Thursday, October 24, 2019

Preschool is accused of 'manipulating' kids by encouraging them to petition for the Aboriginal flag to be raised permanently on the Harbour Bridge

Preschool staff have been accused of manipulating three-year-olds who are petitioning to have the Aboriginal flag flown permanently on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

Children aged three to five at Kelly's Place Children's Centre in Crows Nest on Sydney's North Shore have been supporting a petition by Aboriginal activists since early this year.

They have been walking up and down station platforms and sitting outside their houses to get as many signatures as possible.

Last month the children visited the NSW state parliament and presented their signatures to Labor leader Jodi McKay who supports the idea.

More than 120,000 have signed the petition started by activist Cheree Toka - but many do not approve of children getting involved.

Respected child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said they are being used by their teachers.  'These children do not even have the cognitive ability to understand what a petition is,' he told the Daily Telegraph.

Referencing 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg's speech at the UN last month, he added: 'I think the idea of roping children into political campaigns seems to be in vogue. Children should not be used as props.'

Institute of Public Affairs executive director John Roskom agreed, saying the children are 'being manipulated by adults in positions of responsibility for the adults' own political purposes'.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said she was 'deeply concerned' that young children were being politicised. 

A spokesman for the preschool denied that the children were being used and said the idea to support the petition came from the youngsters themselves.

He said: 'One of the children noticed there was no Aboriginal flag on the Harbour Bridge and said that was disrespectful.

'He was four-and-a-half at the time and came in and told the other children that was disrespectful.'

'They went through the process of learning who to speak to - and they achieved what they wanted. They were incredibly empowered by their abilities.'


Conservative politician had to take order out against stalker during election campaign

Liberal MP Nicolle Flint was forced to take a police order out against a stalker who followed her campaign events with a “zoom lens camera” and pursued her online launching personal attacks on his social media pages.

The 41-year-old, targeted by GetUp, the unions and Labor at the May 18 election, has also outlined the “sexist” harassment and intimidation tactics used against her during the campaign including the defacement of her campaign vehicle and office.

In a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiry into the federal election, the South Australian MP detailed personal safety fears and efforts to seek protection.

Attorney-General Christian Porter and leading conservative Kevin Andrews — also targeted by GetUp — also provided JSCEM submissions attacking GetUp’s “misleading” and “defamatory” tactics.

Outlining the personal attacks against her, Ms Flint revealed the windows of her campaign office were targeted with posters plastered with abuse including “skank”, “$60/hour” and “Blow & Go”. Her office was also egged.

Ms Flint’s submission described the campaigns targeting her as “well-coordinated, well-resourced and unrelenting”.

But the most serious incident involved an alleged stalker who would “appear frequently when I was at events and when I was campaigning, always with his zoom lens camera”.

“Posts about me on his social media pages appeared almost daily, as did his engagement on other sites aimed at unseating me,” Ms Flint said.

“As I often campaign alone and would not know when he would appear, this became a serious personal safety issue. Because I was driving a branded campaign vehicle I was highly visible and I was very concerned he would find out where I lived.

Ms Flint said she did “everything I could to stop his behaviour”.

“I confronted him and asked him to stop following me, photographing me and harassing me, which seemed to embolden him,” she wrote.

“I reported his behaviour to the Australian Federal Police, who confronted him, but this also failed to stop him.”

As the incidents escalated and the stalker’s “social media posts became more concerning”, the Boothby MP was encouraged by colleagues to report the matter to the South Australian Police.

“The South Australian Police took the matter seriously and issued a stalking order for my protection.”

In August, Scott Morrison attacked GetUp, Labor and the unions over the tactics used to unseat Ms Flint, saying they should be “ashamed of what they did to Nicolle Flint in Boothby” and accused them of “misogyny and bullying”.

Ms Flint said many voters “recognised and criticised the tactics used by GetUp, the unions and Labor”, citing comments in The Advertiser which described their behaviour as “dirty” and “grubby”.

