Friday, February 13, 2015

Schools admit they are 'struggling' to deal with the rise of radical Islam

Principals are struggling to deal with the students and parents who are falling under the sway of radical Islam, according to a group representing educators.  The Australian Principals Federation has welcomed the Victorian government's move to introduce new measures to deal with the growing problem in schools.

A state education spokesman said the department was working closer with police and had nominated staff in regional officers to work with Victoria Police counterparts 'to provide advice and support to schools'.

It comes after one principal told Fairfax Media of his struggles to help two children whose parents have left Australia to Syria to fight with Islamic State in the Middle East at his state-run primary school.  'We have to work extra hard to ensure students don't take up their parents extreme beliefs,' he said.

'I have them singing the national anthem with the Australian flag and say what a lucky country they live in.'

The school is made up of a lot of children from the Shiite, Alawite and Sunni Muslim communities.

Since then, there had been a rise in suspensions of students as they fought at school.

'What's happening in the Middle East does impact here - the families are divided in their beliefs,' he said.

The Australian Principals Association branch president Peter Kearney told Daily Mail Australia 'several issues' about 'social cohesion' had been raised with the group by principals. 'One thing we see is that where there are tensions in the community then there are tensions in the school,' he said.

Mr Kearney said radicalisation in students and children had been 'a battle for principals' but they were unsure about how to deal with it.  'What are the guidelines, where do you go? What do you do when children behaving extremely? It's quite complex for principals to make a decision without rules,' he said.

'Kids, for example, who come from different religious groups have different ways to wear uniform. Boys might like to have their ankles exposed deliberately. And [principals ask]: "Is that is they way we like to wear our uniform?"

'Parents like the fact that children show their strength, it's what their beliefs are, that is required for what they do for their religion.

'We might not thing its important but it's the start of all sorts of wedges.'

The former principal's comments come after concerns grow for the vulnerability of teenagers being recruited by terror group Islamic State.

Abdullah Elmir - dubbed the Ginger Jihadi - who went missing from his western Sydney home has appeared in a number of recruitment video for the extremist organisation in Syria.

Another teenager who was suspected of having ties to terrorism was Numan Haider who was shot dead by police last year after he stabbed two officers in Melbourne.

But Mr Kearney stressed this behaviour was not isolated to one religion.  'Most of the stuff schools deals with, it's confronting because of the ability to recruit other kids,' he said.

'The culture of schools is always open to challenge. The last school I was principal of had 64 nationalities.'

A Victorian Department of Education spokesman said education was key to ensure young people were not marginalised and 'embrace the values of respect, diversity and tolerance'.

'Schools, like other areas of the community, can be environments in which children and young people may become marginalised, or the victims of racial, cultural or religious intimidation or bullying,' he said.

'The department has strengthened its relationships with Victoria Police, and has nominated staff in regional offices to work with their counterparts in Victoria Police to provide advice and support to schools.

'The department has appointed one of its senior advisers to work with government and non-government schools on initiatives to promote racial and religious tolerance and social cohesion, and to identify how best the department can support these initiatives.

'The department's nominated staff in regional offices are always available to advise and support school principals who may have concerns about a student’s safety or well-being.'


'Halal money' funds terrorism: Jacqui Lambie

Jacqui Lambie is threatening to introduce a private senator's bill to stop what she believes is "halal money" funding terrorist group Islamic State.

In a late-night address to the upper house on Tuesday, the outspoken independent senator questioned whether halal certification funds militants in Syria and Iraq.

She said she was prompted to look into the issue after receiving hundreds of emails from concerned residents.

A study the Tasmanian senator commissioned the parliamentary library to examine exposed some "surprising facts" that alarmed her.

Certifiers are not legally required to disclose their fees, nor is there a formal reporting or auditing system to ascertain whether funds are being misused, she says.

"Given that our enemies in Islamic State are receiving a steady cashflow to control their caliphate in Syria and Iraq, why isn't there a legal requirement in Australia for halal certification fees to be disclosed?" Senator Lambie said.

