Thursday, April 17, 2008

Queers want "homophobic" terms -- like "Mum" and "Dad" -- banned from Australian schools

Anybody who thinks that "Mum" and "Dad" are homophobic is definitely queer in the head

Schools will not move to stop using words like mum and dad, or girlfriend and boyfriend, the New South Wales Education Department says, despite reports that public schools are under pressure to provide gay-friendly environments. Changes to terminology, such as using the word "partner" to cover heterosexual relationships, are being sought by gay lobbyists bent on reducing discrimination in a major anti-homophobia push in the state's schools, The Daily Telegraph reports.

But Department of Education and Training director-general Michael Coutts-Trotter says there is no move to stop using terms such as boyfriend, girlfriend, mum or dad in public school classrooms. Media reports that there are moves to stop using these terms are "simply wrong", Mr Coutts-Trotter said today. "Public schools do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, whether on the grounds of religion, race, disability, gender or sexual preference," he said. "Schools have to be sanctuaries for children; they must be free of any sort of discrimination, bullying or harassment. "However, this does not include imposing a new politically correct language in schools."

Debate over books used to teach young children about gay lifestyles has been a hot issue in the past. Two years ago argument became heated over a push to have books such as Jed and His Dads and The Rainbow Cubbyhouse taught in Sydney daycare centres.


Useless school response to bullying leads to bigger problems

A QUEENSLAND couple so fed up with their 14-year-old being bullied at school have narrowly avoided jail after bashing their daughter's tormentor. Stephen Lester Baker and Suzane Maree Baker took justice into their own hands when they believed Queensland police and Beenleigh High School failed to act on their complaints about the bullying. The Beenleigh District Court was told yesterday how the pair confronted their daughter's tormentor and repeatedly punched her in the head. The attack - condemned by Judge Ian Dearden - reveals how quickly schoolyard bullying can spiral out of control.

A recent survey of Year 11 students found more than 70 per cent considered bullying a problem in their schools. Education Queensland, teachers' unions and the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens do not keep statistics on school bullying, but most agreed the problem was on the rise as teenagers turned to the internet and mobile phones to target victims.

An Education Queensland spokesman said the department took bullying very seriously. "Every state school must implement a responsible behaviour plan [Wow! a "plan"! Whoopee! No mention of any actual action?] that follows the department's guidelines and policies on bullying, harassment and other discrimination," he said.

Parents and Citizens Metropolitan West president Charles Alder said respect, tolerance and simple defence mechanisms needed to be taught to today's youth. He said victims should ignore unwanted phone or internet messages, and advise parents, teachers and police of any physical attacks.

The court was told the Bakers' attack, which took place in a park on April 3, 2006, came after the parents notified the school and police over the repeated bashing and bullying of their daughter. Prosecutor Nicholas McGhee said the Crown conceded the couple's daughter had been subjected to violent bullying by the girl identified only as Rachel, including an attack in which she bashed the girl's head against a school toilet wall. But Mr McGhee said Baker, 44, and his wife, 41, had acted like disgraceful vigilantes by attacking their daughter's assailant rather than pursuing the matter through police. [But the police were no help!]

He said the issue came to a head when Rachel and the Bakers' daughter became involved in an after school argument, which involved taunts and pushing. After the incident in the park, the Bakers and their daughter drove around the area looking for Rachel and a group of her friends in a bid to resolve the bullying problem. Mr McGhee said Stephen Baker punched Rachel in the head up to four times. "(Baker told Rachel) 'no one hits my daughter'," Mr McGhee told the court. "(Baker) stated he would kill them if they touched her again." Suzane Baker then grabbed Rachel by the hair and punched her in the head up to four times, he said.

Barrister Paul Brown, for Stephen Baker, said his client had become frustrated when neither the school or the police appeared to act on the family's complaints. Barrister Geoff Seaholme, for Suzane Baker, said the mother was also frustrated by the situation and had been the subject of an alleged revenge attack by members of Rachel's family. Mr Seaholme said one of Rachel's family had been charged over an attack on Suzane Baker, during which she received two black eyes. The attack allegedly occurred the day after the assault on Rachel. Rachel and members of her family made a number of disapproving grunts and groans during yesterday's sentencing hearing.

Judge Dearden, in sentencing the Bakers, said the actions of all concerned - the Bakers, Rachel and her family - could best be described as disgraceful and appalling. He said it was clear the actions of Rachel, the Bakers and anyone responsible for the attack on Suzane Baker were criminal and as such should, if they had not already, be referred to police. "Instead of putting (your daughter) in the car and looking for the bully, you should . . . (have been) driving to the police station," he told the Bakers. "The 14-year-old (Rachel) could/may (still) be subjected to criminal offences (if reported to police)." Judge Dearden also gave a forceful warning to both families to try to resolve their differences to avoid establishing a long-term feud between them.

Stephen and Suzane Baker were given wholly suspended jail terms of six and three months respectively.


Crooked insurance company: QBE

Sounds like a company to avoid. A pity that I have shares in it

For Trad Thornton, the loss of his loved one was only the beginning of his anguish. Since his partner was killed in a 2005 plane crash at Lockhart River on Cape York, he and other family members of the 13 passengers on the flight have been so frustrated at the go-slow tactics of insurer QBE that he is threatening to picket the company's Sydney headquarters. Senior Constable Thornton was due to marry the woman he adored, colleague Constable Sally Urquhart, in September 2005. But four months before the wedding she lost her life when the Transair plane crashed into a mountain on the approach to Lockhart airstrip, Australia's worst air crash in 40 years. The couple had lived together for three years, serving on various Aboriginal communities in Cape York, including Aurukun and Bamaga.

