‘Guardian visas’ boosting interest among Chinese property buyers

Receiving an Australian education and being near a good school are major drawcards for foreign investors when considering property.


From July 1, students aged six and above would be able to apply for student visas regardless of their country of citizenship – and their guardians can also apply for Guardian visas (subclass 580). 

Currently, the system assesses applications based on immigration risk and most Chinese students are ranked at level three, the highest risk, requiring the most evidence to support applications.

These visa-rule changes, which were announced during Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to China in April, also mean non-residents can buy several new properties or one existing property.

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Dave Platter, from the leading Chinese international-property portal Juwai苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛, said there has been a nearly 20 per cent jump in inquiries for properties in Australia since Mr Turnbull’s announcement.

He says the portal does not arrange visas, but offers advice about applying. 

“We’re already seeing inquiries about these new visas from Chinese families who want to have their children study here,” he said.

While that may increase demand, Mr Platter said it would also result in the construction of new homes.

“In school catchment areas, where there’s potential for new development, Chinese interest actually increases the supply of housing by making it possible for developers to build new buildings, and that creates new supply, which can help keep prices down,” Mr Platter said.

“The government has done studies on this, and they’ve found that Chinese buyers actually keep prices down by encouraging new supply.”

The visas are valid for two years, and visa holders cannot work, nor apply for different visas while they are in Australia.

This week, New South Wales followed Victoria’s lead to introduce stamp-duty and land-tax surcharges that will add about $50,000 to the average purchase price.

The average house price is already at around $1 million.

Related readingNo guarantee of permanent property ownership

Immigration lawyer Alex Kaufman stresses the scheme was not a gift to rich foreign investors.

“Anyone who’s got an ulterior motive, really, in this space, whether it’s property development or otherwise, property acquisition, will very soon find themselves having to deal with a higher level of scrutiny from the Foreign Investment Review Board,” he said.

“There are other state measures which are designed to perhaps cool (inhibit) entry.”

Mr Kaufman also pointed out that keeping the property permanently would require becoming an Australian citizen.

“It’s not a free pass, if you like, or a ticket to property ownership in perpetuity,” he said.

“You would necessarily need to convert that to permanent residency or citizenship at some stage in order to hang onto that piece of property.”

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Estate agents Vera and Geoffrey Wong have hosted an open home in Sydney’s Eastwood.

Most of their clients are either Chinese or South Korean investors, and Mr Wong says when they were choosing a property, there is no doubt their children’s education is considered most important.

He said buyers are planning purchases that cater for their children’s entire education.

“Schooling … that is – I can’t emphasise it enough – is one of the main factors,” he said.

“Our clients, I would say over 70 per cent, (are looking,) at schooling and the university afterwards.” 




Court to examine senators’ citizenship

The High Court will sit in judgement over a government senator and two former Greens members over their eligibility to sit in parliament due to citizenship issues.


As a cloud also hangs over One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, the Senate on Tuesday agreed that the court will look into former minister Matt Canavan and Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam of the Greens, who have resigned their Senate seats.

The court will test their eligibility under section 44 of the constitution, which bans dual citizens from parliament.

Senator Canavan’s mother signed him up to be an Italian resident abroad a decade ago, but he says it was only made known to him after the emergence of issues with the two Greens – who have resigned from parliament.

Attorney-General George Brandis told parliament on Tuesday the government would work to expedite the hearing.

“There is an overriding public interest in resolving the uncertainty around Senator Canavan’s status,” he said.

Senate President Stephen Parry said he had notified the governors of Western Australia and Queensland of the two Greens vacancies.

Senator Canavan, who has stood aside from cabinet but not parliament, told the chamber he would not vote in the Senate until the matter was resolved by the court.

He insisted that until three weeks ago, he had no knowledge or reason to believe he may have been registered as an Italian citizen.

Senator Brandis said the government’s preliminary view was that Senator Canavan was not in breach of the constitution.

The Greens on Tuesday lodged a notice of motion to refer Senator Roberts to the High Court, which is expected to be dealt with in the Senate on Wednesday.

Documents have emerged showing Senator Roberts once was a British citizen.

Senator Roberts and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson have denied on several occasions he ever held British citizenship.

