Thursday, April 18, 2019

Critical Australian academic’s firing was ‘unlawful’, court finds

He dared ridicule the Global Warming messiahs in his university who said that climate change was devastating Australia's Great Barrier Reef.  He showed clear evidence that they were deceptive.  So his university was out to "get" him by hook or by crook, mostly crook.  They are now more furious  with him than ever. Liars hate being exposed

A Federal Court judge has ruled James Cook University acted unlawfully when it sacked physics professor Peter Ridd after he publicly criticised the institution and one of its star scientists over claims about the global warming impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

Professor Ridd last night welcomed the decision and called on the university’s council, its governing body, to make vice-chancellor Sandra Harding accountable for the legal defeat. “The university has broken the law. What is the university council going to do about this? The vice-chancellor has brought the university into disrepute,” he said.

In his verdict, judge Salvatore Vasta said the university’s grounds for dismissing Professor Ridd — that he breached the university’s code of conduct — were improper. He found that all 17 findings used by the university to justify the sacking were unlawful.

Judge Vasta found that a clause in the university’s enterprise agreement, which upholds academic freedom, justified Professor Ridd’s conduct. “This trial was purely and simply about the proper construction of a clause in an enterprise agreement,” he said.

Judge Vasta also said the university had misunderstood “the whole concept of intellectual freedom”. “In the search for truth, it is an unfortunate consequence that some people may feel denigrated, offended, hurt or upset,” he said.

A penalty hearing will be set for a later date.

At a three-day hearing last month, barrister Chris Murdoch, representing the university, argued Professor Ridd went beyond his right to intellectual freedom by personally attacking his colleagues, threatening to “hurt” the university and breaching confidentiality directions.

In 2016, Professor Ridd emailed a journalist to allege images given to the media by university colleagues were misleading because they showed poorly affected corals, which were selected over nearby healthy coral and used to show “broadscale decline” of reef health.

Professor Ridd claimed the use of the images was “a dramatic example of how scientific organisations are happy to spin a story for their own purposes”.

He also said his colleague Professor Terry Hughes, the head of JCU’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, would “wriggle and squirm” when asked to explain discrepancies in the images.

Professor Ridd was censured again in 2017 when he repeated the claims on Sky News.

After a third alleged violation of the code of conduct, including allegedly leaking confidential university information, Professor Ridd was sacked in April 2018.

James Cook University last night challenged Judge Vasta’s ruling in a lengthy statement from its provost, Chris Cocklin, which accused the media of inaccurate reporting on the case.

“We disagree with the judgment and maintain we have not taken issue with Dr Ridd’s nor any other employee’s rights to academic freedom,” Professor Cocklin said.

Professor Cocklin, who was involved in Professor Ridd’s disciplinary process, said the university was “considering its options” on the matter.

“We disagree with the judge’s comments and are also troubled by the fact he fails to refer to any legal precedent or case law in Australia to support his interpretation of our enterprise agreement, or academic freedom in Australian employment law,” he said.

Professor Ridd’s legal action was partially funded by conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs and a GoFundMe web page which raised $260,000 from 2500 donors.

IPA policy director Gideon Rozner said the judgment was proof that Australian universities were confronted by a “free speech crisis”.

“This judgment should rightly send shockwaves through Australian universities regarding their commitment to academic freedom and how they deal with academics who hold a contrary view to established group think,” Mr Rozner said.


Militant vegans are charged with trespassing and drug offences after they 'stormed an abattoir and a feedlot' on a national day of action

A group of militant vegans have been charged with trespassing and drug offences after they allegedly stormed an abattoir and a feedlot on a national day of action. 

A total of 11 animal rights campaigners have been accused of staging protests at the Yangan abattoir and a Millmerran feedlot in Queensland in March and early April.

The activists, who were arrested on Tuesday, are facing 18 charges.

Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker said the charges followed formal complaints from the owners of properties targeted by unauthorised protests.

'The Queensland Police Service respects the right of people to protest in a peaceful manner, however we have a duty to ensure the safety of protesters, farm workers and property owners,' he said.

'Unauthorised protests in and around farmlands and industrial areas create significant personal and workplace safety risks.'

'We will take enforcement action whenever necessary to ensure the safety of the community and to protect the rights of people to feel safe in their homes and at their place of work.'

The protests were part of a national campaign by vegans against the treatment of animals.

In March, about 150 activists stormed the Millmerran Lemontree Feedlot in March as a distressed farmer looked on. Lot feeder David McNamee later told Daily Mail Australia the vegans were threatening the safety of his livestock and family. 

About 20 animal activists allegedly chained themselves at the Yangan abattoir in early April. 


