Tuesday, June 30, 2020

'It's not fair': Sydney cladding crisis threatens to 'crush families' financially

This is clearly a case of regulatory failure so there would appear to be some liability on the government

People are encouraged to trust the government to protect them rather than use private means such as insurance so when that protection fails to eventuate, some redress against the government seems justified.  In this case government should pick up the tab for its regulatory failure and fund remedial work

The owners of 130 buildings in inner Sydney have been told to replace flammable cladding or reveal more details about the composition of materials used, leaving individual apartment owners facing bills running into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The breadth of the cladding crisis in just one part of the city has led to fresh calls for the NSW government to follow Victoria in funding rectification work, partly given the financial pressure owners are already under due to the coronavirus-induced recession.

The City of Sydney, seemingly the worst affected in the state by combustible cladding, has issued fire safety notices for 130 buildings to date, up from 52 in March.

Waterloo resident Adrian Shi was shocked to discover that he would have to pay $25,000 over the next year to remove combustible cladding from his building in the inner-southern suburb.

"If it was just a few thousand dollars it would be acceptable but a $25,000 hit comes at a very bad time. It is not fair for the owner to take full responsibility," he said. "The government should give us some help such as a long-term loan."

The $25,000 special levy he faces is on top of a quarterly strata fee of $1900. The total cost to owners of removing aluminium cladding from his complex has been estimated at $5.6 million but it could end up costing more.

There are various types of cladding on the market, with some being more fire resistant than others.

The solar-energy researcher at the University of NSW said his predicament highlighted the situation facing apartment owners across Sydney due to the combustible cladding crisis. "Considering many people's livelihoods are affected by COVID now, this unexpected financial burden will surely crush a lot of families," he said.

He and his wife bought their three-bedroom off the plan in 2010 and moved in two years later. "Nobody expects that at the time," he said of the cladding material used, which has since been found to have a flammable coating.

His is one of the buildings to have received a fire-safety notice from the City of Sydney, which is investigating and reviewing a total of 299 properties with potential combustible cladding.

Greens MP David Shoebridge, who chaired an inquiry into building standards, said the cost of fixing flammable cladding in NSW would be "well north" of $1 billion, which would be borne by homeowners "let down by decades of deregulation".

"We have individual homeowners spending tens of thousands of dollars undertaking rectification work that might have to be redone if the standards change," he said. "For some owners, it is almost as expensive identifying a credible remedy as it is undertaking the work."

Last year the Victorian government promised $600 million to fix the most dangerous buildings.

Deputy NSW Labor leader Yasmin Catley said the Berejiklian government had a "golden opportunity" to follow Victoria in providing financial assistance, both creating jobs and solving a public safety problem.

City of Sydney councillor Linda Scott also urged the government to fund a rescue package to help fix strata buildings that contain flammable cladding.

"Thousands of residents across the City of Sydney have been left out in the cold, finding themselves liable for millions of dollars for repairs to remove flammable cladding," she said.

The government did not respond to questions about whether it would provide loans or some other form of financial assistance to owners.

However, a spokeswoman for Better Regulation Minster Kevin Anderson said the government had introduced new laws to protect building owners in NSW, which required anyone carrying out building work to avoid construction defects, including flammable cladding.

While the City of Sydney has one of the highest number of buildings identified with flammable cladding, other local government areas such as Bayside in the city's south, Canada Bay in the inner west and Liverpool each have had more than 20 buildings issued fire-safety notices.

In Canada Bay, a total of 77 were identified as a risk and fire-safety orders served on 33 buildings, while North Sydney Council has issued 27.

Bayside Council has issued 21 fire-safety notices after 74 buildings were identified in need of investigation, while in Liverpool 22 have been served.

Willoughby Council, whose area includes the high-rises of Chatswood, has investigated 66 buildings and issued fire-safety notices for 17. In the Hills Shire, 30 building owners will voluntarily replace combustible cladding while one has been served a notice.

In Blacktown, fire-safety notices have been issued for 10 buildings. Parramatta Council has issued six notices for buildings while the owners of a further 16 have been told to test and replace cladding if it is non-compliant.


Amid the lockdowns, mining saves the Australian economy

The global economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has sliced almost $7 billion from the value of Australia's key resource and energy exports in three months, with warnings of bigger hits next financial year.

But new forecasts from the Industry Department, released on Monday, show the iron ore sector will defy the coronavirus gloom with high prices and surging exports to help it offset the broader economic weakness.

In its June quarterly outlook report, the department's office of the chief economist forecasts total resource and energy exports to reach a record $292.7 billion in 2019-20 before falling to $263.2 billion.

In March, the department predicted $299.3 billion in commodity exports this financial year and then $276.1 billion in 2020-21.

The department said overall resource and energy exports had been resilient in the face of the pandemic recession, noting earnings from the sector were 50 per cent higher than during the global financial crisis.

"These forecasts come with significant risks: a second outbreak of COVID-19, another surge in trade tensions, or an unexpectedly slow global recovery," it said. "But on balance it remains likely that Australia's resources and energy sector will once again buffer the Australian economy against external headwinds."

Holding up resource exports is iron ore with $102.7 billion worth expected to be shipped this financial year. This was an upgrade on the March forecasts. Gold, which is touching all-time highs as investors seek to protect themselves, is also remaining strong with exports tipped to hit $27.4 billion this year. The department had expected gold exports to fall to $21 billion next year but now thinks they will rise to $32 billion.

But energy exports, on the back of falling demand and prices, are tipped to fall away.

Thermal coal exports are forecast to edge down to $16 billion next financial year from a downwardly revised $20 billion in 2019-20.

LNG exports, which in March were expected to reach $48.6 billion this year and $44.2 billion in 2020-21, are now forecast to make $47 billion and $35 billion respectively. LNG prices are closely tied to oil prices, which remain extremely low.

Overall energy exports have been downgraded by $58.5 billion for the next two years since the March forecast.

While the mining sector contributed growth through the first three months of the year, the department noted that none of this came from the coal sector.

"In the coming year, it is likely that this sector will make a much smaller contribution to GDP growth, as low prices and mine closures and cutbacks impact on the sector’s output," it said.

The department said that while resource export volumes had climbed by 4.6 per cent over the past year, energy volumes were down by 2.5 per cent, with warnings they were likely to stagnate over the coming two years.


Voters' thumbs up for ScoMo: PM's personal approval rating hits a new high ahead of Eden-Monaro by-election

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's personal approval rating has hit a new high in the latest Newspoll ahead of Saturday's Eden-Monaro by-election.

The latest Newspoll, conducted for The Australian and released on Sunday night, shows Mr Morrison's personal approval has risen two points to 68 per cent with his dissatisfaction rating falling by the same amount to 27 per cent.

But the Coalition's primary vote is unchanged at 42 per cent, with the party maintaining an 51-49 lead in the two-party preferred vote.

The Eden-Monaro by-election was triggered by the resignation of former Labor MP Mike Kelly because of ill health.

Despite a branch-stacking scandal engulfing Victorian Labor, the party's primary vote support at federal level has risen slightly, by one point to 35 per cent.

Mr Morrison's net approval rating is the highest since he became leader in August 2018.

He has increased his margin over Anthony Albanese as preferred prime minister, lifting two points to 58 per cent.

Mr Albanese was unchanged 26 per cent, while sixteen per cent of voters didn't back either leader.

Support for the Greens has dropped one point to 11 per cent, as did voter backing of Pauline Hanson's One Nation, which also fell a point to three per cent.

The poll, which surveyed 1521 voters, was conducted from June 24-27.


Dyson Heydon and the dubious world of administrative inquiries

Kangaroo courts for judges and lawyers??

As the hyenas circle the latest #MeToo roadkill, it is telling how few are raising questions about the extraordinary sequence of events that led to Dyson Heydon’s very public humiliation.

Much is being made of the High Court’s “administrative inquiry” led by public servant Vivienne Thom. Yet, as Chris Merritt has pointed out this week in The Australian, this inquiry only heard from one side. The only input into Thom’s inquiry were the accusations from the six young women who claimed Heydon had harassed them when they worked as his associates. The inquiry didn’t hear from Heydon whom Merritt claims refused to participate because he was concerned “anything he said could be used against him in future proceedings.” The accusations from the women were not tested, nor subjected to any cross-examination.

All participants, including Heydon, apparently signed confidentiality agreements which didn’t deter Chief Justice Susan Kiefel from naming Heydon when she went public with the conclusions from the Thom investigation, issuing a public apology for the former High Court judge’s alleged behaviour. Not only was Heydon denied due process but he was presented as guilty before any opportunity for proper examination of the evidence – ensuring his personal and professional reputation would be destroyed.

Surely, we should all want men who commit harassment or assault to be appropriately penalized when they are proved guilty but NOT before. Chris Merritt quoted Terry O’Gorman, president of the Australian Council of Civil liberties, as expressing concern that “a major public figure could be ‘found guilty’ in the public arena via a process where he has not been accorded the usual procedural fairness requirements.”