"And given that our nation is on high terrorism alert, while hundreds of Australian Islamic State sympathisers are fighting our ADF forces in Iraq, why is there is no formal reporting or auditing mechanism in Australia to ascertain whether monies paid for halal certification are misused?"

Senator Lambie warned if the government failed to answer her questions, she would introduce legislation to close such "legal loopholes".

"(The loopholes) could allow financing of terrorists and Australia's enemies through halal money," she said.

She's not the first politician to raise the issue.

Nationals MP George Christensen last year wrote an opinion piece suggesting consumers who bought halal products could be funding Islamic extremism.


Sydney terror plot: Suspect arrived in Australia illegally on false passport

TWO men accused of planning an act of terrorism knelt before an Islamic State flag and pledged to stab the kidneys and necks of Australians.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told parliament security agencies have shown him a video in which the men make the pledge.

“I swear to almighty Allah we will carry out the first operation for the soldiers of the caliphate in Australia. I swear to almighty Allah, blond people, there is no room for blame between you and us. We only are you, stabbing the kidneys and striking the necks,” he quoted them as saying.

He described the contents of the video, seized during police raids in Sydney on Tuesday, as “monstrous extremism”.

“I don’t think it would be possible to witness uglier fanaticism than this, monstrous extremism than this,” he said.

Mr Abbott repeated the video dialogue even though NSW police yesterday asked for the contents to be kept confidential.

“Madam Speaker, I do want to thank NSW Police, the Australian Federal Police, and our security agencies for the work they did to forestall this attack but, Madam Speaker, we need them now more than ever.

“This is a metastisising threat because under current conditions, under the influence of the Islamist death cult, all you need to be a terrorist is a knife, a flag, a camera phone and a victim. That’s all you need.

“Madam Speaker, we can defeat this threat. We will defeat this threat. We must defeat this threat and I am confident that this Government has the will to do so, Madam Speaker. We have the will to defeat these evil people. We have the will to protect our way of life.”

The accused, Omar al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, had their charges heard in court today. They will apply for bail in four weeks with the court hearing photographic and video evidence would be used in the case against them.

Mr Abbott said Australia needed its security agencies more than ever as it faced a metastasising threat.

“Under the influence of the Islamist death cult, all you need to be a terrorist is a knife, a flag, a camera phone and a victim. That’s all you need,” he said.

“We must defeat this threat and I am confident that this government has the will to do so.”

Earlier today Mr Abbott said Australia must be more careful about giving potential migrants the benefit of the doubt after revelations one of Sydney terrorism suspects might have entered the country with a false passport.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton also has asked for an urgent review after being advised one of the men arrested on Tuesday might have flown to Australia with the fake documentation in 2009.

Al-Kutobi arrived in Australia by plane in 2009 as an Iraqi national using another person’s passport, a senior intelligence source has confirmed to The Daily Telegraph.

They also confirmed that he was granted a protection visa soon after and that he was then granted citizenship in 2013.

That he had arrived using a false passport was only recently discovered. 

It was also confirmed that the second man charged, Mohammad Kiad, entered Australia in 2012.  He was granted a visa under the family and spousal visa arrangements.

Kiad was receiving welfare, a Newstart allowance, at the time of his arrest.  It is believed he applied for and was granted welfare within 12 months of arriving in Australia.

Al-Kutobi had also previously been on a Newstart ­allowance.  However, he was not at the time of his arrest.

Mr Abbott says the terror raids show Australia needs to be more vigilant about its border security, and more careful about future migrants.

“If you look at the Martin Place murderer, he had been given the benefit of the doubt at every stage by our system,” he told Fairfax Radio.  “I suspect the same will turn out to be the case with these people.”

Australia should not give people permanent residency or citizenship without being confident they were here for “the right reasons, which are to join our team, to make a contribution, to accept our values, to be part of the big Australian family”, the prime minister said.

