Monthly Archives: June 2019

People-smuggler cash scandal: Indonesian MP calls for China to abandon push-back policy

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Police officers displaying six stacks of $US100 bills during a press conference by Nusa Tenggara Timur police chief Endang Sunjaya at Rote police station in June. Photo: Supplied Jasmine, one of two boats which asylum seekers claim they were transferred onto by n Border Force after being intercepted. Photo: Amnesty International

Cash Indonesia police said was paid to people smugglers.

Push for royal commission into people smuggler cash scandalPeople smuggler cash: boat captain speaksHow events unfolded

Jakarta: A member of President Joko Widodo’s ruling party has called on the Indonesian government to “send a strong protest” after a report found n officials paid people smugglers to return to Indonesia.

Charles Honoris​, a member of the Indonesian House of Representatives, also renewed calls for to abandon its controversial boat push-back policy and said he hoped the n government would be more transparent under the new Prime Minister.

“Foreign Minister Retno [Marsudi] has demanded an explanation on the June incident but got no response,” said Mr Honoris, a member of Mr Joko’s Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP).

“The Foreign Minister must demand it again, especially after the release of the Amnesty International report. The Indonesian government must send a strong protest to the n government so that it will not recur in the future.”

The Amnesty International report said n officials who paid people smugglers to return a boat of asylum seekers to Indonesia had committed a transnational crime, put dozens of lives at risk and called for a royal commission into the scandal.

Mr Honoris also proposed a joint investigation into the people smuggling payments between Indonesia and .

“Now there is a new prime minister in we hope the government will be transparent in this particular case. They have to explain what happened and I think it is time for them to abandon the boat push-back policy. I am sure the payment to boat crews – if the Amnesty International report is accurate – is something that is even against n law, let alone international law.”

The n government maintained its defence of Operation Sovereign Borders on Thursday. Asked whether n officials had committed international crimes by paying people smugglers, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that “all of our agencies operate within the law and they operate within the law keeping our borders secure”.

He would not be drawn on whether to establish a new inquiry into the matter, saying the government was satisfied its agencies were operating legally. “We have got a very important role to ensure that we stop people smuggling. People smuggling is a very, very serious crime.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop rejected the report outright. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that people intercepted by the n Border Force and Defence Force were “held lawfully in secure, safe, humane, and appropriate conditions … to suggest otherwise, as Amnesty has done, is to cast a slur on the men and women of the ABF and ADF.”

He told n radio station 2GB the government would not “water down” its policy of turning back asylum seeker boats.

Shadow Immigration Minister Richard Marles urged the government to immediately say whether the allegations were true: “The n community deserves to be told whether this government has used taxpayer money to pay people smugglers to turn boats around at sea.”

General Endang Sunjaya, the police chief of Nusa Tenggara Timur province who oversaw the investigation into the people smuggler payments, said n officials put the lives of asylum seekers in danger.

He also told Fairfax Media that put Indonesia in a disadvantaged position because it now had to assist and process “abundant numbers of illegal immigrants”.

General Endang said n officials had paid the captain and crew and then returned the asylum seekers in boats that lacked adequate navigational systems and fuel.

“They were turned back with less than minimal safety,” he said.

“It endangered the people and as they approached Landu Island they were stranded and ran out of fuel and food supplies. This is [something that ] needs to be fully aware of – it put the illegal immigrants in danger. and Indonesia need to sit down and thoroughly discuss these issues to ensure no country is put at a disadvantage.”

General Endang said Indonesian police had proved the existence of bribes to people smugglers in June. But he said that while the Amnesty International report had mentioned possible payments to people smugglers on a second boat in July, Nusa Tenggara Timur police had found no evidence of this.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Arrmanatha Nasir, said the government would study the Amnesty International report.

“The Indonesian position is clear that successfully handling irregular migrants takes co-operation and commitment between countries of origin, transit and destination.”

He said Indonesia remained opposed to ‘s boat push-back policy.

The head of n National University’s College of Law, Professor Don Rothwell, said that Indonesia was unlikely to pursue the range of legal options it had on ‘s alleged breaches of international law: “[Indonesia has] been in possession of these facts for a very long period of time now, yet it’s chosen to deal with the matter by diplomatic means.”

Amnesty International said in its report that n officials had breached the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land Sea and Air. Under the protocol, Indonesia could engage in a range of dispute resolutions, but all rely on ‘s co-operation to go ahead, including the option of suing at the International Court of Justice.