Constable Thornton has found it impossible to achieve closure, having first to live through the coronial inquest that found pilot error was to blame for the crash and now the alleged protracted game-playing by the insurer he accuses of trying to "delay and minimise" compensation payments to the families of the victims.

Asked yesterday by The Australian to explain its failure after three years to settle with claimants including Constable Thornton, a QBE spokesman replied that the company had no comment to make.

Constable Thornton, with 10 years' service behind him, is now a member of the elite Public Safety Response Team, the unit that is mobilised when emergencies requiring police presence occur anywhere in Queensland. He said his lawyer explained that QBE had public liability cover for passengers to a maximum of $500,000, but in Urquhart's case had offered him only $97,000. Urquhart was killed on duty, so a Work Cover (worker's compensation) payment of $153,000 was made to her fiance, but under Queensland legislation that will have to be paid back if another insurer also pays for her death.

"QBE advertises heavily seeking people to take up their policies, but those same people should be aware of what they are like if you make a claim," Constable Thornton said. "They spend millions of dollars sponsoring Brisbane Riverfire celebrations, yet they fight every inch of the way in a case so open-and-shut as this one. "They made a verbal offer to me of $97,000, all of which will have to go to WorkCover. I have outstanding legal bills of $65,000 to be met for solicitors who represented me. Quite frankly, I am getting to the stage where I would go to Sydney and distribute flyers outside QBE offices telling people just how they operate. The whole business is really stressing me."

QBE had presented a "dependency" document that calculated Constable Urquhart's expected life earnings in the police service - but on the basis she never be promoted beyond the rank of constable, he said. Constable Thornton has obtained testimonials from her senior supervising officers telling how she was so well regarded that it was considered she was certainly destined for commissioned rank. Constable Urquhart had degrees in science and law, with honours, from Griffith University in Brisbane where she also won a prize for her understanding of family law.

"Several of the families of passengers who died in the crash keep in contact, and in one particular case the solicitors for QBE requested a widow to provide the boarding pass of her husband - to prove that he was actually on the plane," Constable Thornton said. "That sort of thing is just so stressful for these people - and this has been going on now for three years. "I bet the owner of the plane has been paid out for his aircraft so he can continue in business. Insurance payments in a case like this should be like third-party insurance claims on a motor vehicle - they should not be dependency-based. "People need to have confidence that their insurance company will pay what they owe in a reasonable time."

State Coroner Michael Barnes, in his findings on the cause of the crash delivered on August 17, 2007, said "errors and cavalier flying" by chief pilot Brett Hotchin caused the twin-engined Metroliner to hit the mountain while on approach to land. Mr Barnes strongly criticised the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, saying there were deficiences in the organisation's surveillance and audit of TransAir. "I find that CASA could have done more to insist that TransAir improved certain aspects of its operations, but I do not believe that the evidence supports a finding that they could reasonably have stopped it from operating or prevented the crash," he said. Mr Barnes stopped short of recommending any charges be laid against anybody following his inquest into Australia's worst airline crash in 40 years.


Kids from poor families still unlikely to go to university

The deadening government schools the poor have to go to are a major reason for that

THOSE from poor families appear to be no more likely to reach university, despite a vast expansion of the sector during the past 15 years, and the reason is social class and weaker school performance feeding low expectations, rather than the rising cost of higher education. This is the conclusion suggested by a 149-page Universities Australia report on equity and participation released today.

Lead author Richard James, from the University of Melbourne, said it was vital to maintain scholarships and other financial measures but added that "money allocated at the point of transition to university isn't going to fix the problem on the larger scale". "To fix the problem we have to fix schooling and improve school achievement levels for people from low socioeconomic status backgrounds, their lower rates of school completion and lower academic results at school, which in the early stages makes people start to think going to university is not for them because they won't have the grades," Professor James said.

Students from low SES backgrounds held about 15 per cent of places and this had remained nearly unchanged for 15 years. The expansion of the university sector had lifted the absolute number of these students. They were especially under-represented in the most competitive professions, such as law. As a group, low SES students comprised less than 10 per cent of postgraduate students, the UA study says. The rising cost of higher education, however, did not seem to be a disincentive.

Census data suggested university attendance rates were stable for young people in all socioeconomic groups between 2001 and 2006. "The increased cost of attending university since 1997 does not appear to have had net adverse effects on any of the socioeconomic groups," the report says. "For blue-collar families, household income appears to have little effect on the likelihood that their teenage children will attend university. School results are the major influence on university attendance."

University of Wollongong vice-chancellor Gerard Sutton said he agreed with the James assessment that lack of money was not the main barrier to university. "Universities are doing all we can to encourage people and provide scholarships. It's aspirational," Professor Sutton said. That universities had to hand back more than 1700 places this year showed there was no effective unmet demand.

Professor Sutton said the Government's appointment of Labor MP Maxine McKew to tackle the issue of early childhood development was a significant development. His university was revamping its early childhood program to improve the number and quality of teachers. Professor Sutton said he and his counterparts in the sector remained concerned about student poverty and the amount of paid work students had to do, which kept them away from their studies.

Professor James backed a policy response that would allow students to reduce the time they had to spend in paid work.


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