But Buzzfeed has obtained an immigration department document signed by Senator Roberts and dated May 8, 1974, on which the then 19-year-old notes he is a “British UK and Cols (Colonies)” citizen.

The Queensland senator was born in Disergarh, India, in 1955 and his family arrived in Australia in October 1962.

While the documents confirm the Roberts family’s notifications to become citizens were approved by the immigration department, there is no mention of whether the British citizenship was renounced.

Senator Roberts has said he took steps to renounce any “possible” British citizenship before he ran for parliament, but did not receive a letter back from British authorities until December last year.

Senator Brandis told AAP he did not believe there was enough evidence at the moment to support a referral of Senator Roberts to the High Court.

IOOF eyes banks as it looks to expand

Financial services firm IOOF Holdings is on the hunt for acquisitions to add to its growing team of advisers and the billions of dollars it manages.


IOOF shares rose six per cent to a two-year high of $10.70 after it announced a 16 per cent drop in profit from its continuing operations to $116 million, and steady revenue of $908 million.

The company attracted 33 new advisers in the year to June 30, adding $976 million to its inflows, and its funds under management of $115 billion on June 30 were up $10.8 billion from a year ago.

Managing director Christopher Kelaher said the company hoped to grow that new adviser figure to around 50 over the next six months, counter to the industry trend.

IOOF expects its purchase of National Australia Bank’s National Australia Trustees business to be finalised in the next six months, subject to regulatory approval, and he said the company is looking at further acquisitions.

“It’s fair to say that if you were looking at the universe in the wealth management sector, whether they be banks or otherwise, we would be active in looking at them right now,” Mr Kelaher told AAP.

“At the moment with the negative sentiment on some of the other larger institutions I think we’re in a very good spot.”

IOOF’s annual net profit of $116 million was down 41 per cent on the previous year, when it sold the Perennial Fixed Interest and Perennial Growth Management parts of its business to the Henderson Group.


* Profit from continuing operations down 16pct to $116m

* Revenue steady at $908 million

* Final dividend up one cent to 27 cents, fully franked

Transurban to start driverless car trial

Australia’s first trial of driverless vehicles on a toll road in real traffic conditions is set to start later in August on toll road operator Transurban’s Melbourne network.


Transurban, which operates Melbourne’s CityLink and roads in Sydney, and Brisbane, will also trial driverless vehicles on its roads around Washington in the US.

Chief executive Scott Charlton says the automated vehicles will not be marked but will have a professional driver inside to take control if needed.

The trials will involve a range of automated vehicles operating in peak hour, non-peak times and under all conditions.

“We’ll be testing those (vehicles) in a real-world situation – how they interact with our road and how they interact with drivers,” Mr Charlton said.

“Over the next two decades, you’re going to have the interaction of autonomous vehicles and non-autonomous vehicles.

“So, how is that going to play out?”

Mr Charlton said the automated vehicles are fairly good at reading static signs but have more trouble with electronic LED signs and experience some difficulty in tunnels, where no horizon is visible.

My Charlton said the tests will take place over 18 months.

The trials will assess the driverless vehicles’ level of autonomy, how the roadside interacts with the vehicle and its position, and levels of “platooning” where the vehicles travel within a few centimetres of each other behind a lead vehicle.

Transurban is also trialling mobile GPS tolling technology on 1,000 motorists in Sydney in a bid to make the toll system easier to use and encourage use of toll roads.

The new technology involves a mobile phone app that can be used to track where a vehicle has travelled on toll roads.

The system then relays a message to the driver’s mobile phone outlining payment options.

Palm oil blobs cover Hong Kong beaches

Hong Kong has closed more than a dozen beaches after a palm oil spill washed foul-smelling, Styrofoam-like clumps ashore, the latest major environmental disaster to blight the territory’s waters.


The Chinese-controlled city closed two more beaches in the south of Hong Kong island on Tuesday, bringing to 13 the total shut since two vessels collided in the Pearl River estuary.

It took two days for mainland Chinese authorities to inform Hong Kong about the collision, the government said. Media said the accident happened on Thursday.

The spill has sparked outrage among some residents and environmentalists and comes just a year after mountains of rubbish washed up on Hong Kong’s beaches, with labels and packaging indicating most of it had come from mainland China.