She warned the JSCEM committee that similar campaign behaviour at future elections could “risk the safety of candidates and sitting MPs”.

“This will harm our democracy. If candidates and Members of parliament no longer feel safe in their electorates, whether on their own or in the company of staff, colleagues and volunteers, the free and easy access Australians currently enjoy in relation to their elected representatives will end.”

Ms Flint recommended to the committee that GetUp, unions and Labor should undertake independent reviews of their campaign tactics in Boothby and publish their findings.

“They all claim to support women’s equality and safety and so should act accordingly.”

Backing calls from other Coalition MPs, Ms Flint also called on GetUp to be deemed an associated entity under the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

In his submission, Mr Andrews, a prominent conservative and former Howard and Abbott cabinet minister, said GetUp’s defamatory tactics were withdrawn only after he threatened to issue defamation proceedings. He said the “damage had been done”.

“Countless voters had been phoned by GetUp. GetUp had not checked the veracity of their claim,” Mr Andrews said.

The Victorian Liberal MP also cited a defamatory message sent to “many constituents of an Asian background in Menzies” who received a personal letter in Chinese and lashed GetUp’s telephone script for Menzies which suggested the organisation was not a political party and that the left-wing group’s volunteers were simply giving “independent” voting advice”.

Mr Andrews, the Father of the House, also detailed harassment of voters, singling out both GetUp and Colour Code who had volunteers handing out material at polling booths.

“The GetUp/Colour Code people often harassed voters, seemingly in the belief that by thrusting materials in their face and continuing to advocate their cause as they waited in line to enter the polling booth, people would vote as GetUp/Colour Code wished. “Many voters reported feeling harassed and intimidated.”

Mr Andrews told committee members in “light of this behaviour” they should consider amending laws to restrict the “handing out of electoral materials to only authorised representatives of candidates”. He said “such authorisation should be in writing, similar to requirements for scrutineers”.

In his submission, Mr Porter — whose West Australian seat of Pearce was targeted — said assertions by GetUp that it made 180,000 calls to local constituents appeared to be a “wild exaggeration”.

The Attorney-General said if GetUp’s claims it had 5400 members in his electorate were accurate it would “be the biggest political organisation by membership in the state which seems unlikely”.

“The veracity of GetUp’s claims about the extent of its campaign activity and the extent and nature of its ‘memberships’ remain largely unverifiable,” Mr Porter said.

“GetUp claim that they are a democratic and grassroots movement of one million members from across Australia who directly control the decision making of the organisation. Yet it has been shown that there are just a handful of true members who direct the campaigns that GetUp run.

“An inspection of their register of members shows that GetUp is ultimately controlled by just nine board directors and three ‘founding members’.”

Mr Porter also singled out a number of ‘misleading’ claims made by GetUp including that he had been criticised for “gifting numerous six-figure government jobs to Liberal Party colleagues and donors, including after one of them gave him a free campaign bus”.

The Leader of the House said the GetUp claim, which they suggested was based on an ABC article published in March, was false as his campaign had “not ever been given a ‘free bus’”.

“These examples are not dissimilar to GetUp’s conduct in other electorates across Australia and parallels can be drawn to other important examples,” he said.

“A further example of deceptive conduct occurred in a targeted GetUp letter that was sent to a number of residents in the Pearce electorate during the final week of the campaign. The letter was addressed as “Dear Neighbour” and signed by “Dr Geoff Bower, WA”.

“A constituent receiving this letter would conclude that the letter was sent from someone within their immediate community or at least in the same electorate. In reality, the letter was authorised by GetUp, printed in NSW, and its signatory, Dr Geoff Bower, appears to reside far outside the Pearce electorate, in close proximity to the Perth CBD.”

Mr Porter said his campaign team had made the decision to avoid taking legal action or other avenues against the misleading claims as it was “not practical or affordable in a marginal seat campaign, notwithstanding the potential damage these false statements were likely to cause”.

