Sunday, March 21, 2021

A penalty of being good-looking

The story below is from Kate Jones (above), a former Queensland politician. She is one of a number of women I have encountered or read about who say that their good looks are a curse in some ways, evoking inappropriate reactions from some men.

A lot depends on perception, however. What is harassment? I know well a self-confident and attractive lady who tells me that she deliberately wore short skirts while in her teens and early 20s. She enjoyed the whistles and other reactions that it evoked. She regarded them as compliments

Amid all the current furore about sexual harassment of women,the big question is whether the harassment is rare or common. Amid all the propaganda about the matter, it is hard to tell. I am inclined to think that it is common where the woman is good-looking -- which is deplorable but probably unalterable

To say that "education" can alter the way men interact with women is a bit of a laugh. Stalin thought that education could make a new Soviet man. It didn't

It may help to understand the teenage Kate Jones story if you know that she had well-developed breasts from an early age. That was bound to attract frequent male attention, not all of it sophisticated. She hersef diagnosed that problem by having her breasts reduced when she was 20 -- a most regrettable recourse

From when I was 15 years of age, I could not walk out my front door without men calling out at me, ogling me and even following me. It was a daily occurrence.

Just walking down the Queen Street Mall I was approached to work in strip clubs and pornography with promises of big money.

I was still at school.

I was groped by colleagues, taxi drivers, driving instructors, customers and strangers.

Once I had completed school and was a little older it just got worse and more brazen.

Having the operation gave me the opportunity to be seen and heard as a person for the first time. It was truly liberating.

That’s why when I started my first ministerial office job at 21, with my new-found confidence, I was gutted when an older and more senior advisor who worked for another Minister, started sexually harassing me.

I felt betrayed that this was happening even in government. That even in this professional environment which should be the benchmark that I couldn’t count on this behaviour being in my past.

I realised it would instead be very much a part of my future that I would have to continue to cope with like so many other women.


Violence against women is abhorrent but the PM was RIGHT to avoid March 4 Justice rallies - which quickly turned into political witch-hunts, writes DES HOUGHTON

Scott Morrison took plenty of heat for spurning an invitation to attend the March 4 Justice rally in Canberra, but he had good reason not to.

Before we get into that I should say that any event that seeks to highlight violence against women is a worthy one, and thousands of decent Australians in nearly 40 cities and towns should be congratulated for embracing the “campaign for justice” and marching with their homemade #EnoughIsEnough posters.

Their motives were honorable.

However, some of the demonstrations had a decidedly ugly tone, especially in Canberra and Melbourne, where the protests seemed to be hijacked by the unions, the sniveling left, Get-Up! and assorted Green/Labor aligned whingers.

Perhaps Extinction Rebellion put in an appearance.

If you watched the television news footage, you will agree that the professional Coalition haters attempted to seize control from the genuinely concerned, and very nearly did. The Prime Minister was well-advised not to attend. He would have been met with heckles and abuse.

'Scotty from Marketing' and other put-downs would have filled the air, as his critics lashed out a leader they constantly accuse of inaction, but whose every deed they scorn and ridicule.

The protesters were egged on by the ALP and the ABC after Attorney-General Christian Porter revealed he was the subject of a 1988 rape allegation, which he strenuously denies.

The alleged rape in a ministerial office of Brittany Higgins, a former political adviser, had also fuelled public anger.

She addressed the rally in Canberra even though her rape case is pending. This was ill-advised, in my opinion.

Women's rights rallies come in waves, and trace their origins back to the suffragette marches in the UK in the 1860s. There were a series of Reclaim the Night marches across Britain in the 1970s after a series of rapes and murders.

As the marchers gathered around the nation for the March 4 Justice, ScoMo told Parliament the rallies were a 'triumph of democracy'. Perhaps.

Sexual assault in the workplace - or anywhere else for that matter - is unacceptable. But sexual harassment does not know political boundaries, so the attempts to portray recent scandals on partisan lines were unfair.

Bushie Susan McDonald, an LNP Senator from Queensland, provided clarity. She said: 'Sexual assault in the workplace is abhorrent and I have always had zero tolerance for it. 'It is for these reasons that I will observe today's march at Parliament House against sexual assault. 'But I cannot participate in what has turned into a nasty political witch-hunt organised by unions and the Greens.’'

McDonald was right.

The day before the march one of the organisers told The Australian newspaper that she was excited to accept Scott Morrison's invitation to meet with him and described it as a 'great moment in history'.

The next day she had mysteriously changed her mind and rejected the offer of a meeting. Then she denounced Morrison far and wide on social media and television and the digital media.

There was little doubt the radical Left had succeeded in persuading the marchers to see the sexual assault issue through a partisan lens and attack the Coalition. 'Liberals are rapists,' read one sign, proving the point.

