MEAA’s visa consultation fees hurt Australian film industry

Immigration to Australia

Last month a new 408 temporary activity visa replaced several temporary work visas, including the 420 entertainment visa for actors, musicians, entertainers and crew.

The new framework is designed to make the process of applying for a temporary visa simpler for business, industry and individuals. This is a result of the skilled migration and temporary activity review, which the Department of Immigration and Border Protection launched in December 2014.

It’s a welcome step forward, but the entertainment industry, including the screen sector, still will be at an unfair disadvantage. That’s because of a legislative requirement in the migration regulations for compulsory union consultation over temporary visa applications.

Our industry is the only one in the country with such a requirement. What’s more, we have to pay consultation fees to the union, on top of visa application fees charged by the department.

The process that the actors union, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, helped establish more than 20 years ago for screen industry consultation requires paying a fee and the lodging of commercially sensitive documentation. This information goes far beyond the reasons for importing overseas talent. As well as the script and details of local cast and crew, MEAA must get the finance plan. The fees MEAA has received for this compulsory process, across the entertainment industry, totalled $467,355 in 2013-14 and $421,712 in 2014-15.

The screen industry increasingly is worried that private finance, necessary to trigger production subsidies, is drying up. Investors are naturally more comfortable about getting their money back when a marquee actor is cast. If one of our own stars is unavailable or unsuitable for a role, producers must have the option to cast an overseas name that can attract investors. More private finance means more and bigger productions, translating to more work for everyone in the industry. The visa process has been a real barrier to that happening. The statistics support that concern.

Immigration to Australia

The government screen funding body, Screen Australia, reveals that private investment in subsidised screen production has halved in the past 10 years. A recent survey confirmed that the screen sector supports more than 46,600 full-time jobs. Actors, and the relatively small proportion of film crew who are MEAA members, make up a minority of these jobs. Think about the credits at the end of a film … they are still rolling long after the cast list. It’s not just about actors.

Last year the government called for submissions for a review into the possibility of simplifying the application process for temporary visas for the screen industry. Throughout that process it was clear that a whole range of people and organisations supported sensible reform — from fellow actors such as John Jarratt, independent producers such as Helen Leake and Antony I. Ginnane, directors, cinematographers, composers, writers, distributors and sales agents such as Odin’s Eye, television networks, casting directors and actors’ agents, screen production companies such as See Saw Films, through to the main screen business association, Screen Producers Australia.

It is really only the union that opposes any changes to the compulsory consultation process and I wonder whether this is mainly to do with the prospect of losing the substantial income from the consultation fees it charges. It certainly does not seem to have a genuine desire to see more work opportunities created for its members. Last year MEAA ran a disingenuous campaign called Save Our Stories in which it made unsubstantiated claims that if the union were taken out of the visa consultation process, government-subsidised screen productions would somehow be cast and crewed by Americans and not tell Australian stories.

This has no basis in fact. All taxpayer subsidised productions must pass the significant Australian content test, which means Screen Australia must be satisfied that the project has a significant level of Australian content and satisfies Australian cultural aspirations. The SAC test was signed off by all screen industry stakeholders including MEAA.

The Australian taxpayer is not going to fund American car chase movies cast with B-grade American actors.

MEAA also claims that roles in Australian productions should be kept for Australians to support their career growth. That’s old-school thinking. We are long past the 1980s. Now, with so many Australians playing roles in offshore productions, there is no need to score a lead role in an Aussie film to be discovered. Our reputation is such that our actors are very successful in getting international work, some going straight to the US after graduating from acting school. A list, compiled by Ausfilm, of actors who have recently worked, or are working, in the US runs to four pages and is growing.

I can’t see that the ability for producers to cast name foreign actors in some roles in government-subsidised productions should be of concern. More productions will mean more work for everyone. If Cate or Geoffrey can play American or British characters in offshore films, I, for one, have no problems with working in Australian films alongside actors who are American, Indian, British, Chinese, whatever.

It’s time for our industry to be a 21st-century player in the global world of screen production and the government should do everything it can to stop a trade union enforcing protectionism that is preventing Australian screen producers from tapping into global sources of screen production investment.

Source: theaustralian

Cranbourne North family wants criminal who sexually assaulted woman in her home to be deported

Australian Immigration

THE family of a woman sexually assaulted as she slept in her Cranbourne North home wants the man responsible booted out of the country.

Family members have even offered to pay for a one-way ticket for South Sudanese refugee Lang Kouth, 21, who has lived in Australia since he was nine years old.

Kouth was sentenced to four years’ prison on November 29 after he pleaded guilty to sexual assault, aggravated burglary and theft, as well as unlicensed and careless driving.

The court heard a drunken Kouth entered the family’s home through an unlocked door, stealing a mobile phone and car keys before going into the bedroom.

