Wednesday, March 25, 2020

BHP flags huge job offering for State

BHP will hire an estimated 1000 people in Queensland to support its mining operations across the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Nationally the mining giant plans to add 1500 to its work-force.

A spokesman said the vast majority of the jobs, an estimated 1000, would be in Queensland. The new jobs will be offered as six-month contracts and cover a range of skills needed by BHP operations in the short term.

The mining giant said it would also roll out a support program for its suppliers, including 600 small and indigenous businesses in Queensland.

The new jobs it has on offer include machinery and production operators, truck and ancillary equipment drivers, excavator operators, diesel mechanics, boilermakers, trades assistants, electricians, cleaners and warehousing roles across BHP's coal, iron ore and copper operations in Queensland, Western Austra-lia, NSW and South Australia. "These jobs will support and bolster our existing workforce during this difficult time;" the mining giant said.

The new positions will be offered through existing labour hire partners and BHP contracts in each state. Following the initial six-month contract, BHP said it would look to offer permanent roles for some of the jobs. BHP said it would continue to assess the program and may increase the number of jobs.

BHP acting minerals Australia president Edgar Basta also said as part of BHP's social distancing measures, it was introducing more small teams with critical skills to work "dynamically across different shifts". "We are stepping up and providing jobs and contracts," Mr Basto said.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 21.3.20

‘Closing Uluru climb was a mistake’, says ex-ranger

It was a decision that captivated the nation and brought thousands of people to the Red Centre for their final chance to climb Australia’s most iconic rock. And now the man who oversaw much of that says it was wrong.

Greg Elliot, until recently the head ranger at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, personally supervised some of the last days of climbing. He shepherded scores of domestic and international visit­ors through the gates to march nose-to-tail to the top.

Mr Elliot worked in the park for seven years, two as head ranger, before retiring and leaving this week. He looks back on the World Heritage Listed landmark’s most controversial episode since the Chamberlain affair as a missed opportunity to help Aboriginal people and enhance tourism experiences.

“It’s a negative decision,” Mr Elliot said. “They should have changed it, made it a safer endeavour and then charged people for it.”

He envisions something akin to the Sydney Bridge Climb up Uluru’s flanks, a plan he says was at one point seriously considered.

Mr Elliot said rather than explore that, bureaucrats chose to manipulate the rock’s Aboriginal owners toward closing the climb, so they could remove their liability for its poor safety record while blaming someone else.

“The power of persuasion is a wonderful thing,” he said. “If enough people get told a story enough times, and that story has an element of truth to it, then they will change their opinion on that thing because they’ve heard it enough times … that happens all over the world, in every walk of life, and I’m convinced this is very strongly what aided and abetted this closing of the climb.”

Mr Elliot agrees the old climb was too dangerous. Among the absurd things he saw were parents carrying newborn babies in backpacks — “that guy slips, and that kid’s done” — and a bloke who lugged snow skis to the summit to take a photograph.

And although he would like to see Aboriginal cultural sites in the park better protected, he does not understand why progressively more of them have been declared off-limits. “How can something all of a sudden become sacred when it wasn’t sacred in the past? Or it wasn’t deemed to be as sac­red so no one could go there?

“The rock is the same rock. It hasn’t changed much, apart from the fact there’s a lighter stripe going up on the one face.”

Traditional owners have described feeling intimidated into keeping the climb open and ­said if the leaders who first allowed climbing had suspected hordes might follow, they would have stopped it.

A Parks Australia spokesperson said the climb’s closure was decided by the Aboriginal-majority park board of management, and the decision represented the fulfilment of Anangu’s long-held request for it to be closed and “this was evident in the public statements made by Anangu and the many celebrations Anangu held in Mutitjulu community and at Uluru to mark the climb closure”.


Education experts say scrapped tests puts focus on future of schooling

NAPLAN testing has been scrapped for 2020, and new social distancing measures have cast doubt over how schools will continue amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The move came as Brisbane Girls Grammar School told parents it would deliver the final week of term remotely, as they prepare for the likelihood to do the same for all of Term 2.

In an extraordinary move the national benchmark test, NAPLAN, was yesterday cancelled by education ministers — for the first time since it began in 2008 — over fears of the extra anxiety caused by coronavirus and the stress it has already placed on schools.

State Education Minister Grace Grace said the current advice was that schools should remain open. "The valuable time of school leaders, teachers and support staff should be spent either providing continuity of learning for our students or preparing to deliver possible curriculum at home," she said.