James Allan, professor of law at the University of Queensland, also raised concerns that Chief Justice Susan Kiefel accepted the findings before the accusations could be tested in court. Given that legal proceedings have now been launched seeking compensation for three of the complainants, this matter could end up before the High Court, raising very sticky questions about perceived bias.

Not that any of this has any impact in the court of public opinion, particularly with so many female lawyers lining up to share experiences of further inappropriate behaviour by Heydon. With most of the high profile Australian #MeToo cases having fallen in a heap, feminists are beside themselves with glee over this very big scalp. And naturally, they are using this opportunity to argue for more female judges and senior lawyers – a proposal which, of course, further demonises all men as potential or even probable abusers and fails to address the real issues.

The fact that Heydon’s lynching stemmed from a kangaroo court run by our premier legal institution will go largely unnoticed. How ironic that the High Court itself has pronounced on the need for procedural fairness by administrative decision-makers.

Via Bettina Arndt newsletter: newsletter@bettinaarndt.com.au

Time for universities to ditch the uniform and change courses

I am afraid that I endorse the idea dismissed below:  That a university without a committment to research is just a technical college

A few years back, at a Melbourne book launch, Gareth Evans publicly confessed that he and the rest of the Hawke government had more or less allowed a 40-year-old firebrand to run amok with the nation’s higher education system 30 years ago.

The former foreign affairs minister, who later went on to be chancellor of the Australian National University, didn’t use those precise words, of course.

Instead, Evans said back then that “none of John Dawkins’s fellow cabinet ministers at the time, and that includes me — or for that matter anyone else outside the circle of university and college administrators most immediately and obviously affected — really took much notice of what he was up to from 1987-91, or had any real sense of the scale and significance of the changes he was forcing, as he mounted his blitzkrieg in the higher education system”.

This week, as the Coalition lobbed grenades into the system the former employment, education and training minister set in place three decades ago, Dawkins declined to comment on the past, present or future of Australian universities. But it’s a safe bet he would agree with the description of how he flew solo in a high-risk operation to shrink the institutions, expand the number of students and bring back the fees Labor giant Gough Whitlam had abolished on January 1, 1974.

They were radical reforms, quickly dubbed a revolution, yet the single system turned out to be essentially conservative. Australia held fast to the traditional idea of the university: an institution committed to high-level research, teaching and community engagement.

The unified national system is widely considered to have led to uniformity, not innovation or diversity, and across three decades, despite huge increases in fees, dependence on international students and successive attempts by governments to direct the sector, that notion has endured.

Former University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis has noted: “Decisions of a powerful minister more than a generation ago reinforced the singular Australian idea of a university.” In his 2017 book, The Australian Idea of a University (which Evans launched on that November day), Davis noted that our universities are not identical but they are all examples of a “specific style of university”.

Not everyone agrees. Some see evolving diversity in our system, but as former University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker says: “There is no doubt if you look overseas we have a rather singular model compared to the diversity that exists in Holland, Germany and other countries.”

Parker, who now heads the national education sector practice at KPMG, doesn’t blame Dawkins but says Australia continues to “mime” the idea that a university must include research, with institutions “drifting” to that model rather than some adopting a teaching-first approach.

Dawkins himself has said through the years — during which there have been around a dozen other education ministers — that the profile process he set up allowed the institutions to choose their own direction. He has said it was never his intention that small colleges of advanced education would opt to copy the big universities rather than work on becoming teaching-only institutions. It’s understood that in his view, the lack of diversity that emerged was not mandated and was an unfortunate outcome of the decisions by autonomous universities.

Be that as it may, the system remains ready for reshaping for a modern era.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has not been explicit about his intentions but Parker says the new fee structure, based on teaching costs without recognition of research costs, is a de facto separation of the two elements. Tehan will make a statement soon about research and Parker believes it could finally change our view of what a “real” university should look like.

The Coalition is moving at a time of some disquiet about our universities. Some critics claim a corruption of standards in a system where 25 per cent of the money comes from overseas students. Some claim a corruption of free speech. Some argue for less thinking and more training. Arguments about the role of the university intersect with arguments about society’s willingness to spend the money, private or public, on higher education.

In that sense at least not much has changed since Dawkins.

The debate about the nature of the university had been running for years as the highly regarded institutes of technology — part of the second tier — showed they were bigger, better and bolder than some of the newer, smaller universities. Were they universities in all but name? What made the universities so special?

The 19 universities had a simple answer. They were dedicated to research and their teaching depended on academic research. Colleges and institutes were dedicated to teaching. They might do some research on the side but they could not be considered in the same breath as universities.

Sometimes the debate seemed to play out on the proverbial pin head and was confined largely to those inside the sector. There was little political interest in Canberra about whether Deakin University had more right to the title, for example, than the Queensland Institute of Technology.

But the colleges’ lobby for recognition and access to federal research money converged fortuitously with Labor’s need to justify spending more public money on more places by introducing a system of private contributions via the HECS scheme.

Labor would backtrack on fees but at the same time it would demolish an outdated distinction between colleges and universities to create a level playing field. The 73 institutions would reduce to half that number and would be free to carve out their own profiles, unimpeded by nomenclature.

Some might emphasise teaching or industry engagement. Some might elevate research while still teaching an expanding student population. It was an opportunity to change the mix. Dawkins delivered status and access to research funding to the colleges. They backed him on student fees. The vice-chancellors wanted fees too but they were not so keen on the CAEs getting a name change and sharing research funds. In the end, they signed up to Dawkins. They had little choice even if they feared the colleges would dilute the university brand they had nurtured since the establishment of the University of Sydney in 1850.

As David Penington, who led Melbourne University at the time, said this week: “It was true that the universities did look down on the others in those days, and that was the problem that Dawkins sought to correct by his radical changes.”

In the end, tradition beat innovation as the new universities worked to build the research they figured would let them into the club.

Melbourne University’s Vin Massaro, who worked as the policy director for the peak university body at the time, the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, has some regrets about the way it panned out. “We created one sector but we didn’t make it clear to the institutions that they had the right to be more diverse,” he says. “Clearly, we could not afford 39 high-level research institutions, yet we were suddenly asking people in the former CAEs to teach and research in a way they had not been employed to do.”

Despite the rush for status based on research and uniformity, there have been changes in the past 30 years, particularly, as Davis has noted, in the offerings for the international student market. As well as the Group of Eight, the big capital-city campuses that include Sydney, Melbourne and the ANU have continued to draw away from the rest with their aspirations for high-level research.

But the diversity is limited, according to Massaro. “We keep stopping the institutions from being truly diverse,” he says. “We still suggest that if they don’t do research they are inferior. We have not yet educated the Australian public to accept that universities can do different things; rather, we have built a theoretical definition into the system that doesn’t fit with the current reality. We need a new definition of a university that allows each to determine the mix of teaching and research that is appropriate for its mission.

“However, they must all be excellent teaching institutions with graduate outcomes that can be measured. The extent … they choose to do research should be based on their capacity to attract competitive research funding.”

Massaro cites the California binar­y model of universities; one teaching-intensive, offering courses to master level, the other research-intensive offering courses to PhD level with high-level research. And he argues the Coalition’s fee changes are being introduced without a coherent and comprehensive vision or plan for the sector.

Penington agrees on the need for change, saying: “I don’t think all the universities are going to be viable just doing things the way that they have been. You can’t undo what has happened in the past. The mistake was (colleges) seeking to become uniform with the classical research universities.

“What we ought to have is universities that identify themselves especially by their strengths. The title university no longer has a meaning in itself. It doesn’t bring quality, it has to be earned.”

He believes the Dawkins model has cost the country in skills: “Some of the colleges were doing applied education and some were close to industry. That was a fundamental flaw of the whole Dawkins model because we didn’t have that ongoing population of people with applied knowledge. It was a weakness of the outcome that is seldom mentioned now.”

Parker says his discussions through the years with Dawkins convince him the then minister wanted a uniform funding system, not uniformity.

Parker says: “It wasn’t necessary that CAEs became universities, but what actually happened is that the universities cherrypicked to their advantage and the CAEs thought by and large it was to their advantage to get the prestige of the university name.

“So the unified national system became uniform and it has in a way been reinforced since 1990 with protocols of what counts as a university — that there has to be a research mission.

“I think the government is now saying, we are only funding teaching through the normal commonwealth funding and there will be an announcement on research soon. This is a big deal: the separating out of the funding of research and teaching is what could lay the groundwork for some unis to be really high-quality teaching organisations and a smaller number being research-focused. That would drive real diversity.”

The Tehan “revolution” is just beginning and time will show if it brings the diversity so many regard as essential. But the need for change is clear. As Davis said in his 2017 book: “The Australian idea of a university has served us well. It may also have run its course.”


