Possible new rules for foreign property investors

(Transcript from World News Radio)

New foreign-investment rules could lead to civil penalties and fees being imposed on property investors who are not Australian citizens.


As Sacha Payne reports, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he wants to give Australian property buyers what he calls a “fair go.”

“There are millions of Australians who want to realise the dream of owning their own home. It’s not easy, but the job of government is to try to ensure that there are no unnecessary obstacles put in people’s way.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says new rules contained in a discussion paper on foreign investment would give prospective Australian property buyers an advantage.

Under the changes, foreign investors would pay a five-thousand-dollar application fee to buy a residential property under one million dollars.

For properties over one million, the fee rises to an extra $10,000 for every extra million in the purchase price.

Mr Abbott says he wants to encourage investment from overseas but it must not be at the expense of Australian buyers.

“It’s comparable to the system which has long operated in New Zealand, and it’s much more modest than the fees that operate in places like Hong Kong and Singapore, because, while we do want the rules to work, we also are open to foreign investment, and we welcome foreign investment, but it’s got to be foreign investment which is in our national interest.”

Non-resident foreign investors are currently banned from buying an existing home.

A temporary resident holding a visa of more than 12 months can purchase one existing home to live in while resident in Australia, but it must be sold when his or her visa expires.

Treasurer Joe Hockey says anyone found to be breaking the law would be fined and made to sell.

“There will be a new register set up so that we know how many foreign residential and agricultural property owners are in Australia, who they are … which is a very important form of reassurance to the Australian people. And if anyone does break the law, then we can fine them up to 25 per cent of the value of the property, as well as forcing them to sell the property. These integrity measures are absolutely essential for reassuring Australians that, when they go to an auction, they are on a level playing field.”

Mr Hockey says the extra $200 million raised through the new measures could help enforce rules around foreign ownership better.

He says investments are now more complex and the government needs more resources to scrutinise them.

“Transactions now are far more complicated. Money is coming from the four corners of the earth. We welcome that. But also it raises significant issues, ranging from national security to potential criminal activity, money-laundering and a range of other things. So our actual enforcement of the foreign-investment regime is costing far more — far more — than ever expected. Australians are paying for that. And what we are saying is, “Enough.” Those people who get the benefit of putting foreign investment into Australia should also pay for that service.”

The Government says it will make a final decision after March the 20th.



Read More

Auschwitz legacy taints three generations

(Transcript from World News Radio)

It’s been 70 years since detainees were released from the Auschwitz concentration camp, in Poland.


In its brief five years in existence, the Nazi camp was the last home of more than 1.1 million men, women and children who were gassed, shot, tortured and starved to death.

Those fortunate to survive the genocide were scarred by trauma, and that trauma has trickled down through the generations.

Phillippa Carisbrooke takes a look at the legacy of the Holocaust for one Australian family.

(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

Eva Slonim was 13 years old when she and her younger sister Marta were imprisoned at Auschwitz.

Mistaken for twins, they were subjected to horrific medical experiments.

Eva’s forearm still bears the number the Nazis used to identify prisoners.

The tattoo has faded … but memories of her imprisonment have not.

“It’s with me every day of my life. And I tried to conceal it so that my children and family would not not suffer from my feelings and my hurt.”

A photo taken at the liberation of Auschwitz captures the two sisters.

“That’s me. And that’s Marta.”

The pair stand among other child detainees, behind barbed wire and mesh fencing.

Eva didn’t recognise herself when shown the image.

The sisters were among some 35,000 Jews who migrated to Australia from Europe after the war.

Eva married an Australian-born Jew and the couple had five children.

Daniel Slonim used to think his mother’s past didn’t greatly affect him and that her efforts to shield her children from the horror had been successful.

“She would sit on the back porch and tell us stories. But she wouldn’t make us fearful. She would tell us stories like a storyteller and occasionally with humour so as not to frighten us.”

But the father of three has come to realise there’s a legacy associated with losing loved ones.

“I have terrible separation anxiety whenever my children go away. Even on short holidays I have trouble saying goodbye. When I leave for work in the morning, saying goodbye and walking out the door is a ceremony.’

Eva’s grandson, Ronen, suffered nightmares after first learning about the Holocaust at school.

Later he felt the need to quiz his grandmother about her past.