Ms Grace also revealed school attendance had dropped 5-6 per cent compared to this time last year, blaming the reduction on children being sick (not corona-related) and parents needing to self isolate. Independent and Catholic education systems and unions advocating for teachers already swamped with work-load during the public health crisis supported the move.

And education experts have said the move brings the future of schooling into sharp focus with calls for non-essential education to be scrapped for the system already grappling with increased work-load, stress and panic of preparing for schools to close in the event of an outbreak.

OTU president Kevin Bates said cancelling NAPLAN was the right move given the massive disruption in the community and schools caused by COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday said gatherings, not including schools, should limit crowds to one person per four square metres. Mr Bates said while the advice on social distancing had merit in the community, it would be impossible for schools to follow as they would need a school hall for each classroom. "It's another confusing message," he said.

QUT education curriculum and pedagogy expert Kelli McGraw said anyone who thought coronavirus would not disrupt learning was "kidding themselves" and more focus should be given to student well-being. An option would be to suspend a half-year report in schools which already "maxes out" teachers.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 21.3.20

War hero Ben Roberts-Smith interviewed by police over alleged killing

The Australian Federal Police has interviewed former SAS soldier Ben Roberts-Smith over allegations he kicked an Afghan prisoner off a cliff in a serious development in the long-running saga involving Australia’s most decorated Afghan veteran.

Legal sources confirmed that the federal police recently requested Mr Roberts-Smith to attend a formal interview to respond to allegations made by special forces insiders that he kicked a detainee off a cliff in September 2012.

Sources with knowledge of the situation say the Victoria Cross recipient recently attended a police interview in Canberra and, as is standard practice, was cautioned that what he said could be used against him if he was ever criminally prosecuted. While the AFP does not comment on investigations, requesting to interview a subject normally comes near the end of an exhaustive probe and after critical witness statements have been collected.

About 90 minutes after Mr Roberts-Smith's lawyer, Mark O'Brien, was contacted by The Age and Herald for comment, The Australian's defence writer Paul Maley quoted Mr Roberts-Smith confirming the police interview had taken place, and claiming he had volunteered for it.

In September, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that an AFP taskforce was investigating Mr Roberts-Smith over allegations he kicked a handcuffed and innocent detainee, Ali Jan, off a cliff in the village of Darwan in September 2012. The Darwan taskforce has obtained co-operation from SAS witnesses and support staff willing to testify on oath against the decorated soldier. A second police investigation is looking into allegations Mr Roberts-Smith is implicated in the summary execution of a man at a compound in southern Afghanistan in April 2009.

The Age and Herald are not suggesting Mr Roberts-Smith has been found guilty of any war crime, only that he is the subject of police probes sparked by allegations made by his SAS colleagues.

Mr Roberts-Smith is one of the most decorated veterans to have served with coalition forces in Afghanistan, has stridently denied all wrongdoing and has launched a defamation case against The Age and Herald for first uncovering and reporting the allegations made about him by his fellow soldiers.

While the AFP’s focus has for many months been on him, it is almost certainly going to open up a third probe into a different soldier from another SAS squadron. This follows the broadcast on the ABC’s Four Corners program of footage of an SAS 3 squadron soldier shooting an apparently unarmed and subdued Afghan in May 2012. That soldier was still active until last week, when he was stood down in the wake of that footage being aired.

Many more AFP probes could follow depending on the findings of a long-running military Inspector-General's inquiry into war crimes.

The organisation revealed in its recent annual report that Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Paul Brereton had, over four years, been probing multiple alleged executions involving SAS and Commandos.

Several of these cases are those reported over the last two years by The Age and Herald, according to defence personnel.

They include a case involving the confession of a Commando who admitted to personally executing an Afghan prisoner and also witnessing other executions. Another case involves claims made in 2019 by SAS medic Dusty Miller that an injured prisoner was taken from his care and allegedly executed in March 2012.

Defence sources said that for the past two years, the Inspector-General has focused on allegations of war crimes involved the SAS’s 2 squadron. Mr Roberts-Smith is one of the 2 squadron members under investigation.

The release of the vision on ABC’s Four Corners of an Afghan man being shot has spurred fresh inquires into the conduct of 3 squadron as well, according to defence sources. This has the potential to delay the imminent release of the Brereton report, despite increasing political pressure for the historic and likely damning inquiry to be completed.


 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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