 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

Monday, June 29, 2020

Reforms to child protection covering Aboriginal children needed

Below is a reasonable account of a problem but where are the ideas for a solution?  The basic problem is that young Aborigines are often badly neglected by their families.  If the kids survive that, the neglect tends to bring on disrespect of all standards and crime follows from that.

So how are  you going to stop child neglect without rehoming the endangered kids?  Are you going to have a platoon of white people to waggle reproving fingers at neglectful Aboriginal parents?  Or are you going to take their grog off them?  It's all been tried before, I am afraid.

And how are you going to stop extensive lawbreaking?  I don't know how, nor, it would seem, do the do-gooders below.  Much has been tried already so anything coming out of the report below will most likely just be a reinvention of the wheel

If black lives really mattered in Australia, every cog of the child protection system would be reformed to stop Aboriginal children being removed from family, culture and country.

That's the belief of Megan Davis, University of NSW law professor and United Nations expert on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

"All the narratives we tell ourselves about Australian fairness and the rule of law fly out the window in so far as the treatment of the Aboriginal families in the system," said Professor Davis, who is also Balnaves chair in constitutional law and the pro-vice-chancellor Indigenous UNSW.

With 17,979 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth in care across Australia, and nearly 5493 in NSW, next year's Closing the Gap goals are expected to include for the first time a commitment to reduce the number of Aboriginal children entering care by 5 per cent a year. By 2031, it will pledge to cut the number of those in care by 45 per cent.

Professor Davis said a review of Aboriginal children in out-of-home-care (OOHC) in NSW that she chaired had "not validated the popular narrative that children are removed justifiably".

"Out-of-home-care can exacerbate the disadvantage of Aboriginal young people which many would find counter-intuitive because most people assume removing children is in their best interests," Professor Davis said.

She was sure the NSW community was also unaware of the "very direct line from child protection to youth detention and incarceration".

Professor Davis' examination of 1144 Aboriginal children and youth who entered OOHC in 2015/2016 found problems in "every cog of the giant, complex 'system'."

Aboriginal children were eight times more likely to enter care than non-Indigenous children, and they constitute 40 cent of the nearly 14,000 NSW children in care.

Half of the children were deemed to be at risk of significant harm by the time they turned five, and one-in-10 before they were born.

Once in care, very few would return to their families, said the review. Children were often distanced from relatives and taken off country and isolated from culture.

"These are our children, this isn't a marginal issue," said Richard Weston, the chief executive of SNAICC – the peak group representing children and families. "They are the ones who will ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will survive."

Some people called these children another Stolen Generation, he said, because of the procession of children who "graduated" from out of home care into the juvenile justice system and then into adult prison.

Professor Davis' report, titled Family is Culture, was given to the NSW Government last November, and Indigenous groups are lobbying for a response before the end of the financial year.

On a post on the UNSW website on Saturday morning, Professor Davis urged the government to respond saying the report "can't be left on a bench to gather dust". She called on the Government to implement "all the recommendations as a matter of priority".

NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said the recommendations were being considered carefully. It is understood a comprehensive response will be made soon.

Chief executive of the Aboriginal Legal Service in NSW/ACT Karly Warner said the Black Lives Matter protests had shown there was real understanding by the public that systemic racism was wrong and there was an appetite for change.

But there had to be an appetite for change from those in leadership. "There can't be equality until we change the system," she said.

Ms Warner said she heard stories every week about young people "who are arrested and forced into the quick sands of juvenile justice because of the over-scrutiny and policing of residential care homes."


Dyson Heydon and the legal professions’ ‘dirtiest secret’

Heydon and others would seem to have been convicted without trial.  Accusations only below

In courts, barristers’ chambers and law firms there were men quaking in their boots this week. Or, at least, female lawyers were hoping they might be. The lid was lifted on what was described as the profession’s “dirtiest secret”.

A giant of the law — former High Court judge Dyson Heydon — had his reputation shredded, his name erased from Eight Selborne chambers where he worked.

Heydon “categorically” denies wrongdoing. However, an independent High Court investigation found he sexually harassed six associates, five who worked for him, during his decade on its bench.

At least three of the women, among the best and brightest of their law school cohort, have left the profession after the most promising start possible to their careers — a High Court associateship.

None of it shocked those female lawyers this week. They have watched for years as male rainmakers kept their jobs and unsavoury allegations were swept under the carpet — a small payout and a non-disclosure agreement often used to silence victims while serial offenders rose up the profession’s ranks.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has been on a crusade to prevent the damaging use of blanket NDAs since she finished an inquiry into workplace sexual harassment that arose out of the #MeToo movement.

While she points out there is a place for confidentiality — women might be just as keen as men to protect their privacy — they also can be used to enforce a culture of silence. “It can conceal the unlawful conduct, facilitate repeat offending, and the other thing that concerned me was there were no systemic lessons learnt,” she says.

Only two major law firms — Clayton Utz and Herbert Smith Freehills — were willing even to provide a limited waiver to their NDAs to allow victims to make a confidential submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s harassment inquiry.

Jenkins says NDAs should be drafted in more sophisticated ways, so they allow for the expos­ure of serial predators and provide exceptions; for example, for women to go to police or discuss traumatic events with their families.

Jenkins’s final report in March revealed sexual harassment was pervasive in every profession.

It is clear #MeToo has yet to achieve wholesale change in any sector.

But the legal profession has particular vulnerabilities, with its hierarchical structure and close working relationships.

At the pinnacle there are the judges, many with healthy egos and tenure until retirement.

They can seem almost untouchable, and mostly they are — just one judge has been removed from office in more than 30 years. There have been a stack of reports across many years exposing rampant harassment in the legal profession.

The most recent, from the Victorian Legal Services Commissioner in April, showed one in three respondents had experienced sexual harassment — the majority in the past five years and 25 per cent in the previous 12 months.

Law Council of Australia president Pauline Wright says lawyers depend on personal connections, both to win work and to advance up the chain. “Baked into that process is a power dynamic where the more senior practitioners necessarily have power over the career progression of the less senior practitioners,” she says.

Even when women are brave enough to speak out, complaints can go nowhere. As The Australian revealed this week, a NSW Supreme Court judge was told Heydon had made unwanted advances towards one of its young female employees two years ago but did not take any action.

Parker informed NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst only this week of Mani’s allegations.

The court says Mani did not ask Parker to take the matter any further, but she told The Australian that she had hoped when she raised the matter he would do something about it.

Bathurst has now asked the state’s judicial commission to prepare an education program for judges on what to do if an allegation is made. The court says judges were not previously trained on the issue because it was generally expected they would have been educated in their previous careers.

The High Court has refused to say when concerns about Heydon’s behaviour were first raised with its judges. However, the investigation by former inspector-general of intelligence and security Vivienne Thom noted that former High Court judge Michael McHugh was told about one of the alleged incidents by his then associate, Sharona Coutts. Coutts told the investigator that McHugh told her he had spoken to then chief justice Murray Gleeson.

That was back in 2005.

Another of Heydon’s former associates, Chelsea Tabart, allegedly went on to be harassed in 2012. She told The Sydney Morning Herald she left the law because the culture was broken from the top down and she did not feel she would be safe “from powerful men like Mr Heydon” even if she reported them.

Heydon remained on the court until his retirement in 2013.

He is also alleged to have groped former ACT Law Society president Noor Blumer at a university dinner.

Chelsea Tabart was an associate of Dyson Heydon in 2012.
The heads of the federal courts and tribunals issued a rare joint statement on Friday condemning sexual harassment as “unlawful and wholly unacceptable”.

The five chiefs — all men — said they were taking steps to review their policies and procedures to ensure they were effective and that all staff had the confidence to raise concerns or complaints.

High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel also has vowed to make changes that would prevent such misconduct in future. This includes a new HR policy and the appointment of a supervisor who could provide support to associates if needed.

Her strong statement this week — that she and her fellow judges were “ashamed” such behaviour could occur at the High Court and that the women’s accounts of their experiences had been believed — sent the message loud and clear to the profession that this sort of conduct would no longer stay under the carpet.

But many believe the changes do not go far enough.  The profession is pushing for an independent body that could handle complaints against federal judges.  Similar bodies exist in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

The Law Council has been calling for a federal judicial commission since 2006. Labor backs the move. Even the Judicial Conference of Australia, which represents the nation’s judges, supports the idea, although some experts have flagged potential constitutional issues.

Attorney-General Christian Porter says he is “not closed-minded” to a judicial commission — but, then, he also said that in 2018 and nothing has happened since then.

The Law Council’s Wright says the “time is ripe” now. “We need to bite the bullet and ensure that we’ve got a properly constituted federal judicial commission,” she says. “It would be at arm’s length with the executive government so it doesn’t offend the separation of powers and it maintains judicial independence and integrity.”

The president of the Judicial Conference of Australia, Northern Territory Supreme Court Justice Judith Kelly, says the JCA also backs a federal judicial commission. “We’ve expressed our support for that for some time and we’ve had a policy in place now for a number of years, and that is very much our view,” Kelly says. At the moment, chief judges have few powers at their disposal to discipline judges.

