The Australian immigration authorities have finally and formally broken the mysterious silence about the GTIP program. The GTIP (Global Talent Independent Program) was inaugurated in June 2019 and was meant for highly skilled and highly paid professionals who were at the top of their fields globally. These “genius” individuals were to be sourced from different parts of the world and were to be offered express or fast-track permanent residency.
Prior to this sudden news break, the details like the eligibility and the mode of induction were a bit unclear. However, now we know that
- There are up to 5000 such PR visa grants
- The candidate will be headhunted by specialist recruiters Ministry of Home Affairs Australia being one of them.
- The candidate must be earning AUD 149,000 per annum and must have global recognitions and provable credentials for his/her expertise in the field.
The GTIP program is limited to 7 specific future-oriented fields. These fields are:
- Space and Advanced Manufacturing
- Energy and Mining Technology
- Cyber Security
The Australian Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Mr. David Coleman said “We want to position Australia at the forefront of major growth trends in the world economy. By enabling local businesses to access the world’s best talent, we will help to grow high growth industries in Australia”.
He further added “While the program is focused on bringing in external talent, Home Affairs expects the scheme will also, by extension, create “opportunities for Australians by transferring skills, promoting innovation and creating job opportunities”.
The core purpose of the GITP program is to bring Australia at par with scientific and technical innovation that’s happening in the developed world. The 7 shortlisted fields mentioned above are the technological hotspots of innovations with engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs coming out with better solutions to complicated problems.
Please note that this story is still developing, and we will post details as they become available via reliable news sources and the ministry of immigration and citizenship. Please expect omissions, subtractions and additions as we move forward with this news.
Source: BMS Australia
Perth and Gold Coast are declassifying to Regional Australia from 16th November 2019. Mr. David Coleman, the Australian minister for immigration earlier made an announcement declassifying Perth and Gold Coast into regional Australian. The impact of this news will be huge on the current General Skilled Worker migration program. Perth and Gold Coast are developed at par with Melbourne and Sydney.
It is also worth noting that Perth and Gold Coast offer lifestyles and facilities similar to all other northern metropolitans of the country. This will appeal to aspiring emigrants eyeing northern territories for settling down.
According to immigration experts and lawyers, this move’s broader objective is to make regional Australia more attractive for the migration aspirants. With Perth and Gold Coasts now available as options to settle down, a surge in applicant interest is expected.
It is imperative to note that the Australian immigration policy for the skilled worker will be undergoing changes starting 16th November 2019. The Subclass 491 visa will be replacing the 489 visas. For more details and the changes, you can refer to the BMS Australia’s complete guide on the new 491 Visa.
This is a developing story and we will keep on updating this space as more information about these changes are announced and implemented. Please note that the news is based on available sources. Omissions, corrections and subtractions are expected as the story develops.
Source: BMS Australia
There’s some brilliant news for the regional applicants. There are two new skilled regional visa regimes that will debut on 16th November 2019. These new visas are all set to encourage regional migration.
The Skilled Work Regional Provisional Visa subclass 491 will be replacing the subclass 489 – The first provisional stream. Also, the Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional Provisional Visa sub class 491 will be taking over the subclass 187 direct entry stream regional sponsored migration scheme.
The legislation also indicates that if you have lived and worked full time in the South Australia for 2 years – 12 months of which working full time – on a 489; you might become eligible for the Australian permanent residency through the subclass 887.
The regional employers are also being given advantage with one SAF Levy instead of dual subclass levy. Previously, the employers were subjected to dual – 482 and 186 – subclass levy which added to the costing burdens.
The new bill also enforces swifter and prioritized processing of regional applicants. The acquirers of the 491 visas will be able to move freely between regions without having to apply for new visas for different regions.
This is a developing story because the bill also allows debate on new inclusions in the regional areas. We will keep updating this news as we get more confirmed information on the proceedings.
Source: Best Migration Services
Lukashenka, President of Belarus, to celebrate independence with Russian Iskander missiles
In Belarus, unlike other post-Soviet countries, Independence Day is not connected with the collapse of the USSR. In fact, July 3 is the date of Minsk’s liberation from the Nazis in 1944.
Why was this choice made? In 1996, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka moved the main holiday to July 3 fighting with the nationally oriented opposition which he squeamishly called “conscious”.
Before that, since 1992, Independence Day had been celebrated on July 27, the day of the adoption of the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Belarus. But Lukashenka set a course for “brotherly integration” with Russia and began to destroy the “nationalists’ achievements”.