This morning Mr Dutton said there were about 50,000 people who also arrived on boats around that time, hampering intelligence agencies’ ability to check every person thoroughly. “It is a difficult situation, particularly that period of time, for the intelligence agencies,” he told Nine Network on Thursday.

“Borders, at that stage, were fairly porous in Australia, with boats just coming every day.  “If the system is being overwhelmed by tens of thousands of people coming by boat, it doesn’t matter if they come by boat or plane, it’s pretty hard for the security agencies to conduct the thorough searches they need to conduct.”

The men appeared before Fairfield Local Court on Wednesday and didn’t apply for bail, which was formally refused.


Fines over rogue selling by energy companies

A VICTORIAN energy retailer has been fined $20,400 by the consumer watchdog for allegedly engaging in misleading door-to-door sales conduct.

IPower Pty Ltd, trading as Simply Energy, was issued the infringement notices by the ACCC over two separate instances in 2014 in which sales representatives selling Simply Energy products visited the homes of two consumers in Victoria.

The sales reps allegedly told the consumers there was an “urgent problem” or “something wrong” with their existing supply, when this was not the case.

The ACCC says it had “reasonable grounds to believe that IPower made false or misleading representations about the standard or quality of goods in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law”.

The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the ACL — the ACCC can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe the law has been breached.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said the consumer watchdog would continue to take appropriate enforcement action against retailers who do not comply with their legal obligations.

“Consumers have a right to expect that door-to-door sales representatives will not make false or misleading representations, or otherwise engage in unlawful sales tactics,” he said.

While the big three energy retailers — AGL, EnergyAustralia and Origin — have stopped residential door-to-door sales altogether as a result of ACCC action and the Do Not Knock consumer campaign over the past 12 to 18 months, many smaller retailers have stepped in to fill the gap.

Simply Energy has been the subject of 25 complaints through the Do Not Knock website in the current financial year, a number of which have been referred to the ACCC.

It also received more than 1300 complaints to the Victorian Energy and Water Ombudsman between July and September last year — a disproportionately high number based on its market share.

Simply Energy has just 6 per cent market share in electricity, but attracted 10.7 per cent of total complaints to the EWOV. Similarly, with 6.1 per cent market share in gas, it attracted 9.4 per cent of complaints.

“When we look at the complaints we receive through the Do Not Knock website, the number for Simply Energy is higher than for any other business,” said Gerard Brody, chief executive of the Consumer Action Law Centre. “It seems to us there are still a lot of problems in this sector.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Simply Energy said: “Simply Energy takes its responsibilities regarding door-to-door sales very seriously. We have very strict processes and protocols in place governing the activities of our sales agents.

“We have conducted a thorough investigation of the incident raised by the ACCC. While we believe there are some questions about the alleged incident, Simply Energy accepts the ACCC decision.”

Anne Whitehouse, chief executive of industry self-regulatory body Energy Assured, said there were an estimated 1200 door-to-door sales agents currently operating in Australia, working for just a handful of energy retailers.

Those include Simply Energy, Lumo Energy, Red Energy, CovaU and Alinta Energy. AGL and Origin no longer use door-to-door agents for residential sales, but do for small business.

Ms Whitehouse said her organisation received an average of five complaints for every 10,000 homes visited, a figure that has remained relatively static for the past few years.

She defended the industry’s right to use door-to-door sales, as many smaller retailers do not have the marketing budget to reach consumers through other means. “It’s a very low-involvement product. For many smaller retailers this is the only way to gain market share,” she said.

Since 2012, nearly 300 door-to-door sales agents have been deregistered and slapped with five-year bans for poor behaviour, according to Energy Assured. Many of those have now begun selling private college courses.

The news comes after the Federal Court earlier this week ordered Origin Energy Limited and two of its subsidiaries to pay penalties totalling $325,000 for making false or misleading representations in relation to potential discounts.


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