As former High Court chief justice Robert French told The Australian this week: “There’s kind of a nuclear option, which is removal, and other than that there are not direct disciplinary powers.”

Such a body also could consider complaints about other forms of judicial misbehaviour or incapacity. Some judges have been found by appeal courts to repeatedly fail to provide fair hearings, others have been accused of insidious bullying, while some can take up to four years to deliver judgments.

Wright is also pushing for a protocol on judicial behaviour and conduct in the courtroom. She says the Law Council would be happy to contribute to it, but the process should be led by the federal courts.

“We think this is a really important ingredient in this,” she says.

The Law Council also is arguing for changes so the Sex Discrimination Act’s prohibition on sexual harassment also extends to judges and statutory office holders, and barristers and other self-employed people.

“Sexual harassment should be unlawful in all areas of public life,” Wright says.

Heydon, who led the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption in 2014, now faces possible disciplinary action that could result in him being struck off.

He also faces a possible criminal investigation; the Australian Federal Police confirmed on Wednesday it had received a request from ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC to determine if he should face charges.

Heydon’s lawyers, Speed and Stracey, issued a categorical denial of the allegations and said the former judge had informed them that if any conduct had caused offence, the result was “inadvertent and unintended”.

“In respect of the confidential inquiry and its subsequent confidential report, any allegations of predatory behaviour or breaches of the law (are) categorically denied by our client,” the lawyers said.

“Our client says that if any conduct of his has caused offence, that result was inadvertent and unintended, and he apologises for any offence caused. We have asked the High Court to convey that directly to the associate complainants.

“The inquiry was an internal administrative inquiry and was conducted by a public servant and not by a lawyer, judge or a tribunal member. It was conducted without having statutory powers of investigation and of administering affirmations or oaths.’’

Three of Heydon’s female accusers will also seek compensation from the former judge and the government, although the women will need to gain the approval of the Human Rights Commission before civil action can be pursued in the Federal Court.

Media reports this week suggested that concerns about Heydon’s behaviour was some sort of open secret in the legal profession.

However, when the allegations emerged, many were simply gobsmacked — even those women who had led the charge to stamp out bad behaviour or held professional leadership positions.

Many senior female practitioners told The Australian this week Heydon had not been one of those men who had been the subject of quiet warnings from other women. Those men are still out there, and they just might be quaking in their boots.


Scott Morrison says it's 'not unreasonable' for Australia’s borders to remain shut until mid-next year

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has added to a growing belief that Australia’s borders won’t reopen this year, saying it was “not unreasonable” to believe international travel will not resume until mid-to-late 2021 at the earliest.

Aside from a potential travel bubble with New Zealand, Australia is widely expected to keep its borders shut from the rest of the world - potentially until a vaccine or treatment to the coronavirus is found.

On Thursday, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce expressed doubts international flights with his airline would be able to restart prior to July next year, as he announced 6,000 jobs will be axed as a result of a major downturn due to the virus.

During a press briefing on Friday following a national cabinet meeting, Mr Morrison said the “uncertainty” of the situation surrounding the pandemic validated Mr Joyce’s belief.

“As you look around the world and you see the intensity of the virus escalating, not decelerating, then I think it is not unreasonable for Alan Joyce to form the view he has,” Mr Morrison said.

“No-one really knows and that's the problem. That's just the uncertainty we have to deal with and as we make so many decisions, you can't always do it on full information and you have to make judgements based on the best possible advice and where you think things are going.”


Australia's Drought-Ending Rains Restore Critically Endangered Woodlands

Panic about their survival neglected their long history of bouncing back.  They are fire-adapted

In box gum grassy woodlands, widely spaced eucalypts tower over carpets of wildflowers, lush native grasses and groves of flowering wattles. It's no wonder some early landscape paintings depicting Australian farm life are inspired by this ecosystem.

But box gum grassy woodlands are critically endangered. These woodlands grow on highly productive agricultural country, from southern Queensland, along inland slopes and tablelands, into Victoria.

Many are degraded or cleared for farming. As a result, less than 5% of the woodlands remain in good condition. What remains often grows on private land such as farms, and public lands such as cemeteries or traveling stock routes.

Very little is protected in public conservation reserves. And the recent drought and record breaking heat caused these woodlands to stop growing and flowering.

But after Queensland's recent drought-breaking rain earlier this year, we surveyed private farmland and found many dried-out woodlands in the northernmost areas transformed into flower-filled, park-like landscapes.

And landholders even came across rarely seen marsupials, such as the southern spotted-tail quoll.

These surveys were part of the Australian government's Environmental Stewardship Program, a long-term cooperative conservation model with private landholders. It started in 2007 and will run for 19 years.

We found huge increases in previously declining native wildflowers and grasses on the private farmland. Many trees assumed to be dying began resprouting, such as McKie's stringybark (Eucalyptus mckieana), which is listed as a vulnerable species.

This newfound plant diversity is the result of seeds and tubers (underground storage organs providing energy and nutrients for regrowth) lying dormant in the soil after wildflowers bloomed in earlier seasons. The dormant seeds and tubers were ready to spring into life with the right seasonal conditions.

For example, Queensland Herbarium surveys early last year, during the drought, looked at a 20 meter (65 feet) by 20 meter plot and found only six native grass and wildflower species on one property. After this year's rain, we found 59 species in the same plot, including many species of perennial grass (three species jumped to 20 species post rain), native bluebells and many species of native daisies.

On another property with only 11 recorded species, more than 60 species sprouted after the extensive rains.

In areas where grazing and farming continued as normal (the paired "control" sites), the plots had only around half the number of plant species as areas managed for conservation.

Spotting Rare Marsupials

Landowners also reported several unusual sightings of animals on their farms after the rains. Stewardship program surveyors later identified them as two species of rare and endangered native carnivorous marsupials: the southern spotted-tailed quoll (mainland Australia's largest carnivorous marsupial) and the brush-tailed phascogale.

The population status of both these species in southern Queensland is unknown. The brush-tailed phascogale is elusive and rarely detected, while the southern spotted-tailed quolls are listed as endangered under federal legislation.

Until those sightings, there were no recent records of southern spotted-tailed quolls in the local area.

These unusual wildlife sightings are valuable for monitoring and evaluation. They tell us what's thriving, declining or surviving, compared to the first surveys for the stewardship program ten years ago.

Sightings are also a promising signal for the improving condition of the property and its surrounding landscape.

 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

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Indigenous peoples’ problems show Australians are in denial about their racism

This article is completely empty of any proof or evidence for what it asserts.  There is NO evidence advanced to counter the argument that Aborigines bear a large part of the blame for their own backwardness.  Mentioning a couple of anecdotes proves nothing.  You can prove anything by anecdotes

Police on horseback gathered in a circle to defend the statue of Captain James Cook in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Australians inspired by American protests, and calling attention to the plight of their country’s indigenous peoples, might have toppled the statue. The moment was replete with historical irony. The “discoverer” of Australia met his end on a Hawaiian beach, at the hands of a crowd of angry natives. The police seemed determined not to let it happen to him a second time.

The whole messy issue of Australia’s past rose up and wound itself in knots around Cook’s bronze form. The conservative prime minister, Scott Morrison, condemned the protesters. But he drew a distinction between Australia’s history of white settlement and America’s. Australia had been “a pretty brutal place”, he conceded, “but there was no slavery.”

That is some gloss to the real story of white settlement. Australia’s indigenous peoples have endured land seizures, massacres, servitude and, well into the second half of the 20th century, children forcibly removed by government agencies and church missions in the name of racial assimilation—the so-called stolen generations. An uproar over his comments compelled Mr Morrison to backtrack and clarify that he had meant no legal slavery. To many of his government’s supporters, muttering over their barbies, the furore was political correctness gone mad.

Nobody denies that Australia’s indigenous peoples face bleak odds. Aboriginals and Torres Straits Islanders are 3% of the population but 27% of prisoners. Their life expectancy is eight years less than the national average. They do terribly at school.

But Australia has made strides to improve the Aboriginal condition, starting with a referendum in 1967 granting full citizens’ rights to indigenous Australians. In 1992 a High Court case over land title overturned the long-held legal fiction that Australia had been an uninhabited terra nullius for the taking. And in 2008 the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, formally apologised to the “oldest continuing cultures in human history” over the stolen generations and other past mistreatment. Mr Rudd’s and successive governments have committed to “closing the gap” in socioeconomic outcomes.

Many Australians therefore share Mr Morrison’s contention that Australia is not a fundamentally racist country but its opposite, a “fair” one. From this some conclude that Aboriginals’ remaining problems—the drinking, the domestic violence, the supposed indolence—are of their communities’ own making, not a consequence of discrimination. One columnist even claims that the protesters are “enablers for systemic and entrenched indigenous problems to fester”.

