Sunday, February 14, 2021

Goodbye Andrew O'Keefe

Bettina Arndt

For those of you who haven’t followed this story which broke late January, Andrew O’Keefe was a former Channel Seven host but, more importantly, one of the founders of White Ribbon, a domestic violence organization which recruits men to denounce violence against women.

O’Keefe has been out there for years promoting misinformation about domestic violence, denying women’s role in family violence, and twisting statistics to promote feminist myths shaming men. Here’s Mark Latham [] debunking O’Keefe’s misrepresentation of our official statistics. And you might enjoy Latham having a very lively few rounds with O’Keefe here []

I had my own run in with O’Keefe when I was involved in organizing media interviews for the filmmaker Cassie Jaye, when she was in Australia speaking at an international men’s issues conference and promoting her movie The Red Pill. O’Keefe was then one of the hosts on the breakfast show Sunrise, and blatantly lied during the interview with Jaye, claiming they hadn’t been sent the movie. I then released the email correspondence with their producer from many weeks before, which included links to the documentary.

Watch O’Keefe’s appalling attack on Jaye. This performance almost led to him being fired, after over 10,000 people signed a petition demanding he lose his job. But he survived… until now.

O’Keefe’s chickens come home to roost

On Jan 31, came news that he’d been charged with domestic assault of his partner, Dr Orly Lavee. According to The Daily Telegraph, police will allege O’Keefe punched Dr Lavee in the face, pulled her hair, kicked her in the back of her legs and spat on her.

Channel 7 immediately threw him under the bus with an announcement that he was no longer with the network, stressing that he had departed before getting into this spot of bother.

Next came White Ribbon hastily explaining that, “White Ribbon Australia went into liquidation in 2019 and was relaunched under new management in 2020. Andrew O’Keefe has no role in this new chapter of White Ribbon Australia that has seen many changes to our approach and activities. We stand in solidarity with every victim and survivor of men’s violence against women, and believe men who use violence must be held to account.”

O’Keefe’s lawyer announced Dr Lavee’s allegations would be contested in court, stating that “O’Keefe was certainly not the aggressor in the situation. And Dr Lavee will have a lot to answer for.”

Orly responded that she was devastated that O’Keefe had implied she was the aggressor. “It was a reckless thing for the lawyer to say and is totally baseless,' a Lavee friend told the Daily Mail.

You may like to watch Janice Fiamengo's new video commenting on the whole saga. []

So, here we are. Who knows the truth about what happened that night in Lavee’s Randwick apartment? Perhaps O’Keefe is telling the truth and wasn’t the aggressor, or at least not the only one?

But this arrogant male feminist is about to discover he’ll be up against it convincing the courts, let alone the press, that he, a man, is telling the truth about what happened. He’s about to learn that whatever happens, most people will believe Dr Lavee with the result that his reputation, his career, his life will never be the same. Like men across the country, he’ll learn the consequences of the dangerous feminist rhetoric he’s been promoting for nearly a decade.

For me, the most amusing aspect of all this was that all the initial news stories mentioned the fact that Andrew O’Keefe in 2017 had received an Honours award, in part for his work with White Ribbon. But not one press story demanded his award be rescinded. Not one editorial, not one ABC commentator. Not one word from the Attorneys General and politicians who lined up to condemn me for allegedly misrepresenting the truth about domestic violence.

The deathly silence from the woke, finger-wagging NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman is particularly telling.

Bettina Arndt newsletter:


Cornavirus pandemic making students anxious, depressed, with suicide fears, new report finds

National Mental Health Commission chief executive Christine Morgan yesterday warned the COVID-19 pandemic is making young Australians anxious and depressed.

Ms Morgan, who is also national suicide prevention adviser to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, said children and young people are suffering due to repeated lockdowns, lifestyle restrictions and disruptions to school and sport.

“I’m concerned about increases in self-harm among young people – that is a sign of distress – and I’m concerned about … suicidal risk,’’ she told News Corp Australia.

Commission data reveals that Lifeline, Kids Helpline and Beyond Blue fielded a record 112,000 calls for help last month – 23 per cent more than in January 2020, before the start of the pandemic, and 38 per cent more than in January 2019.

Ms Morgan said high school principals had raised concerns about the “increasing number of young people at risk’’.

