Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sydney conference hears Australian Muslims experience higher rates of racism

And that will continue while senior Muslim clerics preach hatred of Australian society -- JR

An international conference on what it means to be an Australian Muslim has heard that most Muslims experience much higher rates of racism than the average Australian.

The two day conference has been organised by Charles Sturt University's Centre for Islamic studies and Civilisation, along with the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy Australia.

The Centre's director, Mehmet Ozalp says the inaugural conference is needed to examine what it means to be an Australian Muslim in the 21st century.

He says there is a focus on young people, including the impact of the internet and radical forces.

"There is an identity crisis that always comes with being young but also being a young Muslim makes it even deeper and more profound", he said.

"There are people pulling in different directions but what we found in our research is that by and large Muslims want to integrate into Australia."

One of the speakers, Professor Kevin Dunn from the University of Western Sydney says while most Australian Muslims have the same issues as everyone else in Sydney about housing, jobs and education, there is one difference.

"In one important respect Muslims are extraordinary or the Muslim experience is extraordinary in Sydney and that is their rates of experience of racism," he said.

"So for instance we know from the "challenging racism" national surveys that about 17 per cent of people will have experienced racism in the workplace, but for Muslims our surveys are showing that's as high as 60 per cent."

He says it is important Australia's political, social and religious leaders acknowledge the damage such racism can do to social cohesion.

"It's why it's very important for our leaders, for our public documents and proclamations that this is a multicultural and multifaith nation."

Sarah El-Assaad, 24, who is a student of Islamic Studies and NSW lawyer, says she never questioned her identity as an Australian until comments were made to her, especially when she decided to wear the Muslim headscarf or hijab.

She said some of the comments involved a client, as well as colleagues.

"I've had a few confrontational moments in my life where it has sort of shocked me to feel that I wasn't a part of what I thought I was a part of," she said.

Mr Ozalp says while there a small minority of Australian Muslims become radicalised because of overseas events and other issues, generally such events actually bring the broader Muslim community together and help them find their place in Australia.

"It pushes other Muslims to define who they are as Australian Muslims - it has ironically a galvanising effect," he said.

Roy Morgan poll

Meanwhile, the anti-islamist group the Q Society has published the results of its commissioned survey done by Roy Morgan research.

The Q Society was responsible for bringing right wing anti-islamist Dutch MP Geert Wilders to Australia earlier this year.

The poll found 70 per cent of those questioned believe Australia is not a better place because of Islam.

The survey, completed in late October, found 50 per cent of those questioned also wanted full face coverings banned from public spaces.

A spokesman for the Q Society says around 600 people were questioned nationally in the poll.

The poll included questions asking participants' opinion about statements such as: "Australia is becoming a better place as a result of islam" to which 70 per cent responded "no".

Other questions included: "As you may be aware, some countries' governments have implemented bans on wearing clothing in public that fully covers the face, like the islamic burqa. In your opinion, should Australia introduce similar laws?"

53 per cent responded "yes".


Cops to use licence to disqualify anyone guilty of anything

 TENS of thousands more Victorians each year stand to lose their drivers' licences under a new law police are vowing to exercise in court.

Sweeping legal changes which came into effect on September 30 allow courts to suspend or cancel the licence of any person convicted or found guilty of any offence - regardless of whether that offence has anything to do with driving.

Victoria Police has exclusively revealed to the Herald Sun that it will seek to use the new powers in up to 50,000 court cases each year.

It has already briefed its prosecutors on the law.

"If you're convicted or found guilty of any offence, a court may suspend or cancel and disqualify your licence," said Acting Senior Sergeant Richard Bowers, of the Victoria Police Prosecution Division.

"The legislation does not govern or put a limiting factor on which cases it applies to. It's any offence, and it's completely open to the magistrate as to whether or not they impose it.

"Unless a superior court gets hold of one of these cases and says 'Well, this is an inappropriate exercise of discretion,' it will remain open for use for a magistrate to use in any way they see fit."

But the move has angered civil libertarians.

"We are very disturbed at the lack of consultation, given this is such a sweeping and draconian measure," Jane Dixon, SC, the president of Liberty Victoria, said last night.

"To deprive someone of their driving licence can often also deprive them of their livelihood.

"We believe, for well-being, there should be a strong foundation between driving and the offending."

Victoria Police said it would advice its prosecutors to use the legislation in any case where the offending can be linked to using a vehicle, which it estimates at around 50,000 cases a year.

"We will raise the legislation in circumstances where driving had been part and parcel of the offending," Sen-Sgt Bowers said.

"It may be an offence where the accused used a car to commit the offences; for example, residential burglaries, using the car to get around."

In another change to the law, anyone disqualified from driving may be forced to fit an alcohol interlock device in their vehicle when the licence is reinstated, if the original crime can be linked in any way to alcohol or drugs.

First-time offenders, and those guilty of even the most minor offences, will not be exempt from the new law.

There are no set suspension or disqualification limits, giving magistrates free rein to cancel a licence for as long as they see fit.

Sen-Sgt Bowers also highlighted drug trafficking and family violence cases as likely ones for the exercise of the law.

