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.

Australian household income barely rising

Low-income growth is not something new that has just crept up on the economy and explains why Australian households may be struggling to make ends meet.

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But new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show inequality is only marginally higher.

“When you look at it on a global scale, Australia is still low,” ABS chief economist Bruce Hockman told AAP on Wednesday.

In its two-yearly survey of income and housing, average household debt has almost doubled since the early 2000s, with about three in 10 Australian households considered to be “over-indebted”.

A separate ABS report also shows that while energy costs are at the centre of a heated political debate, education has seen the biggest increase in household spending since the start of the decade.

The ABS found that while the average weekly household income grew by $274 to $982 in the four years between 2003/04 and 2007/08, it grew by only $27 to $1009 in inflation-adjusted terms during the next eight years.

However, average household wealth increased 11 per cent between 2013/14 and 2015/16 to $929,400, largely as a result of rising property values.

At the same time, average household debt rose to $169,000 in 2015/16, up from $94,000 in 2003/04.

One in four households carried debt equal to three or more years’ worth of disposable income and a further two per cent held debt equal to three-quarters of the value of their household assets.

“Based on either of these comparisons, around three in 10 households with a debt in Australia are considered to be ‘over-indebted’,” Mr Hockman said.

Using the so-called Gini coefficient – an international measure of inequality – income inequality rated 0.323 in 2015/16 but within a range of 0.320 and 0.333 that has stood since 2007/08.

Values closer to zero represent higher equality while closer to one represent higher inequality.

Wealth is less equally distributed than income among Australians, scoring 0.605 in 2015/16, the same as two years ago but higher than the 0.573 recorded when it was first measured in 2003/04.

The bureau’s separate six-yearly household expenditure survey found between 2009/10 and 2015/16 spending on education jumped 44 per cent followed by household services and operations such as cleaning products and pest control, which increased by 30 per cent.

Energy and healthcare were joint third, rising 26 per cent, while at the other end of the scale, spending on alcohol, tobacco, clothing and footwear, and household furnishings showed no significant change.

Trengove AFL future at Port up in the air

Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak says he’d be sad if teammate Jackson Trengove leaves the AFL club.

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Trengove is weighing up free-agency offers to return to his native Victoria after being dropped from Port’s team for the last month of the season.

“He has got to make a decision … it’s up in the air,” Boak told reporters on Wednesday.

“This is footy now. Free agency comes around and he has got to look at what is best for him and his family.

“We respect that; we understand that. We as a club love Jacko and Jacko absolutely loves the club but he has got to do what is best for him.”

The Western Bulldogs are believed to be pitching for Trengove, a versatile 153-gamer, while the Power are understood to be keen on Brisbane midfielder Tom Rockliff.

“I don’t even know if we have spoken to him but he’s a quality player … it elevates your midfield if you bring someone like that in,” Boak said of the Lions’ ex-captain.

Boak said he and his teammates were still grappling with their crushing extra-time elimination final loss to West Coast.

Eagle Luke Shuey kicked a goal after the extra-time siren in a result still raw at Port.

“There is no doubt there’s going to be a lot of hurt from that and a lot of burn that will drive a few players,” Boak said.

“It’s probably the worst result and worst loss I have ever been involved in, in a final like that where we controlled the game for a lot of it and wasted opportunities.

“And to go down in extra time, after the siren, is pretty hard to cop.”

The Power skipper downplayed president David Koch’s post-game remarks that players were to blame for not following coach Ken Hinkley’s game plan.

“We (players) have spoken about it,” Boak said.

“We have got to talk about it. We know that we’re all on the same page and all looking for the same outcome.

“He (Koch) is really passionate about the club …there is no doubt every player at out club cares about winning a premiership and that is all they want, and he knows that.”

Floral tribute to Princess Diana mocked online

A floral tribute to Princess Diana in the UK town of Chesterfield has been widely ridiculed as “dreadful” and “a heinous monstrosity”.

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Created as part of a traditional festival for dressing wells in the Derbyshire town, the flower arrangement commemorates the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, The Telegraph reports. 

Chesterfield Borough Council posted photos of the tribute on Facebook, and was quickly inundated with negative comments.

Post by Chesterfield Borough Council.

“What an atrocity. Poor Diana. But hope she is looking down and having a giggle about it bless her,” wrote Jan McCulloch.

“There must have been some local opposition to this heinous monstrosity,” commented Michael Field.

Welbeck Kane wrote: “I live here [Chesterfield] and, let me tell you, I can feel its eyes on me, even now in my house.”

Others suggested the face looked more like British comedy character Father Ted, singers Sir Rod Stewart and Sir Bob Geldof and children’s character Worzel Gummidge.

The council have defended the memorial, which will be displayed in Chesterfield Market Place until the weekend.

“The well dressing is produced by 14 volunteers using the ancient Derbyshire art of well dressing, which involves creating designs from flower petals and other natural materials,” a council spokesman said.

“All art is meant to be a talking point and that certainly seems to be the case with this year’s design.

“The well dressing is designed to attract visitors to the area and if the publicity encourages more people to come and experience our historic market town and local shops then that can only be good for Chesterfield.” 

