Xenophon group won’t support Greens, Labor push to strike-off citizenship reforms

NXT plans to vote against the citizenship crackdown when it comes to a vote in the Senate unless fundamental aspects of the bill are changed.

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But SBS World News understands that the party will not take the extra step of voting to get rid of the bill from the Senate altogether.

Greens senator Nick McKim said removing the bill would help “thousands of people whose lives are on hold move on”. The controversial reforms would introduce a tougher English language test for would-be citizens, and lengthen the waiting time on permanent residency to four years.

Without the NXT votes, the motion will fall short, despite having the support of the Opposition.

“Labor has for months now been calling on the government to withdraw the bill. This resolution would do that,” Labor’s citizenship spokesman Tony Burke told SBS World News.

The Greens will move to strike the Citizenship bill from the Senate notice paper so thousands of people whose lives are on hold can move on. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/MUmXPnyPpl

— Nick McKim (@NickMcKim) September 12, 2017

The Nick Xenophon Team has said it will not support the citizenship reforms in their current form. It is opposed to the tougher English test.

“There needs to be a substantial rewriting of it,” Senator Xenophon told reporters last week. “We’ll continue to talk to the government.”

A government-chaired Senate inquiry into the changes last week recommended that the English testing level was too difficult. The language test “should not be so high as to disqualify from citizenship many Australians who, in the past, and with a more basic competency in the English language, have proven to be valuable members of the Australian community,” it read. 

The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government’s negotiations with the crossbench would continue.

Mr Dutton told Parliament on Tuesday that the government remains “absolutely determined to get these laws through”.

“This government will make sensible changes around citizenship laws so that it can support the vast majority of people who would do the right thing,” he told the chamber. 

“But we want to knock out those people who do not support Australian laws and who do not abide by the Australian way of life and integrate into the Australian community.”

Every Senator has the power to move a bill be struck from the notice paper. 

The Greens said they were frustrated the bill had been on the notice paper since last week, and was announced in April, but is yet to be debated by the Senate.

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Punishment for pedophiles ‘inadequate’

The federal government hopes tough new laws will prevent pedophiles avoiding jail or being released into the community without proper supervision.

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Fewer than two-thirds of child sex offenders have been handed prison sentences since 2012, most commonly for a minimum of six months, Justice Minister Michael Keenan has told parliament.

But legislation introduced on Wednesday proposes longer jail terms, mandatory minimum sentences, and stricter supervision.

“These measures send a clear message – this government will not tolerate such appalling and disgusting acts against children,” Mr Keenan told MPs.

“The government is increasingly concerned about the manifestly inadequate sentences which do not sufficiently reflect the harm suffered by victims of child sex abuse or protect the community from the risk of future harm.”

The draft laws also propose:

– Stopping courts from discounting sentences on the basis of good character, where this has been used to facilitate the crime

– Preventing children and other vulnerable witnesses from being cross-examined at committal proceedings

– New aggravated offences for abuse that involves subjecting the child to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or which causes a child’s death

– Making it illegal to groom third parties – such as parents or carers – for the purpose of procuring a child for sexual activity

– Criminalising the provision of websites that provide access to child abuse material online

– A presumption against bail for Commonwealth child sex offences that attract the highest maximum penalties

Cut small business tax to save jobs: CCI

The payroll tax hikes for big business announced in last week’s WA budget will cost 1,300 jobs but more than half of those could be saved through tax relief for smaller companies, the state’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry says.

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The tax hikes will affect businesses that employ more than 400,000 West Australians, it says.

The Labor government hopes to raise $435 million over four years along, with another $400 million through lifting goldmining royalties, to prop up the budget, which faces large deficits for years.

However, it will likely need the support of the Liberals to pass legislation, given the WA Nationals said this week they would block the measures targeting big business along with upper house conservative crossbenchers.

CCI chief economist Rick Newnham told a business breakfast in Perth on Wednesday the tax hikes would be bad for the economy.

“The money has to come from somewhere and the first place these businesses will be forced to look is wage freezes, job cuts and fewer working hours,” he said.

“You cannot quarantine this to one section of the business community.

“These costs will be passed on through the supply chain to small and medium businesses that are already struggling from the downturn in WA’s economy.”

To protect small and medium-size businesses, the chamber was calling for an increase in the payroll tax threshold of $100,000 from $850,000 to $950,00 to help offset the 1,300 jobs that will be lost.

Mr Newnham said CCI research found lifting the threshold by $100,000 would create nearly 900 jobs, with a $283 million economic benefit to the state.

The budget should have focused more on spending restraint, not increased taxes, he said.

Thousands protest Macron labour reforms in France

The day of strikes and rallies was seen as a key test for the young French leader as he stakes his presidency on overhauling the sluggish economy.

