Stop the boats. Start the charm: Scott Morrison takes the National Press Club

February 25, 2015 – 6:51PM

Judith Ireland
National political reporter

Scott Morrison walked to the podium minutes before the broadcast began.

Brandishing a copy of the welfare review he had just released, he grinned – totally unfazed by the flashbulbs that were exploding in his face.

For the next hour, he held court at the National Press Club.

Ministerial appearances on this stage can be underwhelming shows (just think of Tony Abbott’s season opener this month). But Morrison almost appeared to be enjoying himself.

He talked from slides instead of reading an entire speech. He smiled. He joked. People even laughed.

He got the room going early by weaving a Kevin Rudd joke into his discussion about the labyrinth-like welfare payment system.

“None of these lack programmatic specificity,” he said to knowing titters in the room.

Later, there were deep chuckles when he talked on the importance of older people staying at work if they were happy and healthy.

“It’s good for you, it’s good for your family, it’s good for the country and every Christmas, the grandchildren will be stoked, absolutely stoked!”

In among this, he had a clear message: welfare spending needs to be reformed and the best way to do that is to get people of all ages into jobs.

Another clear message from the Social Services Minister was that he is now responsible for a third of the federal budget. A fact he is already fond of emphasising.

The subtext here is that this is a guy who can be trusted with lots of money. And lots of responsibility. As one audience member later observed, his performance was not just a policy address but an audition for a much more senior role.

What got a bit lost in all of this was the detail of the long-awaited McClure review into the welfare system.

Morrison’s address came over the top of its Wednesday release like a wave. While he referred to its call for a simpler and less costly system, his address largely dwelt on his own ideas.

This was made easier by the fact the report sets out a long-term framework and does not contain budget figures or payment levels – thus allowing Morrison to have a conversation about principles rather than get down to the nuts, bolts and dollar signs.

Morrison also used his address to call for more intelligent policy debates around welfare and childcare.

But the man with the grin is oh-so surely ensuring they will be on his terms.

 

Source : The Canberra Times

Nannies and a single payment recommended by childcare report

February 20, 2015 – 12:20AM

Judith Ireland

National political reporter

Childcare: Nannies, grandparents and anyone else willing could join workers at childcare centres and family day care in being eligible for government payments.

Childcare: Nannies, grandparents and anyone else willing could join workers at childcare centres and family day care in being eligible for government payments. Photo: Phil Carrick

The Abbott government should extend federal funding to nannies and prioritise childcare support to lower and middle income families with a single, means-tested payment, a major review has found.

But Social Services Minister Scott Morrison has cautioned that while the government is considering the nannies move, it needs to be mindful of what this would mean for staff levels in existing services.

The Productivity Commission’s long awaited final report on childcare and early childhood learning will be tabled in Parliament on Friday as the Coalition prepares its new childcare policy.

The 1000-page report says that the current system, which features multiple childcare payments, should be combined into a single subsidy. The subsidy rate would cover between 85 per cent of costs for families with incomes at or below $60,000 and 20 per cent for families earning $250,000 or above.

This is stricter than the draft proposal, which suggested a 90 per cent subsidy for low incomes and a 30 per cent subsidy for those above $300,000.

Under the current system, parents can qualify for a means-tested benefit and, or a non-means tested rebate.

The new payment would provide up to 100 hours of care per fortnight for children 13 years and under who have parents that work or study at least 24 hours a fortnight, using a “benchmark price” based on the median fees charged for a type of childcare service and the age of the child.

Families would be exempt from the work hours requirement if they are receiving an income support payment, the primary carer is a grandparent or a child is assessed to be “at risk” of neglect or harm.

In a finding that was floated in its draft report, released in July 2014, the commission has recommended that families should be able to use federal funding to pay for nannies. The nannies would need to be approved and have relevant qualifications.

The government is yet to respond formally to the report, but Social Services Minister Scott Morrison told Fairfax Media that the Coalition was “considering” the nannies idea.

“I think the recommendation reflects an observation that there needs to be a greater array of services offering to deal with a much more diverse range of needs,” he said.

