Friday, June 30, 2023

Universities waste a fortune on consultants. When will they learn?

Jenna Price, writing below, lets her hostility to business apear but she is broadly right. Universities are a unique institution and need their own rules. I personally see little wrong with the original model where a university was entirely run by its senior teaching staff

My refugee parents were obsessed with education to both protect and embolden me. Mum, mother of the naughtiest girl in the school, was relieved when I graduated. At universities in those days, you actually had permission to talk in class. It was powerful and transformative.

That’s not what’s happening now. Universities are now online assembly lines where interrupting wildly is nearly impossible, and the atmosphere is more likely to be lagging from our unpredictable internet connections than anything else. Staff aren’t paid properly. Class sizes grow. Student satisfaction has plummeted.

How did we get to this? Sherryn Groch, writing for this masthead, reveals a disturbing pattern – Australian universities are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year hiring consultants, including from scandal-drenched PwC.

Groch listed wage theft and cruel – often involuntary – redundancies, but there’s more to add to the list. Education, the experience of connection and of intellectual intimacy are being stolen from this generation. Young people have never paid so much for so little.

In the meantime, the consultants –and those who hire them – go about their business with no concern for the ethical aspects of what they are doing. Every single researcher at a university has to complete ethics approval. I doubt consultants would get to first base with such a requirement. The PwC revelations show us we should have trust issues with consultants.

How have they come to dominate the culture of higher education? Just look who is on the councils of these institutions. Academics for Public Universities say there has been a dramatic shift and now barely a third have expertise in the sector. Councils are crammed with big business types and the culture trickles down to vice chancellors and on to deans.

One academic staff member tells me she has to explain to other council members that teaching university students is not like working in a factory. Yes, you might be lucky to get a vice chancellor who can persuade a bunch of profit-hunters that universities are about something higher than money. Staff representatives can’t stand up for everyone on their own.

Business loves cutting costs and restructures. Are those the values we should bring to our future – our teachers, nurses and doctors, engineers, computer scientists, sociologists and lawyers?

In 2017, a consultant interviewed me at a Sydney cafe about the faculty in which I worked. Too noisy to record, she took desultory notes. The experience of my colleagues in that review was pretty similar, although one told me, she instructed her interviewer: “Write this down.”

I asked questions, she already had answers. My trust in the process disappeared entirely. The “strategic assessment” cost the university many thousands of dollars and ended with a document that generative AI could have written if you’d put the words visionary, mission statement and “do better with less” into its prompt.

A few years later, the whole process happened all over again. This time it was a bunch of international academics who had as much understanding of the Australian job market (or, indeed, Australian universities) as I had about herrings.

At Deakin, consultants delivered a course on change management and leadership. Jill Blackmore, Alfred Deakin professor of education and president of the Australian Association of University Professors, who sat in on the course, said: “Worst course I’ve ever been in, and we paid for it. It did not understand what leadership in a university was all about.”

Just now, at a university near you, a consultant has been called in to investigate the use of offices. The academics have said, repeatedly, hot-desking and open-plan offices might be OK if you didn’t have to deal with sobbing students and more recently, sobbing colleagues. After two years of consultations, enthusiasm has cooled and the report is shelved. Money for nothing.

Look, every organisation, be it universities, hospitals, telcos, or banks, needs to have reality checks. But let’s engage experts who think about the national good and not the bottom line.

The nation’s 10 top-ranked universities alone spent at least $249 million on consultancies last year, more than they spent before the pandemic.

Universities spend money on consultants instead of education. Every teaching academic I know has had to defend paying casual staff – those running tutorials – to attend lectures. I once had to do an entire cost proposal which took me hours for the sheer bloody-mindedness of my then-boss – at the same time, we were wasting money on consultants.

The University of Melbourne’s Michael Wesley, author of the new book Mind of the Nation: Universities in Australian Life, knows we have a problem. We hire people from the corporate sector, and they lose their minds at what they see as waste.

“But as my boss points out (Duncan Maskell who last week called for free higher education), we are a not-for-profit organisation ... [the] ruthless pursuit of shareholder value is utterly alien to the university. The corporatisation of [Australian] universities is almost unique in the world.”


UQ rises in world university rankings

As I have a degree from there, I rather like this report. QS is one of several university rating systems. It is a private organization that was founded by Nunzio Quacquarelli in 1990 to provide information and advice to students looking to study abroad. It has become widely read. The Leiden rankings are the most objective so it is pleasing that they rate UQ even more highly than QS does

The University of Queensland has jumped seven places to be ranked 43 in the world in the QS World University Rankings for 2024.

UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said the results place the University in the top three per cent of the 1,500 universities ranked.

“Our achievement in these important global rankings is a testament to the impact of our teaching, research and innovation across a range of fields, to help solve some of the most pressing challenges facing the world,” Professor Terry said.

“UQ’s network of more than 430 international research partnerships, includes the recently announced collaboration with Emory University to accelerate vaccine discovery and development.

"The Global Bioeconomy Alliance with the Technical University of Munich and Sao Paulo State University is another great example of our globally significant cooperation.”

The QS World University Rankings for 2024 measure a university’s performance across indicators including Research and Discovery, Global Engagement, Learning Experience, Employability and Sustainability.

“UQ consistently ranks in the world’s top 50 universities and this reflects what is an unwavering commitment to teaching excellence and delivering positive learning outcomes for our students,” Professor Terry said.

“We know UQ graduates are sought after by industry and business, and engagement with these sectors is critical to shape our programs, connect students to the workforce and equip them with skills that make them relevant now and into the future.”

In the 2023 Nature Index based on research outputs in prestigious journals in the previous year, UQ was second in Australia.

In the CWTS Leiden Ranking 2023, UQ was ranked 35 in the world and third in Australia overall, and was the top rated university in Australia in the field of Life and Earth Sciences and sixth in the world.

The Leiden ranking measures the scientific performance of more than 1,400 universities worldwide.


Queensland's insanely expensive pumped hydro plans

With desperately underfunded hospitals, police, schools and roads, this is gross

The Queensland government surprised many when it announced last year that the state would construct two new pumped hydro schemes, dwarfing the troubled Snowy Hydro 2.0 project in NSW.

At the core of the Energy and Jobs Plan, announced in September 2022 by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, is a commitment to turn off coal-fired power stations by 2035.

By the same year, Queensland would be running on 80 per cent renewable energy thanks to dozens of new solar and wind farms that would traverse the state.

To meet that target, the state needs a ready supply of stored power to draw upon when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing — enough to power the state for hours at a time.

That is where pumped hydro comes in as a large-scale storage option.

What is pumped hydro?

Pumped hydro works similarly to big batteries, filling in supply gaps when the grid needs a top-up of electricity.

The design involves two dams built at differing elevations, connected by a tunnel, with transmission lines then connecting it to the grid.

When there is plenty of sun and wind to power the grid, energy is in high supply, so water is pumped to the upper reservoir using surplus electricity.

When the sun goes down or there is no wind, water is released to the lower dam through the tunnel, generating electricity as it passes through a turbine.

That electricity is then injected into the grid via high-voltage transmission lines.

The debate

The criticism is broadly two-fold: firstly, that pumped hydro comes at a monumental cost and is being outpaced by other technologies (namely batteries), and secondly, that Australia simply does not have the workforce needed to construct such huge pieces of infrastructure by 2035.

The Energy and Jobs Plan proposed a 2-gigawatt pumped hydro scheme at Borumba Dam — west of Gympie — and another much larger plant called Pioneer-Burdekin, approximately 1,000 kilometres north of Brisbane, west of Mackay, offering an unprecedented 5 gigawatts.

The government has promised that the 2GW Borumba project would store enough energy to power 2 million homes continuously for 24 hours.

If constructed, the 5GW Pioneer-Burdekin project would be the largest energy storage (PHES) in the world.

Currently, the largest PHES schemes are in China and the United States, with plants of around 3 gigawatts each.

Pumped hydro is also expensive. The cost and delivery time frame for the Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme bears little resemblance to what was originally announced by Malcolm Turnbull in 2017.

It was estimated to cost around $2 billion, not including power lines, and to be completed by 2021. Now, it is expected by December 2029 at a total estimated cost of $10 billion.

New transmission lines

The sheer amount of energy that will be stored in each of Queensland's pumped hydro centres means that new high-voltage transmission lines need to be built, replacing the current mostly 275kV lines that connect the grid.

Powerlink, the state-owned company that constructs and manages the transmission lines, estimates the new 500kV lines will cost $6-8 million per kilometre and will become the backbone of a new "super grid" that will connect the state's renewable energy network.

The company announced a compensation scheme for those that will be impacted by the new transmission lines surrounding Borumba at meetings and via letters earlier this year.

Powerlink CEO Paul Simshauser said the route had been designed to run through as much state-owned land as possible, but that some impacts on landholders were unavoidable.

"We've come up with what we think is the lowest-cost solution for Queenslanders," he said.

But the former CEO of Powerlink, Simon Bartlett, warned that the current plans would come at an exorbitant cost because Pioneer-Burdekin was so far away from the main population centre of South-East Queensland.

"A basic rule of planning is: build your generation, if you can, as close as you can to the load centre. That reduces what you spend on transmission, and it reduces the risk of long-distance transmission," Professor Bartlett said.

"But the plan doesn't do that, the plan wants to build it 1,000 kilometres from the main load centre [Brisbane] – it just makes no logic to me, I'm afraid."

Professor Bartlett also says it is high risk for Powerlink to connect the pumped storage schemes by only one new line of 500kV towers that carry a double circuit, due to the risk of fires or vandals bringing down towers.

"What they're proposing is just a single transmission line, that's a major flaw in the design because that can come down, and every half a kilometre there's a tower, and all the wires are on the one tower. So that can come down and totally blackout a large part of the state," he said.

Mr Simshauser refuted that, arguing two lines of towers were not needed.

"We believe at this point in time anyway, [it] will be a cost that we won't need. We believe we can manage it in other ways," Mr Simshauser said.

"There are always risks in running a transmission network, any of our system plans will always take into account the most probable and credible contingencies that we can envisage and make sure that the balance of the network is, you know, available to deal with those contingencies."

