Sunday, January 01, 2017
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pretty disgusted at the poor leadership being shown by Australia's nominal conservatives
Australia should take in more Middle Eastern Christian refugees
Christian refugees from the Middle East are not just casualties of war, they are victims of targeted persecution. They are fleeing war but, unlike many other refugees, they can never go back. We are not just facing a huge geopolitical realignment in the Middle East but the expurgation of entire Christian populations in the area that gave birth to Christianity: Iraq and Syria, the ancient lands of Mesopotamia.
In Iraq, where the 1987 census estimated a Christian population of 1.4 million, the numbers have dwindled to about 200,000.
Islamic fundamentalism is the cause of this, not just the war. The war has been the means to clear all minority groups, not just Christians but Jews, Yazidis and Druze Muslims. Things were better for religious minorities, particularly Christians, under Iraq and Syria’s Baathist regimes than they will ever be again.
Meanwhile, Australia pursues a religiously “blind” immigration and refugee policy. This is all very well as a general line in a secular society that does not privilege religion. But the Middle East’s Christians are fleeing not simply war but persecution because of their religion. Like it or not, we cannot be religiously blind in our choice of refugees.
Despite this, it is almost impossible to find out how many Christians have been allowed into Australia under the refugee program. When the government announced 12,000 new places, it was assumed they would be filled largely by Christians and other minorities, but the department will not, or cannot, reveal the make-up of these people. From November last year to December 2, a total of 10,092 visas have been granted and 8317 refugees have arrived in Australia.
The announcement of an extra 12000 refugees from Syria and Iraq was generally met with approval by the population. Many Australians had no idea until the conflagration in Syria and Iraq that there were so many Christians in those countries, who were being systematically murdered and forced out of their homes.
Likewise, until the murderous so-called Arab Spring turned to bleak winter for the Copts of Egypt, that large Christian minority, estimated at about 15 per cent of Egypt’s population, was usually ignored by most the world’s media. That changed when church burnings and massacres started to take a toll. Just last Sunday, a suicide bomber massacred 24 people in a Cairo church. The lukewarm response of the Australian government came in a tweet by Malcolm Turnbull condemning the atrocities in Turkey and Egypt. About 300 Egyptian Copts have applied for and been granted asylum in Australia, but at present many are being denied despite the acknowledged atrocities and persecutions.
Even after the latest atrocity, several Egyptians are awaiting deportation. Take, for example, the case of Inas Ghobreyal, who has been given about five weeks before deportation. Inas is the mother of two children and fled Egypt after the firebombing of St George Church by a Muslim mob next to where she lived not far from Cairo. Her husband was attacked and badly assaulted. She came to Australia on a visitor’s visa four years ago, with her two girls, Clara and Marie, now 10 and 7. Recently buoyed by the stated willingness of the Prime Minister to take more Christians from the Middle East, she petitioned Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who she claims acknowledges the atrocities against the Copts but has refused her a visa. A spokesman for the Coptic Association says there appears to be inconsistency in the granting of asylum for Egyptians. He also claims the situation of the Coptics was more readily acknowledged under Labor.
The reason for this inconsistency is basically that the regime in Egypt has improved the official situation of Copts. However, as the latest massacre shows, this is not necessarily an improvement on the ground. There is a lot of suspicion that, in a country where the churches have X-ray machines to prevent explosives and weapons being smuggled in, some of the police have been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Egyptian Copts fear, with some justification, that it may not be long before they, too, are in the same position as the Syrians and Iraqis. Their fate will echo that of Christians in Palestine, the original Christians. In 1948, when Israel was founded, Christians formed more than a third of the Palestinian population. As Archbishop Fouad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, told me in 2007, “stuck between the hammer of the Israeli oppression, beaten on the anvil of Islamic fundamentalism”, Christians are now a mere 2 per cent of the Palestinian population.
