Saturday, January 30, 2021

‘Immunological unicorn’discovered in Australia

In a high security laboratory in Sydney, where a select group of researchers go to extreme lengths to work with samples of blood and swabs containing Covid-19, virologist Stuart Turville found a unicorn.

“A beautiful, immunological unicorn,” Turville, an associate professor with the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, said.

“We found him when we were analysing samples from the Red Cross blood bank from people who have had Covid. And he had the most amazing Covid response I’ve ever seen.”

The unicorn is a 50-year-old father of three named Damian living on the NSW Central Coast who developed symptoms of Covid-19 in March. His symptoms were severe enough to take him to the hospital emergency department, but after being given oxygen he was sent home the same day. Bizarrely, when he was tested for the virus with the gold-standard PCR nasal swab, the lab kept returning a negative result for Covid-19.

“When they initially diagnosed him they couldn’t find virus in his nasopharyngeal area [the upper part of the throat behind the nose],” Turville told Guardian Australia.

“So they kept on swabbing him and swabbing him, but they couldn’t find it. He kept on saying to them, ‘Look, I’m sick, my son’s got it, I have to have it’. And it was only when they looked at his blood, his serum, they said; ‘Oh, yeah, you’ve had it. And you’ve got the most amazing immune response’.”

Most people who have Covid-19 develop a decent immune response.

“But this guy’s response is 100 to 1,000-fold that,” Turville said.

“His response is that good. To put it in context, we are eight or nine months out since he was infected. And he still ranks in the top 1% of responders, so what that means is if we could ever bottle a vaccine that could mimic his response, you’d want to do it. I would say that we’re going to see him responding just as well probably a year out, and maybe after about two years we might start to see some response decay.”

Usually, patients who show a particularly robust immune response to Covid-19 end up in an intensive care ward. In many of these severely unwell patients, the immune system overreacts in what is called a “cytokine storm”. Cytokines are proteins that can trigger an inflammatory response so aggressive that not only are virus cells attacked but cells in the blood vessels, urinary tract, organs and blood vessels are also destroyed, leading to organ failure and sometimes death. For some reason Damian’s response, though strong, did not bring on such an aggressive storm.

“That’s something we’re trying to get our head around,” Turville said.

Not only is Damian’s immune response lasting but it has not weakened much over time, offering strong ongoing protection against the virus, which is what makes him so unique. A Public Health England study found that while most people who have the virus are protected from reinfection for at least five months, some are reinfected, and even asymptomatic people can harbour high levels of the virus in their noses and mouths, and therefore risk passing it on to others.

After being told about his unicorn status, Damian offered himself up for medical research. Turville estimates that Damian has donated blood and plasma upwards of 15 times.

Hundreds of recovered Australians like Damian have now donated blood so their plasma, teeming with antibodies, can be separated out and used to make batches of serum through a collaboration between the Kirby Institute and manufacturer CSL. This serum is then given to severely unwell patients around the world to treat their disease.

“It also means that if the virus emerges again in Australia and takes off, we’re battle ready,” Turville said.

“Damian’s serum has contributed to many batches of these CSL products. Whenever we get a batch of serum that is particularly amazing, we say ‘OK, he’s in this batch’. That’s how impressive his response is.”

Some of the findings about Damian have been published in a pre-print paper about “high and elite responders,” which describes how “patients with high and robust Covid-19 responses were more likely male, hospitalised, and of older age”.

It is work like this that has researchers from the Kirby Institute’s containment lab – more scientifically referred to as a Physical Containment Level 3 (PC3) Laboratory – occupied at times until 3am in the morning. They also examine samples taken from returned travellers in hotel quarantine, growing the different variants in the lab to see how they behave. It is one of a handful of high-security labs around Australia where the virus is being studied.

Recover and revitalise education

As Australia’s 4 million school students and their educators kick off a new school year, it must be free of educational complacency for the path ahead.

It’s fitting that back to school coincides with this week’s UNESCO International Education Day —themed around ‘recovery and revitalisation of education for the covid-19 generation’.

Recovery and revitalisation are certainly worthy aims for policymakers in light of last year’s educational disruption. School closures undeniably resulted in learning losses and forced educators, policymakers, and parents to challenge existing schooling practices and priorities.

The task of recovery — in scope and scale — mustn’t be dismissed.

Last year, CIS research found that around 1.25 million students in the eastern states — over 40% of them — were likely to have fallen behind.

The plan of attack in NSW and Victoria is centred on marshalling a thousands-strong army of tutors to provide catch-up support. However, it’s expected this will assist only around one in five students — or around half those that will likely need it.

And while schools will welcome the help in remedying lost learning, to date there’s been limited quality assurance and considerable uncertainty over expectations of catch-up tutors.

The scale of learning loss is also likely to eclipse previous — relatively benign — predictions.

Late last year, the results of a pseudo-NAPLAN test found NSW students had fallen behind by months rather than weeks. This means that while schools were closed — around 7 weeks in NSW — students not only progressed more slowly, but effectively went backwards. This bodes poorly for Victoria’s status as the education state, since students were out of class for up to 18 weeks.

Among the key events of the 2021 education calendar will be May’s NAPLAN exams — results of which will paint a national picture of student progress following the pandemic.

But just as recovery will not be for the education policy faint-hearted, so too will be the challenge of revitalisation. This will largely hinge on learning key Covid lessons to better harness parental engagement and technology in schools.

In 2020, home-based learning gave many parents a closer look at, and interest in, their child’s schooling. CIS polling shows a majority now have more positive views on teachers and schools. A key task for educators this year will be to capitalise on this goodwill via more constructive engagement between school and the home.

In addition, 2020 saw educators embrace increased uptake of technology in schools — many with a view to entrenching a more permanent place for digitalising course content, collaboration, and assessment. While innovation is welcome, this will require smarter and more discerning applications than has been typical in the past.

The Covid-19 generation will need to muster all the available support this year to ensure they don’t become educational casualties of the pandemic.

If 2020 will be remembered for its educational disruption, 2021 must be equally characterised by recovery and revitalisation.

Violent parents, power-drunk principals, out-of-control students – a veteran Brisbane teacher has revealed the horrors of teaching in today’s State primary schools

Violent parents, classrooms full of students medicated for disorders, and principals who are “horrific bullies” are all in a day’s work for exhausted Queensland educators.

Children as young as six are trying to set classrooms on fire, stabbing teachers with scissors and calling them c--ts.

Many kids arrive hungry, filthy and have spent the night “cowering under their beds” as parents attack each other in drug and alcohol-fuelled rages.

Learning is further compromised by a content-heavy curriculum that kills creativity, while stressed-out teachers “live in fear” of poor NAPLAN results and power-drunk principals.

Add reduced government funding to the mix and children are falling through the cracks and turning to crime.

This scathing education report card comes from a passionate teacher of 30 years who has “seen and heard it all” in state and private primary schools across Brisbane and beyond. The married mother of two teenagers, who wishes to remain anonymous to protect her career, is speaking out because she wants to see change.

At the top of her list is improved mental health and social support in schools to help “damaged, broken little people”.

She wants education to get back to basics, and greater support and respect for the role of teachers.

“You go into teaching to make a difference but sometimes everything you do is still not enough,” she says.

“Shocking stuff goes on, it’s heartbreaking, and classrooms can be warzones.”

Her candid revelations come as Education Queensland data shows attacks on teachers have soared in the past five years. The number of suspensions for assaults with objects has increased by 29 per cent while attacks without objects are up by 50 per cent.

The pressure on teachers to meet unrealistic expectations has also been identified in recent studies as a major reason people quit the profession, particularly in the first few years.

While this veteran educator is in it for the long haul, she wants to expose the truth about teaching in today’s primary schools.

Not all state schools are created equal. What goes on in affluent inner city schools cannot be compared to what happens in outer disadvantaged areas.

In one of my grade 3 classes, half of the students were on medication for behavioural disorders or mental health problems – and six boys were so hard core, every single day.

One would lock himself in the storeroom and I’d finally coerce him into the classroom and get him into his desk and he’d reach out and punch the kid sitting beside him in the head.

I’ve had a student try to set the classroom on fire and two boys who really enjoyed getting on the roof and putting sticks in the TV antenna. There is constant noncompliance and disrespect.

These kids come from such dysfunctional families and are in constant fight or flight mode.

If you ever do meet the parents, mum’s got no teeth because the latest boyfriend’s knocked them out.

Kids are either up all night cowering under their beds, hiding from violent adults who are boozing and drugging, or their stepdad is chasing them down the road with a knife.

