Sunday, August 16, 2020

Tricky TEQSA 

Bettina Arndt

Our university regulator, TEQSA, has proved once again that they are a toothless tiger, more interested in pandering to feminist lobby groups than addressing critical governance issues vital to the welfare of much of the student body.

Last year I exposed the fact that TEQSA was responsible for the campus kangaroo courts, having issued a “guidance note” in 2018 which encouraged the universities to introduce regulations to investigate and adjudicate sexual assault. They were responding to pressure from feminist lobby groups keen to ensure more rape convictions by using a lower standard of proof to determine the guilt of accused male students. In my May newsletter I pointed out Joe Biden was a key player in forcing American universities in this direction – and our universities, under the guidance of TEQSA, have simply followed suit.

Many of you will have seen the video of Senator Amanda Stoker grilling TEQSA bureaucrats about the appallingly unfair system that followed their careless advice. The regulations introduced by the universities contained barely a word about ensuring proper legal rights for accused young men. These students face secretive, unsupervised committees determining their guilt on the balance of probabilities with power to impose serious penalties including expulsion from the university.

But then came the Queensland Supreme Court case which determined these kangaroo courts were illegal followed by Dan Tehan’s advice at the TEQSA conference last November that universities should leave sexual assault to the criminal courts. See a summary of these developments here.
TEQSA shows itself to be captured - again

A few weeks ago, TEQSA produced a new 76-page document –  a “Good Practice Note” on this issue. This document, written by a group of authors who included two End Rape on Campus activists, mentions neither the Queensland Supreme Court case nor the Education Minister’s advice to TEQSA.

Instead, the TEQSA good practice note advises the universities that whilst they can’t conduct “criminal investigations” for sexual assault they can “deal with the matter under their own misconduct procedures,” providing advice about handling these investigations which neatly sidestep all the key contentious issues.

The university-imposed penalties for sexual assault are mentioned without any explanation of what laws permit universities to withhold degrees or suspend students from their studies. As Senator Stoker pointed out to TEQSA, sexual assault legislation does not include penalties which include robbing young men of degrees worth tens of thousands of dollars and many years of study. It’s notable that TEQSA fails once again to address the legality of these penalties.

The latest TEQSA document makes a token effort to address the lack of due process rights for the accused suggesting that the  nameless university administrators tasked with deciding the fate of accused students are now expected to receive appropriate training, provide evidence to the accused regarding the accusations, keep proper records and ensure their reports are procedurally fair.

But there’s no mention of the most glaring failure to provide basic rights for the accused – access to lawyers. Only three Australian universities definitively allow accused students to be advised by lawyers during their investigations.

Slap in the face for Dan Tehan

This deliberately deceptive document shows the arrogance of the university bureaucrats who feel no need to explain why they are encouraging universities to proceed with investigations deemed illegal and ignore the advice of their Minister. To proudly include End Rape on Campus activists amongst their predominantly female list of authors speaks to their sense of entitlement, their assurance that no one will question their right to prosecute these cases any way they damn well like.

As one tiny example of the subtle anti-male bias which permeates the entire document, I loved the advice on p35 regarding assistance to alleged perpetrators which suggests these young men should be referred to a Behaviour Change Counselling at the Rape and Domestic Violence Service. Hmm, the allegations have yet to be investigated and he’s sent off for behaviour change. Straight from the feminist copybook.

Time for action- can you help?

It’s a very good time to draw public attention to what’s going on here, with the universities facing a huge financial crisis and having muddied their copybooks with all manner of free speech scandals – think UNSW’s censorship over Hong Kong politics, Drew Pavlou’s suspension, and Peter Ridd’s battle with James Cook.

The Coalition has just announced legislation for their Job-ready Graduates package, which rightly focusses on improved transparency as well as sustainability in higher education.

I’ve prepared a draft letter for you to send to Coalition Senators and MPs, proposing  an amendment to the legislation instructing universities to focus on their core business rather than running illegal kangaroo courts involving expensive administrative processes but also exposing these institutions to potential lawsuits over failure to protect basic legal rights of the accused.