But he cautioned that there were issues associated with the nanny move, including losing staff from long day care centres.

“If everyone goes off and becomes a nanny, there will be no one working in childcare centres.”

The final report contains multiple recommendations for streamlining the childcare quality standards that govern issues such as teacher qualifications and staff to children ratios. This includes speeding up the assessment process that rates childcare centres.

It recommends that educators working with children under three must hold or be be working towards a certificate III in early childhood education and be under the supervision of someone who is diploma qualified. This is change from the draft report, which did not include the supervision element – and caused significant concern in the sector and from parents about the watering down of qualifications.

The Commission said that there would only be a “small” boost to workforce participation under its recommendations – noting that childcare was just one factor that influenced parents’ decisions around work. It estimates that if the government adopted its approach, about 16,400 more mothers would start work.

Mr Morrison, who has made getting women back into work one of his key priorities, said that if the government wanted to do more than what the Commission recommended, then “obviously that requires offsets and savings”.

He again called for a bipartisan response to childcare policy, pointing to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which enjoys political consensus on the levy that underpins it.

The Coalition ordered the childcare review as part of its election commitments in late 2013. The final report was sent to the government on October 31, provoking repeated calls from the sector for it to be made public.

When asked how much work the government had to do on its new families policy, on top of the report, Mr Morrison said. “It is a significant input to our process.”

The commission’s other recommendations include:

  • Allowing au pairs to work for a family for up to 12 months instead of the current six months
  • Funding for childcare providers in rural and regional areas if demand temporarily drops and a centre becomes financially nonviable
  • Government bodies, such as the Human Rights Commission, trying new approaches to increase awareness about people’s legal rights to flexible work
  • Removing the caps on the number of occasional childcare places
  • Abolishing requirements that occasional childcare centres are open for a set number of hours to receive subsidies
  • A 100 per cent childcare subsidy for children who are deemed to be “at risk”
  • The federal government continuing to fund 15 hours a week of preschool
  • School principals taking responsibility to ensure that there is before and after school care services for their students .

Source : The Canberra Times

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton targets bikie gang members as ‘top of my list for deporting’

December 23, 2014 – 12:50PM

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton. Photo: Rohan Thomson

New Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton has already put his stamp on the job, temporarily ditching the Abbott government’s ‘stop the boats’ mantra in favour of ‘stop the bikies’.

In a Facebook post shortly before his swearing in at Government House in Canberra, Mr Dutton said tackling illegal motorcycle gangs was at the top of his to-do list.

“If you’re an illegal bikie, if you’re part of an outlaw motorcycle gang involved in organised criminal activity, you’ve just made it to the top of my list,” Mr Dutton wrote. “Coming to Australia is a privilege and if you’re coming here harming Australians, ripping off our welfare system, committing serious crimes, then you’re at the top of my list for deporting.”

A number of Facebook suggested the Queensland-based Mr Dutton direct his focus towards other areas of the complex portfolio, including the implementation of a suite of measures introduced earlier this year by former immigration minister Scott Morrison, who has now become Minister for Social Services.

Mr Morrison effectively cut off the number of boats making the journey here through hardline policies that include turning back asylum seeker boats, sending asylum seekers to offshore processing centres and, in the latest tactic, ending the option for genuine refugees in Indonesia to ever resettle in Australia.

This month, the Senate passed the Migration Act, which means 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived by boats under the Labor government will be offered temporary protection visas, not permanent visas.

The number of people displaced around the world is also now at its highest level since World War II, with 33.3 million people internally displaced and 16.7 million refugees.

Announcing Mr Dutton’s appointment on Sunday, Mr Abbott described the new minister as “a tough, no nonsense individual and he is very well placed to ensure that our borders remain secure and that the boats stay stopped”.

 

Source : The Canberra Times

Scott Morrison allows asylum seeker babies to be processed in Australia

December 18, 2014 – 9:26PM

Sarah Whyte and Michael Gordon

Baby Ferouz, with his mother.

