Wednesday, July 29, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is supporting the NSW police in their campaign for a pay rise

The corrupt state back again

Inquiry chief Tony Fitzgerald QC says lessons of the '70s and 80s forgotten -- blames the Left particularly

QUEENSLAND'S pre-eminent corruption reformer Tony Fitzgerald QC broke two decades of silence to warn last night that the state was sliding back to its "dark past", in a speech that savaged deals between so-called Labor mates, business and government.

Mr Fitzgerald reserved his harshest criticism for former Queensland premier Peter Beattie, now ensconced in a $490,000-a-year position as the state's Los Angeles-based trade commissioner, suggesting that Mr Beattie's election in 1998 had been the trigger for him to move to NSW.

Speaking for the first time on the reform process since he delivered his ground-breaking report on police and political corruption in July 1989, Mr Fitzgerald blasted the "ethics" of the current and former Labor governments. Secrecy was re-established by "sham claims" under which documents sought through Freedom of Information provisions were placed off limits by being run through cabinet.

"Access can now be purchased, patronage is dispensed, mates and supporters are appointed and retired politicians exploit their connections to obtain 'success fees' for deals between business and government," Mr Fitzgerald said in an address at Brisbane's Griffith University before the inaugural Tony Fitzgerald lecture. "Neither side of politics is interested in these issues except for short-term political advantage as each enjoys or plots impatiently for its turn at the privileges and opportunities which accompany power."

Mr Fitzgerald spoke out after Premier Anna Bligh said she would mark the 20th anniversary of the release of his landmark report by reviewing the increasingly controversial interaction between politicians and big business in Queensland.

This could lead to reform of political fundraising, including the practice by both Labor and the conservatives of selling access to ministers and frontbenchers to business representatives at state conferences and to holding dinners and other functions at a charge of thousands of dollars a plate. "The time has come now for a frank and open public discussion on a number of topical integrity and accountability issues," Ms Bligh said yesterday.

Separately, Queensland's Crime and Misconduct Commission is to investigate the relationship between political parties and donors. CMC chairman Robert Needham said there was "no doubt" companies and unions expected something in return for donations, especially to governing parties.

The flurry of official action caps a dramatic fortnight in Queensland in which a former Beattie government minister, Gordon Nuttall, was jailed for accepting $360,000 in corrupt payments from wealthy businessmen Ken Talbot and Harold Shand, and the CMC exposed a cash-for-confessions racket involving implicating 25 police and hard-core criminals in prisons.

Mr Fitzgerald said the current concerns about political and police misconduct were a predictable result of attitudes adopted in Queensland since the mid-1990s.

Mr Fitzgerald's inquiry and report resulted in the jailing of five Bjelke-Petersen-era National Party ministers as well as then police commissioner Terry Lewis.



Australia decouples education and citizenship

AUSTRALIA'S skilled migration policy is driven by national economic needs, not the educational choices of overseas students, Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Evans warned last week. In a speech in New Delhi that signalled immigration would be decoupled from education, and immigration, Senator Evans stressed that there was "no automatic link" between study in Australia and access to permanent residency.

"The Australian government will adjust the program to meet our national needs and not be driven by the education choices of overseas students," he said. In a possible response to mounting anger among overseas students whose hopes for permanent residency may be denied, Senator Evans said: "The skills and qualifications we seek in migrants will vary over time."

Although most of Senator Evans's speech emphasised the depth of the strategic partnership between Australia and India, he had a sharp warning for unscrupulous education agents. "Those who seek to market access to a permanent visa in Australia rather than a quality education do a grave disservice to potential students," he said.

Senator Evans's comments followed a report in The Australian last week that quoted researcher Bob Birrell as saying the attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney may have been only the beginning of the social conflict to be played out as thousands of foreign students stay on with full work rights and compete for jobs and housing. Dr Birrell told the HES that Senator Evans's speech in India was significant as it revealed a longstanding departmental concern to detach the migration selection system from the output of the overseas student industry in Australia.

Migration Institute of Australia chief executive Maurene Horder said that since the new critical skills list had come in, many applications based on the previous occupational demand list would languish in the immigration processing pipeline for many years.

The developments coincide with a recommendation from a conservative US think tank that skilled migration into the US should be restored to pre-September 11 levels to reverse the country's technological skills crisis. The US depends on science, technology, engineering and maths to maintain its position as the world superpower, according to a Heritage Foundation report, Improving US Competitiveness. But the US suffers a shortfall of 75,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers every year, even after importing 65,000 foreign workers and graduating 60,000 US engineers annually, it says.

