Australian News

Peter Dutton declares ‘game is up’ for ‘fake refugees’ living in Australia

21st May 2017

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has given 7,500 asylum seekers living in Australia until October to lodge an application for protection, or face deportation, declaring the “game is up” for “fake refugees”.

Mr Dutton said the asylum seekers had all arrived by boat under the previous Labor government, most without identity documents, and had so far either failed or refused to present their case for asylum with the Immigration Department.

“If people think they can rip the Australian taxpayer off, if people think that they can con the Australian taxpayer, then I’m sorry, the game’s up,” he said.

“They need to provide the information, they need to answer the questions and then they can be determined to be a refugee or not.”

The asylum seekers have now been given until October 1 to lodge an application for processing or they will be cut off from Government payments, subject to removal from Australia, and banned from re-entering the country.

According to Mr Dutton, the group is costing taxpayers about $250 million each year in income support alone and the deadline would ensure the Government is “not providing financial support to people who have no right to be in Australia”.

South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon said the new policy would have public support, and appeal to the Coalition’s support base, but urged the Government to take a “calm, methodical and fair” approach.

“I only hope that the Government puts as much effort into dealing with job seekers as it does with asylum seekers,” Senator Xenophon said on Insiders.

But refugee advocates have slammed the “arbitrary” deadline as “cruel and unfair”.

GetUp’s human rights director Shen Narayanasamy said while many of the asylum seekers had been in Australia for years, they were only given the go ahead to lodge an application for protection last November.

“Asylum claims are incredibly long, torturous documents,” she said.

“And what Peter Dutton has failed to tell you is that he has denied them interpreters and access to legal assistance.”

Of the 50,000 asylum seekers who arrived by boat between 2008 and 2013, 43,000 have now been processed — which means they have either been granted a visa or had their claims rejected — or are currently having their claims assessed.

However, there are 7,500 asylum seekers “outside the process” and that is the group now subject to the October 1 deadline.

Asylum seeker statistics

  • 50,000 Illegal Maritime Arrivals arrived in Australia between 2008 and 2013
  • Labor processed 20,000 of these people
  • It stopped processing IMAs in August 2012 leaving 30,500 people yet to be processed — this is known as the Legacy Caseload
  • 23,000 of the Legacy Caseload have applied for Temporary Protection Visas or Save Haven Visas
  • Of those 6,500 have been granted a TPV or SHEV
  • 3,000 have already been found not to be refugees and must leave Australia
  • 13,000 are having their claims assessed
  • Around 7,500 remain outside the process and have not presented their case for protection

Source: Federal Government




Doctors warn parents about anti-vaccination documentary

16th May 2017

Doctors have taken the rare step of warning parents about an anti-vaccination film that will be screened for the first time in Perth on Friday.

The anti-vaccination documentary argues there’s a link between vaccinating children and autism.

Vaxxed is an American documentary about children who allegedly became disabled almost overnight after receiving an injection.

“He was walking and running. After the vaccine he was no longer able do that,” one woman in the documentary claimed.

The film will be shown in Perth on Friday.

Dr Andrew Miller from the WA Australian Medical Association told 7News, “This film is lies and playing on people’s emotions.”

The documentary claims there’s a link between Autism and vaccinating children. And it is directed by a former doctor, Andrew Wakefield.

“(This is) an advertisement that’s been made by a discredited ex-doctor,” Dr Andrew Miller claims.

Wembley mother Judy says the information in Vaxxed is the truth – and she’s written a thesis on it, published by the University of Woolongong.

She says her 18-year-old is also unvaccinated and healthy.

Researcher Judy Wilyman told 7News, “It’s not just my opinion, it’s having studied this topic at university and in the medical journals there are over a 100 independent studies in the peer-reviewed journals linking vaccines as a cause of autism.”

The location of the screening has so far been kept a secret. Source: 7News.

The documentary has been advertised over social media and will be screened at 7.30 on Friday night – but where has so far been kept a secret.

Viewers will be texted the address thirty minutes before show time.

Mrs Wilyman says that’s because the group who has organised the screening is worried they will be targeted for their views.






Aust govt mulls aircraft laptop ban

16th May 2017

Australia is considering banning laptops in the cabins of inbound commercial passenger flights, amid global concerns about a new terrorist threat.

The UK and US have already banned the carrying of large electronic devices in cabins on flights arriving from certain Middle East and African countries.

“We are looking at it very closely,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in Adelaide on Tuesday.

“We are taking into account all of the information and advice we’re receiving internationally and we’re working very closely with our partners.”

