Monday, March 23, 2020

Have busloads of hoarders from out of town actually been buying up in country towns?

The good old Guardian is once again fighting a straw man.  Shoppers are arriving in their own cars. There's no doubt about that. They don't need buses

Facebook feeds are full of stories about someone’s sister who saw a minibus pull up outside a grocer in Deniliquin, or Kyneton, or Gulgong, but no one has a photo to prove it. In the age of camera phones, we couldn’t find any credible photographs of this reported phenomenon anywhere.

Guardian Australia found one supermarket where a security guard had been employed to check shoppers were not from out of town, but no evidence of buses.

Some of the posts say the buses are full of “Asian” or “Chinese” passengers. “Every report I’ve seen said those on the buses were Chinese,” said one commenter. “Highly organised with different buses hitting different towns at the same time.”

The Daily Mail called it “tourist panic-shopping” and quoted “angry residents” on Facebook: “People from Sydney [are] packing cars to the brims. Our supermarkets don’t get enough supplies, only enough for our population let alone hoarders. It’s really sad and I think it needs to be policed from now.”

On Tuesday the claims were given credibility by a story in the Age headlined “Busloads of city dwellers stripping regional shelves bare”, although there was no racial element in the report.

“Regional towns are being swamped by busloads of panicked ‘Coles tourists’ who are driving from the city to strip supermarket shelves of basic supplies,” the report said.

“The Age has heard reports of city-dwellers rushing supermarkets in Gisborne, Kyneton, Romsey, Seymour, Woodend, Daylesford and even in towns as far away as Kerang and Deniliquin.”

While the paper said they’d “heard reports” there was little in the way of evidence to back it up and no photographic proof.

Guardian Australia contacted two of the supermarkets mentioned in the Age – the Romsey IGA and the Woodend Coles – and both stores denied busloads of people from other areas were shopping.

Guardian Australia spoke to management at Coles, Woolworths and Aldi who all said there had been no bus tours they were aware of. Coles and Woolies said they had contacted regional managers at many of the stores mentioned and none could back up the reports.


Stopping bullying requires everyone to play a part

Preaching to bullies goes only so far. There comes a point where physical punishment alone will induce change

Finding out that their child is being bullied at school is a situation many parents dread, with good reason.

Decades of research has highlighted the profound effects of bullying, with children who are bullied in primary school at greater risk of experiencing serious mental health problems into adolescence and ongoing depression into adulthood. Tragically, as we all know, too many young Australians have taken their own lives as a result of the effects of bullying.

At the very least, bullied kids are more likely to miss school, disengage with their learning and suffer academically. And with one in four children in Australia reporting that they've been impacted by bullying, more needs to be done to deal with this complex and pervasive problem.

Under its cyberbullying reporting scheme, the office of Australia's eSafety Commissioner, has the power to order social media sites to take down harmful material and has successfully handled hundreds of complaints about cyberbullying on behalf of young Australians.

While it's reassuring to have a federal watchdog to help keep kids, and all Australians safe online, it's vital that we work together as a community to promote zero tolerance for bullying for the sake of this generation and future generations of young people.

There's no quick fix to solve the bullying issue, but a vital strategy involves educating children from a young age with the skills and attitudes to build and maintain healthy, respectful relationships with others.

At Life Education, three of our key programs — Cyberwise, Relate, Respect, Connect and Talk About It teach children about cyber ethics, responsible and respectful behaviour, strategies to deal with bullying and cyberbullying, and the role of bystanders.

And it's the bystander effect which is one of the keys to dealing with the bullying issue. Research shows peers are present as onlookers in 85 per cent of bullying interactions and play a central role in the bullying process, so we need to educate young people to call out bullying behaviour when they see it.

It's important they understand that it's not 'dobbing', but rather showing compassion for those who are being victimised. It's about sending a strong message that bullying,harassment  and violence are not acceptable at any time.

There are some good anti-bullying programs, including recent reforms, adopted by the State Government in the wake of the Queensland Anti-Cyberbullying Taskforce. Undoubtedly, tackling bullying requires a whole-of-community approach.

