change impacts — rising seas, harsher droughts, more intense storms, disease-spread and conflict over dwindling natural resources.

Speaker after speaker in Bonn reiterated the deal must not be “renegotiated” — a proposal of Trump’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

“It is definitely the elephant in the room,” a member of one national delegation told AFP on Tuesday.

Some fear a US U-turn would dampen enthusiasm among other signatories to increase their emissions-cutting targets.

This is key, as current pledges place the world on track for warming much higher than the two degrees Celsius ceiling.