Baby Ferouz, with his mother. Photo: Supplied

More than 30 babies born to asylum seeker mothers in Australia will be able to stay in the mainland with their families and not be processed on Nauru under a secret deal struck by crossbencher Ricky Muir.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announced the decision late on Thursday, immediately before a legal bid on behalf of the families failed in the Federal Court.

Senator Muir extracted the concession during tense negotiations with Mr Morrison earlier this month on sweeping changes to asylum seeker law, including the reintroduction of temporary protection visas.

He also secured an undertaking from Mr Morrison that the agreement would not only apply to 25 infants covered by the court challenge, but six others born on the mainland after their mothers were transferred from Nauru to give birth.

A jubilant Senator Muir welcomed the announcement, but expressed regret that the agreement would not apply to other children, possibly including one whose mother went into labour late on Thursday in the Royal Darwin Hospital.

“While this announcement is good news for these families, I still have concerns for the children and families that are currently on Nauru and the single men on Manus Island,” Senator Muir, of the Motoring Enthusiast Party, said. “I intend to discuss these concerns with Mr Morrison early in the new year.”

Mr Morrison said the decision was a “one-off” and had followed “representations made by Senator Ricky Muir”.

It means those in the group who are found to be refugees will be granted a temporary protection visa or a safe-haven enterprise visa, which provides a potential pathway to permanent residency.

“Along with those 31 babies, I am also allowing their immediate family members to have their protection claims assessed in Australia,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.

“This includes their mothers, fathers and siblings. That is around 80 family members, all of whom are already in Australia having been transferred from Nauru, for the birth of their child.”

But Mr Morrison warned the almost 1000 asylum seekers on Nauru not to think his announcement “gives them a ticket to Australia”.

They would remain on the island to be processed and would not be resettled in Australia, he said.

“The government’s strong policies of turning back illegal boats, offshore processing and temporary protection visas remain in full effect,” he said.

Until today, the children were considered both “unauthorised maritime arrivals” and “transitory persons”, meaning none could be released or settled here.

The case, known as “Baby Ferouz”, gained momentum after lawyers argued it was illogical to claim that babies who were born in Australian hospitals were classified as “unauthorised maritime arrivals”.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn, representing baby Ferouz, said it welcomed the decision.

“Maurice Blackburn took this case on because of our belief that these babies were entitled to have their claims for refugee status considered, and that they should not be taken away, to languish in detention in Nauru,” a spokeswoman said.

“Importantly, these babies and their families have only cleared the first hurdle – they still need to have their applications for refugee status considered.

“However, they at least now have that right and do not face imminent removal to Nauru.”

But the decision does not extend to women who are pregnant, nor those who give birth after Thursday.

Mr Morrison’s statement said: “Pregnant IMAs who were transferred to Australia but who had not given birth, prior to today, will also be returned to Nauru, with their babies, at an appropriate time.”

The decision comes as every asylum seeker child on Christmas Island will be taken to Darwin by Christmas Day as part of a deal brokered with Senator Muir and other crossbenchers to get the controversial Migration Act through the Senate earlier this month.

With Adam Morton

 

Source : The Canberra Times

Australian Federal Police asked to investigate Scott Morrison

October 8, 2014 – 5:43AM

Federal police have been asked to investigate Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and his staff for allegedly leaking details of a confidential internal security report from Nauru to a journalist, it’s been reported.

News Corp Australia reported on Friday that internal Transfield security documents from the offshore processing centre in Nauru revealed it was “probable” that Save the Children staff were encouraging asylum seekers to self harm.

Fairfax Media said on Wednesday it understood that select paragraphs from the confidential report were provided to the journalist.

The article also reported Mr Morrison had ordered 10 Save the Children staff to be removed from the island under Section 70 of the Crimes Act for alleged misuse of privileged information.

This prohibits any person employed by the Commonwealth to send information to a non-government officer.

Greens senator and immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young has written to the AFP to say Mr Morrison’s staff may have contravened the same section of the Crimes Act by providing select confidential information to a journalist.

The AFP confirmed to Fairfax Media it had received the complaint and would evaluate it “as per usual process”.