Transport Minister Darren Chester said Australia had a comprehensive and strong security system in place, with the safety of the travelling public a priority.

“The government continuously monitors shifts in the threat environment domestically and overseas to ensure we have the best security arrangements in place to meet the challenges we face,” he told AAP.

US agencies preparing plans to expand the ban to other countries with conflict zones, according to Reuters.

This follows fresh intelligence militant groups like Islamic State could be gearing up for a terrorist attack involving bombs in laptops.




Whooping cough rates have leapt on the NSW north coast, where anti-vax sentiment is high

8th May 2017

THIRTY-SEVEN new cases of whooping cough were reported last week in the idyllic northern NSW nerve centre of militant anti-vaxxers and jab-suspicious hippies.

In April there were 83 cases in children and a total of 152 so far this year in the Northern NSW Health District, sparking calls from health authorities for parents to immunise their children against the potentially deadly disease.

But the area has dangerously low rates of vaccination in children, lowering the vital “herd immunity” — large numbers of vaccinated people — to guard against a significant whooping cough outbreak.

The rate of whooping cough in the northern district is nine times that of the neighbouring Mid-North Coast Health District which has only registered 17 cases this year.

A Sunday Telegraph analysis of the Local Health Districts reveals Northern NSW also had a much higher incidence of whooping cough than any other area in the state in 2016 as well.

A total of 10,832 NSW children contracted whooping cough statewide in 2016, according to NSW Health Data.

Children living in the north coast region, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the country, suffered four times more whooping cough than comparable areas in 2016.

Herd immunity is the linchpin of the national immunisation program.

Immunisation rates of 95 per cent offer herd immunity to minimise vaccine preventable diseases such as whooping cough spreading, however if rates fall below 90 per cent disease is more prevalent.

The Northern NSW Health district registered 518 cases of whooping cough in children last year, almost four times the rate of the Mid North Coast Health District which registered only 158 cases.

The two health districts have similar population numbers, but the Mid North Coast has a higher vaccination rate and therefore better herd immunity.

The Central Coast Local Health District, which boasts some of the highest immunisation rates in NSW only registered 372 cases despite a greater population than Northern NSW.

The Byron shire is the third most visited place in Australia behind Sydney and Melbourne.

Only 50 per cent of five-year-olds are fully vaccinated in Mullumbimby and 60 per cent in nearby Byron Bay.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Michael Gonnon said whooping cough rates in Northern NSW were probably much higher than recorded figures because many in the community eschew the GP in favour of alternative practitioners.

“A lot would not get diagnosed. People should hold their breath when driving through northern NSW but it’s a bit hard to hold your breath for 100 kilometres,” Dr Gannon said.

The director of the North Coast Public Health Unit told the Sunday Telegraph that ‘’the community is at a much greater risk of outbreaks that can run out of control”.

“Communities with low vaccination levels will have more disease,” he said.

Two babies died in the region during the 2009-12 outbreak of whooping cough.

At one month old, both Dana McCaffery and Kailis Smith were too young to be vaccinated and succumbed to the horror disease in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

Toni McCaffery has campaigned for a targeted campaign to address immunisation rates in the region since death of her daughter Dana.

“The perfect storm when Dana died is brewing again. It’s crucial pregnant women in the area get that booster shot to protect their newborns,” Mrs McCaffery said.

“When Dana died, whooping cough was four times the rate as well.

“We need to explain to parents why they should vaccinate their child and educate them about the diseases that they are preventing.

“In many cases, there is no cure and all that modern medicine can do is support a child through it,” Mrs McCaffery said.



Unvaccinated travellers bring deadly diseases back to Australia

3rd May 2017

Australian tourists returning home from Bali make up almost half of all cases of dengue fever and rabies in New South Wales, new data has shown.

Up to 400 NSW patients catch dengue fever – a potentially deadly disease spread by mosquitos – each year, with about half picking up the disease in Bali.

Close to 303 NSW patients were affected by rabies in 2015, and close to half of those cases originated in Indonesia, mainly from Bali.

The health department told News Corp travellers were ignoring rabies warnings overseas.

“Figures for 2016 have not yet been finalised but the trend appears to be continuing despite warning to travellers to avoid dogs and monkeys while overseas,” a spokesperson said.

It comes months after a measles outbreak affected more than 20 people in Western Sydney, which was believed to have also come from Bali.

The figures come as Health Minister Brad Hazzard slammed parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, warning their decision was risking similar outbreaks.

“We need to recognise we’re a very lucky continent – we’re on an island,” he said.

