Politics

Varadkar flags possible Brexit deal after Johnson meeting

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his British counterpart Boris Johnson have said they can "see a pathway" to a possible Brexit deal, breaking the deadlock on the Northern Ireland backstop.

Following more than two hours of "detailed and constructive" talks at a country manor on the Wirral, the two leaders said it was in "everybody's interest" to get an agreement which would allow the UK to leave with a deal.

Mr Varadkar said he hoped the progress they had made would be "sufficient" to enable intensive negotiations to resume in Brussels ahead of next week's crucial EU summit.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will meet the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Brussels today when they are expected to assess whether there are the grounds to move forward.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Wirral on Thursday.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Wirral on Thursday.

Mr Johnson almost certainly needs the EU leaders gathering in Brussels on October 17 and 18 to sign off on an agreement in order to be able to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 with a deal.

Speaking to reporters at Liverpool Airport before his return to Dublin, Mr Varadkar said while there were still issues to be resolved, he believed it was possible to meet the Halloween deadline.

"I think it is possible for us to come to an agreement, to have a treaty to allow the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion, and to have that done by the end of October, but there's many a slip between cup and lip," he said.

"In terms of how long it will take, I can't predict that with any certainty, but I think all sides would like there to be an agreement next week at the council if possible.

"Obviously there's a further deadline after that which is the 31st of October, so I would say a short pathway rather than a long one, but it's impossible to predict that for sure."

Earlier in a joint statement, the two leaders said they would "reflect further" on their discussions while their officials would continue to "engage intensively".

"Both continue to believe a deal is in everybody's interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal," the statement said.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on October 31.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on October 31.

Mr Varadkar refused to be drawn on any "concessions" made by either side, while British sources refused to be drawn on Irish press reports suggesting "significant movement" by the UK.

The meeting at the 19th-century Thornton Manor - now a luxury wedding venue - was seen as a last chance for Mr Johnson to get his hopes of an agreement back on track.

In their statement, the two leaders said their discussions had concentrated on the "challenges" of future customs arrangements and "consent" in Mr Johnson's Brexit blueprint.

The Irish and other EU governments have objected to proposals to take Northern Ireland out of the EU customs union - along with the rest of the UK - meaning the return of customs checks on the island of Ireland.

They have also voiced strong concern about proposals in the plan for the new arrangements to require the consent of the Stormont Assembly, effectively handing a veto to the DUP.

The unexpectedly upbeat statement comes at the end of a week marked by acrimonious exchanges between London, Dublin and Brussels in which the negotiations appeared close to collapse.

I think it is possible for us to come to an agreement, to have a treaty to allow the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion, and to have that done by the end of October, but there’s many a slip between cup and lip
— Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Briefings by anonymous No 10 sources accused Mr Varadkar of backtracking on previous commitments to try to find a deal and of refusing to negotiate. And following a heated telephone call between Mr Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, they claimed the EU was making it "essentially impossible" for Britain to leave with a deal.

Time remains tight, however, if there is to be a deal. On Wednesday, Mr Barnier told the European Parliament there was still no basis for a fresh agreement. He said the UK had yet to put forward an "operational, legally binding solution" to replace the Northern Ireland backstop - intended to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic. And he said Mr Johnson's proposals for a trusted traders scheme, with any physical customs checks taking place well away from the border, were based on a system "that hasn't been properly developed, that hasn't been tested".

If there is no agreement, Mr Johnson will face demands from opposition parties to comply with the so-called Benn Act which would require him to go back to Brussels and request a further Brexit delay.

The Prime Minister has said that while he will abide by the law, he is determined to leave on the Halloween deadline come what may. Government sources have said ministers are preparing to hold an emergency Saturday sitting of Parliament on October 19.

Many British MPs believe that if he cannot get a deal, Mr Johnson will use the occasion to lambast them for thwarting an agreement, laying the ground for a "people versus Parliament" general election, possibly as early as next month.

Another Irish-born Australian facing deportation

Australia’s controversial Migrant Act has left another Irish family in limbo. 

Dublin-born Michael Walsh (not his real name) is a stranger to Ireland, having migrated to Australia as a baby more than 50 years ago, but he now faces forced repatriation after his incarceration in 2016.

His partner Linda Hughes (not her real name) said she was “angry” one mistake could lead to a permanent resident’s deportation to a country they barely know.

“Sometimes people do things out of character, they’re not repeat offenders…

“I’m desperate for my partner to stay in Australia.”

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Ms Hughes would not disclose her fiancé’s criminal record, however said he had served the minimum two and a half years of his sentence and that a forensic psychologist had assessed Mr Walsh, finding him to be no threat to society.

Section 501 of the Migrant Act allows the minister for home affairs to cancel the visas of immigrants who fail a strict character test due to criminal conduct or potential danger to the Australian community.