It also comes at the height of summer, when beaches and outlying islands are packed with daytrippers, campers and holiday makers, especially at weekends.

The Hong Kong government said it had collected 50 tonnes of oil so far, most of it congealed, while workers scooped up 110 bags of palm oil waste on one beach alone on the popular Lamma Island.

Conservation group Sea Shepherd said there had not been a spill on this scale in Hong Kong, as the clumps kept spreading.

The impact on fish farms, helping to meet huge demand in Cantonese restaurants in the densely populated territory, was not immediately clear.

Environmental groups said that oil has seeped up to 10 cm)deep into Hong Kong’s sprawling, sandy beaches making it difficult to clean.

Samantha Lee, conservation manager at the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong, said that while palm oil is thought of as non-toxic, it would oxidize under Hong Kong’s hot sun and it was not clear how harmful the new substance would become.

Apart from beaches which have been shut, the rest of Hong Kong’s verdant shoreline is likely to have been impacted with the feeding capabilities of many sea creatures such as barnacles, crabs and shells affected, Lee said.

Hong Kong’s coastal waters and beaches are often strewn with rubbish from mainland China, where some companies discharge waste into the sea to save the cost of proper disposal, according to conservationists.

Family’s travel ban remains in place over FGM fears

There were concerns the parents wanted to take their young daughter abroad for the practice, which is illegal in all states and territories of Australia.


The family, not named, was denied permission to leave Australia with their young daughter after New South Wales police reportedly covertly recorded a conversation in the family.

In it, family members appeared to suggest the girl was about to be taken abroad for female genital mutilation, or FGM.

The parents, both born overseas, reportedly arrived in Australia 10 years ago.

They had been disputing a travel ban placed on them since 2014, after the birth of their second child.

They returned to court on the last day of July seeking permission to travel abroad for a family wedding.

The husband and wife reportedly have denied the claims from the translated transcript of the recorded conversation, saying they were talking about a friend’s daughter.

And the Department of Family and Community Services, or FACS, has told SBS in a statement it actually approved of the family making the trip.

“The Department sought a Family Law Watch List order (travel ban) in relation to this family in November 2014 to protect the child from the risk of being taken overseas and being subject to female genital mutilation. Since that time, FACS have been working with the family in an attempt to address this risk. In July 2017, FACS conducted a further risk assessment and concluded that the risk of the parents subjecting their daughter to female genital mutilation was now low and there was no danger of this occurring.”

The statement further outlines FACS’ views on the travel ban.

“In deciding to support the family’s request for the court to lift the travel ban, FACS also considered the decision of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute the parents in relation to female genital mutilation. Ultimately, however, the court refused the application to have the Family Law Watch List order discharged. So the travel ban remains in place.”

In March last year, Australia’s courts recorded their first criminal prosecution for female genital mutilation.

Three people — a retired nurse, a mother of two girls and a Dawoodi Bohra community leader — were each sentenced to a maximum 15 months in prison.

Associate Professor Yvonne Zurynski, is director of research at the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit at the University of Sydney and the Childrens’ Hospital in suburban Westmead.

She says FGM is recognised as a form of child abuse under the law and it is also illegal to take children outside Australia to have it done.

She cites a national survey of paediatricians this year showing 59 girls between ages five months and 18 years underwent female genital mutilation in the four years to 2014.

But Dr Zurynski says more data collection is needed.

“We surveyed paediatricians across Australia. But, of course, not every child with FGM is going to present to a paediatrician, so there may be other cases where children are seen by general practitioners or other medical professionals. And we simply don’t know how many children in Australia have undergone FGM.”

New South Wales police have issued a statement saying any offenders could face more than 20 years in prison.

“Female circumcision, more commonly known as female genital mutilation, is a crime in New South Wales. The State Crime Command’s Sex Crimes Squad has detectives specially trained in the cultural and religious sensitivities of the issue to investigate reports of female genital mutilation. A person can also be charged if they aid, abet, counsel, or procure a person to perform any of those acts on another person. This includes arranging to travel overseas for the procedure. The maximum penalty for this offence is 21 years imprisonment.”