They come to school damaged and broken, so I try to create a positive family environment within the classroom and I tell them we need to make sure everyone is feeling welcome and safe.

We celebrate the smallest of wins, like someone going from 3/10 for spelling one week to 5/10 the next, because it’s about instilling self-confidence.

Mental health is an increasing problem.

I’ve face-timed a nine-year-old girl in a psychiatric hospital to let her know I am there for her any hour of the day or night. We need to be wrapping around our kids a lot more – there are not enough services within schools, yet kids are crying out for help and unless we deal with that first and help them with whatever is going on, we can’t make any difference to their learning.

Record almond harvest is coming despite a challenging year for agriculture

While some horticulture industries are having one of the most challenging harvests with workforce shortages and heavy tariffs, one sector continues to go from strength to strength.

Almond production is booming now with around 123,000 tonnes expected to be harvested in Australia this year — the largest on record.

With 80 per cent of the world's almond coming from California, Australian almonds are proving their place in the market. With every tonne of almonds sold in Australia, three tonnes are exported to around 50 countries.

Chief executive of Almond Board Australia, Ross Skinner, said the projected 10 per cent increase in harvest this year was due to the second wave of expansion from plantings in 2016.

"[The record harvest] is mainly based on the increased planting coming into production," Mr Skinner said.

"We've increased our planting over the past five years, and those trees are starting to mature into much larger trees and bearing much more crop."

With the harvest due to start any week now, Mr Skinner said the mechanical process of producing almonds, as well as the demand for the product at home and overseas, had meant the industry had avoided major hurdles that were currently facing other horticultural industry from COVID-19 movement restrictions.

The fallout with China that resulted in heavy tariffs on barley and wine is not something that is expected to be a concern for almonds.

"Much of the 2020 crop was pre-sold before the issue with trade relations with China emerged so we were confident that those contracts would be honoured and that has been the case," Mr Skinner said.

"All indicators show that the relationship will remain strong, and we have been fortunate that we have alternate markets if things turn sour, but at this stage, things look promising."

And as for labour shortages putting stress on industries like stone fruit, where the strain is causing some farmers to walk away altogether, the mechanics of almond process means less reliance on hands-on labour.

"We will have an extra 1,000 seasonal workers during the harvest season, and most of our producers had organised that labour already," Mr Skinner said.

"Being a highly mechanised industry means our harvest requirements aren't as high as the other horticultural industry, so we are well placed when it comes to labour."

Sales to the second biggest market, India, have increased to 38 per cent compared to last year and the Middle East and European markets are up 16 and 17 per cent, respectively.

"There's been strong growth in the export market, which is what we've needed because we've been growing more and more," Mr Skinner said.




Friday, January 29, 2021

Mothers of Sons being launched next week

Bettina Arndt

I have some exciting news about an event coming up next week. We have all been invited to the launch of Mothers of Sons – a new initiative by mothers speaking out about the injustice experienced by their sons. I think this is a great idea and I'm delighted that I have been given all the information to share with you.

The official launch of Mothers of Sons will take place via a Facebook live event from 7.00pm AEDT on Monday 1 February 2021.

Here’s the link you use to join the event -

Please circulate this to everyone who might be interested in learning more about this new effort to fight for fair treatment for men and boys.

How it began

You may remember two years ago I made a video interviewing a young man, Dan Jones, who had spent five years fighting off false rape and violence accusations, which eventually led to his accuser, Sara Jane Parkinson, being sent to prison. Later that year Dan’s story featured on an hour-long 60 Minute TV special.

Following the program, the family was swamped with mail from families fighting similar battles, including many from mothers whose sons were in the firing line. Michelle Jones, Dan’s mother, started corresponding with some of the mothers and eventually this led to the idea of an organization using women, mothers, speaking out about what was happening to their sons.

I frequently find myself bailed up in a supermarket with a tearful older woman wanting to share her story about not seeing her grandchildren, spending her life savings to try to protect her son against false allegations of violence or sexual assault, or worrying herself sick as her son struggles against our biased legal system.

Michelle started gathering some of these mothers together and eight months later, the MOS group is ready with a sparkling new website:

This has been a huge labour of love, with many talented people contributing their skills to ensure the MOS mothers are ready to make waves.

Go to the website and you will see videos of the mothers’ extraordinary stories. Women like Michelle Jones and also:

Jo Thompson-Jones whose three-year-old granddaughter was murdered by her mother after the woman was told by a Family Court judge that she had lost custody to Jo’s son, Nathan.

Those two mothers, Jo and Michelle, are the only ones able to speak publicly about what happened to their families. In Michelle’s case the accuser is in prison, and Jo’s son’s partner was found hung in prison where she was awaiting her homicide trial.

It is very telling that the rest of the current group of mothers are afraid to go public with their stories because they fear fresh accusations from the women who are persecuting their sons. MOS has changed their names to protect their identities, but you can read their accounts of what happened or hear podcasts from mothers like these:

Erin – After the rape accusations against her 18-year-old son fell apart in court, the jury stood outside and cheered the boy when he left the courtroom.

Katrina – On the night when her sleeping son was beaten by his partner, the police treated him as the aggressor and took him outside to ‘calm down’.

Millie - Domestic violence accusations were used to obtain a permanent visa for the mother of her son’s child, setting off a series of court battles which destroyed her son’s life.

Mary - It took seven years for her son to convince the Family Court that his children were at risk from their mentally ill mother who’d threatened to kill them. But all it took was a new batch of lies for a magistrate to reverse this decision.

Read advice from the wise women

The mothers have put together their lessons learnt, hard-won advice for other families about how to deal with false domestic violence or rape allegations, handling the police, finding good lawyers, handling Family Court disputes. Have a look at their words of wisdom – vital information to help all families dealing with these issues.

Mothers can use MOS forums to connect with other mothers.

For mothers struggling to help their sons it can be a real lifeline to connect with mothers who have been through similar experiences. The MOS forums give mothers the opportunity to share experiences, gather advice and support.

How you can join this powerful new voice for change

There are many ways you can help Mothers of Sons make a difference to the lives of men and boys. Here’s how you might contribute:

More mothers needed to share their stories. If you are a mother with a son who has experienced injustice, write to MOS. The mothers have editors to help you write your story, or perhaps make a video if you are in a position to speak out openly about what has happened.

Spread the word. Promote the MOS website on social media.
Sign up for the MOS newsletter using the link at the bottom of the MOS home page.

I'm very hopeful Mothers of Sons will help change the public dialogue on injustice towards men, taking over some of the public advocacy that characterized my own career.

Via email:

Australian vaccine fears amid global supply threats

Australia’s medicines watchdog the Therapeutic Goods Administration will make its own decision on whether the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe for use in those aged over 65 even though German authorities have recommended against its use in this age group the Health Minster Greg Hunt said.

The head of the TGA Professor John Skerritt has indicated there is no risk to the elderly from the vaccine but the authority has yet to approve the vaccine.

The UK had no concerns about the use in this age group, Mr Hunt said.

Australia had contracts for supply of 140 million doses of different vaccines and was prepared for a range of outcomes if the AstraZeneca vaccine could not be used in the elderly, he said.

As global bickering intensifies over supply of COVID-19 vaccines Health Minister Greg Hunt has given a commitment that none of the 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produce in Melbourne will be exported overseas.

“With regards to the 50 million doses they are direct contract between the Australian Government and CSL and therefore delivery here in Australia we don’t see in any circumstances under which they wouldn’t be provided in full to Australia,” he said.

And he said Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne was contacting the World Health Organisation and European authorities to secure supply of vaccines under contract for Australia where they are being produced overseas.

Mr Hunt welcomed positive clinical trial results of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine overnight, Australia has purchased over 50 million doses of this vaccine and he said it will be supplied here in the second half of this year.

Two million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be available to Australians from late March and vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine will commence in late February Health Minister Greg Hunt has clarified today.

Highly infectious new variants of the COVID-19 virus, particularly one from South Africa, appear to be outsmarting existing vaccines which are not as effective against them as earlier strains.

Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax have already signalled they are working on new vaccines to combat the latest variants and this could challenge Australia’s vaccine rollout.

“I’d be cautious on making judgments on existing vaccines against the variance at this point in time, that will remain a matter for the vaccine advisory committee and the medical regulator,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

There was not yet any advice that changes to Australia’s vaccine program was needed yet, Mr Hunt said.

“One of the hallmarks of our approach has been to prepare and to adapt,” he said.

