Sunday, March 27, 2016

Why can't the Queensland police be polite?

The English police are traditionally polite so it's not impossible.

An elderly couple I know recently were "raided" by police in search of pornography.  I once had my car stolen and offered good evidence about who stole it but they weren't interested.  So pornography is more important than car theft?

The lady of the house is completely computer illiterate and the husband just uses his old computer to play solitaire.  But six cops and a computer expert barged into the house and ordered the couple around, leaving the lady in some distress.

And the husband has a heart problem.  What might the stress have done to him?

The police found nothing.  Why were they there in the first place?  Bungledom amplified by arrogance.

Oliver Cromwell's famous plea to some stiff-necked Scots could well apply to the Queensland police: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken".  The plea was ignored by those to whom it was addressed -- to their great woe.

Australian refugee intake will minimise single Sunni men, favour Christians

Is Australia the only country in the world with a sane refugee policy?

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says ‘we have a problem with second or third-generation new Australians (who) are radicalising online’.

Australia will minimise its intake of single Sunni men as it vets the 12,000 Syrian refugees the government has pledged to take from Syria, prioritising instead Christian family groups who can never return home.

As Malcolm Turnbull fended off suggestions he had conflated the European refugee crisis with the terror attacks in Brussels and Paris, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Australia had “a problem’’ with second and third-generation migrants who become extremists.

Speaking after Belgium’s ambassador to Australia, Jean-Luc Bodson, chided the government for connecting the Brussels terror attack with ­Europe’s migrant policies, Mr Dutton said some Euro­pean countries had adopted a “more passive’’ approach to terrorism and the challenges it posed to Western values.

“There’s been a different ­approach in some European ­nations to terrorists, a more passive approach,’’ Mr Dutton said. “That’s not the case in Australia. We’re not going to tolerate any view at all which is designed to kill off the Australian way of life or cause mass harm.’’

Mr Dutton also drew a connection between Australia’s migration program and homegrown extremists, many of whom have been second-generation Lebanese or Afghan migrants.

“We have a problem in this country with second or third-­generation new Australians and people that are radicalising online, people who believe that they owe some ­allegiance to another part of the world.’’

On Thursday, a day after the Prime Minister delivered a speech critiquing Europe’s migration policies, Mr Bodson said the ­remarks were “dangerous’’.

‘’It’s precisely what (Islamic State) wants,’’ the Belgian envoy said. “That we would make a confusion between terrorism and ­migrants and between terrorism and Islam.’’

The comments came after Mr Turnbull accused Islamic State of exploiting the European refugee crisis, which has been caused by the Syrian civil war, to smuggle its operatives in among the millions of refugees streaming into southern Europe.

On Thursday, Mr Turnbull told the ABC his words were “carefully checked’’ by his security advisers.  “I don’t think anyone would ­seriously doubt what I said,’’ Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Dutton said so far fewer than 100 of the 12,000 refugees Australia had pledged to take from war-ravaged Syria or northern Iraq had arrived in the country.

The government has said it would prioritise persecuted min­orities in choosing the 12,000, widely understood to be code for non-­Islamic migrants.

Christian groups, such as Yaz­idis, who have been massacred and enslaved by Islamic State in northern Iraq, will be given preference, partly because — unlike Sunni groups — they will never be able to return to their homes.

Authorities will largely pass over refugees from high-risk groups, such as single Sunni men.

The government has pledged to vet the 12,000 new migrants, subjecting them to biometric checks as well as checking their bona fides with Australia’s intelligence partners.


Belgium ambassador to Australia labels Malcolm Turnbull’s comments as ‘dangerous’

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stood by his warning that terror group Islamic State was using the Syrian refugee crisis as a way to smuggle extremists into Europe.

Despite offending Belgium’s ambassador to Australia and ignoring Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel’s request for solidarity, Mr Turnbull linked the Brussels terror attacks to Europe’s refugee crisis during a speech at the Lowy Institute this week.

“The attacks in Brussels are an unfortunate reminder of how violent Islamist extremism appears to have reached a crisis point in Europe,” Mr Turnbull said.