What about batteries?

Queensland's Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said he considered the state's plan to be "the best path possible" to transition to renewables.

Professor Bartlett is urging the government to re-think the scale of the two schemes, in favour of emerging grid-scale batteries.

"They say it's the world's largest scheme. As soon as someone says that: watch out. There's a reason that others haven't gone that big," Professor Bartlett said.

"There are other ways of getting storage besides pumped storage, and there's been incredible developments in chemical batteries, the costs have just come down dramatically.

"[Australian Energy Market Operator] AEMO's own report shows that 8-hour batteries are about half the cost of an 8-hour pump storage scheme.

"Pumped storage is expensive because of the civil engineering, the concrete, the steel, the labour … and while pumped storage has getting dearer, batteries are getting cheaper."

However, Powerlink CEO Paul Simshauser said that it needed to make decisions based on current market conditions.

"At this point in time, the only serious battery proposals that we've got on our book are lithium-ion batteries, and all of them have congested around a 2-hour storage time, which tells us that that's what the market deems as economic at this point," he said.

"In terms of long-duration storage, really the only long-duration storage project proponents we've seen are pumped hydro," he said.

Similarly, Mr de Brenni said the government had closely considered the alternatives.

"We've worked for a number of years considering all of these options, and pumped hydro energy storage is the proven technology that will enable us to reach our renewable energy targets," he said.

Who is going to build it?

The construction industry is sounding the alarm that there are too many projects in the infrastructure pipeline, and Australia simply does not have the workers to complete them.

Engineers Australia CEO Romilly Madew said governments around the country were not learning from major infrastructure delays on other big projects.

"When you take into account the infrastructure pipeline that's already in place, you've got the Queensland Olympics coming up in 2032.

"You also have AUKUS now been added into the mix from the federal government. And then you add in energy transition. The capacity isn't there," Ms Madew said.

"If we say it's going to take 10 years, let's say it's going to be 15. There are so many unknowns at the moment and we really need to make sure we have contingencies on these projects,"

"We must remember it's taxpayer money — so are we reporting transparently on the time frames, on the delivery and on our commitments, and being really realistic about those?"

Mr de Brenni agreed there were workforce issues but was not concerned the state would not be able to attract workers.

"Whilst there are challenges in the infrastructure market, today, we're confident that we'll be able to attract the very best workers so that it's delivered, and it will be a quality outcome for our state for generations," he said.


Senior Queensland cops desperate emails reveal crime crisis, lack of police resources

Leaked police emails give alarming insight into the true state of Queensland’s frontline with no one available to respond to dozens of calls for help and supervisors so inundated they fear making a serious mistake.

Over several emails to superiors in the first half of 2023, a senior Gold Coast officer lays bare how offenders are using the M1 as their own private raceway, homeowners are becoming vigilantes and in one night 90 of 122 call-outs could not be serviced.

In his emails to police bosses, respected Glitter Strip district duty officer Senior-Sergeant Arron Ottaway reveals his frustrations over a lack of manpower, including one incident where an off-duty top cop could not get police help as he fought off a violent and drug-addled intruder in his own yard.

In one email, Sen-Sgt Ottaway told a superior how “frustrated” residents opted to chase teen criminals themselves and smash the window of their stolen car rather than call police.

He even admits that the lack of support and stress had driven him to drink.

In another email in late April, Sen-Sgt Ottaway told a superior of recent shifts where police had to deal with up to 122 jobs at a time, with as many as 90 “unresourced”.

“The QPS is asking too much of me – I cannot continue to work by myself as a DDO on the Gold Coast at peak times (or I will) make a mistake that will have a high consequence,” he wrote.

“We, as DDOs, are continually getting asked to overview more, make more decisions, run multiple high-risk jobs, consider high-risk DV offenders, liaise with QAS over mental health, approve transports … you get it, the list goes on.”

In one email, sent in late January, he wrote that he was the only District Duty Officer (DDO) on duty and “there are so many jobs and competing interests that I’m losing my mind”.

“Tonight has been relentless, just like last night, ” he wrote. “Last night, I didn’t stand up for four-and-a-half hours due to the workload. I eat at the computer.

“Last night, on the way home, I stopped at a bottle shop drive thru, bought a six-pack and drank all of them once I got home, just to try and calm myself down.

“I once dealt with a mental health consumer who said that he drinks for the “comfortable numbness” – I think I understand what he is speaking about.”

In the email, Sen-Sgt Ottaway told how three stolen cars were rolling through the Gold Coast, “one at high speed treating the highway like a racetrack”. “So bad was the driving that members of the public were calling Triple 0,” he wrote.

“Yet conversely, so frustrated are the members of the public, that instead of calling police when the crooks were actually breaking into the house, the street got together, chased the baddies and smashed the front windscreen of the stolen car they were in.”

In another case, Sen-Sgt Ottaway said, an off-duty senior commissioned officer rang for help “because a UID (under the influence of drugs), violent, shirtless offender was in his yard and he was rolling around on the ground fighting with him”.

“It gets worse,” he wrote. “The off-duty officer and his wife had called a number of times. You guessed it – no cops, no on-road DDO, no RDO (regional duty officer) to go.”

Sen-Sgt Ottaway said he had to decide “on countless occasions” whether to allow police crews to transport a mental health patient to hospital because an ambulance did not turn up or was unavailable.

“I’m asked to decide, with zero medical training and virtually no information, of whether I should allow our people to do these transports,” he wrote.

“I guess I’ll be the one in trouble for that as well when the patient dies in police custody.”

Sen-Sgt Ottaway also told how he was trying to deal with 23 “unresourced” domestic violence cases at one time and how there were “no police” to respond to an urgent request for help from paramedics.

He said the South Eastern Police District was “more interested in its budget” than providing urgently needed manpower and “our people are struggling”. “There cannot be just one DDO on,” he wrote.

“DDOs are losing their sh-t because every single shift is like running a marathon. And I can’t keep up any longer.”

The seasoned cop has been relegated to desk duties amid an internal investigation into the pursuit of two teenagers in an allegedly stolen car.

Footage of the low-speed chase shows cops attempting the controversial precision immobilisation technique, or “PIT manoeuvre”, where pursuing police force a vehicle to turn sideways and the vehicle to lose control.

An official police report obtained by The Courier-Mail states that the “tactic of boxing in” was approved by the police communications controller to stop the vehicle which was travelling on its rims at an estimated 10 km/h.

But some police claimed Sen-Sgt Ottaway had been “targeted” over the “justified” pursuit because of his complaints about a lack of officers on the Coast. “Our boss has been ‘benched’ because he was trying to catch crooks,” a source said. “We have never been taught or trained on how to box in or PIT a car. The offenders were never going to stop.”

South Eastern police region Assistant Commissioner Brian Swan said the Gold Coast was a “really challenging” policing environment and he had ordered a comprehensive review into officer safety and well-being, including rostering and support programs.

“The thing that worries me the most is the well-being of our people - that we have healthy and safe workplaces and healthy and safe people, not just physically but psychologically safe as well,” he said. “We’re in the process of changing the way we do things, but it’s going to take time.”

Mr Swan said staffing levels were continually monitored and millions of dollars was spent on overtime, with police able to call in extra officers in busy periods.

“We could have a police officer on every corner in every suburb and some shifts, that won’t seem like enough,” he said.

“The complexity of what our teams are doing every day is just immense.

“I’ve made it very clear that budgets are not to get in the way of officer and community safety.

“My priority is the safety of the community and the safety of my workforce and that’s the bottom line.”

Mr Swan said there was no link between Sen-Sgt Ottaway being stood down and the concerns he had raised over police numbers.

Emails written by Sen-Sgt Ottaway to his superiors in the months before the pursuit reveal his stress and frustration at a lack of back-up.

After Sen-Sgt Ottaway first spoke out, Gold Coast chief superintendent Craig Hanlon emailed DDOs to tell them he appreciated that “we are all under increasing pressure to complete our jobs with demand increasing and associated staffing issues”.

“However, I and the District Management team sleep well at night knowing you are reviewing calls for service and demand and managing resources throughout the District under our Priority Policing Policy,” he wrote.

Last month, an inspector emailed Sen-Sgt Ottaway to tell him his concerns had been “taken seriously” and Coast police bosses had decided to launch a review into issues including DDO rosters, equipment and health and safety.

The Queensland Police Union said it was supporting Sen-Sgt Ottaway




Thursday, June 29, 2023

"I exposed war crimes among the SAS"

The report below by a female sociologist is one in a long line that judges wartime behavior by peace time standards. As such, it is typically unjust. It is particularly egregious however in judging the highest risk military situations by civilian standards.

I am a former Army psychologist so perhaps have a keener awareness of the issues than some. I have no field experience. All I know is what I could learn from talking to people here in Australia. But one thing I have learned loud and clear is that military experience greatly reshapes attitudes.

One of the reasons miitary veterans often refuse to talk about their wartime experiences is that they know how their wartime actions were guided by different standards than civilian ones. The heat of battle alters attitudes and attitudes alter behaviour.

And nowhere is all the more so than in special operations. Such assignments are super high-risk and big pressure and survival instincts are at their highest there. The stress is great and anybody acting under stress is likely to make different decision from peacetime ones. And that is acknowledged throughout the military. And it is that acknowledgement that leads to "coverups". People who try to apply armchair standards to wartime behaviour are seen as missing the point and are therefore sidelined as much as possible. It is exactly such sidelining that the lady below experienced.

It would so wonderful if war could be waged like a game of chess but that is never going to happen. To use a common cliche, war is hell and there are many demons in hell. Democratic societies do their best to exclude or expel the demons but that will only ever be a campaign with limited success.

"Hypermasculinity" has got nothing to do with the problem. All that is at work is the attitudinal response to the military situation. In social psychologist's jargon, what we see are "the demand characteristics of the situation".+

It is rather regrettable that the sociologist lady below abandoned that obvious social explanation in favour of a pseudo-psychological one.