Queensland going slow on new dam construction

The Green/Left hate dams and the Qld. government is a Leftist one

QUEENSLAND needs to build more critical dams to revive its economy, says Prime Minister Scott Morrison, expressing frustration at the state government dragging its heels. He has urged the state to get on with approving more job-generating projects for the regions, including Hughenden Dam and Hells Gates.

The call follows Mr Morrison's four-day blitz of the state's regions, visiting towns still fighting to recover from the lingering drought. Mr Morrison would not commit to a state employment target, with Queensland now having the highest jobless rate in the country of 7.5 per cent, saying that was up to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. But he said programs such as the JobMaker hiring credit and building infrastructure would get Queenslanders back into work.

While he praised the state for its commitment to projects such as CopperString 2.0 and Townsville Port, he told The Courier-Mail more needed to be done. "I think water infrastructure has proved very frustrating," Mr Morrison said. "Whether it's Hughenden Irrigation Scheme, or Hells Gates (dam), or any of these projects, we've gone through a lot of frustrations trying to get things like Emu Swamp and Rookwood Weir done. These things have to move more quickly that they have done. Water is critical to Queens-land's future, we do seriously want to invest in these projects, but they have to be approved by the state government."

Rookwood Weir is currently scheduled to start construction in April, despite first being promised by then-premier Peter Beattie in 2006. The federal government has committed $54m towards Hells Gates dam for a business case, and another $2m towards a feasibility study for Hughenden Irrigation Scheme, with a promise of a further $180m to go towards construction.

The Palaszczuk government announced an additional $6m for design and construction tender documents for Emu Swamp Dam in February last year, while in September it announced an expert panel would look into the Bradfield inland irrigation scheme. The Premier's office and Regional Development and Water Minister Glenn Butcher declined to comment

Courier Mail 25 Jan., 2021

Rupert Murdoch slams ‘woke’ culture in Australia Day speech

Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire mogul behind Fox News, took issue with the silencing of debate on social media, saying censorship had hobbled discourse with “awful woke orthodoxy”.

Mr Murdoch, 89, made the rare public remarks during a brief video to accept a lifetime achievement award from the Australia Day Foundation. The clip was posted online by the Herald Sun, owned by the media mogul’s News Corp.

“For those of us in media, there is a real challenge to confront,” he said. “A wave of censorship that seeks to silence conversation, to stifle debate and ultimately stop individuals and societies from realising their potential.”

[The US Capitol riot on January 6 was followed by a purging of the social-media accounts of then-President Donald Trump and others, drawing complaints of censorship. On Monday, Twitter said it would seek to police the service more vigilantly for misinformation and introduced a new feature called Birdwatch.

Fox News and other conservative outlets are under fire for fueling uncertainty about the US presidential election, which critics say contributed to the storming of the Capitol. Mr Murdoch’s own son James Murdoch has joined the outcry, telling the Financial Times that outlets “that propagate lies to their audience have unleashed insidious and uncontrollable forces that will be with us for years”.]

In his remarks from the award ceremony, Rupert Murdoch said a “rigidly enforced conformity, aided and abetted by so-called social media, is a straitjacket on sensibility”.




Thursday, January 28, 2021

‘Bad theology kills’: Senior cleric returns honour over Margaret Court decision

In its new guise as the Uniting church, the Methodists have undergone a rapid falling away from their traditional devotion to Bible teachings. The guy quoted below reflects that

It's hugely perverse that he calls a devotion to Bible teachings "bad theology". Surely the bad theology is anything leads you away from faith in God and his clear teachings. Consult Romans 1:27; Jude 1:7; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; Mark 10:6-9; Matthew 19: 4-16; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Genesis 19:4-8 if you want to read good theology. The Bible repeatedly makes clear that homosexuality is a defiance of God. Real Christians accept that

All sexual acts are voluntary. Everybody has the choice to engage in them or not

A church leader says Margaret Court’s “bad theology” is his reason for joining the growing list of Order of Australia members who are returning their awards in protest against her elevation to the country’s highest civilian honour.

A number of recipients, including retired broadcaster Kerry O’Brien and acclaimed artist Peter Kingston, have either returned or refused awards and others say theirs have been tarnished.

In this week’s Australia Day awards, Court was elevated from an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) to a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for her sporting success.

As a tennis player, she won 24 grand slam women’s singles titles, but as a Pentecostal pastor she has preached against LGBTQ rights, opposed same-sex marriage and, in 2017, compared homosexuality with Hitler and “the devil”.

The Reverend Alistair Macrae, a former president of the Uniting Church in Australia who was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his contributions to the church and the community, said on Wednesday that he would be handing back his award.

“As a minister and theologian, I am aware that bad theology kills people,” Mr Macrae wrote in an opinion piece for The Age.

“Bad theology underpinned the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Bad theology supported Hitler’s racist ideology and the evil it produced. Bad theology underpinned or failed to recognise the racist assumptions behind the destructive program of colonisation not least in this land. Bad theology continues to alienate and oppress sexual minorities.”

Court has stated that her religious views are separate from her sporting career, comments which Mr Macrae argued were disingenuous for a public figure.

He pointed to high suicide rates in the LGBTQ community and stressed that Court’s views were not shared by all Christians.“If it harms people, from my perspective, it’s not from God,” he said.

Grampians cross burning spurs call for action

State and federal authorities are being urged to take further action against a right-wing extremist group that burnt a cross and chanted racist slogans at a popular Victorian tourist destination over the Australia Day weekend.

Thirty-eight members of the far right National Socialist Network burnt a cross next to Lake Bellfield at the foot of the Grampians, a ritual usually associated with the Ku Klux Clan, in central Victoria on Sunday evening. Tourists and locals heard the group chanting “white power” and Nazi slogans.

On Thursday morning, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald revealed local police and intelligence officers from Victoria Police’s Counter Terrorism Command were collecting information about the group, which hiked through the Grampians National Park on the weekend.

The group’s members also visited the tourist town at the foot of the Grampians, Halls Gap, where they engaged in anti-Semitic and other racist behaviour. At least half a dozen tourists and residents said they had reported the men to police.

Six uniformed officers from the nearby town of Stawell spoke to the group, including its leader, ex-Australian army soldier turned neo-Nazi Tom Sewell. Mr Sewell later posted online pictures of the police officers’ name badges as well as images of the neo-Nazi group posing in front of a burning cross and displaying Nazi salutes at various locations in the Grampians.

Mr Sewell has previously sought to distance his group from those that espouse violent action and there is no suggestion that the group’s members engaged in any violent acts.

When Halls Gap resident James passed the group on his mountain bike on Sunday afternoon in town, he was addressed with a Sieg Heil.

“There were 40 white males, many with skinheads, some chanting ‘white power’. That is intimidating for anyone.”

According to extremist experts, two right-wing groups, the Lads Society and Antipodean Resistance, recently helped form a new Australian extremist outfit, the National Socialist Network, which in turn helped organise the 38 young white men to assemble in the Grampians over the Australia Day weekend. Photos show some wearing army-issued boots and packs.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have identified some of the key organisers and participants of the Grampians gathering. Some show the faces of young men who would prefer to stay in the shadows — posing in their own online posts with faces covered.

The organisers were the Lads leader, Mr Sewell, raised in the middle-class suburb of Balwyn in Melbourne, and Stuart Von Moger, a security guard who has appeared at several far-right events and meetings with political figures who were unaware of his ideology. The Lads have also been accused of a failed attempt to branch-stack the NSW Young Nationals in 2018.

Mr Sewell has claimed in a social media post that the Grampians event was aimed at providing “content” for a new neo-Nazi group, the European Australian Movement.

He has the hallmarks of some far-right activists in the US, including those who stormed the Capitol three weeks ago, a move which Mr Sewell said in one online message had lessons for Australian extremists.

ASIO recently revealed that up to 40 per cent of its resources are being directed towards right-wing extremist groups.

NAPLAN ban by Queensland Teachers’ Union ruled unlawful

Queensland teachers have been told they must continue NAPLAN testing this year despite a boycott by a major union.

A plan by Queensland teachers to boycott NAPLAN testing has been given a fail grade by the Industrial Court, with teaching of the controversial test set to go ahead this year.

State school teachers in the Queensland Teachers’ Union voted almost unanimously to boycott teaching the controversial test to pupils in October last year.

However, in an internal memo circulated to all Department of Education staff on Friday, director-general Tony Cook announced the industrial dispute had been slapped down by the courts.