According to the Soviet pattern
The choice of July 3 for this holiday is criticized by the opponents: on this day only Minsk was freed, but not the whole Belarus, and most importantly — the Stalinist regime returned here. Repressions continued, everything was ruled by Moscow. That is, there was nothing like true freedom and independence of the Belarusian nation.
But the leadership of Belarus stubbornly adhered to the truncated, cramped Soviet version of the national history. Lukashenka is a Soviet man himself, and he wanted to please the Kremlin. For the sake of “brotherly integration”, the actual Russification continued for the sake of cheap Russian resources.
Now the relations between the “sworn allies” have become strained, the Kremlin is forcing the so-called deep integration which smells like a soft acqisition. Lukashenka is resisting but the claw of the Belarusian bird is sitting too tight.
Moscow “marks” the Belarusian foothold
This year’s parade on July 3 in Minsk will begin with aviation. And the eye of the connoisseur will immediately note that the Belarusian Air Force lacks modern combat aircraft. And in general, Russia is not burning with the desire to supply the ally with the latest weapons and equipment. And what is offered is incredibly expensive.
Lukashenka has repeatedly accused Moscow of being mean in this respect. But in light of the current coercion to integrate, one should not count on the Kremlin’s generosity
Some observers believe that Moscow favors the aging arsenal of the Belarusian army in order to impose its military bases: you have no potential to protect the borders of the Union State, they could say.
Russian Iskander missiles will also participate in the ground part of the parade. This will not be a plus for the image of Minsk in the eyes of Western observers. After all, Moscow is threatening its NATO neighbors with Iskander missiles every now and then.
In addition, the appearance of these missile systems on Minsk streets strengthens the arguments of those who consider the Belarusian army only an appendage of the Russian army. But Lukashenka and the Foreign Ministry try hard to prove to Europe that Minsk pursues an independent policy and is a donor of stability in the region!
To be multi-vector, the Chinese and other soldiers from several post-Soviet countries were also invited to the upcoming parade. But Moscow is also looking sideways at Minsk’s military-technical cooperation with Beijing. Every alley is a dead end.
The authorities do not respect ‘Freedom Day’
The democratically-minded and nationally oriented part of the Belarusians considers the unofficial Freedom Day on March 25 as the best date for celebrating independence. It is connected with a short but important for the formation of statehood phenomenon — the appearance of the Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918.
In recent years, when relations with the Kremlin have deteriorated, the Belarusian authorities have been trying to change the official historical narrative to a certain extent and have started to turn to pre-Soviet dates and events. But they are afraid to unfold the Belarusianization so that the Kremlin wouldn’t get angry. Here it is, the trap of “brotherly integration”!
But it’s not just about Moscow. For Lukashenka, a former Soviet political worker, the Freedom Day remains an ideologically alien holiday of the “fifth column”.
Last spring, the authorities refused the organizers to visit the best venues in the capital. And sometimes even housewives with vegetables and pensioners with canes were dispersed on that day. Let the opposition know what country they live in.
Story by political observer Alyaksandr Klaskouski for belsat.eu
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of belsat.eu
Canada Day (French: Fête du Canada) is the national day of Canada. A federal statutory holiday, it celebrates the anniversary of July 1, 1867, the effective date of the Constitution Act, 1867 (then called the British North America Act, 1867), which united the three separate colonies of the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single Dominion within the British Empire called Canada. Originally called Dominion Day (French: Le Jour de la Confédération), the holiday was renamed in 1982, the year the Canada Act was passed. Canada Day celebrations take place throughout the country, as well as in various locations around the world, attended by Canadians living abroad.
The visa changes will affect prospective skilled migration visa applicants, businesses sponsoring skilled migrants, as well as all points-test based visa applications.
The Government is changing the eligibility requirements for some permanent skilled visas “to better align the permanent and temporary programs”.
The department claims that these measures are intended to sharpen the focus of Australia’s skilled migration programs, to ensure they better meet Australia’s skills needs.
Ranbir Singh and Rohit Mohan of Lakshya Migration told SBS Punjabi that prospective visa applicants will face “new hurdles” to meet the recently toughened requirements.
Listed below are some changes recently announced by the Federal Government and the new arrangements for the skilled migration visa applications.