There he took off his shoes and climbed into the couple’s bed, aggressively kissing and biting a woman.

Kouth then bolted from the home and stole the family’s Ford Falcon. He was picked up by police about 3.30am after losing control of the vehicle and smashing into a tree.

Speaking to the Leader after Kouth’s court appearance, the victim’s mother-in-law said the family was now living a nightmare.

“He’s got two years and three months, my son and daughter have a lifetime of flashbacks and trauma,” she said.

She said she had started an online petition asking that refugees and immigrants who receive jail sentences of more than 12 months have their residency revoked and be deported.

Under the Migration Act 1958, the immigration minister may refuse or cancel a visa on character grounds and nonresidents can have their visa cancelled if they have been convicted of a crime that carries a prison sentence of 12 months or longer.

The woman said her daughter-in-law had been left traumatised by the assault.

“My daughter-in-law … she woke up and just saw a pair of white eyes looking at her,” she said.

“We are left living in a prison in my house now; I was just out in the backyard and I had the door locked and deadbolted and my back door locked in case someone was able to sneak in past me.

“He’s not a kid, he knew what he did was wrong … he used alcohol as an excuse but you still know right from wrong whether you are on ice or heroin or blind drunk.”

The Department of Immigration confirmed Kouth was an Australian citizen, but would not speak further about the case.

Immigration to Australia

Liberty Victoria president Jessie Taylor said having different laws for citizens born in Australia and citizens born overseas would set up different classes of citizenship, which was not something Australia should consider.

She said Australian law allowed citizenship to be revoked if a person was found to be fighting with the armed forces of a country at war with Australia, but if it was extended beyond that it could lead to a slippery slope where any number of other people could be exiled.

“It is completely understandable that the family of this victim is angry and distressed, however, we believe that the proposal is not justified,” she said.

“Citizenship can and should only be cancelled in extreme circumstances.

“We cannot simply deport people who commit antisocial or criminal behaviour once they have become citizens.”

A Victoria Legal Aid spokeswoman said visas could not be refused or cancelled on the basis of a person’s nationality or membership of a particular cultural group.

“The minister must strike a balance between the risk a person poses, and the profound consequences for people whose visas are cancelled,” she said.

“The consequence for some will be either return to persecution or harm, or indefinite detention in Australia because they can’t be sent back.”

Article Source: heraldsun

Travelers to Australia can apply for 10-year visa

Visit Visa

Starting next month those planning a trip to Australia will be able to apply for a 10-year multiple entry visa.

The move is part of an effort to improve upon a growing relationship with Australia’s biggest trading partner while capturing an even greater piece of the country’s largest international tourism market.

Spend some time at Sydney’s Circular Quay, surrounded by some of the country’s most recognizable landmarks and it’s easy to what captures the economy there for tourism. Last year China’s more than 1 million visitors led Australia’s tourism industry boom.

They not only accounted for more than $6.5 billion in economic activity, but Chinese tourists spent more about $6,000 per visit, compared with an average of $3,600 from international visitors.

Austrailan Visit Visa

Under the new visa, visitors aren’t allowed to work, and can stay for up to three months at a time. And it allows for repeat visits.

Several countries including the U.S. and Canada already offer 10-year multiple entry visas to Chinese tourists. Economists said a similar change for Australia also sends an important message to the country’s biggest trading partner.

Many Australian products are in demand in China from food to wine. And tourism officials say some of the best advertising comes from overseas visitors.

Offshore detention: Australia’s recent immigration history a ‘human rights catastrophe’

Migration to Australia

Adeal with the US to settle an unknown number of refugees from Australia’s offshore processing centres could mark the end of one of Australia’s most contentious political and moral issues over the past 15 years.

Since offshore processing was restarted in 2001, it has grown into an internationally condemned, secretive regime, subject to hundreds of court cases in Australia and overseas.

Inside the centres there have been violent deaths, horrific acts of self-harm and abuse, and mass protests.

The centres have emptied and swelled, peaking under the former Labor government.

The government’s line, hardened over the years by both Labor and the Coalition, had left it in an immovable position – not one asylum seeker who comes by boat can settle in Australia, lest its policy be seen as a failure.

Australia’s government claims its harsh policies have stopped the boats – despite some recent attempts – and thus the deaths at sea. It’s assumed any future arrivals would be dealt with as they are now – with enhanced screening processes and boat turnbacks.

The ‘Pacific Solution’

Offshore processing restarted in earnest in 2001 after the Tampa affair, when a Norwegian freighter rescued 433 asylum seekers from their sinking vessel, 140km from Christmas Island. Against international law, Australia refused the Tamp entry into its waters, sparking an international controversy.

Dubbed the “Pacific Solution” under then prime minister John Howard, the policy saw all asylum seekers who arrived by boat intercepted at sea and sent straight to offshore camps established on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

Australian Immigration

Christmas Island, closer to Indonesia, was excised from the Australian migration zone to host another centre. A subsequent Labor government would more than 10 years later excise the entire Australian mainland.