“The department considered the directive to be unprotected industrial action, and therefore unlawful, and sought the assistance of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to resolve the matter,” Mr Cook said.

Following an appeal by the QTU, Mr Cook said the Industrial Courts sided with the Education Department, ruling on Thursday that “the QTU … immediately cease and do not recommence.”

QTU president Cresta Richardson said the union’s executive was now considering its next steps, saying the test had been shown to have a negative impact on students’ wellbeing.

“It’s use is beyond what it was meant for,” Ms Richardson said.

“The main focus of teachers for student outcome should be on the day to date teaching, learning and assessment that students receive and the outcome of such assessments.”

In a statement, the Department of Education told The Courier-Mail the decision was now an opportunity to move forward with “fully implementing the Australian Curriculum.”

“The department accepts the decision of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission and will continue to consult with the Queensland Teachers Union on the most appropriate way forward,” a spokesman said.

Among those who welcomed the decision to resume NAPLAN was the 222-member Teachers’ Professional Association of Queensland.

The organisation’s vice-president Cameron Murray said the controversial test was a powerful tool to ensure schools weren’t missing elements of students’ learning.

“We’ve always supported NAPLAN as a measure of student progress,” Mr Murray said. “It’s a diagnostic which can tell everyone – parents, teachers, kids, the Education Department – of our progress,” he said. “I truly believe that NAPLAN allows us to identify where there’s gaps and where there’s need for support.”

Mr Murray praised teachers as skilled but said the NAPLAN system was designed to “trust but verify” student performance.

Labor set for climate change shift with architect of emissions target Mark Butler to go

Labor's long-serving climate spokesperson Mark Butler has been shifted from the portfolio as part of an Opposition reshuffle on the eve of Federal Parliament's return.
Key points:

While Mr Butler takes on responsibility for health, deputy party leader Richard Marles moves from the defence portfolio to a broad brief across national reconstruction, jobs, skills, small business and science.

Brendan O'Connor, formerly employment spokesperson moves into defence, Ed Husic slides from agriculture into the innovation portfolio, and Chris Bowen goes into climate change.

Tasmanian MP Julie Collins shifts into agriculture from her previous role for ageing, seniors and women.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the changes reflected the best choices, not the easiest choices. "This reshuffle is about Australians getting the most out of Labor," he said.

He said Mr Marles would be "leading Labor's focus" on the recovery from the pandemic.

Outspoken backbencher Joel Fitzgibbon has backed moving Mr Butler, saying that taking the long-serving climate spokesperson — a member of the more progressive left faction of the party — out of the role would send the "right message to our traditional base".

Mr Fitzgibbon, a member of the more conservative right faction who resigned from the frontbench in protest at the direction of the party, said on Thursday morning that he respected Mr Butler but the change was a "good thing". "It will send the right message to our traditional base, but it won't be enough alone," he told RN.

"We also need to recalibrate our policy and our messaging if we are to reassure our traditional base that while we are serious on taking action on climate change — meaningful action — we will do so without risk or threat to their livelihoods."

Mr Albanese said on Thursday morning Mr Fitzgibbon's comments were "wrong". "They don't reflect the overwhelming view of people in the Labor Party," he said.

"The overwhelming view of people in the Labor Party is that we need strong action on climate change, and that strong action is good for jobs, that it's good for lowering emissions, and also good for lowering energy prices."

Mr Albanese says he regards climate change "as an economic portfolio, therefore someone who has been the Treasurer of Australia is eminently qualified to fill that role". Mr Bowen was briefly Treasurer in 2013 in the last Kevin Rudd government.

In a statement, Mr Butler said "the job of every front bencher is to serve in the portfolio allocated by their leader".

"That's always been my position under the four leaders I've had the privilege of serving under Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese."

Mr Butler has been in the role since late 2013, after briefly serving as climate change minister under then-prime minister Mr Rudd. Labor has failed to defeat the Coalition in the two elections since then, a period of disagreement around the extent to which Australia should be reducing carbon emissions.

Labor took a policy of reducing carbon emissions by 45 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030 to the election in 2019, compared to the Government's longstanding pledge of reducing emissions by 26 per cent in the same timeframe.

Mr Fitzgibbon suffered a massive swing against him in his Hunter Valley seat at the 2019 poll, beating the Nationals candidate by just 3 percentage points.

A One Nation candidate claimed more than 21 per cent of the vote, and the Labor MP's first preferences dropped by 14 percentage points.

This week the leader of the National Party, Michael McCormack, supported a push by his colleagues to build a new coal fired power plant in the Hunter.

Despite more than 100 countries signing up for a net zero emissions by 2050 target and many also making commitments before then, Australia is yet to make pledges beyond 2030.

The Government announced this week it had signed up to international efforts to help prepare the world for anticipated climate change.




Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Heatwaves may mean Sydney is too hot for people to live in 'within decades'

This is a heap of nonsense. I grew up in Far North Queensland where temperatures that would flatten some Southerners were normal. According to the BOM, Sydney has a December mean maximum temperature of 25.2 while in Cairns it is 31.5. So many days were over 30 degrees Celsius in Cairns while such days were rare in Sydney. We just accepted such days as normal and went about our business in Cairns. Life went on as usual. It wasn't too hot to live in.

It is true that Sydney has always had some very hot days. Back in 1790 it was so hot that bats were falling out of the trees. But life has gone on in Sydney ever since and it will continue to do so. It is no drama

Parts of Victoria and NSW are sweating through an extreme heatwave that started sweeping across Australia's southeast on Saturday.

This may seem like just a good excuse to go to the beach, but as the planet warms and summers become longer and less bearable, heatwaves are coming to represent an existential threat to Australian suburbs.

Already, heat kills more people in Australia than any other natural disaster, including floods, cyclones and bushfires.

Now, faced with the prospect of 50-degree-plus summers, experts say highly urbanised parts of Australia may become unliveable within decades.

The race is on to re-imagine, redesign and rebuild the Australian suburb. Car parks may be ripped up and planted with trees and greenery, houses retro-fitted with insulation, roads painted to reflect rather than absorb heat, and supermarkets and even whole suburbs built underground to reduce cooling costs.

One centre of these efforts is Western Sydney, home to more than 2.5 million people. In this floodplain of closely packed houses, heat pools on islands of black bitumen and collects on sun-baked concrete.

The mercury gets close to 50 degrees Celsius here in summer — and that's just the ambient air temperature. The radiant heat from bitumen carparks can push 80C. The surface temperature of playground equipment has been measured at 100C.

Since 2019, all 33 Sydney councils have been funding a climate adaptation program that has identified heat as the number-one climate threat to Sydneysiders.

"We are not yet building a city that's really equipping our people to survive and adapt extreme heat," says Beck Dawson, who heads the Resilience Sydney program.

"If the community doesn't have access to things to make themselves cool we effectively have a very large oven occurring across the Western Sydney plains.

"The scale of the emerging threat is different to anything we've faced before."

Businessman films the sick moment a black URINATES on his $80k BMW because he 'can't find a bathroom'

Leo Alhalabi caught the stranger relieving himself on his car's back left tyre outside a property in Melbourne on January 14.

The horrified digital marketing guru, 24, confronted the man, who had parked his white Toyota behind the flashy M4 in broad daylight on the quiet suburban street.

'Why did you park specifically here to piss on my car? Is it because it's a nice car?' Mr Alhalabi asked the man, as seen in a video he shared on Instagram.

As the stranger stuttered and stumbled through his replies, Mr Alhalabi probed further, asking: 'Why piss here?'

'I was just pissing there because I haven't got a bathroom,' the man replied.

Mr Alhalabi stifled a laugh and said: 'You don't have a bathroom so you piss on my car?'

The man repeatedly apologised and offered to wash the tyre.

Mr Alhalabi agreed to let him rinse the urine off the wheel and promised not to 'do anything' to him.

'Life is all about forgiveness, okay? So I'm not going to do anything to you,' he said, triggering a wave of grovelling apologies from the stranger.

When the man said 'there is no bathroom in the city, Mr Alhalabi's friend chimed in and said: 'There's a tree. A car's not to piss on'.

The businessman called police, who said there was nothing they could do about it.

At the end of the video, Mr Alhalabi congratulated himself for keeping his cool during the confrontation. He wrote: Don't let people trick you out of your position. I'll take the no assault charges or jail time.' 'Despite how much they may have deserved it.'

People in the comments praised the businessman for remaining calm.

