Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Binary Australia campaigner Kirralie Smith has AVO against her withdrawn

How absurd can you get? This pleasant country lady was held to be a physical threat because she spoke out about transgenders in sport. The only thing she would be likely to threaten anybodyn with would be an offering of pumpkin scones. "apprehended violence" indeed. Another case where the law is an ass

A high-profile campaigner against transgender women competing in female sports is claiming victory after a restraining order against her was withdrawn in court.

Police had taken out an apprehended violence order out against Kirralie Smith, 52, to protect an amateur NSW soccer player at the centre of a transgender row.

The player, who towered over most players, was the league's leading goal scorer and a clip of them sending a rival player flying in a tackle went viral earlier this year.

The director of Binary Australia led a protest campaign which bombarded soccer bosses with more than 12,000 emails demanding Football NSW take action.

Ms Smith's campaign also included a petition entitled: 'Keep blokes out of women’s sport!'

Police initially applied for the AVO in April and served it to Ms Smith at her home in Mt George, 200km north-east of Newcastle, NSW.

It prevented her from discussing or approaching the player, and also covered electronic harassment of the trans activist player, who lives more than 300km away.

But when the case returned to Burwood Local Court in Sydney on Monday, police withdrew their application and the AVO was dismissed.

'We won!!!!!!' Ms Smith posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. 'The AVO was withdrawn!!!! 'It is not violence to defend women’s spaces or sport.'

The mother-of-three added: 'The police prosecutor simply withdrew the application - after wasting a lot of time and $.'

Ms Smith currently has one other AVO application against her, which is due back in Taree Local Court on October 10, and another previous AVO was withdrawn in April.

She added on Tuesday: 'The first win in this series of law fare against me is greatly encouraging. 'I still have an AVO application by another male player in a female team and two vilification complaints. I will stand firm and not shrink back. 'I will have this week off to celebrate and recover and be back soon!'

The decision comes as Ms Smith celebrated her birthday on Tuesday. 'I can’t stop smiling,' she said. 'What a gift for my birthday today. A win for female sport and freedom of speech.'

Ms Smith has been highly vocal around the participation of transwomen in women's sports and the risk of injury to female players.

She was backed by failed federal Liberal candidate Katherine Deves who has been a high profile critic of transgender athletes in women's sport.

Ms Smith angrily denied she was a threat to the player after the AVO was imposed and told Daily Mail Australia in May: 'I've never been violent in my life. 'I have a very long-standing knee injury. I'm not violent and not capable of violence.'

She added: 'It's important for women to be able to draw boundaries and speak freely about how males impact their spaces and services.' 'I will continue to speak truthfully about matters of biology and how they affect women and children in Australia.'


Drumgold matter goes from bad to worse

There is a clear wish in elite cirles to let Drumgold off the hook. It seems to be regarded as exculpatory that his foul deeds were in support of feminist hysteria

When it comes to the nation’s most controversial scandal, the Lehrmann matter goes from bad to worse. There are further disturbing signs of institutional failure in the ACT.

So far there is no indication that the ACT government will take any action against the territory’s former chief prosecutor Shane Drumgold despite the public board of inquiry’s damning findings against him. The ACT Greens-Labor government didn’t even sack him, instead allowing Drumgold to resign.

Based on the findings of the Sofronoff report, the ACT government could be demanding that Drumgold be charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice or the common-law offence of misconduct in public office.

These governmental failures were compounded in recent weeks by other institutions dragging their feet. The ACT Bar Association and the ACT Supreme Court, likewise, have shown no signs of upholding the integrity of the legal profession and the court system, respectively, after the former director of public prosecution’s misbehaviour during the nation’s most controversial sexual assault trial.

The people of the ACT are still waiting for the Bar Association to do what it is charged to do under the Legal Profession Act 2006 – to promote and enforce the professional standards, competence and honesty of the legal profession, and provide a means of redress for complaints about lawyers.

Bruce Lehrmann complained about Drumgold’s behaviour to the ACT Bar Association on December 9 last year – before the ACT government announced a public inquiry.

Lehrmann is still waiting for some sign of action. Nine councillors sit on the ACT Bar Council – the body at the top of the ACT Bar Association that “is responsible for regulating the professional conduct” of the practising barristers. The Bar Council wrote back to Lehrmann in May.