Ms Hughes said her partner expected to be informed in February if he would be deported, but seven months later he has yet to receive such confirmation.

“We’ve heard nothing from Immigration,” she said.

“That’s what’s making us go crazy, it’s just a waiting game.” 

Mr Walsh is Ms Hughes’ primary carer, as she lives with a number of chronic illnesses.

World leaders have criticised Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton’s hard stance on non-citizens.

World leaders have criticised Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton’s hard stance on non-citizens.

Immigrants were once protected from deportation if they had held permanent resident status for 10 or more years, but section 501 now allows non-citizens to be deported after any period of time in Australia. 

Mr Walsh considers himself Australian regardless of a lack of formal citizenship, with his whole family having found an adopted home down under.

Read More: Federal Court Decision: Irish ex-bikie to be deported

NSW Council for Civil Liberties Treasurer Stephen Blanks described deportation after a prison sentence as double punishment, with migrants unable to re-enter and reintegrate into society after serving their time. 

“It’s Australia’s responsibility to ensure rehabilitation,” Mr Blanks said. 

He has labelled the migration legislation “misconceived” and “arbitrary” due to its automatic application to any non-citizen who fails Australia’s character test, regardless of the diverse circumstances of each case.

NSWCCL Treasurer Stephen Blanks says long-term visa holders should be spared deportation.

NSWCCL Treasurer Stephen Blanks says long-term visa holders should be spared deportation.

The onus then falls on immigrants to convince the minister to reinstate their visa to avoid deportation.

Ms Hughes agreed that individuals’ conditions should be examined before visas were revoked.

“I think the decision should be case by case.

“Just because you’re born somewhere, doesn’t mean you belong there.” 




UK flags possible 'no visa' deal with Australia post Brexit

British passport holders may be able to live and work in Australia without a visa under a post-Brexit trade deal. Under the proposed idea, Australians would be also entitled to the same rights in the UK.

Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss met Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and her counterpart Simon Birmingham in the capital Canberra on Wednesday.

Ms Truss told a press conference that the two countries had a "special link".

Australia’s Trade Minister Simon Bermingham and his UK counterpart Liz Truss in Canberra on Wednesday. Picture: Rod McGuirk

Australia’s Trade Minister Simon Bermingham and his UK counterpart Liz Truss in Canberra on Wednesday. Picture: Rod McGuirk

Asked about freedom of movement being part of future trade talks, Ms Truss said: "It's certainly something we will be looking at as part of our free trade negotiations.”

Ms Truss added: "We want a fully comprehensive trade deal that reflects our deep, ongoing relationship, the friendship between our two countries, the fact that Australians want to come and live and work in Britain, and Brits want to come and live and work in Australia.

"Leaving the European Union really does give us a chance as a country to become more outward-looking, to become more competitive, and to deepen our links with our partners right across the world."

Also Read: Votes for Irish abroad referendum to be delayed

Currently, British citizens require a visa to travel to Australia and while Britons can apply for holiday working visas, they must go through normal channels to emigrate longer-term.

Under the Trans-Tasman travel arrangement, there is a common travel area between Australia and New Zealand, meaning citizens from either country are free to travel, live and work in both.

However, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison dismissed the idea of expanding the scheme after a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G7 summit in France last month.

Mr Morrison said at the time: "The New Zealand arrangement is quite unique and it's not one we would probably ever contemplate extending."

He had already signalled his willingness to proceed with trade talks quickly, telling reporters at the recent G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz he believed a deal could be done within a year.

A trade deal could be done in "months rather than years," Ms Truss also said, and negotiations will begin "as soon as possible" after the UK leaves the EU.

Also Read: Cathay Pacific shelves Dublin route until 2020

On Tuesday, the UK Department for International Trade confirmed that Australia had agreed to begin talks when the UK leaves the EU, currently scheduled for October 31.

Ahead of the visit, Ms Truss said she wanted to see an "ambitious trade deal" which reduces tariffs and barriers for UK exporters.

She added: "We cannot afford to wait. Britain is going to be ready to trade after Brexit.

"That's why I'm so pleased that today we are reaffirming our commitment to launch bilateral FTA (free-trade agreement) negotiations as soon as possible.

"It's good to see that Australia is going to be quick off the mark and it'll be mirrored by the UK under our new government - a government that takes action.

"A UK-Australia trade deal won't just be a good thing, it'll be a great thing, for our businesses, for our consumers, for our workers and for our two great countries."

According to the Department for International Trade, the UK's trading relationship with Australia was worth £16.6 billion in the year to March 2019, with around 15,000 UK businesses exporting goods there.

Governor-General traces Irish ancestry to Cork village

David Hurley was sworn in as Australia’s 27th Governor-General in July 2019.