Mr Morrison has launched an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against women and children asylum seekers on Nauru and into allegations that Save the Children staff were “coaching and encouraging” asylum seekers to protest and self harm.

Ms Hanson-Young told Fairfax Media that “information seems to be leaking from the office of the minister and his department at suspiciously convenient times”.

“If the minister’s office has been involved in a breach of the Crimes Act, I expect the full force of the law to be applied.”

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Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Islamic State a cancer Australia must face: Scott Morrison

October 4, 2014 – 10:34PM

Federal Immigration Minister Sen  Scott Morrison speaks at Lakemba Mosque during Eid al-Adha.

Federal Immigration Minister Sen Scott Morrison speaks at Lakemba Mosque during Eid al-Adha. Photo: Getty Images

Australian troops must face the Islamic State, which is a “cancer” whose “mediaeval” ways have led to another beheading, says Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

“[Australian forces] are there to degrade and destruct and do whatever is necessary to ensure that this horrible death cult and cancer cannot continue to have its way,” Mr Morrison said outside Lakemba Mosque in western Sydney on Saturday.

In a video showing the execution of British aid volunteer Alan Henning, the IS jihadist group claimed responsibility for his murder.

“That is just another horrific and brutal and mediaeval example of what the Australian Defence Forces are going there to combat,” the minister said.

The group also threatened American hostage Peter Kassig, another aid volunteer captured in Syria.

Mr Morrison said the jihadist group was not representative of Muslims.

“That has nothing to do with the true faith you see on display here today,” he said outside the mosque.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the latest murder only strengthened people’s resolve to stop the group.

“This dreadful murder doesn’t make people shy away,” he told reporters at Belmore in Sydney.

“I just think it strengthens the resolve of people of good conscience everywhere to put a stop to this crazy violence.”

Mr Shorten said he didn’t know how long the conflict would last, but troops wouldn’t be in Iraq “forever and ever”.

Military action was based on humanitarian support and requests for help by the Iraqi government, he said.

AAP

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

High Court defeat for Scott Morrison over temporary visa for refugee

September 11, 2014 – 6:35PM

Sarah Whyte

Immigration correspondent

Court loss: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

Court loss: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has suffered another defeat in the High Court after his attempt to grant a stateless refugee a temporary visa was ruled invalid.

The man, a Rohingya Muslim from Myanmar, arrived on Christmas Island in 2011 and tried to seek asylum in Australia. For two years the man, who was found to be a genuine refugee, was kept in detention as the Immigration Department assessed his eligibility for a permanent visa.

But when Mr Morrison released the refugee early this year he only offered him a “temporary safe haven” visa, which has similar conditions as a temporary protection visa (TPV) and does not allow permanent residency in Australia. The decision, which was made by the minister without the man’s consent, was ruled as “invalid” by the High Court on Thursday.

The blow comes as Mr Morrison has proposed offering TPVs for people who arrive by boat after July 19 and before December 31 last year, if the Senate allows the visa.

Until now, any asylum seeker who arrived in this five month period was subject to offshore processing centres in Nauru and Manus Island.

Mr Morrison said the proposed change was being presented to the crossbenchers in the Senate – including Clive Palmer’s party – who have the numbers to help the Coalition reinstate TPVs.

If granted, the TPVs would be offered to the 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived under the Labor government and to any asylum seekers who arrived last year and have not yet been sent to be processed offshore.

“We have to work with the Senate that we have and if we have to make some changes to get TPVs in then that’s what we are talking to them about,” he told ABC Radio.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott also defended the proposed changes, saying TPVs had always been part of the government’s policy.

“I want to make it crystal clear that no-one who comes to Australia illegally by boat is ever going to get permanent residency of our country. That is an absolute commitment by this government,” he told reporters in Tasmania.

“Temporary protection visas were our policy and the thing about temporary protection visas is they’re temporary. They’re temporary. When the protection is no longer needed, the visa is not there, and you go back to your home country.”