In the past, bottom-up efforts by indigenous folk to improve their lot tended to work only if the political climate encouraged it. The “Uluru statement from the heart” in 2017, which called for constitutional change to give indigenous Australians a special voice in laws and policies that concerned them, was rejected by the ruling coalition, on the ground that the proposed body would constitute a third legislative chamber.

That argument, Mr Rudd contends, is “bullshit”: the body would have had no authority to introduce or vote on legislation. Rather, the rejection was a dogwhistle to the same kinds of voters who were encouraged to believe, after the High Court ruling on land rights, that Aboriginals would soon be camping in their back yard. Mr Morrison’s criticism of protesters was intended for much the same audience.

It is no surprise then that indigenous people believe Australia does not offer them a fair go. “There’s a view here that we’re all mates,” says Pat Anderson, an Aboriginal leader. “But this is a mythology they tell themselves.” Petty racism abounds. One Aussie-rules star, Adam Goodes, who complained when a 13-yearold called him an ape, was booed into early retirement.

Yet some think the social and political ground might soon shift. A younger generation of indigenous Australians, many better educated than their parents, is beginning to puncture the cosy selfimage of Australia projected by the likes of Mr Morrison—using wit to get their point across. It was hardly salutary that a recent study concluded that three out of four Australians have a “racial bias” against Aboriginals. But it did bring cheer when Briggs, an indigenous rapper, tweeted that the fourth Australian was probably “conducting the survey”.


Redefining our past does injustice to Australia now

Scott Morrison’s insistence that slavery was not part of the Australian colonial experience might have been the opportunity for the truthful discussion the ABC keeps telling us we need to have.

Instead, Radio National Breakfast wheeled out Bruce Pascoe to confirm the ABC’s prejudices and tell us why the Prime Minister was wrong. “It’s pretty obvious that when you chain people up by the neck and force them to march 300km and then to work on cattle stations for non-indigenous barons, then that is slavery.”

Semantic carelessness, conflated half-truths and a slap-happy interpretation of evidence were the best Pascoe could muster to build a case against Morrison. Yet presenter Hamish Macdonald felt no need to offer a countervailing opinion, let alone correct Pascoe’s factual mistakes. A “pretty obvious” case is good enough for a mind that is already made up.

A progressive view of the world demands we take a dim view of our forebears so that our own compassion shines. It requires a conviction that no generation has been as enlightened as ours and no one who came before us saw the world with such clarity.

There is no shortage of brutal episodes to make this self-aggrandising point. Chattel slavery, however, the ownership of human beings as personal property who can be exchanged as commodities, has always been illegal in Australia. Children have never inherited slave status from their mother, nor been sold like cattle in open markets. Unlike the US, Australia didn’t need a civil war to decide the matter. As governor Arthur Phillip wrote to the Home Office: “There can be no slavery in a free land and consequently no slaves.”

Balanced and informed history demands acceptance of the inconvenient fact colonial Australia was not the fatal shore but a land of redemption.

Characterising Australia by the incidence of criminal behaviour is disingenuous. The unlawful killing of Aborigines occurred at the frontiers of settlement and was never sanctioned by the state.

A nation’s moral fibre should not be measured by its most shameful moments but by how it responds to them. Do brutal acts accelerate a downward spiral of general degeneracy, as it did in the Belgian Congo, for example? Or are we committed to the liberal ideal of continuous self-improvement?

The word slavery is a relatively new arrival in Australian history books, whether written by scholars from the left or right. Manning Clark drew a long bow to claim that the European convicts were slaves, but the word appears in no other context in his six-volume history of Australia.

The existence of slavery is not acknowledged in Alan Atkinson’s The Europeans in Australia, except in the negative. There is no index entry for slavery in the Cambridge History of Australia (2013) edited by Alison Bashford and Stuart Macintyre.

If there is something these learned scholars missed, then revisionists such as Pascoe must front up with the evidence. This they have been unable to do. Their claims are more rhetorical than empirical, stretching the definition of slavery to break its meaning.

It takes a historian with backbone to stare unflinchingly at Australia’s past and wrestle with the moral ambiguity of a nation settled by enlightened people with the highest intentions in which not everything has gone to plan.

David Kemp’s five-volume history of freedom in Australia, three of which have been published, rises above the ABC history-war clickbait to do just that.

The cruelty of some frontier settlers he describes competes with the worst accounts of lynch mobs in America’s deep south. He cites Henry Parkes’s account of an incident from the Hawkesbury River during the early days of the colony when settlers were said to have seized a native boy, dragging him repeatedly through a fire until his back was charred before throwing him into a river and shooting him dead.

Kemp, unlike others who have ventured into this field, does not seek to draw immoral equivalence between Australia’s history and that of other colonies when describing the hostile lawlessness on the frontier.

The violence was not sanctioned by the government, and liberal reformers such as Samuel Griffith made it their mission to impose the rule of law and a civilised frontier morality.

“The Queensland frontier was not the heart of darkness of the Belgian Congo, where there was essentially no liberal influence,” Kemp writes.

As it happens, the suffering of the indigenous people of the Congo, who had the misfortune of being colonised by the Belgians in the late 19th century, was discussed on Radio National Breakfast recently. The item was prompted by the West Australian government’s decision to rename the King Leopold Ranges in the western Kimberley.

King Leopold II was not the great explorer Alexander Forrest imagined him to be when he named the ranges in his honour in 1879. He was the absolute ruler of the Congo Free State, controlling a mercenary army in which the severing of a hand was regarded as mild punishment. Estimates of how many Congolese were killed range up to 15 million.

The narrative of history favoured by muddle-headed progressives is a rogues’ gallery of bad old white men in which colonialism is characterised by its most illiberal, brutal form.

All are portrayed as irredeemably evil with little distinction and without reference to facts or context. The mob defacing Winston Churchill’s statue in London ignorantly brands him a racist, blind to his courage in resisting and defeating the tyranny of Adolf Hitler.

These are dangerous times to be undermining Australia’s moral foundations and the values and institutions that underpin its success. Nor can we afford to be diverted by more symbolic debates on our history while the hard work of practical reconciliation remains undone. Justice should be sought in attending to the causes of educational and welfare disadvantage in regional and remote communities rather than by defaming our ancestors.

Nick Cater is executive director of the Menzies Research Centre. David Kemp’s The Land of Dreams, A Free Country, and A Democratic Nation are available menziesrc.org/books.


CFA boss resigns ahead of controversial fire services merger

Pushing together two different organizations with different challenges was alway going to be dodgy but big egos in both organizations have made it doubly problematical

The head of the Country Fire Authority has resigned a week out from a controversial merger between the CFA and MFB.

After 42 years in public service, CFA Chief Officer and CEO Steve Warrington tendered his resignation on Thursday.
Mr Warrington started his career at Chelsea Fire Brigade in 1978 as a volunteer firefighter.

Mr Warrington started his career at Chelsea Fire Brigade in 1978 as a volunteer firefighter.Credit:Amy Paton

Mr Warrington himself did not give a public reason for his resignation, but it comes amid a long-running and bitter fire services dispute that has plagued the Andrews government for a number of years.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria chief Adam Barnett said Mr Warrington had been under "incredible pressure and stress" in the lead up to the launch of Fire Rescue Victoria, a new emergency service made up of career CFA firefighters and the Melbourne Fire Brigade.

The new professionals-only agency will run metropolitan fire services, replacing the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. It will take control of the 38 professional CFA brigades at “integrated” stations that are currently shared by the professional CFA firefighters and CFA volunteers.

The state’s fire services boundaries will be changed, bringing outer suburban areas of Melbourne that are served by the CFA under the control of Fire Rescue Victoria.

FRV is due to begin from July 1, and Mr Barnett said volunteer firefighters were furious over a lack of consultation over a secondment deal which would see uniformed career FRV firefighters placed alongside CFA volunteers.

"Volunteers will be deeply saddened and angry to learn that the government's fire services reform has claimed yet another victim tonight with CFA chief officer Steven Warrington AFSM resigning rather than be forced to sign agreements and contracts that would destroy CFA and rob it of its future," Mr Barnett said.

"Steve saw what thousands of CFA volunteers have seen and have been raising their concerns about.

"These reforms are not good for CFA, and they are not good for Victoria and no minister or government can try and tell us otherwise".

Mr Barnett said it was originally intended that Mr Warrington's position would still exist with the launch of FRV.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville thanked Mr Warrington for his service, highlighting his duty throughout Victoria's bushfire crisis this year.

"I will miss Steve greatly – I have learnt much from him about bushfires and the CFA and hold him in high regard.

"While I’m incredibly sad to see Steve leave the CFA, I respect his decision to take time for himself and his family.

"Steve should be immensely proud of his contribution to Victoria and the CFA," Minister Neville said.

Mr Warrington was appointed Chief Officer of the CFA in 2016, and also became Chief Executive Officer in 2019.

He began his service as a CFA volunteer at Chelsea brigade in 1978 before joining staff as a career firefighter in 1983. He served through the Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday bushfire disasters and was awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal in 2017.