David Hurley was sworn in as Australia’s 27th Governor-General in July 2019.

Australia’s newly-appointed Governor-General has traced his Irish roots to a Cork village.

Governor-General David Hurley was able to uncover his family history through the work of dedicated genealogical volunteers.

“I’ve discovered that Murtagh Hurley was transported from County Cork to New South Wales in 1827 for theft…he settled near Cooma,” General Hurley said.

Murtagh is thought to have come from Ballinspittle, the village famed for the first sighting in a string of moving statue phenomena in Ireland over 30 years ago.

“Interestingly, I’ve since discovered that the pub in Ballinspittle is called Hurley’s,” General Hurley said.

“We hope to visit one day!”

Governor-General David Hurley and his wife Linda have swapped Sydney’s Government House for Canberra.

Governor-General David Hurley and his wife Linda have swapped Sydney’s Government House for Canberra.

The Governor-General acknowledged that the formative links forged in his ancestors’ time continued to influence the bond between Australia and Ireland that exists today, with more than two million Australians claiming Irish heritage.

“Today, our historical links are the foundation of an exceptionally close and ongoing friendship between our nations, with bonds ranging from the sporting field, to trade and education.”

General Hurley personally experienced this affiliation early in his career in the Royal Australian Regiment, going on exchange to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.

The former Governor of NSW recalled the achievements of esteemed Irishmen, from the “transformational” work of his predecessor, Dublin-born Sir Richard Bourke who held the role from 1831 to 1837, to the skill of a more unlikely hero.

“More recently, and on a totally different tack, as a rugby fan I always admired Keith Wood, even if I wasn’t such a big fan when he was facing the Wallabies!”

The Governor General hopes to visit Hurley’s Bar in Ballinspittle. The pub first opened in 1864.

The Governor General hopes to visit Hurley’s Bar in Ballinspittle. The pub first opened in 1864.

Ireland Reaching Out’s Laura Colleran said the Consul General of Ireland in Sydney Owen Feeney contacted the organisation to find out more about the Governor-General’s lineage.

“Ireland Reaching Out connects people of Irish origin, living all over the world, with their ancestors place of origin...It is a non-profit organisation funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Heritage Council,” Ms Colleran said.

“We have a volunteer network of over 300 people all over Ireland, and an active group in County Cork.”

Volunteers (pictured) working for Ireland Reaching Out - also known as IrelandXO - link the Irish diaspora with their places of origin.

Volunteers (pictured) working for Ireland Reaching Out - also known as IrelandXO - link the Irish diaspora with their places of origin.

Ms Colleran described uncovering the roots of the Hurley name as one of the highlights of the year for volunteers.

Irish-Australians have embraced the opportunity to reconnect with both their place of origin and family members still living in Ireland, with 87 groups of Australians returning to their ancestral lands with the help of Ireland Reaching out in 2019.

Deportations set to soar under proposed laws

Immigration experts have warned the federal government’s proposed changes to the Migration Act could see the number of non-citizens deported increase five-fold.

Australia’s Minister for Immigration David Coleman introduced legislation to allow the government to cancel the visas of people who have been convincted of a crime that carries a maximum sentence of at least two years, even if they never served time in prison.

Minister Coleman said tightening character tests based on criminal conduct was necessary to protect the community from harmful people.

Immigration Minister David Coleman introduced the legislation in July.

Immigration Minister David Coleman introduced the legislation in July.

In a Senate Committee submission, immigration researchers said the changes would impact those “who are unlikely to be an ongoing threat to the Australian community”, with many non-citizens potentially deported for non-jail time offences such as common assault, which frequently results in the lesser punishments of a fine or community correction order.

Researchers including Abul Rizvi, former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration, said a hardened character test would “immediately expand the number of people failing”, especially as the legislation could be applied retrospectively, and that it would “exacerbate the divide between citizens and non-citizens”.

Read More: Irish-born Australian resident loses court appeal against deportation

The Migration Act was last changed in 2014 under Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, when amendments allowed the immigration minister to cancel a non-citizen’s visa based on association with groups involved in criminal conduct, sexually based offences involving a child, crimes against humanity, and other offences of national and international security concern.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been vocal in opposing the current policy under which people who have lived almost all of their lives in Australia can be sent back to the countries of their birth.

Ms Ardern said the issue had corroded the political relationship between her country and Australia.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s deportation policies.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s deportation policies.

From 2012 to 2013, 76 New Zealanders’ 501 Visas were cancelled.

The figure jumped to 1,277 from 2016 to 2017 after the passing of the 2014 amendments.

The new stricter character test proposed by Minister Coleman would be the first to allow deportation of an immigrant who has not served a prison sentence, and could see thousands more non-citizens forced to leave behind their Australian lives and families.