International law experts said that more than the current Senate inquiry was needed to deal with the allegations domestically. Sydney University international law Professor Ben Saul backed the report’s recommendation for a royal commission, saying the inquiry did not have the power to deal with classified evidence without prejudicing security operations.

“At least you’d get an independent quasi-judicial scrutiny of what’s going on,” he said. “It could say this is legitimate or make recommendations against the practice but at the moment that can’t happen because a parliamentary inquiry is limited to scrutinising technical matters of the regime without fundamentally questioning the policy premises.”

Professor Rothwell said a royal commission was “premature”, but, given the government had consistently refused to discuss a range of issues raised on asylum seekers and Operation Sovereign Borders, “it is fair to say that even parliamentary inquiries are unable to fully determine the truth of some of these matters”.

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Unique International College: Students allegedly paid cash to go into $25,000 debt

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The house bought by Unique International College and its owner Amarjhit Khela. Unique International College in Granville.

The Kenthurst property formerly owned by Unique International College. Photo: Domain

Follow SMH Student on FacebookCrackdown on Sydney private college recruiting ‘illiterate and disabled students’Living the high life: Unique College International’s Amarjit Khela

A private Sydney college allegedly paid students up to $2000 to sign documents they could not read in order to take out Commonwealth loans of up to $25,000, according to students targeted by the school.

The Unique International College came under scrutiny this week for its allegedly “unconscionable conduct” in poor rural areas targeting disabled and illiterate students in remote Aboriginal communities.

Fairfax Media can reveal that large groups of students in Sydney’s west were also allegedly brought into the one-room campus en masse to sign up to courses they did not understand they were taking and clock up debts of up to $25,000.

Despite being pursued by the n Competition and Consumer Commission for $57 million in taxpayer funding, the college above Silly Willy’s $2 shop in Granville continues to operate.

When Fairfax Media contacted the college on Thursday an employee said it was business as usual for its diplomas in marketing and hairdressing.

Its founder and CEO, Amarjit Khela, a multi-millionaire with a penchant for one-tonne chandeliers, sherry scotch and 12-car garages, has gone into hiding.

“I am quiet because of legal advice but I am not dead,” the man known as “bhaji” wrote to friends on Thursday.

“I shall speak with solid evidence when the time is ripe. I do not blame my brothers who have hurt me.  For them I say that the insult of a kaffir is better than the false praise of a believer. May God spread happiness and kheer [an Indian sweet milk drink] in the homes of all.”

The college’s registration was cancelled in October after it received $42 million in Commonwealth funding despite only 2.4 per cent of its more than 800 students completing courses.

Jeff Tan told the Herald his aunt was allegedly offered $2000 in four $500 payments by Unique to sign a form she could not read that would force her into a course she had no hope of completing.

Her signature would have accrued her a taxpayer-funded debt of $25,000 that was paid to the college for 20 weeks of a Diploma of Salon management course.

“My aunt does not even understand English,” said Mr Tan. “Big groups of people would come into the centre in Granville, they would say they do not speak English and the sales agents would tell them ‘don’t worry about it,’ just sign these forms and you get $2000.”

Students who signed up for the course were then offered a $500 bonus if they referred a friend to take up one of the colleges courses, said Mr Tan.

In May last year fights broke out at a promotional day for the college to sign up students for management, hairdressing or marketing courses as demand outstripped the number of free laptops being used as inducements.

A submission to a Senate committee inquiry into the private college sector from the Canterbury Bankstown Migrant Interagency detailed cash inducements being offered to elderly residents to take out VET-FEE loans in 2014.

“They were each offered a free computer/iPad or $1000 cash by taking out the loan. They were told there was no need to come to class, but if they wish, they could come and free lunch will be offered,” the submission said.

Mr Tan said that during 2013 the college would send out recruiters throughout Asian communities in Auburn, Campsie and Hurstville and news of the bonuses and payments would spread by word of mouth.

The day after his aunt signed up for the course, Mr Tan realised she had unwittingly committed herself to tens of thousand of dollars worth of debt.

The University of NSW student raced down to the Granville office where another group of would-be Unique students were waiting to be signed up and withdrew her paperwork just before it was submitted.

“I think they never intended people to study, it is just a profit-making machine,” the 20-year-old said.

Unique generated a profit of $11 million before tax last year out of taxpayer funded VET-FEE Help loans, but Mr Tan said that learning resources were scarce.

“It was very basic. There was only one main room that was fairly small. The centre could never accommodate that many students who were enrolling to join, my aunt was told you don’t really have to study.”