His resignation comes just days out from a controversial merger three years in the making between the CFA and the MFB.
CFA chief officer Steve Warrington with Premier Daniel Andrews in November and Police And Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville last year.

CFA chief officer Steve Warrington with Premier Daniel Andrews in November and Police And Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville last year. Credit:Chris Hopkins

Last year reform legislation to overhaul the state's fire services passed the Victorian parliament after more than three years of bitter dispute.

Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, Nick Wakeling said Mr Warrington's resignation signalled a continuation of "chaos and dysfunction" in Victoria's fire services, overseen by Premier Daniel Andrews.

"Under Daniel Andrews’ leadership a Minister, the CFA board and CEOs have been sacked risking the safety of Victorian public," he said.

"This latest resignation adds to the decades of firefighting experience already lost because Daniel Andrews is more interested in playing political games than keeping Victorians safe."

In a statement, the CFA Board said Mr Warrington served the community with "passion, skill and warmth".

"On behalf of the Board, we thank Steve for his decorated service to the people of Victoria and wish him all the best for the future." it read.

The board will announce an interim CEO shortly


Universities blindsided by Dan Tehan's plan for integrity unit to monitor enrolments

Universities have hit back at Dan Tehan’s proposal for a new integrity unit to police “substantial shifts in enrolment patterns”, questioning whether it is an appropriate role for the regulator.

The education minister announced the new role for the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency’s integrity unit on Wednesday evening, in a move that blindsided the university sector.

Tehan’s proposal is an attempt to stem criticism from universities, including the Australian National University and the University of Western Australia, that the proposed government funding cuts and fee increases will encourage universities to enrol more students in humanities.

When Tehan announced the policy on Friday, he suggested fee cuts would encourage the study of science, technology, engineering and maths, and reduce the number of students taking humanities courses.

The minister said Teqsa’s integrity unit would “as part of its mandate … investigate substantial shifts in enrolment patterns at universities and consider the implications for educational quality and provider governance”.

Teqsa would then be able to consider “whether the best response is from a regulatory or policy action”, he said, to “ensure a high-quality student experience”.

The ANU’s vice-chancellor, Brian Schmidt, said the university would consider the expanded role for the integrity unit “when more information comes to hand”.

“But the proposal already raises a number of key questions and concerns, not least whether it is an appropriate use of Teqsa’s regulatory role,” he told Guardian Australia.

“It also seems to muddy the waters in terms of the already good work universities are doing with government agencies regarding foreign interference. I can’t see this idea having wide enthusiasm across the sector.”

Labor’s education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, said: “The Liberals are just making things up as they go along.” She called the university changes a “dog’s breakfast”.

The chief executive of Universities Australia, Catriona Jackson, said: “It is important not to increase the regulatory burden unnecessarily, particularly when Covid-19 has imposed additional challenges on the higher education sector.”

The education department has reassured universities that none will be worse off in the short term, despite funding per place falling in a major shakeup of the sector, thanks to a $705m transition fund.

Despite the reassurance, the University of Sydney’s acting vice-chancellor, Stephen Garton, has joined a chorus of concerned voices saying the package imposed cuts on the government contribution that would mean universities “receive considerably less funding for teaching science, engineering, education, nursing, clinical psychology and agriculture”.

Talks with the university sector have now turned to a new funding model for research to supplement the changes, which double the cost of humanities subjects and cut the government contribution from 58% to 52% in an attempt to fund 39,000 extra places.

On Wednesday Margaret Gardner, the vice-chancellor of Monash University and chair of the Group of Eight universities, told Radio National the $705m three-year transition fund was designed “so that no university will face a decrease in funding for educating those students” despite receiving “less per place”.

Caroline Perkins, the executive director of the Regional Universities Network, confirmed that the department had told a stakeholder meeting on Wednesday that – assuming no collapse in domestic student numbers – the fund was designed to leave no university worse off.

“No regional university should be worse off after the three-year transition and indeed many regional universities will be better off,” she told Guardian Australia.

That is because they benefit from a $48m research fund, new regional student loading and growth in places of 3.5% in the regions and 2.5% in fast-growing metro unis, compared with 1% for the rest of universities.

But the University of New South Wales, the University of Tasmania and the University of Queensland have raised concerns that the package increases student fees and may decrease degree quality.

Garton told Guardian Australia the University of Sydney was concerned by “the shift in the funding burden from the government to the student, especially in the humanities and the social sciences and the cooling impact this could have on demand for these subjects”.

He said social science graduates learned “critical thinking, oral and written communication skills” which employers demanded, and that a “balance of skills is necessary for a healthy economy”.

“This is especially true as these students will not graduate for another three to five years, when the needs of the nation may be quite different.”

Garton said the impact on universities was “rather mixed”.

“Where both the student contribution and the [government contribution] amount both decrease universities receive considerably less funding for teaching science, engineering, education, nursing, clinical psychology and agriculture.

“This will put significant pressure on a university system already impacted by the pandemic.”

Debate is still raging about whether price signals to students will result in higher enrolments in Stem subjects or whether universities will have a perverse incentive to continue to enrol students in humanities.

Jackson said the peak body was still “assessing the consequences both intended and unintended” because it was not clear “what sort of push-and-pull incentives” it will create.

Jackson said the minister was now consulting the sector to create a “merit based research funding system”.

Tehan rejected the claim students would not respond to price signals to reconsider science subjects.

In an interview on The Briefing podcast, Tehan cited the fact fee cuts in maths and science in 2009 “did lead to extra demand” before a price increase of 78% in 2013 which did not move student numbers because “there wasn’t much publicity around it”.

“So, one of the things we’re very keen to do is, to be a lot clearer around the cost to a student of undertaking a degree.”


 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

Friday, June 26, 2020

Australia-UK free trade agreement: Visas on the table under negotiations to begin this month

It was a great blow when Britain entered the Common Market. Australian goods had access to British buyers substantially limited and moving from one of the countries to the other was hampered.  We seem likely to unwind that now that Britain is leaving the EU

There has been a continual stream of British migration to Australia ever since 1788, with the result that British customs have been continually refreshed in Australia.  With over a million British-born people living in Australia, there is virtually nothing about Britain that is unfamilar in Australia.

So for traditional but also continually refreshed reasons, Australia is very much like just another of the British regions that has somehow been moved to the other side of the word. 

The British regions all have their distinctive identity, culture and version of English and that is also true of Australia.  The difference between Australia and the Home Counties is in fact slighter than the difference betreen the Home counties and some thorougly English regions.  An Australian accent is, for instance, better understood in the Home Counties than a Geordie accent is

So there is every reason to open up movement between Britain and Australia

Greater opportunities for business visas and the potential to “streamline and extend” working holiday visas for young people are on the table as part of a free-trade agreement (FTA) between Britain and Australia.

Speaking at an Australian British Chamber of Commerce webinar on Monday, Australian Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Simon Birmingham said despite high levels of mobility between the UK and Australia there is room for improvement.

“[We] ought to provide for mutual recognition of qualifications and standards to make it easier for skilled professionals to work in each others countries,” he said.

“We of course have a rich history of young people from each country undertaking an almost rite of passage of living, working, travelling around each others countries. “Perhaps we can streamline and extend that,” he said, so the “terms of that are as flexible as they can be.”

While Mr Birmingham said the trade deal is “not an open borders arrangement” there is a need to facilitate movement of people along with the improved investment flows and mutual recognition of qualifications the free trade deal hopes to provide.

He said “never before” has a trade deal been seen from an Australian perspective as one that could be “so easy and yet so fruitful.” “I know we go into this with similar ambitions … this is an agreement we should be able to strike quickly and easily.” “I certainly hope that we can work though faster than any others.”

An FTA between the two nations has been years in the planning and talks will officially kick off online on June 29. The UK is also seeking an FTA with New Zealand while Australia is pursuing one with the European Union (EU).

Britain officially left the EU on 31 January 2020 allowing it the ability to pursue independent trade deals, however it is still negotiating its future relationship with the bloc that will come into effect on 1 January 2021 after a year's transition period.

UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss said Australia is a “key partner and ally” for the UK in is pursuit of becoming a global trading hub.

“When we entered the EU some people felt like we’d slightly lost touch with some of our old friends,” she said, adding that the two countries “speak with a similar voice on the world stage about the importance of free trade.”

The deal is set to benefit food and drink producers in both countries, as well as reducing the regulatory burden of setting up overseas for small businesses.

The UK automotive industry hopes to benefit from selling tariff-free cars to Australia, while Australian agricultural producers are set to benefit from not being locked out of trade barriers erected by the EU.

Digital services are also expected to play a key role in the deal, and the UK is hoping an FTA with New Zealand and Australia will pave the way for it to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – an FTA involving 11 Asia Pacific states.

Ms Truss said there was “quite a lot of booze flowing between the UK and Australia” in terms of Aussie wine and British whisky and gin.