We know that online abuse and bullying of teachers and principals around the state is on the rise, with some parents restricted from entering school grounds. We can't expect children to learn about appropriate respectful behaviour, when some parents are role modelling aggression and hostility.

This year, Australia's largest anti-bullying event for schools, the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence (NDA) has adopted the theme: Take Action Together and the message could not be more fitting. Schools, parents, teachers, specialist educators and students can all play a role in reducing bullying within schools.

The focus on prevention and education can go a long way to building respect and tolerance in our community, and that in turn, can only mean better mental health outcomes for our children and young people.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 19.3.20

Australian university orders return to face-to-face teaching amid coronavirus pandemic

A Queensland university prompted outrage by ordering its academics to scrap established plans for online teaching and return to face-to-face classes, a sign of the sector’s chaotic and disjointed response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Universities across the country are still grappling with how to continue teaching during the crisis, after the federal government firmly advised them on Wednesday that “university and higher education should continue at this time with risk mitigation measures”.

The sector already faces a massive financial hit, with analysis in the very early stages of Covid-19 suggesting the top 10 universities would lose $1.2bn due to Chinese student travel bans alone. The situation has prompted serious concerns for the future of casual academic staff.

A host of universities – the University of Queensland, University of Melbourne, University of Adelaide, University of Wollongong and University of Technology Sydney, among others – are rushing to transition their courses online. The Australian National University is pausing its teaching for a week from Monday and says it is “stopping face-to-face teaching for lectures and moving to remote participation”.

The UQ vice-chancellor, Peter Høj, told students in an email late on Sunday that it would temporarily cancel all coursework after a fourth confirmed case on the campus. “This is a big call, and not one I have taken lightly,” Høj wrote to students.

The University of Sydney and Southern Cross University have each committed to delivering all of their classes remotely from Monday.

But others are pressing on with some form of face-to-face teaching of lectures and other classes, albeit with risk mitigation measures, including Monash University.

The University of Western Australia says on its website that it is continuing to “operate as normal and our academic calendar is unchanged”. It also announced it is moving all lectures and tutorials and, where possible, practical classes to online delivery mode until further notice from Monday.

The approach to staff leave has also been disjointed. Some universities are providing affected staff with special coronavirus leave, others are telling staff to use their existing personal and annual leave.

At the University of Sydney, Nick Riemer, a senior lecturer in English and linguistics, said teaching staff had found themselves rushing to prepare for online classes while also juggling the concerns of students. He said there was “widespread concern” across campus about the implications of the virus for teaching and professional staff long-term.

“It has been fairly chaotic and there are all these intense extra demands being placed on staff,” he said.

“This semester I have less than 80 students and there is still a quite significant extra time burden placed on my work [but] colleagues who are running much larger lecture programs have reported exponentially higher workload.”

Riemer also said he was concerned that “emergency measures” put in place during the crisis – including extra working from home demands – would become “normalised”, as well as fears for professional and casual staff at the university.

“There’s an enormous amount of concern about the implications for the amount of work available for those staff,” he said.

The response of the University of the Sunshine Coast, which had to conduct deep cleaning following a visit from the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, two weeks ago, has prompted a particularly angry response from staff.

The university on Friday announced it would pause coursework teaching and assessments for a week from Monday, to give it time to redesign its courses to support online delivery and social distancing.

But earlier in the week, it told staff to reverse plans they had already developed to deliver the vast majority of their courses online.

On Wednesday, senior leadership at the university wrote to the school and ordered it to retract the plans and return to face-to-face teaching, citing the advice of the federal government.

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) described the decision as “nuts” and deeply irresponsible.

“For the University of the Sunshine Coast to say we were ready to have online delivery for some of our subjects but actually we’re going to return to our normal timetabled operations, that is just nuts,” the union’s Queensland secretary, Michael McNally, told the Guardian.

“There’s no reason for that. Many universities are actively trying to put their stuff online, for the simple reason that even if universities aren’t closed, it reduces the risk to the community to deliver as much of the teaching as possible online.”

It also appears to run counter to the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, which on Wednesday said it supported universities using as much online teaching as possible.