Fintan O'Toole to speak at Sydney 'ideas' festival

Award-winning Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole will appear at Antidote, Sydney’s leading festival of ideas, joining a panel discussion on national identity.

The veteran columnist, author and political commentator has written for The Irish Times for over three decades, with a career-long focus on strong opposition to political corruption in Ireland and abroad.

Fintan O’Toole’s columns on Brexit for The Irish Times and The Guardian have earned him awards and accolades.

Fintan O’Toole’s columns on Brexit for The Irish Times and The Guardian have earned him awards and accolades.

The prolific writer , who penned a bestselling book on Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union entitled Heroic Failure: Brexit And The Politics Of Pain, will bring valuable insight about Boris Johnson’s elevation to prime ministership to the Sydney Opera House.

The State We’re In panel event will see global thinkers discuss the trials and tribulations of a world and political atmosphere obsessed with national borders.

O’Toole is sure to stir up bold conversation, having described the current political landscape a trial run for fascism’s return in a 2018 article read by millions the world over and nominated for a European Press Prize.

Antidote is one of the Opera House’s flagship contemporary festivals, presenting innovative ideas about contemporary culture on stage and through online content.

This year’s event will run from August 31 to September 1, offering seekers of change the chance to come together in an iconic location.

Read More: The State We’re in - Antidote Festival

Cool Irish reaction to Boris Johnson's victory

There has been mixed reaction from Ireland's politicians as Boris Johnson was announced as Britain’s new Conservative Party leader.

There has been widespread concern among some Irish politicians over how Mr Johnson's leadership will affect Ireland and the situation regarding the Irish border and Brexit.

Mr Johnson, who will become Britain’s Prime Minister later today, has recently compared solving the border issue with the moon landing, and in a BBC interview in 2018 compared it with the border between Camden and Westminster in London.

Government politicians were quick to welcome the new prime minister in waiting, making it clear they were happy to work with Mr Johnson, but Brexit remained the key priority in each message.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar posted on social media: "Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his election as party leader. Look forward to an early engagement on Brexit, Northern Ireland and bilateral relations."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and British Prime Minister-elect Boris Johnson pictured in Dublin in 2017. Picture: Brian Lawless

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and British Prime Minister-elect Boris Johnson pictured in Dublin in 2017. Picture: Brian Lawless

Later, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, first retweeted Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, who had written about reworking "the agreed Declaration on a new partnership in line with #EUCO guidelines", before writing his own post.

"Congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming leader of the UK Conservative Party - we will work constructively with him and his Govt to maintain and strengthen British/Irish relations through the challenges of Brexit," Mr Coveney said.

However, opposition politicians took a different stance.

Sinn Féin Brexit spokesman David Cullinane says it came as no surprise that Boris Johnson will become prime minister, but called on the Irish Government to hold steadfast in Brexit negotiations.

"We'd be very concerned that Boris is not going to make any serious effort to reach any kind of accommodation with the European Union," he said.

"He seems to believe the Irish government and the European Commission is going to blink on these matters, I don't think there's any appetite for any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, but it remains to be seen what will happen.

"The chances of a no-deal Brexit have been increasing, because it was quite obvious that while there is no appetite in the House of Commons for no deal, there's no sense what they're in favour of," Mr Cullinane added.

"Boris has been talking up a hard crash, in some respects encouraging a hard crash, that would be a disaster for Britain, a disaster for Ireland, I don't see any good in that for anybody, but again - that's outside our control, what we can do is that we hold the Irish government to account and they hold firm."

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has said that the elevation of Boris Johnson to leader of the Tory Party and thus prime minister of the United Kingdom presents a "clear and present danger to Ireland" and "brings the prospect of no-deal and the imposition of a north-south border much closer".

He called Mr Johnson a "genuine danger" because of his "callous disregard for the impact of no-deal on Ireland, his allegiance to Donald Trump, his disgraceful comments about UK soldiers' actions on Bloody Sunday and his extreme right-wing views on just about every issue".

He added that Mr Coveney needed to tell Boris Johnson "in the clearest possible terms that a hard border between the north and south of this country is simply not an option".

Likewise, Irish Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said: "With 100 days until Brexit, it is time now for all politicians in Ireland to hold our nerve and be steadfast in defending our vital interests."

'Huge weight' lifted as family allowed to stay permanently

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted permanent residency in Australia after a long campaign.

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted permanent residency in Australia after a long campaign.

An Irish family facing deportation after having their visa application rejected have now been granted permanent residency.

Dubliners Christine and Anthony Hyde, who have lived in Australia for a decade, were told they would have to leave Australia after their three-year-old son Darragh was considered a “burden” to the country because of his cystic fibrosis, and the cost of his medication.