Changes to point-based skilled migration
Australia’s skilled migration program is a points-based system designed to attract highly qualified and experienced professionals to best meet Australia’s skills needs.
There are a number of skilled migration visas that require applicants to score a minimum number of points to qualify for permanent skilled migration.
The government announced that from 1 July 2018 the points threshold will now be increased from 60 to 65 for skilled – independent, nominated and regional sponsored visa categories.
Global Talent Visa scheme
The Global Talent Scheme will commence in July 2018 on a trial basis for 12 months.
The visa scheme aims to attract highly skilled workers to deliver innovation to Australia’s tech industry. It consists of two streams – the start-up stream and established the business stream.
In order to sponsor the foreign workers, the employers will first need to prove their track record of hiring and training Australian workers.
According to migration agent Ranbir Singh, the scheme is similar to existing entrepreneur visa and it may have been introduced to complement the skill shortage generated after the closure of the controversial 457 visa scheme.
Increase in visa fees
Application charges for some Australian visas are going up on 1 July 2018.
The government is hoping to generate $410 million dollars over a four-year period from 2017 to 2021.
In partner visa applications, the prospective applicant will now need to pay $7,160 instead of $7,000.
The fee for Business Innovation and Investment (Subclass 188 Provisional) visa in the Premium Investor stream will record the highest hike of $190. Applicants will now have to pay $8,770 instead of $8,580.
Skilled partner age limit lowered for Australian permanent visas
The latest set of changes introduced to skilled permanent visas has lowered the maximum age of a skilled partner to 45 for which an applicant can claim additional points in the general points test.
Earlier, applicants for general skilled visas whose spouses and de facto partners were under 50 years of age, were able to claim additional five points.
The changes introduced will apply to Skilled Independent visas Subclass 189 and Subclass 190 and Skilled Regional Subclass 489 with effect from 1 July 2018.
Changes to employer-sponsored visas
Government plans to implement the Skilled Australians Fund for employer-sponsored visa categories. This will be followed by the introduction of a training levy also known as Nomination Training Contribution Charge (NTCC) for the respective sponsors.
Employers and businesses seeking to nominate a worker will need to pay NTCC for the following visas: Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) (Subclass 482) visa, which is replacing visa subclass 457; Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) (Subclass 186) visa; and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) (Subclass 187) visa.
For 482 visa, an annual fee of $1200 would be implemented for each nomination for a business that has a turnover of lesser than 10 million dollars.
A fee of $3,000 is set for an employee on a permanent skilled visa (186 and 187 visas).
Migration experts claim that in the next few months, regional industry body groups may exert pressure on the government for easing out conditions for visa related to Employer Nominated (EN) and Regional State Migration Scheme (RSMS).
Spike expected in General Skilled Migration (GSM) visas
General Skilled Migration Visa is designed for skilled workers who are willing to live and work in Australia on a permanent basis. This visa is also applicable to those individuals who can get sponsorship of an Australian employer.
Ranbir Singh told SBS Punjabi there are very few options available for international students under the Employer Nominated Scheme (TSS, ENS, RSMS) and it’ll lead to a spike in the lodgement of General Skilled Migration or GSM visas (489, 189, 190 and 887).
Qualification points to secure an Expression of Interest (EOI) are also expected to go up due to an increased demand, he said.
This will be a two-stage process where the sponsorship application will need to be approved before the visa applicant can apply for a visa.
Migration expert Rohit Mohan said that although it’s a good move to save the prospective applicants from domestic violence, it’ll lead to further delays in visa approvals.
Skilled Occupation Lists (SOL) changes
Australia’s skilled occupation lists are currently under review and the changes are likely to be implemented in July.
A number of occupations were flagged for removal from the lists and some were put up for moving between different lists.
The last changes in Australia’s skilled occupation lists were made in March this year at the time of making the new Temporary Skill Shortage visa available when the new Regional Occupation List (ROL) was introduced.
Though at that time, the Department had said that no further changes in the lists will be made in July, but as many as 17 occupations have been flagged for removal from the list and six occupations (including Dentist and Management Accountant) for moving between different lists.
It is speculated that getting Australian citizenship will be much tougher if the government succeeds in passing the citizenship bill this year by introducing increased residence requirement up to four years and a mandatory English test.
In an exclusive interview with SBS Punjabi, the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge said the government may bring in a conversational, primary school level test instead of IELTS.
Earlier this year, Mr Tudge told SBS News that the government was committed to implementing the citizenship reforms from July 1.