Following the “children overboard” incident in October 2001 – and the deaths of 353 men, women and children in the Siev X disaster – asylum seekers were a major political issue and Howard went to a federal election with his infamous declaration that “we will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come”.

Howard won the election and offshore processing continued. Concerns about indefinite detention and its impact on physical and mental health was widespread among advocates and rights groups.

‘Pacific Solution’ ends but the boats restart

The detention camps housed more than 1,500 people. Between 2001 and 2008, 705 people from the offshore centres were resettled in Australia and 401 in New Zealand. Some asylum seekers remained in detention for years, but the boat arrivals slowed, and in 2008 offshore processing was dismantled by the new Labor government, led by Kevin Rudd.

However arrivals began again and several high-profile tragedies, including an explosion on a boat near Ashmore Reef in 2009 and the crashing of Siev 221 on the coast of Christmas Island in 2010, contributed to a death toll at sea estimated at more than 1,000.

A deal under then prime minister Julia Gillard, signed in mid 2011 with Malaysia, was supposed to see 4,000 refugees taken from Malaysia’s camps in return for it taking 800 asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat, but this was struck down by the high court.

Later, the Coalition immigration minister Scott Morrison would successfully negotiate a $55.5m deal with Cambodia to host refugees, but it would be taken up by just six people, with many returning home shortly after arriving.

Following recommendations from an expert panel which focused largely on the need for a “no advantage” policy, offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island restarted in August 2012.

An “enhanced screening” process – criticised for its lack of transparency – was introduced to deal with the overwhelming backlog of asylum seekers, which grew to 20,000 by mid-2013.

Amnesty International and the UNHCR released reports condemning the conditions inside the two centres, and the indefinite nature of the detention. Amnesty labelled the Nauru centre “a human rights catastrophe”.

Read more : theguardian

Man secretly deported to Nauru from Melbourne detention centre, say lawyers

The immigration department has secretly deported a man to Nauru from a Melbourne detention centre, according to lawyers and advocates.

The man, who is understood to have been granted refugee status, was allegedly removed from the Mita facility on Thursday night without warning and without being able to contact his legal representatives.

It’s believed he was in Australia for medical treatment, but it’s not known if that treatment had ended.

Despite being in a similar situation, he is not part of the cohort of asylum seekers and refugees who have a commitment from the federal government that 72 hours’ notice would be given before any deportation.

Legal cases have been filed on behalf of those individuals and the government gave a formal undertaking in the proceedings before the high court that there would be three days’ warning given to legal teams of any planned deportation.

“A decent and compassionate government which respects the rule of law doesn’t choose to secretively deport people found to be refugees in the middle of the night without any transparency, due process or access to legal advice,” said Daniel Webb, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC).

Webb said the man was not a client of theirs, but did have legal representation.

The Department of Immigration told Guardian Australia it did not comment on individual transfers.

The HRLC is representing 320 people currently in Australia after being transferred from Nauru for medical care.

Webb said the shock deportation, coupled with the government’s discussion of permanent visa bans on refugees this week, had distressed those on Nauru and Manus Island, and in Australian detention.

“There are kids in our classrooms right now who in the space of the last few days have heard [the prime minister] Malcolm Turnbull threatening lifetime bans and now seen someone in a similar situation to them secretly deported,” he said. “They are understandably afraid and really unsettled. What are they supposed to say to their friends at school? It’s fundamentally cruel.”

Migration experts have questioned the veracity of the government’s plan to introduce bans on anyone who was processed as a refugee on Manus or Nauru from ever returning to Australia, including as tourists, on business, or as the spouse of a resident.

The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has said the new rules are essential to stop people coming into Australia “through the back door” and entering into “sham relationships”. However, he has failed to explain why current screening processes are not adequate.

Labor has ridiculed the proposal and criticised the government for changing its messaging from day to day, but refused to rule out supporting it as it had not been provided with any legislation to assess.

On Friday morning, the leader of the House, Christopher Pyne, said the legislation would be released “as soon as it’s ready to be introduced, because it’s pretty straightforward”.

The government has maintained it is still in talks with several countries to act as third-party settlement destinations for the refugees processed offshore, but released no details.

There are suggestions the US and Canada may be involved. New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, said there had been no new discussion with the Australian government and that New Zealand would not support the creation of “different classes of citizens”.

Key said Australia had “no obvious appetite” to take his country’s offer to resettle 150 refugees from Nauru and it was “increasingly unlikely” an agreement would be reached.

On Friday, Turnbull also defended the government’s slow processing of the 12,000 Syrian refugees it had pledged to resettle and said it was because it was “taking very thorough security checks”.

Article Source: .theguardian