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.
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.”
Trump says ‘much can be learned’ from Australia’s immigration policy. Migrants subjected to it have set themselves on fire
(CNN)United States President Donald Trump has found the one immigration policy more controversial than his own, and endorsed it.
Amid heightened media scrutiny over the tragic fate of a father and daughter who died on the US-Mexico border, Trump tweeted pictures of four fliers distributed by the Australian government warning migrants away from attempting to come to the country, adding that “much can be learned!”
That policy, with slogans such as “NO WAY, you will not make Australia home,” was the brainchild of current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who Trump is meeting with Thursday ahead of this week’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
These flyers depict Australia’s policy on Illegal Immigration. Much can be learned! pic.twitter.com/QgGU0gyjRS
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2019
As immigration and border protection minister, Morrison in 2013 oversaw the “Sovereign Borders” policy aimed at preventing people smuggling and asylum seekers deaths at sea. While that policy was successful in lowering the number of people arriving in Australia, it achieved this in part by massively expanding the number of people held in offshore detention camps on the Pacific nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
While that policy has become more or less bipartisan consensus in Australia, Morrison has become synonymous with tough immigration policies, often appearing on TV endorsing the campaign slogan “Stop the boats.”
Following Morrison’s surprise win in May’s general election, at least nine people attempted to take their own lives in a camp on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, where around 500 people are still held in detention.
The opposition Labor Party had said it would resettle at least 150 refugees in New Zealand, which has repeatedly offered to take them but been turned down by the Australian government, which claims doing so would encourage more migrants to attempt the risky sea crossing in the Pacific.
The incidents on Manus were only the beginning of a wave of attempted suicides and cases of self-harm on the island. This month at least eight other men followed suit, including a Sudanese man who set himself on fire and an Iranian who attempted to hang himself but was cut down by guards, according to witnesses.
In 2016, a 23-year-old Iranian man died after setting himself on fire in a detention camp on Nauru. Following his death, another refugee, 21-year-old Somali woman Hodan Yasin, self-immolated and was evacuated to Australia for emergency medical treatment which saved her life.
Rights groups have repeatedly condemned the conditions in the camp system, with Amnesty International saying Manus detention centers are unsafe and “hellish.” Earlier this month, United Nations representatives said they were “deeply concerned” by the conditions in the camps.
“The situation of their indefinite and prolonged confinement, exacerbated by the lack of appropriate medical care amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment according to international standards,” the UN rights experts said in the statement.
Even if found to be refugees, asylum seekers are not permitted to settle in Australia and must either go home, hope for relocation to a third country, or remain in Papua New Guinea or the remote island of Nauru. Some have been sent to the US under deal struck by Morrison and Trump’s predecessors, Malcolm Turnbull and Barack Obama.
That deal — under which around 530 refugees have been settled in the US — was strongly criticized by Trump and caused an awkward first phone call between him and the previous Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country,” Trump said in the call, complaining that Australia was foisting migrants on the US.
While that particular element of Australia’s immigration policy may have frustrated the US leader, he will find much in common with Morrison when they meet on Thursday for dinner.
The meeting with a fellow anti-immigration hardliner will likely come as a relief as Trump faces increasing criticism at home for his tough border policies.
For the hundreds of people in detention camps on the US border, however, the idea that Trump is learning from Australia’s policy will inspire anything but relief.
CNN’s Hilary Whiteman, Ben Westcott and Bard Wilkinson contributed reporting.
For leading restaurants weighed down by restrictive and inefficient visa regulations, it may be a case of too few cooks spoil the broth.
Chef and restaurateur Luke Mangan said a shortage of chefs and waitstaff in the hospitality industry made businesses such as his reliant on foreign workers.
This included South Korean chef Carlos Byeon, who is among a quarter of the staff at the flagship Glass Brasserie on a temporary work visa.
