Thursday, January 08, 2015

Queensland Election 2015: Bookies tip Premier Newman to lose seat but party to win

January 31 state election for Qld

If the bookmakers have got it right, the Liberal National Party will win the election, Tim Nicholls will be new Premier and neither Clive Palmer nor Pauline Hanson will be represented in Queensland parliament.

If the bookmakers have got it right, the Liberal National Party will win the election, Tim Nicholls will be the new premier and neither Clive Palmer nor Pauline Hanson will be represented in Queensland parliament.

Early odds have the LNP at anywhere between $1.20 (Ladbrokes) and $1.29 (Luxbet) to win the election. ALP odds vary between $3.45 (Luxbet) and $4 (Ladbrokes).

One of the more interesting betting sheets sits with Sportsbet, which has Tim Nicholls ($1.90) favoured to become the next LNP leader, followed by Scott Emerson ($3), Lawrence Springborg ($7.50), Jeff Seeney ($9) and John-Paul Langbroek ($10).

Member for Mansfield Ian Walker, who some political analysts believe is a dark horse to take over the leadership, is not yet on the list.

As for current Premier Campbell Newman, Sportsbet has him at a long $3 to retain his seat of Ashgrove. ALP opponent Kate Jones is a $1.35 favourite to finish with the most votes.

Bob Katter seems to be saying a lot about his intention to hold the balance of power. But the bookies (Sportsbet) would have it differently. They've got the chances of a hung parliament at $5. A clear majority stands at $1.15.

Sportsbet has been one of the first to post odds on individual seats.

Those who don't think Palmer United Party will win a seat would be in the majority. He's at $1.35 to remain winless at state level, but there's some juicy odds for those who think he can win one seat ($6), two seats ($11), three seats ($15), four seats ($21) or more ($26).

Pauline Hanson who is running in the seat of Lockyer is still considered a $3.50 chance, although the LNP is favoured at $1.45 to retain the seat. The ALP is at $8.

Another independent considered to have a chance is Carl Judge in Yeerongpilly ($8), although the ALP is hot favourite ($1.15).


You will not be treated differently: Refugees told on Manus

Refugees who will soon leave detention on Manus Island to temporarily live on the outskirts of the island's only town have been told they will have to find jobs elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, leaving them in fear for their lives.

In a blunt speech by Papua New Guinean immigration authorities, the refugees have been told to make PNG their home, "or leave".  They also been told they will be treated no differently to PNG locals, who are unable to access "free internet" and are not given any form of "public welfare" from the government.

"When you have learnt PNG languages and thoroughly understand PNG culture, you will be permitted to leave the Refugee Transit Centre and start work – but not on Manus Province," the speech delivered by the country's Immigration and Citizenship Authority stipulates. "We will help you find a suitable job and to relocate to wherever that job is."

The refugees will also be given mobile phones and will be able to buy credit from their weekly allowance.

"You'll be given food to cook for yourself and a weekly allowance of K100 ($47.50). This is more than Papua New Guineans receive from their government," the speech says.  "... Your choices are simple: make Papua New Guinea your home, or leave."

But asylum seekers have told Fairfax Media that they fear for their safety in the community, given the level of hostility towards asylum seekers from PNG locals and the violence that erupted in the centre during February's riots, which killed one asylum seeker and badly injured scores of others.

There are currently 1044 asylum seekers being held in the offshore processing centre on Manus Island, many of whom have been held there for longer than 12 months. As of October last year, 71 people have been given a positive refugee status, while another 71 claims were found to be unsuccessful.

One asylum seeker who asked not to be named told Fairfax Media: "We were told that those people will be moved in January to the local community but once anyone go out [they] will not be given any security."

"We were shown the accommodation rooms. They were terrible," the asylum seeker said. "We were supposed to share those rooms with our friends. Each room has two beds with no aircon just small fans with no drinking water facility. Without any kind of other facilities such as TV, internet. This means we don't have any privacy."

In the temporary accommodation, the refugees will be given freedom of movement to and from the centre, with basic security provided.

The speech also says refugees will be able to practice their own religion; they will be able to bring their families to the country once they have established themselves; and after eight years residence will be able to apply for PNG citizenship.

Last year a Senate committee report made six recommendations as a result of the Manus riots, calling on the Abbott government to take responsibility for the attack, adhere to international human rights standards and help administer an effective investigation into the murder of Reza Barati by the Papua New Guinea police.


Teaching literacy a complex mix of methods

A recent report by the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Studies suggests there are significant concerns that teachers are not fully equipped to teach reading.

The report is a result of an audit of teacher education courses with a view to finding out how and in what manner teachers are trained in university courses to teach reading to young children.

Of course, the teaching of reading is central to the role of a primary classroom teacher and for perhaps as long as a century the best way to teach reading has been the subject of research, investigation and analysis.

When a teacher introduces a learner to the intricacies of decoding text, they start with the fundamental principle, the alphabet, the symbols that unlock the puzzle of reading. This is followed by teaching the relationship between sound and symbol.

This is known in education as "teaching grapho-phonic relationships".

At times this is simple enough and some children need only to have this relationship pointed out, which is why some children seem to learn to read effortlessly and some children come to school already reading.