But they have now been granted permanent residency after Australia’s Minister for Immigration David Coleman used his discretionary powers to intervene.

Christine Hyde, who had driven a massive online campaign to highlight their case, said the family were “so excited” after hearing the news.

“Late yesterday evening we received the good news that we were granted residency,” she said.

“We are so excited, a huge weight has been lifted and we can continue our lives. We will are completely grateful to everyone. Thank you to everyone who supported us.”

The Hydes’ local MP Damian Drum had taken up their case with the Minister and the Premier of Victoria had also called for them to be allowed to stay.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman has used his ministerial discretion to allow the Hyde family to say in Australia.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman has used his ministerial discretion to allow the Hyde family to say in Australia.

An online petition calling for the Hydes to be allowed to remain in Australia has received over 120,000 signatures.

Earlier, Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews said that he thought the Hydes should be allowed to stay in Australia.

“This is a great family,” he said. “They’ve been SES volunteers and school teachers in their local schools, they’ve have contributed over the past 10 years.

“The young boy was born here, some compassion and some common sense (is needed).

“There’ll be some costs for the medical treatment he needs, but there will be so many more benefits to Seymour, to that local community and indeed for all of us.”

Former Australian envoy's dig at Ireland over US visas

Former Australian Ambassador to the United States Michael Thawley. Picture: ANU

Former Australian Ambassador to the United States Michael Thawley. Picture: ANU

A former Australian ambassador to the US Michael Thawley has had a non-too-subtle dig at Ireland as the battle for coveted US E3 visas rumbles on.

Currently, Australians have exclusive access to 10,500 of the two-year, renewable work visas each year. But under a bill before congress, which has the support of both President Trump and Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi, Irish citizens will get access to those visas not used by Australians.

Australia’s outgoing Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey lobbied for the scheme to remain exclusive to this country’s citizens.

Mr Thawley told The Australian that he also believed Australia had a better claim to the visas than any other country. But he also appeared to reference Ireland’s neutrality and problem of undocumented immigrants in justifying his position.

“Australia is a close ally of the US, having fought with it in every major war — not stood on the sidelines,” he was quoted as saying.

“We are a very large investor and employer in the US. And we are a strong and trusted economic partner on financial, tax and other regulatory issues. We don’t pose over-stayer or illegal immigrant issues.”

From 2000 to 2005 the English-born Michael Thawley served as Australia's Ambassador to the United States. Before that, he was international adviser to the former Prime Minister, John Howard, and served in a variety of positions in the Australian Government in Canberra and overseas.

He played a key role, along with Prime Minister Howard, in securing the E3 visa deal for Australia as part of a US-Australia trade agreement.

His comments have not won universal support amoing his former colleagues with one unnamed senior government source telling The Australian: “Immigration policy is the right of the congress of the US. We can’t get too hubristic, otherwise we will guarantee it goes through.”

During his recent visit to Ireland, President Trump was asked about the E3 visa bill.

“I think we’re going to be in good shape [on the bill]”, he said.

“I want to do that for the people of Ireland, but I want to do it for the people that are in the United States that want this vote to happen, that happen to be of Irish descent,” he added.

The Irish government has been approached for comment on Mr Thawley’s remarks.

Family granted extension as minister mulls deportation

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted extra time in Australia while their case is considered by the minister.

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted extra time in Australia while their case is considered by the minister.

The Australian government has allowed an Irish family to remain in the country while their immigration case is examined.

Dubliners Christine and Anthony Hyde, who have lived in Australia for a decade, were given until today to leave Australia after their three-year-old son Darragh was considered a “burden” to the country because of his cystic fibrosis, and the cost of his medication.

They are now permitted to stay put until their case is reviewed and a decision made.

It is understood that David Coleman, Australia’s Minister for Immigration, has begun looking at Darragh’s case.

“It could be a few weeks, but we will be able to stay until a decision is made,” Mrs Hyde told Yahoo News.

The news comes following the intervention of the Hydes local MP as well as the Premier of Victoria.

Federal member for the seat of Nicholls Damian Drum is backing the Hyde family’s bid to remain in Australia.

“I spoke to David (Coleman) on this case,” Mr Drum told the Irish Echo earlier this month.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman, in whose hands the Hyde family’s destiny now rests.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman, in whose hands the Hyde family’s destiny now rests.

“The Minister is in a very difficult position here. This situation where you have people out here on work visas who have children with severe disabilities, there is a real potential that this could cost the country millions of dollars and everyone understands that.

“If the Minister intervenes in this case, it will set a precedent so we have to be very careful,” he explained.

An online petition calling for the Hydes to be allowed to remain in Australia has received over 115,000 signatures.

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews also believes that the Hydes should be allowed to stay in Australia.