While the Minister said he would still want this to happen within this year, the government is currently working on the details of the revised legislation, including the general residence period.
In New Zealand and Canada, poverty rates are falling dramatically. What would it take to lift the forgotten Australians living in poverty?
‘It’s not a knowing problem; it’s very much a doing problem’ – the director of Logan Together, Matthew Cox. Photograph: David Kelly/The Guardian
The federal election is history, and those who had counted on a Labor government to focus on reducing inequality and easing poverty were disappointed. Scott Morrison’s government has made clear it has no intention of increasing the base rate of the Newstart payment for unemployed Australians – the most intense welfare campaign of the election – even though it has seen no real increase for a quarter of a century, and despite suggestions from the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, that an increase would be “good for the economy”.
Yet the 10% of Australians living in income poverty remain (13% if you take the cost of housing into account), with up to a million of us living in persistent and entrenched poverty, unable to participate fully in life.
As the Productivity Commission has noted, our poverty rate has remained stubbornly high for 30 years, despite Australia being one of the wealthiest countries in the world and enjoying decades of economic growth. As its former chairman Peter Harris has said: “Perhaps simply shifting money around and doing more of the same is not sufficient.”
There are dozens of ideas about what we could do to reduce poverty. Here are five we could do now, if we chose.
1. Scale up things that work
“It’s not a knowing problem; it’s very much a doing problem,” says Matthew Cox, the director of Logan Together, a 10-year community led project with one aim: use the evidence already at hand to give children aged 0 to 8 the best start in life. Why those years? Because the “science is incredibly clear” that “if the first years of life go well then those little kids turn into teenagers who do well and those teenagers tend to turn into adults who do well”.
Logan is a fast-growing city of around 315,000 people about 45 minutes from Brisbane’s city centre. It is well known that poverty is concentrated: in Queensland, for instance, more than half of the most disadvantaged people live in just four places: Logan, Moreton Bay, Bundaberg and Ipswich.
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Cox outlines the challenge. In Logan, there are about 45,000 children aged 0 to 8. Most of them are doing fine, but about 15,000 are not. It means that, in five suburbs within the city, fewer than 20% attend kindergarten, when the evidence is that formal programs make a big difference to language and social skills when children start school.
When Logan Together began in 2015, about 12% of women were receiving little or no antenatal care and between 5% and 6% were turning up to give birth without seeing a doctor at any time during pregnancy. This is in suburban Brisbane, not remote Australia. In some suburbs, between 10% and 20% of children arrived at school never having received a health check.
Logan Together is a “massive collaboration” effort between about 100 organisations – from schools to churches to local sporting groups to government health centres – to deliver the few things children need at different stages of early childhood so that they begin life with the same chances as any other Australian child. It’s not a lack of money, with an estimate of more than $200m a year spent in Logan on human and family services alone. Cox calls it a “spray and pray” approach.
“You spray human services out there, and you pray it’s made a difference,” Cox told a parliamentary inquiry on intergenerational welfare dependence last year.
“We know it doesn’t. We know those sorts of highly pixilated, atomised, random acts of kindness into the community are actually pretty good at resolving people’s immediate crisis issues. They are really lousy at stitching together into a system that grows kids up well.”
There are dozens of initiatives across Australia that have a similar approach – long-term, locally organised, working on solutions rather than responding to crisis. There’s Empowered Communities, an Indigenous-designed and led model that gives local communities greater authority about priorities for government spending and services. There’s Doveton in outer Melbourne, a world-leading, philanthropically funded experiment to overcome serious disadvantage through a purpose-built school integrating health and family services. There’s Tasmania’s Child and Family Centres, single entry points to universal, targeted and specialist services and supports from pregnancy to age 5.
Cox says Australia needs a radical change in how it delivers services to vulnerable people. The “large centralised systems we have to deliver health and education but also social services just cannot operate flexibly in a differentiated way at the local level.”
Governments of all hues see the need for change. “This is just good policy and notions of left and right mean absolutely nothing. [But] there is a very a long way to go. This is an enormous paradigm change for how the federation works in Australia, how social investment works.
“The message is that there is a scalable, knowable and plannable response to poverty … if we apply it to 50 to 100 communities we could make a really significant intergenerational change.
“It sort of seems like we’ve have given up big ideas like that in the modern world, given up on the idea that you can do something conclusive about levels of poverty in this country. What we’re trying to prove is that it’s just not true, we can take action. It’s not a pipe dream. It’s a decision.”