“I used to come to come every Saturday morning to my grandmother after prayers and ask her about her experiences during the Holocaust. It’s always been something on my mind. I read books on it all the time. So it’s something that I’ve been obsessed with.”

The 21-year old is troubled by the senselessness of the Holocaust, and it affects reports he hears about abuse today.

“Current affairs. For some reason, I think it’s due to the Holocaust and what my grandmother went through, when there are injustices in the world it just really hits me hard.”

Eva’s parents died without ever speaking to her about her imprisonment.

She struggled to talk to her own children about it.

She finds speaking with her grandchildren easier and is keen they learn from her experience.

“Protect themselves. Be aware. And also not to be vengeful. Just to learn a lesson.”

But the Melbourne grandmother’s family says she has had her revenge in creating a big family – one the Nazis so cruelly tried to deny her.



Read More

A year on, MSF slams global Ebola response

A year after the start of the Ebola outbreak, aid agency Doctors Without Borders has slammed the international community’s slow response and detailed the “indescribable horror” faced by its staff.


More than 10,000 people have been killed and some 25,000 infected since the Ebola epidemic was first identified in west Africa in March 2014, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A report released on Monday by Doctors Without Borders – known by its French initials MSF – says “months were wasted and lives were lost” because the UN’s World Health Organisation, which is charged with leading on global health emergencies and “possesses the know-how to bring Ebola under control”, failed to respond quickly or adequately.

Its report accused the WHO’s Global Alert and Outbreak Response Network of ignoring desperate pleas for help from Liberia when it met in June.

“I remember emphasising that we had the chance to halt the epidemic in Liberia if help was sent now,” said Marie-Christine Ferir, MSF emergency co-ordinator.

“It was early in the outbreak and there was still time. The call for help was heard but no action was taken.”

The WHO did not set up a regional hub for co-ordinating the response until July, by which time a second wave of the epidemic had struck.

“All the elements that led to the outbreak’s resurgence in June were also present in March, but the analysis, recognition and willingness to assume responsibility to respond robustly were not,” the report said.

It was only when a US doctor and Spanish nurse were diagnosed with Ebola that the world woke up to the threat, MSF said.

The aid agency also blamed the governments of Guinea and Sierra Leone for refusing to admit the scale of the epidemic, saying they put “needless obstacles” in the path of MSF teams.

MSF built a 250-bed centre in Liberia’s capital Monrovia, but even that was far from enough. The centre able to open only 30 minutes each morning, filling beds vacated by deaths overnight.

The report describes people dying on the gravel outside the gates, and a father who brought his daughter in the boot of his car, begging MSF to take her in so as to not infect his other children at home, but who was turned away.

“It was an indescribable horror,” said Rosa Crestani, Ebola task force co-ordinator.

There were so many patients and so few employees that the staff had on average only one minute per patient.

The report also points the criticism inward, saying it too should have mobilised faster.

“This Ebola outbreak has wrought an exceptionally heavy toll on MSF’s staff, and particularly on our west African colleagues,” it said.

“Not since the early days of HIV care have MSF staff sustained the loss of so many patients dying in our facilities and never in such an intense short period of time,” the report concluded.

Read More

Commemorations mark end of Australia’s war in Afghanistan

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

There have been nationwide commemorations to mark the end of Australia’s war effort in Afghanistan.


And parades to officially welcome home all those who served.

Phillippa Carisbrooke reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

“Sergeant Matthew Locke. Medal for Gallantry. Special Air Service Regiment. 25 October 2007. Age 33.”

The names of the 41 Australians killed serving in Afghanistan, read at a sombre ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Around the country there have been services and events to honour the near 35,000 defence personnel, officials, police and diplomats who from late 2001 through to the end of last year (2014) served in Afghanistan, in what was called Operation Slipper.

Speaking at a welcome home ceremony in the nation’s capital, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott recognised their sacrifice.

He noted that decades earlier soldiers returning from Vietnam were not properly acknowledged.

And stressed that it would be different for those who served in Afghanistan.

“I say to all our Afghanistan veterans, we are grateful to have you home, we acknowledge your achievements, and we thank you for your service. (clapping)”

Over 260 Australians were seriously wounded in Afghanistan.

And hundreds of others suffered unseen wounds.