“European governments are confronted by a perfect storm of failed or neglected integration, foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, porous borders and intelligence and security apparatus struggling to keep pace with the scope and breadth of the threat.”

Mr Turnbull quoted Bernard Squarcini, a former head of France’s domestic intelligence agency, the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence, describing these factors as creating “a favourable ecosystem for an Islamist milieu”.

“The external borders are difficult to manage. Recent intelligence indicates that ISIL is using the refugee crisis to send operatives into Europe.”

Belgium’s Ambassador to Australia, Jean-Luc Bodson, fired back, describing the comments as “dangerous, because it’s precisely what ISIS wants — that we would make a confusion between terrorism and migrants and between terrorism and Islam,” Mr Bodson told ABC News.

“Our Prime Minister during his first press conference yesterday, actually asked for solidarity, and asked for people not to blame one community, because it’s the worst thing we could do and it is the most counter productive.

“My view is that the terrorists who committed the latest attacks and in Paris and in Belgium are European-raised and born. Maybe from foreign origins, but they are Europeans.

“So it has nothing to do with the refugee crisis and I think that is the main danger to assimilate that.”

In a heated interview on Lateline with host Tony Jones last night, Mr Turnbull responded to claims he’d gone too far, backing his stance by assuring “everything I said was carefully checked by my security advisers”.

“My job as Prime Minister of Australia is to explain these events to Australians and in particular to explain the context, to explain where there are similarities and where there are differences,” he said.

“And there are very big differences between the security environment in Europe and Australia.

“We have a much more successful multicultural society than many European countries and we have stronger borders.

“I don’t think anyone would seriously doubt what I said.

“There is an enormous flood of refugees going into Europe and of course it’s very challenging for the Europeans. There is a very serious crisis. The humanitarian crisis in Syria of course is of a scale not seen for many, many years.

“It is not entirely without precedent of course but it is an extraordinary one — millions of people fleeing that unhappy country and many of them of course going into Europe.

“It strains the resources of the security services and the border agencies in Europe.”

Mr Jones quizzed Mr Turnbull as to whether fear of importing terrorists accounted for the reason that just 26 Syrian refugees have arrived in Australia, despite pledging an intake of 12,000.

“We are taking great care. We take security and border protection very seriously,” he replied.

“We are not afeared. We look at this in a very clear-eyed way and we protect the security of Australians diligently and in a very realistic and pragmatic way.

“Bringing people in from that environment demands that there be careful security checks, whether they are part of the 12,000 additional refugee places or the normal humanitarian intake. And ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) and our other agencies — the AFP (Australian Federal Police) and so forth — are taking great care in ensuring that those people who come in are as far as we can ascertain, not people that would pose any security risk to Australians.

“And we make no apology for that. My job as Prime Minister of Australia, first and foremost, is to keep Australians safe.”


Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’: Sydney Grammar head

A top Australian school has banned laptops in class, warning that technology “distracts’’ from old-school quality teaching.

The headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, John Vallance, yesterday described the billions of dollars spent on computers in Australian schools over the past seven years as a “scandalous waste of money’’.

“I’ve seen so many schools with limited budgets spending a disproportionate amount of their money on technology that doesn’t really bring any measurable, or non-measurable, benefits,’’ he said.

“Schools have spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars­ on interactive whiteboards, digital projectors, and now they’re all being jettisoned.’’

Sydney Grammar has banned students from bringing laptops to school, even in the senior years, and requires them to handwrite assignments and essays until Year 10. Its old-school policy bucks the prevailing trend in most Aus­tralian high schools, and many primary schools, to require parents­ to purchase laptops for use in the classroom.

Dr Vallance said the Rudd-­Gillard government’s $2.4 billion Digital Education Revolution, which used taxpayer funds to buy laptops for high school students, was money wasted. “It didn’t really do anything except enrich Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard and Apple,’’ he said. “They’ve got very powerful lobby influence in the educational community.’’

Sydney Grammar students have access to computers in the school computer lab, and use laptops at home.

