Monday, August 07, 2017

Australian Medical Association misleading on gay marriage

A former senior Australian Medical Association official has lashed out at the peak medical body’s campaign for same-sex marriage, accusing it of using false and misleading information in claiming the reform was a public health issue.

Dr Chris Middleton, a former president of the Tasmanian AMA, has joined with five AMA members in penning a 15-page report savaging the credibility of the national body’s Position Statement on Marriage Equality.

Dr Middleton, who was inducted in the AMA Roll of Fellows in 2011, renounced his life membership of the body and was critical of its process to adopt a position in favour of gay marriage, saying the membership was not consulted.

The gastroenterologist, who does not support same-sex marriage, expects hundreds of doctors to join the renegade group in opposing the AMA’s position. Dr Middleton’s report will be sent to federal MPs this weekend.

“The position statement has very little to say about medicine and was little more than a politically motivated, ideologically-driven opinion piece which is dressed up as evidence-based health policy,” Dr Middleton said.

“The AMA speaks with great authority and because of that I am so disappointed. “In other position statements they have gone into it in a detailed way, there has been a rigorous dispassionate, careful, sober and professional analysis of all of the arguments for and against and usually what you get is a very thoughtful outcome.”

Dr Middleton’s report was scathing of the AMA for its “demonstrably false” claim that children raised by gay parents do not suffer poorer psychological health than children who are raised by their biological mother and father.

The report also said the AMA defended this claim by refusing to acknowledge peer-reviewed research which countered its position.

“Decades of research have confirmed that children do best, on average, when raised by their married biological mother and father,” the report said.

“By denying publicly that there is any such evidence of detriment to children, while admitting privately that there is, the AMA has misled the public on a crucial aspect of the marriage debate and must be held to account.”

Dr Middleton said yesterday the AMA “suppressed evidence” that didn’t suit its position.

“You would never be able to get away with this is medical literature, leaving out critical references because those references don’t suit your narrative,” he said.

Dr Middleton said the AMA also provided “feeble” evidence for its assertion that legalising same-sex marriage would improve the health of gay people and give them better access to healthcare.

“The evidence quoted in their statement is far too weak to support the claims. One of these claims used the Sydney Morning Herald (as its evidence). This is a medical body making a serious politically persuasive claim based on an article in a newspaper,” he said.

AMA national president Michael Gannon said that doctors had “overwhelmingly” supported the body’s change in policy. He said the AMA had not suppressed any information.

“There is no lack of diligence by individuals federal councillors in deciding how we arrived at the position statement,” he said.


Why the hokum about rape on campus?

The appetite for campus panics is becoming insatiable. In the UK and the US, numerous surveys revealing a high level of sexual harassment at university have gained international attention.

In keeping with this trend, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has this week released a long-awaited report on campus sexual assault. And even before the data was announced, commentators were excitedly predicting the outcome of the report. ‘A wave of victims are expected to come forward following the release of the world’s largest report into sexual assault on campus’, claimed the Sydney Morning Herald. The Australian predicted ‘an influx of historical disclosures of sexual assault and harassment’ as a result of the study. The results of the report were ‘predicted to be damning’, said the Canberra Times.

Commentary on the report was indeed damning. ‘Australia has a sexual-assault problem’, said ABC. ‘Half of all students were sexually harassed in 2016’, claimed the Guardian. ‘One in five university students experience some form of sexual harassment’, wrote the Australian. But, as with so many reports on campus sexual assault, the panicky headlines don’t reflect the reality.

According to the report, 51 per cent of students were sexually harassed on at least one occasion in 2016 (including ‘incidents which took place off campus’), and 21 per cent of students were sexually harassed in a ‘university setting’ (including an ‘off-campus event organised, or endorsed, by the university’, as well as ‘technology-based harassment’). The AHRC survey that informed the report was filled out by 30,000 students – just over two per cent of the student population, according to Universities Australia data on 2017 student numbers.

Furthermore, the AHRC also admits that much of the success of the report is down to the work of advocacy organisations. ‘This report comes after years of advocacy by survivors of sexual assault… to raise public awareness of the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities’, said sex-discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins. The report even admits this bias on page 226, in a section called ‘caveats’.