As the most frontline of SAS fighters, all that applies particularly to Ben Roberts Smith. He tried to explain his actions under the highest stress by civilian standards but inevitably failed.

It wasn’t long ago that I had been a successful business owner with a string of government contracts.

For me, it all began on Australia Day 2016. That was the day I submitted a report to army chief General Angus Campbell that would trigger the biggest inquiry into war crimes in Australia’s history. It would also be the day that David Morrison, chief of Army from 2011 to 2015, would be awarded Australian of the Year. Chair of the committee that chose the winner was Special Forces soldier Ben Roberts-Smith.

The first time I heard mention of war crimes among Australian Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan was in 2014, in a small, partially furnished office in an Army barracks. I’m a sociologist and I had been contracted by the army to undertake a number of research projects. I was speaking with an army chaplain about domestic violence prevalence. The conversation went well beyond the initial topic. It was the first time I heard of the “serious misconduct” that was occurring within SAS patrols in Afghanistan. The chaplain described returning from deployment “a broken man”, having tried and failed to have his concerns taken seriously.

It wasn’t until late 2015, in one of the first interviews I did for a project in Special Operations Command, which oversees special forces units, that the chaplain’s story came back to me. That project began as an examination of Special Operations capability. It ended in a report on war crimes that led to the Brereton Report and news stories that resulted in Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith unsuccessfully suing this masthead for defamation.

The Federal Court last month found Roberts-Smith was a liar and murderer who engaged in war crimes. At the time of my initial report, I had no idea what that report would eventually cost me, personally and professionally.

For I now realise that what I was coming up against was more than the horrific acts of a few rogue soldiers. It was the cult of brand “SAS”; the cult of the male warrior. In this cult, unsanctioned violence is justified, encouraged and celebrated.

It seemed my report on the SAS had triggered a threat to some Australian men’s masculinity. I’d dared question their heroes. These loud voices would hound me for years. The attacks on me to be bashed, killed, tortured, and my livelihood destroyed came via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, email, text and phone call. Mostly the backlash came from those not in the military, but some were ex-military and younger white male soldiers – all of whom appear to idolise the SAS as a stronghold of hypermasculinity.

When the war crimes allegations emerged, then-defence minister Peter Dutton said he had made it “very clear” to Defence that I should not be awarded further contracts. That he did not want the military to be “distracted by things that have happened in the past”. My credibility was questioned repeatedly by Jacqui Lambie and reiterated in the Murdoch press.

It became politically inconvenient for me to keep speaking about the SAS issues. In 2021, I had written an essay about how misconduct becomes entrenched in organisations and how it spreads, and I used the SAS as a primary example. The Australian Government Solicitor unsuccessfully tried to stop my essay being published.

In a letter I received from the government solicitor’s office shortly after publication, I was told my conduct and public statements had “harmed the Commonwealth”. The result was that my ongoing work with the government was “terminated for convenience”.

The implications for me, my family, my business, and my staff were profound. The message had been sent to the department loud and clear that I was now a liability and a risk. No work would follow. Work in the pipeline was stopped indefinitely. I’d told the truth, so they cut me out.

After that my business collapsed and my mental health declined amid the endless stream of misogynistic threats through social media. Work from other organisations was not forthcoming. I gather this was because most businesses hire consultants to tell them what they want to hear, not uncover what is really at the heart of their problems.

I once heard Special Forces described as the “weeping sore” of the Army that no one was prepared to tend to. But there is a cost to organisations that leave issues to fester. It teaches others in the organisation that bad behaviour is acceptable, that those who engage in it will be protected, that to dismiss it is the norm. Such attitudes seep through an organisation and rot it. When the day finally comes that these problems must be addressed, the damage is far greater for all involved.

But the greatest takeaway from my experience is a personal one. That despite the cost, I would do it all again. I am grateful for the trust placed in me by soldiers and officers who gave accounts of egregious acts of violence and cover-ups. I have never taken it for granted and I have felt an unwavering duty of care to them.


Climate cult weakening

Politically, ‘net zero’ is increasingly on the nose in many European countries. This week, the Swedish parliament officially abandoned its 100 per cent renewable energy target to meet net zero by 2045, replacing it with a ‘technology-neutral’ target. Many green-tinged Europeans were dismayed, but as Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson told the Swedish parliament, ‘We need more electricity production… we need a stable energy system.’

Of course, for the Swedes, blessed with huge mountains and deep lakes but little abundant sun, hydro plays a key part in their renewable energy supply: 98 per cent of their electricity already comes from hydro, wind or nuclear power, so they can afford to eschew fossil fuels. The new ‘non-renewable’ target simply means they can get more nuclear power into the grid, and essentially admits that the Nordic utopian fantasy about wind and solar being our salvation is now done and dusted.

Meanwhile, in Germany during the last winter, one town was forced to tear down the local wind farm and dig it up to get to the precious coal beneath. A more entertaining and apt metaphor is hard to find.

In an article headlined, ‘The perils of net zero coercion’, the UK Telegraph this week reported that, ‘Sweeping bans to cut greenhouse emissions in Europe is leading to widespread public backlash,’ and that, ‘Climate coercion is a very bad way to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Western democracies’.

A day earlier, the Telegraph had also warned that, ‘Germany is headed for a political meltdown. Olaf Scholz faces a reckoning as Germans resist his “Green dictatorship” of mandatory heat pumps and unaffordable technologies.’

This week, even the BBC had to admit that Britain is not capable of meeting its own net-zero targets. According to the latest report by the bed-wetting Climate Change Committee, there is a ‘worrying tendency’ of UK government ministers to avoid embracing the next stage of net zero. What a surprise! ‘The UK has lost its clear global leadership position on climate action,’ the report’s authors lament. ‘We are no longer COP President; no longer a member of the EU negotiating bloc…. We have backtracked on fossil fuel commitments.… And we have been slow to react to the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s proposed Green Deal Industrial Plan, which are now a strong pull for green investment away from the UK.’

Last week Britain also abandoned its proposed ‘green hydrogen levy’ on households, which, according to the Guardian, ‘[signals] a possible U-turn as households struggle with high inflation and this week’s shock interest rate rise’.

Craig Mackinlay MP, chairman of the parliamentary Net Zero Scrutiny Group, said: ‘The cancellation of the proposed £118 Hydrogen Tax on household energy bills is hugely welcome and I hope is the start of a common sense journey for the government on energy policy…. When the laudable ambition of net zero hits the reality of cost and significant changes to the way we live, the public are understandably turned off.’ Meanwhile, we also learn that EVs are looking increasingly dubious. That same UK Climate Change Committee report says that ‘plug-in hybrids have performed up to five times worse than expected’. China, too, is reportedly ‘discarding fields of EVs, leaving them to rot’.

Yet here in far-away Australia, our climate warrior-in-chief Chris Bowen blithely places his faith for our energy future in green hydrogen and EVs convinced that Australia can survive without our fossil fuel energy advantage. Is he deaf? Blind? Can he not read a foreign newspaper? Does he not have any advisers who are actually aware of the shift in public opinion occurring in places once famed for their green ideology but now crippled by soaring inflation and out-of-control cost of living?


Super fit mother-of-two, 37, 'is left in chronic pain, bound to a wheelchair and forced to find a new home' after Covid jab

A mother-of-two claims she has been left in debilitating pain and now relies on a wheelchair to get around after receiving three doses of a Covid vaccine.

Mel Guevremont, 37, says she has gone from being a keen gym-goer, surfer, snowboarder and rock climber to barely being able to take a few steps around her home before her legs give out.

Ms Guevremont, from Sydney, claims her body has broken down and she has been forced to wear a neck brace since receiving her third Pfizer mRNA vaccine in March 2021.

'It's ruined my life completely and utterly,' she told Daily Mail Australia.

'I am skin and bones. I don't recognise myself. It's not my body and I wake up with a new symptom every day. It's a grieving process.'

Ms Guevremont and her partner Richard Ellison, who moved to Australia from Canada seven years ago, said they were forced to sell their Manly unit because it was located on the fourth floor and she struggles with stairs.

They now live with their two boys in a ground-level home in the south-eastern Sydney suburb of Maroubra.

Ms Guevremont said she has spent more than $25,000 seeing specialists, including neurologists and rheumatologists, but has not found them helpful.

Mel Guevremont says she has been left in a wheelchair after three doses of the Covid vaccine

Her comments come after a landmark Covid vaccine injury class-action lawsuit was filed in April against the Australian government, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Department of Health.

The nationwide suit, which reportedly has 500 members, seeks redress for those allegedly left injured or bereaved by the Covid vaccines.

Ms Guevremont said she was a fit and healthy woman who regularly took part in outdoor activities - but her active lifestyle has drastically changed.

'Right before these jabs I was snowboarding in New Zealand. The only problem I had was a tweaked knee from too much surfing and playing basketball,' she said.

'I was an adrenaline junkie. I did not stop. It's quite the clash for me to be barely able to hold a cup of coffee or hold my own neck.

'How do you go from snowboarding, ripping on a mountain and having a great time, to all of a sudden can't hold your neck?'

Ms Guevremont claims she is also suffering from electric shocks, unexplained weight loss and body weakness.

'I went to a beauty salon and after a while I couldn't feel my legs,' she said. 'When I tried to get up, my legs just completely collapsed. I sort of laughed and brushed it off. 'I thought maybe it was related to post-pregnancy hormones.'

Ms Guevremont says she struggles to do basic physical activities like walk to the park or even pick up her two boys, who are aged two and four.

'It breaks my heart. My young one wants to play soccer, and he knows I played soccer with him before, and all of a sudden I can't,' she said. 'I wonder if I am going to be there for my kids.'

The mother has made farewell videos for her boys just in case she is 'not around' when they grow older.

In July 2021, Ms Guevremont caught Covid-19, which she said took her four days to get over, after which 'she was fine'.

In November 2021, her condition spiralled and she fainted and collapsed. 'My partner rushed me to the hospital and I stayed there for a week,' she said.

She said a specialist suggested she might have 'post-vaccination syndrome and potentially post-viral syndrome' - although she only wrote the second diagnosis in her notes.