Islamic fundamentalism is a scourge, even for Australia’s law-abiding Muslims. So we must ask: can Australia afford to be religiously blind in its choice of immigrants and refugees?
Terrorists exploit visa system flaws
Terrorists exploiting temporary visas pose a “rapidly evolving threat” to Australia, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has declared, as he vows to crack down on short-term migration pathways.
Mr Dutton compared the risk to the situation in Europe, where a migrant launched the most recent attack in Berlin, and said a record number of visas were being cancelled by the federal government.
Analysis shows terrorists convicted and serving sentences in Australian jails had taken advantage of the immigration system by using fake passports and spousal visas or by extending their tourist permits.
The disturbing pattern has prompted Mr Dutton to order his department to “hasten the removal of those people who no longer have a lawful basis to be in our country”, either for overstaying their visas or committing criminal offences.
The government is also spending $100 million improving visa risk assessment checks in addition to announced plans to strengthen the citizenship character test.
The warnings come as a record number of police are due to patrol celebration venues in Australian cities tonight and as a man was arrested yesterday at Sydney Airport for making threats against New Year’s Eve celebrations in Sydney, where buses will also be deployed as barriers to prevent truck attacks.
“The overwhelming majority of temporary entrants are law-abiding and welcome guests. But terrorist attacks in Europe and here show that we face significant threats from extremists and criminals who exploit temporary migration pathways,” Mr Dutton said. “This is a rapidly evolving threat to our nation’s security”.
The Weekend Australian can reveal that one of the men alleged to be behind the Christmas Day terror plot in Melbourne, Ahmed Mohamed, arrived in Australia on a tourist visa in 2001. He gained citizenship five years later. The Egyptian-born 24-year-old is one of five men charged after last week’s police raids foiled an alleged Islamic State-inspired plot to bomb Federation Square, Flinders Street Station, and a midnight service at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne on Christmas Day.
Iraqi refugee Omar Al-Kutobi, who was sentenced this month to 20 years’ jail for his role in planning a deadly attack on a person in Sydney with either a machete or a knife, arrived by plane in Australia using a fake passport in 2009 before he was granted a permanent protection visa just two months later.
The 25-year-old flew in via Hong Kong and within four years had been granted citizenship, but his sentencing hearing in the NSW Supreme Court on December 9 was told he “developed significant resentment by the time he arrived in Australia stemming from the impact of war on his family”. He was “generally unable to fulfil his aspirations while in Australia” and he became a depressed drug addict before hatching a terrorist plot.
Al-Kutobi’s co-accused and flatmate, Mohammad Kiad, 27, also exploited immigration paths when he travelled from Kuwait to Australia in 2012 on a spousal visa. The NSW Supreme Court heard Kiad’s arranged marriage did not last and he soon turned to illicit drug abuse before pledging his allegiance to Islamic State “with the misguided belief that this might give life some purpose and meaning”.
The Immigration Department has since cancelled his visa under a section 501 provision that determines the validity of visas on character grounds.
Man Haron Monis, whose attack on the Lindt Cafe in 2014 resulted in the deaths of manager Tori Johnson and mother-of-three Katrina Dawson, arrived on a one-month business visa in 1996. Within weeks, ASIO was investigating him after receiving adverse intelligence. He received welfare benefits within eight months and in 1999 ASIO returned a negative security check, but he was eventually granted a protection visa in 2000, a year before Iran notified Australia he was wanted for fraud offences but no extradition treaty existed.
Monis was granted citizenship in 2004 after his legal representatives claimed there were bureaucratic delays because he was Muslim. “Monis was given the benefit of the doubt every time, he gamed the system,” Tony Abbott said last year when a report into the failure of authorities was released last year. “The history of Man Haron Monis suggests there is a risk the system currently may lean too much towards favouring the rights of the individual as opposed to the broader interests of society as a whole.”