In a profession that charges by the hour, it pays to be unhurried. But, still, that doesn’t explain why it took the Bar Council five months to tell Lehrmann it needed more information on one matter, and as to the other issues raised by Lehrmann – including that the DPP “did not fulfil the prosecutorial obligation to ensure a fair trial” – the Bar Council would wait for the final report of the Sofronoff inquiry.

The Sofronoff report was released on July 30. A week later, the ACT Bar Council said the findings “will receive careful consideration … in the context of its role as the professional regulator of the ACT Bar”. It is September, and it’s crickets – still.

There is no indication that the ACT Bar Council has considered the report or intends to look at Lehrmann’s complaints against Drumgold.

Not unreasonably, this past weekend Lehrmann wrote back to them asking for an update.

“The findings of the report touched on some areas I raised in my complaint but uncovered alarming new examples of misconduct by Mr Drumgold that many were unaware of including further examples of deceit and non-disclosure to the defence team,” wrote Lehrmann.

The former Liberal staffer who has always maintained his innocence suggested the council “should adopt the inquiry report as evidence to support any investigation under way of Mr Drumgold”. While the council has power to reprimand a lawyer and order compensation, Lehrmann said those actions would be “woefully inadequate” given the serious findings in the Sofronoff report.

Instead, the ACT Bar Council should be referring this matter to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the body with the power to recommend the ultimate sanction – that a lawyer be removed from the roll of practitioners.

Indeed, the Bar Council has the power under section 411 of the Legal Profession Act to refer this matter to ACAT – without starting or finishing an investigation – if the council is satisfied there is a reasonable likelihood that Drumgold would be found guilty by ACAT of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.

What is the ACT Bar Council waiting for? What more does it need than the Sofronoff report for it to act?

There were a number of tax scandals in the 1990s where lawyers who engaged in misconduct handed in their practising certificates. The relevant ruling bar councils said that was not enough to signal the seriousness of the misconduct, and instigated proceedings to have the lawyers removed from the roll of practitioners.

Walter Sofronoff KC found that the ACT’s chief prosecutor knowingly lied to the Supreme Court, engaged in serious malpractice and grossly unethical conduct, “preyed on a junior lawyer’s inexperience” and treated criminal litigation as “a poker game in which a prosecutor can hide the cards”.

Had Drumgold succeeded in dishonestly preventing Lehrmann from obtaining material that could have helped his defence, any conviction would have been set aside on the ground of a miscarriage of justice, Sofronoff found.

What further prosecutorial misconduct is required for the ACT Bar Council to step up?

Lawyers are also wondering why the Chief Justice of the ACT Supreme Court has gone so quiet – apart from spruiking her commitment to social justice a few weeks ago in a YouTube clip for the University of NSW.

There are no signs that Chief Justice Lucy McCallum, the winner of the 2023 Alumni Award for Professional Achievement, is proposing to take any against a chief prosecutor who was found to have lied to her during a trial where a man could have gone to jail.

The Legal Profession Act makes it clear that nothing in the Act disturbs the inherent jurisdiction of the ACT Supreme Court. In other words, the court has the ultimate supervisory jurisdiction to deal with misconduct by lawyers.

The Chief Justice could initiate contempt proceedings, through the registrar of the Supreme Court, against the man who was found to have made false claims to her in court.

McCallum could initiate proceedings through the registrar of the Supreme Court to have Drumgold removed from the roll of practitioners.

In 2018, the prothonotary (a posh word for registrar) of the NSW Supreme Court took action to have disgraced former Labor MP Craig Thomson struck off the roll of practitioners.

The only discernible action taken at the ACT Supreme Court in relation to this matter is this: on September 14 the court set up an online file to make it easier for the media to follow Drumgold’s application for judicial review, launched last month to have the Sofronoff findings quashed.

To sum up, then, the ACT Supreme Court has taken no action against a prosecutor who was found to have lied to the Chief Justice but has taken action to assist the media in following Drumgold’s legal claim.

What makes this doubly weird is that the ACT Supreme Court didn’t offer the same ease of access to the media during the Lehrmann trial.

During the latter part of the public board of inquiry, Sofronoff sent Drumgold a notice of possible adverse findings against him. One was that Sofronoff could have found the DPP was not a fit and proper person to remain on the roll of barristers, or to remain in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In response Drumgold’s lawyer, Mark Tedeschi SC, said those decisions were not part of Sofronoff’s remit.

And Sofronoff agreed. Instead, the judge set out the facts, made serious findings and left it to other institutions to do their job.

Those other institutions entrusted by the law, and by citizens, with upholding the administration of justice have done zip.