But alarm bells really start to ring once you look into what is classified as ‘sexual harassment’. The three most common forms of sexual harassment students recorded were: ‘inappropriate staring or leering that made you feel intimidated’ (32 per cent); ‘sexually suggestive comments or jokes that made you feel offended’ (19 per cent); and ‘intrusive questions about your private life or physical appearance that made you feel offended’ (14 per cent). No sensible person would classify staring, making jokes or asking rude questions as sexual harassment.

In fact, the students who filled out the AHRC’s survey didn’t even consider such behaviour serious enough to report it. Sixty-eight per cent of students ‘did not make a formal report or complaint… because they did not think their experience was serious enough’, and 53 per cent ‘did not think they needed help’. If the study proves anything, it’s that female students don’t need or want universities to act as their protectors.

There is a morbid fascination with sexual harassment on campus. This is despite the fact that there has never been any credible evidence to suggest that female students at Western universities are in danger. Why would there be? Anyone who has visited a campus in the US, UK, or indeed Australia, will be able to tell you that universities aren’t hotbeds of harassment. So why is there this desire to portray campus as a dangerous place for women?

Contemporary feminism has a big problem with women’s autonomy. Feminists have given up on the idea that women should be trusted to be as strong and capable as men. A victim mentality engrained in identity politics has convinced them that women are an underprivileged group, even though all the evidence shows that female university students perform better than their male counterparts, and that the majority do not experience sexual harassment. Rather than dealing with reality, feminists seek to convince young women that the stupid joke a guy tells them at the bar is more than just an awkward encounter – it’s sexual harassment.

This not only terrifies young women, it also infantilises them. The most worrying part of the AHRC survey is its call for universities to do more. The report’s ‘recommendations’ include compulsory consent classes and new regulations to police interaction between the sexes. It even suggests, a la 1950s-style dorm-policing, a review of ‘the level and nature of supervision in a 24-hour residential setting in which large numbers of young people are living away from home’. Implementing such changes would effectively reinstate in loco parentis rules on campus, which would treat women like children who need to be watched and protected.

Those who believe they are fighting for equality by scaremongering about sexual harassment should think again. It only serves to undermine women’s freedom. Past battles for equality weren’t won on the basis of victimhood. Instead, women demanded that their strength and capability be recognised by society. Giving these hard-won freedoms away by inviting the campus authorities to meddle in women’s personal lives would be an insult to the history of women’s liberation. More than that, it would be an insult to all women.


Smart money should go to teach the teachers

Analysing the latest NAPLAN test can be an exercise in frustration. No jurisdiction improved its mean score in any assessment domain from 2016 to 2017. The only break in the statistical monotony was a drop in Year 3 writing scores in South Australia.

Extending the comparison back further gives more reason for hope.

There have been big gains in Years 3 and 5 reading and in Year 5 numeracy in several states and territories since the tests began in 2008, but progress is patchy in other areas, especially writing.

The states and territories that have made the most important gains since 2008 are Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. While it is difficult to pinpoint why, it is reasonable to assume sustained incremental improvements are because of better teaching. There are sizeable pockets of schools in each of these jurisdictions that have embraced explicit instruction, especially in phonics, and have seen their ­NAPLAN scores rise as a result.

The NT Year 3 reading results are especially pleasing. There was a non-statistically significant dip this year, but this was after an upward trajectory in previous years.

Secondary school is a different story. It is a struggle to find any improvement in any area in Years 7 and 9 in any state or territory over the lifetime of NAPLAN.

To some extent this is to be expected: achievement in literacy and numeracy in high school is highly dependent on foundations laid in primary school. Hopefully, improvements in primary will soon flow through, but these gains will be lost if students do not continue to get high-quality teaching.

This year’s NAPLAN data show there is no straightforward relationship between school funding and students’ achievement. There have been substantial funding increases to all states and territories since NAPLAN began, particularly since the “Gonski” funding model began three years ago, but only some states have improved, and only in some areas.

The evidence that extra money has contributed to higher achievement is far from clear. It is well-­established that teaching is the greatest in-school influence on student achievement.

