Thursday, December 29, 2016

Unbelievable:  Yet another blackout in South Australia

This will cap it for some people.  Some will now move interstate.  And who would start a new business there now?  How come the S.A. powerlines are so fragile?  It doesn't happen elsewhere.  Maybe the government has been scrimping on maintenance to finance their big splurge on windmills

Thousands of South Australian homes remain without power after a destructive storm that has badly damaged the state's electricity grid.  Though the worst is over, a final burst of thunderstorms could hamper already daunting efforts to get lights back on for many before Thursday.

SA Power Networks says at least 125,000 properties lost power after winds gusting to 120 km/h and rainfall of up to 110mm hit the state from late Tuesday, as a weather system that caused flooding in the Northern Territory moved south.

Spokesman Paul Roberts says about 13,000 properties had their power returned by Wednesday afternoon but many will remain without services until at least Thursday.

He says the electricity grid took a beating that will be expensive to fix, with at least 350 reports of downed power lines.

The State Emergency Service has grappled with more than 1250 calls, most for fallen trees that damaged homes or blocked roads and for minor flooding.

Several people were rescued from floodwaters, including two young teenage boys who were playing in a storm drain at the Sturt River on Tuesday.

Emergency Services Minister Peter Malinauskas praised SA emergency workers and said power lines had not gone down because the SA power network was fragile.

"When you see incidents like this as a result of a significant wind event resulting in trees falling on power lines there is little that can be done," he told reporters on Wednesday.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the 24 hours to 9am on Wednesday was Adelaide's third wettest December day on record, after 61.2mm of rain was dumped on the city.

After whacking the city, the deep low pressure system at the heart of the event moved towards SA's southeast corner near Mount Gambier.

But the bureau retained a thunderstorm warning for Wednesday afternoon for a large part of SA stretching from north of Port Pirie to the NT border.

The SES continued to distribute sandbags at several depots on Wednesday afternoon and urged people to be careful.

"Please, please, just stay out of the floodwaters. Be aware of our surrounds and keep your kids out of the floodwaters as well," SES deputy chief officer Dermott Barry said.

Thursday is expected to be a far calmer day in Adelaide with a slight chance of a shower in the early morning followed by a sunny top of 29 degrees.


Vic govt loses youth prison appeal

Realism sadly lacking. Perhaps the government should have confined the young wreckers to the premises of the Court of Appeal.  That would have produced a very different judgment, I think

THE Victorian government has lost its challenge to a ruling it illegally detained youths in the state’s most notorious maximum security prison.

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday found Justice Greg Garde was not in error when he declared the decision to transfer youth offenders to Barwon Prison after juvenile detention centres were trashed during riots was illegal. The court dismissed the government’s application to appeal the ruling.

Government lawyers had told the court that youths who spent Christmas in the maximum security adult prison were put there because their security couldn’t be guaranteed at the juvenile justice centres.

Up to 40 youths were transferred to the Grevillea Unit of Barwon Prison in November following riots that damaged the Parkville and Malmsbury youth detention facilities.

Richard Niall QC, for the Victorian government, on Wednesday told the Court of Appeal the youths had been in a facility that met statutory requirements, but had to be moved when it became unsafe.

"Security could not be guaranteed.” The government is arguing that Justice Garde erred in his finding that there had been a failure to take into account certain considerations regarding the rights of the youths.

Mr Niall said the youths’ developmental needs could be catered for in the Grevillea Unit through the provision of services.

"It must have been that the minister was alive to the need to maintain continuing care of the detainees,” Mr Niall said.

"She was advised it was unsafe to continue with the status quo.” "Other places had been considered and rejected,” Mr Niall said.

The Thomas Embling Maximum Security Forensic Hospital and Maribyrnong — where there is an immigration detention centre — were also considered, Mr Niall said. The court heard nobody from Corrections Victoria inspected the Grevillea Unit before the youths were moved.

About a dozen youths are still in the state’s most notorious prison.


Housing affordability: ‘Red tape’ to blame for Sydney property crisis

Malcolm gets it. The NSW government constricts supply and then hits buyers with a huge tax.  No wonder houses have become unaffordable for many

SKY-high housing prices have been blamed on everything from foreign investment to greedy Baby Boomers hogging the market.

But according to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull there’s a more obvious reason behind unaffordable housing — red tape.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Turnbull said NSW councils were taking too long to approve development applications which he believed was fuelling Sydney’s high housing prices.

Mr Turnbull said Sydney councils were taking three times as long to approve DAs than their counterparts in Brisbane.

He also said while stamp duty concessions would help get more people into the market, it wasn’t the only answer.

"We’re not asking people to compromise on planning standards, but it shouldn’t take you 18 months to get a DA if in other cities it can take you six months,” he said.

The Property Council of NSW said Sydney’s DA system was "the worst in the world.”
Auctioneer Adrian Bo from McGrath Coogee sold a unit in Randwick, Sydney, for $1.425 million last August Picture: Adam Taylor

Auctioneer Adrian Bo from McGrath Coogee sold a unit in Randwick, Sydney, for $1.425 million last August Picture: Adam TaylorSource:News Corp Australia

However a spokeswoman for the Local Government of NSW dismissed the idea that councils were behind the property crisis.

"If property developers were genuinely concerned about housing affordability they could always reduce their enormous profits by including more affordable housing in their developments,” she said.

Mr Turnbull’s comments come just days after a new report found it takes around eight years to save up a big enough deposit to buy a median-priced home in Sydney.

The Bankwest report also showed that the average Australian couple spent 4.4 years saving up for a 20 per cent deposit to buy a median-priced house in 2016.