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Scott Morrison proposes releasing asylum seekers onto Australian mainland under TPV plan

September 10, 2014 – 5:34PM

Sarah Whyte

Immigration correspondent

Asylum seekers who arrived by boat last year could be offered temporary protection visas and allowed to live in the Australian mainland community, in a major policy backflip by the Abbott government.

The shift could signal a disintegration in the offshore processing policy that the government has so vehemently defended, but now admits has its “challenges”.

Until now, asylum seekers who arrived after July 19, 2013, were subject to offshore processing after a policy change by the Rudd Labor government, which meant they would be processed in centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

Onshore option: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday.

Onshore option: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The policy was adopted by the Coalition and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has consistently maintained asylum seekers who arrive by boat after July 19 would be subject to offshore processing.

In November, Mr Morrison said: “I want to stress all those on Christmas Island who are there now – those who arrived after July 19 will be going to Nauru or Manus Island. There will be no exceptions, whether you’re Syrian, Iranian, single, married, adult, child, they will all be going to Nauru or Manus Island and will not return to live in Australia.”

But the minister told an audience at the National Press Club that the government was now looking at TPVs as an “alternative” option for the 2700 people, including 450 children, who arrived by boat and many of whom are being held on Christmas Island. He is currently negotiating with crossbenchers in the new Senate to reintroduce TPVs after Labor and the Greens twice blocked the controversial measure that prevents refugees from gaining permanent residence in Australia.

Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

“Now while it will continue to be the policy of the government that anyone who arrives illegally by boat will be transferred to offshore processing … the government is open to alternatives for the earlier July 19 to December 31 caseload, but not those who may arrive now or who have already been transferred,” Mr Morrison said in the speech.

“Combined with other measures, TPVs will also give the government an alternative option for those who arrived after July 19 and before the end of last year, including over 450 children. Seventy five per cent of this group, including children, turned up under the previous government and had not been transferred to offshore processing centres.”

Until now, only asylum seekers who arrived before July 19 have been considered eligible for TPVs, if such a measure is reintroduced.

Mr Morrison told Fairfax Media on Wednesday it was no secret he was in negotiations with the crossbenchers, including Clive Palmer, to allow the use of TPVs.

The policy change would not affect any boats that arrived this year. The only asylum seekers travelling by boat who reached Australian shores this year arrived in July. All 157 asylum seekers have since been transferred to Nauru.

Mr Morrison acknowledged that the processing on Papua New Guinea was “challenging”.

“Offshore processing and resettlement has also been implemented. However, this has not been without its challenges,” he said.

Until now, not one asylum seeker has been resettled in the country. There are 1084 asylum seekers being detained on Manus Island.

He also said negotiations with Cambodia, which the government hopes will resettle refugees, were ongoing.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said on Wednesday the government’s offshore policy was “falling apart”.

“Dumping the government’s commitment to offshore processing like this is a major policy backflip from the Coalition on the back of a serious policy failure,” she said.

“The Abbott government has conceded that it has to process these people’s claims in Australia and is simply using TPVs as a distraction.”

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Scott Morrison is about to get a lesson in humility

September 9, 2014 – 6:16AM

John Birmingham

Columnist

Scott Morrison could be questioned over an Iranian man's death in custody.

Scott Morrison could be questioned over an Iranian man’s death in custody. Photo: Wolter Peeters

The office of the Coroner is an ancient and noble one, pre-dating the arrival of the white man and his Law in Australia by many hundreds of years. Many, many hundreds. The role, already established in practise, was formalised by statute in 1194. Over the better part of the millennia that followed the responsibilities and prerogatives of the office have evolved, but always in one direction. Towards the truth.

The Coroner seeks the truth, and although he or she is an officer of the state, no power of the state or any of its interested officials will deny the Coroner’s investigations. Be it bailiff or sheriff or high minister of the Crown, should the Coroner deem it necessary to summon an official to make explanation, they will be summoned and they will attend or face the dire consequence of their refusal.

It’s nothing like dealing with snarky journalists, as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is about to find out.

Hamid Kehazaei died in a Brisbane hospital after getting a cut on his foot.