Once high-quality teaching has been established, good teaching costs no more than poor teaching. This is partly why it is difficult to find a consistent causal association between the size of the education budget and results.

Improving results requires schools to use evidence from the best multidisciplinary research on how children learn and the most effective way to teach them. If increased spending is not invested in making sure all teachers have this knowledge and expertise, then it is destined to be wasted.


CFMEU has disgraceful law-breaking record, Federal Court finds

The Federal Court has slammed the construction union’s “disgraceful” and “woeful” record of law-breaking, imposing a $300,000 penalty for unlawful strikes at three Queensland projects, including the state’s children’s hospital.

Handing down penalties today over the unlawful industrial action by 600 workers, a full court of the federal court found the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union was a recidivist which continued to “thumb its nose” at industrial laws.

“No penalties that have been imposed in the past have appeared to reduce its willingness to breach the law,’’ the full court said.

It noted evidence of schedules of prior cases involving the CFMEU “that on any view reveal a lamentable, if not disgraceful, record of deliberately flouting industrial laws”.

The court also imposed a $130,000 penalty on the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, findings its members participated in unlawful action at two of the projects.

“The other significant difference between the CFMEU and the CEPU is that the CEPU’s prior record of contraventions against industrial laws is not nearly as woeful as the CFMEU’s record.

The CFMEU was party to contraventions by 165 workers at the Children’s Hospital project, 260 workers at the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre, and 180 workers at the Queensland Institute of Research.

The unlawful strikes occurred over three days in May 2011 and came as the unions were engaged in a broader campaign against sham contracting in the construction industry.

The unions admitted the contravention and did not dispute that penalties should be imposed.

Court action over the strikes was initiated under the previous federal Labor Government in May 2013.

At the time, the building regulator and the CFMEU filed an agreed statement of facts that said penalties of $105,000 against the CFMEU and $45,000 against the CEPU were appropriate. The statement of claim did not specify how many workers were involved.

Following several court cases including High Court proceedings, the regulator submitted that the appropriate penalty for the CFMEU was between $180,000 to $205,000 and $70,000 to $90,000 for the CEPU.

“One wonders how it was that the Commissioner was originally prepared to agree to and actively advocate penalties that were clearly well below the very bottom of the ranges that, following remittal, were said to be appropriate. That puzzle remains unanswered,’ the court said today.

It found that “about the only thing that could be said in favour of the CFMEU, other than that the conduct was related to genuine concerns about sham contracting, is that it co-operated with the commissioner in relation to these proceedings by admitting the contraventions and reaching agreement in relation to the facts”.

“It is, however, doubtful in all the circumstances that the CFMEU’s co-operation with the regulator could really be said to demonstrate contrition or remorse,’’ it said.

“In some respects the co-operation reflects nothing more than an acceptance of the inevitable. The CFMEU did not adduce any evidence of contrition or remorse. Indeed, there was not even an expression of contrition or remorse in its submissions.

“There was no evidence from which it could be inferred that the CFMEU intended to change its ways. There was certainly no suggestion, let alone evidence, to the effect that the CFMEU intended to set up any systems, processes, procedures or education to ensure that its officers did not encourage unlawful industrial action in the future.”

ABCC Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss said the decision reflected a pattern of unlawful behaviour on Australian construction sites.

“The CFMEU and CEPU intentionally organised a halt to work on critical taxpayer-funded projects including a new Children’s Hospital and a medical research facility,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

“The ABCC will continue to investigate and act on unlawful conduct in the industry, especially where it impacts major public infrastructure.

“We are committed to bringing to an end the flagrant disregard for the law shown by certain elements of the building industry, whether employers, employees or unions.”


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


Paul said...

Why does the AMA even have to have an opinion? Its a social issue for heaven's sake, not a medical issue. Why do they think they have to weigh in on everything as though they are some kind of divine authority? Will they recommend a colour for my next car as well?

Rogelio said...

The most recent, peer reviewed research would appear not to be in agreement with Dr. Middleton. Unfortunately, most people arrive at an emotional position and only then attempt to cognitively justify said position.