Monday, October 20, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is bewailing the absent sense of humour on the Left

Offensive emails investigated by University of Sydney

The emails contained a wide variety of very offensive comments so the claim that they were jocular rings hollow.  They probably give an insight into what our Leftist academics really think

A University of Sydney academic involved in the national curriculum review, Barry Spurr, has reportedly described Prime Minister Tony Abbott an "abo-lover" in an exchange of emails.

"Abo Lover Abbott and [Australian of the Year] Adam Goodes are Siamese Twins and will have to be surgically separated," Professor Spurr wrote in an email published on the New Matilda website.

The university said an investigation into the report was under way.

In a series of different email exchanges, he used the terms "Mussies, Chinky-Poos, bogans and fatsoes", labelled South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu a "witch doctor" and the late South African president Nelson Mandela a "Darkie", according to the website.

Professor Spurr was employed by the independent review into the national curriculum, commissioned by the federal government, as a specialist consultant to review the English curriculum.

In correspondence seen by Fairfax Media, Professor Spurr said the emails were part of a longstanding joke with another person.

"These statements are not reflections of my views or his," he said.  "The comments that you refer to are largely to one recipient with whom I have had a whimsical linguistic game for many years of trying to outdo one another in extreme statements." They were part of a game "that mocked extreme language", he said.

Professor Spurr said the emails did not reflect his personal views or his professional judgment of Aboriginal literature, which is part of his role as a consultant to the national curriculum review.

"My lawyer informs me that accessing my email is 'a criminal offence' and the university's security service is currently looking into the matter," Professor Spurr told the website.

During one conversation, he called Mr Abbott "gutless and hypocritical", and condemned Mr Abbott's chief-of-staff Peta Credlin for arranging for an "Abo" singer to perform at a ceremony at Uluru for Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne condemned the comments.

"The minister utterly rejects and finds repugnant the denigration of any minority on the basis of their sex, race, sexual orientation or beliefs," a spokesman said.

"The appointment was not made by the government. The minister and his office had no input into the selection of any subject expert. Professor Spurr's alleged private emails are a matter for him."

In a statement, the University of Sydney said it was investigating the "offensive emails" to see if "any breaches of the code of conduct" had occurred.

"The university takes the allegations very seriously ... Racist, sexist or offensive language is not tolerated at the University of Sydney."


Qld.: Leftist lies outed

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has been referred to the parliamentary Ethics Committee over her claims of "massive budget cuts" in education and that teachers were losing their jobs.

Ms Palaszczuk made the claims in her budget reply speech. Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek was quick to write to Speaker Fiona Simpson accusing Ms Palszczuk of "intentionally misleading the House".

Ms Simpson said Mr Langbroek disputed both claims and provided "evidence that the budget for education has actually increased in the last two budgets and that no teacher has lost their job because of budget decisions made by the government".

"I sought further information, and in correspondence received on 8 July 2014 the Leader of the Opposition provided further information regarding her statements," Ms Simpson said.

"In relation to the first issue of alleged budget cuts, the Leader of the Opposition accepts that the budget for education has increased in total in the last two budgets but contends that the make-up of funding sources which constitute the total budget support her statement.

"As I have stated in previous rulings, the nature of political debate is that members engage in argument by discussing opposing viewpoints or different opinions – often times using different statistics or methods of calculation. Of course, this does not preclude the question of whether in using different methods of calculation a member was deliberately misleading the House.

Ms Simpson said Ms Palaszczuk had cited various answers to questions on notice to support her claim teachers were losing their jobs because of the budgets.

"The claim that teachers have lost their jobs through the budgets referred to is a very specific and serious claim however the information provided to me by the Leader of the Opposition does not necessarily support the statements made," Ms Simpson said.

"If the assumption cannot reasonably be made from the material it leaves open the issue of intent.

"I remind all Members that, if a matter of privilege is raised regarding their statements, it would help if the Member chose to provide in the House a clarification or apology at the earliest opportunity. It has been refreshing to see this occur in this session of Parliament, and I expect the hardworking members of the Ethics committee probably find it equally refreshing."