“GetUp is willing to promote and publish material of a type and in a way that a mainstream party would not ever promote as a responsible political organisation.”

Mr Porter called on GetUp to be “rightly classified as an associated entity.


Australia's top academics call for Murdoch University to drop case against whistleblower
An open letter published today from 57 professors to Murdoch University vice-chancellor Professor Eeva Leinonen stated they believe the court action sets a "dangerous precedent for all Australian universities".

The signatories are all recipients of the prestigious Australian Research Council's Laureate Fellowship, and come from 15 universities across the sector in disciplines including arts, humanities, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Quotes from the letter:

"It is a long-established principle of academic freedom that academics must be able to criticise university governance. This right is especially important where aspects of university governance might compromise the integrity of teaching and research."

"The claim for damages is highly intimidatory to all Australian academics and therefore risks the capacity of Murdoch University and all Australian universities to pursue excellence in research and teaching."

"We urge you to withdraw the claim, to settle any dispute without punitive measures, and to affirm the commitment of Murdoch University to academic freedom as an essential university value."
The letter comes after the Australian Institute of Physics and a coalition of 23 international academics issued public statements condemning the university's actions.

One of the letter's signatories, distinguished Professor Michael Bird from James Cook University, told the ABC that academics have been disturbed by the case against Dr Schroder-Turk.

"It appears to be more intimidatory than anything else. I'm a humble scientist. I don't ordinarily feel I should be doing this sort of thing, this was an exceptional case and and we felt that it required an exceptional response," he said.

Professor Bird said the group of academics don't know Dr Schroder-Turk personally but felt compelled to act after reading about the case. "I do not understand how a university could think this was an appropriate action to take," he said

"Academic freedom gives people the right to query decisions that have been made and that's for the good of democracy in the same way that press freedom is there for the good of democracy ultimately.

"If that is eroded, that is not conducive to a healthy democracy and it really needs to be called out whenever it happens."

Dr Schroder-Turk's lawyer, Josh Bornstein from Maurice Blackburn, told the ABC his client remains undeterred despite the legal action.

"Look, he's very resolute and principled but at the same time … he's keen to let people know that this sort of behaviour by a university is out of bounds and is designed to intimidate and silence not only him but any other academics or staff members of universities," he said.

"Obviously there is a David and Goliath dimension to this sort of case, where you've got such a big, well-funded institution which receives public funding and private sources of funds, attacking and seeking to intimidate one of its staff members."

Mr Bornstein said he's concerned about the implications of the case for employees considering speaking up about wrongdoing.

"It's unprecedented for an Australian university to do this, but it's a tactic that we have seen many times before where a corporate entity seeks to shut down criticism or exposure of wrongdoing," he said.

Each year hundreds of thousands of Chinese students flock to Australia to study, lured by promises of enhanced career prospects — but are they getting what they pay for?

"We rely on the bravery of whistleblowers to come forward when they see issues of concern, when they see possible maladministration or corruption," he said.

"They're a vital source that feeds public interest journalism and the public's right to know.

"It's incredibly concerning because we've been talking about the culture of secrecy in government, it now seems that this is an indication that the culture of secrecy is seeping into other parts of our public life."

Students at Murdoch University are planning to hold a protest on campus this week.

Five thousand people have also signed an online petition calling on the university to drop the cross-claim action and conduct a transparent inquiry into the issues raised by Dr Schroder-Turk in the Four Corners program.

In the wake of the program, former Murdoch University Chancellor David Flanagan denied there were problems with international student admissions at the institution.

Murdoch University did not respond to a request for comment but has previously refused to comment on the case as the matter is before the courts.


Appeals court declares ex-judge ‘irrational’ in anti-coal ruling

A Land Court judge deemed to be “irrational” by Queensland’s highest appeals court has quietly retired, raising searching questions­ about the performance and accountability of the state’s judiciary.

