Monday, June 11, 2018

Cairns’s Trinity Ang­lican School fought bullied-girl case — and lost

In the Bible, King Solomon advises: "Be not righteous over much" (Ecclesiastes 7:16).  The school board would have done well to follow that. It would seem that they were full of themselves.  But their conspicuous efforts to defend themseves may have paid off as demonstrating their innocence of what they were accused of.  They lost their case on a technicality, not on the facts

When Anthony Woolley and Janet Kencian were unhappy with how a top Queensland school had responded to allegations that their daughter was being bullied and ­racially abused, they wrote to the state’s top education bureaucrat.

What they had hoped for was an investigation into alleged bullying at Cairns’s Trinity Ang­lican School. They also wanted an apology for their adopted daughter Gowri, who had survived on the streets of India’s Bangalore and moved to Cairns for a better life. Instead, they were hit with a claim for defamation that has taken 5½ years to resolve and cost them about $850,000 in legal fees.

In April, a jury threw out the defamation claim launched by then principal Christopher Daunt Watney, now deputy principal of private girls’ school Queenwood, on Sydney’s north shore. The jury found Mr Daunt Watney was unlikely to sustain harm because of the circumstances in which the letter was sent.

Back in 2011, the couple, who have four adopted children, had been horrified to hear Gowri had been called a “black bitch” by other students. They allege that her sister was called a “black ­retard” at the school, which bills ­itself as the “leading independent school in far north Queensland”.

It was not part of the childhood they had imagined for Gowri, who had dazzled them with her huge smile when they met her at age nine in a crowded orphanage.

Mr Woolley and Dr Kencian, a pathologist, raised their bullying and racial-vilification concerns with the school in 2011, including at a meeting with Mr Daunt Watney. Dissatisfied with the ­response, which included an external investigation of the allegations, they wrote to the then director-general of education, Julie Grantham, the following year.

The letter, according to a 2017 appeal judgment, was five pages long and headed “Repeated and Systemic Failures of Duty of Care in response to bullying at Trinity Anglican School White Rock”. It alleged the investigator’s reports were deliberately biased and “in effect a whitewash”, and asked the ­director-general to “conduct a comprehensive and transparent investigation into what is going on at TAS”.

The letter was marked confidential and sent to one person: the director-general, who then “republished” it to one other person, the chair of the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board.

In December 2012, the couple received letters of demand from the school and the principal for $75,000 each, citing their letter of complaint. Mr Daunt Watney then filed the defamation action claiming $389,000 in ordinary and aggravated damages.

A jury first rejected the defamation claim in 2016 on the grounds the letter to the ­director-general was not defamatory. But Mr Daunt Watney — backed by the school, which funded his legal expenses — appealed against that decision.

The Queensland Court of Appeal found there had been a “perverse” result from the jury and substituted its own finding that the letter was defamatory, ordering a fresh jury trial on whether any defences applied. The period for lodging an appeal from the second jury decision has now expired but a decision has yet to be made on costs.

Mr Woolley said that although their legal ordeal was over, his daughter — now 19 and working as a pathology laboratory assistant — was yet to receive an apology from the school. “The financial and emotional distress we have endured from 5½ years of litigation against us has been extreme but our resolve to follow through on the issues we raised is undiminished,” he said.

Dr Kencian said that when the couple brought Gowri to Australia, their hope for her was simple: “to achieve her potential and to have a happy childhood.”

She said bullying was insidious. “Gowri came into our family a resilient and outgoing child who had overcome her adverse start in India and enthusiastically embraced life in our family and Australia,” she said. “But the bullying and the school’s terrible response has impacted on her and our whole family.”

Mr Daunt Watney said the legal action was launched in his name, but it was funded “entirely” by the school, and was a decision of the board. “I was the head of the school at the time,” he said. “The decision to proceed with any kind of action is not the decision of the head of the school; it’s the decision of the school board.”