It's hard to understand how demonizing a party that has the support of roughly half the voters can advance a cause, until you recognise that for too many, the cause was really just an avenue for their political vitriol.

Scott Morrison knew that, and he stayed inside.


Scrapping NAPLAN and school rankings will only fail our children

Preventing student resilence and teacher accountability by scrapping NAPLAN and school rankings is no guarantee of success, writes Lucy Carne.

The manic attempt to protect the fragile self-esteem of students and teachers has got to stop.

Prizes for everyone! Learning play! 21st Century Skills! Overpaid consultants!

It’s clearly not working.

The latest move in the destruction of academic sensibility is the call to scrap the NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) test and the bizarre removal of school comparison data based on NAPLAN results.

Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe last week demanded the Federal Government axe the annual NAPLAN test as it was “plagued by a lack of credibility” and put “unnecessary pressure” on students.

It comes as Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) also blocked the compilation or publication of “league tables” by third parties and has changed its MySchool website to no longer offer school comparisons.

Parents can still search for a school’s past NAPLAN results on the taxpayer-funded portal, but cannot easily compare schools or see the best and worst performers.

Ms Haythorpe praised that decision, saying “the publication of NAPLAN league tables is damaging to school communities”.

But is this move to ban benchmarking really motivated by unions’ fear that parents will be misinformed by NAPLAN league tables or rather that the public will not be misinformed?

NAPLAN was introduced 13 years ago to provide critical information on school and student learning needs by testing the literacy and numeracy skills of every student in years 3, 5, 7 and 9.

It is Australia’s only national standardised test that provides long term big data to illuminate gaps in learning and skills and accurately guide curriculum planning, resource allocation and policy decisions.

The MySchool website was always contentious, but it offered parents, who once had no idea of how effective their local school’s teaching was, information to assist in their choice of school.

School performance comparison is not novel – Singapore, which consistently outperforms Australia in literacy and numeracy, provides parents with detailed school league tables, as does Britain.

Even ACARA’s own website says that “by providing extensive information on Australian schools, the My School website introduces a new level of transparency and accountability to schooling in Australia”.

Well, that’s no more.

Beyond school Open Days, Australian parents are now back to sourcing school intel from our neighbour’s personal trainer’s cousin whose kids went there eight years ago.

This assumption that parents will blindly choose a school based only on NAPLAN results is also absurd.

We all know that what makes a great school is more than just standardised test results held once a year – it’s the teacher turnover rate, athletic and creative programs offered, the school’s pedagogy, the commute from home or work, classroom resources, fees, uniform costs, even the state of the playground equipment or gardens.

But this veil of secrecy around how schools compare and lack of transparency and accountability will only let down our kids.

Rather than use NAPLAN results to advocate for improvement in education performance, the suppression of comparison protects underperforming teachers.

And it’s a symptom of the problem plaguing our schooling.

It’s the self-defeating desire to placate the fear of failure.

Feelings are fundamental. Kids must now pass everything. And teachers must not be held accountable.

It originates from the psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where self-esteem is vital to self-actualisation.

Success is now a right, not a privilege achieved by the lessons of defeat and failure. And comparison has become problematic and only holds people back.

An example of this madness is the famous Californian education report Toward a State of Self-esteem that stated: “Appreciating my own worth and importance does not depend on measuring the quantity or quality of my abilities against those of someone else … The point is not to become acceptable or worthy but to acknowledge the worthiness that already exists. Our feelings are part of this and accepting them builds our self-esteem.”

It’s a malaise that has even spread to higher education.

I write this as a current Masters student having returned back to university after 18 years since my last degree and I’m staggered by the lack of rigorous exams I was expecting.

Every assessment is an assignment and many are in groups. It’s basically impossible to fail.

Like thinking that printing more money will make us richer, blocking school comparisons and protecting students from the pressure of standardised testing will not make us more successful.

Ultimately, this denial of resilience and accountability will fail us all.


Extraordinary negligence by building regulators in NSW

A Sydney apartment buyer stands to lose her life savings or be forced to buy into a 300-unit development that she has been warned contains major defects.

Maryam Behrouz’s pursuit of the great Australian dream has become “a nightmare” after being told she must settle the $625,500 purchase in Kellyville because the building has been ticked off by a private certifier.

When Ms Behrouz tracked down the certifier’s documentation she was horrified to discover unlicensed tradies had signed off on the building work in potential breach of legislation.

The documents were later altered in suspicious circumstances to address her concerns by a mysterious person called “Muzza”.

Despite council discovering “considerable non-compliances” in the building, Ms Behrouz’s pleas for regulators to intervene have been fruitless.

In September the NSW Department of Fair Trading told her the matter is not “within its jurisdiction”.

