The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, Dan Tehan, today announced arrangements were in place for the repatriation of Australians from cemeteries in Malaysia and Singapore to Australia, in June 2016.
In May 2015, the former Prime Minister, the Hon. Tony Abbott MP, announced an offer of repatriation to the families of 35 Australian service personnel and dependants in the Terendak Military Cemetery in Malaysia, and to the one other Australian serviceman who died in the Vietnam War and who is interred in the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.
"A priority for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been to respect the wishes of the families of the Australian service personnel and civilian dependants returning to Australia," Mr Tehan said.
"The homecoming of their family member will be a very moving and emotional time, and their right to privacy, grief and reflection has been central in the Government’s planning.
"However, it is also important to recognise the significance of this repatriation to the ex-service community, particularly those veterans and their families, who may have known or served with those coming home, and the families who lost love ones during the period of the Vietnam war.
"We have sought the assistance of the battalion, squadron, and unit associations to identify those who knew or served with those coming home, and the veteran community representatives who attend will do so on behalf of the more than two million Australians who have served their nation with distinction in uniform."
More than 30 families have accepted the offer of repatriation and the Office of Australian War Graves within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been working with family representatives, the Australian Defence Force, and a range of other Australian Government agencies, to manage the dignified and appropriate return to and reinterment of their loved ones in Australia.
Where families have elected not to take up the offer of repatriation, their relatives’ graves will be maintained in perpetuity as is the standard for all Australian war dead in military and war cemeteries around the World. In this case the Australians will rest with other Commonwealth servicemen and their dependants.
"Aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force will bear the returning Australians home to RAAF Base Richmond, where they will be received in a formal military ceremony on 2 June. This will be immediately followed by a private memorial service for the families of those being reunited with their loved one," Mr Tehan said.
At the conclusion of the memorial service, the hearses bearing the returning Australians will depart via motorcade from RAAF Base Richmond. For those who wish the opportunity to pay their respects at this time, details of the route will be made publicly available closer to the date of the repatriation ceremony.
"I would like to stress that each of those who have been repatriated will be reinterred during ceremonies at different locations around Australia. These arrangements are according to the wishes of the families and must be respected," Mr Tehan said.
While some families have requested a private ceremony, other families have advised of their agreement to members of the community being able to attend to pay their respects. To ensure the privacy of the families at this time, details of these services will only be made available by the families closer to the time of the reinterment service.
"I would also like to acknowledge the support and cooperation being provided by the Malaysian and Singaporean Governments who have cared for the Australians buried in their countries for some fifty years," Mr Tehan said.
Further details about the repatriation will be provided at a later date.
From today, people who have benefited from Australian student loans and now live overseas will pay for them the same way as they would if they lived in Australia.
Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham said it was estimated that up to $30 million was lost annually due to graduates moving overseas and from today those graduates would be required to notify the Australian Taxation Office to arrange repayments.
Minister Birmingham said recouping debts under the Higher Education Loan Programme or Trade Support Loan scheme would ensure Australia’s world-class, income-contingent student loans scheme was fairer and more sustainable into the future.
“The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring the future sustainability of Australia’s student loans scheme and to ensuring it is fair for all Australians.
“Until now, people who took out a loan under the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) or a Trade Support Loan (TSL) and moved overseas were under no obligation to repay their debt as long as they remained offshore residents,” Minister Birmingham said.
“From 2016-17, anyone who has a Higher Education Loan Programme or Trade Support Loan debt who earns above the minimum repayment threshold (currently $54,126) will be required to make repayments regardless of where they live.
“As well as making the scheme fairer and more equitable, the Government’s changes will improve the sustainability of the scheme with taxpayers to benefit by $150 million over the next decade.”
Minister Birmingham said it is estimated that around $20‑30 million each year was lost due to graduates moving overseas and up to $800 million due to non-repayment of debts from students living overseas had been lost since the start of the student loan scheme in 1989.
All Australians with current and new HELP and TSL debt who move overseas for six months or more are required to notify the ATO via the myGov website to facilitate repayments. For more information about HELP, go to www.studyassist.gov.au
NSW is embarking on a new era of social housing with a large scale building program which will generate $22 billion in construction activity in NSW and produce better social outcomes for the community.