He said he could not comment on whether he agreed with the decision, or argued against it.

Asked if he regretted putting the parents through the trauma of litigation, he said: “I regret the fact that the whole thing got to where it got to in the first place.”

Trinity Anglican School chairman Jason Fowler said the school was “committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all school children” and had a strict anti-bullying policy. “The school board has at all times been supportive of our former principal, Christopher Daunt Watney, and we were disappointed to learn of the ultimate outcome,” he said. “It was our belief that his good name and reputation, as a top academic leader, had been damaged.”


'Hypocritical flog!' Kyle Sandilands slams 'snowflake lefty' Waleed Aly over his anti-Kim Kardashian rant on The Project

It's about time that the media's favourite Muslim got some pushback

Kyle Sandilands has publicly berated Waleed Aly for dismissive comments he made about Kim Kardashian on Thursday night's episode of The Project.

Aly, 39, had controversially claimed the American reality TV star 'achieved nothing' by helping persuade President Donald Trump to pardon a drug-offending grandmother serving a life sentence without parole in Alabama.

On Friday's The Kyle and Jackie O Show, Sandilands unleashed on the university lecturer and Fairfax columnist for his remarks, calling him a 'hypocritical flog', a 'whinging toad', and a 'snowflake lefty'.

Kardashian met with Trump last week to ask him to give Alice Marie Johnson, 63, a presidential pardon - which he granted.

Sandilands dedicated more than two minutes of his popular breakfast show to criticising Aly, with his co-host Jackie Henderson also weighing in on the topic.

He raged: 'Kim does something good and Donald Trump pardons someone that probably really shouldn't be in jail for life... and Waleed Aly has a problem with it!'

'Because he's such a snowflake lefty, that he can't bring himself to ever say Trump did something good or Kim Kardashian did something good,' Sandilands added.

'Not everyone has to be a university graduate, up-themselves flog to be a decent person - so lay off, people!'

Sandilands continued: 'He thinks he's right with everything, this bloke. I don't mind the guy normally, but he gets on this soapbox and it p**ses me off!'

The Sydney shock jock also claimed Aly is only on TV 'flogging his own s**t' and should 'give credit where credit is due, rather than just being a whinging toad, whinging, whining, b***hing and being snowflakey.'

Henderson agreed with Kyle for most of the discussion, but insisted: 'They [The Project hosts] can have opinions, that's fair enough.' Sandilands responded sharply: 'He can have an opinion, but his opinion is stupid!'

On Thursday's The Project, Aly said that Kardashian had 'achieved nothing' by campaigning for Johnson's freedom, claiming that her actions only made the President believe he can 'do things by pardons'.

'She's actually achieved nothing. She's achieved something for one person in one case. I reckon this is awful,' Aly said. 'You now have a president who effectively thinks he can do things by pardons. That's the way he operates. 'Everything goes through him. I'll just make a decision, "You're saved, you're not. You're free, you go to hell".

'That's the way it works [but] that's the opposite of the way it's supposed to work.'

Aly's co-host Carrie Bickmore was equally unimpressed with Kim's involvement, claiming it showed the President's 'attachment to celebrity'. Bickmore said: 'I feel for all the people who have been advocating on behalf of people for years… Kim just walks in [and they decide], "OK, let her out".'

Johnson was jailed for life in 1996 for her involvement in a cocaine ring, despite having an otherwise clean record and violence not featuring in the case.

Johnson had applied for clemency during Obama's 2014 push to free non-violent drug offenders from jail, but her application was denied.

Trump met with Kardashian last week to discuss Johnson's case in the Oval Office. The White House publicly shared a picture of Kardashian and Trump, who was grinning from ear-to-ear, following the meeting.

After Trump granted Johnson freedom, Kim posted a story about her release to social media alongside the caption: 'BEST NEWS EVER!!!!'