The saga raises questions about whether defective buildings are still falling through the cracks despite NSW building commissioner David Chandler being given sweeping powers to clean up the industry in the wake of the Opal and Mascot tower evacuations.

This week a Fair Trading spokeswoman clarified that because Ms Behrouz’s initial complaint was about a contractual matter, she was advised to seek legal advice.

The spokesperson added that Ms Behrouz was contacted again by the department on Friday and her subsequent complaint against the private certifier was being reviewed “as a priority”.

The spokeswoman said there was no route to complain directly to the Building Commissioner about defects but encouraged complaints to Fair Trading and said it could take action if breaches had occurred.

Ms Behrouz, an engineer, squirrelled away her pay cheques and by 2017 put down a 10 percent deposit on an off-the-plan unit in the $52 million Peony Place development at Kellyville.

“I was so excited to buy this unit,” she recalled. “I was so positive, maybe too positive.”

The developer, Shanghai-based Boill Holding Group, enlisted local builder Decode.

By last August, Ms Behrouz’s home was complete.

She was accompanied to the pre-settlement inspection by Igor Vavrica, a registered architect, qualified engineer and licensed builder.

Mr Vavrica’s verdict was stark: the building did not comply with the National Construction Code or Australian standards. His laser measurements showed the fire evacuation path and parking space did not meet minimum size requirements and there was insufficient drainage.

Mr Vavrica’s concerns were backed by Paul Curran, the fire safety co-ordinator at Hills Shire Council.

“An inspection has confirmed that in our view, there are considerable non-compliances,” Mr Curran wrote to Mr Vavrica.

He said council would issue a fire safety order and refer the private certifier to disciplinary authorities for investigation.

Ms Behrouz fired off a letter, demanding the defects be fixed or her deposit be refunded.

The developer wouldn’t budge. Boill’s lawyers argued the private certifier had issued an occupation certificate and under the contract this was proof the building was free from major defects.

Ms Behrouz and Mr Vavrica eventually obtained a copy of the occupation certificate from council under freedom of information.

It was accompanied by signed certificates from each subcontractor confirming their work complied with Australian standards.

Mr Vavrica was alarmed that some of the certificates were signed by persons with no qualifications or qualifications in the wrong field.

The cladding certificate was signed by a bricklayer with an expired licence, working for an unlicensed company.

The formwork certificate was signed by a man whose licence had been cancelled by Fair Trading – which usually occurs if it has been fraudulently obtained or the holder has committed a crime or gone bankrupt.

The electrical certificates were signed by a person without an electrician’s licence, who appeared to be a carpenter.

Ms Behrouz and Mr Vavrica contacted the private certifier with their concerns, who provided them with his own copies of the documentation.

To the pair’s astonishment, multiple certificates were now signed by a different person altogether, who was licensed.

The documents’ edit history showed they had been altered the day before by someone called “Muzza”, who appeared to be employed by one of the project’s contractors.

Some of the certificates were mismatched because the name had changed but the contact number and email had not.

“Muzza must have been in a hurry,” Mr Vavrica said.

A Boill spokesman said the development met all relevant legislative requirements, including the Building Code of Australia. He said Ms Behrouz was the only customer to contest settlement.

Boill and Decode each stressed the occupation certificate was issued and project signed off by a fully independent and qualified certifier.

They said minor defects were being rectified as they were identified.

“We are determined to deliver a first-class property and 90 per cent of defects identified have already been rectified,” the Decode spokesman said.

The private certifier was formerly part of Dix Gardner Group, which has had two certifiers banned after being reprimanded 30 times between them.

He strongly denied there were “considerable non-compliances” in the building. His measurements showed the fire escape was compliant and the drainage and carparks had been confirmed as compliant by engineers, he said.

“Building certifiers can only capture a snapshot of a building and must rely on certification from relevant specialist consultants and contractors” he said.

He said the certifier was not responsible if other parties engaged in misleading conduct by retrospectively altering documents.

NSW Fair Trading confirmed the head building contractor was responsible for ensuring tradespeople had valid licences, although a certifier had to make reasonable efforts to scrutinise documentation.

“The builder (head contractor) is in breach of the Home Building Act if they sub-contract residential building work to an unlicensed entity (either individual or corporation),” the spokesperson said.

Ms Behrouz has been issued with legal demands from the developer to settle the purchase.

She abandoned action before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal due to mounting legal costs. “I work in the building services and construction industry so when they say that it’s not compliant I know how serious that is,” Ms Behrouz said. “Honestly it’s just a nightmare for me.”

Ms Behrouz’s family in Iran has been shocked at her experience in a first world country.

“When I went to Australia dad thought ‘that’s a safe place for my girl’,” Ms Behrouz recalled.




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