Hamid Kehazaei died in a Brisbane hospital after getting a cut on his foot. Photo: Supplied

The Queensland Coroner has decided that the death of a fit and healthy young Iranian man, asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei, while detained at the behest of Mr Morrison, was no less than a death in custody. The Commonwealth had custody and care of Mr Kehazaei and he died from a simple cut to the foot while in that custody. He died in Queensland, having been transferred to hospital here.

Many Australians want to know how and why this appalling tragedy occurred, but only one can compel the man who administered the system in which the victim died to explain himself. The Queensland Coroner.

Perhaps the Coroner will not call Mr Morrison. Perhaps the Coroner will be content with the minister’s assurance that a man dying of a cut to his foot is no biggie. It happens all the time, after all. But that is unlikely.

A memorial for asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei.

A memorial for asylum seeker Hamid Kehazaei. Photo: Bradley Kanaris

Scott Morrison is more likely about to find himself dragged, metaphorically if not bodily, into a court of law where he cannot lie or even reframe the truth, for that would be perjury and that way lies imprisonment. Scott Morrison is about to learn that his power, while seeming absolute when consigning poor bastards like Hamid Kehazaei to oblivion, is nothing like absolute when confronted by the power of the Coroner to seek the truth of that banishment and the death in which it seemingly resulted. Scott Morrison, who apparently fancies himself as an alternative prime minister, is about to get a lesson in the realities of power, and maybe, just maybe, a lesson in empathy, when he finds himself subject to the undeniable power of a state official who simply does not care for the unique and personal narrative which makes Morrison, the warm little centre of his own existence.

The Coroner seeks the truth in death and he or she will not be denied that truth.

Source : The Brisbane Times

Scott Morrison to release 150 detainee children into community

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Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is mounting a new push to restore temporary protection visas after announcing 150 children would be removed from immigration detention centres and placed on bridging visas in the community.

The use of temporary visas, which have been voted down twice in the Senate, would allow asylum seekers to have work rights, but not allow permanent residency in Australia.

Crossbenchers confirmed to Fairfax Media that Mr Morrison had scheduled meetings with them this week, as Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer is due to meet with the minister on Wednesday.

Senator Bob Day told Fairfax Media that he was ”fully supportive” of Mr Morrison and the temporary protection visas.

”I admire the way Scott Morrison is going about this very difficult task and fully support him,” he said.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s David Leyonhjelm said he was reserving his position, but added ”I’m probably inclined to support TPVs as it allows asylum seekers to work.”

Senators Nick Xenophon, John Madigan and Jacqui Lambie said they would reserve their position until they had seen the exact detail of the proposed visas.

The announcement to release 150 children, who are under the age of 10 and who arrived in Australia before July 19 last year, comes days before Mr Morrison is due to appear before the final hearing of the Australian Human Rights Commission on Friday.

Refugee advocates and lawyers cautiously welcomed the announcement on Tuesday but questioned why the department was not releasing children from offshore detention, which has been continually acknowledged as significantly affecting the mental health of children.

Social justice law firm Maurice Blackburn said the government needed to expand its announcement to include all children and babies in detention, including those locked in offshore facilities and babies born in mainland detention after July 19 last year.

”We welcome that the federal government has now recognised that detention is no place for babies and children,” principal lawyer Jacob Varghese said.

”However, it’s disappointing that the announcement explicitly excludes those children who have arrived in Australia after July 19, 2013.”

Mr Varghese said the government had overlooked the fact that children experienced serious trauma in detention irrespective of when they arrived in Australia.

Amnesty International said the government’s plan to release up to 150 children was an admission that children were harmed by being kept in detention.

The organisation said while the release of any children from detention was welcomed, all children in the government’s care should be released into the community.

“We support the government’s admission that mandatory detention is costly and damaging,” Dr Graham Thorn, refugee co-ordinator for Amnesty International, said.

“Given this has been acknowledged by the government, it must also release kids from detention on Nauru and Christmas Island and expand this announcement to include children over the age of 10.”

With Ben Doherty and Lisa Cox

Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

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