But as Ms Palaszczuk had not provided either clarification or an apology, the matter was referred to the committee.

"Referral to the ethics committee should not be interpreted as a determination of guilt, but on this matter, in the absence of sufficient explanation and with a prima facie matter to be investigated; this stands referred to the Ethics Committee," Ms Simpson said.


Journalism schools need practical focus

THERE can’t be many professional or vocational fields of study where teachers spend a disproportionate time bucketing the occupation for which they are supposedly preparing students.

Yet media-bashing is the norm in Australian media and journalism courses.

The sustained and highly critical emphasis on the news media’s failings in performance, ethics, ownership structure and prospects seems the key message of much education in mass communication.

Students have complained to me of never hearing a positive thing said about journalism from their teachers, who are often embittered from their own limited experience in newsrooms.

The Murdoch press is chief villain in the scenario constructed within the broader media academic community, supposedly responsible for forming public opinion and deciding who will govern the country.

The manifest achievements of journalism — constant monitoring of political, social and economic events and exposures of corruption and incompetence — seem little mentioned, or not to the extent that students receive professional formation and walk proud from journalism schools as they do from other professional schools.

The values shared by an earlier generation of journalism educators and brought with them from the industry — old chestnuts such as freedom of the press and the right to know — often seem to have been ditched in favour of an activist, opinionated form of journalism, more often than not dovetailing with a left-liberal view of the world.

Many journalism and media educators share a cluster of left-leaning values — boatpeople are all honest refugees deserving welcome and shelter, doubts may never be expressed about human-made global warming or the weakness of government action, the Abbott government can do nothing right — and are happy to express these on public forums and in classrooms.

In earlier generations of journalism education the teaching staff seemed more representative of the wider community in their values and far less inclined to express their political views, a convention they shared with working journalists.

Social media has changed all that, amplifying educators’ personal views to a wide audience, putting them on the public record and leaving students in no doubt as to their teachers’ ideologies. Journalists, too, are far more ready to tell the world their views.

Among those who’ve enrolled in our small independent journalism college, Jschool, in Brisbane, are disenchanted university students and graduates looking for an education in the basics, free from bias or incomprehensible theory.

From such refugees and from many dozens of students around the country I have heard constant grumbles about the arcane theoretical focus of their courses, the negativity towards the media and the political biases of some lecturers.

One thing I’ve never heard is a complaint about conservative bias in a journalism or media studies course.

Part of the problem is the confusion surrounding the academic location of journalism departments — generally a small section of a communications or media studies school. This contrasts with the US tradition of stand-alone journalism schools or departments where journalism is the dominant partner. In Australia, teachers with significant journalism experience tend to be at the bottom of the hierarchy, senior positions taken by researchers and theoreticians who often lack empathy for or understanding of journalism.

The workplace structure for academics rewards research, no matter how mindless, and research designed to expose weaknesses in media performance is encouraged. While in other voc­ational disciplines much of the research effort goes into improving professional practice, there is little of this in current journalism research.

Journalism at universities has suffered from a lack of confidence in the importance and vital role of journalism. Embedded among non-journalism academics whose traditional disdain for popular news media is a job requirement, journalism teachers have too readily rolled over and put their energies into surviving within academic hierarchies rather than being defenders of the press.

Universities were reluctant to enter journalism education and were certainly not prodded into doing so by the media industry. Ultimately, it was the marketability of media courses that brought most of the country’s institutions on board, despite the narrow career prospects for ­graduates.

But things have been better. In the “glory days” of journalism education at the University of Queensland in the 1990s there were more than a dozen full-time academic staff, all of them former journalists, including three editors, plus an army of part-time ­tutors drawn from the industry. They produced books, journals, a regular newspaper and electronic news service, and were part of the wider journalism community.