2. Set a target
In February, Canada got good news. Between 2015 and 2017, the poverty rate fell by more than 20%. That meant there were 825,000 fewer Canadians living in poverty. Put another way, Canada now has its lowest poverty rate in its modern history, 9.5%.
How did this country, in many ways similar to Australia, achieve this when in many wealthy countries poverty rates remain the same, or rise? It set a target.
Prime minister Justin Trudeau’s progressive government released the country’s first poverty reduction strategy last year. In November, it enshrined it into law. For the first time, Canada has an official poverty line based on the cost of a basket of goods and services people require to meet basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living. (Australia has no official measure of poverty, one reason why the discussion here can be so confusing.)
Canada has set targets – a 20% reduction in poverty by 2020 (it is ahead of that goal), and a 50% drop by 2030, relative to 2015 levels. It set up the independent National Advisory Council on Poverty to advise the government on its strategy, and track efforts through an annual report tabled in parliament.
Canada’s economy is doing well, creating jobs. The government has also taken specific steps to reduce poverty, including big increases to child benefits for low-income people with children.
New Zealand is another country setting targets. Last year, it passed the Child Poverty Reduction Act, which aims to halve child poverty in 10 years. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, says she wants New Zealand to “aspire to be the best place in the world to be a child”. New Zealand’s rate of child poverty is 23% when the cost of housing is taken into account, compared with more than 17% in Australia.
The chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Services, Cassandra Goldie, says targets can work to signal a national priority and to keep governments accountable.
“I won’t speak for First Nation views around the Close the Gap agenda, but the one thing it clearly has done is helped back up the voices of First Nations communities who say, ‘See? Things are not changing with the way you mob are doing it’ … It’s the persistent constant monitoring of some of those basic metrics for First Nation communities and we need that as a country.”
3. Fix housing
For a growing number of Australians, housing stress is acute. What’s happened, says Prof Hal Pawson, a housing policy and homelessness specialist at the University of NSW in Sydney, is intertwined with poverty.
While some welfare groups argue that “anyone” can become homeless if a few things go wrong, it’s not really true. It’s poverty that leads to homelessness.
Pawson was the lead author of Australia’s first comprehensive homelessness monitor in 2018, which found that after a decade when homelessness was fairly stable in Australia, it jumped by 14% in the five years to 2016, when 116,000 people were recorded as homeless.
The rise didn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s the result of lack of affordable housing, especially affordable rents. It is no surprise that the biggest rises in homelessness were in our big cities, where housing affordability has worsened most and where median rents are highest.
All this is linked to the rates of social benefits, especially the low rate of Newstart. It is exceptionally hard to rent privately on $277.85 a week, even with the maximum commonwealth rental assistance of $68 a week. Anglicare’s snapshot of advertised affordable rentals this year found just two listings across the country were affordable for the 500,000 single people on Newstart. Even for those on the minimum wage of $719.20 a week, fewer than 3% of rental listings were affordable.
Pawson says these issues are structural – they are not the individuals’ fault. If the causes are complex, there is one thing we could do now to ease housing stress and homelessness. We could increase rent assistance for those on very low incomes and social security benefits renting in the private market. For many experts and welfare groups, this is at as important as increasing Newstart.
The Grattan Institute’s report before the 18 May election argued for a 40% increase in maximum rent assistance – worth $1,410 for singles, at a cost of $1.2bn a year. Even that big rise would only provide the same real assistance to low-income earners as it did 15 years ago. Acoss argues for an immediate 30% increase and a review to ensure it meets people’s basic needs across the country.
There is broad agreement, too, that rent assistance for people on Newstart, or single parents payments or aged pensions, be indexed to changes in rents, so its value is maintained. For decades, it has been indexed to the CPI, which rents have far outstripped.
Where there is debate is around the need for increased direct government investment in social housing, where rent is below market rates. Many low-income people renting privately qualify for social housing but have little to no chance of securing a place.
As Grattan and others point out, our stock of social housing – about 400,000 dwellings – has barely grown in 20 years, while the population has increased by 33%. So the waiting lists keep growing, those in social housing stay for longer periods, and poorer people find it harder to pay for rents in the private market, many spending half their incomes on rent.