“For teenagers, this is the time in your life when you’re finding your place, pushing against parental restrictions and wanting to find networks,’’ she said.

“A lot of that has been impacted not just by lockdowns but a sense of ‘my future is being impacted by something I can’t control’.

“(The COVID-19 restrictions) impact on their ability to engage with others, to make choices, it impacts their families, their school and their future.’’

Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe said all schools need qualified counsellors on staff, as children and teenagers wait months to see psychologists or psychiatrists for help with high anxiety or depression.

Ms Haythorpe said a “significant number’’ of teenagers had dropped out of school as a result of COVID-19 shutdowns last year.

But she warned there were not enough school counsellors, or outside psychologists and psychiatrists, to “make sure students have access to the help they need’’.

“Teachers shouldn’t give psychological advice – they should refer students to appropriate services, but we need to have the appropriate services in place,’’ she said.

“There is not enough provision of services.’’

“We need to have fully trained and qualified counsellors in schools, with teaching qualifications, who can work with children around anxiety and mental health issues,’’ she said.

“At the end of last year teachers were chronically fatigued in terms of the pandemic, looking after student health and wellbeing, and managing their own needs.’’

Stress on teachers during the pandemic has also been exposed by University of Sydney Associate Professor Rachel Wilson, in a study for the Centre for Strategic Education.

The study found that teachers were overworked with extra hours, student welfare issues and paperwork, and anxious about the risk of catching COVID-19 in classrooms.

At least half of teachers were not confident students were learning well, and felt most students were “not positively engaged’’ with online classes.


NSW dumps education proposal to let students progress at their own pace

The NSW government has abandoned one of the boldest recommendations in the NSW Curriculum Review, dumping a proposal for “untimed” syllabuses that let students progress at their own pace instead of grouping them by age.

The plan grew from concern students were moving ahead without mastering key skills, but Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the government would instead reduce syllabus content to give teachers more flexibility to help students falling behind in their class.

Ms Mitchell said 200 expert teachers had been recruited to help with the curriculum reforms by advising on whether the new syllabuses work well in the classroom. The first new syllabuses, for kindergarten to year 2 maths and English, are due to be taught in schools from the beginning of next year.

“Streamlining and updating the curriculum is more than just removing content – the curriculum needs to be ‘teachable’ in the classroom, so as to enable teachers to meet the needs of their students,” Ms Mitchell said.

The NSW Curriculum Review, which was billed as the biggest in 30 years and involved two years of consultation and preparation, made three key recommendations when it was handed down last June: cutting content, streamlining the HSC, and ‘untimed syllabuses’.

Professor Geoff Masters, the review’s chair, said untimed syllabuses would involve redesigning content so students could progress at their own pace rather than being grouped according to their age and studying a two-year, stage-based syllabus.

Professor Masters’ concern – one echoed by many teachers – was that huge differences in ability within each year group led to some students moving forward without grasping key concepts, which left holes in their learning and some were unable to ever catch up.

But there was little detail about how this might work in practice. The government accepted the proposal “in principle” when the report was handed down, but said it would seek further advice from the NSW Education Standards Authority.

Ms Mitchell told the Herald that the stage and year-based syllabuses would remain, but reducing the amount of content would give teachers more time to ensure students of different abilities were across the concepts they needed before moving forward.

“While we will be retaining a year and stage-based syllabus, by streamlining and decluttering we will give teachers far more bandwidth and flexibility to teach students at various stages,” said Ms Mitchell.

Secondary Principals Council president Craig Petersen said he was not surprised by the decision to abandon untimed syllabuses. “They’re good in theory – the idea students progress as they achieve the outcomes,” he said. “There’s no point getting you to do calculus in year 11 when you can’t even do multiplication yet.

“The difficulty is, given the current structures and resources, it’s difficult to see how we would do that in practice.”

But Greg Whitby, the head of the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, said the exciting element of the curriculum review had been “a clarion call to do more than tinker around the edges, and for educators to think completely differently about schools and learning.

“Continuing to segregate learning by chunking students into year groups and stages based on age doesn’t create flexibility – it just puts more barriers around learning.” He also said the state’s best teachers should spend more time teaching rather than less.


China's trade sanctions on Australian agriculture force farmers to find new markets

Barley growers say they are getting good prices from markets in the Middle East and Asia, while wool, wheat and dairy are largely unaffected by the trade bans and, despite impacts on some abattoirs, red meat sales to China remain high.

