Thursday, July 30, 2020

Ridd Case: IPA Welcomes Historic High Court Appeal

Ridd was fired for challenging Greenie lies about the Great Barrier Reef

The Institute of Public Affairs has welcomed the announcement that Dr Peter Ridd will appeal the judgement in the case of James Cook University (JCU) v Peter Ridd to the High Court of Australia. Dr Ridd is seeking to reverse the 2-1 decision of the Federal Court of Australia, which overturned the earlier decision in the Federal Circuit Court, which held that Dr Peter Ridd was unlawfully dismissed by JCU.

“This is an historic appeal. It will be the first time that the High Court has been asked to adjudicate on the meaning of intellectual freedom,” said Gideon Rozner, IPA Director of Policy.

“The fundamental issues of free speech at Australian universities, the future of academic debate and freedom of speech on climate change are all on the line in this historic High Court appeal.”

“This has been Australia’s David vs Goliath battle. Dr Peter Ridd on one side backed by the voluntary donations of thousands of ordinary Australians, and JCU on the other side who with taxpayer funds secured some of the most expensive legal representation in the country in Bret Walker SC to stifle the free speech of one of its own staff.”

Dr Peter Ridd, a professor of physics at JCU, was sacked by the university for misconduct for questioning in the IPA’s publication Climate Change: The Facts 2017 the quality climate change science surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, and for public statements made on the Jones & Co Sky News program.

Dr Peter Ridd today reopened his Go Fund Me page, appealing to thousands of mainstream Australians to once again support his historic fight for free speech on climate change.

“Peter Ridd’s fight is representative of every Australian who has been censored, cancelled or silenced,” said Mr Rozner. “Alarmingly, the decision of the Federal Court shows that contractual provisions guaranteeing intellectual freedom do not protect academics against censorship by university administrators. This is a point where the IPA and the NTEU are on a unity ticket.”

“James Cook University’s actions prove there is a crisis of free speech at Australian universities. Many academics are censured, but few are prepared to speak out and risk their career, particularly if faced with the prospect of legal battles and possible bankruptcy.

“The case has identified a culture of censorship when it comes to challenging claims surrounding climate change and the Great Barrier Reef. JCU to this date has never attempted to disprove claims made by Dr Ridd about the Great Barrier Reef,” said Mr Rozner.


Ideological fervour must not trump good public policymaking response

Victoria's inability to contain the coronavirus outbreak brought on by hotel quarantine failures risks becoming NSW's problem too. There are indications that by the end of this week NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian may face some tough choices. The
question is, will she make a similar mistake to Victoria? By letting ideology restrict her options to contain the spread of the coronavirus. By not locking the state down in part or in full — swiftly enough.

The Victorian experience has been hampered by a centralised public health bureaucracy: old-fashioned, slow and unwieldy in response to a virus that rapidly takes hold. It's a sharp contrast to NSW, where the decentralised public health system is fit for purpose: able to rapidly deploy contact tracers and pop-up clinics in order to not lose control of the situation too quickly.

Contact tracing in Victoria has been ineffective and centrally organised. Pop-up clinics haven't opened up quickly enough. The state's Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, sits too far down the health bureaucratic food chain —three rungs below the minister —to make decisions quickly enough to see action fluidly follow. Despite an impressive career, Sutton isn't a career public health clinician, in stark contrast to NSW CHO Kerry Chant. 

The centralised structure of public health in Victoria is a hallmark of how Dan Andrews likes to do business. The system 'has been years in the making, dating right back to the now Premier's time as the responsible minister during the Bracks government.

The harsh lockdown Andrews announced became his only option to try and regain the initiative against a virus that shows little mercy. However, because of the many system faults, Victoria is starting the fightback a long way behind. As of yesterday, there were 1583 cases still under investigation, which speaks to the poor contact tracing out of Victoria, not helped by the COVIDSafe app not working as effectively as promised, if, indeed, it's working at all. The six-week hard lockdown became a necessary evil for Victorians precisely because of the failures in Health Victoria's old-fashioned structures.

Polemicists on the right might like to mouth off about the hotel quarantine failures, which to be sure were the trigger for this disaster. But the magnitude of it has grown exponentially because of the structural failures outlined above. And those failures are
ideological — red meat for right-wing critics of Andrews.

The Liberal government in NSW now has its own ideological choice. Does it reject a lockdown because of its stated desire to keep the economy open, risking the spread of the virus getting out of control? Or does it recognise that even though a lockdown goes against the Liberal Party's mantra of opening the economy back up, in the long run, failure to contain this latest contagion will do more economic harm than a short (and perhaps limited) lockdown?

Andrews let his ideological preference for centralised power get the better of him, to the detriment of Victorians' health. For the same ideological reasons, he found re-embracing the lockdowns easier to stomach. The command-and-control nature of it suits his style. The economic cost of lockdowns are not front of mind.

Berejiklian can't let her ideological opposition to lockdowns be her undoing, especially when the decentralised public health structure in NSW has so comprehensively shown up the Victorian model. Like it or not, lockdowns for NSW might be the lesser of evils, for both health and economic outcomes. Sadly, the behaviour of some NSW residents has shown that if the virus becomes established, it may spread even more quickly than in Victoria.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has been presented with modelling highlighting this. NSW still has a chance to contain the virus. It may even get lucky and tiptoe through unscathed, because of its decentralised structures. But if it doesn't, NSW will need to let good public policymaking guide its response, not the ideological fervour of the government of the day.