In referrals seen by Daily Mail Australia, hospitals and neurologists have diagnosed Ms Guevremont with 'suspected vaccine injury'.

Last year, Ms Guevremont reported herself as a vaccine injury to the TGA but said she was still waiting for a response. 'They fail to follow up and investigate,' she said.

A TGA spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia an 'acknowledgement email requesting further information was sent in response to an adverse event report submitted by Ms Guevremont'.

They added: 'The TGA strongly encourages vaccine recipients and healthcare professionals to report their experience of suspected adverse events, even if there is only a very small chance a vaccine was the cause.

'The TGA uses these reports to look for patterns in reporting that may indicate a new safety signal for a vaccine.'

The spokesperson said such a signal will lead 'to appropriate regulatory action which may include making changes to a vaccine's Product Information and communicating information to doctors.

'To date, the TGA has initiated over 43 regulatory actions to include new safety information in Product Information documents,' the TGA representative said.

But Ms Guevremont said she felt 'abandoned' and turned to Kerryn Phelps, the former head of the Australian Medical Association, for help.

Last December, Professor Phelps told a parliamentary inquiry into long Covid that both she and her wife had been vaccine-injured.

Ms Guevremont said Professor Phelps was very kind and supportive in referring her to a neurologist who 'specialised in vaccine injuries' but who turned out to be too busy to see her.

She also condemned the vaccine-injury compensation scheme run by Services Australia. 'The compensation scheme is a joke,' she said.

The compensation scheme for Pfizer vaccines includes about 10 eligible conditions, but these don't include neurological conditions such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Transverse Myelitis, even though they are listed for AstraZeneca shots.

'The TGA and regulators around the world continue to monitor and analyse Covid-19 vaccine safety data covering hundreds of millions of people, and the latest evidence from clinical trials and peer-reviewed medical literature,' the TGA spokesperson said.

'This information continues to overwhelmingly support the safe and effective use of Covid-19 vaccines.

'It remains the consensus view of international regulators and health departments that the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination continue to far outweigh the rare risks.'

Ms Guevremont is currently looking at experimental treatments and possibly moving the U.S. to receive them.


Parents start own schools in ‘woke teaching’ backlash

Rebel parents worried about “woke teaching’’ are starting up their own small schools, in a renaissance of “classical” education.

Twenty-two students have enrolled in the conservative Hartford College, which opened in Sydney this year as Australia’s “first liberal arts school for boys’’.

As more families drift away from free public schooling, start-up schools are mushrooming across the country, paid for through tuition fees, bank loans and federal government funding for basic running costs.

The Hartford College motto is “Dare to think. Dare to know,’’ and its ethos is to encourage students to “think outside the box, ask difficult questions and have courage in pursuing the truth’’.

Its chairman and founder is father-of-six Tim Mitchell, the solicitor director at Bay Legal in Sydney, who established the school with just 22 students in February after renting a spare building from the Catholic Church in the inner-Sydney suburb of Daceyville.

The school plans to grow to 200 students from Years 5 to 12.

READ MORE: Religious schools poach public pupils
“It was parent-driven – the idea was initiated in 2020 when people came together and thought it would be a much-needed initiative to have a school with a classical, liberal arts education,’’ Mr Mitchell said yesterday.

“It’s a Christian ethos, and an ethos of academic excellence and opening boys’ minds to great literature, philosophy and languages, as well as science and technology.’’

Hartford College employs six teachers, some part-time, specialising in traditional school subjects as well as French and Latin, music and philosophy.

The school complies with the NSW Education Standards Authority curriculum, but customises its own syllabus.

“Each boy has his own mentor who meets every couple of weeks for mentoring and advice,’’ Mr Mitchell said.

“Every term the parents have an hour to talk to the principal.

“Ultimately parents are the most important educators, and the school’s there to assist the parents.’’

Parents are paying between $10,500 and $13,300 a year in tuition fees for boys in Years 5, 6 and 7, who are taught in small classes.

“We’re confident the school will grow,’’ Mr Mitchell said. “It will be cash-flow positive in two or three years.’’

Parents Nathan and Tanya Brown chose the school for their 12-year-old son when they noticed a sign outside the new school building close to their home.

“The culture of the school appealed to us, especially the mentoring program for boys,’’ Ms Brown said.

“We liked the liberal arts curriculum and the focus on literacy for boys.

“We get quite a bit of feedback from the school – it’s not just about kids’ marks, it’s about how happy he is and his application to his studies.

“He’s found a good group of friends.’’

Hartford is the second start-up school for principal Frank Monagle, who was founding headmaster of Harkaway Hills College in Melbourne, a girls’ school set up by a dozen Catholic parents in 2016 to teach “traditional values’’ through the Parents for Education movement.

It now has 167 students between pre-Prep and Year 10, paying between $5225 and $9928 in tuition fees this year.

The school received $2.2 million in federal funding and $363,000 in Victorian government funding in 2021, equivalent to $13,000 per student.

Mr Monagle said he aims to integrate subjects, so that English lessons tie in with history or science subjects.

As an example, Year 7 boys studying Aesop’s Fables in English would study ancient Greece in history.

“I’ve found that subject teachers and departments within schools tend to be in their own silos so they haven’t a clue about what’s happening in other (subjects),’’ Mr Monagle said.

“We’re integrating the lessons as much as we can because boy react to the big picture – boys more than girls will ask, ‘Why are we learning this?’’

In Brisbane, beer baron James Power is part of a group of six Catholic families planning to set up St John Henry Newman College, an independent school also in the “classic Liberal Arts tradition’’.

The parents hope to begin primary school classes in 2025, before expanding into a secondary school.

Dr Kevin Donnelly, the coordinator of a Classical Education and Liberal Arts seminar held in Sydney yesterday, said many parents resented the “woke ideology’’ taught in many mainstream schools.

“Throughout their schooling, students are indoctrinated with the belief gender and sexuality are fluid and limitless, that males are inherently violent and misogynist and that Western civilisation is oppressive and guilty of white supremacism,’’ Dr Donnelly, who reviewed the national curriculum in 2014, said.

“Unlike the national curriculum taught by existing government and non-government schools, parents are seeking a more rigorous and enriching education for their children.’’

Federal Education department data shows that 76 independent schools – separate from the Catholic education system – have opened since the start of the pandemic in 2020, including six so far this year.

Independent Schools Australia chief executive Graham Catt said enrolments in private schools had risen 3.2 per cent last year, educating one in every six students.

“It is interesting how much growth is occurring in small and low-fee schools,’’ he said.

“(They) are often new or small and offer specialised programs and support.’’




Tuesday, June 27, 2023

International fans converge on Sydney Harbour Bridge ahead of FIFA Women's World Cup

Why block traffic on a traffic artery for a sport with only a small following? If closing the bridge to promote women's soccer is right, why not close it to celebrate men's soccer? I am not holding my breath. It is just more discrimination in favour of women. Some people are more equal than others, it seems.

Many people use Sunday as an occasion to visit friends and relatives. To bad on this occasion if any of those they wanted to visit lived on the other side of the harbour

An estimated 4,000 people from around the world danced, sung and walked their way across the landmark ahead of the ninth iteration of the competition.

Unity Celebration marked the 25-day countdown to the international soccer competition kicking off in Australia and New Zealand in July.

Chants from home countries and the sounds of drums shook the bridge during the event, which began with a smoking ceremony, followed by live cultural performances and speeches.

A special double-sided World Cup jersey was also unveiled, commemorating the co-host countries.

'The fans are amazing'

Head of the 2023 competition, Rhiannan Martin told ABC News she was expecting a massive turnout. "We have great opportunities here for everyone to watch, I think the level of football will improve through the tournament."

Tehlia and Steve, two fans from Jamaica, were excited to see their home country play in next month's competition. "It's amazing to be in Australia while they're in the World Cup, and we can be here to support them," they told ABC News.

Anna, from Columbia, danced across the bridge with a group of friends. "We really can't wait until the girls get here. This is amazing, we are so excited," she said.

The 2023 competition will run from Thursday, July 20, to Sunday, August 20.

During the 32 days, 64 matches will be played in 10 stadiums across Australia and New Zealand.

There are 32 countries vying for the trophy — the largest number of competitors in the women's competition so far.

The first two games will take place in Auckland's Eden Park and Sydney's Stadium Australia, with the host countries versing Norway and Ireland respectively.

The Matildas, representing Australia, are in Group B alongside Ireland, Nigeria and Canada.

Ms Martin acknowledged the investment put in by Australia and New Zealand in preparation for the games, and said it will prove a tough competition.

"The groups are very strong. I know Australia have got a strong group," she said. "We're looking forward to fantastic football in 25 days."


Australia Removes Moderna Vaccine for Children Under 5

Health authorities in Australia have quietly removed Moderna’s paediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children five years and under, with both options offered by the company now no longer available in the country.

This comes after the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) announced it would no longer recommend COVID-19 vaccines for individuals who are under five unless they have one of seven specific high-risk medical conditions that could place them in heightened-risk categories for severe COVID-19.

The seven conditions include severe primary or secondary immunodeficiency, including those undergoing treatment for cancer or those on immunosuppressive treatments; bone marrow or stem cell transplant or chimeric antigen T-cell (CAR-T) therapy; complex congenital cardiac disease, structural airway anomalies or chronic lung disease, type 1 diabetes mellitus, chronic neurological or neuromuscular conditions or a disability with significant or complex health needs.

“ATAGI does not currently recommend vaccination for children aged 6 months to <5 years who are not in the above risk categories for severe COVID-19. These children have a very low likelihood of severe illness from COVID-19,” the advisory body said.

The Epoch Times has reached out to Moderna for comment on the decision.

Moderna Vaccine Only Gave Modest Protection: ATAGI
In justifying its change of advice, the health authority said that there was a very low risk of severe COVID-19 in healthy children aged six months to less than five years.

“This age group is one of the least likely age groups to require hospitalisation due to COVID-19. Among the small number who are hospitalised or who die due to COVID-19, underlying medical conditions or immunocompromise are frequently present,” ATAGI said.

