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ONE IN TEN STUDENT TEACHERS FAILING BASICS

By Australian Newsletter

Nearly 10 per cent of Australia’s aspiring teachers are failing to meet basic literacy and numeracy standards, a significant deterioration in four years. New test results for teacher education courses at universities show 9.3 per cent of students failed the numeracy benchmark, and 8.3 per cent failed in literacy. Those results, from the 2019 Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students, are a slight improvement from the previous year but much worse than in 2016 and 2017. Education consultants, including MultiLit senior research fellow Jennifer Buckingham, told The Australian it was important to identify literacy and numeracy issues “much earlier” than at the end of a course.

“Universities need to show responsibility for passing the cohort not meeting the test requirements for passing them for four years and taking their money,” she said. “It’s really important we identify problems with literacy and numeracy much earlier, these students put a significant investment into their studies, never mind public funding. Universities have a choice on when education students sit the literacy and numeracy test, but most schedule the exam in the final year of the degrees. The LANTITE results show 91.7 per cent of teaching students can read and write properly, an improvement from the 90.4 per cent recorded in 2018. In 2016, 95.2 per cent of teaching students met that standard. The results also show 90.7 per cent passed the numeracy standard in 2019, up from 90 per cent in 2018 but down from 92.3 per cent in 2017 and 94.2 per cent in 2016.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said standards for future teachers had to remain high, especially in the midst of the post-pandemic recovery, as he seeks to recruit more students into teaching, English and maths ­subjects at university through cuts to student fees. “We need our teachers to have strong literacy and numeracy skills to impart that knowledge on to our children, as the chief scientist says, if you don’t have the basic skills you will never expand your learning,” he said. “Our government introduced the LANTITE test to ensure teachers entering the profession have the skills they need to provide the best education outcomes for students.” Proposed university reforms, which would lower the cost of priority degrees for students, would reduce the cost of teaching courses by 46 per cent, Mr Tehan said.

“We will also make it cheaper for students to study units in Eng­lish, science and maths which will help improve the literacy and numeracy of future teachers.” Mr Tehan is pushing state and territory governments to provide clearer state-by-state data. “The federal government continues to urge state and territory governments to release more detailed test data to provide greater transparency to students, families and educators,” he said. State governments say the test results are largely kept by ­universities. Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said “any data collected through the test is not ours to share”. The LANTITE was introduced in 2016 following concerns about a lowering of academic standards and a decline in school per­formances compared with other countries.

The most recent rankings, the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment, showed the reading literacy of the nation’s 15-year-olds had fallen from fourth in the world in 2003 to 16th. In that time, numeracy figures fell from 11th to 29th. Students typically have three chances to pass the ­LANTITE during the course of their degree, with many questions in the test requiring basic calculations. Hundreds of teaching students had petitioned Mr Tehan to remove the requirement to sit the LANTITE, claiming the testing authority was struggling to meet online testing demand, preventing them from graduating. Blaise Joseph, an education research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, said the figures would likely improve now some states had introduced tougher standards for high school students applying to study education at university.

Source:  Compiled by APN from media reports

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AVIATION STAFF MAY FALL PREY TO GANGS

By Australian Newsletter

Australian Federal Police (AFP) have warned of an increased risk of organised crime groups paying or blackmailing aviation staff for their security cards and inside information. The AFP is concerned the pandemic has made sacked or stood-down airport and airline workers more vulnerable to being targeted by crime syndicates, as reduced air travel disrupts traditional drug trafficking operations and leads to a spike in prices. “It is likely criminal groups will take advantage of a perceived shift in the focus of police and border authorities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ said AFP commander Krissy Barrett.  “Airline and airport staff may possess the necessary skills, expert knowledge, sensitive access, diversion expertise and contacts to assist organised crime groups with their criminal ventures.”

Baggage handlers, passenger screening officers, ­security guards and federal officials, including Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force officers, are among those issued with an Aviation Security Identification Card, showing they have undergone a security check. Commander Barrett said the majority of airport workers were honest and law-abiding but organised crime groups were “unscrupulous and enterprising”.  “The AFP anticipates they may look to target vulnerable airline and airport employees who have been stood down or have lost their jobs recently,” she said. “Airline and airport employees possess insider knowledge of aviation operations, which could leave them open to exploitation for unlawful purposes.”

“If any worker is approached to hand over or sell their Aviation Security Identification Card they should immediately alert law enforcement” Barrett said. Police have reported a doubling of the street price of methamphetamine, or “ice”, and cocaine in some regions after the close of international and state borders and restrictions on interstate travel, indicating scarcity of supply. Crime syndicates are understood to be stockpiling illicit drugs in countries such as Myanmar and Mexico, ready to flood the lucrative Australian market, when border restrictions ease. With the pandemic forcing crime groups to adapt to a changed environment, a small number of outlaw motorcycle club gang members and people with long-term links to the gangs are known to have returned to Australia after basing themselves overseas for years.

