Friday, July 27, 2018


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is looking forward to a Labor party loss at the by-elections this weekend

Union tells school principals: Back ALP


The Victorian branch of the education union is calling on school principals to flout departmental policy by helping it promote the Labor state government ahead of the November election. In a letter to principals last week, AEU Victorian branch president Meredith Peace praised the Andrews government for its progress towards "truly making" Victoria an "education state", while suggesting the Liberal opposition had made no significant commitments to education so far.

Ms Peace said one did not have to look too far to see examples of how Liberal governments - state and federal - had "penalised public education". "As principals, you are in a unique position to help this conversation flourish in your school community," Ms Peace said. "This will be a big term with everything to play for. The future of public education is at stake, but I know that when we work together we make a formidable team." Under the Department of Education and Training's politcal activities policy, employees of the Victorian teaching service have a right to freedom of association, including joining a trade union, however they must ensure that political activities do not create a conflict of interest with their official duties. Principals and teachers are permitted to conduct political activities outside of working hours, provided they are clearly undertaken in a private capacity, and must apply for a leave of absence if they wish to conduct political activities in working hours.

They are not, however, permitted to solicit students to become agents of any organisation, including a union.  In addition, the Education Department this month released information for schools about caretaker conventions and obligations for all staff, which include guidelines to ensure the public service remains politically neutral during the caretaker period leading up to the state election. During that period, which is expected to run from October 30 until the November 24 election, employees "must not use their position to support particular issues,  parties or candidates in an election campaign".

Ms Peace declined to comment about her plea to principals, which comes as the union is waging a nationwide campaign over funding for public schools ahead of the state and federal elections. In her letter she warned that polling was close and it was "unclear whether the Andrews government will be returned to office". Opposition education spokesman Tim Smith yesterday accused the union of "trying to politicise classrooms".

Article not previously online.  Appeared in "The Australian" of July 26. p. 5.

Dutton signals pullout from UN migrant deal


Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has declared the Australian government will not sign up to a major UN agreement on migration "in its current form" despite the fact Australia helped negotiate the deal. The Australian revealed this week that the Turnbull government had left open the door to withdrawing from the Global Compact for Migration, which so far only the US and Hungary have failed to sign.

Some conservatives such as Eric Abetz and One Nation's Pauline Hanson believe Australia should quit the deal, and Senator Abetz said the government should be "robust" in "defending our gold-standard border protection policies". "Why we give tens of millions of taxpayers' money to the UN for these feel-good exercises that end up criticising ourselves is beyond me," he told The Australian.

But Mr Dutton's suggestion that Australia might not sign up has infuriated the Greens and refugee advocates. "Now (Peter Dutton is) threatening to deconstruct international co-operation on migration," Greens immigration spokesman Nick McKim said. "There are no depths Dutton will not trawl to try to make race and refugees into election issues and pander to Hanson's supporters."

Labor has so far refused to take a position on whether Australia should sign the agreement in the lead-up to this weekend's by-elections. Opposition immigration and border protection spokesman Shayne Neumann said the UN compact was a matter for the government of the day, and Labor MPs who have been vocal on other asylum-seeker matters declined to comment when contacted by The Australian.

While the US dropped out in December, the government of Hungary's anti-immigration nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced last week the country would also quit the pact.

Asked on 2GB by Alan Jones whether Australia would sign up to the agreement, Mr Dutton said "Not in its current form. We've been very clear about that.  And we're not going to surrender our sovereignty. I'm not going to allow unelected bodies to dictate to us, to the Australian people ... They do not want us to go soft on borders."

UN member states, led by Mexico and Switzerland and including Australia, helped negotiate the UN compact. Former Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg said Australia had been advocating for a new global migration compact since 2014 and signing would be important for Australia to maintain its "middle power credibility".

Article not previously online.  Appeared in "The Australian" of July 26. p. 7.


The fruits of his controversial private talks with Putin may become clearer before long


Was it all really about Iran? One of US President Donald Trump's worst stylistic weaknesses is that he is either expressing contempt, sometimes blatant and sometimes wearing the thinnest disguise, or he is expressing lavish and at times absurd praise. His bizarre tweets and rambling press conferences make interpretation of him very difficult.