The leader of the opposition, Bill Shorten, said he saluted those who’d served in Australia’s longest war, and who had brought new honour to the Anzac tradition.

“We honour your steely professionalism and your conspicuous personal bravery. We renew our promise to remember you brothers who lost their lives in the valleys and green mountains of Afghanistan.”

Speaking in Canberra, the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, paid tribute to those who over 13-years supported operations from home.

“To the partners. Parents. Children and siblings who carried on in our absence. Thank you. Every one of us on parade here today shares a deep appreciate for your service. And a genuine admiration for you strength and endurance.”

The Prime Minister said the war in Afghanistan had ended not with victory or with defeat, but with hope for a better Afghanistan and a safer world.



Read More

Report condemns Nauru detention centre conditions

(Transcript from World News Radio)

The long-awaited Moss review into allegations of abuse against asylum seekers in Australian detention on Nauru is damning about conditions on the island and the treatment of asylum seekers housed there.


The review has found a pressing need to improve the way sexual abuse claims are handled, better training for staff, and better protection for asylum seekers.

It has acknowledged the environment in which officers of the Australian Immigration Department, service provider staff and Nauruan authorities are working is difficult but says urgent changes need to made.

Amanda Cavill reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

The Moss review has found it’s possible that guards had traded marijuana for sexual favours with asylum seeker children, that there’s been under reporting of sexual and physical assault allegations to authorities, and that some allegations may not have been reported.

It has also found that 17 children engaged in self-harm between October 2013 and October 2014, including attempted hanging.

The Moss review makes 19 recommendations including that contract service providers review sexual harassment and sexual relationships guidelines and that the Nauruan criminal code should be changed to address child protection issues.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says all of the Review recommendations have been accepted and work has begun to implement them, in cooperation with the Government of Nauru.

“They have in place a strong law and order system and they have to deal with difficult circumstances. They have committed themselves to making sure that they can provide appropriate accommodation for people within the regional processing centres, and like the Australian government, they don’t have a tolerance for illegal behaviour, including in particular sexual assault. I find the thought of anybody, in particular children, being sexually assaulted completely abhorrent.”

Mr Dutton says the government will also work with service providers and the Australian Federal Police to implement change.

The review has recommended the Department and the government hold a joint investigation into the breakdown of trust with the aid group, Save the Children, which led to the removal of ten Save the Children employees from the island.

It also examined claims workers from Save the Children at the Australian-run detention centre were coaching detainees to self-harm and to make false claims.

Head of the Immigration Department, Michael Pezzullo says he believes the Save the Children staff were fairly removed, but concedes there appears to be no evidence to back up the claims against them.

Mr Pezzullo won’t say if they deserve an apology.

“I don’t want to speculate about any future hypothetical outcome. We’ll work through all the issues including the issues on both sides of the discussion. If you read chapter 4, there were instances, credible allegation of Save The Children staff behaving in a way that was about ideologically debating of the policy rather than actual delivery of service. That led to a breakdown in the relationship in part.”

The Moss review has recommended that several dozen cases of sexual and physical abuse should now be referred to Nauruan authorities.

It has also acknowledged Nauruan authorities have limited resources to investigate claims and need better forensic services.

Mr Pezzullo says the the Immigration department is already reviewing procedures and processes at all other detention centres to ensure that the vulnerable are protected.

“We’re also quite separately, with the changing nature of how we’re using the Migration Act, and shifting changing profile if you like of the population of these detention centres, working through the release of detainees under temporary protection. The very nature of our centres are going to change in any event so we’re taking the opportunity along with the advent of the Australian Border Force on 1st July, subject to legislation passing and these centres coming under the operational management of the Border Force, we are taking the opportunity to look at all of our practices around the protection of children, vulnerable people and the management of people in our … care.”

Greens Immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson Young says she finds it unacceptable that there have been no proper provisions in place to deal with the abuse before now.

“I note that the department has said they will respond and accept all of the recommendations. They include having proper management and teaching and training for staff about how to engage properly with asylum seekers inside in terms of not accept ing sexualised behaviour, not carrying out sexual harassment. You’d think that those types of things should’ve been in place long before now. “

The department says it will now undertake a two-month comprehensive review of how best to ensure the report’s recommendations are implemented in full.


Read More