It would be unfortunate if this inaction leads people, not just lawyers, to wonder whether there is widespread institutional failure within the ACT – from the government to the legal profession to the judicial system.


Bowen is running out of time and options on power

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen is proof that Australians are likely to pay a high price for ideological purity when it comes to energy. By continuing to reject even consideration of nuclear power or other high-density forms of electricity generation to replace coal, the Albanese government is leaving itself little room to move.

Mr Bowen has outlined the scale of the task required, including millions of solar panels, thousands of wind turbines and tens of billions of dollars’ worth of new transmission lines. The Australian Energy Market Operator has sounded the alarm that the build-out is behind schedule and over budget, risking the security of electricity supplies unless something is done to preserve coal-fired generation.

The renewable energy industry has confirmed that commitments from companies to invest in projects have collapsed to levels below what was being achieved by the Morrison government.

For all the talk of certainty provided by a legislated emissions target, companies are not willing to invest until government has provided the distribution networks needed to get the power to market. Getting access to the land required to build the networks is proving more difficult and expensive than anticipated. So, too, is getting access to farmland and environmentally cherished areas to build wind and solar farms. Community outrage is plain to see from southern Victoria to north Queensland.

Plans to boost the renewable energy network with offshore wind also are facing heavy weather. Australians are being told we are lucky to have the attention of offshore wind developers given the global demand.

But the reality is investment in offshore wind has collapsed in Britain and North America because of rising costs and inadequate government subsidies. In Australia, there is growing community anger about the impact of offshore wind turbines on visual amenity and wildlife, including whales and seabirds.

As community opposition to both onshore and offshore projects continues to build, so does the political pressure in seats that traditionally have been safe for Labor.

Meanwhile, the constituents calling loudest for change are most often those least likely to experience the disruption first-hand, and they are likely to vote green or teal independent. The major parties must manage the transition.

The Albanese government is learning a lesson that has been consistent in efforts to tackle climate change around the world. Public support for action does not always extend to a willingness to pay for it or to suffer material or environmental inconvenience as a result.

As a dense form of energy, nuclear can use existing infrastructure and have a much smaller footprint. Mr Bowen seems determined to push on regardless.

His attempts to dismiss a call by the Coalition for nuclear to be considered was ham-fisted and further damaged the government’s credibility. Even the inflated costs put forward for nuclear by Mr Bowen looked cheap compared with accepted estimates of trillions of dollars for a renewable alternative. Given the global rush for small-scale nuclear development, the long-term costs are likely to be much lower than Mr Bowen’s estimates for energy that will be available on demand.

To forgo options other than wind, solar and batteries, the government must deal with the issue of where they will go. In an energy transition where enthusiasts, including the government’s net-zero tsar, Greg Combet, are quick to talk about warlike footings, it can be only a matter of time before reasonable objections are swept away by authoritarian compulsion in the name of an energy emergency that is entirely of the government’s making.


Universities deliver ‘woke’ degrees to trainee teachers who demand more practical training

“Woke’’ universities are instructing trainee teachers in gender theory, climate activism and race relations, as young teachers demand practical classroom skills.

One in five teachers has warned the federal Education Department that universities failed to teach them all the practical skills required to teach children to read and write, or to manage classrooms.

Up to one-third of recent teaching graduates from some universities declared their degree had failed to prepare them for the classroom.

Teachers-in-training have been lectured on “postmodernism, existentialism and reconstructionism” in the University of Canberra’s initial teacher education degree.

Course materials sent to students show lecturers have critiqued the “social and political content’’ of the Australian Curriculum, mandated by the nation’s education ministers for teaching children from primary school through to year 10.

A lecture slide notes “we aren’t even doing a very good job”, tallying up 19 references to social justice, Aboriginal rights, invasion, colonisation, the Stolen Generation, assimilation, social justice and racism.

The course material includes a slide from CNN, with the title “Our World Today’’, linking climate change to aggression and violent behaviour, depression and anxiety, farmer suicide and forced migration.

Thousands of students skipped school on Friday to march in “School Strikes 4 Climate’’ protests in Brisbane, Darwin and Melbourne.

One protester brandished a misspelt placard declaring “I’M MAD AND DISSAPOINTED”.

Two of Australia’s most eminent scientists – Nobel laureate and Australian National University vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt and former chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel – this week criticised the poor levels of literacy and numeracy among school students and called for greater focus on schools teaching the basics of English and mathematics.

