Thursday, July 22, 2010

Crean wants to bring back compulsory unionism for students

And from long experience we know that a lot of the money raised will be spent on far-Left causes that few students agree with

THE Education Minister, Simon Crean, has promised a re-elected Labor government would try again to change the law to allow universities to charge students compulsory fees to pay for sporting facilities, health clinics and other non-academic amenities.

Labor introduced legislation last year to allow universities to charge students up to $250 a year to fund services such as childcare, counselling and career guidance, but it was blocked in the Senate by the Coalition and the Family First senator, Steve Fielding.

Mr Crean told the Herald such services were ''integral to giving people the opportunity to undertake a university education'' and he called upon the Coalition to reconsider its position.

''The opposition has an ideological bent against this concept. They're called student union fees. They see union, they go ballistic,'' he said.

The proposals were aimed at restoring services lost from campuses after the Howard government outlawed compulsory student union fees in 2005, stripping an estimated $170 million a year from student services budgets.

The opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, said it would continue to oppose Labor's plans.

But the Coalition may not be able to block the legislation if, as is widely tipped, the Greens win the balance of power in the Senate. The Greens education spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, said it must be a priority in the new parliament.

The president of the National Union of Students, Carla Drakeford, said after waiting for Labor to fulfil its 2007 promise, students would expect a re-elected Labor government to make the change within six months. She said the NUS would lobby the Greens to amend the legislation, to require universities to pass on some of the money to student unions.


Spineless justice system encourages further crime

The thug himself says so. Previous experience with the courts left him with no fear of the justice system

A YOUNG armed robber who slit a teenager's throat on a tram later said he'd wanted to eat his victim's heart, police say.

The 18-year-old also bragged on Facebook that he had been on bail at the time of the attack.

This week the teen, who cannot be identified because of his age, pleaded guilty to charges over his random attack on a 15-year-old boy. According to a police summary tendered before Melbourne Magistrates' Court, the boy told his victim he was the "king of Melbourne", saying: "I'm with (street gangs) MTS and LBK. "Don't start crying or I'll slit your throat." He then rummaged through the victim's school bag and his pockets, stealing items including a mobile phone and iPod nano.

"The accused then stood up, grabbed the left side of the victim's head with one hand and tilted his head exposing his neck," the summary says. "With his right hand, the accused ran the knife over the victim's neck cutting him from the left side of his neck to his chin, causing the victim to bleed.

The attacker later boasted on Facebook that he "had a stabbing and a robbery and assault pending. And I still got bailed. The dumb slut of a judge ha ha ha".

The victim's mother, who didn't want to be identified, told the Herald Sun yesterday she was "outraged" the attacker had been freed on bail. "This didn't have to happen to my son. What happened to my son is tragic - he is still suffering psychologically," she said, saying he was too traumatised to speak.

She said the attacker should serve the maximum penalty for his crime, and in an adult jail, not youth detention....

Later he told police: "My lawyer is gonna get me off all this s--- anyway, so I'm gonna laugh at youse when youse are at my court case." The boy pleaded guilty to armed robbery, intentionally causing injury, making a threat to kill, and threatening to inflict serious injury.

The teen attacker will appear in the County Court for a pre-sentence plea hearing in November.


Rudd government finally got wise about Afghan "asylum" frauds

KEVIN Rudd's suspension of new Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum claims was followed by a rapid drop in successful asylum claims.

In April, the Rudd government announced all new Afghan asylum claims would be suspended for six months and new Sri Lankan claims for three months while decision-makers reviewed local conditions.

But prominent refugee lawyer David Manne said the announcement had been followed by a sharp drop in success rates for his clients. "There is no doubt that there was a correlation in timing between a pattern of high refusal rates and the announcement of the suspension and our political leaders telegraphing that we could expect higher refusal rates."

The Australian has been told the approval rate for Afghan refugees has plummeted from more than 95 per cent just six months ago to a rate of just 30 per cent.

Sources close to the process suggested a desire by decision-makers to avoid a bottleneck in the Christmas Island detention centre as well as a lack of information about the situation in Afghanistan were among the reasons for the stratospherically high Afghan success rate.

Refugee Council president John Gibson said there was "no way the (current) decision-making reflects the situation on the ground" in Afghanistan. "In terms of Afghans, there is a question mark over the integrity of the process," Mr Gibson said.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the Immigration Department "categorically denied" any political interference in the refugee selection process. "Any such suggestions are baseless and totally without foundation," he said.

The spokesman said new country information had been formulated in February, indicating that most Australia-bound Afghans had experienced greater stability "in recent times". No details were given about what that new information was, but the spokesman confirmed their recognition rates had fallen on the strength of it.

The sudden drop has prompted the UNHCR to ask the Gillard government for an explanation, although Mr Towle said the UNHCR had not yet received one.

The Australian National University's William Maley said if anything, the outlook for Hazaras in Afghanistan had worsened over the past six months.


Now some want to dumb down doctorates

All other educational qualifications have been dumbed down so I suppose this was inevitable

THE Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies has voiced opposition to plans by the universities of Melbourne and WA to tag as doctorates their new masters-level degrees in health disciplines.

Council convenor Helene Marsh, dean of graduate research at James Cook University, said the universities' plans to badge professional masters qualifications as doctorates would "demean" the PhD.

She warned that the market for masters degree programs already suffers from wide variations in what constitutes a masters, and that the sector shouldn't let the same problem hit doctorates.

Professor Marsh said the council's opposition was in line with its guidelines that all its members had agreed to, including members from Melbourne and UWA.

The council's intervention comes just ahead of an August 2 roundtable in Sydney of vice-chancellors organised by Universities Australia to try to agree on a unified sectoral position on doctorates. It follows the Australian Qualifications Framework's decision to reject Melbourne's plans.

"The council doesn't support plans by any Australian university to give degrees which do not include the equivalent of at least two years of original research the status of a doctorate," Professor Marsh said in a letter to the HES.

"We certainly don't consider it appropriate for masters-level degrees to be badged as doctorates, irrespective of whether the degree entitles the graduate to the honorific title of Dr," she said.

The Australian Technology Network of universities has signalled its primary concern will be to protect the standing of doctorate qualifications.

"The ATN believes it is paramount for Australia to protect the stature of the doctorate to maintain our international standing of the qualifications so many people have worked hard to get," ATN chairman Ross Milbourne said in a statement to the HES.

La Trobe University vice-chancellor Paul Johnson said he is "agnostic" on the issue, but he noted that while the Melbourne and UWA plans are supported by US practice, they are out of step with the Bologna process in Europe.

Professor Johnson said the key problem in the debate over different masters-level qualifications was that the sector lacked agreed exit capabilities against which to measure qualifications.

"If we could all agree clear indications of exit capabilities we wouldn't be having this current stoush," he said.

Professor Marsh said original and significant research is the "fundamental defining characteristic" of doctoral degrees.

"The council doesn't accept that a doctorate can be earned solely or substantially on the basis of coursework. "Indeed, the council believes that coursework within a doctorate should be for research education, whether this is directed towards making a significant contribution to knowledge for the discipline or to professional practice."


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