From "The Australian" of 22.7.20

Coronavirus: Hospital breakthrough removes the fear factor

A story of globally significant medical ingenuity has emerged from the rubble of Australia’s ­second coronavirus wave, as doctors and nurses use a local invention to better treat patients and protect staff.

Western Health and Melbourne University this year helped create a world-leading ventilation hood that is placed over victims, with the twin benefit of protecting staff and improving treatments.

Associate professor Forbes McGain has received the results of an initial study into the effectiveness of the hood, which is designed to contain the droplet spread of the coronavirus.

Dr McGain, who works for Western Health, said the study feedback from the first 20 patients had been “overwhelmingly positive”.

Many thousands of healthcare workers globally have been infected with COVID-19 while trying to save the lives of the sick and dying.

The ventilation hood separates medical staff from the patient without losing line of sight and contains the droplets.

For Dr McGain, an intensive care specialist at Melbourne’s Sunshine Hospital, the first obvious benefit is in the wellbeing of nurses and doctors. “The nurses in particular feel safe,” he said.

“That’s the most important thing for the hood. The nurses aren’t as worried nursing and caring for quite unwell patients.”

The hood, which effectively creates a bubble around the ­patient, also enables staff to provide less invasive therapies and improved interaction with those being treated.

Some 17 of the hoods are being used in Victoria as the medical world starts to struggle with the increasing load of the virus.

There is rising interest in the device from other hospitals and it has presented as a significant opportunity for local manufacturing and potential global exports.

The ventilation sucks air away from the patient but restricts the flow of droplets, with the hood acting as a barrier. It also enables other intensive care machines to function without compromising the safety of the staff.

The project was made possible with the support of Melbourne University’s School of Engineering, led by professor Jason Monty.

“We only have 17 of these hoods at the moment but more can be made,” Dr McGain said. “There is an opportunity for expansion with local manufacturing.”

There are 32 coronavirus inpatients at Sunshine Hospital with four in intensive care.

Western Health research nurse manager Sam Bates said the presence of the ventilation hoods was embraced by staff: “They are just so excited to see it.”


NAPLAN, attendance and aspiration best indicators of HSC results

Researchers have developed a system that predicts students' final High School marks with more than 90 per cent accuracy using information such as their year 9 NAPLAN results, their HSC subject choice and their year 11 attendance.

The University of Newcastle academics say their findings raise questions about whether the final two years of school that are now devoted to HSC courses and exams with predictable results could be better spent on deeper learning and more focused career preparation.

But critics argue using NAPLAN to determine students' future would just shift Higher School Certificate stress from year 12 to year 9, and say the HSC is not just about ranking and testing students, but also giving them a strong education regardless of their social background.

A team led by Professor John Fischetti, pro vice-chancellor of the university's faculty of education, developed a system that analyses information about students, such as NAPLAN results, family background, aspiration and attendance, to estimate how they would fare in their HSC.

After feeding in the results from 10,000 students across 10 years in 14 subjects, Professor Fischetti found it could predict students' exact HSC mark in each subject with 93 per cent accuracy.

The researchers began with 41 different variables, but narrowed them down to the most influential 17, which included the amount of time students had spent in Australia, their school's demographic index, and whether the students chose HSC subjects that challenged them.

"We anticipated that [the most influential factor] would be their marks all the way through, their teacher marks, assigned marks," Professor Fischetti said. "But it actually turned out that the year 9 NAPLAN, your year 11 attendance, and your year 11 course selection were most influential. We factored in some demographic information, but those three became critical."

Professor Fischetti said the analysis showed the importance of students mastering literacy and numeracy, which is tested by NAPLAN. English language skills were also important, as was aspiration, shown by a willingness to choose subjects that challenged them.

"It puts the pressure on, that primary education really does cover on [literacy and numeracy]," he said. "If students leave primary school weak in them, they struggle to catch up. It doesn't mean it's impossible, but we found it's that 7 per cent [whose result cannot be predicted]."

Professor Fischetti argued the approach to the final two years of high school could be changed, to give students greater depth in their learning or focus on their passions, rather than study for an exam in which their results were predictable.

His comments come as a new, federally commissioned report on post-school pathways has recommended students curate a learning profile, focusing on non-scholastic skills as well as academic results, as a way of reducing focus on the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, which is based on HSC results.

"[The HSC] is not wasted time, but we haven't taken advantage of it in the ways we could," he said. "Our exit outcome is a score on an exam, not the habits of learning."

However, Tom Alegounarias, a former chair of the NSW Education Standards Authority and president of its predecessor the Board of Studies, said educators had always been able to predict the likely outcomes of students.

"Some students achieve results that are not predicted, and that's an important part of a meritocratic process," he said. "Particularly for disadvantaged students, we should not be defining their prospects even in part as a function of their socio-economic background."

Greg Ashman, author of The Truth About Teaching, said year 9 NAPLAN assessments were not high-stakes tests at present. "As soon as they are used to determine university entrance, you'll have all the pressures of year 12, only three years earlier," he said. "It also seems unfair on students who may improve over those three years and it creates a licence for those who are so inclined to learn little in that time."

Professor Fischetti said students spent 10 years gathering the knowledge and skills they would need to do well in year 9 NAPLAN, so it would not involve the same pressure as a two-year, high-stakes HSC program.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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