The University of the Sunshine Coast did not respond directly to the NTEU’s criticism. But a spokesman said the university was “working towards what is expected to be a government directive to suspend face-to-face teaching in the near future”.

“Much planning and work in recent weeks have gone into preparing the university for the delivery of online learning across all disciplines,” he said.

The university has cancelled graduations, is encouraging students to study online where possible, and is advising social distancing in other face-to-face classes.

Universities Australia chief executive, Catriona Jackson, acknowledged that the tertiary sector’s response to the virus had varied, but said all universities were adhering to advice from officials and praised the federal government for providing a “clear set of requirements”.

“These are prudent, measured steps designed to safeguard students, staff and their communities. At the same time, we are trying to minimise disruption to students’ education,” she said.

“Things are moving very quickly, and all universities have mobilised staff and students in what is a national effort.

“None of this is easy and we recognise the challenges faced by our students and staff. But it is vital that as individuals and institutions we work together to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus and protect the community. People’s lives depend on how we respond now.”


NAPLAN to be cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19 disruption

Education ministers have cancelled this year's NAPLAN tests due to the coronavirus, saying it would put an unnecessary burden on already stressed schools. The national tests - sat annually by years 3, 5, 7 and 9 - will resume next year.

Schools, which are busily preparing remote learning materials in case they shut down, had been hoping the national assessment program - scheduled to be held between May 12 and 22 - would be scrapped, saying it would be unsafe for students to sit together for prolonged periods.

It came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated the importance of keeping schools open amid anxiety from teachers, who are concerned about the welfare of older staff and the difficulty of enforcing safe distances between children and teens.

Ministers met via video link on Friday morning to decide the fate of NAPLAN, which some modelling suggests would coincide with the peak of the virus and increased likelihood of school closures.

In a statement, they said, "The decision not to proceed with NAPLAN has been taken to assist school leaders, teachers and support staff to focus on the wellbeing of students and continuity of education, including potential online and remote learning.

"Further, the impact of responses to the COVID-19 virus may affect the delivery of NAPLAN testing, including the operation of centralised marking centres and the implications for nationally comparable data if an insufficient number of students are available to do the test."

The president of the Secondary Principals Council, Craig Petersen, said school leaders and teachers would welcome the "commonsense" announcement.

"Everyone is under lots of stress as a result of the corona anxiety," he said. "It will make a huge difference to morale, and it will let teachers focus on maximising the teaching and learning time they have with kids, rather than worrying about a test."

The government is also facing growing pressure from teachers’ unions, who say staff are at risk of infection and the information and resources available to schools are insufficient for them to observe social distancing and hygiene rules.

The Independent Education Union, representing staff in private and Catholic schools, has written to the Prime Minister, saying current preventative measures are "manifestly inadequate" and teachers are at "grave risk".

IEU federal secretary Chris Watt said many schools did not have sufficient resources to implement hand-washing and cleaning advice, while social distancing rules were not possible for children in packed school environments.

Mr Watt urged the government to release its medical advice "that is the purported basis for schools remaining open".

He also said at-risk employees and those with vulnerable relatives should immediately be allowed to work from home or go on leave.

The Australian Education Union, representing public school staff, has also written to Mr Morrison calling for additional advice and resources and rejecting "unrealistic" and inequitable online learning alternatives to schools staying open.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan and government medical officials will meet the unions next week to discuss their concerns.

On Friday, Mr Morrison said the government’s position on keeping schools closed had not changed.

"It is in the national interest that we keep schools open," he said.

National chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the risk to children was low and data suggested that children were more likely to be infected by adults rather than vice-versa.


 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


Paul said...

Covered by 2GB. Not sure of detail beyond the reporting, but there would certainly be social order reasons to play this down as much as possible.

Paul said...

My sister at Mildura Hospital (a third world war zone well before Corona happened along) tells me that they have a C patient (a traveller who thought it was all a load of BS, like our one in Cairns) and they have maybe three days of protective gear supply, partly because they've had members of the public waltzing into their ED, grabbing boxes of masks off the desks, and running out with them.