But Mr Mangan said delays in the processing of temporary work visas under the present system were at odds with the rapid pace of his work. “When we need staff, we need them now – and not after three to six months,” he said.
The restaurateur is among several industry leaders who have welcomed the government’s pledge to cut bureaucratic red tape, and advanced their proposal for where it should start.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged on Monday to slash “excessive or outdated regulation” in a bid to encourage investment, and challenged businesses to submit their case for change.
For luxury hotel group Baillie Lodges, the difficulty of staffing kitchens – especially in remote locations like Lord Howe Island – was exacerbated by the rate at which visa laws and regulations change.
“It takes 12 months to understand the policy, and then it changes again,” said general manager Craig Bradbery.
The 457 temporary skilled work visa was abolished in March 2018 and partially replaced by the 482 visa, which covers roughly 200 fewer jobs than its predecessor.
Mr Bradbery said the change came with a host of additional fees and applications including a Skilling Australians Fund levy, which could reach $7200 per worker for businesses with an annual turnover exceeding $10 million.
Baillie Lodges hired migration agents to help navigate the process but found that it was nonetheless rare that they could fill a vacancy within six months, which was a problem for a service business.
“We operate in a fast-paced industry. It’s crucial that we have staff on the ground to serve our guests. Simple as that,” Mr Bradbery said.
Restaurateurs said the 485 visa for qualified graduates – on which Mr Byeon had come to Australia – helped fill the skill gap but it was insufficient.
Nino Zoccali, who owns the Restaurant Pendolino and La Rosa in Sydney, said he had been struggling to fill vacancies for restaurant managers and cooks.
Unlike chefs, who typically have seven years of experience including three years in a supervisory role, cooks and managers cannot apply for a medium-stream 482 visa to work in a metropolitan area. This means they cannot receive a four-year visa with a pathway to permanent residency.
Mr Zoccali said news of the restrictive visa policies had spread overseas and applications for cooking and managerial roles had plummeted.
“Serious people don’t pick up their lives for a two-year visa [with the opportunity for renewal] … We can’t fill these roles. I have senior management that are besides themselves,” he said.
Mr Mangan said work on reducing red tape was welcome but ultimately, there was no substitute for investing in local talent. This is why he had founded teaching and mentorship programs like the Inspired Series for hospitality students and the Appetite For Excellence program for young professionals.
“The bottom line is that we want to employ Australians first,” he said.
The total inward investment flows from Australia’s Significant Investor Visa program since it was launched in 2012 has now topped $10 billion, according to a new report from Deloitte Access Economics.
The SIV program was originally launched by the Gillard government with the goal of bringing more overseas high net-worth individual investors into the country. But experts say the program has delivered much greater value than the $10 billion these visa holders have invested in the local economy.
The report, Impact of the Significant Investor Visa Program – a long-term proposition for Australia, will be launched in Canberra this week in conjunction with the Australia China Business Council.
The report found that while the Significant Investor Visa program accounts for just 0.1 per cent of all visas issued annually, its positive impacts across business and the economy are far wider.
Nearly 2,100 Significant Investor Visas have been issued since 2012.
The qualifying investments from SIV holders are divided a several predetermined categories, with a requirement that a minimum $500,000 be invested in startups and growth funds through venture, private capital and other investment options.
The remaining $4.5 million can be split between ASX-listed companies, government bonds and a limited amount on property investment.
Mainland Chinese nationals make up the lion’s share of SIV recipients, making up about 76 per cent of the total visas issued. This percentage is down from about 87 per cent in recent months.
The SIV program, which is considered a premium path to permanent residency, has been running at an annualised rate of about 235 visas per year – or about $1.175 billion in new capital.
Asian investment research group Basis Point’s managing director David Chin said the program’s benefits reach beyond the amount of capital invested or the number of visas that have been processed.
“When he was the Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison made comments to the effect that this program is not just about the money, but about bringing connections and talents from wealthy migrants around the world to Australia,” Mr Chin told InnovationAus.com.