In a development with possible ramifications for Australian efforts to lift the quality of overseas postgraduate recruits, the report calls for the cap on H-1B visas to be lifted from the present 65,000 to its pre-September 11 level of 195,000 visas a year.

As Australia cracks down on the permanent residency-driven training market, the influential think tank says the technology skills crisis is undermining US competitiveness. As a result of shortages, many American companies are being forced either to expand outside the US or not expand at all, the report says.


Australia/India immigration rackets in education

Indian students ripped off by Indian crooks, assisted by Australian bureaucratic indifference and incompetence

A young Indian reporter has been attacked after going undercover to reveal migration and education scams for tonight's Four Corners program. The woman was subjected to threats during the making of the program and was attacked over the weekend. Police have been notified.

The reporter went to two different migration agents posing as someone wanting to pass an English Language Test without having the skills, and said she was willing to buy a fake work certificate. She was able to do both if she paid between $3,000 and $5,000.

It is not suggested the migration agents nor the colleges identified in the Four Corners program are behind either the threats or the attack.

Some Indian students, principally in Melbourne and Sydney, have been subjected to violent attacks which have tainted Australia's reputation as an education provider.

But tonight's Four Corners program will reveal more details on how Indian students are being exploited by dodgy colleges and unscrupulous migration and education agents. The allegations on tonight's program expose a number of cases where students have lost tens of thousands of dollars.

Prabmeet Singh is one of about 70,000 Indian students who come to Australia to study each year. His family spent more than $40,000 on a course at the Sydney flying school, Aerospace Aviation. His mother, Pushpinder Kaur, says the family is now broke and her son still has no pilot's licence. "It is a fraud. We were shown so many rosy pictures about the school and it is not what it is really, it was just a scam," she said. "I think the Government should be more alert in these type of matters because it is the career of the children which is at stake."

Other Indian students have told Four Corners the aviation college failed to deliver its promised 200 hours of flying time over 52 weeks. Aerospace Aviation's spokeswoman Sue Davis has defended the training and has questioned the level of commitment and dedication among the particular students.

Aspiring chef Kumar Khatri came from Nepal to enrol at the Sydney cooking school Austech, but after six months he had not seen the inside of a kitchen. "I don't believe that there is a kitchen because I haven't seen the college kitchen," he told Four Corners. Mr Khatri decided to quit and received a letter from professional debt collectors telling him to pay $5,000. "I just went directly to the college and he told me that if you do not pay, we will just process that, we'll take it to the immigration. Your visa will be cancelled," he said.

Mr Khatri sought advice from Biwek Thapa, an education and migration agent who was dealing with six similar complaints. "I think it was a complete exploitation of international students because of the ignorance: they're new in the country; they're scared their visa could be cancelled; enrolment could be cancelled. They would get into all sorts of problems," he said.

Tonight's Four Corners program also reveals unscrupulous practices by migration and education agents. Karl Konrad, an education and migration agent based in Sydney, says he has been aware of a black market in dodgy documents for years. "I had many students come to my offices and say, 'oh I can buy letters for $3,000 at particular restaurants'," he said. "They didn't name the restaurants, but I was getting many of these type of stories. [So] we sent that information to the Immigration Department and they in turn thanked us for the information and said they would pass it on to Trades Recognition Australia. "Nothing ever became of that."

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard was unavailable for interview and so too was Immigration Minister Chris Evans.


Note: The Indian reporter mentioned above has subsequently claimed that her attacker was Indian, presumably one of the Indian crooks who had become suspicious of her activities


The legal threat to Christian schools

I wonder whether Muslim schools will be required to hire teachers hostile to Islam? That should be fun!

What happens when equal rights between men and women are so widely accepted mainstream Australia hardly thinks about it? Surely it is time to acknowledge that anti-discrimination statutes have done their job?

Not according to the Victorian Government. It harbours the view that discrimination has got sophisticated – so hard to find under current law – that we must widen the law to catch more of it.

Its Attorney-General has his sights set on men-only clubs (apparently it is OK to have female-only clubs and it is OK for men-only rules at gay venues). The Government has also put religion on notice it will come under closer scrutiny.

I am actually more worried about indiscriminate behaviour: things like the indiscriminate bashing of innocent people on city streets. Putting an end to that would be a real advance for their human rights. But it’s also hard, so let’s get back to some easier targets.

At present, discrimination statutes don’t apply to religious bodies and their schools on the grounds of freedom of religion. So a parliamentary committee has recommended options to extend the power of the state over the province of religion. One proposed change is to restrict the freedom of religious schools to choose their employees on the basis of their religious faith.

The churches want to continue current practice. But a host of community organisations want to change it. The Federation of Community Legal Services told the parliamentary review the current law should change, saying: "To allow religious organisations a broad exemption for conscience encourages prejudice."