They also noted that the age cohort had a relatively low rate of paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS-TS) following COVID-19 compared to other older children, and this further declined with the Omicron variant compared to ancestral SARS CoV-2 strains.

Further, the health advisory group noted that a clinical trial of 5,500 children aged six months up to five years demonstrated that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine provided only modest protection against infection, while safety data reported patterns of vaccine-related adverse events.

“Up to one in four children in this age group had a fever following vaccination with Moderna vaccine, with higher rates seen in those with a history of previous COVID-19,” they said.

“As fever in this age group can sometimes result in medical review and/or investigations and occasionally trigger a febrile convulsion, the side effect profile for this vaccination needs to be considered in the risk-benefit discussion.”

Additionally, the health authorities also changed their advice on COVID-19 booster shots for those 18 and under, with the body now recommending that children and adolescents aged under 18 years who do not have any risk factors for severe COVID-19, should not receive a booster shot.

Omission of Children’s COVID-19 Vaccine Deaths In Australia Raises Concerns

The changing advice follows concerns in March that Australia’s drug regulator was too slow to update the country’s Database of Adverse Event Notifications (DAEN) despite several deaths being attributed to the vaccine, including two children, aged 7 and 9.

The information came to light following a Freedom of Information request by an Australian doctor that found the delayed response from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Senator Gerard Rennick said he would push for independent oversight of the TGA.

“A third independent medical party should examine the evidence as the TGA has a conflict of interest because they approved the vaccines and would therefore be held responsible for the deaths of these children due to poor regulatory oversight,” Rennick told The Epoch Times.

The senator also said he was concerned that the TGA was soft-pedalling the risks with the COVID-19 vaccines, especially around myocarditis and cardiac arrests.

“They are definitely downplaying the risks. They do not have enough information to rule it out given the known link between the vaccines and myocarditis and myocarditis and cardiac arrests,” Rennick said.

The TGA states that they “rigorously assess any COVID-19 vaccine for safety, quality and effectiveness before it can be supplied in Australia.”

As of June 19, the DAEN states that since the beginning of the vaccination rollout in Australia, there have been 138,645 adverse events reported to the federal government. Of those, 135,126 are believed to be directly related to the vaccines, while 991 are reportedly vaccine-related deaths.

Further, in the age cohort of six months to 17, there have been 5,817 adverse events recorded, with 5,689 attributed solely to COVID-19 vaccines. Nine children and adolescents have also reportedly died as a result of an adverse vaccine reaction.


Cyber bullying, sexual content against teachers on the rise, eSafety commissioner warns

Teachers are experiencing escalating abuse from students and the eSafety commissioner warns the problem will get worse as generative AI technology becomes more widely used.

The commission has received reports of students taking photos of their teachers and rating their physical appearance, starting organised campaigns to have staff removed, making damaging allegations and creating sexualised abuse content.

“Some Australians are at greater risk of online abuse than others and sadly eSafety is aware teachers and principals are among them,” commissioner Julie Inman Grant said.

“We have received a number of reports of this form of abuse from across the community and we expect many more as generative AI technology becomes more widely dispersed.”

She said along with race, gender, sexuality and religion, perpetrators of abuse sometimes target specific professions, especially where their work is performed in the public eye, including teachers and principals whose work is sometimes known to “several thousand”.

While the commission has a good success rate in removing harmful content, Grant said social media platforms need to take responsibility for the “weaponisation of their platforms”.

“Teachers are incredibly vulnerable ... people don’t realise that feeling of being in a classroom with 20 or 25 or 30 young people.”

The commission is developing a social media self-defence program similar to other specific resources available for journalists and sportspeople.

Research from 2019 found 70 per cent of teachers reported being bullied or harassed by a student in the previous 12 months. Verbal abuse was the most common form, while 10 per cent said they had been hit or punched by a student.

Nearly 60 per cent reported they’d been bullied or harassed by parents. Women were more likely to be subject to abuse, while men were more likely to have students organise against them.

“Teachers are incredibly vulnerable. People don’t realise that feeling of being in a classroom with 20 or 25 or 30 young people,” said the study’s author, Dr Rochelle Fogelgarn – a lecturer in teacher education at La Trobe University and former teacher.

“[Teachers] are putting themselves out there for the services of the community. It’s not for the money.”

She said it was unrealistic to expect schools or teachers to crack down on abuse, especially as so much of it was anonymised online.

Psychologist and Headspace App mental health expert Carly Dober said bullying could have long-term impacts on teachers and lead to them dropping out of the industry.

“The lack of control that can really shake the person’s confidence, self-esteem and motivation to continue on in the role and to continue serving and giving as much as you do as a teacher,” she said.

“I’ve been hit, pinched, scratched, pushed, and sometimes come home with bruises on me.”

Liz Michelle, casual relief primary school teacher
“It can also leave people a bit paranoid, wondering who has seen this, and what do they think?”

Headspace App’s Workforce Attitudes Toward Mental Health Report found 34 per cent of people working in the education sector said they have felt extreme stress every day over the past 12 months, while 42 per cent reported an increase in violence or threats.

NSW Teachers Federation senior vice president Amber Flohm said the union was aware of the issue.

“Cyberbullying against teachers is not uncommon and reflects both the complexity and challenges of teachers’ work and ever-evolving technologies in classrooms and schools,” she said.

The parents who are driving teachers out of the classroom
“Platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram are frequently used to ridicule teachers which of course has a significant impact on teacher’s wellbeing.”

NSW Education Minister Prue Car said a mobile phone ban in state public high schools, which will be implemented from term 4 of this year, would help reduce opportunities for student abuse.

“Teachers have been through enough in the past few years without having to endure abuse, whether actual or online. There is no place for this sort of behaviour in our classrooms,” she said.

The department will review the former government’s suspension policy to ensure teachers have the “right tools” to manage student behaviour.

A draft will be released for consultation in the coming months.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said he met the eSafety commissioner last week, who will brief state and territory education departments on the issue.

“There aren’t many jobs more important than being a teacher, and they deserve to be safe at work,” Clare said.

The minister will meet with state and territory counterparts next month to discuss teacher safety and AI frameworks in schools.

Liz Michelle is a casual relief primary school teacher and runs a parenting blog called Teaching Brave.

She has been a relief teacher for nine months after leaving the early childhood care sector and said she was shocked at the level of abuse from young children she received.

“I’ve been hit, pinched, scratched, pushed, and sometimes come home with bruises on me,” she said.

“I get quite a bit of verbal abuse, so that comes in the vein of screaming, swearing, insults. Verbal abuse can be quite significant. Any expletive you can think of, it all comes out and gets screamed in my face.”

Some incidents she reported to the school, she said, but found most outcomes unsatisfactory. As a casual, she said she’s particularly vulnerable to abuse and has chosen not to work at certain schools.

Michelle said while she hasn’t experienced cyber abuse, she was aware of colleagues who had seen nasty posts written about them, had been cyber stalked and had students invade teachers’ personal privacy.


Uni of Melbourne VC slams balaclava-wearing transgender activists over campus vandalism

University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Duncan Maskell has slammed “disgraceful” campus vandalism by balaclava-wearing pro-transgender activists – who were apparently targeting outspoken feminist philosopher Holly Lawford-Smith – and has referred the matter to police.

In a hard-hitting statement sent to the university’s staff on Friday afternoon, Mr Maskell warned: “The type of criminal behaviour seen last night has the potential to incite further physical and psychological harassment, endangering people’s well-being and safety, and it needs to stop right now.’’

The Australian understands that around midnight on Thursday, two activists smashed windows and sprayed graffiti with words to the effect “Trans – we are not safe’’ across the university’s Sidney Myer Asia Centre Building in Swanston Street in inner Melbourne.

Mr Maskell said: “Two individuals were caught on CCTV purposefully damaging university property and putting up graffiti pertaining to transgender issues. This activity follows the distribution of material on our campuses and social media platforms recently that seeks to vilify individual members of our community. This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and stands in direct opposition to the values we hold as a university.

“Let me be unequivocally clear – such intentional acts of damage, violence or vilification against others will not be tolerated. Resorting to violence and causing damage on our campuses is disgraceful.’’

The vandalism occurred as the university prepares to post security guards outside feminist philosophy lectures by gender critical feminist and University of Melbourne associate professor, Holly Lawford-Smith, which start next week. Security guards were requested by Ms Lawford-Smith – who believes that biological sex is more important than gender identity – after she and her students were subjected to what she calls an “authoritarian” and “gross” boycott by self-described transphobia activists.

These activists urged students to boycott Ms Lawford-Smith’s lectures, and they put up posters around campus declaring, “Only a fascist takes feminism”, “Are you on the side of fascists?’’ and “Our demands: Transphobes and Nazis off campus”.

The attempted boycott, by an anonymous group called Fight Transphobia UniMelb, followed Ms Lawford-Smith’s attendance at the recent Melbourne Let Women Speak rally that was gate-crashed by neo-Nazis. After that rally, she was twice investigated by Melbourne University, and cleared both times.

“I hate it,’’ the academic said of the campaign targeting her students. “It’s really inappropriate. It should never have gone beyond me … It’s really unfair on them. They shouldn’t have to be fearful about ideas at any university. It’s just so authoritarian and gross.’’ She said “this is the first time they (activists) have targeted other students’’ and revealed that in 2021, activists targeted tutors teaching her courses.

The philosopher, who was overseas when the vandalism occurred, earlier lodged a formal complaint with WorkSafe Victoria, alleging that Melbourne University has failed to uphold academic freedom and provide her with a safe work environment.

She said her intensive feminism course, which runs for three weeks, mostly deals with disagreements within second-wave feminism over issues such as prostitution, beauty and “sex abolitionism versus gender abolitionism’’. “There is one lecture called trans/gender and that’s on whether gender identity should replace sex for all purposes,’’ she said. She said she looks at the question of gender identity “from both sides” in the course, adding: “In general you don’t ever teach from your perspective.’’

One of Ms Lawford-Smith’s students, who did not want to be named, said posters labelling those who take the feminist philosophy class as “fascists” were “certainly defamatory; a sort of targeted reputational attrition, or smear campaign’’. This student was both relieved and dumbfounded at “the sheer absurdity of this escapade having come to a point of a class teaching feminism requiring security’’.