“This is a great family,” he said. “They’ve been SES volunteers and school teachers in their local schools, they’ve have contributed over the past 10 years.

“The young boy was born here, some compassion and some common sense (is needed).

“There’ll be some costs for the medical treatment he needs, but there will be so many more benefits to Seymour, to that local community and indeed for all of us.”

The Minister for Immigration David Coleman has been approached for comment.

Trump confirms Irish visit in June

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Washington DC in March.

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Washington DC in March.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will visit Ireland while on a visit to Europe in June, a White House spokesman has said.

Mr Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will hold a "bilateral meeting" on June 5 in Shannon.

The trip has already been subject to reported controversy over the venue of the talks.

The president's visit to Ireland is set to be largely private, with Mr Trump expected to base himself at the golf resort he owns in Doonbeg, Co Clare.

Rumours of a disagreement have been reported that focus on whether the meeting with Mr Varadkar would take place on Mr Trump's property at Doonbeg - the president's apparent preference - or on more neutral ground.

Irish authorities reportedly preferred nearby Dromoland Castle.

But Simon Coveney, Ireland's deputy premier, said reports of a stand-off over locations were exaggerated and not true.

On Monday, it was reported that Mr and Mrs Trump would join the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall for afternoon tea while on a three-day visit to the UK, which begins on June 3.

The couple will also be guests of the Queen.

The president's formal visit follows a working trip to the UK last summer that sparked demonstrations across the country.

Campaigners are again hoping to fly a blimp, depicting the US president as a nappy-wearing baby, over London, after it was hoisted in Parliament Square during protests against the US leader's last trip.

The protesters have been accused by former Tory chief whip Lord Jopling of "mindless idiocy".

The visit to Ireland and the UK are part of Mr Trump's wider trip to Europe, which will include events in France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

President of Ireland pays tribute to Bob Hawke

The late Bob Hawke pictured recently with current labor leader Bill Shorten.

The late Bob Hawke pictured recently with current labor leader Bill Shorten.

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has added his tribute to the late Bob Hawke, who died on Thursday.

"I have learned with sadness of the death of Bob Hawke, Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister, former leader of the Labor party and trade union leader,” the president said in a statement.

”Bob Hawke inspired great enthusiasm and faith among Australians of all generations in the power of politics to make meaningful changes in society, to the benefit of those often excluded. His emphasis on consensus-driven change and social partnership arrangements left an important legacy.

“He will also be remembered for the international leadership he gave, as trade union leader, in his opposition to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I express condolences to the people of Australia and in particular to his family, friends and colleagues.”

Ireland’s ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí with Bob Hawke.

Ireland’s ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí with Bob Hawke.

Mr Hawke, who was 89, was Australia's longest-serving Labor Party prime minister.

In a tweet, Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí described Mr Hawke as a “great friend of Ireland”.

In October 1987, Mr Hawke became the third Australian Prime Minister to visit Ireland after Bob Menzies and Gough Whitlam.

But he became the first Australian Prime Minister, and only the third foreign political leader after John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, to address a joint sitting of the Oireachtas.

In that speech, he described Ireland as “the head of a huge empire in which Australia
 and the United States are the principal provinces”.

“It is an
 empire,” he said, “acquired not by force of Irish arms but by force of
 Irish character, an empire not of political coercion but of
 spiritual affiliation, created by the thousands upon thousands
 of Irish men and women who chose to leave these shores or
 who were banished from them, to help in the building of new
 societies over the years.
“

“It is true that more of your fellow-countrymen and forefathers
 became American than Australian. But it is true, too,
 that the Irish form a greater proportion of the Australian
 population than of the American. Indeed, almost one-third
 of Australia's population proudly claim Irish ancestry.


Bob Hawke (right) during his visit to Ireland in 1987. Also pictured is Jacqueline O’Brien, Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, horse trainer Vincent O’Brien and Maureen Haughey.

Bob Hawke (right) during his visit to Ireland in 1987. Also pictured is Jacqueline O’Brien, Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, horse trainer Vincent O’Brien and Maureen Haughey.

He also paid tribute to the “seminal role” of the Irish in the establishment of the trade union movement and the Labor Party itself.

“A number of my predecessors as Labor Prime Minister including 
the incomparable John Curtin and Joseph Benedict
 Chifley were of Irish extraction. In the way Curtin devoted
 himself to the task of leading Australia through the Second
 World War, the Irish attributes of dedicated and selfless
 commitment, determination, character and courage shine
 through.

“It is equally easy to see an Irish-derived compassion
 and vision in his successor Chifley's sweeping reconstruction
 of the Australian economy to equip it for the challenges of
 peacetime.