But this should not remotely lead us to think that Trump is a fool. He is astonishingly ignorant about some aspects of international affairs and history. But he is also plainly very smart. As John Lee argued on this page yesterday, Trump alone is not the measure of America. Still, he is the President of the most powerful nation in the world, and our indispensable ally, and we need to try to understand what he does.

The two hours with Vladimir Putin without officials present were ridiculous in terms of any-thing remotely resembling good process, but nonetheless they may have had a real purpose. Perhaps the international statesman with the biggest influence on Trump is Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu. He is a tough guy like Trump would like to be, he is supported by almost all of Trump's supporters in the US and he flatters Trump shrewdly and effectively.

In Syria, the Western interest is the same as the Israeli interest -to end the wholesale bloodshed, to keep out the worst of the Islamist jihadists, to restore some semblance of stability and to limit the influence of Iran and Hezbollah. These aims constitute the strategic interests of Israel; they also constitute the basic aims of human decency in Syria. The civil war in Syria has been a humanitarian catastrophe, with perhaps 400,000 dead and six million people displaced. All the main actors have behaved at times with shocking, indiscriminate cruelty.

However, it is now clear that Bash-ar al-Assad has effectively won. And the most important strategic reason for this is Russian intervention. Assad has been guilty of shocking war crimes in Syria. However, at the time the Arab Spring broke out, by the standards of Arab dictators, Assad was not particularly bad. He was no democrat and had no respect for human rights, but minorities lived peaceably in Syria, the place was stable internally and on its borders, economic development was proceeding slowly. Syrian expats in Australia and elsewhere could go visit without being in fear of their lives.

It is a doleful reflection, these several years later, that the US in-tervention in Syria has been fitful and pretty well ineffective. A lot of outside forces have intervened, including the Turks, the Iranians, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Russians.

Now, I think that crew of creepy right-wingers in the US and Australia who think Putin is a great friend of Western civilisation are just about crazy. Putin has destroyed Russian civil society and engaged in serious international crimes, including supporting unspeakable atrocities in Syria and, incidentally, authorising his proxies to shoot down an innocent civilian plane carrying 298 people including 38 Australians. But in strategic policy, in the real world, the choice is often between the evil and the even more evil. Russia's presence in Syria may have produced something somewhat less horrible than its absence would have produced.

Look at the other main actors in Syria - Islamic State, Iran, Hezbollah. They are all worse for humanity in Syria, and worse for Western interests, than Russia has been. For whatever its many sins, Moscow has played the role in Syria that the West once played in troubled countries - it has restored order.

It is an open question whether the West can ever again effectively intervene in a hot civil war anywhere with its own troops. In the end, the West is too morally fastidious to be effective. It can intervene now only by proxy. Russian motivation in Syria is not inscrutable. It wants to keep its one remaining important ally from the Cold War days, namely Damascus. It wants to show that being its ally carries strategic benefit. It wants to keep its port in Syria. And perhaps beyond even all that, Russia wants to be as near as it can to a peer strategic competitor with the US.

It can never really be that. Its economy is only about the size of Australia's. But it wants to compete with the US, to be a big power internationally and to be strategically impossible to ignore. It has achieved all those objectives in Syria.

Having done that, Moscow is being quite careful about respecting Israel's interests. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Israel a few days ago and offered the Israelis an agreement under which Moscow would keep Iranian forces at least 100km away from Israel's border. Jerusalem naturally wants Iran and Hezbollah out of Syria and it certainly doesn't want them on its Syrian border. The potential for a very big military clash on the Israel-Syria border remains quite strong, and only yesterday the Israelis "shot down a Syrian war-plane that had flown into their air-space but was probably aiming at regime enemies within Syria.

Putin, a little like Trump, seems to respect Israeli strength. Muslims within the Russian Federation give him nothing but trouble and his co-operation with Iran is entirely tactical. And although Russia has a capable, indeed powerful, military, by the standards of the old Soviet Union it is not particularly big.

Moscow wants to keep its strategic gains in Syria with a minimum of continued military engagement. That means avoiding the enormous danger and complication that any clash, even an accidental one, with Israeli forces in southern Syria would inevitably bring.

Meanwhile, for the Trump administration reducing Iranian influence is a key strategic objective. In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech explicitly asking for Australia's support against Iran. At the AUSMIN press conference this week, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis again spent time denouncing Iran.