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Initial estimates indicated that turnout was low compared with other recent protests in France.

About 4,000 strikes and 180 protests were called by France’s biggest trade union, the CGT, with rail workers, students and civil servants urged to join the demonstrations against changes to the country’s rigid labour laws.

France’s interior ministry said 223,000 people joined marches nationwide, with 13 arrests made. The Communist-backed CGT, for its part, put the total at 400,000. 

The protests were overwhelmingly peaceful despite isolated clashes between anarchists and police in Paris, where teargas was fired.

“It’s a first one and it looks like it’s a success,” the head of the CGT, Philippe Martinez, told reporters in Paris.

But disruption to rail networks, air traffic control and public services was limited.

“It doesn’t look like turnout is very high today,” political analyst Jerome Sainte-Marie from the polling group PollingVox told AFP, adding that Macron had the upper hand because the reforms were part of his election manifesto.

Attendance was being scrutinised as a measure of the resistance to Macron’s economic agenda, which is intended to help bring down stubbornly high unemployment.

The business-friendly leader wants to make France more attractive for both local companies and foreign investors who have long complained about restrictive labour laws and the power of trade unions.

The changes will give companies more flexibility in negotiating terms and conditions with their employees while reducing the costs of firing workers.

But the 39-year-old president antagonised his opponents last week when he described critics of his government’s efforts as “slackers, cynics and extremists”.

Protesters seized on the remark Tuesday, some daubing the word on banners and placards while others shouted

“Macron you’re screwed, the slackers are in the street.”

Retired economics researcher Evelyne Deurilla-Feer came dressed as a giant box of Kleenex, in protest at reforms she said would result in workers being tossed away like used tissues.  

“The labour code is supposed to protect employees, and what has Macron created? A code that protects entrepreneurs and businesses. It’s a real scandal,” she told AFP.

Divided unions

Deep splits in the trade union movement have made things easier for Macron.

While the CGT and its hardline allies are determined to obstruct the changes, other unions have signalled they are prepared to compromise and negotiate.

“We need to stop thinking that trade union action only makes sense when we demonstrate,” the head of the moderate CFDT, Laurent Berger, told Franceinfo radio.

The CFDT, the largest union in the private sector, and the leader of the usually fiery Force Ouvriere (FO) union both declined to join the strike action.

A separate protest on Tuesday by fairground operators swelled the numbers on the streets and their trucks blocked roads in Paris and other cities.

Macron is hoping to avoid a re-run of mass demonstrations against labour reforms last year that saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets against his Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande.

The new president — who has seen his approval ratings plummet since taking office in May — headed to the Caribbean on Tuesday to visit French islands hit by Hurricane Irma last week.

The CGT plans to follow Tuesday’s actions with a second protest day on September 21, while far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and his France Unbowed movement have called rallies two days later.

“The political rallies might be bigger than the union ones,” commented Sainte-Marie from PollingVox.

Fast-tracked changes

Macron has angered unions by using executive orders to fast-track the changes.

They are to take effect this month even before being ratified by parliament, where Macron’s Republic on the Move party has a large majority.

The new law will give small company bosses in particular more freedom to negotiate working conditions directly with their employees rather than being subject to industry-wide agreements.

Compensation for unfair dismissal will be capped, while it will become easier for foreign-based companies to lay off staff in struggling French operations.

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Renewed hope for asthma sufferers

A healthy diet and regular exercise can significantly reduce asthma symptoms and improve quality of life for people with the condition, research suggests.

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Scientists in Italy compared the progress of asthma patients who were randomly assigned specific lifestyle-changing regimes or continued living as normal for a period of eight weeks.

At the end of the study those who took exercise classes three times a week and ate a healthy low-glycaemic index (GI) diet rich in protein, fruit and vegetables rated their asthma symptoms score 50 per cent lower than patients in the non-intervention control group.

Participants who only altered their exercise level or diet, but not both, reported a 30 per cent improvement in symptoms.

Louise Toennesen, from Bispebjerg University Hospital in Copenhagen, said: “People with asthma sometimes find exercise challenging and this can lead to an overall deterioration in their fitness.

“Our study suggests that non-obese asthma patients can safely take part in well-planned, high-intensity exercise. It also shows that exercise combined with a healthy diet can help patients control their asthma symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.

“Not all patients have good control over their symptoms and consequently can have a lower quality of life.

“Our research suggests that people with asthma should be encouraged to eat a healthy diet and to take part in physical activity.”

A low GI diet is one that releases sugar slowly into the blood and helps maintain a well-balanced metabolism.

Results from the study, which involved a total of 125 participants, were presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Milan.

The research did not show a clear improvement in lung function, but found that the diet and exercise combination improved symptom control and quality of life.