African gangs in Sydney too now

A gang of African teenagers who stormed an Optus store and tried to steal a mobile phone display knocked an elderly woman unconscious as they fled the store.

CCTV footage captured the group of up to 15 boys entering the store during the alleged attempted robbery at Casula Mall in Sydney's south-west last Friday.

The woman, 81, remains in hospital with a broken pelvis after she was bowled over by one of the boys as he sprinted towards the shopping centre exit. 

Police said Optus staff members confronted the boys after members of the group began pulling on items attached to the display by security cables.

The teenagers initially ignored staff directions to leave but were eventually ushered from the store.

Staff told police one teenager allegedly stole a watch while another attempted to steal a mobile phone but dropped it as he left.

CCTV released by NSW Police shows the group entering the shopping centre and fleeing shortly afterwards, as confused shoppers watch on and scramble to get out of their way.

It's understood the teenager who attempted to steal a mobile was caught in an altercation with a staff member and is the last to flee the centre, knocking over the innocent elderly lady in the process as shocked bystanders rush to her aid.

The teen appears to drop something as he flees the centre.

Liverpool Police are investigating the incident. 


A gusher of money for education

Mostly wrong-headed.  Expanding pre-school education, for instance, has no lasting benefit.  And both sides want "Enquiries" to find out what works.  But there is already a mountain of evidence on that.  It is just a way of kicking the can down the road

A rare breakout of peace between public and private school has changed the election outlook and shifted the campaign focus from schools to skills and training, where the choice will be between a business-based system or one focused on public TAFEs.

The spectacular $4.6 billion funding injection by the government into Catholic schools in September silenced the education sector's most powerful lobby group, and defused a long running conflict between state and independent schools.

Jennifer Buckingham said the country is at a point where there is no sector war between private and public schools. Lauren Shay

"We've reached a point where this no sector war going on," said senior research fellow at the Centre for Independent studies, Jennifer Buckingham.

"At this point we haven't got public schools squaring off against the catholic and private. That's been a feature of past campaigns. It's light-on this time."

In this election the major parties actually agree on two priorities for school education: lifting teacher performance and using evidence to change classroom practice. They’ve been out bidding each other to establish an evidence institute.

Last week’s surprise NAPLAN improvement in reading standards among year 3 and 5 students was attributed to the feedback teachers are getting in the classroom.

Businessman David Gonski, in his second review of schools, recommended an evidence institute be established and the Coalition made an extra $20 billion it was offering conditional on schools agreeing to ‘‘to drive improvements in teaching practice’’.

Labor said it will spend $280 million on an evidence institute.

In one policy difference on improving teacher performance Labor is planning to restrict entry to university teaching courses to the top 30 per cent of students. [Which will get it precisely Zero aplicants.  Smart people would not be seen dead in an Australian State school] It said it will use caps on funding if the sector does not take action quickly enough.

It will also rejuvenate the Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher program and fund extra professional development for teachers. ‘‘Teacher education is really important and it’s the one area where the federal government can act,’’ said Dr Buckingham. ‘‘I’d like to see what the Coalition has in mind. They have talked about boosting teachers in remote locations.

‘‘We want rigour in terms of teaching courses and in the quality of teaching candidates. We want people going into schools to teach who are bright and able to keep up with research on effective teaching standards."

The Grattan Institute, which will publish a comparison of school education policy this week, said raising teacher standards and an evidence institute are two of its top three priorities.

Its third priority is getting all schools to a consistent level of funding under the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). This is a reference to state government funding of public schools. Economist and school education fellow at the institute, Julie Sonnemann, said the Commonwealth needs to push state governments to lift their side of the bargain.

The Coalition said under its ‘‘Quality Schools Program’’ which consolidates the reforms of businessman David Gonski’s second review, recurrent funding for schools will grow from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $32.4 billion in 2029. That will take total funding over a decade to $307 billion, which Labor said it will beat with $322 billion.

Labor said overall in this election it will outspend the government by $10 billion, as it reinstates the ‘‘lost Gonski money’’ from the first Gonski review.

Not only has the sector reached a rare state of peace funding has reached eye-watering levels.

Labor's big education pitch is a review of the entire post-secondary education sector. The review announcement by education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek more than a year ago allowed the party to sidestep awkward questions about what it would do with trouble-plagued state-based TAFE systems.

Meanwhile the coalition struggled on for 12 months fighting criticism of falling TAFE enrolments, bad publicity about training providers and the overhang of the VET-Fee Help debacle, until it rushed out the Joyce review late last year.

Labor's Tanya Plibersek committed the party to a review of post-secondary education if it wins government. Eamon Gallagher

Labor's proposed review is meant to reset the balance between universities and TAFE which is heavily biased to universities through fee assistance for students; stabilise the erratic contribution of the states to skills training, and turn around enrolments which have been falling since 2012.