I think Cecilia Gimenez has been at it again. #PrincessDi #BeholdtheMonkey pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/N5KnWjc7p2

— Natalie Mitchell (@Mitchell_Nat) September 12, 2017Chesterfield’s Princess Diana floral tribute is drunk and wants to fight you长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/mcPuhEd3Pf

— Emma Richards (@EmmaRichards85) September 12, 2017#Chesterfield you are lucky no one can be sent to the tower for your dreadful memorial#KensingtonPalace no one had the guts to say NO

— Amber Zoe (@AmberZoe12) September 12, 2017I don’t know what the fuss is all about, this new memorial looks just like @rodstewart. #Dianapic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/fp42M4Yck5

— Anthony Minto (@anthonymminto) September 12, 2017

But others defended the tribute.

Its a tribute. I loved Di. I think its lovely! 💜💜BBC News – Chesterfield’s ‘awful’ Princess Diana tribute mocked 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/dEYIg6B8LS

— The Feed Bags (@TheFeedBags) September 13, 2017Absolute masterpiece from my hometown, #Chesterfield, commemorating the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/fTXMHnwfqf

— Tom J Newell (@tomjnewell) September 12, 2017Love that Diana memorial and glad the council didn’t buckle and apologise, or even worse remove it. It was made by volunteers!

— John Baker (@jpbaker) September 12, 2017

0:00 Diana: In Her Own Words Share Diana: In Her Own Words

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We’ve got a long way to go on North Korea: Bishop

Australia is playing down North Korean threats to inflict the “greatest pain” on the US following additional sanctions on the rogue nation.

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“On this scale of threats, intimidation and insults it’s probably just par for the course from North Korea,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Wednesday.

The sanctions reflected the international community’s view that maximum economic pressure would force the regime to change its calculation of risk.

“To change its behaviour, deter it from carrying out illegal tests and bring it back to the negotiating table,” Ms Bishop said.

0:00 North Korea sanctions ‘nothing compared to what will have to happen’: Trump Share North Korea sanctions ‘nothing compared to what will have to happen’: Trump

The measures approved by the security council this week build off sanctions across numerous sectors of the North Korean economy imposed in early August.

“They were the toughest and most comprehensive set of sanctions that had been imposed on North Korea to date,” Ms Bishop said.

More news

The latest sanctions include a complete ban on the export of textiles from North Korea – an almost one billion dollar hit to the regime’s economy.

They also reduce by about a third the amount of oil North Korea can import.

The foreign minister, who will be in New York next week for UN leadership meetings, called on all nations to fully implement the sanctions.Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop arrives to speak at a Tourism & Transport Forum Leadership Summit at Parliament House in Canberra, September 13.AAP

“It’s overwhelmingly in Australia’s interests to ensure there is a peaceful resolution to the tensions on the Korean peninsula,” Ms Bishop said.

Three of Australia’s four largest trading partners are in north Asia and at risk of economic fallout if hostilities erupt.

Ms Bishop denied sanctions only stirred the pot when it came to the North Korean leadership.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop speaks at a Tourism & Transport Forum Leadership Summit at Parliament House in Canberra, September 13, 2017.AAP

“The alternative would be to allow a rogue regime to continue down an illegal path that is in direct defiance of the UN security council. That is not acceptable,” she said.

Australia was not considering options beyond diplomatic, political and economic measures but Ms Bishop acknowledged: “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Stillbirth discovery gives hope to women

Stillborn deaths could soon plummet on the back of a breakthrough discovery by Australian researchers.

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A simple blood test to identify babies at risk of dying in the womb could be just three to five years away after scientists pinpointed the role ageing placentas play in stillbirths.

The researchers discovered that placentas, which deliver oxygen and nutrients to unborn babies, age rapidly in the final weeks of pregnancy.

Crucially, they also found deteriorating placentas emit an enzyme called aldehyde oxidase, which ends up in the mother’s blood.

That’s the exciting part because it means a blood test might be able to identify at-risk babies, who can be delivered early before their lifelines fail.

“This is very exciting and I have to say it’s big,” says Professor Roger Smith, of NSW’s Hunter Medical Research Institute.

The blood test is already being developed.

Prof Smith was driving to work one morning about five years ago when he had a light-bulb moment.

He doesn’t like to listen to the radio or music during his commute. For him, it’s valuable thinking time.

That’s how the came to be mulling over the mathematical definition of ageing.

“Most people would say they know what ageing is but it’s difficult to define and there is a mathematical definition – that the risk of death increases with time.”

He was soon at work poring over data with a new perspective and what he found surprised him.

“When I looked at the data on stillbirths – with that definition of ageing in mind – it screamed to me that stillbirth is related to the ageing of the placenta,” he said.

“That was the key idea but then we had to test it. “

Prof Smith and his colleagues Kaushik Maiti and Zakia Sultana started looking at placentas from 37-week pregnancies and compared them with placentas from 39 and 40 weeks, looking for biochemical markets of ageing.

“We found dramatic changes in those last few weeks of pregnancy,” he said.

While the focus now is on the blood test – including how often mums should be tested for the enzyme – other related research ambitions are already taking shape.

Prof Smith and his team also plan to investigate ways to suppress the enzyme if placentas start to age and deteriorate early in pregnancy, but that’s something that could take a decade.

About one in every 150 pregnancies in Australia ends with stillbirth, but the figure is much higher in most other places.

The team’s discovery will be published in the coming edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.