“That’s been happening, so it’s not just the $10 billion that’s important.
“Around 2015 [the government] changed the rules to make the various areas of investment more precise. Those changes were positive, in terms of that capital being allocated to areas involving higher risk.
“That category of funding is difficult for Australian small-cap companies and startups to access, which makes the program [even] more meaningful,” he said.
Although some have noted the program’s lack of oversight into the origins of the invested funds, particularly through the criticism levied by a 2016 Productivity Commission report, the program has been widely praised within the investment community and business sector for its boost to funding and available capital.
According to Australia China Business Council national president John Brumby, the SIV program is an example of the opportunities around opening Australia to overseas investors.
“Every Significant Investor Visa holder has invested at least $5 million into Australia. The program has not only attracted more than $10 billion of new investments, but also the talents and energies of each of the individuals involved,” Mr Brumby said in introducing the new report.
“There is an important discussion to be had about the future and enormous potential of the SIV. This discussion should be conducted upon a strong evidence base, and it should take into account all the benefits of welcoming significant investors to Australia.”
Basis Point’s Mr Chin believes the program is performing well, but suggests that there could be some room for streamlining.
“We don’t need to tinker for the sake of tinkering, because that has ramifications for the whole immigration sector. However, the approval process is on the slow side,” he said.
“That may be a combination of a lack of resources on the department’s side and the comprehensive due diligence that needs to be completed on the applicants.
“If that can be sped up, it will provide more clarity on the program and more impetus for applicants to take that first step towards securing their visa.”
Upgrades to Lot Fourteen, where the Australian Space Agency is housed, as well as cybersecurity among the initiatives funded under the state’s 2019-20 Budget.
The government of South Australia on Tuesday announced its 2019-20 state Budget, allocating official coin to a handful of new initiatives and those already announced, with the government looking to secure Adelaide as the “innovation capital of the nation”.
The Budget included the funding allocated to the Adelaide City Deal that was announced earlier this year.
With AU$551 million over 10 years, the Adelaide City Deal — a partnership between the state government, the federal government, and the City of Adelaide — is hoping to deliver a suite of initiatives to create the skilled and productive jobs of the future, boost Adelaide’s population through migration and planning reforms, and enhance cultural experiences by generating greater opportunities in the state’s tourism sector.
Under the deal, Lot Fourteen in the north-eastern corner of Adelaide’s CBD will be converted into an innovation precinct.
Lot Fourteen will host the headquarters of the Australian Space Agency, its mission control facility, and the Australian Space Discovery Centre, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously noting it will also boast “major cultural attractions, high-tech businesses, and world-class education facilities”.
Additional funding was on Tuesday provided for the Australian Space Agency.
“Lot Fourteen is being rapidly transformed into the innovation capital of the nation, with the Australian Space Agency, SmartSat CRC, Mission Control, and the Space Discovery Centre all to call Adelaide home,” the Budget papers [PDF] said.
“These developments represent a total investment close to AU$300 million, positioning South Australia to help triple the size of Australia’s space economy by 2030.”
The Australian Space Agency was stood up in July 2018, with a AU$41 million, four-year investment made under the 2018-19 federal Budget.
It was announced in December that the space agency would call South Australia home, after states and territories around the country spent six months battling for boasting rights.
Under the guidance of former Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) boss Megan Clark, the agency has a mandate to triple the size of Australia’s domestic space industry up to AU$12 billion by 2030, generating 20,000 new Australian jobs, and getting more kids to take up STEM-focused careers.
The Adelaide agency, however, is expected to employ only 20 full-time equivalent staff when it opens in mid-2019.
According to CSIRO, Australia’s space industry was estimated to have generated revenues of AU$3-4 billion in 2017, with a workforce of around 10,000.
Elsewhere in the Budget, with AU$4.3 million over four years, the SA government will be investing in a range of automated analytics and monitoring capabilities under the banner of cybersecurity.