“We have greater capacity than almost anybody to be able to draw the vaccination curtains around us and keep us safe. But some people, who are either not vaccinated or not vaccinated adequately, travel overseas and bring back a disease the rest of us shouldn’t be exposed to.”

“People need to understand that by failing to vaccinate their children they are exposing them to the very real risks of death or disability,” he said




A 42 per cent increase in autism diagnoses is no cause for alarm

30th April 2017

The number of Australians diagnosed with autism increased by 42 per cent between 2012 and 2015, but research and advocacy groups are adamant it’s not a cause for alarm.

In 2015, 164,000 Australians had autism diagnoses, according to results of an ABS survey released on Wednesday. That’s an increase of around 50,000 people since 2012.

This figure reflects the number of diagnoses – not the number of people with conditions that might be classified as autism if they sought a diagnosis.

Professor Andrew Whitehouse, Senior Principal Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia’s Telethon Kids Institute, said that Australia’s autism diagnosis rate was now in line with other countries at around 1.1 per cent.

“What this figure represents is a rise in the numbers of children and adults diagnosed with autism,” he said.

“All the evidence that we have to date is showing that the rise in the number of kids and adults being diagnosed with autism is due to increased awareness, not just at the health professional side, but also at the family side.”

He added that the roll-out of the NDIS has led to more Australians seeking formal diagnosis in order to access services.

A new Muppet called Julia, has autism, is about to be introduced to Sesame Street’s TV family.

Autism Awareness Australia CEO, Nicole Rogerson, said we are only now understanding the true prevalence of autism in the community.

“I would hate to think that this statistic freaked out new parents of little babies and toddlers right now that think we are in the grip of some frightening epidemic,” she said.

“That’s where silly conspiracy theories and vaccination theories [about a link with autism] come from, and that’s all really unhelpful.”

Autism is a condition that affects the brain’s growth and development, and can be characterised by difficulty in social communication and interaction.

Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, from the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La Trobe University, said the rise was also caused by a broadening of the criteria of autism and improvement in identifying autism earlier in children.

She said the increase may also be linked to biological factors and that children of older fathers and premature babies have a higher chance of receiving autism diagnoses.

“Premature babies live now, in the past they used to die. Prematurity is a risk factor for autism,” she said.

“There are biological factors that work to increase the risk, they haven’t all been identified.”

IT companies are reaching out to support the development of programming skills for people with autism.

She said one paper she contributed to found that the mean age of diagnosis for people under seven was around four years of age whereas in the 1980s children were rarely diagnosed before five or six, “so we are getting better.”

Ms Rogerson said diagnosing a child and providing dedicated assistance from age two or three will help them achieve “their best outcome”.

“Children with autism can make marked improvements and make autism a lot less disabling in their life if they have got access to good quality early intervention,” she said.

“But it’s the ‘early’ in early intervention that’s important.”

According to the ABS survey of 63,500 people in 2015, of those with autism, almost two-in-three were classed as having “profound or severe disability” and almost three-in-four needed help with cognitive and emotional tasks. About half needed help with communication.

The ABS classifies autism as including Asperger’s Syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, Rett Syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.




Police illegally obtained journalist’s phone records under new metadata retention regime

28th April 2017

Police illegally obtained journalist’s phone records under

The Australian Federal Police illegally obtained a journalist’s phone records under the Turnbull government’s new metadata retention regime, the agency announced on Friday.

The breach took place as part of an investigation into a leak of confidential police material – and the incident will now be investigated by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin said the police officers investigating the leak did not realise they were required to obtain a warrant to access the journalist’s metadata.

“This was human error. It should not have occurred. The AFP takes it very seriously and we take full responsibility for breaching the Act,” Mr Colvin said



“There was no ill will or malice or bad intent by the officers involved who breached the Act. But simply it was a mistake.”

The journalist in question had not been informed their data had been accessed, Mr Colvin said, due to sensitivities around the ongoing investigation into the leak.

The breach occurred “earlier this year” and was reported to the Ombudsman on Wednesday.

Under the revised data retention regime, police are required to obtain a warrant from a judge to seek metadata from a journalist.

“The vulnerability is the investigator needs to understand that that’s their requirement,” Mr Colvin said on Friday. “On this occasion, the investigator didn’t.”

The phone records in question were relevant to the investigation, Mr Colvin said, but “what was improper was that the right steps weren’t taken to gain access to it”.

The breach is the first such incident that has come to light under the government’s new metadata retention regime, which requires service providers to store their customers’ data for two years.