Abdul Nacer Benbrika, the Algerian mastermind behind a plot to bomb the MCG in 2008, was found to have extended his one-month visa twice, before being convicted of terrorism offences. The family of 15-year-old terrorist Farhad Jabar, who murdered police accountant Curtis Cheng outside the Parramatta headquarters last year, was granted a humanitarian visa after travelling from Iran in 2006.
Jabar was shot and killed by police after the attack but his radicalised sister, Shadi Jabar, 21, fled to fight for Islamic State in Syria before she was killed in a airstrike.
A Europol report, released last month, found that Islamic State had been linked to more than 100 deadly terrorist plots against the West, from countries in Europe to North America and Australia, and suggested many had entered Western countries posing as refugees. “The jihadists using the migration flows may only be ‘expendable’ footmen, while highly trained and expert operatives may be provided with genuine or false travel documents and use more sophisticated routes,” Europol found.
Anis Amri, the 24-year-old Tunisian migrant who allegedly ploughed a truck into a Berlin market this month, killing 12 people, was fighting the German government to have his asylum visa approved. The attack prompted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to call for stricter border-protection laws, telling a conference in Budapest that “every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk”.
The Europol report revealed that Islamic State established specialists teams called “Emni” in Syria “which are sent to the EU tasked with carrying out attacks”.
“It is believed that this external terrorism network began sending fighters abroad two years ago,” the report said. “At least 10 deadly attacks against Westerners have been directed or co-ordinated by this special unit dedicated to exporting terror abroad.’’
Nick O’Brien, head of Charles Sturt University’s School of Policing and Security, said there was strong evidence of people entering Western countries with intent to commit terrorist acts.
Strict classroom discipline improves student outcomes and work ethic, studies find
The debate over the relative benefits of Eastern and Western styles of school education has been kicked off again by two new studies which find evidence that strict discipline in the classroom produces better academic outcomes and a stronger work ethic in students, in results that could have implications for Australia's sliding academic performance internationally.
The lead author of both studies, associate professor Chris Baumann from Macquarie University, said the findings suggest Australian classrooms should return to the more strict discipline approach that was pushed out by "permissive" education in the 1970s.
In the newest study, "School discipline, school uniforms and academic performance", published in the International Journal of Educational Management, the researchers crunched OECD data on classroom discipline, finding that strict, high-discipline countries were the highest performing countries academically. They also found uniforms correlate with better discipline in the classroom.
"The argument does not mean that we have to be super strict, of course we have to care for our students and have a loving approach," said professor Baumann, "but it does seem that discipline has been overlooked a bit."
And the related study, "Work ethic formed by pedagogical approach", published this year in the Asia Pacific Business Review found that in all the Asian countries studied, strict discipline was a statistically significant driver of a strong work ethic, defined as a positive attitude to work.
Most Western countries are falling behind East Asian countries in education outcomes. Australia's performance in the OECD's latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results means that an average 12-year-old Korean student's maths and science problem-solving abilities are equivalent to that of an average Australian 15-year-old.
East Asian education systems are heavily influenced by the ancient Chinese tradition of Confucianism, with its emphasis on respect for elders, harmony and collective values.
In practice, this was likely to mean clear and enforced classroom rules, a focus on manners, punctuality, respect for teaching staff, consequences for poor performance or incomplete homework and an enforced dress code, professor Baumann said.
Western education, on the other hand, was less concerned with formalities, respect for teachers and collective discipline, instead focusing on the individual child.
The often-heard counter argument is that Western systems are better at promoting play, creativity, innovation and questioning authority, which might have harder-to-measure benefits. But professor Baumann is sceptical about this.
"The likely outlook is that Western countries may sooner or later aspire to a balanced pedagogic approach to education, where the playful elements remain, but discipline might be tightened up again since the successes in Asia suggest strict discipline and a focus on academic performance 'pay off', and the results of our study point in that direction."