Investigators are monitoring their movements and say gang members have increased counter-surveillance measures and have turned to using the mail for drug distribution. A Mongols member who flew from Victoria to Queensland recently caught the attention of police, while similar movements have been observed between NSW and Victoria.  Commander Barrett said while flights had been reduced the AFP continued to “saturate” airports with armed ­officers. New Response Teams were conducting targeted operations focused on high-risk threats, that could ­be ­exploited by insiders. “We work closely with partner agencies to gather and share intelligence relating to security vulnerabilities,” Commander Barrett said. “Criminal groups may attempt higher-risk jobs using the scarce flights that are available. An insider could assist in facilitating this.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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MAJORITY SUPPORT INDIGENOUS VOICE TO PARLIAMENT

By Australian Newsletter

Campaigners for a constitutionally enshrined indigenous voice to parliament have been buoyed by polling indicating support for the concept is increas­ing. According to research commissioned by the From The Heart campaign and conducted by CT Group, 56 per cent of Australians would vote yes to a constitutionally enshrined voice if a referendum were held today. Successive prime ministers have categorically rejected the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart’s call for an indigenous voice in the Constitution. Malcolm Turnbull then Scott Morrison described it as a proposal for a third chamber of parliament. While the Morrison government supports a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenou­s Australians, it sees the voice as separate.

However, the statement presented to the Australian people after dialogues with indigenous people around Australia earned the support of two former chief justices and big corporates, including BHP, which donated $1m for an education campaign ahead of a referendum. Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt has asked indigenous leaders Marcia Langton and Tom Calma to oversee the co-design of a voice to government that would be enshrine­d in legislation, rather than the Constitution. But high-profile supporters of the Uluru statement have not given up hope that the full intent of the document can be realised. Latest polling shows support for a yes vote for a voice to parliament increased by 7% in three months, to 56% of voters.

According to the latest research, only 17 per cent of Australians would vote no, which is down 3 per cent since March, when the question was put by CT Group to a sample of 2000 voters. The polling, conducted last month, asked: “If a referendum were held today, how would you vote on the proposal to change the Constitution to set up a new body comprising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that gives advice to federal parliament on ATSI issues?” The earlier research in March indicated support was higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: 71 per cent said they would vote yes for a constit­utionally enshrined voice to parliament.

Mr Wyatt has repeatedly urged pragmatism on the issue. He says Australians are conservative, especially when it comes to the Constitution, and has express­ed fear that any form of constitutional recognition would fail at a referendum if a question about a voice were included. From The Heart director Dean Parkin says this research shows momentum is on the side of support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart. He believes the polling backs the call of Uluru dialogue leaders including Noel Pearson, Megan Davis, Pat And­erson and Roy Ah-See that there should not be a compromise. “More and more Australians are joining the movement for a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament,” Mr Parkin said.

“People can see it is fair and practical that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a say over matters that affect them. They understand it’s not polit­ic­ians and bureaucrats in Canberra that know what works best in the Kimberley or Cape York but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from those regions. “Those suggesting alternatives are at odds with the Australian­ people,­ who increasingly support the call for a voice to parliament from the Uluru Statement from the Heart.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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MORE REMOTE INDIGENOUS GOING HUNGRY

By Australian Newsletter

Indigenous people in remote communities are running out of food more often, despite millions of dollars being paid to support government-owned retailers such as Outback Stores. According to Australian Nat­ional University research, the proportion of indigenous people living in very remote communities who ran out of food rose from 37 per cent to 43 per cent between 2013 and 2019. That’s partly because between 2006 and 2016 incomes for indigenous people in those areas fell for most households. Outback Stores have been accused of sending unwanted fruit and vegetables to stores and leaving them to wear the cost of subsiding the waste.

Another retailer, Community Enterprise Queensland, was selling some staples at five times mainstream supermarket costs, according to a comparison by the Torres Shire Council. Moccona coffee usually costing about $15 sold for $55.72, it found. ANU researchers Francis Markham and Sean Kerins, in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the issue, wrote that bringing food prices in remote areas into line with those in cities would cut the proportion of households running out of food “by about 10 per cent”. However, the submission notes, even if cheap food were able to be delivered to remote communities, “a significant proportion of residents of remote indigenous communities would still be going without sufficient food,” the researchers wrote.

The increase in the number of households going without food has occurred despite the establishment of Outback in 2006, with the federal government contributing $40m to help improve food security in the bush. In subsequent years, Outback received a further $45m and has so far spent about $39m of the total, including on subsidising “unviable” remote retail outlets. Outback operates stores in almost 40 remote communities on a fee-for-service basis. In its submission to the inquiry, the retailer attacked critics of the $20m in rebates Outback had collected since 2008, saying it was “simply simplistic to link responsible management of rebate income to high sell prices.