Cotton growers are also making some inroads in markets including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Bangladesh and the wine industry has been active in finding new markets.

But the lobster industry has struggled to fill the gap caused by the loss of the China market.

The Department of Agriculture will not say what the cost to farmers has been of higher tariffs and unofficial customs bans across a range of commodities, including barley, beef, wine and cotton.

"China has not imposed sanctions on Australian agriculture, fisheries and forestry products," a spokesman said.

It is also careful about how it refers to the row: "Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports faced a number of challenges, including drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and disruptions to regular trade flows for some commodities into the China market."

The National Farmers' Federation has speculated farmers could lose more than $35 billion over the next decade because of the trade fallout, although it is unclear how the lobby group arrived at the figure.

Signs of recovery for barley exports

Eight months after China introduced hefty tariffs on barley, Australia's largest grain handler, CBH Group, says growers are being paid similar prices to when its most valuable customer was buying.

"For the Australian barley industry, yes it has been a tough 2020, but we're certainly recovering here and prices have recovered to basically the same levels as pre the anti-dumping tariffs," CBH Group chief marketing and trading officer Jason Craig said.

On the road back

Jason Craig from CBH Grain hopes a trial to send barley from WA to Mexico will help fill the void left by China.

Mr Craig estimated a bumper 13 million tonnes of barley had been harvested across Australia this summer.

He said strong demand from feed markets in the Middle East and Asia and an Australian-first trial to sell premium malting barley to brewers in Mexico had helped to replace lost trade to China.

"Currently it's one shipment of 35,000 tonnes that's worth more than $10 million, so it's an important trial," he said.

Red meat still selling into China

Exports including, wool, wheat and dairy are so far largely unaffected by the trade spat and, despite some abattoirs being restricted, sales of red meat to China remain high.

In 2020, six Australian abattoirs were suspended from the trade over labelling issues and claims of meat contamination.

A further two meat plants in Victoria are also waiting to resume selling beef and lamb to China after staff were infected with COVID-19, but prices for Australian cattle are at record highs.

"Yes, there was disruption, but the material impact on overall exports wasn't that great," Mr Strong said.

Australia's recovery from drought has seen the price of cattle soar to record levels, and Mr Strong said, "finding a home for beef not going to China isn't a major challenge".

China was Australia's third most valuable market for red meat last year.

"We sent them 197,000 tonnes of beef, so that was the second biggest year by quite a bit that we've sent to China and they were only number three by about 25,000 tonnes less than the US," Mr Strong said.

Cotton spreads risk, returns still high

Australia's cotton industry has diversified since China stopped buying

"It's not all doom and gloom" says cotton analyst Pete Johnson about China's exit from the Australian market.

Cotton growers are also expected to receive high returns for their produce in 2021, as the industry expands into markets across Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Bangladesh.

Australian growers and shippers claim Chinese spinning mills were told last October to stop buying Australian grown cotton, and the billion-dollar a year trade essentially stopped.

Toowoomba-based cotton trader and industry analyst Pete Johnson estimated growers would lose a $10-$20 a bale premium without China in the market, but that returns to growers this year were expected to be "historically high".

"Would we prefer the Chinese were there to take our cotton? Absolutely, but [we are] spreading our risk into a range of other markets throughout the subcontinent and Asia," Mr Johnson said.

"Spreading that risk is ultimately not a bad thing for the industry.

"While the price is good for the growers, and we're able to spread our risk further. It's not all bad news and its not all doom and gloom," he said.

Winemakers look to new markets

In the two months since China introduced tariffs on Australian wine, the value of exports fell by $250 million when compared to the same time last year.

The loss of such a lucrative market is disappointing for New South Wales winemaker Bruce Tyrrell, who spent much of last year looking for new customers.

"We're opening markets in the 'Stans'— in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan," Mr Tyrrell said. "They're not going to be massive, but they're good markets — wealthy countries building their level of sophistication, so as that happens, wine drinking goes with it," he said.

The Australian wine industry will also look to other Asian countries, into parts of Africa and the US.

Mr Tyrrell said 60 per cent of Australian wine is exported, and while it might be nice to think the domestic market could absorb some of the loss, it was unlikely.




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