One-third of school students failed to meet the minimum standards for reading, writing and numeracy in this year’s NAPLAN (National Assessment Program, Literacy and Numeracy) tests, with students twice as likely to fail than to excel in the tests.

But many teachers are struggling with literacy and numeracy themselves, as universities fill their teaching degrees with lectures on social justice.

The federal Education Department revealed on Tuesday that many teachers fresh from university feel their degrees failed to prepare them for classroom teaching.

“A lot of students talked about the need to have more practical on-the-job training as part of the course and some suggested something along the lines of an apprenticeship model,’’ said Lisa Bolton, director of research and strategy for the department’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching survey of university graduates.

“They wanted to know more about classroom behaviour management, dealing with parents and dealing with students with particular learning needs.

“They said the placement was too short, the course was too theoretical and even a bit outdated. A few had made comments about wanting the lecturers to have more recent teaching experience in schools.’’

One University of Canberra final-year student told The Australian the education degree was “teaching us to indoctrinate students’’. “It teaches about gender diversity and critical race theory rather than drilling down on the fundamental skills so we can be really effective teachers ourselves,’’ the student said.

“I’m pretty irritated by all the politically correct and woke stuff. “We could learn more in a school classroom than in the university … and save ourselves and the taxpayer a lot of money.’’

At the University of Canberra, a lecturer’s slide about “postmodernist writing’’ includes a rambling and incomprehensible 92-word sentence: “The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.’’

A University of Canberra spokeswoman said the student’s complaints “do not accurately represent’’ the quality and content of its degree. She said trainee teachers were given practicum placements in schools, ranging from a week in the first year to 30 days in the fourth year of study.

“Taken together, all units of study that focus on a key learning area of the Australian Curriculum – mathematics, English, science etc – represent approximately 50 per cent of the total units studied by students in an undergraduate course of initial teacher education,’’ the spokeswoman said.

“The other half of the courses focuses on educational and developmental psychology, classroom and behaviour management, the use of data to improve learning, designing learning for diversity and inclusion, and the development of a professional identity well-informed by policy, theory, appropriate sources of professional learning and codes of conduct and practice.’’

Federal, state and territory education ministers have given universities until the start of 2025 to update their degrees to focus more on classroom management, children’s brain development and the teaching of phonics-based reading and writing, as well as mathematics.

The detail of what is taught in existing university degrees is kept secret: universities must submit course content to state and territory teaching accreditation bodies for approval, but most only publish a broad outline on their websites.

The Australian sought the universities’ course materials from the Queensland College of Teachers but was told they could not be released “for privacy reasons’’.

The University of Queensland’s website shows that teaching students spend the first six weeks of their degree learning about “sociological ideas and concepts needed for understanding the complexities of schooling and the social processes that often go on within them”. “We delve into the history of knowledge production in sociology, and explore the need to decolonise, expand and diversify what we know about schools and the processes that go on in them,’’ it states.

Students are assessed, in part, on a 10-minute verbal presentation explaining concepts such as “decolonising knowledge’’, the “myth of meritocracy” and “deficit discourses’’. Another lecture is about “expanding notions of sex, gender and sexuality’’.

At Victoria University, the very first subject in its teaching degree aims to “develop understanding for the cultures, histories and languages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and to use this knowledge in the promotion of reconciliation”.

The teaching of science, maths and reading is not covered until the second year, and students must wait until the final year of their four-year degree to specialise in subjects such as biology and humanities, or to integrate the use of digital technologies in lessons.

Charles Sturt University’s course handbook for its Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood and Primary) has a list of 11 outcomes for its graduates.

The top priority is for graduates to be “agents of change’’’.

“Graduates from this course will teach for social justice and equity,’’ it states. The fifth priority is that “graduates from this course will teach for student learning’’.

At the University of Adelaide, an introduction to Australian history “treats the development of Australian society to the present through the lenses of Aboriginal deep time history; convicts and colonialism; war and conflict; migration and multiculturalism; landscape and the environment, and; the development of democratic institutions”.

Despite 13 years at school and four at university, 7 per cent of the 20,000 final-year trainee teachers failed to pass the mandatory literacy and numeracy test in 2021.

The Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students was set up as a guardrail to keep poorly trained teachers out of classrooms.

The test includes questions that could be answered by primary school students, such as correcting a spelling error or answering: “This year a teacher spent $383.30 on stationery. Last year the teacher spent $257.85 on stationery. How much more did the teacher spend this year than last year?’’




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