Thursday, November 20, 2008

System soft on young thugs

Almost half the young offenders committing serious assaults in Queensland get away with a slap on the wrist. Of the 846 under-16s who committed serious bashings in 2007-08, 346 or 41 per cent received a caution. Another 95 offenders were sent to community conferencing, where social and youth workers talk about their offence.

State Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg yesterday accused the Government of going soft on youth crime. "Serious juvenile offenders are getting away with a slap on the wrist," he said, calling on Premier Anna Bligh to support his plan to have boot camps for young offenders. Mr Springborg said a legal loophole that made jail a "last resort" sentence for serious and violent juvenile criminals also should be closed.

Figures in the Queensland Police annual statistical review, tabled in Parliament last week, showed more than a quarter of young burglars also walked away unpunished. Of the 1886 under-16s caught after breaking in or attempting to burgle homes, 514, or 27 per cent, got off with a caution. Another 105 had community conferencing. One in five young arsonists also escaped punishment. Only 46 out of 95 were actually arrested and charged. Queensland Police Union president Cameron Pope said officers were disturbed to see serious juvenile criminals back on the street in quick time.


Southeast Queensland deluge smashes rainfall records

We were repeatedly told by the Warmists that the previous drought conditions were proof of global warming so I guess this proves global cooling

Rainfall records have been smashed by last night's storm, as unprecedented falls deluged parts of southeast Queensland overnight. Forecaster Gordon Banks said monthly and daily rainfall records would have been "pretty much smashed" in certain areas but the true extent would not be known until all figures had been received after 9am. Mr Banks said Amberley recorded 157mm overnight, smashing the previous November daily high recorded in 1981 of 72mm. Brisbane's highest daily falls of 170mm were also recorded in 1981. He said the highest rainfalls overnight were recorded at Tallegalla, near Rosewood west of Ipswich, with 243mm - 222mm of which fell in just three hours between 9pm and midnight. Rosewood recorded 216mm.

Mr Banks said the storm cluster formed when a trough, that had been moving across southern Queensland in the past few days, combined with a very sharp upper trough near Toowoomba. "It was in just the right location to give it a huge amount of assistance in developing further, and as a result those thunderstorms became organised into a little low pressure system near the surface, which then moved east and off the coast in the early hours of the morning," he said. Mr Banks said further showers and storms would develop this afternoon, though they were unlikely to be as strong as last night's, with more rain on Saturday and into next week.

He said Brisbane was on track to recording one of its wettest Novembers - there had been more than 200mm so far, with the record standing at 413mm. "Looking forward we're actually seeing on the modelling at the moment that the monsoon trough tracks south - the first time we've seen it this summer, tracks south across Queensland next week and could bring some significant rainfall to other parts of the state and also some further showers and storms around the south-east.


Students lose if low-performing schools shielded

Students in low-performing schools have the most to gain from publicly reporting their results, with a report by the Centre for Independent Studies arguing this is one of a suite of reforms required to improve education. In a paper released today, CIS research fellow Jennifer Buckingham says that arguments against so-called league tables protect schools at the expense of students and parents.

Ms Buckingham says the concern is only about revealing the schools that do not perform well, not the high-achieving schools, for fear of stigmatising the students and damaging a school's reputation. "This argument holds no water," she says. "In essence, it says that students in under-performing schools will be fine as long as nobody knows they are getting a poor education. "It protects schools, and the people responsible for them, at the expense of the children and families they are meant to serve."

Ms Buckingham says education departments already know which public schools are under-achieving and that publicly identifying such schools is crucial to turning them around. "These schools are allowed to under-achieve year after year, and under-serve hundreds of children, with no redress," she says. "Public identification will put schools and the governments responsible for them in the spotlight, and force improvement in these schools through the weight of public pressure. "What is worse, short-term loss of face or long-term neglect? Some schools may go through pain initially, but when 'problem schools' have been publicly identified in the past, students have ended up better off."

The paper says Australia has already laid the groundwork for a school reporting program, with national tests starting this year in literacy and numeracy and the establishment of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to oversee the tests and the reporting of results. It says the Australian Government is in the enviable position of being able to learn from the experiences of other countries, and cherry-pick features from different systems.

Education Minister Julia Gillard has pointed to the model of rating groups of like schools adopted in New York City, and has organised a trip to Australia next week by the city's schools chancellor, Joel Klein. New York schools are awarded a grade of A, B, C, D or F weighted for student improvement, with schools receiving a D or an F facing closure if they fail to improve.

The CIS paper cautions against overplaying the value of student progress because it can distort the way schools are portrayed, with some very high-achieving schools in New York given an F because their students, already at the top, failed to improve. The report says public accountability and school choice are deemed important as well.


Time to smash trade barriers, says Simon Crean

Good old Simon. He always was an exceptionally rational leftist. He is a big improvement on his father, the blundering Frank Crean in the Whitlam government

SMASHING barriers to international trade will give the world its best hope of avoiding a depression caused by the global financial crisis, according to Trade Minister Simon Crean. Mr Crean believes that although all nations face tough economic times because of the crisis, freer trade could give Australia a greater share of Asian trade markets at the expense of the US and the European countries, which are both either in recession or on the verge of it. The minister's comments came in an interview with The Australian yesterday in Lima, the Peruvian capital, where he is attending a meeting of trade ministers of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation group.

The APEC summit, to be attended by Kevin Rudd later this week, follows last weekend's meeting of G20 leaders, which vowed to use trade liberalisation to kick-start the stalled global economy by resurrecting the World Trade Organisation's Doha round of international trade talks, which collapsed in July.

Mr Crean yesterday began work on reviving the Doha round by meeting trade ministers of the APEC nations, nine of which were also represented at the G20 meeting in Washington. As the International Labour Organisation predicted 210 million jobs could be lost worldwide, Mr Crean said he hoped ministers could deliver on the G20 decision to boost economic activity and prevent the credit and growth crisis, which originated in developed countries, from causing misery in the developing world.

Asked whether enhanced global trade could prevent a recession from becoming a depression, Mr Crean said: "I believe it can. Trade is fundamental to stimulating economic growth. Trade is a big driver and multiplier of economic development. Historically, trade has grown three times faster than output. "If you want to secure your economic future, whatever your stage of development, you've got to engage with trade and you've got to drive the liberalisation agenda."

The collapse of the Doha round, which was aimed at helping developing nations accelerate their growth through trade, came amid disagreement between India and the US over market access, with Washington particularly concerned about the effect on the US cotton industry. Mr Crean said these concerns were still in play, but that the G20 leaders' meeting in Washington had injected political impetus to the negotiations amid fears the crisis could cause some nations to revert to protectionism -- seen as a key mistake in the Great Depression of the 1930s. "It isn't just a question of 'Let's not revert to protectionism'," Mr Crean said. "Let's engage with liberalisation. That gives you a jolt to economic activity."


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