“I see this as being an exemplar deal where two like-minded trading nations can show the world what free trade can look like,” she said. “There is no stronger relationship than with Australia.”

“[Australian Prime Minister] Scott Morrison and [UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson see eye-to-eye. We see this an opportunity to make closer friends with one of our best friends in the world.”

As for when international business travel might be back on the agenda, Ms Truss said it was “one of the key elements” the country was looking at as it emerges from lockdown.

Already Spain has announced British travellers will not have to quarantine there, with a number of deals with other European countries such as Portugal and France expected to follow.

Mr Birmingham said while travel restrictions are “tough for a nation like Australia … it’s also a reality that we are stuck with those restrictions for some time to come.”

He said the country is first looking at opening up to New Zealand and then potentially opening “business lanes” in “carefully calibrated ways” that could facilitate investment flows between the two countries.


Bayer to keep selling Roundup in Australia, will fight local lawsuits

Bayer will keep selling glyphosate-based weed sprays in Australia and fight litigation here against its product Roundup, despite agreeing to pay more than $US10 billion ($14.6 billion) to settle thousands of claims in the US alleging it causes cancer.

Executives from the company's United States and Australian operations vigorously defended glyphosate weed sprays in an early morning media call on Thursday, saying the product was safe to use and backed by a large body of scientific evidence around the world collected over many decades.

"What I want to make clear is we continue to proudly stand behind the safety and utility of our products, and our commitment to offer them to farmers and other users in Australia and around the world," said Brett Begemann, chief operating officer at Bayer’s crop science division.

"The decision to resolve these cases was driven by our desire to bring greater certainty to farmers we serve every day," he said.

Mr Begemann said the settlement came with a big expense, but was the "right decision" for Bayer and its stakeholders. The settlement would also enable Bayer to return its focus to work on the development of new agricultural products to protect crops.

Two class actions have already been launched against Roundup in Australia and are in their early stages.

Roundup is the biggest selling glyphosate-based weedspray in the world and is used extensively by farmers in various agricultural segments to kill weeds. It is also used by commercial gardeners and home gardeners.

Roundup is owned by Bayer, after the German company bought the US agrochemical company Monsanto in 2018. Monsanto invented and manufactured Roundup for decades, which meant that Bayer inherited the legal claims against Roundup with the 2018 deal.

"Let me be clear that the settlement in the United States has no bearing on glyphosate proceedings in any other jurisdiction. Bayer will actively defend any and all claims concerning Roundup brought against it in Australian courts...we're fully committed to these crucial weed control technologies and that commitment’s unwavering," Mr Begemann said.

The coronavirus pandemic was a key reminder of the importance of agriculture, food and science to the world, he said.

"We'll continue to sell Roundup and other glyphosate-based products to our loyal customer base," he said.

"There's a really strong consensus around the world that glyphosate does not cause cancer and is not carcinogenic. No regulator in the world has ever indicated they've seen any of that," he said.

Joerg Ellmanns, Bayer’s crop science country divisional head for Australia and New Zealand, said glyphosate weed sprays were a "cornerstone" of Australian agriculture, and the company had no plans to change its marketing of glyphosate products in this country.

Mr Ellmanns said sales of Bayer's glyphosate weed sprays in Australia were performing strongly.  "We believe it's essential for Australian agriculture," he said.

Shortly after Bayer bought Monsanto a California court awarded $US289 million to school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who claimed that glyphosate caused his cancer. The monetary award was later reduced and Bayer appealed the verdict.

In Australia, the first class action launched against Bayer over Roundup was led by a Melbourne gardener, who blamed his non-Hodgkin lymphoma, diagnosed in 2011, on his use of Roundup. The case was launched last year.


Channel 7, Sam Armytage and Prue MacSween sued for racial vilification

Channel Seven, Sunrise host Samantha Armytage and commentator Prue MacSween are being sued for racial vilification over a 2018 discussion on the network’s breakfast program.

The decision to take the complaint to Federal Court was made after settlement discussions at the Australian Human Rights Commission crumbled.

The court case stems from a segment on Sunrise in March 2018 where the panel – which including Armytage, MacSween and radio host Ben Davis – suggested a second stolen generation was needed to help Aboriginal children.

“Just like the first stolen generation where a lot of kids were taken for their wellbeing, we need to do it again,” MacSween said on the program.

The discrimination case is being led by legal firm Susan Moriarty and Associates, which in a statement said the eight Aboriginal complainants were “forced” to take their case to the Federal Court after settlement discussions collapsed.

Indigenous elder Aunty Rhonda, who is leading the complaint, said the group just wanted “accountability and equality”.

“This nationwide broadcast by Channel Seven in March 2018 was another symbol of national shame and another appalling example of the deeply entrenched virus of racism that still plagues white platforms of privilege in this country,” she said.

“Channel Seven’s subsequent disingenuous downcast eyes and ‘we’re so sorry’ murmurs, after we protested and their racism was called out, mean nothing to us when they refuse all reasonable requests for proper repatriation of the pulverising hate, humiliation and distress we feel every day of our lives.”

Dozens of protesters chanted outside Sunrise’s Sydney studio in March 2018 in the days after the segment.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority also found the segment to be in breach of the Commercial Television Industry Code Of Practice.

The ACMA forced Channel Seven to independently audit the production process behind Sunrise and all editorial staff were required to undertake training on racism and Aboriginal affairs.


Australian arts and culture to get $250m rescue package from Morrison government

The Morrison government will unveil a $250m support package for Australia’s arts and cultural sectors, including $90m in government-backed concessional loans to fund new productions that will create jobs during the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scott Morrison will also use Friday’s national cabinet meeting to try to reach agreement with the premiers on a timetable for reopening theatres and local productions in an attempt to provide some certainty to a sector hit for six during the crisis.

The local industry has been devastated economically because of social distancing restrictions that have shut down film and television productions, theatres and touring shows.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, the emergency relief for the arts from Canberra has consisted of a $27m package, announced in April, directed to regional organisations, Indigenous organisations and music industry outreach outfit Support Act, and the Australia Council’s repurposing of $5m in existing funding for small, quick-release grants.

Thursday’s package includes a $75m grant program that will provide capital to help Australian production and events businesses put on new festivals, concerts, tours and other events as social distancing restrictions ease. Grants will range from $75,000 to $2m.

Screen Australia will administer a $50m fund to help finance local productions that have shut down to comply with public health measures. In addition to the social distancing requirements, many productions had to fold because they could not secure insurance.

The government will also provide $35m to what it describes as “significant commonwealth-funded arts and culture organisations” – which could include theatres, dance companies or musical groups. The Australia Council will help allocate the funding.

The package also includes $90m in concessional loans to help bankroll new productions and events that provide employment and generate revenue. The loans will be provided by the banks but underwritten by the commonwealth.

Morrison also intends to create a taskforce to oversee the implementation of the support package.

Australia’s live performance industry says the pandemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis, with a catastrophic impact on jobs, but the rescue package has been slow in coming. A meeting of arts ministers in late May ended in a stalemate after Canberra blocked a push from the states to broaden the jobkeeper wage subsidy to boost the struggling sector.

The states have funded support packages of various sizes, with Victoria having committed more than $51m across the sector and the New South Wales government pledging $50m for a “rescue and restart” package.

Under pressure from Labor and the Greens to do more, the government has said people employed in the cultural sector have been given access to income support during the pandemic. It says $100m in wage subsidies and cashflow support was provided to the sector during April and May.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data suggests 645,303 people are employed in Australia’s arts and cultural sectors.

The expenditure review committee of cabinet considered the $250m package last Thursday night after talks between Morrison and representatives from the entertainment sector. Morrison and the arts minister, Paul Fletcher, met by teleconference with the heads of entertainment industry associations, including the Australian Recording Industry Association, touring companies, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and artists Mark Vincent and Guy Sebastian.

Ahead of Thursday’s announcement, Fletcher said: “We are backing over 600,000 Australians in the cultural and creative sectors whose work contributes $112bn to our economy.

“These sectors have been hit hard during the pandemic, and the government’s investment will play an important role in the nation’s economic recovery.”


 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

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Australia’s border to stay shut until vaccine found, hints minister

Just one death in a month is a big deal in Australia. It takes the national death toll to 103. Most people overseas will not be able to believe it. The United States currently has around 2.4 million confirmed cases of the virus, and its death toll stands at 123,000.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has heavily hinted Australia’s international borders will remain closed until a coronavirus vaccine is developed.

Talking to the ABC on Tuesday morning, Minister Hunt said, “I do think that the international border closures will remain in place for a very significant time.”

The words come after an apparent second wave of cases in Victoria has spooked states into playing down interstate travel, too.

Minister Hunt’s comments, though, are the strongest hint yet from the federal government that Australia has no ambition to open up worldwide before the end of the year.

It comes despite much of Europe, the epicentre of the crisis, lifting restrictions for tourists to enjoy a summer holiday.