Another feminism student said: “(It) strikes me as rather ironic that the group which advocates for respectfully addressing others according to the ways they identify … is so aggressive in labelling others (who presumably don’t identify as fascists).” When this student spoke to The Australian earlier this month, he said: “There are posters everywhere slandering Holly Lawford-Smith and her students … I think it’s great that the university is upholding its free speech value and not caving in to activist pressure. But I don’t think it’s done enough to defuse the hostility she’s faced.’’




Monday, June 26, 2023

Alarming attack on "misinformation"

Who is to decide what is misinformation? The government? Much that was called misinformation about Covid subsequently was vindicated as truth. We may have to rely on the High Court to strike this arrogance down

Digital platforms – including social media, search engines, and dating sites – could face fines of up to $6.8m under proposed new laws aimed at combating misinformation online.

Under historic new legislation proposed by the government, digital platforms could face penalties of up to $6.88m for failing to address systemic disinformation and misinformation.

The government has released a draft framework to empower the Australian Communications and Media Authority to hold digital platforms responsible for misleading or deliberately deceptive information online.

Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said the proposed legislation was aimed at protecting Australians from the growing threat.

“Mis and disinformation sows division within the community, undermines trust, and can threaten public health and safety,” she said.

“The Albanese Government is committed to keeping Australians safe online, and that includes ensuring the ACMA has the powers it needs to hold digital platforms to account for mis and disinformation on their services.”

The Communications Legislation Amendment (Combating Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill would give the media regulator greater powers to act on systemic issues.

For the first time, the ACMA would be empowered to access documents from digital providers related to misinformation and disinformation on their platforms.

The proposed authority would not extend to the content of private messages sent online.

The bill targets endemic misinformation and disinformation issues which pose a serious harm to Australians, and it would allow the ACMA to fight continued noncompliance from digital providers.

If platforms allow the spread of harmful lies and propaganda to continue, the regulator would be able to register enforceable industry codes with a maximum penalty of $2.75m or 2 per cent of a company’s global turnover (whichever is greater).

Should the code of practice prove insufficient, the ACMA would be able to implement an industry standard which would carry maximum penalties of $6.88m or 5 per cent of global turnover.

The proposed powers would apply to digital platforms accessible in Australia, including search engines, social media sites, dating sites, and web forums.

The ACMA would be focused on encouraging services to implement strong systems to tackle misinformation and disinformation rather than regulating specific content.

Unlike the eSafety Commissioner, the regulator would not have the authority to request the removal of posts or content.

The proposed legislation enacts key measures recommended in the 2021 ACMA report on the adequacy of digital platform measures to combat disinformation.

Public consultation on the draft bill will begin on Sunday and conclude on August 6, with the legislation to be introduced later this year.

“This consultation process gives industry and the public the opportunity to have their say on the proposed framework, which aims to strike the right balance between protection from harmful mis and disinformation online and freedom of speech,” Ms Rowland said.

“I encourage all stakeholders to make a submission and look forward to introducing the Bill into parliament later this year, following the consultation process”.


Dirty little secrets of Australia’s dangerous EV rollout

The electric vehicle take-up among Australian consumers may provide a warm and fuzzy feeling for the environmentally conscious, but as machines, EVs are significantly heavier than the traditional motor car and a challenge more likely to weigh on Australian roads.

According to data provided by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, electric vehicles accounted for 6.8 per cent (17,396) of light vehicle sales (257,094) in the 12 months to March this year.

It is important to note there are more than 20 million registered cars nationally.

Electric vehicles such as the Tesla 3 which dot the more fashionable areas of Australia are also very heavy, due primarily to the weight of the battery required to power such vehicles.

A Tesla Model 3 weighs 1844kg (1.84 tonnes) at the higher end while the fuel-efficient Mazda 3, for example, tips the scales at 1.4 tonnes.

Considering the popularity of sports utility vehicles, the weight difference would be even greater than the 400kg gap between the Tesla Model 3 and the Mazda sedan.

If hydrogen-powered or battery-powered trucks ever make the leap from concept vehicle to commercial reality, then Australia’s road network would require far greater levels of maintenance and construction than exist currently.

In the United States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported earlier this year that the safety aspect around collisions (a heavier vehicle tends to keep going when it collides with a lighter vehicle) as well as braking performance were increasingly major areas of concern.

It appears that environmental posturing requires a reality check.

While EVs are popular, the question of whether such vehicles should be subsidised is debatable.

To be exact, more than 85 per cent of the driving public through their registration fees have enabled the Queensland government to provide a $3000 rebate for zero-emission vehicles, (this of course does not consider the dirty offshore refining practices to acquire the specific minerals for these cars).

For fans of the George Orwell novel Animal Farm, the idea that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” rings true as the 85 per cent represent the horse.

With a market share of 6.8 per cent and growing, electrical vehicle owners should be coming under the purview of policy makers in terms of a timeline to legislate a road usage fee as opposed to being given a $3000 kicker.

As it stands, most car owners subsidise would-be Tesla owners the equivalent of a year’s fuel as the batteries EVs use are included, meaning those same EV drivers pay nothing in fuel excise which, of course, helps fund the nation’s roads.

Fuel excise receipts from petrol is expected to hit $60bn over the next four years according to federal budget papers, although is likely to decline given the incentives to the more
well-heeled to buy an EV.

Well-paid politicians such as Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, an electrical vehicle evangelist, in a YouTube video where she test-drove a Tesla told her adoring fans afterwards, “Wow, I’m hooked!” If only the good senator took an interest in the minerals used for such cars, the emission intensity of the mining effort to create that same vehicle and the industrial resources required to upgrade the transport network so it can cope with the extra load.

While noting Tesla’s desire to be free of cobalt, the mineral mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the raw material that powers the rechargeable batteries used in modern-day computers, phones, and electric vehicles as well as being a standout in human rights abuses.

Children as young as seven, according to Human Rights Watch, are working in cobalt mines, all in the name of the great green leap forward.

While foodies are proud of the “paddock to plate” mantra around its clean supply chain practices, the same cannot be said for the “resources to road” moniker for Australia’s electric vehicle enthusiasts where questions around a sustainable transport future remain murky.


A new low for Queensland Health

Director-General wants penalties for whistleblowers

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman has told the head of Queensland Health that she does not support the punishment of whistleblowers following his sensational call to introduce gag laws that punish those who speak out about issues involving the health department.

The Sunday Mail revealed Health Director-General Shaun Drummond wrote a submission to the inquiry into Public Interest Disclosure laws, requesting that whistleblowers providing journalists “inappropriate” information about Queensland Health should be penalised.

The unorthodox request sent shockwaves through media outlets, with Mr Drummond accused of attempting to muzzle journalists who report on medical mistakes such as the DNA lab testing bungle.

A spokesman for Health Minister Shannon Fentiman on Sunday confirmed she had since spoken with Mr Drummond and “communicated her position” on the matter.

But the Minister refused to reveal whether the debacle had caused her to lose confidence in Mr Drummond as the Director-General.

“As has been made clear, the Minister does not support introducing penalties for the disclosure of information to journalists,” the spokesman said. “The Minister’s position has been communicated to the Director-General.”

Earlier on Sunday, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner issued a stern warning to Mr Drummond, reminding him that public servants don’t make laws.

“It’s the government that makes decisions on what laws will be introduced in the parliament, not Director-General’s, they are public servants to assist in that process,” Mr Furner said.

“There’s no agenda on the table in terms of the cabinet currently, in regards to this particular proposal, so it should be reminded that it is the government of the day, the Palaszczuk government, (that) makes those laws, not senior public servants.”

When asked if it was unusual for a senior public servant to make a request to criminalise whistleblowers, Mr Furner said: “I think the Minister of Health will no doubt be wanting to have a discussion with her Director General over this”.

Ms Fentiman on Saturday distanced herself from Mr Drummond’s submission, saying the department was independent of her own ministerial office.

She also referred to her strong support of the expansion of Queensland’s shield laws last year. “While journalists’ sources are generally identified in media reports, there are some occasions when important information can only be reported through confidential sources,” she said at the time.


Non-mulesed wool attracts premiums but the transition away from mulesing has been slow

In southern New South Wales in Howlong, Ian Trevethan has 4,000 merino ewes running around in the paddocks.

By the end of this year, after some careful genetic selection, he hopes the new lambs won't require mulesing.

"We weren't sure when to transition [away from mulesing] or how [to]," Mr Trevethan said. "But I think the debate over whether or not mulesing is going to be an option down the track is over. We can see that it'll only be a matter of time before we can't."

Mr Trevethan said the transition through genetic selection would take time.

"Last year we bought non-mulesed ewes from a farm which ceased mulesing a while ago, and we're buying rams and placing more emphasis on low breech wrinkle," he said. "With the combination of plainer rams and those ewes we're hoping to set ourselves up for a mules-free flock."

Mulesing refers to a one-off procedure where flaps of skin are removed from a lamb's breech and tail.

After the area has healed, the skin should have no folds or wrinkles and is less likely to attract blowflies and reduce the risk of flystrike.

Over recent years, animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA have called for the end to the practice and to breed sheep that are less susceptible to flystrike.

In 2019, the Victorian government passed legislation legally requiring the use of pain relief when mulesing lambs.

Mr Trevethan said the transition would require more reliance on chemicals to protect against disease and changing to six-month shearings to control wool length.

"Society moves, and we have to move with it," Mr Trevethan said.

"We don't look forward to mulesing. It's not pleasant and no-one enjoys it. "We are looking forward to having animals that we don't have to mules, but it'll take time and needs to still be a tool for some producers."

In the latest annual report from the Sheep Sustainability Framework, only 15.8 per cent of merino wool was declared as non-mulesed, increasing by only 0.5 per cent from the previous year.

The 2023 annual report also found 52 per cent of producers mules their flocks.

Currently, there is no official target date for the industry to phase out mulesing, however, Mr Trevethan believes farmers need time to get it right.