It follows a similar report from CoreLogic and the Australian National University which revealed that it took 139 per cent of a household’s annual income in September 2016 to get that 20 per cent deposit together.

Housing affordability remains a core concern of the Property Council of Australia which is urging the government to tackle the crisis in the coming months.

According to the council, stamp duty is just one of the areas in need of urgent reform with the typical buyer in NSW forking out an average of $40,000.


Here’s why non-government schools work better


In 2004, in Why Our Schools are Failing, I argued Australia’s competitive academic curriculum was being "attacked and undermined by a series of ideologically driven changes that have conspired to ­reduce standards and ­impose a politically correct, mediocre view of education on our schools”.

Three years later, in Dumbing Down, I repeated the claim, arguing that Australia’s cultural-left education establishment, instead of supporting high-risk examinations, teacher-directed lessons and meritocracy, was redefining the curriculum "as an instrument to bring about equity and ­social justice”.

At the time the Australian Curriculum Studies Association organised two national conferences involving leading education bureau­crats, professional organisations, teacher unions and like-minded academics to argue all was well and that critics such as the News Corp’s newspapers were guilty of orchestrating a "black media debate” and a "conservative backlash”.

The Australian’s campaign for rigour and standards in education, especially its defence of classic literature and teaching grammar, was condemned by one critic as a "particularly ferocious campaign” that was guilty of wanting "to ­restore a traditional approach to the teaching of English”.

Fast-forward to 2016 and it’s clear where the truth lies. Despite investing additional billions and implementing a raft of education reforms, Australia’s ranking in international tests is going backwards and too many students are leaving school illiterate, innumerate and culturally impoverished.

In the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, Australian students were ranked 22nd; in the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment, Australian students were ranked 20th in mathematics; and in the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, our Year 4 science students were outperformed by 17 other countries.

Australia’s national curriculum, instead of acknowledging we are a Western liberal democracy and the significance of our ­Judeo-Christian heritage, em­braces cultural relativism and prioritises politically correct indi­genous, Asian and sustainability perspectives.

Instead of focusing on the ­basics, teachers are pressured to teach Marxist-inspired programs such as the LGBTI Safe Schools program where gender is fluid and limitless and Roz Ward, one of the founders, argues: "It will only be through a revitalised class struggle and revolutionary change that we can hope for the liberation of LGBTI people.”

What’s to be done? It’s rare that those responsible for failure are capable of choosing the right way forward. Organisations such as ACSA, the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council for Educational Research are part of the problem, not the solution.

Instead of education fads and a command-and-control model mandated by such bodies, where schools are made to implement a one-size-fits-all curriculum, assess­ment, accountability and staffing system, schools must be freed from provider capture and given the autonomy to manage themselves.

As argued by Melbourne-based Brian Caldwell: "There is a powerful educational logic to locating a higher level of authority, responsibility and accountability for curriculum, teaching and assessment at the school level. Each school has a unique mix of students in respect to their needs, interests, aptitudes and ambitions; indeed, each classroom has a unique mix.”

The reason Catholic and independent schools, on the whole, outperform government schools is not because of students’ socio-economic status, which has a relatively weak impact on outcomes, but because non-government schools have control over staffing, budgets, curriculum focus and classroom practice.

In a paper this year — The ­Importance of School Systems: Evidence from International Differences in Student Achievement — European research Ludger Woessmann identifies "school autonomy and private competition” as important factors when ­explaining why some education systems outperform others.

Instead of adopting ineffective fads such as constructivism — where the emphasis is on inquiry-based discovery learning, teachers being guides by the side and content being secondary to process — it is vital to ensure that teacher training and classroom practice are evidence-based.

Not so in Australia, where the dominant approach is based on constructivism.

In opposition, and when arguing in favour of explicit teaching and direct instruction, NSW academic John Sweller states that "there is no aspect of human cognitive architecture that suggests that inquiry-based learning should be superior to ­direct ­instructional guidance and much to suggest that it is likely to be ­inferior”.

American educationalist ED Hirsch and Sweller argue that children must be able to automatically recall what has been taught. Primary schoolchildren, in particular, need to memorise times ­tables, do mental arithmetic and learn to recite poems and ballads.

After citing several research studies, Hirsch concludes: "Varied and repeated practice leading to rapid recall and automaticity is necessary to higher-order problem-solving skills in both mathematics and the sciences.”

Even though Australia has one of the highest rates of classroom computer use, our results are going backwards.

A recent OECD study concludes "countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science”.

At a time when Australia’s education ministers are deciding a new school funding model after 2017, it is also vital to realise investing additional billions, as argued by the AEU and NSW’s Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, is not the solution. Australia has been down that road across 20 years and standards have failed to improve.

The debate needs to shift from throwing more money after bad, a la Gonski, to identifying the most cost-effective way to use ­resources to raise standards.

As noted by Eric Hanushek and Woessmann in The Knowledge Capital of Nations, the focus must be on "how money is spent ­(instead) of how much money is spent”.

And here the research is clear. Stronger performing education systems embrace competition, autonomy, diversity and choice in education, and benchmark their curriculum and approaches to teaching and learning against world’s best practice and evidence-based research.

Teachers set high expectations with a disciplined classroom environment, students are taught to be resilient and motivated to succeed, there is less external micro­management, and parents are ­engaged and supportive of their children’s teachers.

As argued in the Review of the Australian National Curriculum I co-chaired, it is also vital to eschew educational fads and new age, politically correct ideology and ­ensure what is taught is based on what American psychologist Jerome Bruner describes as "the structure of the disciplines”.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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