Dr Jennifer Buckingham, education researcher from the Centre for Independent Studies, said it was important to "be cautious in making those broad comparisons when the demographics and the context is really different – it's so hard to ascribe cause and effect when there are so many other factors at play".
She suggested a key overlooked factor may be the high use of private tutoring in countries like Korea and Singapore, which could have a bigger role than the school systems in driving student outcomes.
However, "there's not much doubt that families' cultural emphasis on education is really important in terms of academic success", she said.
"The value that's placed on academic achievement that is seen in east Asian families is certainly a factor when you're looking at the demographics of selective schools [in NSW] for example."
The countries studied in the work ethic research were Australia, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Britain and the US, using surveys of at least 500 respondents per country.
Got a drone for Christmas? Don't fly it until you know the rules
Whether a beginner, a serious aviation enthusiast, or just a fan of gadgets, many of you will have received drones as Christmas gifts. Unmanned aerial vehicles have surged in popularity and affordability in recent years, and there’s no doubt that recreational drone use is on the rise as a result.
But not all recreational drone users know the law – or if they do, they don’t appear to be following it. There has been a string of near misses between drones and other aircraft, and other cases of irresponsible use.
Only last month, a recreational drone user was investigated by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) after evidently flying a drone over a crowded Bunnings carpark to pick up a sausage at a sausage sizzle.
In the runup to Christmas, UN aviation officials this month warned anyone getting a drone to make sure they learn how to operate it safely. So if Santa has brought you one, here’s what you need to know.
In Australia, if you want to fly your drone for fun, you don’t need CASA’s approval – as long as you follow the authority’s simple safety rules. Recreational drone operators must comply with CASA’s rules (known as its standard operating conditions).
You must only fly your drone within visual line of sight – that is, where you are able to see the drone with your own eyes, rather than with the help of binoculars or a telescope, for example. What’s more, you can only fly in visual meteorological conditions, which generally means no night flights.
In most Australian cities, you can only fly your drone up to a maximum altitude of 120 metres – most of this airspace is considered controlled airspace. To fly a recreational drone any higher, you must seek approval from CASA and adhere to any associated conditions.
During flight, you must keep your drone at least 30 metres from anyone who is not directly associated with its operation. The drone must also not be flown over populated areas (that is, areas that are sufficiently crowded that the drone would pose an unreasonable risk to the life, safety or property of someone present). This includes crowded beaches or parks, or sports ovals where a game is in progress.
There is a general prohibition on flying a drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property. A "hazard” may be interpreted fairly broadly. To be safe, CASA recommends keeping your drone at least 5.5 kilometres away from any airfield. Operations within that distance are allowed in some instances, as long as they are not on the approach and departure path, and would not otherwise get in the way of aircraft using the airfield.
Recreational drone users are also advised to respect personal privacy by not recording or taking photos of people without their consent. While privacy concerns are not within CASA’s purview, operators may find themselves in breach of state and territory privacy or trespass laws, depending on how and where the drone is flown, and whether audio, video or photographic footage is recorded.
As a general rule, drones cannot be flown for money or economic reward without a specific licence. There are, however, two new instances where such a certificate is not required: for commercial-like operations over your own land, and for commercial flights with very small drones (under 2kg) provided that the pilot notifies CASA at least five business days beforehand, and adheres to all the existing rules for recreational drone use.
Having considered all the rules, the Bunnings sausage sizzle incident starts to look less like a harmless jape and more like a multiple breach of the rules (although the video’s author has claimed that the video was an edited composite rather than all shot during a single flight).
The video appears to show several breaches of the rules, including: flying a drone out of visual line of sight (assuming that it is being piloted from the backyard hot tub depicted in the video); flying within 30m of people; and flying over a populated area. The operator is potentially facing a fine of up to $9000.
If you’re worried your new drone might get you into similar hot water, CASA provides significant guidance to help operators avoid infringing the rules. That way, you can make sure your high-flying gift doesn’t end up ruining your Christmas cheer.
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