Their relations with the industry were often testy, especially when lecturers criticised media performance. But there was a two-way flow — editors and other senior journalists were members of advisory boards and gave talks to students and staff, while lecturers were invited to write columns on media performance, including election coverage, by the very media being criticised, such as The Courier-Mail and The Australian.

That successful and nationally respected department (disclaimer: I was its head!) was merged against student and industry protests into a vacuous communication school and the journalism degree faces extinction.

Earlier forms of journalism education were admittedly too “craft”-oriented. Students at tertiary level need, in parallel with skills development, understanding of the wider media environment, roles and structures, in addition to knowledge of law and politics.

Unfortunately, the small size of journalism staffs at universities around Australia make them prey to absorption into burgeoning media departments that propagate no end of theories rooted in the Marxist-oriented field of cultural studies.

Depending on the energy of their teachers, some students do get a good deal and have produced excellent stories, but far too many complain they do very little journalism in their programs.

I’ve been astonished to speak to students from eminent institutions who are lucky to write more than one or two news stories in a semester or who have never been to a court, council or parliament as part of their course requirements, training that was once considered basic.

At Jschool we’ve returned to these basics, delivered online, stressing constant news gathering and story writing by students all over Australia.

The industry shares the blame in not pushing for a central involvement in the development and monitoring of university journalism courses, which is the norm for all established professional ­disciplines.

There is plenty to be criticised in the practice of daily journalism, and educators have a role in this, but not at the expense of stressing the positives.

Educators often accuse journalists of being unable to take criticism, of being too defensive and unwilling to examine the basis of complaints. Perhaps educators themselves are as guilty of reacting defensively to criticism.

Missing in much contemporary teaching of journalism is extolling of the achievements and contribution of journalism.

In the past few months Brisbane’s The Courier-Mail has been running a fascinating series, “Journalism Matters”, highlighting the courage and achievements of news gatherers. These are inspiring stories, from former Time and CNN correspondent Michael Ware’s touching tribute to TV cameraman Harry Burton, ruthlessly murdered in Afghanistan, to the revelation by the ABC’s Sally Sara of the personal impact of war reporting; Greg Chamberlin’s recounting of Phil Dickie’s relentless gumshoe work in exposing organ­ised crime and corruption in Queensland, resulting in the jailing of ministers and the police commissioner; a brother’s heartfelt appreciation of the bravery of jailed correspondent Peter Greste; and Trent Dalton’s piece on the role of newspapers in letting sexual abuse victims get a measure of justice and closure.

Let there be no mistake. Democracy cannot function without journalism. It is a pity more journalism students and their teachers don’t know this


Controversial Masjid Al Noor mosque plans $4.5 million Granville school

GRANVILLE’S Masjid Al Noor mosque — which has links to the murdered Jabhat al-Nusra jihadists Yusuf Ali and Amira Karroum — has revealed plans to build an Islamic school.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the mosque’s management committee last month made a $4.5 million offer to buy an adjacent 6050sq m property on Ferndell St.

The original 7063sq m mosque site was bought by Bukhari House Association Incorporated in 2010 for $3.5 million.

The Granville mosque is one of the fastest growing in southwest Sydney, attracting the most number of converts, according to a joint report by the University of Western Sydney and Charles Sturt University.

Masjid Al Noor’s spiritual leader Sheikh Omar El-Banna — who spoke at the now defunct Al-Risalah centre — knew Ali before he left for Syria, where he and his wife were killed in a bloody turf war with Islamic State terrorists.  A memorial service for the couple was held at the Granville mosque.

Through the Masjid Al Noor Facebook page, worshippers were told about the proposed purchase and plans for a school, and asked for help to raise $500,000 for a deposit: “Our intention is to establish a Muslim school there. The total price of the property is $4.5 mil.” A Masjid Al Noor Facebook follower expressed concern about the school proposal, citing traffic congestion on Ferndell St and surrounding roads.

When approached for comment yesterday, a mosque spokesman would not comment about the property deal or proposed school.

The owner of the property in question would also not comment.


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