Why internet search and social would barely miss a beat if Google and Facebook carried through with their threats to pull out of Australia

There's no doubting the power of Google and Facebook. They are two of the most popular and valuable companies on the planet and their bosses are influential multi-billionaires.

Even the company names have become verbs - for searching online, and for adding new virtual friends.

There's no doubt threats by the tech giants to withdraw their most popular services for Australian users would cause problems initially if they follow through - but ultimately the decision would backfire on both, experts say.

Both Google and Facebook faced a fierce backlash for their defiant responses to a new law, the News Bargaining Code, which will force them to negotiate payment to media companies for the news content they use.

Google's response to a Senate Committee was to threaten stopping Google Search in Australia, while Facebook said it may have to block links to new articles in it's popular News Feed. Both companies have proposed alternatives including voluntary instead of mandatory codes, which have not been accepted by the Federal Government.

Alternatives to a Google search

Bing - the default search engine for the Microsoft Edge browser is the next biggest after Google, but still only has 3.74% of web traffic in Australia despite being around for 11 years

DuckDuckGo - considered the 'anti-google', this search engine doesn't collect personal data and claims to use 400 sources to return search results

Yelp - Australian search engine which specialises in locating local businesses such as restaurants, doctors, beauty salons and bars

The tech giants must have felt they were on strong ground when U.S. authorities backed them up, calling on Australia to scrap the proposed laws.

Google and Facebook's threats drew a series of stinging response from across the political spectrum, as well as from industry representatives and academics.

Most notably Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed the bullying: 'People who want to work with that in Australia, you're very welcome. But we don't respond to threats.'

Both companies make huge profits in Australia but have drawn criticism for how little tax they pay.

The Australian Financial Review reported Facebook Australia earned nearly $674 million by Australian advertisers in 2019, but paid under $17 million.

Google did even better, making $4.3 billion in 2019, and paying less than $100 million.

Experts and industry spokespeople say if the tech giants make good on their threats millions of users would face impacts ranging from annoyance, to receiving even more dodgy information than usual, to potential health risks.

Small businesses that rely on Google ad words campaigns for people to find them would also be thrown into uncertainty.

'Dominance by one player does not end well for society. Google is not evil its just too dominant,' says Peter Strong the CEO of the Council of Small Business.

'The world is watching us to see what happens next, it really is.'

But ultimately, Australians - including business - would adjust and cope. A move to block Australian users would end up being 'self-destructive'.

'It is self-defeating and self-destructive to treat your users in these ways,' said Peter Lewis, from the Australia Institute's Centre for Responsible Technology.

'Ultimately these companies are networks of users and they're only as strong as their networks. If they make decisions that weaken those networks and don't respect their users, ultimately they weaken themselves.'

'We managed to survive before Google, and I'm sure we could again.' 'We'll find a workaround, we always do,' Mr Lewis says.

On Facebook chat threads, internet natives and heavy users appear relatively unfazed by the potential for Google Search to be blocked for Australians. Many said they would simply use the Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) they already pay for to get around geoblocking.

For those without a VPN, Google is not the only search engine that works.

Australian consumer tech website Gizmodo recommended four 'great alternatives as the legislation went before parliament: the so-called 'anti-google' DuckDuckGo, the family friendly Swisscows, Ecosia and Bing.

'DuckDuckGo is popular because it positions itself as being the 'anti-Google'. Unlike the tech giant, it doesn't store cookies or any kind of identifiable personal information,' according to Gizmodo.

'There would certainly be a learning curve for consumers to understand that there are alternative options out there,' says Teresa Corbin, CEO of The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

'Ultimately though some of the alternative search providers do not profile users and provide more privacy options for consumers.'

The Google Search users who will be looking for new ideas with the greatest urgency will be micro business owners and those in highly competitive markets, such as cafes, restaurants, hairdressers and tradespeople.

'We don't know what would happen, we're trying to work that out,' says Peter Strong, CEO of the Council of Small Business.

'Small businesses usually just get someone to do this for them and then forget about it. Well if Google pulls out, they're gone.

'How would people find a local hairdresser, or plumbing business, cafes, or delivery businesses? Of course they will start using other search engines, but this will cause a lot of uncertainty.'

'There could be health impacts too. What if you order your medicines online or need to get your wheelchair fixed?'

Ms Corbin agrees: "Australians would be able to adjust to using alternative services.'

'However, there are still many questions to be answered about what the future of the internet in Australia would look like if Google and Facebook follow through on these threats, such as how small businesses who depend on Google Ads in search will be affected.'

Mr Lewis agrees business will struggle, but will find other ways to reach their audiences - 'maybe even back through to news organisations.'

While it seems unlikely that news organisations could end up recommencing large scale online classifieds as a solution - the loss of which sunk the business models that newspapers operated for decades - things change quickly online.

News organisations are already building search and aggregation tools for bona fide news sites - such as Daily Mail's Newzit - have also sprung up in recent times that could meet a demand for fact-based news services.

Tama Leaver, Professor of Internet Studies, at Curtin University, says contrary to some reports, Facebook is not threatening to shut down the News Feed for Australians.

What is proposed is worse than that, Mr Leaver says.

'If you drop a link to an interesting news article into your post it wouldn't work. Information from unverified sources would start to clutter up the feed - that's a significant shift away from verified information.

'To me that is a huge issue. Facebook is already fighting a war against disinformation and it is not winning, the likes of 5G and Covid conspiracies.'

'Without credible sources to counter that Facebook could become even more of a cesspool for misinformation,' Mr Leaver says.

So where can people go for news - apart from the obvious choices of news websites and news aggregation sites?

It is likely that news will migrate in greater volumes to other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram - which carried virtually no news until the last couple of years.

Ultimately, Mr Lewis doesn't think the threats by Google and Facebook will work: 'By threatening to leave by attempting to block users, they've backed themselves into a corner.' 'Unless they have a master plan I'm not seeing, I cant see how this ends with them getting what they want.'

'Google and Facebook need to come to the table in good faith,' Ms Corbin says.

'We saw Google recently agree to a copyright framework agreement with French publishers that required them to pay news publishers for their online content, so the idea of a deal is not incomprehensible to these tech giants.'

Mr Lewis says it's important to note that the News Media Bargaining Code is the first of several major changes to the way information is shared online.

Major changes will follow soon relating to data privacy, the transparency of advertising and the spread of misinformation.

These changes are seen as more urgent since it became obvious that conspiracy theories - such as those surrounding COVID-19, QAnon, Brexit and the US election - were spreading quickly online.

Google has defended itself in statements posted to YouTube and available on the Google search page. It has also laid out its case in an open letter.

NSW walks away from Norfolk Island services, Queensland poised to take control

NSW's association with Norfolk Island appears likely to end, after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed her Government was in talks about taking over a service contract on the tiny external territory.

"We've heard that New South Wales wants to abandon their responsibilities there so we are very keen to have those further discussions with the Federal Government," she said.

The NSW Government has been running Norfolk Island's school and health system since the Federal Government revoked the island's self-ruling status in 2015. But that service contract expires in June.

"It's an issue we've been discussing with the Commonwealth for the past two or three years and something we feel strongly about, in terms of what needs to happen," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

The NSW Government has committed to servicing the island, which is home to less than 2,000 people, until the end of this year.

The Federal Government is liaising with other states to secure an arrangement for next year and beyond.

The Norfolk Island Regional Council governs the territory — which was handed to Australia by the United Kingdom in 1914 — and is bankrolled by the Commonwealth.

However, NSW provides health and education funding at a cost of more than $32 million per year.

Norfolk Island's administrator, Eric Hutchinson said: "Both education and health services on the island are critical services, just as they are I think in any other community large or small around a big country."

While he would not speculate on who he thinks should take over the services contract, he admitted Queensland was a logical partner with three island flights operating out of Brisbane each week.

"We've seen many Australians visiting Norfolk Island for the first time, a very remote part of a big country and that's benefiting businesses here on the island and we hope that that will continue."

In a statement a spokesman for the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure said "the Australian Government is committed to the continuity of essential state services on Norfolk Island".




Tuesday, January 26, 2021

My day

I have just got back from celebrating Australia day in the traditional manner -- with a family BBQ. My brother joined us. We had lamb chops, sausages, salad, various cheeses and Tasnmanian Pate. So the food was good.

We had most of the lunch under shade in the garden but adjourned to air conditioning for our Pavlova dessert

We discussed the ever-growing "Invasion Day" movement and wondered why they cannot have their day while we had ours. Each to his own, we said

But the motivation for the protests is actually clear. They smell money in it. It's an ever louder call for "reparations". They seem to think that can get yet more money from the government for people with any Aboriginal ancestry.