"You have to look at each case on its merits and determine where is the best use of this legislation. We have left prosecutors with a fair bit of discretion," he said.

"It's a deterrent and a preventive measure. From our perspective, anything that has the potential to prevent further offending is a good thing," he said.


Education Minister Christopher Pyne refuses to meet Gonski panel on school funding

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has said he is too busy to meet the expert panel that devised the so-called Gonski school funding model to discuss how it works before he discards it.

In a move that has angered the nation’s two most populous states and concerned a member of the panel, Kathryn Greiner, Mr Pyne has declared the Gonski needs-based model a "shambles" and has promised to go "back to the drawing board" to create a new system.

Mr Pyne told ABC Radio on Tuesday the government would "stick with what we’ve got" for the 2014 school year but wanted to move to a "flatter, simpler, fairer structure" after that.

He said the Coalition was committed to the same quantum of funding as Labor over the next four years.

But despite saying before the election that the Coalition and Labor were on a "unity ticket" on school funding, Mr Pyne said the Abbott government was not committed to the escalation of funding Labor had promised over six years.

"Our election policy was that we would support a four-year agreement ... we won’t be honouring a six-year agreement," he said.  "There’s no year five or year six in the Coalition’s funding agreement."

Mr Pyne said there was no reason for schools to fear they would receive less funding over the next four years and he defended the Howard government’s socioeconomic status funding model – which remains in place – which he said was also needs-based.

Asked whether he was prepared to meet the Gonski panel, Mr Pyne said he was too busy.  "No, I’ve studied the Gonski model closely and I have to get on with the job of being the education minister," he said.

"I think we’ve had a lot of talk, a lot of conferences, a lot of reports, a lot of analysis of those reports, we’ve had an election campaign, we’ve had election policies from both sides. It’s time for the government to be allowed to get on with the job and that’s exactly what I intend to do."

Gonski panel member Ms Greiner said she was disappointed that Mr Pyne would not meet the panel, and was concerned that the Coalition would not commit to six years of funding.

She contradicted Mr Pyne’s characterisation of the socioeconomic status model, which she described as "very broken".  "It was opaque, it was not transparent, it was confusing. It was, in fact, a beggar’s muddle," she told ABC radio.

She said the "flatter, simpler, fairer" structure Mr Pyne said he wanted could not meet the individual needs of students.  "It’s much more complicated than that," she said.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli rejected Mr Pyne’s criticism of the Gonski model, which he said was "fair and transparent". "It is a much fairer way of funding schools," he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

"People have agreed to it and we don’t want to go through another three-year process of unravelling it all."

Mr Piccoli acknowledged the federal budget was under pressure but said NSW had committed to additional funding over six years in return for the Commonwealth’s promise of greater resources over the same period.

"We’re all under the same financial pressures," he said.

The Victorian government has also urged the Commonwealth to honour the schools funding deal it reached while federal Labor was in power.

A Victorian government spokeswoman insisted on Monday that a $12.2 billion deal had been reached guaranteeing "record levels of funding and an unprecedented six years of funding certainty" for schools in Victoria.

"Victoria made it clear that, along with Victorian schools and school communities, we expect the Commonwealth to honour this funding, which was agreed to on 4 August 2013," the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Catholic Education Office executive director Stephen Elder said he was still involved in "arduous" negotiations about funding for Catholic schools with the Victorian government.

"In addition, the Victorian government has foreshadowed another funding review on the back of two years of Gonski negotiations," he said.

Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon said 2014 would be a year of "limited change".  "The Victorian government, over many years, has worked with the non-government schools sectors to update local school funding arrangements and this long-standing process will continue," he said.


Anti-Vaccination body loses appeal against name change order


The Australian Vaccination Network has again been ordered to change its name, after losing an appeal against a ruling that its current name is misleading.

The New South Wales Administrative Decisions Tribunal has upheld a ruling by the state's Fair Trading department that the anti-vaccination group's current name could mislead the public.

The AVN can elect to make a further appeal against the ruling, but Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts has warned the organisation risks a hefty legal bill because the department will seek legal costs.

"The AVN must change its name now," Mr Roberts said.  "We're awaiting advice from the AVN as to what they consider an appropriate name would be.

"We reserve the right to reject any names we consider inappropriate, but again my clear message to the Australian Vaccination Network is be open and up-front about what you stand for."

The Australian Medical Association was among those that complained to Fair Trading about the AVN's name.  AMA NSW president Brian Owler says the AVN has a right to exist but not to mislead.

"The State Government should be commended on its efforts to improve the health of children through its support of vaccination and its stand against the anti-vaccination lobby," associate professor Owler said.

"The importance of vaccination cannot be understated in helping to keep children free from harm.  "Ultimately, your family GP is your best source of advice about vaccination."

The AVN has also issued a statement about the decision.

"We believe that the Administrative Decision Tribunal, in finding against the AVN, exemplified the current climate of government-sanctioned abuse and hatred of anyone who steps away from mainstream medical dogma," the statement said.

The statement gives no indication whether the AVN will launch a further appeal against the decision.

The AVN currently has a disclaimer on its website informing visitors of the name change order.


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