Research released last year from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Centre found that Australia needed to triple its stock of social housing over the next 20 years to cover the existing backlog of people in severe housing need, and to meet emerging needs. A quarter of a century of paltry investment meant a shortfall of 433,000 dwellings and the current construction rate – little more than 3,000 dwellings a year – would need to be expanded fivefold just to keep pace with population growth.
Pawson sees small signs of optimism. After the “scorched earth” approach of prime minister Tony Abbott – who saw a minimal role for the commonwealth in housing – it was Morrison as treasurer who championed federal involvement, setting up the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) in 2018, to channel lower-cost finance to not-for-profit community housing providers.
“Although NHFIC could be a game-changer, it can come into its own only when significant matching funds are offered by government,” Pawson says. “That’s what we will need to see by prime minister Morrison to finish the job started by treasurer Morrison.”
4. Think big
“Poverty isn’t a lack of character, it’s a lack of cash.”
One reason why Dutch historian Rutger Bregman’s 2017 book, Utopia for Realists, caused such a stir was that it challenged the deep assumptions about how wealthy countries think about poverty, and argued for a radical rethink.
One of Bregman’s central proposals was a universal basic income (UBI), an idea that has attracted new interest since the global financial crisis as a possible way to counter rising inequality and persistent poverty in an era of insecure work.
In the UK, Labour has said it would trial a UBI if elected.
In Australia, the Greens support a trial but it has detractors, including among many of Australia’s welfare groups and poverty researchers. There are numerous UBI models but, in essence, it is a guaranteed basic income for all, enough to live on, without conditions or mean testing.
In his book, Bregman takes on the often-unspoken thinking about poverty. Anyone who wants to end it, he writes, “must inevitably face a few tough questions. Why are the poor more likely to commit crimes? Why are they more prone to obesity? Why do they use more alcohol and drugs? In short, why do the poor make so many dumb decisions?”
Jacqueline Phillips, director of policy and advocacy at Acoss, says our system is riddled with the notion that poverty is the fault of the poor.
“The community sector points to the structural drivers of poverty and disadvantage and others emphasise personal responsibility,” she says. “That’s partly why we’ve ended up with all these programs like income management which are all based on the assumption that individuals on welfare are somehow defective. There’s individual behaviour issues at play and policies are designed to change those behaviours rather than changing the structure.”
There is evidence that none of these assumptions is true and that poverty cannot be addressed without changing them. Bregman outlines the theories of Eldar Shafir, a psychologist at Princeton University, and his “science of scarcity”. Poverty consumes people to such an extent that they can focus only on the short term – how to pay the rent, how to pay the bills, buying a needed pair of shoes. There’s never a break, never the space to think about the longer term. Poor people “are not making dumb decisions because they are dumb, but because they are living in a context in which anyone would make dumb decisions”.
Instead of trying to fix behaviour, we could turn that around. One example is known as Housing First – that the answer to homelessness is not crisis accommodation but a home, without conditions.
Finland has proven it. Since the launch of Housing First in 2008, the number of long-term homeless people in Finland has fallen by more than 35% and rough sleeping has all but been eliminated. The idea is that people who are homeless don’t have to fix their problems before they get a home. Providing a home gives them the space and security to turn their lives around. It costs money, but over time, it saves money.
Bregman and others argue that the UBI could have the same impact. A four-year trial in the Canadian town of Dauphin in the 1970s ensured that no one fell below the poverty line. In practice, 30% of the towns’ residents got a cheque in the mail each month, no questions asked. When it was evaluated – years later – it was found that people did not work less. Hospitalisations had dropped. Domestic violence was down, and school performance improved.
Emma Dawson, the executive director of progressive thinktank Per Capita, is not a fan of a UBI. The cost would be huge to ensure people did not live below the poverty line, and Dawson believes Australia’s system of targeted assistance to those who need it most is the right structure. What she would like to see, though, is a “a targeted basic income, about making Newstart or youth allowance or disability payment a liveable payment without the massive conditionality that’s attached to it now”.
Acoss is open to the debate, and it does propose a root and branch review of the social security system. Phillips says its immediate priority is to secure a basic minimum income for those who need it.
Bregman’s book received both praise and criticism, but it was acknowledged that he was at least thinking beyond the next electoral cycle. He did identify that big changes rarely happen without utopian thinking. In a recent TED Talk, he said eliminating it was a decision countries could make, if they dared to think boldly enough.
“Imagine how much energy and talent we would unleash if we got rid of poverty once and for all,” he said.