'So grateful to [Donald Trump], Jared Kushner and to everyone who has showed compassion and contributed countless hours to this important moment for Ms. Alice Marie Johnson,' she added. 'Her commutation is inspirational and gives hope to so many others who are also deserving of a second chance.

'I hope to continue this important work by working together with organisations who have been fighting this fight for much longer than I have and deserve the recognition.'


NSW Government passes new laws making it illegal to protest outside of abortion clinics - with 150m exclusion zones to lock out 'pro-life' groups

Free speech ignored

New laws making it illegal to communicate, film or intimidate a woman near a NSW abortion clinic have been passed by the state's parliament.

The legislation, which was supported by premier Gladys Berejiklian, passed the parliament's lower house late on Thursday night after a marathon debate.

The laws, which passed the state's upper house in May, will provide a 150-metre exclusion zone around clinics and make it an offence to film staff and patients without their consent.

Ms Berejiklian was supported by Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro and a host of other government MPs in a debate that transcended partisan politics.

Mr Barilaro told parliament he had visited an abortion clinic with a young woman 27 years ago, and spoke of the fear and anxiety the experience provoked. 'When you actually attend you're scared, the fear is already inside you,' Mr Barilaro said. 'By the time we arrived at the clinic, it was too late to change our mind.'

He said he did not want his daughters to ever have to be accosted by protesters if they needed to go through the same experience.

A notable opponent of the bill was Minister for Women Tanya Davies, who said the laws didn't distinguish between sharing information and harassment.

'I believe that the bill will be counterproductive to the object of women having choice by denying support and informed choice to vulnerable women when they need it the most,' Ms Davies said.

'I believe the penalties imposed by the bill are excessive, disproportionate and out of step with comparative legislation in NSW.'

Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence Pru Goward, a former sex discrimination commissioner, also voted against the bill. She said it was an attack on freedom of speech.

'My position I know will please no one, but it is the position of my conscience,' Ms Goward told a near-empty lower house chamber on Thursday evening.

Others argued giving women the freedom to access medical clinics without being harassed was not curtailing free speech.

'We are simply setting boundaries around places where women are undergoing some of the most difficult experiences of their lives,' Labor MP Jenny Aitchison told parliament.

Labor MP and architect of the bill Penny Sharpe said the parliament had taken a 'small but important step' to give women in NSW safe access to medical treatment.

'I'm pleased and relieved that MPs across the political divide have supported the bill. A terrific day for women in NSW,' Ms Sharpe told AAP in a statement.

Outside parliament earlier in the day, reproductive rights activists and health professionals joined anti-abortion protesters to voice their opinions.

Marie Stopes Clinic nurse unit manager Kitty Grozdich supports the bill and said she, her staff and patients were often subject to harassment on their way into the clinic.

'There is a woman who is standing about 20 metres from me right now, and last week she told me that I'm going to hell,' Ms Grozdich told reporters.

'She says that she prays for me. I don't need her prayers, I just need her to go away.'


$8bn road charging plan could backfire

A PLAN to radically change the way motorists pay for using the road, which could cost drivers more than $8bn a year, has failed in other countries and could fail in Australia, experts have warned.

There are also fears road charging, essentially ditching fuel excise and rego in favour of tolls you can’t avoid, may hurt the hip pockets of those who can afford it least.

This week, Julieanne Alroe, the Chair of Infrastructure Australia (IA), the government body that advises on major infrastructure projects, said road charging was now “essential” because taxes levied on car drivers could soon dry up.
Road charging would see motorists charged depending on when and where they used the roads.

Road charging would see motorists charged depending on when and where they used the roads.Source:istock

“The current regime is through fuel excise and registration but if you are an electric vehicle you’re effectively not charged for the use of the road,” she said on Monday at the AFR National Infrastructure Summit, held in Sydney.

Every time a motorist fills up, a proportion of the cost goes to the government in the form of fuel excise. The proportion of revenue generated by fuel excise has been falling as cars become more fuel efficient. The take up of electric vehicles, that don’t fill up but charge up, could kill off the revenue stream entirely.