And given that TEQSA’s latest effort provides further evidence of the failure of the university regulator to properly advise the tertiary sector on this important issue, we are also suggesting the Education Minister institute a proper review into TEQSA’s operation, in keeping with the Coalitions’ call for greater transparency in higher education.

We need you all to step up so that we send letters to all Coalition members of parliament – as part of our ongoing campaign to alert key policy makers to this unjust system.

Bettina Arndt newsletter:

Queensland government backflips on plans to gag journalists reporting on corruption allegations against candidates in upcoming election

The Queensland government has backflipped on plans to prevent the publication of corruption allegations against candidates ahead of elections following a furious public backlash.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath introduced the amendments to parliament on Thursday, citing a report tabled by the Crime and Corruption Commission early in July.

Under the proposed changes, complaints about electoral candidates to the CCC would be kept under wraps until investigations became official, or three months had lapsed since the watchdog had been notified.

Breaching the law could land a person in jail for up to six months, or face thousands of dollars in fines.

The changes would have also allowed a candidate or the watchdog to seek an injunction to prevent further publication of allegations during the lead-up to elections.

However, in a brief statement on Friday the Queensland government dropped the proposal, citing time constraints.

'Given the limited time for the parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee to consider the law changes the CCC seeks... the bill introduced yesterday in state parliament is withdrawn,' Ms D'Ath said.

The backflip comes after criticism from unions and the Liberal National opposition, who accused the government of trying to silence whistleblowers before the October state election.

'This is another attempt by Annastacia Palaszczuk to cover up her government's appalling integrity record and silence whistleblowers,' shadow attorney-general David Janetzki said.

It comes after the LNP referred former Queensland treasurer Jackie Trad again to the CCC in July, under allegations the former minister interfered with the independent hiring process for the role of under treasurer in 2019.

Ms Trad was referred to the commission in 2019 over an investment property, and again last year over her involvement in the selection of a school principal in her South Brisbane seat.

She repeatedly denied wrongdoing but stepped down from her cabinet responsibilities in May.


COVID-19 has led to increased deaths but only a tiny fraction were from the virus itself

The true death toll from COVID-19 may be 17 times higher than from the virus alone due to excess deaths from other causes during the pandemic with people avoiding doctors and hospitals.

Sick patients have been dodging treatment due to fear of entering health facilities and the deaths are believed to be the result of elective surgery bans, people refusing to visit doctors and hospitals or have medical tests during the pandemic.

Interestingly, our biggest killers – heart disease and strokes – fell but there were spikes in deaths from respiratory illness including pneumonia and flu, asthma, and emphysema (up by 226).

It might be that some of these deaths were COVID related but the patient was never tested for the virus. “There may well be some,” said Australian National University epidemiologist Professor Peter Collignon.

“But I think it’s very unlikely that those deaths are predominantly due to COVID, if they were due to COVID that means we would have had a lot more clinical disease,” he told News Corp.

“So, yes, it’s possible some of those cases were due to COVID but I think it’s much more likely that there may have been a delay in getting medical therapy,” he said.

Cancer deaths increased by 402, deaths from diabetes rose by 88 and dementia deaths increased by 220 compared to the five-year average.

By the end of April this year 91 people had died from COVID-19 but in the same period there were 1572 excess deaths from other causes.

On average 42,507 people die every year between January 1 and April 28 but this year there were 1572 more deaths than on average, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found.

Queensland suffered the highest number of excess deaths with extra deaths up by 7.11 per cent above average.

South Australia had the next highest 5.62 per cent more deaths than on average, in NSW the number of deaths was 4.11 per cent above average and in Victoria deaths were up by 2.67 per cent compared to the average.

There are grave fears economic distress, depression and loneliness caused by COVID-19 could see a spike in suicides but to date there is no evidence this has occurred.

Modelling by the The Brain and Mind Centre at Sydney University predicts the COVID-19 the crisis could cause up between 750 and 1500 additional suicides.

However, the Victorian Coroners Court suicide registry and it found “to date, there has been no increase in the frequency of suspected suicides in Victoria during the coronavirus pandemic”.

However, calls to Lifeline are up by 25 per cent and Beyond Blue said more than 500,000 people have accessed Beyond Blue’s Coronavirus Mental wellbeing service.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has recorded a 33 per cent rise in children presenting to hospital with self-harm injuries over the past six weeks when compared to the same period last year.