5. And yes, raise Newstart
Experts say – repeatedly – the single biggest thing we could do to reduce income poverty is to increase Newstart and youth allowance (the unemployment benefit for young adults) and index it to rises in average weekly earnings. That’s because the base single rate of $277.85 for Newstart is about $150 a week below the standard income poverty line and more than half its recipients are living in poverty.
Because Newstart is indexed to inflation rather than wages (as aged pensions are), it keeps falling relatively backwards, driving especially long-term recipients deeper into poverty.
Living costs for those on Newstart are much the same as for those on the aged or disability pension, but the gap between them keeps growing – the single aged pension rate, for instance, is $422 a week, or around $24,000 a year with allowances such as an energy supplement.
Acoss and other welfare groups argue that Newstart needs to be indexed to wage growth.. For instance, New Zealand in its latest budget made a historic change: indexing main benefits such as its job seekers payment to wage growth, not inflation. That change alone will see weekly increases of $NZ10 to $17 a week.
Goldie says welfare groups and experts in poverty reduction will keep pushing for a real rise in the payment – a minimum of $75 a week.
“It’s very important that we persist in highlighting where we are succeeding and where we are not,” Goldie says. “There are ideological views around the way you go about delivering better outcomes for people, but nobody’s going to say we want to increase the number people who don’t have enough food to eat.”
Five refugees and their families have arrived in Australia this year thanks to a humanitarian pilot project helping businesses fill skill shortages.
For Syrian man Derar Alkhateeb, touching down at Sydney airport four months ago is still a surreal memory.
He and his young family landed in Australia to a welcoming crowd.
The moment was a stark contrast to the adversity the refugee had faced since fleeing his war-torn country.
“It’s really unbelievable when I arrived in Australia,” he told SBS News.
“I couldn’t believe that it is real.”
The 34-year old is a qualified software engineer with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Damascus. But in the midst of Syria’s civil war his life was put on hold.
His home city of Daraa has been an epicentre for intense bombings during Syria’s civil conflict.
Derar was displaced for six years in Jordan with no work permit and was one of about 80,000 people living in the crowded Zaatari refugee camp.
For the first two years of his journey, he says a single blank piece of paper with his name on it was his only form of identification.
“If you don’t have ID you are stateless, nobody can accept you,” he said.
“My feeling it was mixed with fear and sad and hunger because I left my family and my friends.”
‘I will lose my career’
In Jordan, he met Tuqa, also a Syrian refugee and the woman who would become his wife.
The couple are now parents to three-year-old Hamza and nine-month-old Layan and adapting to life in Australia.
But Derar’s fears for his family from the past few years remain raw.
“No future for them, no future for me, [fear] I will lose my career, lose my skills,” he said.
Derar, who now lives in the Western Sydney suburb of Bankstown, is one of five refugees and their families to enter Australia this year on skilled migrant visas under a humanitarian pilot project.
TBB – the project behind their recruitment – is a not-for-profit helping connect refugees with employers seeking to fill skill shortages.
Many refugee candidates are eligible for regular skilled visas, but others aren’t due to barriers including a lack of documentation.
Founder John Cameron said his organization is helping businesses recruit highly skilled but often forgotten workers.
“It’s a normal competitive recruitment process,” he said.
“This isn’t charity, this is employers filling skill gaps that they struggle to fill locally.”
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees puts the global number of displaced people at 70.8 million. TBB has registered more than 10,000 refugees as potential applicants over the past three years.
“We are talking about individuals here and amazing individuals that deserve a life,” Mr Cameron said.
“The refugees that we show to employers are very much assets rather than liabilities.”
We are talking about individuals here and amazing individuals that deserve a life.
– JOHN CAMERON, TBB
In Derar’s case, he has been recruited by Australian technology company IRESS, which has offices across the world.
TBB helped him to secure a temporary skill shortage visa to become a software engineer for the company.
“They brought me back to life, they renew the hope, they renew the hope to me, for better future, better life,” he said.
IRESS Group General Counsel Peter Ferguson says the company has employed two workers under the recruitment pathway. He said it’s a win-win situation.
“It is done on merit so we get access to talent – talent that we urgently need,” he said.
“But it also improves the life of individuals like Derar and his family.”
He said their applicants go through the same recruiting process as anyone else, but acknowledged the humanitarian significance of hiring in this way.
“It’s not the exclusive driver of what we’ve done but it does add a dimension that is important to us,” he said.