Statistics posted online by the college claim that business was booming at the time, growing from 500 students in 2012 to more than 800 by 2013.

“In our history so far, despite the others trying to harm us, we always focused on spending our energy, time and resources on continually improving ourselves, rather than wasting time and energy on trying to harm the others” the college wrote in May 2013.

Mr Khela has promised to strenuously defend the actions of the college for operating within Commonwealth legislative frameworks.

The school has until November 23 to appeal ASQA’s decision to cancel its registration. ASQA cancelled the Unique’s registration after it found the college to be non-compliant with training standards and engaged in inappropriate marketing practices.

Mike Baird apologies to Fairbridge Farm School victims in NSW Parliament

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NSW Premier Mike Baird. Photo: Peter RaePremier Mike Baird struggled to speak as he apologised to former child migrants who were physically and sexually assaulted at the notorious Fairbridge Farm School in the state’s central west.

The school was home to more than 1200 underprivileged children, some as young as four, who had been sent from their homes in England.

Mr Baird’s delivered his touching apology at state parliament on Thursday afternoon, causing the entire lower house to stand and applause.

“I am deeply, deeply sorry,” he said.

“On behalf of the State of NSW, I want to recognise all former child migrants who attended Fairbridge Farm in Molong, NSW.

“They arrived here as vulnerable and trusting children whose parents wanted nothing more than a better life than the one they could offer.”

In June this year, more than 60 adults who were abused as children, were awarded $24 million in what was the largest compensation payment for survivors of institutional child abuse in n legal history.

Former ABC managing director David Hill was a former resident and wrote about the experience in his book The Forgotten Children.

“They were not given the future they were promised, or the childhood they deserved,” Mr Baird said.

“They were betrayed by the people whose job it was to protect them, and were betrayed by this State which did not ensure their safety.

“I recognise these wrongs, knowing that it will not bring back the childhood they were robbed of.

“I acknowledge the burden many of them carry each and every day as a result of their experiences.”

An estimated 130,000 children were taken from the UK and sent to , New Zealand, Canada and Zimbabwe as part of the British child migration scheme.

More than 1200 were sent to the Fairbridge Farm School, which operated from 1938 to 1974.

The former residents were kept in primitive barracks, often starved, exploited for their labour, cruelly punished and sexually assaulted.

ASX falls over 1pc as Woolies disappoints

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The Woolworths result quickly reversed market sentiment on Thursday. Photo: Patrick ScalaConsumer stocks led n shares sharply lower on Thursday following a dreadful quarterly sales report from Woolworths, while ANZ reported full-year profit numbers and Blackmores shares briefly hit $200 each.

The market started the day in positive territory following strong gains on Wall Street, which reached two-month highs. The Dow Jones lifted 1 per cent after the US Federal Reserve implied it was more open to a December rate hike.

However, the Woolworths result quickly reversed market sentiment, especially as Wesfarmers shares were also sold off as a result.

Consumer staples was by the far the worst sector on the day, losing 5.3 per cent. All sectors bar utilities stocks were in the red as the benchmark ASX200 index fell 1.3 per cent to 5266.9 and the broader All Ordinaries declined 1.2 per cent to 5310.2.

The banks were also down, with ANZ falling 2 per cent to $28.17 after reporting record full-year profits of $7.2 billion, but also slowing earnings growth, flat dividends, and shareholder returns squeezed by the dilutive effect of its recent capital raising.

Commonwealth Bank shed 0.6 per cent to $77.17 and National Bank declined 4 per cent to $30.46 but Westpac performed relatively well, finishing flat at $31.92.

Woolworths crashed 9.8 per cent to $24.70 after warning that net profits will fall as much as 35 per cent in the December half to between $900 million and $1 billion.

Same-store n food and liquor sales fell for the second consecutive quarter –  down 1 per cent in the three months to October 4 – as Woolworths struggled to reverse customer perceptions that its prices are higher than Coles.

The decline in first-quarter same-store food and liquor sales followed a 0.9 per cent drop in the June quarter, indicating that Woolworths supermarkets are continue to lose momentum. ​Analysts had been forecasting same-store sales to fall between 0.5 per cent and 1.1 per cent.

Fears of continuing price wars in the grocery sector resulted in competitor Wesfarmers dropping 4.3 per cent to $40.18, while Metcash was walloped even worse than Woolworths, losing 10.4 per cent to $1.20.