“Among today's generation of Labour leaders, the Irish
 tradition is still strong and if you looked at a list of my
 Ministers you would see enough names like Bowen, Keating,
 Hayden, Kerin, Walsh, Young, Ryan, Duffy and Kelly to
 satisfy even the most nationalistic among you. indeed, half of my Ministry claims Irish origin so now you may understand 
even more clearly why I feel at home [here].


“Australia is very much the richer for having been able to
 draw on the generous influx of Irish aspirations, Irish traditions,
 and Irish spirit. We would not be the country we are
 today were it not for you.”

 

Skilled migrants facing tougher path to residency

Australia’s political leaders are nervous about immigration levels.

Australia’s political leaders are nervous about immigration levels.

Skilled workers looking to get sponsored by Australian companies face a more treacherous path to permanent residency no matter who gets elected this weekend.

Both Labor and the Coalition are promising further restrictions to temporary skilled visa holders and stricter rules for businesses looking to sponsor foreign workers.

Labor are under pressure from the union movement to protect Aussie jobs. The coalition has linked congestion problems in Australia’s biggest cities to high immigration numbers.

Labor has pledged to increase the minimum pay rate for foreign workers on skilled visas from $53,900 to $65,000 “to ensure it is not cheaper to bring in an overseas worker than pay a local worker.”

Immigration expert John McQuaid said this measure would hit workers in the hospitality industry hardest.

He said: “Unsurprisingly, the parties are not pandering to those on temporary visas because they can’t vote.

“With the raising of income on 457-styles visa, areas like hospitality and the service industry would be hurt most because they’ve been historically lower paid.  Café and restaurant staff and managers will find it tougher to get sponsored if this happens.”

The number of Irish workers applying for skilled visas in Australia is falling.

The number of Irish workers applying for skilled visas in Australia is falling.

A tightening of immigration rules and the ending of the 457 visa programme last year has made it more difficult for skilled workers to get sponsored by employers.

Figures from the Department of Home Affairs show 1,470 primary applications for a skilled visa were granted to Irish people up to June 30, 2018.

This was a 22 per cent fall on the previous year when 1,900 Irish people were granted a skilled visa.

The coalition government introduced Labor Market Testing to ensure Australians are always given priority for local jobs.  Employers can only bring in overseas workers if they can not find a suitable local candidate.

Businesses who hire a foreign worker must also pay upwards of $1,200 into a training fund for Australian workers.

If elected, Labor says it will clampdown on employers who “artificially inflate salaries” by offering foreign workers substandard accommodation and inflated overtime hours.

It also plans to “restrict temporary work visas to jobs where there is a genuine skills shortage” and to introduce what it calls the Australian Jobs Test to prevent labour agreements from being entered into unless they create jobs for local workers.

It will also crack down on “unqualified temporary workers” with mandatory off-shore testing of foreign workers skills before a visa can be issued.

Extra funds will be used to increase workplace inspections and investigate employers who breach work visa regulations.

Would-be migrants prepared to live and work in rural areas for three years have a more linear path towards permanent residency.

Would-be migrants prepared to live and work in rural areas for three years have a more linear path towards permanent residency.

While these measures will make it more challenging to get sponsored, a new regional visa programme offers new opportunities for Irish people willing to move to rural areas.

Unveiled by the Liberal government in March, the new scheme offers 23,000 visas for skilled workers who are willing to live and work in regional Australia.

After three years of regional work, visa holders can apply for permanent residency.

Skilled migrants will be priority processed and can access a larger pool of jobs on the eligible occupation lists compared to those who live in major cities.

John McQuaid said the regional visas, which will be available from November 2019, offer new opportunities for Irish people who are willing to look beyond the big cities.

“There’s going to be additional occupations on the list for people willing to apply for regional visas. It will open up options for some people who previously didn’t qualify,” he explained.

“It could also be an attractive option for Irish people who grew up in rural Ireland who are much more at home in rural Australia than in the big cities and there’s plenty of promise in regional locations.”

While the regional visas offer a possible new pathway in, the Liberals have reduced the permanent migration cap by 15 per cent from 190,000 to 160,000 for the next four years.

Labor also believes an intake of 160,000 permanent migrants each year is “about right”.

Scott Morrison also hopes to attract more students to study in regional Australia with $15,000 scholarships being offered to 1,000 domestic and international students.

International students who study at regional universities can apply for an additional year in Australia on a post-study work visa.

Labor plan to relax grandparent visa scheme

Labor have promised to make it easier and cheaper for immigrants to bring their parents to Australia.

Labor have promised to make it easier and cheaper for immigrants to bring their parents to Australia.

Labor has promised to make it easier for immigrants to bring their elderly parents to Australia.

The new 870 visa allows older parents to “reunite” with their children and grandchildren in Australia for extended periods.