“As an electric vehicle driver I have not been near a petrol station for 12 months and have saved a lot of money,” said Ms Alroe.

In its Making Reform Happen report, IA said that drivers should be directly charged for their road usage: “A reformed charging framework for roads would see all existing taxes and fees removed and replaced with direct charging that reflects each users own consumption of the network including the location, time and distance of travel.”

By 2047, road charging could cost motorists as much as $8.5bn and add $36.5bn to GDP. But all the money raised should be ring fenced for road projects, said IA.

Infrastructure Australia said the new tax method was needed because electric cars won’t pay fuel excise given they don’t use petrol.

Philip Davies, IA’s Chief Executive, said push-back from motorists was inevitable.

“It’s a hard conversation with the community (to have) but there will be a crisis down the track. Our income in terms of paying for road infrastructure is declining so we need a new model and now is a good time to start before the crisis comes.”

However, tolls aside, road charging has been only rolled out in a very few cities and the results have been mixed.

London is the most well-known example. There a daily congestion charge of A$20 is levied on every car that enters a 21km² zone in the CBD during the day on weekdays.

Introduced 15 years ago, it initially reduced traffic in Central London, reducing air pollution and making more room for cyclists and buses, as well as bringing in hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue for the city’s government. But some of the gains are now being eroded.


David Franks, the CEO of Australian-French transport company Keolis-Downer, was in London when the congestion charge was introduced.

“The plan was to take cars off the road, and it did that initially, but over the longer-term people have got used to it and have come back so vehicles are now at a level not much different to before the charge. What it did do is generate a lot of additional revenue,” he said.

Writing on The Conversation, Nicole Badstuber, a researcher in urban transport governance at University College London, said vehicle levels in London were around 25 per cent less than a decade ago.

“But while car numbers are down, the number of private for hire vehicles — your cabs and Ubers — is up,” she said.

“Trips by taxi and private for hire vehicle as the main mode of the journey have increased by 29.2 per cent since 2000. Today, more than 18,000 different private hire vehicles enter the congestion charging zone each day, with peaks on Friday and Saturday nights.”

These vehicles are exempt from the congestion charge so are contributing nothing to London’s transport budget, and revenue from the levy has flatlined.

The influx of Ubers has had other effects. Clogging up streets, they were slowing buses down which, in turn, had led to fewer passengers opting for public transport.

Asked at the conference if there was anywhere road charging had been proven to work, Liesbet Spanjaard, a partner at Deloitte, said “Not really (and) there haven’t been too many cities where it’s been in for a long time.”

Ms Spanjaard said Australia needed to have a clear idea what it wanted to achieve before introducing the charge.

“What are the key outcomes you’re trying to address through road charging? One is around revenue stream but others are emissions and safety (or) to change demand or change the profile of vehicle.”


Any future road charging plan in Australia could look to Stockholm, that has changed from a flat rate fee to progressive charges, she said.

It was an example also raised by Ms Badstuber: “Inspired by cities such as Stockholm, the (London citywide government) has recommended … replacing the daily flat rate with a charging structure which would reflect when and where drivers enter the zone and how much time they spend there.

“In Stockholm, the zone covers 35km², capturing two-thirds of the city’s residents in a scheme with varying charge levels depending on the time of the day.”

There was also a fairness issue with road charging. Right now, motorists can avoid tolls. In the future, a driver could be charged the second their tyre hit the tarmac. And those charges might be the same regardless of income level.

“The problem with the tolling system is that the last beneficiary, who has often had the most impact of congestion, has to pay — and that’s a fairness issue that we’re not willing to talk about,” Business Council of Australia head Jennifer Westacott said on Monday.

Whatever form it takes, road charging is on the agenda. Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, said: “We need to look at new way of doing things. We are looking at pricing at the moment”.


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

1 comment:

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