The fact that the governent already gives them various types of support that are not available to other Australians is ignored. Gratitude? You'd be joking. The existing payments have simply made them greedy for more.

They think that more noise will produce more money. But that is unlikely to happen. Whatever they got they would want more and that should be obvious to anyone. One of the reports below asked for a million dollars for each aborigine. The whole thing is just contemptible money grubbing -- JR

ABC kicks off Australia Day coverage with Aboriginal language national anthem - after it backed down on policy of calling Jan. 26 'Invasion Day'

The ABC has started their Australia Day coverage with a televised performance of the national anthem being sung in a local Aboriginal language - as the sails of the Opera House were lit up with indigenous art for the first time.

The WugulOra morning ceremony at Sydney's Barangaroo Reserve was broadcast live on the ABC on Tuesday, culminating in the singing of Advance Australia Fair.

The anthem was first sung in the Eora Sydney language by Aboriginal vocal performance group the KARI singers, which was followed by the English version.

Before dawn the sails of the Sydney Opera House had been lit up with an artwork from artist Frances Belle-Parker, a Yaegl woman from Maclean, northern NSW.

Her design was to represent the oldest living culture in the world.

Shortly after first light, the Aboriginal flag was also raised alongside the Australian flag just across the water from the spectacular artwork on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

As the country prepares for heatwave conditions for the day, marches are planned in many capital cities to advocate abolishing Australia Day and demand justice for First Nations people.

In Melbourne, an Invasion Day rally will go ahead despite the city's annual Australia Day parade being cancelled.

In Sydney, the NSW police minister has warned the thousands of people planning to march in protest that they face fines or imprisonment for violating COVID-19 public health orders.

Conservative lobby group Advance Australia said it planned to arrange for the words 'Aus Day' to be written in the sky above Sydney on Tuesday, to counter the 'Invasion Day rally'.

The country has again been embroiled in the annual debate about whether Australia Day's date should be changed or the name changed to Invasion Day.

As Australia woke up on January 26, the sun rose over the country's most famous building the Sydney Opera House spectacularly lit up with artwork in recognition of First Nations people

The wording of the Australian anthem was recently changed to replace 'for we are young and free' to 'for we are one and free' to take account of the long Aboriginal history on the continent.

The Eora Nation is the name given to the 29 Aboriginal clans that collectively make up the indigenous population of the Sydney Metropolitan Area. The word Eora means 'here' or 'from this place'.

WugulOra, meaning 'One Mob', was a ceremony on Australia Day to celebrate 'the world's oldest living culture through dance, music and language'.

The event honoured the traditional custodians of the land, the Gadigal people, and involved an ancient Smoking Ceremony, performances and talks from local Elders.

The ABC on Monday backed down on its policy of interchangeably using the terms 'Australia Day' and 'Invasion Day' after the government intervened,

The national broadcaster had published an online events guide using both terms to refer to the January 26 public holiday which commemorates the 1788 arrival in Sydney Cove of the First Fleet - a transportation of settlers, military, and convicts from Britain.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher attacked the use of the term by the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster. 'The ABC online article is incorrect about Australia Day,' he said on Monday.

'The name of our national day is well understood and supported, and for the ABC to suggest otherwise - that in some way Invasion Day is interchangeable with Australia Day - is clearly wrong.'

Hours later, the ABC issued a defensive statement regarding its policy.

'In light of some misreporting on this issue, to be abundantly clear: The ABC's policy is to use the term Australia Day, as it always has,' it said on Monday afternoon.

'As the editorial advice states, other terms can be used when they are appropriate in certain contexts. This does not mean they are used interchangeably.'

The ABC events guide on Sunday had described Australia Day as 'a contentious day for many' despite the national broadcaster's style guide recommending Australia Day as a 'default' terminology.

The initial article, which has now been amended, was titled 'Australia Day/Invasion Day 2021 events for Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin'.

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt, meanwhile, acknowledged January 26 was a painful date for many Australians, but argued the day was an opportunity to reflect on the nation's story of reconciliation.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia's decision to drop references to 'Australia Day' while promoting Big Bash League games also drew debate, with politicians and commentators weighing in.

Australia Day Arrests as police clash with Invasion Day protesters

Peaceful protests calling for a change to the January 26 Australia Day holiday turned ugly as police clashed with protesters and, on one occasion, a protester was forcefully removed by bikies.

Thousands gathered for Invasion Day protests in Australia’s capital cities and in regional centres.

After hours of speeches at the Domain in the Sydney CBD, where police told protesters they could gather but not march, a number of protesters were arrested.

In Canberra, a man wearing a Make America Great Again cap and waving an Australian flag was forcibly removed from an Invasion Day rally by three men in bikie colours.

As he drove away, the assembled crowd cheered.

In Melbourne, thousands marched from Parliament House down Bourke Street after a peaceful protest in which police refused to remove their hats, a stance in line with police procedure.

The clash between police and protesters at the Domain in Sydney followed a warning from police. “If you do the right thing, I’ll do the right thing,” an officer told an organiser as 3000 people gathered.

NSW Police said five people were arrested including an 18-year-old man who was not part of the gathering.

One man was charged with assaulting police and one woman was charged with hindering police in the execution of duty.

Two other men were each fined $1000 and released.

Earlier, in the Sydney suburb of Newtown, a fresh mural painted by acclaimed street artist Scott Marsh emerged at first light.

It shows Scott Morrison dressed as Captain James Cook next to two words, “Captain Cooked”, and the hashtag #ChangeTheDate.

A speaker at the Sydney event, Gwenda Stanley, told a crowd of more than 500 people that it was time Indigenous Australians were given proper reparations. “A million dollars for each black person,” she said.

“Don’t be fooled by the Uluru statement from the arse. Let’s do reparations before treaty. A million dollars for each black person and than we can talk treaty.”

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing yesterday warned officers would not hesitate to ensure crowd numbers stayed under 500. “Do not come in and be part of that public gathering. Find another way to express your views and opinions,” he said.

“We are all aware that these are sensitive issues and they are very important issues to a lot of people, but we are still in the middle of a global pandemic and we’re asking people to abide by those health orders.”

Police will be able to issue on-the-spot fines upwards of $1000 but the penalty for breaching public health orders comes with a fine up to $11,000 and a six-month jail term.

The coronavirus pandemic this year saw Victorians unable to gather for an Australia Day rally because it was deemed a public health risk by the state government. But Melbourne City Council did approve an Invasion Day Dawn Service.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the seated, 250-capacity service at Kings Domain was “a way of supporting an event that reflects that ancient Australian history”.

The January 26 public holiday has in recent years seen thousands of Australians take to the streets to protest against Australia’s national holiday.

Thousands have gathered outside Parliament House in Melbourne for a demonstration where a minute of silence was observed. Huge crowds are also peacefully protesting in Brisbane.

Organisers of the Sydney protest told 3000 people turned up. “They allowed us to occupy the Domain and for the event to go ahead so long as there was a no marching so that wasn’t the compromise,” Ian Brown said.

Mr Brown, a Gomeroi man from Moree, said the Uluru Statement from the Heart which proposed a voice to parliament, was not the answer. “The statement doesn’t do enough. They have this idea the statement is a grassroots movement. There was no consultation done on my homelands.

The Invasion Day rallies call for, among other things, a changing of the date to reflect the fact that for some it represents more than the beginning of British colonialism when the First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788.

They want it to be moved because that same date represents the “continued genocide of Aboriginal people”.

One of the key figures in the NSW Black Lives Matter movement has told changing the date of Australia Day from January 26 will not be enough.

Paul Silva is the nephew of David Dungay Jr, a Dunghutti man from Kempsey, who died in prison custody in 2015.

“I’m here to demand the abolishment of Australia Day. It’s not significant to us as First Nations people. Over 250 years ago the First Fleet come in and murdered, raped and stole children of our ancestors.”

Mr Silva said the whole day needed to be abolished. “Changing the date is not going to make a difference in my view. “That we allow Australia to celebrate a day when murders and criminal activity took place is just appalling.”

Mr Silva also hit out at Prime Minister Scott Morrison who last week stoked controversy by suggesting that those who arrived on the First Fleet didn’t have a “flash day” either. “Him making comments like that is just appalling. He basically condones what happened when the First Fleet come here.”