If you are concerned someone you know is at risk of FGM, report it immediately to the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111.




North Korea defiant over latest UN sanctions

The international fallout continues following North Korea’s two long-range, ballistic-missile tests last month.



Over the weekend, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions on the country.

North Korean exports of coal, iron and even seafood will be banned, potentially cutting its $3 billion annual export revenue by one-third.

The United Nations agreed to the sanctions in a bid to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear program.

But speaking on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila, North Korean spokesman Bang Kwang Hyuk was emphatic that will not happen.

“We affirmed that we’ll never place our nuclear and ballistic-missiles program on the negotiating table and won’t budge an inch on strengthening nuclear armament.”

Bang Kwang Hyuk then took aim at the United States, blaming it for the current state of affairs.

“Is our nuclear possession a threat to the world, or is it just a threat to the United States? We want to make it clear that the worsening situation on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the nuclear issues, were caused by the United States.”

In a statement, North Korea’s foreign minister added the United States would, as he put it, “pay dearly” for the sanctions.

He also insisted his country has no intention of using nuclear weapons against any other country except the United States.

South Korea says the North has also rejected an offer to restart talks, dismissing the offer as “insincere.”

The United States is now moving to break the stand-off.

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson says he believes the United States and North Korea can have dialogue when conditions are right.

“Well, the best signal that North Korea could give us that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches. You know, we’ve not had an extended period of time where they have not taken some type of provocative action by launching ballistic missiles. So, I think that would be the first and strongest signal they could send us is just stop … stop these missile launches. Obviously, we have other means of communication open to them to, certainly, hear from them if they have a desire to want to talk.”

China has expressed hope North and South Korea could resume contact soon.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi says he personally gave his North Korean counterpart a message to stop the ballistic-missile launches.

“The international community has told North Korea to abandon its development of nuclear warheads and to maintain the international-proliferation regime. This is a security issue. The North Korean side believes it has been threatened and pressured militarily, which is also a security issue. So, the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is not an economic issue but a security issue.”

US president Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, have also addressed North Korea in a telephone call.

The pair agreed to apply maximum pressure and sanctions on North Korea.



Ibrahim family members among 17 arrested after raids in three countries

Police say the arrests deal a major blow to two crime syndicates allegedly transporting millions of dollars’ worth of drugs between Australia, Dubai and the Netherlands.


Police executed 30 search warrants across Sydney, seizing drugs, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, and five firearms, including a handgun and a semi-automatic rifle.

Two of Mr Ibrahim’s brothers, Michael Ibrahim and Fadi Ibrahim, were arrested in Dubai.

John Ibrahim’s son, Daniel Ibrahim, was among those arrested in raids across Sydney.

The raids are part of Operation Vader, which has been investigating the alleged importation of drugs into Australia.

Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan says police made arrests in Dubai, Sydney and The Netherlands.

“We have made a total of 17 arrests across three countries, including nine men and one woman here in Sydney, five arrests in Dubai and two arrests in The Hague. We have stopped in excess of 1.8 tonnes of MDMA, 136 kilograms of cocaine and 15 kilograms of methamphetamine which was destined for Australia, we’ve stopped that from reaching our shores. We have seized in excess of $5.45 million which will be alleging is the proceeds of crime.”

Assistant Commissioner Mal Lanyon, from New South Wales police, says the arrests are significant.

“I think it’s an outstanding success for law enforcement in general. The level of criminality exhibited by some of the people, and certainly some of the figures that have been arrested today, are of great significance to New South Wales Police and obviously of great significant to law enforcement generally. It’s a great thing for law enforcement today that we’ve been able to bring these people to justice.”



Melbourne boy with bloody feet heads home

A teenager has left hospital in a wheelchair three days after tiny sea crustaceans made a meal of his legs during a dip at a Melbourne beach.


Shocking images of Sam Kanizay’s lower legs and feet have been beamed around the world after the 16-year-old went for a dip at Brighton’s Dendy Street Beach on Saturday night to cool his aching muscles following a tough game of footy.

He walked out of the water covered with “hundreds of little pin holes” that wouldn’t stop bleeding thanks to sea crustaceans which feed on flesh, Sam’s father Jarrod Kanizay told AAP.