If elected on Saturday, Labor has promised to reduce the cost of a five year visa from $10,000 to $2,500 while a three year visa would decrease from $5,000 to $1,250.

The ALP has also pledged to remove the current cap of 15,000 visa places which would allow expat families to ‘sponsor’ both sets of parents instead of being restricted to just one set under existing visa regulations.

The Sponsored Parent Temporary Visa 870 was introduced last month by the Coalition government to allow Australian citizens or permanent residents to move their parents here for extended periods.

The 870 visa allows elderly parents to live here on a three or five year visa for a maximum of 10 years but does not allow them to work.

There is no minimum or maximum age limit for parents who wish to apply but they must show they have sufficient funds to support themselves whilst living here.

Those wishing to avail of these visas will need to take out private health insurance as they will not be covered by Medicare.

The child who is sponsoring the visa also commits to covering any health or age related expenses that may be incurred by their parents whilst living in Australia and must first be approved as a sponsor before a parent being can apply for the visa.   The sponsorship application fee is $420.

The sponsor must undergo police checks and have a minimum household income of $83,454 to qualify.

The new 870 visa allows Australian residents to ‘sponsor’ their parents to come to Australia for up to five years.

The new 870 visa allows Australian residents to ‘sponsor’ their parents to come to Australia for up to five years.

Applications from sponsors opened on April 17, and if approved, parents can apply for the 870 visa from July 1.

Unlike other parent visas, the 870 visa does not require the parent to meet the Balance of Family rule.

But the parent must have a child who holds Australian citizenship or permanent residency.

Immigration expert John McQuaid said the visas are attractive for Irish families who have permanent residency and would like to bring grandparents over to spend more time with grandchildren

He said: “It’s very attractive for couples in Australia who are starting to have children and would like to bring the grandparents out to help mind the children or just to spend quality time with their grandkids.

“The downside is there are no work rights for the grandparents and the family have to be able to show they have financial capacity to look after the grandparents while they are here.

“It’s a big financial commitment not to work for 3 or 5 years but it does suit some older grandparents who are retired and have good pensions.”

McQuaid said the new parent visas are in “big demand” and urged anyone who is interested to apply immediately as the quota will be filled quickly.

Applications for parents to apply (once their child has been approved as sponsor) open on July 1 and once filled, it will not re-open again until July the following year.

It’s very attractive for couples in Australia who are starting to have children and would like to bring the grandparents out to help mind the children or just to spend quality time with their grandkids.
— Immigration expert John McQuaid

The Liberal party has branded Labor’s proposal to remove the 15,000 cap if elected as “completely unsustainable.”

The Productivity Commission has estimated that the cost to taxpayers of a permanent parent visa holder was between $335,000 and $410,000 per adult.

John McQuaid has warned voters to take election promises on immigration with “a pinch of salt.”

He said: “When it comes to election time, immigration is a real political football –both parties love to shout about how they are going to fix the immigration situation.  Its electioneering. 

“If they (Labor) uncap the parent visas, Australia would be flooded with old people and it’s highly unlikely that would happen in my view.

“I think they might increase the quota but I can’t see them totally removing the cap.”

More details on how to apply for the 870 visa are available here.

Shorten pledges fresh vote on republic

Labor leader Bill Shorten campaigning on the NSW Central Coast. Picture: Lukas Coch

Labor leader Bill Shorten campaigning on the NSW Central Coast. Picture: Lukas Coch

Bill Shorten has promised to hold a vote on Australia becoming a republic if Labor wins the election.

In its budget costing plan released on Friday, the Australian Labor Party has put aside $55 million to stage a public vote on the issue in 2021-22.

It plans to first hold a national plebiscite to gauge the level of public support to replace the Queen as head of state with an Australian.

If that vote achieves enough support, a referendum would then need to be held to change the Constitution.

In a referendum, the change is only passed if it wins the support of the majority of voters and more than half of states and territories.

In 1999, a public vote on the issue failed with 55 per cent of Australians voting to keep the British monarch as head of state.

In a bitter campaign, many republicans voted against the move as they wanted the new head of state to be directly elected - similar to the Irish model - instead of one appointed by parliament as was proposed.

The Queen, who has recently turned 93, last visited Australia in 2011.

In an opinion piece written for The Age website in 2015, Mr Shorten laid out his commitment to holding a vote on Australia becoming a republic if elected to power.

He said: “We should go to our region and the world proudly independent – declaring that we are no longer going to borrow a monarch from another country on the other side of the world. 

“Our constitution came into being as an act of the British parliament – 114 years later, our nation has changed, our place in the world has changed, and our constitution should change with it. 

“The republic debate is a chance for all of us to bring our constitution home, to vote our national birth certificate into existence as an Australian document, for our times.”

The Liberal/National coalition has no plans to change the current constitutional arrangements.