Lidia Thorpe, the first Indigenous woman in Victorian parliament, is using her platform to call for change. On Twitter, she wrote: “Too many Australians still think January 26 is a day of celebration, but for Aboriginal people across this country, it’s a Day of Mourning.

“That’s why I’m inviting communities, councils and organisations to fly the Aboriginal flag at half-mast on #InvasionDay.”

Invasion Day protests have been planned for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart, Newcastle, Rockhampton, Lismore, Albury and Lithgow

Trade bully tactics fail as Australia's exports to China SURGE by 21 per cent in just one month - with wheat exports soaring to a record high despite tariffs

They can't do without our iron ore

Australia's exports to China surged by 21 per cent in just one month despite the nasty trade war with its biggest trading partner.

In December alone, almost $35billion worth of Australian goods and services were sent overseas, as the Communist power bought substantially more iron ore to make steel for its Covid recovery.

China's 80 per cent tariffs on barley have also done nothing to dent the agricultural sector, with other markets buying Australian cereals.

Last month, barley exports tripled while wheat exports surged to a record high as Russia battled a drought.

The China trade spat has clearly failed with Australian exports to China surging by 21 per cent in December to $13.3billion.

China bought 38 per cent of Australia's $34.9billion worth of exports

The monthly trade surplus of $8.956billion was the fourth highest on record

Chinese demand for iron ore saw exports of this commodity surge 21 per cent

Wheat exports hit a record high as Russia drought boosted demand from Saudi Arabia

China bought 38.2 per cent of Australia's overall exports of $34.9billion - which rose by 16.3 per cent, Australian Bureau of Statistics trade data showed.

Australia's monthly trade surplus also stood at $8.956billion - the fourth highest on record - as the value of imports fell nine per cent to $25.971billion.

'Exports of metalliferous ores and cereals are the strongest in history, resulting in the fourth highest goods trade surplus on record,' the ABS's head of international statistics Katie Hutt said.

China's insatiable demand for iron ore, the commodity from Western Australia used to make steel, soared by $2.2billion, or 21 per cent, in December to $12.5billion as Brazil continued to struggle with production.

Even more bizarrely, barley exports last month rose by $182 million, or 254 per cent, despite China in May imposing 80 per cent tariffs on the cereal in retaliation at Prime Minister Scott Morrison's April call for an inquiry into the origins of Covid.

That first round of trade intimidation sparked a December complaint to the World Health Organisation from former trade minister Simon Birmingham.

Saudi Arabia last month bought 42 per cent of Australia's barley exports as Russia, the world's biggest wheat exporter, suffered from a drought.

Australian wheat exports surged 423 per cent in December.

'December exports of cereals was the largest on record,' the ABS said.

'Favourable growing conditions in Australia, coupled with less favourable conditions in other wheat growing regions such as Russia has driven demand for Australian wheat to record highs.'

Despite the good news, Oxford Economics senior economist Sean Langcake said more Australian exports were vulnerable to more trade sanctions from China.

'Given these disputes are far from resolved, trade barriers could be in place for quite some time and may broaden to include other goods,' he said.

Oxford Economics concluded that while resources exports had a low vulnerability score, more rural exporters could be in danger if China could source them from other markets.

'A particular export is more vulnerable if China is a relatively important market (for Australia and globally) and/or if Australia is a relatively small supplier (to China and globally), which would allow China to substitute to supply from elsewhere,' Mr Langcake said.

Mr Morrison on Monday said he was prepared to meet President Xi Jinping to resolve the trade dispute provided China didn't demand concessions.

'We will remain absolutely open and available to meet, to discuss, any of the issues that have been identified,' he said.

'But those discussions won't take place on the base of any sort of preemptive concessions on Australia's part on those matters.'

Even before the Covid pandemic, China was upset with Australia over its decision in August 2018 to ban Huawei from installing 5G mobile networks.

In February 2019, Chinese customs authorities delayed shipments of Australian coal at its Dalian port to send a message. Similar tactics were tried in 2020 with Australian coal shipments.

China has also stymied Australian exports of timber, lobster, lamb and cotton as part of its intimidation tactics despite in 2015 signing the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement eliminating tariffs and trade barriers.




Monday, January 25, 2021

The luckiest country: Australia goes a WEEK with zero coronavirus cases across the entire nation

Australia has gone a week without a single community transmission of Covid-19, as other nations across the world continue to buckle under the strain of the virus and its ever changing and increasingly dangerous mutations.

While a day without any local cases may seem impossible for other countries battling the virus, for Australia it is slowly becoming the new normal.

But experts are now fearing the Australian government has backed the wrong horse when it comes to vaccines, after not putting in a single order for the highly-effective Moderna jab - which is 94.1 per cent effective.

Instead, the government has bought 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and only enough of the equally effective Pfizer jab to protect five million Australians.

NSW recorded three Covid-19 cases on Sunday all of which are in hotel quarantine, meaning the infected are returning citizens, after the state contained recent outbreaks in the Northern Beaches and Berala in Sydney's west.

In Victoria, the state has gone an incredible 18 days without a single community transmission case following fears the Northern Beaches cluster would completely ruin their long standing streak after it spread across the border.

After enduring a hard three-day lockdown in Brisbane, Queensland also recorded zero new cases of Covid-19.

The rest of the country have continued to record no community transmission as the virus is once again under control.

There is now a total of just 129 active cases of Covid-19 nationally with the rest in hotel quarantine as Australians enjoys some normalcy ahead of a vaccine rollout in February.

Most Australians will have the AstraZeneca vaccine and others will have access to Novavax, with just five million citizen getting Pfizer.

Moderna, of which Australia has zero orders for, and Pfizer have proved to be the most effective in clinical trials.

The reason for the government's failure to secure a Moderna order has been shrouded in mystery, with the nation's top doctor Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly only hinting that the company had been unwilling.

In the meantime, beaches around the country were packed over the weekend with restrictions eased many weeks ago, in stark comparison to the strict lockdowns experienced across Europe.

Many of Australia's close partners, including the UK and the US, are recording huge numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths.

In the past 24 hours, the United Kingdom recorded a massive 33,652 new Covid-19 cases and has suffered a total 97,518 deaths.

The situation is even more dire in the United States, where its Centre for Disease Control predicts there will be 465,000 to 508,000 total COVID-19 deaths by February 13. So far, 417,000 deaths have been attributed to the deadly respiratory virus.

Brazil recorded almost double that of the UK total with 62,334 cases in the past 24 hours and a total of 216,445 deaths since the pandemic began.

ABC ‘clearly wrong’ on Australia Day call, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said “the ABC has clearly got this wrong”, referencing the national broadcaster’s publication of an article yesterday on its website about events being held on January 26.

The piece was headlined Australia Day/Invasion Day 2021 events, sparking upset among some Coalition MPs and conservative commentators.

The piece said January 26 was “one of the most polarising dates on the Australian calendar”.

However the ABC is sticking to its guns, saying while Australia Day is its “default terminology”, a “variety of terms” describe January 26 and “it would be inappropriate to mandate staff use any one term over others in all contexts”.

ABC personality Shaun Micallef said referring to protests as “Australia Day events” would have been inaccurate.

A prominent Indigenous activist has accused politicians of playing the “race card” against Aboriginal Australians, which he claims happens in the run to every Australia Day.

Many Indigenous Australians bristle at the date as it marks the arrival of the First Fleet from Britain, an event which led to many Aboriginal people being killed in massacres and suffering other ill treatment at the hands of colonisers.

Others argue the day marks the foundation of modern Australia and the freedoms enjoyed by all.

A new poll published today found fewer than one-third of Australians support shifting the day from January 26.

The ABC article listed celebrations held under the Australia Day banner as well as demonstrations billed as Invasion Day – hence the use of both terms in the headline.

“The name of our national day is well understood and supported, and for the ABC to suggest otherwise – that in some way Invasion Day is interchangeable with Australia Day – is clearly wrong,” Mr Fletcher said.

He added that the name Australia Day was used in legislation and was “reflected in the usage of the overwhelming majority of Australians”.

He conceded the public broadcaster had editorial independence but he urged it to “correct this inaccurate article” and to “be impartial”.

New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott also chimed in, saying it was “breathtakingly irresponsible” to even highlight that Invasion Day rallies were taking place.

Planned protests are not officially sanctioned due to COVID-19 restrictions that prohibit mass gatherings on health grounds.

“If you’ve ever wanted evidence that the ABC are out of touch with reality then yesterday was exactly the case,” Mr Elliott told Sydney radio station 2GB.