"If the carpet were ripped away and we couldn't mules overnight, the animal welfare outcomes would be disastrous," he said.

"Although we have to transition, it'll take some time to get there, so it still needs to be a tool for some people to use."

Grower group Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) said they do not tell growers how to run their farming operations, but was committed to helping producers find ways to manage flystrike without mulesing.

Since 2001, AWI has spent more than $44 million to research flystrike and find alternatives to mulesing.

More money for non-mulesed wool

Jenni Turner, a wool broker and area manager for Fox and Lille Rural, said the volume of non-mulesed wool has changed in the past decade. "In rough figures, 10 years ago about 10 per cent of the clip would have been unmulesed, but now it's more around the 20-per-cent mark," Ms Turner said. "Over the past five years, there's been some demonstrable premiums for non-mulesed wool."

Ms Turner said even though the market right now had low demand, there was a growing premium market for non-mulesed wool. "In terms of your wool marketing, being non-mulesed is a really good price risk management tool," she said. "It's one of the safest things you can do in terms of trying to assure yourself a good price compared to a market.

"The demand comes from America and Europe, and not China."

In 2019, a string of retailers such as Kmart, Target, Country Road and Myer announced they were transitioning away from using mulesed wool.

"I think the attitude amongst buyers and brokers is that it's very pragmatic," Ms Turner said. "We're taking the orders from the mills and fabric makers. It's clear that breech modification is not their preference at all."

"In terms of grower attitudes, money talks. However, it's not an easy tool to take out of your toolbox."




Thursday, June 22, 2023

‘It’s just ridiculous’: Key unions demand premier scrap $500m Powerhouse redevelopment

I heartily agree. I can see no point in destroying useful buildings. But governments tend to have an edifuce complex. Politicians want their name on a foundation stone

Two of the state’s most powerful unions have called for a halt to the proposed $500 million redevelopment of the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo, and the reinvestment of the savings to top up pay rises for frontline health and emergency sector workers.

The Public Service Association, representing 40,000 public sector workers, says it will press for Premier Chris Minns to personally intervene to shelve plans the Labor government inherited for the knockdown rebuild of the museum’s 35-year-old modern wing.

The Public Service Association’s general secretary Stewart Little said his members, including more than 100 permanent museum staff, believed the project was an extravagance the state could ill afford at a time of crippling cost of living increases.

He was joined in his criticisms by Health Services Union boss Gerard Hayes who said spending to redevelop and reconfigure the museum’s inner-city location made as much sense as knocking down and rebuilding the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“As a health service person, we are in very difficult economic times. Why would we be dealing with luxury wish lists when we are not dealing with providing the necessities?” Hayes asked.

Union criticism of the project comes at a sensitive time of wage negotiations with the Minns government which went to the election promising to scrap the cap on public sector wages.

Unions are agitating for an improvement in the government’s standing offer of a 4.5 per cent wage increase and have identified the Powerhouse redevelopment as a potential source of budget savings to fund a more generous wage offer – all at a time when treasurer Daniel Mookhey says the NSW budget is facing $7 billion in unexpected cost pressures.

At the March election, Labor pledged to “save” the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo as a “world-class institution” and is currently undertaking broad community consultation about the museum’s future.

These reorient the museum’s entrance and demolish the museum’s galleria, home of NSW’s first train, Locomotive No 1 and the priceless Boulton & Watt rotative steam engine, and the Wran wing along Harris Street.


Truth is absent in celebration of Bruce Pascoe

Bruce Pascoe should have been booed off the stage of the Sydney Film Festival last weekend. Instead, Australia’s most famous fake Aborigine was treated like a hero.

Looking pinker than me, the old fraud posed for the cameras, surrounded by white admirers who seem to prefer their Aborigines to look like themselves.

Worse, Pascoe was there as the star of a film backed by the ABC, Film Victoria and Screen Australia, using taxpayers’ money to promote the greatest literary fraud in our history. He is now honoured as a professor at the University of Melbourne after writing Dark Emu, falsely claiming Aborigines were farmers, not hunter-gatherers.

That film, The Dark Emu Story, premiered at the festival, where producer Darren Dale hailed it as “so important” in this “momentous year” when we get to vote on Labor’s Voice – a kind of Aboriginal-only advisory parliament, cemented into our Constitution.

For once I agreed with him. This film is important for confirming truth is dead in Aboriginal politics. It’s so dead that Labor can brazenly claim the Voice is a “modest change”, and this apartheid will somehow unite us.

I was away for the film’s premiere, so must rely on reports and the trailer. But that’s already enough to tell us both Pascoe and the Voice come from the same monstrous mountain of bull-droppings, promoted by the same extremists.

For instance, Professor Marcia Langton, also of the University of Melbourne, popped up in The Dark Emu Story to abuse me and others for pointing out Pascoe was a fake Aborigine peddling a fake history.

“The racist attacks on him hinged on whether or not he was Aboriginal,” raged the former Communist League national committee member, who has also called Pascoe’s Dark Emu “the most important book on Australia”, even though it misrepresented sources and has been debunked by academics.

Langton’s smear in the film is important, because she is a key architect of Labor’s Voice, one of the two authors of the co-design report which the Albanese government cites as its model.

For a start, what does it say about Langton’s commitment to the truth that she defends not just Pascoe’s book but his claimed Aboriginality, even though his genealogy shows all his ancestors are of British descent?

But there’s a pattern here. Langton is also curiously indifferent to the danger of fake Aborigines hijacking the Voice.

Her report tells the federal government not to hold direct elections to choose the 24 people who will form the Voice to advise parliament and public servants on everything from welfare payments to defence.

No democracy? Why not?

Well, says Langton’s report, because Aborigines would complain of fake Aborigines voting: “Eligibility to vote, particularly with regard to confirming indigeneity … has historically been divisive in some communities.”

Shockingly, the Albanese government has bought Langton’s argument. There will not be direct elections. Voice members will instead be selected by the Aboriginal aristocracy which already dominates black politics and helped produce a social disaster.

It staggers me that not one prominent Leftist has publicly protested that Aborigines are being denied a democratic vote for the Voice that’s meant to represent them.

Is that because they’re scared an election means having to create an electoral roll of voters who’ll have to prove they really are Aborigines? Are they scared we’ll learn how many Pascoes are out there, particularly in politics and universities?

Suzanne Ingram, a board member of the NSW Aboriginal Housing Office, complained on SBS last year that 300,000 of the 810,000 Australians now claiming to be Aboriginal were fakes. An Aboriginal member of the Albanese government’s referendum working group privately told me Ingram was right.

In fact, the past two censuses – 2016 and 2021 – had more than 130,000 people calling themselves Aborigines who hadn’t in the census before, and many Aborigines are now horrified by the flood of fakes.

Activist Stephen Hagan told SBS there were even “fake Aborigines coming into the (Aboriginal) organisations”, and Sydney’s Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council warned “people have used self-identification to receive jobs, housing and scholarships they’re not entitled to”.

Michael Mansell, Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania chairman, warned of thousands more fakes like Pascoe in Tasmania, where the number of supposed Aborigines has rocketed from 36 in 1966 to 30,000 today.

But white journalists – the kind promoting Pascoe – don’t want to know. See the ABC defend Pascoe even now.

Truth does not matter to them, so fakes and frauds rule. A white man is now our most celebrated Aborigine, and democracy is denounced as a threat to Labor’s racist Voice.

Fight back. Say no.


The courage to ‘speak the truth’

Roger Karge

A recent Spectator Australia article by Victorian Liberal MP Beverley McArthur, in which she criticised Geelong Council’s decision to cancel Australia Day, brought the wrath of the usual suspects – the Leftist media including the Guardian – but also surprisingly, and sadly, a rebuke from her Party Leader, John Pesutto.

McArthur had only rightly pointed out that:

‘Cancelling Australia Day is code for saying we are not a good nation. We are not worth celebrating’ and, ‘Geelong councilors will not allow one day to reflect upon the wonderful things that have been enabled via colonisation by a democratic nation… In cancelling Australia Day, it has given in to the oppression of identity politics, of victimhood. In so doing, it fails to applaud the successes of the Aboriginal people in this modern nation.’

McArthur is said to have commented further that:

‘Should we also say sorry for hospitals, roads, mobile phones, ready food at supermarkets, homes, running water, electricity for light and warmth, indigenous-only medical centres, aged care, and court processes?’

Pesutto is reported to have distanced himself from McArthur’s comments by saying:

‘I do not accept that as a statement, I think it is hurtful to Indigenous Victorians and Indigenous Australians. I think it’s incumbent on everyone to engage in debates about Indigenous Australians and the great contribution our First Nations people have made it [sic] our country in a very respectful way. There are ways to conduct this debate without causing hurt or offence.’

Less surprisingly, Marcus Stewart, a Victorian Nira illim bulluk Aboriginal man, also attacked McArthur, describing her as:

‘…another unknown politician saying something offensive at our expense as they try to make a name for themselves. Should Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people be saying thanks for the invasion of our lands and massacre of our people?’

The irony of Stewart’s and Pesutto’s own ‘hurtful’ and somewhat ignorant comments is not lost on many of us educated Speccie readers.

Stewart, in his public role as co-chair of Victoria’s First Peoples’ Assembly, is well within his rights to critique McArthur’s policies and claims, but he discredits his case by disrespectfully attacking her personally.

He also criticised McArthur by asking, ‘Should Torres Strait Islander people be saying thanks for the invasion of [their] lands…?’

Well, they should say thanks, because that is what they do every July 1. This is the date on which Torres Strait Islanders celebrate the Coming of the Light, a commemoration of the day in 1871 when the London Missionary Society introduced Christianity into the islands. Christian values are some of McArthur’s ‘wonderful things that have been enabled via colonisation’, the celebration of which her critics now perversely label as ‘hurtful’.

And how do we know that the Coming of the Light is as important and as celebratory to Indigenous people in the Torres Strait as Australia Day is to Australians generally? Because the Victorian government’s website Deadly Story tells us so.

This website was legislated under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 to, ‘satisfy the requirement that all Aboriginal children in out-of-home care are to be provided with a cultural plan’.