After three days bedridden at Dandenong Hospital, Sam on Tuesday needed the help of a wheelchair to get home, his feet still bandaged.

“They were so small but they’ve made such an impact on Sam. There must have been thousands around his legs,” Mr Kanizay told AAP.

“He’s got some soft spots at the back of his leg where they must have eaten a little bit more.”

Doctors were initially at a loss to explain what had caused the excessive bleeding but the tiny creatures turned out to be scavenging crustaceans known as lysianassid amphipods.

“It’s not a burrowing animal, it’s not a toxic animal, and it just loves eating our flesh,” Mr Kanizay said.

Museums Victoria marine biologist Genefor Walker-Smith, who examined a sample of the bugs collected by Mr Kanizay, said it was possible they contained an anti-coagulant similar to that produced by leeches, which explained the inability to stem the flow of blood.

The family knew of four other cases where people walked out of the water with unexplained bloody bites but Mr Kanizay said Sam’s experience wouldn’t deter them from going for a dip.

“We all need to go into the water and celebrate the bay and use it,” he said.

“Sam will be back in the water within no time, he can’t wait.”

The story of the boy with the bloody feet made global headlines, with the Kanizays hearing from relatives who watched news reports in Slovenia.

The story also made news in Norway, Sweden and Tanzania.

“It’s great that people are being educated along the way – educated and I guess entertained,” Mr Kanizay said.

Australia, Japan, US criticise China in sea dispute

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono and United States secretary of state Rex Tillerson say they are against increasing tensions in the South China Sea.


The trio met to discuss the matter in Manila, on the sidelines of Asia’s largest security forum.

China’s activity in the volatile region was a key issue among leaders at the meeting of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

In a joint statement, Australia, Japan and the United States urged all claimants to territories in the sea to resolve their disputes peacefully.

“The ministers voiced their strong opposition to coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions. In this regard, the ministers urged South China Sea claimants to refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts, militarisation of disputed features and undertaking unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the marine environment. The ministers called on all claimants to make and clarify their maritime claims in accordance with the international law of the sea.”

The statement came in stark contrast to what was considered a weak response by the 10-member ASEAN.

ASEAN leaders and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct, a move they hailed as progress.

But critics described it as a tactic by China to gain time to consolidate its maritime power.

Several ASEAN nations want the code to be legally binding and enforceable and to have a dispute-resolution mechanism.

Australia, Japan and the United States agree, opposing what they call “coercive unilateral actions.”

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi argues some countries remain, as he puts it, “in the past with their knowledge of the issue.”

“Is it that some countries do not want to see greater stability in the South China Sea? Is it that greater stability in the South China Sea does not serve their own interests? I think everyone can think about this issue.”

China has refused to abide by a tribunal that, last year, rejected its claims to almost all of the strategically important and resource-rich waterways.

Mr Kono says ASEAN ministers all agreed on the need to protect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

“With regard to the South China Sea issue, I expressed my grave concern over the situation and opposed any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force. The rule of law is at stake. In this regard, I emphasised the importance of the 2016 arbitral award, as well as non-militarisation of disputed features. I am pleased to find a number of my counterparts who share similar views.”

China has refused to recognise either the tribunal sitting at The Hague or the ruling.

Mr Wang insists the United States and its allies should stay out of what China maintains are purely bilateral disputes with its neighbours.

“On the part regarding the South China Sea, all the 10 ASEAN countries fully recognise the progress made in the cooperation with China in the past year and the positive trend toward creating stability in the South China Sea.

Minister Kono has expressed his willingness to strengthen the relationship with China. That’s the sincere intention. We hope that can be turned into real policy actions.”

But ahead of arriving in Manila for the ASEAN meetings, Ms Bishop issued this warning from Bangkok:

“Rising tensions in the South China Sea are a challenge to regional stability. The pursuit of national interests is testing the norms and rules which have served our region for so long and which are the basis of our security and prosperity. North Korea continues to defy the United Nations Security Council with its illegal missile and nuclear-weapons programs. There is a compelling need to defend the rules-based order in the region.”

The code framework is an outline for what China and ASEAN call “consultations” on a formal agreement, which could start later this year.