In the budget the Coalition promised more than half a billion dollars on skills and 80,000 new apprentices. "There hasn't been new investment in the vocational education and training sector for 10 years," the chief executive of TAFE directors Australia, Craig Robertson, said.

"We've had major population growth and a restructuring of the economy but we haven't had a big investment in skilling."

Labor is promising to inject $1.73 billion into skills, TAFE and apprentices. This would include $200 million to refurbish TAFE campuses plus money for 150,000 apprenticeships and 100,000 free places for TAFE students. The cost would be spread out with $1 billion in the medium term and $730 million over the forward estimates.

Ms Plibersek said she wants TAFE to be an independent system, distinct from the university sector. This disappointed some education reformers who argue the future of the tertiary sector is to bring skills the skills sector and universities closer together especially on funding for students.

Labor's post-secondary review plans have very little to say about private TAFE providers, which have taken an increasingly important role in service delivery. Private providers are not mentioned once in the review's terms of reference, although they do more 60 per cent of the teaching.

Labor's $1.73 billion goes almost entirely on the public providers. It will rely on the TAFE system to do the lifting whereas the Joyce review of training, released by the Coalition on budget night, relies on industry to take the lead.

Mr Joyce said training development and qualifications should be reshaped with input from business and a new National Skills Commission should co-ordinate the different interests of Canberra and the states.

Apart from $525 million to finance new apprenticeships the Coalition has not put money on the table for the skills sector.

The Australian Council for Private Education and Training said only $54 million of the $525 million is actually new money, which it found "very disappointing". The rest is re purposed from the Skilling Australians Fund.

Chairman of the Council Alexis Watt said Mr Joyce had a "better vision" for the sector and said Labor's 100,000 free TAFE places spread over four years was not a lot given 4 million people were enrolled in a training course last year.

On universities Labor is promising to outspend the Coalition. Tanya Plibersek has made an explicit promise to reinstate the demand-driven system to the value of $10 billion over 10 years.

The Coalition froze funding for new students in 2017 to save more than $2 billion for the federal budget. It said when the freeze ended new funding would be based on a performance driven system.

The probable new mechanism (it was due to be announced in June) would measure student attrition rates, graduate outcomes and socio-economic enrolments to set a new rate for commonwealth support. But the baseline for increases would be population growth which is running at just over 1 per cent.

Labor would return the demand-driven system to inflation indexation which the higher education program director at the Grattan Institute, Andrew Norton, predicted would give the universities 4 or 5 per cent more money for students than the coalition's performance-related cap.

There was no fundamental disagreement on the demand driven system, only on the rate of increase and how it was achieved.

"Under the Coalition the unis will get the lower of what they would get under Labor, but they will get something. The Coalition is putting fiscal concerns ahead of higher education. Labor puts higher education ahead."

"Higher education has had a good run in the last decade.  Total revenues have been strong,"

He said income from overseas students was an important contributor.

"I think any spending priorities will be around TAFE. Universities are in a stable period after a good run."

Universities' biggest criticism of the Coalition is on cuts to research funding. On budget night the Coalition finally killed the promise of a $3.9 billion research infrastructure fund which has been dangling in front of the universities since 2013.

Universities say that's on top of a Coalition cut of more than $328 million in Research Block Grants last year and falling government spending on R&D, which is now just 0.5 per cent of GDP.

Labor has promised a review of research funding and a prime minister's science and innovation council, although Leader Bill Shorten did not put a cost on these.

Labor will spend $300 million on a university infrastructure fund.

Mr Norton said both major parties are relying  on the fact research funding from the private sector is going up.

Apart from differences on the skills the big election difference is in early education.

The Australian Early Childhood Development census 2018 reported that one in five children is starting school developmentally behind their peers.

The Labor Party said it will introduce preschool education for three and four-year-olds and will fund it with $1.75 billion over four years. By contrast, the Coalition renewed funding for four-year-olds only, for one year, at a cost of $453 million.

In the weeks before the election the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia initiated a campaign to lobby for 15 hours a week of education for three and four-year-olds, fully subsidised.

The campaign was launched by the director of the Gonski Institute for Education at the University of New South Wales, Adrian Piccoli, a former education minister and National Party deputy leader.

Mr Piccoli told The Australian Financial Review two years of early childhood education should be on the election agenda.

"It's an issue of cost. It's significant for families in the 25 to 40-year age group."

"Pre-school is subsidised for children from disadvantaged families. But not for middle-income families. I would have thought there were some marginal seats in Sydney and Melbourne where cost is an issue, especially for women swinging voters."


 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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