Greens denounce Bill Shorten’s turn-back policy

Thursday, Jul 23rd, 2015

The Greens have today denounced Bill Shorten’s move to back the Abbott Government’s “turn-back” policy for refugees seeking asylum in Australia.

“Labor’s move to adopt Tony Abbott’s turn-back policy is short-sighted and will only make things harder for refugees to find safety,” Greens Immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young said today.

“Turn-backs are dangerous. They have never been about saving lives, they are about pushing people away, often to die in someone else’s waters or trapped, unable to escape harm.

“Rather than pushing refugees over the horizon to die somewhere else, Australia needs to engage in our region to help provide safer passage and options for refugees.

“If every country turned boats away, thousands of refugees would die every week and the entire refugee system would collapse. Australia must stop being so arrogant and instead help our neighbours offer safety to refugees through humanitarian assistance, resettlement and search and rescue.

“Many Labor supporters will be heartbroken to see the ALP fail to stand up to Tony Abbott’s anti-refugee rhetoric.

“Back-flipping on turn-backs is a big mistake for Labor and will only accelerate the race to the bottom.

“History has shown that every time Labor backs the Coalition on refugee policy the LNP come up with the next cruel policy, making life worse for refugees, not better.

“Leadership requires more than kowtowing to the fear campaigns of others. Many people will be upset that the Labor Party has vacated the field on human rights and common-sense.”

Note: Audio from Senator Hanson-Young’s doorstop in Adelaide this morning is attached



Media Contact: Rachel Ryan 0427 604 760

Solar power celebration at parlt house

Solar power celebration at parlt house

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Low apprenticeship and traineeship completion rates, declining enrolments and rising shortages of key skills are warning signs that something is going badly wrong in a key sector of the state’s education provision.

Department figures show there are 123,481 apprentices and trainees in NSW.  Apprenticeships usually last between three and four years. Drop-out rates are high, with just over half of those who enrol completing. Enrolment rates continue to fall.

As part of their campaign for the rights of young people in education, the Young Greens are working with my office to highlight the plight of apprentices. We jointly held a forum in Ashfield on 11 June, addressed by Mark Burgess from the Electrical Trades Union, Rebel Hanlon from the CFMEU Construction Division, Phil Chadwick from the NSW Teachers Federation and Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon.

Forum speakers highlighted the challenges facing the apprentices.

  • Barriers to entry: At a time of high youth unemployment, participation is falling. The number of people starting an apprenticeship in Australia fell by 21.9% from 2013 to 2014. Finding an employer, accessing a TAFE college and purchasing the tools and equipment needed for the trade are turning too many young people away.
  • Fewer employers taking on apprentices: There has been a sustained decline in the number of apprenticeships offered. Privatisation of the state’s electricity grid is likely to exacerbate the long term trend.
  • TAFE offers less assistance: The Baird government’s Smart and Skilled competitive training market has dumped TAFE into competition with low-cost, low-quality private providers. TAFE has responded with larger classes, cuts to teacher contact hours and increased inappropriate use of on-line learning. Pre-apprentice courses and learning support have become much harder to find. Young people with diverse learning styles are increasingly struggling to successfully complete their course work.
  • Federal assistance has cut: Grants to help apprentices purchase the tools and equipment they need (‘Tools for Your Trade’) have been replaced by the Abbott government with an income-contingent (HECS) loan for $20,000 (‘Trade Support Loans’). Many students cannot afford their tools and are turned away by the prospect of starting their working lives with a substantial debt.
  • Unliveable pay and conditions: Despite pay increases in 2013, many apprenticeship rates are below those for unskilled employment.

While apprentices receive one day a week release from work to attend TAFE, some employer groups are seeking to revert to night school or to force apprentices to spend two years studying full-time without wages before they receive on-the-job paid work and training.

Many employers prefer to employ overseas workers on 457 visas than train apprentices.

As NSW faces both increased expenditure on infrastructure and a growing issue of youth unemployment, government purchasing should focus on demanding contractors take on apprentices and support them throughout their training.

For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455


Proposed changes to NSW’s strata title laws would see many elderly and vulnerable apartment owners turfed out of their homes to fatten up the profits of developers and other residents, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.

Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Victor Dominello released draft legislation yesterday that would allow a strata title to be terminated and the land and buildings sold or redeveloped even if up to 25 per cent of the owners objected.

Owners could have flats sold from under them if laws go ahead,’ Sydney Morning Herald, 16 July, p. 2

Collective sale and renewal reforms’ NSW Office of Fair Trading, July 2015

Dr Kaye said: “The long-awaited draft of the strata laws contains a massive gift for the greedy at the expense of the vulnerable and elderly.

“Politically powerful real estate developers have won the argument and are set to be gifted a much lower barrier to getting their hands on older unit blocks.

“The frail and the vulnerable will be forcibly evicted from out their homes to allow the big developers to get their hands on prime real estate.

“This is the law that the Property Council would have written to set their members up for windfall profits.

“Instead of having to win over all of the owners or prove that the block can no longer be reasonably repaired, the tyranny of the majority can evict the minority from their homes.

“Lucrative offers might appeal to some unit owners, but others will see their plans for their last days of independent living destroyed.

“The Baird-Grant government has once again proved that it is the powerful vested interests that call the shots, even when it is the frail, the vulnerable and the elderly who are being sacrificed.

“The promise of advice and advocacy services is window dressing. A determined and well-cashed-up developer will have no difficulty in winning over the necessary 75 percent of owners, leaving the others powerless and evicted, regardless of the advice and so-called support they receive.

“The legislation will be a test for Labor.

“We will be moving to strike out these provisions when the bills come before parliament.

“If Labor is still caught up in their old habits of being the puppets of the developer lobby they will work with the government to disenfranchise flat owners.

“With Labor and conservative cross-bench support for our amendment, every flat owner will be better protected from the well-oiled developer industry and the pressure it can bring to bear on owners’ corporations,” Dr Kaye said.

For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455