Pesutto should be aware of this legislation, shouldn’t he? If even the Victorian government acknowledges an Indigenous Torres Strait Islander celebration of the coming of colonisation, why can’t McArthur’s critics acknowledge and support defenders of Australia Day?

Similarly, other prominent Liberal Indigenous Australians have publicly made claims similar to McArthur’s without censure by the Liberal Party or Aboriginal activists.

Warren Mundine has offered a nuanced perspective on the topic. He recognises that there were negative impacts on Indigenous communities due to colonisation, but that our discourse ‘shouldn’t be just negative stuff all the time’ because Australia is ‘one of the most successful countries when it comes to improving the lives of Indigenous people’.

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, another influential Liberal-aligned Indigenous voice, has also contributed to the conversation without attracting the ire of the party. Price ‘does not see herself as a victim to white people or the idea of colonisation’ but rather, ‘She “speaks the truth” when it comes to Indigenous people helping themselves with their own problems, instead of pointing the finger and laying blame elsewhere.’


Children behaving badly

Something is going seriously wrong with our children. Standards are declining in education; manners and respect are forgotten; ignorance, expectation, and entitlement abound… Where have we gone wrong?

The US Surgeon-General has announced that social media is harming children’s development, issuing an advisory that says:

The current body of evidence indicates that while social media may have benefits for some children and adolescents, there are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents. At this time, we do not yet have enough evidence to determine if social media is sufficiently safe for children and adolescents.

Even at an early age, the concept of play has been taken over by activism, requiring it to be gender neutral; boys playing with tanks and girls with dolls is said to encourage gender stereotypes that have become unacceptable to academia. Some bizarre parents are even choosing to cross-dress their children, from kindergarten, to encourage diversity – surely this is a form of child abuse? In any case, playtime has become device time, with little opportunity for imagination, or development of manual or creative skills.

Schools have, for centuries, been a fertile ground for indoctrination. The Jesuit motto was: ‘Give me a child ‘til he is seven and I’ll show you the man.’ The curriculum has become filled with personal rights and the demands of race, sexuality and, (if any is included), rewritten history, leaving little time for the fundamentals of reading, writing, or understand simple mathematics. Modern teaching methods, and a lack of classroom discipline has compounded the problem.

Despite smaller classes and more resources than ever being allocated, surveys show a steady decline in educational outcomes. The enormously expensive reduction in class size, as part of the Gonski review of 2010, resulted in more teachers, but a continuing worsening of results. This waning of reading and writing ability is a major handicap to future employment. To fix this, the schools system needs to adopt adequate testing, avoiding cheating with old-fashioned weekly hand-written testing.

The recent ACARA finding that 14 per cent of children are functionally illiterate at the end of their 12 years of schooling has been hidden by sleight of hand, with the figure revised to 10 per cent being ‘in need of extra tuition’. The solution to these embarrassments proposed by the teacher’s union is to stop ‘stressful’ exams which reveal their failure. Alternatively, lowered pass marks can maintain the illusion of continuing success; in Queensland, the pass mark for many Year 12 subjects has dropped below 50 per cent, with 41 per cent considered a pass in English; in Victoria, even lower levels can be awarded a pass.

The politician’s expensive, knee-jerk response is to start schooling earlier, at the age of 4. In other countries, this approach has failed to produce long-term benefits, but $55 billion is due to be spent on childcare subsidies over the next 4 years. A return to traditional teaching methods is slowly occurring, but it follows a lost generation of unemployable illiterates, and also requires retraining of teachers to return to direct instruction.

As marriages flounder and single-parent or blended families become the norm, the conventional family unit is in decline; the absence of children’s discipline at home is increasingly apparent. The role of a father is often missing, both in the home and at school, as male teacher numbers drop away. Two incomes are increasingly needed to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, with parents handing over their children’s upbringing to schools. Often, their only input in the education process is to complain about the outcome. As teachers’ standards also decline, the ability to maintain classroom order has been lost; an OECD study of 15-year-olds showed Australia rated 70th out of 77 countries for class discipline.

Social media has had an enormous detrimental influence. Peer group pressure has resulted in bullying, body image concerns, sexting, gender dysphoria, and anti-social behaviour, leading to a dramatic rise in the incidence of emotional distress and juvenile crime. The gender-confusion pandemic, largely involving primarily girls who want to be boys, even has its own community of online ‘influencers’ to help the transition process; the result is a ten-fold expansion in confused teenagers seeking medical or surgical intervention. This transition is often done through school, and without parental consent (or knowledge).

Juvenile crime in 10 to 14-year-olds has increased by 50 per cent in 5 years, often encouraged by social media notoriety, not greed or need. The latest Victorian statistics are even worse, showing an 86 per cent increase in crime in this age group. The belated banning of phones from schools in most states is a step forward in controlling this addictive behaviour, with Queensland belatedly considering this move.

94 per cent of teenagers are ‘highly wired’; 67 per cent of primary-aged children and 36 per cent of pre-schoolers have their own smart devices. Reliance on the phone and its contents has created a range of new medical conditions with anxiety overlay; FOMO (fear of missing out) when offline, and the even more serious loss of a phone with all its contents (‘nomophobia’).

The recent Royal Children’s Hospital health poll revealed 83 per cent of teenagers exceed the maximum recommended 2 hours a day screen-time, with a staggering 44 hours per week devoted to study, entertainment, and communication. 43 per cent of young people use their devices at bedtime, 25 per cent of children have resulting sleep problems. Even mealtimes are no longer off limits. An APS study found 24 per cent of teens regularly used social media when they are eating. The increased incidence of stress and bullying coincides with the introduction of this addictive technology and, despite our increased physical comfort, adolescent self-harm and suicide are on the rise. The recent Covid pandemic, with schools unnecessarily closed, and lack of physical contact, has added to the tension.

Japanese studies have shown that early and excessive use of these devices is associated with permanent brain damage; how often are toddlers given a screen to entertain them? Children under 2 years should not have access to screens; those older should have exposure limited to 2 hours a day. Using television as a babysitter reduces activity and increases the risk of obesity, unsupervised use of media in the Covid crisis averaged 7 hours a day, adding fatigue to the equation. Computer games can, in moderation, improve attention and visuospatial coordination; long-term and heavy use in adolescence can lead to damage to the hippocampus (an important memory area of the brain), and addiction. Restricting use requires parental input, and is vital to prevent long-term damage to brain development.

Many hours spent on devices have contributed to the rise of an alphabet of behavioural disorders, ADHD, OCD, ODD, DD, all now coming together under the label autism spectrum. The latest statistics show that 11 per cent of 5 to 7-year-old boys and 5 per cent of girls have autism spectrum disorder and are included in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, (NDIS), adding to its unsustainability and likely bankruptcy.

The modern media’s obsession with crisis is adding to mental problems. Brainwashing about the climate-induced end of the world, including the exaggeration of Australia’s regular droughts, floods, and fires, the death of the great barrier reef, and the extinction of species is playing a role in the decline of mental health. The rate of anxiety/depression has doubled in 30 years, with rising suicide rates.

Children are now inappropriately being used by teachers as leaders of protests, instead of being at school. They are encouraged to march the streets in protest to save the planet. They protest about waste, but are careless about the use of plastic or its recycling, rubbish is dropped at will, toys and clothes are thrown away. The detrimental effect of ubiquitous advertising plays a significant role in waste accumulation, their demands enhanced by more ‘influencers’.

A return to competition is needed, both with both sport and academia, to equip students for the real world outside, where rivalry can be fierce and cannot be avoided. A lack of competition at an early age, whether in class or in the sporting field, seems to be producing young adults with an over-expectation of their ability; in the 1950s 12 per cent of young adults thought they were special, today surveys suggest 80 per cent do.

Paradoxically, this narcissism has resulted in an inability to compete. When faced with competition in later life, this acopia results in the stress avoiding competition was supposed to prevent. Those who do work, have an increasingly reluctant approach to it, the modern phrase to describe it being ‘quietly quitting’.

With so much time taken up with inactivity and screens, it is no surprise that children’s weight is increasing and fitness is declining. Children no longer walk to school, there are rarely stairs to climb, they walk only a few paces from the car to the shop. The number participating in team sports is also in decline, the loss of the camaraderie of team sports is another step backwards in forming relationships.

As the obesity epidemic progresses, the associated health problems are on the rise, with childhood diabetes an early marker. Australians follow the US, with two-thirds of adults being overweight, and over 20 per cent now obese sending adult life expectancy is already in decline. The weight gain is occurring at progressively earlier ages, as poor diet and inadequate exercise contribute. Sadly, the problem is inter-generational and well established; overweight mothers give birth to overweight babies who will become overweight adults.

As an increasing proportion of youth move on to university; aided by lower entry standards, that underserved sense of entitlement is further enforced. Students take courses which, even with lowered pass marks, lead to a higher drop-out rate. For those who do complete, their courses increasingly fail to lead to employment, leaving them with debt. Meanwhile, they are further exposed to the left-wing academia which stunts their ability to question opinion.

The future for the over-indulged, under-educated, self-opinionated, overweight, offspring of Western society looks grim; youths’ lack of resilience is increasing, and they seem incapable of coping with adverse events. In the 19th century, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ This no longer applies in modern society; now what doesn’t kill you enfeebles you, resulting in a need for counselling and extra support.

Parents must put in the time to regain control of their children’s development; they also, need to take time out from the contagion of their own devices; leaving responsibility to supposed experts at school has plainly not worked. Discipline needs to be restored in the home, treats have to be earned, and entitlement contained, diets better controlled, physical activities encouraged and screen time limited. Schools must emphasise the importance of curricula based on learning fundamentals instead of social engineering. Teachers need to rediscover classroom control and the importance of rote learning – something still producing results in less financially well-endowed countries elsewhere. The approach of last resort – return of national service – has even been advocated, by former Premier, Jeff Kennett…

Physical as well as mental fitness needs to be restored, experts have now realised that exercise is good for stress, perhaps we don’t need all those counsellors; the starting point may be as simple as putting away the phone and going for a long walk outside.