Minister for Social Housing Brad Hazzard said the program, 'Future Directions in NSW Social Housing,' was a ten year reform that will deliver more housing, better opportunities for independence and better services for vulnerable households.
The program includes new partnership between the private and non-government sectors to deliver more homes at a minimal cost to taxpayers and ensures better outcomes for the community through:
* 23,500 new and replacement social and affordable housing dwellings, to help reduce the waiting list.
* Increasing the use of private rental assistance products by 60% to help vulnerable households avoid or leave social housing.
* Delivering new mixed communities where social housing blends in with private housing.
* Producing better amenity and environment and improved safety for public and private residents.
* Transferring management of up to 35% of social housing to community housing providers, with longer term leases to be determined on a case by case basis.
"We are looking to the innovation of the private and non-government sectors to redevelop old public housing estates into mixed communities which will put thousands of people in social housing on a better path," Mr Hazzard said.
"Children in social housing should not see disadvantage as their only future. It does them good to see their neighbours in private housing going to a job each day."
The Future Directions program is in addition to the Social and Affordable Housing Fund which will deliver 3,000 new social and affordable dwellings across NSW.
"The NSW Government is committed to reducing homelessness and breaking the cycle of disadvantage. Providing more social housing and ensuring the necessary support services are available for those in social housing is vitally important," Mr Hazzard said.
"We're also providing support and incentives to help people successfully transition out of the social housing system, and assistance to help people avoid entering it in the first place, with more support to vulnerable households in the private rental market."
"While some people need social housing in the long term, for others it should be a stepping stone to employment. We will provide opportunities for those people to get training, find a job and move into the private rental market."
* For the first time agencies including Health, Education, Justice, Planning and Environment, Industry and Family and Community Services are providing integrated services.
* Early childhood centres will be opened at some housing estates to give children that vital start to education.
* NSW Health will deliver a home visiting program for mothers and babies in social housing areas and where possible, co-locate mental health teams within FACS districts.
* Vulnerable young people and women and children fleeing domestic and family violence to be assisted through new and expanded rental subsidies.
* Review FACS housing policies to remove disincentives to work.
* Increase tenant satisfaction and improve maintenance and on-site job opportunities for tenants through the new maintenance contract.
* Introduce rental bonds for new tenants and work with the Commonwealth to investigate an automatic rent deduction scheme for new tenants receiving welfare payments to improve housing stability and prevent homelessness.
"The Liberals & Nationals Government under Premier Mike Baird has made reducing homelessness and making social housing sustainable a state priority and these reforms will go a long way to delivering that," Mr Hazzard said.
For a copy of Future Directions go to http://www.socialhousing.nsw.gov.au
With three weeks until nominations close for the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes, Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel called on Australians to keep the great stories coming forward.
“As Chief Scientist, I am encouraged every day by the science stories I hear,” said Dr Finkel. “The depth and breadth of our science community is extraordinary, and its contribution to our nation is profound.
“The prizes celebrate the teachers, researchers and entrepreneurs who show us just how exciting our future might be – with the winners receiving substantial prize money.”
This year the prizes include a new award, the Prize for New Innovators, celebrating early career researchers putting knowledge to work in the community.
“Today, more than ever, we need to recognise that achievement in science takes many forms. We need great scientists – but we also need great teachers, business innovators and community leaders,” Dr Finkel said.
The Chief Scientist will chair the selection committee for the prizes.
Now in their 16th year, the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science recognise the significant advancement of knowledge through scientific research, innovation and teaching.
For further details about the prizes and to nominate, visit Science Prizes.
A series of community education sessions hosted by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) are commencing across the country in the coming weeks, with a focus on Australian tax obligations and foreign investment in Australia.
Of particular interest to any investors or professional representatives in the areas of real estate or property management, the sessions will explain the key changes to the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and how this affects international property investment in Australia.
Events will be held in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, beginning from April and ending in May. All sessions will be conducted in both English and Mandarin.
More information and registration links for all available sessions can be found on the ATO website at ato.gov.au/InternationalTaxEducation