The Trump administration is right to repudiate the pathetically weak deal Barack Obama did with Iran. Trump wants to enforce the red lines Obama once had for Iran - no uranium enrichment, no ballistic missiles and so on. Canberra should support this.

Given renewed US sanctions, there is no prospect for big Australian trade with Iran. Similarly, there is no prospect of Iran taking back failed illegal immigrants from Australia. Now that we are not running operations in Syria, there is no need to deconflict our forces from Iran's forces there. Canberra is therefore in a bit of a policy paralysis regarding Iran. Trump does good as well as bad. We should explicitly and publicly support US policy on Iran.

Article not previously online.  Appeared in "The Australian" of July 26. p. 12.

Letting kids be kids: Schools remove the cotton wool and encourage pupils to take risks when they play - and the benefits are stunning

Public schools are giving students the opportunity to build resilience by adopting the 'anti-cotton wool' approach.

Schools across Perth are letting students zip around on bikes and scooters, slide down ramps in crates and climb trees.

There is believed to be many benefits to the approach, resulting in more focus in the classroom, ABC reports.

Schools that encourage physical activity say that the students are happier and healthier, and are able to play more creatively and cooperatively.

With the current 'obesity epidemic' and children being captivated by screens, schools are hoping to get children out and about on the playground.

Honeywood Primary School in Perth's south has implemented weekly 'Wheels on Wednesday', where students are allowed to bring scooters, bikes and skates to school.

As long as students follow conditions of wearing a helmet and having signed permission from parents, they're allowed to ride around the school grounds during recess and lunch.

Principal of the school Maria Cook said that the program was very popular with both parents and the students.

'We've had kids who hadn't been able to progress past their trainer wheels suddenly being able to go without training wheels, because they get lots of practise just riding around this one-way track,' she said.

Ms Cook believes that teaching the kids to manage some risk is positive and thinks that 'cocooning' them isn't a good idea.

There are also trampolines at the school that they encourage the students to use, allowing them to do flips and tricks.

The program is teaching students to be active and improves their skills while having fun with their friends.

Ms Cook also said that the children head back to class focused and ready to learn due to using lots of energy.

West Greenwood Primary School in Perth's north is another school that has implemented the 'anti-cotton wool' approach.

The school has introduced a program called 'Loose Parts', where students have the ability to use their creativity with items such as milk crates, giant wooden spools and timber.

Principal Niel Smith said that nature play is highly important and the school wanted to do something that was 'slightly different and cost effective'.

'We encourage students to be creative, to take risks, to analyse those risks. We've got kids building pulley systems, climbing trees, making swings, see-saws,' he said.

They ensure that the children are being safe by teaching them to analyse risks.

The program has proven to work well, as teachers are seeing an increase in students' cooperative skills, teamwork, sharing and negotiation.

Due to the program keeping children busy, students are less likely to make a fuss complaining about injury and they're becoming more resilient.

He has also opened up a creative space for children with interest in art, creating a mural wall for the kids to create artworks with chalk. 

Researcher from the University of Western Australia, Karen Martin, said that the 'anti-cotton wool' trend is a positive.

She believes that society became too over-protective of young children.

It's important for the children that don't do too much physical activity outside of school to have that active time on the playground during school.

'I think what's happened is we've started to realise that wrapping kids up in cotton wool isn't beneficial for them at all,' Ms Martin said.


Trump's top men hail US-Australia ties as `rock solid' in meeting with Julie Bishop

DONALD Trump's senior representatives hailed the ties between the US and Australia as "rock solid" during talks with Julie Bishop in California.

"The US and Australia both know we can rely on each other," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

He and Defence Secretary James Mattis told of America's desire for a stable and free Indo-Pacific and said the US will not push Australia to conduct freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea.

There have been questions about America's commitment to Australia and Pacific allies since the election of Mr Trump, who has spoken out against allies and was a highly reluctant supporter of Australia's asylum-seeker deal.

Mr Pompeo and Mr Mattis wrapped up two days of AUSMIN (Australia-US Ministerial Consultations) with Australia's Foreign Minister Ms Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne at California's Stanford University on Tuesday.

"The US and Australia will walk the walk in the Indo-Pacific," Mr Mattis said. The general, however, said it was up to Australia if it embarked on freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea where China has constructed and militarised islands. "That's a sovereign decision by a sovereign state," he said.


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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