Think about the moral vanity of that statement. According to these lawyers, a religious conscience leads to prejudice. How did the church arouse public conscience over slavery? How did Florence become a haven for the arts and letters to flourish? How did civilisation develop over the past couple of millennia without the Community Legal Services to guide it?

A leading discrimination law expert, Professor Margaret Thornton, wants to narrow the exemption for religious freedom of schools on the grounds that: "If private schools receive money from the state they should be subject to the law of the land." Of course they should be.

The question is whether the law should require them to employ people who are indifferent or hostile to their religion in their schools. At present it doesn’t. Changing that law will affect not only the schools who employ the staff.

Parents who send their children to a Christian school have a reasonable expectation this means the child will get a Christian education. How could the school fulfil its obligation to the parents if it is required by law to employ non-Christian or anti-Christian teachers to provide it? If the law demands this, you might as well close down the concept of a Christian school – which may be what some of the critics intend.

The provisions applying to religion have been operating for more 30 years with no great community outrage. So why is a parliamentary committee reviewing them now? Because, we are told, they have to be assessed for compliance against the 2006 Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. This charter was introduced with the promise it would amplify rights and freedoms.

There is something so predictable about this. The human rights industry begins with grand promises and ends up intervening in non-problems. We are led to believe that the purpose of such charters is to stop arbitrary arrests, guarantee a free press and guard against dictatorship. In practice, what does it do? It complicates the life of religious schools and open lawsuits against the churches.

Another inquiry has been set up by the Federal Government to look at promoting human rights. It is looking at a statutory charter of rights. No one will tell you the purpose of such a Commonwealth charter will be to curtail religious conscience or practice. But it will work out the same way.

The crusading lawyers will use any new federal charter against those institutions to which they are hostile. They will have sympathetic ears in the equal opportunity commissions. After all, experience in the human rights industry will be a qualification for appointment to those bodies.

The churches and Christian schools will be in the firing line. As the community legal services make clear – their view is that religious conscience encourages prejudice. Once the churches and religious conscience are out of the way, lawyers will have a clear run. Lawsuits will be used to decide the great moral questions of the age.

You can see what’s in it for the lawyers. But don’t think it is a step forward for liberty.


Brilliant Education Dept. internet filter blocks education sites, but not porn

The whole idea of web filtering is a crock

An internet filter installed by the NSW education department gave students access to pornographic material - but blocked educational sites. One site a Year 10 student opened while searching for a type of bird contained graphic sexual material and was only barred on Monday after inquiries from The Daily Telegraph.

George Cochrane said his school-aged son and daughter, who study by distance education from their farm in Grenfell, were horrified by the sites they could access. Other educational sites and harmless web pages for the local member of parliament - and even Education Minister Verity Firth's own site - have been blocked by the filter.

The Department of Education and Training confirmed that the filter would be used on thousands of laptops for high school students. It is also currently used on all computers in schools.

"My daughter typed in 'swallow', as in the bird, and it blocked access to a documentary on swallowing toothpaste but gave you access to a male site talking about inappropriate material," Mr Cochrane said. "The system isn't actually protecting anybody, especially isolated kids."

An education department spokesman confirmed that the site had been blocked on Monday. He said some questionable websites escaped the filter but staff responded to each concern and updated it daily. "On rare occasions inappropriate websites are not captured," he said.

Acting Opposition education spokesman Andrew Stoner yesterday labelled the filter flaws a "debacle". "Internet access should be a key component of Kevin Rudd's so-called Education Revolution," he said. "Nathan Rees and Education Minister Verity Firth are quick to claim credit for the good news so they should accept responsibility for this debacle and fix it as soon as possible."


Bullying victim gets $484,766

This OUGHT to make the NSW government sit up and become more active in preventing school bullying but it won't. Why? Because they don't know how. The only thing that would do some good would be a good thrashing for each bully and, since there is no such thing as right and wrong anymore, that cannot be considered. Offenders can only be "helped"

A victim of school bullying in northern NSW has had his damages award increased by more than $16,000 to $484,766. Last month in the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Elizabeth Fullerton awarded $468,736 to David Gregory, who had sued the State of NSW.

The now 30-year-old had complained of years of bullying while attending Farrer Agricultural High School at Tamworth in the 1990s. He said the bullying led to behavioural problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder and symptoms of depression.

Today, the judge ruled he should also have received $6030 for past medical treatment and expenses and $10,000 for future treatment. She also ordered the State of NSW to pay the legal costs of Mr Gregory, who now lives in Mollymook on NSW's South Coast.


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