Across all ages self-harm presentations increased by 9.3 per cent and National Mental Health Commissioner Christine Morgan there needed to be more community-based suicide prevention services.

In the construction industry every second day an Australian worker takes their own life but a groundbreaking suicide prevention service is helping stop the terrible toll.

Mates In Construction has been responsible for an eight per cent decline in suicides among people working in the construction industry.

The program which began 13 years ago trains people on how to keep an eye on workmates under pressure.

More than nine in 10 construction workers under pressure will never access a mental help service that’s why the people they work with are more likely to be able to support them, Mates in Construction CEO Chris Lockwood said.

“Some of the best people to actually help when things aren’t going well are those people we work with because they’ll know where you’re at,” he said.

In its first five years, the program was responsible for an eight per cent reduction in the rates of suicide in the industry.

“It doesn’t rely on sort of formal management structures or going through systems that people might not have trust in, you’ve got peers in the workplace, you can trust them and you are more likely to have an honest conversation, and then be connected not to help,” Mr Lockwood said.


'Right moment': AGL unveils plans for at least 1000MW of batteries

Talk of MW ismeaningless. HOW LONG can the battery sustain that output?  Judging by the Souh Australian case, only for minutes.  What we need to know is its capacity in kwh

Energy giant AGL has lodged a proposal to build as much as 500 megawatts of batteries at its Liddell power plant and has plans of doubling that total across the nation.

AGL on Friday said it had lodged a so-called scoping report with NSW's Planning department to install the storage system at the Hunter Valley site by June 2024.

Markus Brokhof, AGL's chief operating officer, told the Herald and The Age the company would take a staggered approach, beginning with a 150MW-sized battery at Liddell that could be operating within 18 to 24 months.

Mr Brokhof said it was "the right moment" to expand storage plans with battery prices falling and a rush of new large-scale renewable energy plants vying to enter the market. "The new build of renewables is exactly what the driver is," he said.

AGL has planning approvals for a 500MW battery at Liddell, the ageing 1660MW power station that is slated to close by April 2023.

The Liddell battery is part of an 850MW multi-site storage plan to be installed by June 2024 that the company announced on Thursday along with its earnings.

AGL reported a 22 per cent fall in underlying full-year profit and disappointed investors by providing a gloomier-than-expected outlook for the current financial year.

That 850MW plan, though, excludes some 330MW in batteries already announced by the company, meaning the full storage total could top 1.2 gigawatts, Mr Brokhof said.

The other announced plans include a 100MW battery at Wandoan in Queensland and four 50MW units with solar farm developer Maoneng in the NSW Riverina.

Mr Brokhof said the company was also preparing planning applications for a battery connected to its Torrens Island Power Station site in Adelaide.

AGL was looking at other sites, including in Victoria, with storage at its Loy Yang coal-fired power station one possible location.

"Battery prices are coming down so they are starting to compete with gas peakers," he said, referring to the gas-fired power plants that can respond rapidly to changes in electricity demand.

"We want to be part of this energy transition" away from fossil fuels, Mr Brokhof said.

He declined to provide an estimate of the cost for the first phase of the Liddell battery, saying that would depend on the offers made by manufacturers.

The company will also see how the system performs before deciding whether the full build-out of 500MW will be completed the schedule closure of Liddell's coal-fired units in 2023.

Mr Brokhof said AGL's battery plan takes into account the federal government's plan to develop its Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project, which would add 2000MW of so-called dispatchable power to the grid.

John Grimes, head of the Smart Energy Council, said the scale of AGL's battery ambitions was "extraordinary".

Battery prices were following the path of solar panels, where each doubling of manufacturing capacity brought a 20 per cent drop in costs. For storage, the impetus is partly coming from a huge jump in demand for batteries as carmakers ramp up production of electric vehicles.

"This is a pretty sharp downward cost curve," Mr Grimes said.

AGL's decision also showed proposals to use taxpayer funds to bankroll an expansion of the gas industry to help revive the post-COVID economy was likely to leave many stranded assets, he said.

"The race has already been run and won," Mr Grimes said. "The market is showing what the market solutions are."


 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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