Acknowledging the policy was “controversial”, Mr Colvin said Australians should nonetheless have “full confidence” in both the police and the policy.

He conceded the AFP’s internal procedures had not anticipated and prevented the error and therefore those practices would be subject to “significant changes”.

Access to metadata would now be restricted to more senior officers, he said, and the number of officers who can approve access to metadata will be reduced. Training will also be bolstered.

Asked if the unlawfully-obtained phone records would still be relied on to inform the actions of investigators, he acknowledged that once seen it could not be unseen.

“Clearly they can’t unsee it. They’ll need to consider … what weight they put on what they saw,” Mr Colvin said. “But that material was accessed illegally, so it can have no bearing on the conduct of the investigation.”

He stressed the content of the journalist’s phone calls were not accessed, just the call records. But Paul Murphy, chief executive of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, said that was not a mitigating factor.

“It’s another demonstration that the AFP do not understand the sensitivities here, the vital importance of protecting journalists’ confidential sources,” he said. “It’s an absolute disgrace.”

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon, who lobbied for extra safeguards for journalists when the laws were formulated, said he was “furious” about the revelation and would seek further amendments to the law.

“This is outrageous. There’s been a flagrant breach of the law here,” he said. “The safeguards have been completely trashed. This should chill the spine of every journalist in this country.”




Australia’s Re-Entry Into Space Race Could End Gaps In Satellite Coverage

23rd April 2017

Australia’s return to the space race could provide valuable data on upper atmospheric weather and help close gaps in satellite coverage, an expert says.

The three satellites, made Down Under, blasted into orbit this week. It was the first time in 15 years that Aussie-made satellites have been sent into space.

They are the work of 50 University of Adelaide students and staff.

Since the launch, the Australian research satellites have reportedly been successfully transferred to the international space station where they are awaiting a catapult out of a canon and into orbit.

Dr Brad Tucker, an astronomer at Canberra’s Mt Stromlo Observatory, said the satellites were part of a network being built to provide “continuing monitoring of the upper atmosphere”.


“When we talk about gaps in satellite coverage, by having tons of them (satellites) we actually end the problem of having gaps in satellite coverage,” he told the Seven Network on Saturday.

The satellites would collect data from the thermosphere on things like solar flares, upper atmosphere winds and storm systems.

“It’s really (about) predicting better monitoring and space weather monitoring,” he added.

It’s only the third time that Aussie-constructed satellites have been sent into space, with the first orbital device launched back in 1967, followed by one in 2002.

The latest Australian satellites, known as “cubesats”, join a total of 28 satellites recently launched into space on a rocket from an air force base in the US.

The small satellites weigh just 1.3kg each, but researchers say they could provide groundbreaking data on weather and communication systems.



WA kids under 7 years-old on antidepressants

15th April 2017

Almost 5000 WA children under 16 years old are being prescribed antidepressants, which doctors argue reflects the rates of mental health and behavioural issues.

Figures from the Department of Human Services show 4922 children aged two to 16 were supplied with antidepressants in 2015, including 178 under seven years old and 910 aged seven to 11.

Nationally, 49,000 children were prescribed the drugs, while across all ages 2.8 million Australians were on antidepressants.

It comes only weeks after a study by primary care provider 360 Health and Community found 31 per cent of GP referrals for depression help in Perth were for patients aged 10 to 19.

Three per cent, or more than 200 referrals, were for children under 10.

In December, the Therapeutic Goods Administration reiterated a warning to doctors that the use of antidepressants had been linked to a small increased risk of suicidal thinking in some children and adolescents.

The main risk was associated with the newer generation of antidepressants known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

Nick Kowalenko from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry, said the figures for antidepressant use in children did not seem out of order.

He said low doses of older-type antidepressants were sometimes prescribed to very young children for issues such as persistent bedwetting, to change their sleep cycle.

“I’m guessing that the rationale behind the 178 kids aged two to six on antidepressants in WA is about bedwetting rather than treating depression,” Dr Kowalenko said.

He said SSRI drugs were used to treat depression but also childhood anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders. The risks and benefits of antidepressants were always weighed up, including the risk of a child missing a lot of school if they were not treated.

Dr Kowalenko said the 2015 Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing had found that about 14 per cent of four to 17-year-olds — or 600,000 children — had been assessed as having mental disorders.

About 40 per cent of them had moderate or severe conditions such as major depressive and anxiety disorders.

“So when you look at those numbers, the prescribing rates don’t jump out as high, but the question to ask is if the right children, the most severely impaired, are being treated,” he said.