But Dr Vallance regards­ laptops as a distraction in the classroom. “We see teaching as fundamentally a social activity,’’ he said. “It’s about interaction ­between people, about discussion, about conversation.

“We find that having laptops or iPads in the classroom inhibit conversation — it’s distracting.

“If you’re lucky enough to have a good teacher and a motivating group of classmates, it would seem a waste to introduce anything that’s going to be a distraction from the benefits that kind of social context will give you.’’

Academically, Sydney Grammar rates among Australia’s top-performing schools, and is frequented by the sons of Sydney’s business and political elite. Almost one in five of its Year 12 graduates placed in the top 1 per cent of Australian students for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank university entry scores last year.

The school’s alumni includes three prime ministers — Malcolm Turnbull, who attended on a scholarship, Edmund Barton and William McMahon — as well as bush poet Banjo Paterson and business chief David Gonski, the architect of a needs-based funding model to help disadvantaged students.

The private boys’ school, which charges fees of $32,644 a year, routinely tops the league tables in the national literacy and numeracy tests.

Dr Vallance said he preferred to spend on teaching staff than on technology. “In the schools where they have laptops, they get stolen, they get dropped in the playground, they get broken, you have to hire extra staff to fix them, you’ve got to replace them every few years. They end up being massive lines in the budgets of schools which at the same time have leaky toilets and rooves and ramshackle buildings.

“If I had a choice between filling a classroom with laptops or hiring another teacher, I’d take the other teacher every day of the week.’’

Dr Vallance — who will step down as headmaster next year, after 18 years in the job — is a Cambridge scholar, a trustee of the State Library of NSW Foundation and a director of the National Art School.

In 2014 the Coalition government appointed him as a specialist reviewer of the national arts curriculum, which he criticised as “rambling, vague and patronising’’ with “a tendency towards the elimination of rigour’’.

Dr Vallance said yesterday laptops had “introduced a great deal of slackness’’ in teaching. “It’s made it much easier of giving the illusion of having prepared a lesson,’’ he said.

He also criticised as “crazy’’ plans by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to computerise the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy tests next year.

“That means generations of students will be doing NAPLAN on computers, they won’t be allowed to write by hand, which I think is crazy,’’ he said. “Allowing children to lose that capacity to express themselves by writing is a very dangerous thing.’’

Dr Vallance said Sydney Grammar had been studying the difference between handwritten and computer-typed tasks among boys in Year 3 and Year 5.

“In creative writing tasks, they find it much easier to write by hand, to put their ideas down on a piece of paper, than they do with a keyboard,’’ he said.

Dr Vallance said he was sure people would call him a “dinosaur’’. “But I’m in no way anti-technology,’’ he said. “I love gadgets. It’s partly because we all love gadgets so much that we have these rules, otherwise we’d all just muck about. Technology is a servant, not a master.

“You can’t end up allowing the tail to wag the dog, which I think it is at the moment.’’

Dr Vallance said computers in the classroom robbed children of the chance to debate and discuss ideas with the teacher.

“One of the most powerful tools in education is conversation,’’ he said.

“The digital delivery of teaching materials across Australia has had a really powerful normative effect.

“It’s making it quite difficult for children to learn how to disagree, how not to toe the party line, because they can’t question things — the possibility of questioning things has been taken away from them.’’

Dr Vallance said it was a “really scandalous situation’’ that Australia was “spending more on education than ever before and the results are gradually getting worse and worse’’. He said it cost $250,000-$500,000 to equip a moderate-sized high school with interactive whiteboards, which are only used at Sydney Grammar if teachers request them. “That’s a huge amount of money in the life of a school, that could translate to quite a few good members of staff,’’ he said.

“I think when people come to write the history of this period in education … this investment in classroom technology is going to be seen as a huge fraud.’’

The OECD has also questioned the growing reliance on technology in schools. In a report last year, it said schools must give students a solid foundation in reading, writing and maths before introducing computers. It found that heavy users of computers in the classroom “do a lot worse in most learning outcomes’’.

“In the end, technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching,’’ the OECD report concluded.


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