“For the time being we are an island sanctuary,” Minister Hunt said. “I won’t put a time frame on it because there are differing views as to vaccines, for example, the University of Queensland’s molecular lab is one of the world’s leading vaccine candidates [and] it’s progressing. “There are others out of Oxford, the United States, Europe, Asia.”

The minister added that Australia’s hotel quarantine system was the country’s “defence against importing cases from around the world” but reiterated plans to open up to New Zealand. “It will take a while before the border is open because around the world the virus is accelerating, not decelerating,” Minister Hunt said.

Yesterday, Australian Aviation reported how worries of a COVID-19 resurgence within Australia has led to some states rowing back on opening up to interstate travel.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, for instance, said on Monday that her state’s decision to re-open its border to the rest of the nation on 10 July could be overturned, while South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said he may also reconsider pushing back the open date. “We don’t want to go backwards, so we won’t be opening our borders if it’s not safe to do so,” Premier Marshall said.

Currently, SA is already welcoming visitors from WA, the NT and Tasmania, with no quarantine requirements.

In WA, Premier Mark McGowan revealed that he had intended to lift the hard border between WA and the eastern states on 8 August, however due to Victoria’s uptick in virus cases, he will now refrain from setting a date.

Finally, the Northern Territory state government has for now decided not to push back its date of reopening its borders to the rest of the nation on 17 July, despite acknowledging the spike in Victoria.

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles said the spike in positive results down south was just part of the “new normal”.


Course for pre-school teachers that requires them to study 'non-binary living' and 'queer thinking' is slammed for 'trying to indoctrinate children'

Outspoken politician Mark Latham has blasted a professional development course for preschool teachers which includes modules centered around 'non-binary living' and 'queer thinking'.

The controversial former Labor leader who is now in charge of New South Wales' One Nation Party described the training as 'political indoctrination'.

He is now planning to introduce a private member's bill in state parliament to ban the promotion of gender fluidity in schools.

'It is pure social engineering with very young children taught things that should be left to discussion with their parents later in life,' Mr Latham told the Daily Telegraph.

'What they are trying to run here is a political indoctrination camp for three and four year olds.'

Back in January 2019, The New South Wales Education Standards Authority granted the education consultancy company, Multiverse, accreditation to teach early childhood educator courses in areas such as painting, drawing and storytelling.

The New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA) said they are now examining the accreditation process to determine whether the course is outside the company's mandate.

'(We are) investigating to confirm that the course referred to meets the requirements of Multiverse's endorsement as a provider of NESA-registered professional development,' a NESA spokeswoman said yesterday.

The course in question is titled, 'My Friend Has Two Mums: Gender Sexuality in Early Childhood'.

The $220 course, taught through a secret 'safe space' Facebook group, includes modules such as Queer Thinking in Early Childhood, A Transgender Early Childhood Educator, Living Non-Binary and Aboriginal Queerness and Queeness.

Despite the criticism, Multiverse says it's merely adjusting to modern times and seeking to educate pre-school teachers about inclusivity. 'As society changes, the issues we face in early childhood change,' Multiverse says on their website. 'Things we may have never thought of impacting on our work, now do. Things like sexuality and gender.

'Our services are now working with children who identify with a different gender, with same sex parents, with openly gay and lesbian educators. And, importantly how we deal with these issues are part of the National Quality Standard!'

About 30 early-age educators have taken the course.


Leftist leader's letter to PM Scott Morrison to outline climate compromise

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has urged the Prime Minister to end the climate wars in a letter outlining a new bipartisan approach on energy policy that’s being dubbed “a surrender note” by critics.

In an olive branch, Mr Albanese has written to the PM urging the Morrison government to find an energy policy that both sides of politics can support and then get on with legislating it.

The Labor leader said that the ALP would not “seek a specific model” for the bipartisan energy policy as long as it could be scalable to different emissions targets of a future government.

After the Prime Minister spruiked the benefits of bipartisanship during the COVID-19 crisis with Labor state premiers, Mr Albanese is urging the Prime Minister to embrace a new deal on energy policy.

“As we address the greatest health and economic crisis we have seen for generations, it is only by working together that we can deliver the leadership Australian businesses and families are rightly crying out for,’’ Mr Albanese writes.

“It is my sincere hope that you carefully consider and accept this genuine offer.”

Previously, Labor had offered to back the National Energy Guarantee, which the Liberal Party put on ice two years ago during the leadership revolt that toppled Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister.

Whether it’s the carbon tax, the National Energy Guarantee or the emissions reduction scheme, successive governments have tried and failed to deliver a détente in the energy policy space.

While the brawls have toppled prime ministers and political leaders, experts insist the real losers are voters who are paying more for energy as businesses refuse to invest because of the uncertainty.

Business leaders have consistently warned that Australia’s energy prices for electricity and gas are higher than they should be as a result of the policy vacuum in the climate change space.

The new negotiating position was ticked off by the shadow cabinet recently, following negotiations between the Left faction’s Mark Butler and the Right faction’s pro-coal frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon.

Last year, Mr Albanese carpeted Mr Fitzgibbon in the shadow cabinet over his public call for a “sensible settlement’’ with the Liberal Party on climate change targets.

The brawl prompted Mr Butler to announce he would be announcing a “climate change emergency’’ in parliament, which critics complained was “a crock of sh*t.”

In February, Mr Albanese announced that a Labor Government would adopt a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Albanese has also offered to support the development and use of Carbon Capture Storage methodologies for the creation of Australian carbon credit units to be available for Emission Reduction Fund auctions.

This is despite the Labor Party insisting it remains opposed to the taxpayer funded Emissions Reduction Fund on the grounds it is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds.

But while the bipartisan approach has been endorsed by the shadow cabinet, it’s likely to sharpen the differences between the ALP and the Greens and could alarm some inner-city MPs.

“We’ve taken ourselves hostage and now we’re sending the PM a surrender note,’’ a Labor MP quipped.


'Fire me!' Kerri-Anne Kennerley defends her VERY controversial television rants and says she 'can't resist' making politically incorrect comments

Kerri-Anne Kennerley says she 'can't resist' making politically incorrect statements that have landed her in hot water over her long and lucrative television career.

The Australian presenter appeared on Sky News' The Death of the Aussie Larrikin? on Tuesday night, which looks at social media's impact on Australian culture and whether political correctness has killed off humour. 

The 68-year-old is no stranger to making outlandish comments, perhaps none more infamous than her rant about climate change protesters in October last year.  

The Studio 10 panel were discussing the Queensland government's plan to introduce tougher sentences for unruly protesters, some of whom glued themselves to roads in Brisbane.

Kennerley said she supported tougher sentences. 'Personally, I would leave them all super glued to wherever they do it,' she said at the time.

Referring to a protester who attached a hammock to a bridge in Brisbane, she said: 'The guy hanging from the Story Bridge. Why send emergency services to look after or get a moron down?

'Leave him there until he gets himself out. No emergency services should help them, nobody should do anything, and you just put little witches hats around them, or use them as a speed bump.

'Is that wrong? Put them in jail and forget to feed them. Put them in some of the aged care homes around Australia, that would really sort them out.'

On Tuesday night, host of the Sky News program Rowan Dean questioned Kennerley about her controversial comments and whether she ever takes a step back before speaking her mind after widespread backlash last October.

'They really pray I do. They really go, ''Now, you know, maybe, we don't want you to pull back, but you know, maybe'' and I go, ''Oh what the, so fire me!'' she said.

'If I'm on Studio 10 and I'm having a cheeky day, and something like [political correctness] comes up, I can't resist it.'

She explained her comments about Extinction Rebellion protests were just a 'joke' and were made because 'I thought they were funny'.

The television personality said it's fine if people disagree with her comments, but it becomes a different issue when they become 'vicious'.  

Kennerley called on the 'silent majority' to 'speak up'. 'There will always be an echelon of society who don't really know you and really want to play darts, and it would seem most of those people use social media,' she said.

'And it's very powerful, but it's also not as big as the silent majority. So silent majority, could you just speak up a little bit? Just a little bit more? Thanks. It'd be very helpful.'

Kennerley was joined by comedians Paul Fenech, Vince Sorrenti and Emma Malik, actor Delvene Delaney, who all agreed 'political correctness is killing the larrikin'.

Last year, Kennerley came under fire following a heated argument about protests against Australia Day with Yumi Stynes who labelled her a 'racist'.

Kennerley said Indigenous protesters and their supporters should be more concerned with the dire state of many Aboriginal communities.

'The 5,000 people who went through the streets making their points known, saying how inappropriate the day is - has any single one of those people been out to the Outback, where children, babies, five-year-olds, are being raped?,' she said.

'Their mothers are being raped, their sisters are being raped. They get no education. What have you done?'

After a pause, Stynes fired back at Kennerley. 'That is not even faintly true, Kerri-Anne. You're sounding quite racist right now,' she said.

Kennerley responded by stating she was offended, but Stynes doubled down on her insult. 'Well keep going then, because every time you open your mouth you're sounding racist.'


 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