The government said the funding will be used to better protect government information from cyber attacks and improve shared threat intelligence across agencies.
AU$4 million over four years has been allocated to establish a South Australian Landing Pad to attract early-stage international and interstate companies to the state, touting the initiative as one boasting transformational and high-growth potential in job creation across all priority industries.
After announcing in December that the state had signed an AU$80 million contract with Telstra to connect government schools in South Australia to high-speed internet, the Budget papers detailed that over 20,000 students have already connected and that rollout is on-track to reach every government school student in the state by the middle of 2020.
“Fast internet is a critical component of learning in the modern world and to delivering a world-class education system in South Australia,” the Budget papers say.
AU$16.5 million over three years has also been earmarked for the police communications centre upgrade, flagged by the government as a vital piece of infrastructure to ensure that it “meets modern building and security standards and continues to serve as the state’s primary communication and emergency coordination centre”.
Meanwhile, the state will be replacing the current Expiation Notice System, which records, issues, and administers expiation notices for road traffic offences, with AU$7.7 million over four years allocated to the project that will also see the replacement of hand written notices and notices issued by government agencies, with a more contemporary system.
Five Australian universities have made the top 50 in the latest league table of the world’s best institutions, but the majority of institutions have failed one important measure.
Australian institutions performed well for their academic reputation and international student ratios in the QS World University Rankings. Most, however, were at the bottom of the list of 1000 universities for their staff-to-student ratio.
Australian National University is the country’s top-ranked institution in equal 29th place, a small fall from 24th last year. It was followed by the University of Melbourne in 38th place, the University of Sydney, 42, the University of NSW, 43, and the University of Queensland, at 47.
Monash University, 58, and the University of Western Australia, 86, have also appeared in the top 100.
Overall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the top-ranked university in the world for the eighth consecutive year, followed by Stanford, Harvard, Oxford and the California Institute of Technology.
The QS World University Rankings is an annual publication by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). Previously known as Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings, the publisher had collaborated with Times Higher Education (THE) magazine to publish its international league tables.
The rankings measure a university’s academic reputation, graduate employability, student-to-staff ratio, research performance and international student ratio.
Two-thirds of Australian universities improved their overall performance in this year’s rankings. But 31 of the country’s 35 institutions went backwards in the staff-to-student ratio measure, which the ranking’s compilers described as “a proxy for teaching capacity”.
Many, including UNSW, Monash, the University of Western Australia, the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Wollongong received the aggregate bottom ranking of “601+” on this measure.
At the same time, Australian universities have bucked a declining trend among US and UK institutions in the international student ratio measure, with 26 or Australia’s 35 universities recording an increase in the proportion of overseas students.
Sydney University, Melbourne University, Monash and ANU have all ranked particularly well for internationalisation, with global ranks of 20, 23, 27 and 30 respectively for this measure.
“The influx of international students has coincided with significant and near-uniform drops in our faculty/student ratio indicator,” QS’s director of research Ben Sowter said.
“It is imperative that Australia endeavours to continue expanding its teaching capacity to meet the demand that is likely to continue increasing.”
There were more than 550,000 international students studying in Australia last year, with the majority at higher education institutions, according to Universities Australia.
However, the growing reliance of some of Australia’s biggest universities on income from international students has raised concerns about the consequences of any decline in international student numbers.
Australian universities also performed well in the academic reputation measure, which is a compilation of the responses of 94,000 academics from around the world, with Melbourne University the best-ranked at 15, followed by Sydney University at 25 and ANU at 29.
The employer reputation measure, based on 44,000 employers’ responses on each institution’s link to graduate employability, was more varied, with Melbourne University, Sydney University and UNSW all performing well with global ranks of 21, 26 and 28 respectively.
However, others including ANU, with an employer reputation rank of 72, the University of Queensland, at 69, and the University of Western Australia, at 127, performed far worse on this measure than their overall rank.