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said January 26 should be referred to as Australia Day.

“This Australia Day we should walk together, side-by-side, as one to reflect, respect and celebrate all that makes us Australian – Indigenous and non-Indigenous,” he said.

Indigenous leader and one-time Liberal Party candidate Warren Mundine said the history of January 26 wasn’t in dispute, but Australia should “stop focusing on things that divide us (and) focus on the real issues and making them better”.

That wasn’t a view shared by prominent Indigenous activist Dr Stephen Hagan, who was behind the long-running and ultimately successful campaign to have Coon cheese renamed.

He told he was “100 per cent” in favour of the ABC’s decision to use both Australia Day and Invasion Day.

“I support using both terms if for no other reason that it keeps up the conversation which leads to truth telling,” Dr Hagan said.

“When people say the ABC shouldn’t use the term Invasion Day, what they are saying is they do not support Aboriginal people”.

Dr Hagan noted that New Zealand’s national day, Waitangi Day, marked the signing of a treaty between Britain and the local Maori population which established the modern nation, rather than the day UK forces arrived in Kiwi shores.

Mr Hagan accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack for using the “race card” with their comments leading up to Australia Day.

“From the PM’s stupid and pathetic comments about the condition of (those in the First Fleet) to McCormack making a reference to all lives matter, they always use the race card – they never miss a beat”.

Labor’s Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney also supported the ABC’s use of different terms for the day depending on what was being referred too.

The ABC did not respond to Minister Fletcher’s comments that the article was “incorrect”. But in an earlier statement it defended its use of several names for January 26. “The default terminology for the ABC remains ‘Australia Day’.

“We also recognise and respect that community members use other terms for the event, including ‘26 January’, ‘Invasion Day’ and ‘Survival Day, so our reporting and coverage reflect that.”

The broadcaster said that the term “Invasion Day” was not interchangeable with “Australia Day,” but rather was used in the context of events that are billed as such.

It added that both the Macquarie and Australian Oxford dictionaries listed “Invasion Day” and “Survival Day” as “roughly synonymous” with “Australia Day” particularly for Indigenous Australians.

“Given the variety of terms in use, and the different perspectives on the day that the ABC is going to cover over the course of the long weekend, it would be inappropriate to mandate staff use any one term over others in all contexts.”

Andrew Bolt: No Australia Day will satisfy activists determined to imagine Australia as an illegitimate state

Sky News host Andrew Bolt asks how trashing Australia and its history helps anyone move on and says “it just keeps us stuck in the past”. Mr Bolt said “terrible things happened but look around us, a hell of a lot of good…

Fine, change the date of Australia Day from January 26. Let race activists — even Cricket Australia — pick any other they prefer. I’ll happily go along with that if they agree to a deal: to then also celebrate the creation of this great country.

Think that will happen?

Trouble is, too many activists are against not just the date of Australia Day, the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, but against the very idea of this nation.

That’s why no concession seems to work — not the apologies, the kneeling, the “barefoot circles’, the “welcome to country”, the smoking ceremonies, the acknowledgement of country, or even the $30bn a year of Aboriginal welfare spending.

The goalposts just get moved, and rage and division grow.

Just weeks ago we saw again how this no-win game plays out, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison decided, on his own, to change words of our national anthem from “young and free” to “one and free”. He said he’d bought the (false) claim “young and free” was offensive because it suggested there was no Aboriginal history before whites arrived.

But have the activists who once refused to sing our “racist” anthem now started to belt it out?

As if. Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, who identifies as Aboriginal, sneered that changing “one word” would make no real difference, and the head of Sydney’s Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council said we actually needed a whole new anthem to “reflect the true identity of Australia rather than, in my words, a very terrible past”.

Labor frontbencher Linda Burney, who was raised by her great aunt and uncle, of Scottish descent, but identifies as Aboriginal through her father, simply demanded more concessions — such as changing our constitution so people with Aboriginal ancestors get a race-based advisory parliament.

Others now push for more changes to our anthem to get this elusive “unity”. They want a verse sung in one of the 300 or more Aboriginal languages.

But when the Wallabies decided last year to sing the national anthem in two languages before their game against Argentina, that wasn’t enough, either.

Latrell Mitchell, one of the NRL indigenous stars, raged: “When will people understand that changing it to language doesn’t change the meaning!”

An Australian anthem would not represent him in any language, because he was Aboriginal: “Understand what you’re being proud of. I stand for us, our mob!”

MITCHELL, at least, is honest about the real end game for many race activists.

Their problem is not with a few words in the anthem, the Union Jack in our flag, or holding Australia Day on January 26.

Their problem is with history. With Australia itself. With the creation of an essentially European nation on what was Aboriginal land.

This is why Australia Day is denounced as a “day of shame”, too embarrassing now for Cricket Australia to even mention in Mondays’s three Big Bash games.

This is why Tarneen Onus-Williams, an organiser of a big Australia Day protest in Melbourne three years ago, shouted, “F. k Australia” and “I hope it burns to the ground”.

This is why actor and playwright Nakkiah Lui screamed in front of an applauding ABC audience: “F. k whitey! Shit on your colonisation … Burn this place to the ground!”

This is why so many of our guilty-white — like writer Bruce Pascoe — prefer to call themselves Aboriginal, even when they have no known Aboriginal ancestors.

This rejection of Australia is now pushed by the ABC, our reckless national broadcaster, which on Sunday groaned: “For those whose history is being denied (on Australia Day), this isn’t a war of words, but an exhausting yearly exercise in defending the pain of their existence … Those are people who cannot cheer for a country that was built on the dispossession and loss of their people.”

No Australia Day will ever satisfy activists determined to imagine Australia as an illegitimate state that makes all Aboriginal Australians feel a constant “pain of their existence”.

What do they imagine will fix things? Evicting all non-Aborigines? A new apartheid, with different voting rights or homelands for different races? Forcing non-Aborigines to constantly apologise for their very presence?

Where is reconciliation if Australia is divided by race?

Right now, “reconciliation” is a fraud we should confront.

So, fine, let’s change the date of Australia Day. But only when activists agree that they, too, will then celebrate with our flag and our national anthem. That would be a brilliant deal.

I am genuine in wanting unity. Are they?

Postgraduate enrolments soar as jobseekers wait out competitive market at university

Australians are enrolling in postgraduate university courses in numbers tipped to reach record highs.

Max Kaplan hadn't had any luck landing a job after completing his engineering degree at the University of New South Wales.

Throughout 2020, he applied for several jobs a week, but to no avail.

"It was a little bit crushing at times when I was facing rejection after rejection," Mr Kaplan said. "You go through five years of uni, a year of work, and still can't find anything … it feels like you've wasted your time."

Despite graduating with honours from a university placed third in the nation for employment, he is now preparing to study a masters of mechatronic engineering at the University of Melbourne.

He believed further specialisation was the best way to spend the next two years while the job market bounces back. "I'm trying to wait out the bad job market and hopefully find myself in a bit of a better place," he said.

Postgraduate courses, on average, cost more than $20,000. "It's a risk I'm willing to take," Mr Kaplan said.

Last year, enrolments in postgraduate study rose sharply across the country.

The universities with the highest growth in enrolments for specialised courses included:

University of New South Wales — 26 per cent
James Cook University — 20 per cent
University of Queensland — 19 per cent
Charles Sturt University — 18 per cent
University of Melbourne — 13 per cent
Curtin University — 10 per cent

Professor Andrew Norton researches higher education policy at the Australian National University and said enrolments historically rose when the economy suffered. "In recessions more people look for education because it's harder to find a job," Mr Norton said.

The official unemployment rate has fallen by 0.9 per cent since its 7.5 per cent peak in July 2020. More than 900,000 Australians remain out of work.

Mr Norton expected university enrolments to hit record highs in 2021. "People with postgraduate qualifications generally do better than those with bachelor degrees, regardless of their subject areas," he said.

In northern NSW, Elizabeth Rose has returned to university to upskill after taking a three-year break from working as a counsellor. The 60-year-old has enrolled in a Graduate Diploma of Psychology at James Cook University in Queensland.

The university is forecasting a 24 per cent increase in both undergraduate and postgraduate enrolments this year.

"I just want to do something … I need to get my brain into gear and investigate more issues," Ms Rose said.

She saw an opportunity to boost her income and fill a gap in mental health support in the regional town of Grafton - a need she said had been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

"There aren't that many psychologists in town, and people are waiting sometimes four and five months to get in," she said.

She said age was not a barrier to achieving her career goals.