Of course, there are other learners who do not find this as straightforward.

Where this becomes more difficult is that the English alphabet presents the learner with 26 letters but 44 sounds. These extra sounds are made up of groups of letters together that make a new sound. So some young learners need to take some enormous steps to bring all this together in becoming literate.

Which is why most teachers, most curriculum documents and most educational systems recommend embedding this teaching in a varied set of strategies and within a context of engaging materials and books.

And of course to teach reading and writing in tandem in the early years.

The Board of Studies report questions whether teachers actually teach grapho-phonic relationships, and if they are trained to teach using this method while at university. In doing so, the board once again takes us around the merry-go-round of best methods in teaching early reading, a debate that has raged for more than 50 years and has resulted in hundreds of thousands of studies, which give very clear direction.

Driving much of the teacher education in this country and abroad is a report in 2000 of the US-based National Reading Panel  called "Teaching Children to Read", which provides directions in five key areas of teaching reading:  phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension.

Learners need to know about the sound symbol level of print, the meaning level, and finally understand the place of word class when making sense of print. This is known as the three-cueing systems and all teachers in schools and those in teacher education programs would be able to both describe these systems and implement classroom activities to engage those in early reading.

It has been reported recently that teaching reading is mired in theory, with too little focus on practical skills. The teacher needs to have the linguistic knowledge of the English language, and we all know what a difficult language system that is. Teacher educators would never make an excuse about the essential need for teachers to have this theoretical knowledge about language as system. Together with this, they need to have a strong overview of the myriad practical strategies for teaching reading built up from over 100 years of research across the world, and then teachers need to add the special essential ingredient to this knowledge of the individual learners in their classes.

No policy maker, teacher educator, principal or system manager would suggest theory does not have a place in the early reading classroom nor that practical knowledge has no place. What is required is a sophisticated weaving of this knowledge to each of the learners in their charge, and given the recent success of NAPLAN and other measures of reading in this country they are doing a fine job.

Catherine Snow from Harvard University has famously said: "Teaching reading IS rocket science." Reading is a complex set of behaviours applied by readers to myriad tasks when negotiating the printed word. Teaching is a profession and all teachers constantly engage in professional learning, inquiry into their own practice and sharing at a school, system and national level through professional learning communities. Suggesting that teachers are not prepared to do this seems mischievous at a time when education systems are under constant scrutiny and evaluation.


Domestic violence an equal opportunity killer

For me the most tragic image of 2014 was watching a father break down crying "My babies, my babies" at a memorial service for his children, two of eight child victims of a Cairns domestic house of horrors. The alleged killer was mother to seven of the children, and the aunt of another.

In Brisbane, another woman was charged in December over the deaths of two children, and the attempted murder of two others.

And we must not forget the mother who attempted to kill her newborn baby in Sydney just weeks before by dumping him down a stormwater drain. Fortunately he survived for six days before being discovered and rescued.

If something is to be learned from all of these incredibly sad cases, it is that domestic violence is an equal opportunity killer. Women are just as capable of killing in domestic circumstances as men, especially when children are involved.

This is borne out by the latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Criminology. These show that between 2008 and 2010, in family related murders of children, more than 45 per cent of the killers were the mother.

Last year, when I wrote about domestic violence against men, I was contacted by a solicitor friend who was keen to discuss the matter. He had been a police prosecutor for 10 years before going into practice for himself. He ruefully admitted that in those ten years he had never charged a woman with domestic violence, notwithstanding the fact over one third of domestic violence victims are men.

Upon reflection, he agreed there was an inherent bias in the way police treated female perpetrators of domestic violence.  They usually get a free pass.

The problem with this is that we know people who commit acts of domestic violence are likely to escalate their crimes over time, unless they are brought in check. It follows that every time Queensland Police give a woman a free pass on domestic violence, because she is a woman, they may be creating a future domestic killer.

Unfortunately, while our enlightenment about the dangers of domestic violence is growing, it is not matched by an equal enlightenment about who might actually commit that domestic violence.

Dr Elizabeth Celi, a psychologist and author on men's health, has some interesting insights into the issue. She says public awareness of domestic violence often falls short of portraying the whole story.

"Decades of rightly raising public awareness for female victims of domestic violence, have simultaneously lacked in accurate public education that women can also be abusive and violent, toward other women, men and children," she says.

She also points out that turning a blind eye to women who commit domestic violence puts children at risk.

"Children are affected by abusive and violent behaviour regardless of the perpetrator's gender. Our children don't deserve to be put at risk by overlooking women's abuse and violence."

It is time to admit that all domestic violence is to be deplored, irrespective of who commits it, or who is the victim.

It is also time for Queensland Police to change their ways. They have no right to effectively condone domestic violence against men and children by refusing to charge offenders if they are women. If the police are happy to charge women with armed robbery, drug trafficking or extortion, why are they not equally willing to charge them with domestic and interpersonal violence?

Equal opportunity for women must also mean equal responsibility for their actions, including their crimes.

Domestic violence is not a gender battleground, or at least it shouldn't be. It is about keeping people safe, especially children.

How many more children must suffer or die before we learn this lesson?


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