“The industry in which we conduct our business is highly competitive and if we can find a different pool of talent that just makes good business sense.”
TBB’ pilot program has received preliminary support from the Australian government.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the project aligns with international efforts to expand “complementary pathways” for refugees.
“A small number of … supported cases are being considered within the Humanitarian Program as a pilot arrangement, which will be evaluated once completed,” the statement read.
The Department of Home Affairs said Australia provides a pathway for up to 1,000 skilled and employment-ready refugees already through its own Community Support Program (CSP).
Lisa Button is a Senior Project Manager for the Centre for Policy Development.
The think tank’s work includes extensive research into refugee economic participation in Australia.
She said skilled migration pathways for refugees help complement others being run on more traditional humanitarian grounds.
“It’s bridging that gap recognising that refugees … often have a lot of skills and capacities to bring to the Australian economy,” she said.
Ms Button said their research shows one of the biggest challenges for most refugees is finding sustainable work or starting a business.
“Business is important in this equation – but it is not the whole story,” she said.
“Government services, community groups they really need to part of the equation to provide that holistic support.”
His opportunity is one Derar believes more families like his deserve.
“I’m very grateful to all of those who helping me to change my life to dreaming again with bright future.”
She’s interned for the United Nations, spent her gap year volunteering for the State Emergency Service and she’s about to be admitted as a lawyer to the Supreme Court.
Now, 26-year-old Melbourne public servant Priya Serrao can add Miss Universe Australia to her impressive resume, joining luminaries like Jennifer Hawkins, Erin McNaught and Jesinta Franklin on the pageant’s prestigious honour roll.
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Ms Serrao beat 27 other finalists from around Australia to take the title in front of a packed crowd at the Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne on Thursday night.
She will go on to represent Australia in the Miss Universe competition in a yet to be determined host country later this year.
“I’ve been pretty exhausted because I only had an hour of sleep last night, but I’ve just had a nap and I feel great,” Ms Serrao told The Age amid a whirlwind of interviews, events and appearances on Friday.
Our newest style icon was born in Hyderabad, India then lived in Dubai until she moved to Australia aged 11.
If not for her mother’s Australian visa getting approved in a timely manner, Ms Serrao may well have been crowned Miss Universe Canada instead.
And Canada’s loss is Melbourne’s gain.
Rather than use her gap year to backpack through Europe like many other teens, Ms Serrao asked herself how she could instead “use the time doing some good”.
That question led her to volunteer for the SES, helping elderly residents clear their homes of flood damage and fallen trees after storms.
Before she landed a Victorian government job in the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, she spent two months in East Timor researching legal aid issues for the United Nations.
And if that’s not impressive enough, she will apply to be admitted as a lawyer to the Victorian Supreme Court later this year, about the same time she’ll be jetting abroad to represent Australia on the world stage.
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She’s thinking of putting her $20,000 winner’s cheque towards a masters degree in public policy, and hasn’t ruled out a future career in politics.
“Honestly, if I’m working to benefit a huge group in any way, it doesn’t matter whether it’s as a government employee, a lawyer or whatever – as long as I feel I’m giving back in some way, that’s what I want to do,” she said.
The gruelling journey to be crowned Miss Universe Australia began in February with an Instragram post from last year’s winner Francesca Hung urging women to give the pageant a try.
“When I got through the first stage I thought, ‘Do I really want to spend my resources, my very limited resources, doing this?'” she said.
“But in the end I decided the benefits outweigh the cons. The platform and the opportunities you get, I will never have an opportunity like this again so I just decided to have a go.”
Two weeks of strategically timed annual leave from the government has been filled with interviews, hair and beauty workshops, round after round of culls and a week-long photo shoot in Bali with other national finalists.
On Thursday night, Ms Serrao and the other finalists, some of who she now counts among her best friends, strutted the stage in swimwear and evening gowns. When only a handful of contestants remained, they faced the questions.
The clincher was her response to the question of who she believed was a positive role model for young girls.
“I answered Greta Thunberg,” Ms Serrao said. “She’s 16, she ‘s a woman, she has Asperger’s [syndrome] – and these things didn’t stop her from starting a global, student-led movement for climate change action.”
Ms Serrao said she will use her new-found platform to support small local organizations that promote diversity and inclusion in schools.
But she does admit to one flaw which she hopes to remedy soon.
“I feel like I’m a bad Melburnian – I don’t actually have a football team.”