Paul Anthony Smith left his $412,956-a-year post as a presiding member of the Land Court of Queensland ahead of the ruling by Court of Appeal president Walter Sofronoff that he had formed an “extreme and irration­al animus” towards a coalmine developer during high-stakes court proceedings.

Justice Sofronoff upheld an earlier Supreme Court finding that Mr Smith displayed appre­hende­d bias against the New Hope Group, which wants to expand­ its Acland mine, west of Brisbane, with an open-cut operation three times the size of Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal project in the state’s central west.

Justice Sofronoff warned that bias by judges undermined the justice system. “Allegations of bias, whether actual or ostensible, constitute a challenge to the very validity of a judicial decision,” he said. “Such allegations involve an assertion that the administration of justice has failed.”

State Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath is under pressure to appeal against the sentence from federal Home Affairs Minister Peter ­Dutton

Her office confirmed that Mr Smith retired from the Land Court on May 31, but would not be drawn on whether he had faced sanction over his handling of the Acland case.

Ms D’Ath’s spokesman said: “The Attorney-General doesn’t comment on individual judges, past or present, but she would like to acknowledge the improvements at the Land Court over the last 12 months, which include dramat­ic reductions in the time taken to deliver judgments.”

A finding of apprehended bias against a judge is rare, but the blunt language of Justice Sofronoff, a highly regarded former Queensland solicitor-general, cata­pult­s the judgment into the realm of the extraordinary.

It came after Mr Smith recommended that the state government reject applications by New Hope subsidiary New Acland Coal to ramp up production by an estimated seven million tonnes a year through the planned pit.

Formerly a high-flyer in the Department of Premier and Cabinet­, Mr Smith was appointed to the Land Court in 2004 by Peter Beattie’s Labor government.

In May last year, on appeal by the company, Queensland Sup­reme Court judge Helen Bowskill set aside Mr Smith’s orders, finding that his reasons were inadequate and there were reasonable grounds to apprehend bias on his part.

Protest group Oakey Coal Action­ Alliance took the case to the Court of Appeal

Justice Sofronoff found the rea­sons Mr Smith cited for his orders­ against the company contained­ errors of fact and “unnecessary­, unsupportable and irrati­onal criticisms” of New Acland’s commercial and litigious behaviour. “In such circumstances, a reasonable lay observer might well conclude that the member was, at that point of the proceedings, animated by an extreme and irrational animus against Acland,” the judge said.

He found Mr Smith had directed sarcasm at the company and was combative and argumentative. Although New Acland’s lawyers had conducted themselves in an orthodox and proper manner, he wrongly accused them of playing games, “wormings and turnings” and departing from every tenet of “common-law justice in this world”, Justice Sofronoff said.

Further, Mr Smith’s appropriation of cult movie The Castle to frame the dispute had been ­“wholly inappropriate”. One of the principal objectors to the mine expansion, Glenn Beutel, a local refusing to sell his home in the ghost town of Acland, had been likened by Mr Smith to the hero of The Castle, which the Land Court judge lauded as being a film about a “little person trying to protect his property from a corporate giant”.

Justice Sofronoff said: “It is notoriou­s that in The Castle it was the ‘little person’ who ultimately won the litigation and that the ‘corporate giant’ had behaved unethical­ly and had lost. Whatever might be the respective financial power of the litigants, it is the duty of a court to afford them equal justice and to favour neither of them, where rich or poor, for irrelevan­t reasons. The member’s use of this simile was wholly in­appropriate and conveyed partiality by reason of sympathy.”

New Hope declined to comment, pending further orders from the Court of Appeal. With a projected yield of 7.5 million tonnes of coal annually, New Hope claims the new pit would deliver economic benefits to the state of $8bn over 12 years. Critics of the development, including Sydney radio broadcaster Alan Jones, who grew up in the area 50km west of Toowoomba on the Darling Downs, insist it would destroy some of the best farmland in the country.

Land Court judges in Queensland are paid the same as those of the District Court, earning $382,108 in yearly salary, lifted to $412,956 by benefits.


 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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