“There’s a big question now over some of these consumer stocks,” said Invast chief market analyst Peter Esho. “Woolworths can only fight its way out of this through pricing – and if they discount the rest of the market has to discount and it’s going to drive down margins.

“Woolworths is not just a short-term earnings thing. There’s big questions now over where strategy is at, where management’s at, where the board is at. The whole thing is falling apart.”

Overnight, iron ore slumped 3 per cent to $US49.95 per tonne – under $US50 – although oil recovered somewhat, with Brent crude up $US2.10 or 4.5 per cent, to $US48.91 per barrel.

BHP weakened 1.3 per cent to $23.47 and Rio Tinto slipped 1.8 per cent to $51.14. Pure-play iron ore miner Fortescue gave up 2.2 per cent to $2.20 and Woodside Petroleum fell 1 per cent to $29.34 despite the improving oil price.

Telstra retreated 1.4 per cent to $5.50.

Blackmores surged 12.9 per cent to $175.51 after news it was expanding beyond its core business to enter the infant formula market through a partnership deal with dairy group Bega Cheese, as profits continue to surge from vitamins sales to China.

Blackmores has experienced an incredible near 500 per cent rise in its share price over the past 14 months because of heavy demand for its vitamins and health supplements in China.

Newcrest’s chances of meeting its full year gold production guidance have taken a blow with the company confirming a major piece of kit at its most important mine will be out for longer.

An important part of the production process at the Cadia mine in NSW failed about 12 days ago, and Newcrest said today it would be “at least five weeks” before it was fixed. The gold miner crumbled 7.6 per cent to $12.72.

Southern Cross Austereo upgrades earnings, implores government to move on reform

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Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley presented an earnings upgrade to shareholders. Photo: Louise KennerleyAll-day live streaming of metropolitan television channels could have a “pretty damaging effect” on the regional marketplace and Southern Cross Austereo will consider it when negotiating a new affiliate agreement, the regional television and radio broadcaster’s chief executive Grant Blackley says.

The media company upgraded its earnings expectations for the first half on the back of improved revenue across the business, particularly from radio, which includes The Hit Network and Triple M.

Southern Cross’s current affiliation deal is with Ten Network Holdings, where Mr Blackley was chief executive for six years until 2011, and expires in July 2016.

“We’re keen to see what [Ten are] doing next year, we’re keen to see the content they’ll have … I think television more broadly has to market itself better, so what’s Ten’s views and plans on that because I think radio as an industry does it better than television,” Mr Blackley said following Southern Cross’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

Ten chief executive Paul Anderson told Fairfax Media that there was a lot of hype around live streaming and, for now, Ten will not broadcasting all its channels over the internet 24/7 like its rivals Seven and Nine plan to.

Mr Blackley said he had no preference for a short- or long-term agreement as long as it resulted in a better economic outcome for Southern Cross.

He said streaming would be a consideration in negotiations because “it’s a growing concern”.

“We look at the media reform proposition; I think what you’re seeing is that one of the debates and discussion in market is about streaming services into markets which effectively is coming into our market unencumbered, particularly with national ads, [and] there’s not as much localisation into the regional communities,” Mr Blackley said.

“We see it as something that we have to be highly cognisant of as an affiliate, but again it can have a pretty damaging effect on our marketplace, particularly if it is not a geo-filtered ad insertion model into the marketplace which we participate in.” Media reform ‘an urgent issue’

Mr Blackley said media reform was an urgent issue and implored the government to scrap the reach rule preventing TV networks from broadcasting to more than 75 per cent of the population, the two out of three rule preventing media companies from owning a TV station, radio network and newspaper in the same market, as well as a reduction in broadcast licence fees.

At Southern Cross’s AGM on Thursday Mr Blackley announced to shareholders that the company is now expecting earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation between $87 million and $89 million in the first half, up 2 per cent to 4 per cent on the same period last year. In August it had forecast flat growth.

Southern Cross shares jumped on the news, trading up 3.1 per cent in afternoon trade at 97.75¢.

The upgrade came as a result of better revenue forecasts, especially in its radio assets. Southern Cross is expecting metro radio revenue to be up between 7 per cent to 8 per cent in the half, while regional radio is forecast to improve between 3 per cent  to 4 per cent and TV revenue to rise around 1 per cent.

“[We’re] very pleased. The radio side did well, and it’s obviously improving. We’re seeing improvements in both metro and regional. It’s probably the second best performance in market only to out of home media,” Mr Blackley said.