Outback defended its pricing and said comparing them to mainstream supermarkets was “unrealistic”. “We suggest a national-level collaboration is required between a broad range of stakeholders to first recognise the disproportionate impact of the high cost of acquiring goods in remote retail environments and then collectively work towards putting mechanisms in place to improve affordability for remote community stores,” Outback wrote in the submission. Aboriginal Investment Group, a critic of Outback’s practices, has provided evidence that rebates accounted for $8.80 in the $33.70 price of a tub of baby formula. The same product could be sold for just $24.90, AIG said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ONLINE GAMBLING SOARS DURING LOCKDOWN

By Australian Newsletter

Poker machine gambling is way down, but online gambling rates have surged during the COVID 19 lockdown. An Australian study had revealed a 67% increase in online gambling for the period March and April 2020. An earlier study of children aged 8-16 in Melbourne found that many have already gambled, and that online sports betting is particularly attractive to them. “Kids are getting these ideas from TV advertising” said Hannah Pitt, Deakin University researcher and the Melbourne study’s author. “They’re hearing people say “bet now” and “just click this” and they pick up on the positive messages they’re getting.

Betting advertising is banned in Australia during the “G” classification TV timeslots, but sports broadcasts watched by many children are exempt. Children cannot watch a game of football on TV without exposure to online gambling advertising. They cannot watch the evening news bulletin without seeing gambling that is advertised during the sports report. Sports betting is on the rise , and it’s a problem for teenage gamblers. Research reveals that between 60 and 70 per cent of children have gambled despite being underage , and one in 25 teenagers has a gambling problem. FamilyVoice National Director Peter Downie said  “we need to protect children by banning advertisements for online gambling during news broadcasters or sports programs.

Source: FamilyVoice Australia

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NATIONAL EUTHANASIA UPDATE

By Australian Newsletter

‘Euthanasia’ comes from the Greek meaning ‘a good death’. Assisted suicide advocates claim that their form of ‘a good death’ will assure a peaceful death free from suffering. However, wherever assisted suicide or ‘voluntary euthanasia’ is legalised, it puts pressure on the elderly, terminally ill and people trapped in fear or despair to end their lives. The fear of “being a burden” consistently ranks high in requests for assisted suicide and euthanasia. While coronavirus has slowed the pace of many things, it has not slowed the push for assisted suicide and euthanasia across Australia. Advocates for allowing these practices doggedly pursue their agenda in every state.

Most alarming is Tasmania, which in around September will consider a private member’s End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020. This extreme euthanasia law will allow assisted suicide for those who are not terminally ill, including those who are disabled, as well as those not experiencing physical or emotional suffering related to their condition, no need for a specialist doctor and a turnaround of four days. Thankfully, calls for the bill to extend to children under the age of 18 were rejected. Regrettably, without even seeing the bill, Tasmanian Labor has pledged to back it. Western Australia legalised euthanasia last year and the laws are set to come into effect in June 2021.

The operation of WA’s scheme is currently in the hands of their Health Department’s ‘Implementation Team’. More lax than the Victorian euthanasia law, the WA bill has fewer conditions on doctor qualifications and patient eligibility. Shockingly, an amendment which sought to ensure people living in remote areas had the same level of access to palliative care as they will have to euthanasia was rejected. From next year, terminally ill people living in remote WA may feel that taking their lives is their only state-supported response to their suffering. South Australia is waiting for a report from the new Parliamentary Joint Committee on End of Life Choices, established last year.

Put on hold due to social distancing restrictions, the committee is now expected to report in July-August. To date, South Australia seems to be particularly inoculated against euthanasia, having defeated assisted suicide bills 15 times. In New South Wales, the ‘progressive’ elements within the parliament are still feeling bruised after a painful abortion bill campaign last year, during which the Premier made a commitment that she would not bring forward any more conscience votes before the 2023 election.  The Queensland government deferred the debate on any euthanasia bill until after their 31 October state election. The Premier has tasked the Queensland Law Reform Commission to present a report to the next Attorney-General on 1 March 2021.

The territories, guided by federal law, still do not have the authority to legalise euthanasia. The Northern Territory’s 2018 attempt to win back the right to legislate on matters like euthanasia was voted down.  Assisted suicide became legal in Victoria on 19 June 2019. In the first six months, 50 Victorians ended their lives in this way. This number more than quadrupled the modest estimate of 12 Victorians annually (safe, legal and rare?) promised by euthanasia advocates before assisted suicide was legalised in 2018. This number is expected to rise further as people fear dying lonely deaths due to social distancing protocols. Tragically, the law will only be reviewed on its 5th anniversary, not after the current surge in demand.

During the last week of May, Australia celebrated National Palliative Care Week. A KPMG report found that an investment of only $350 million in palliative care would save more than $450 million in the wider health care system. By comparison, and in the name of keeping the most vulnerable safe, the federal government committed to various economic stimulus measures during lockdown totalling $180 billion. Why is it, that when vulnerable people need fair and equitable funding for palliative care, the resources are denied?

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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TASMANIAN INDEPENDENT MLC ATTACK ON RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ILL-ADVISED

By Australian Newsletter

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has contradicted claims by Mike Gaffney MLC that people of faith should not influence public policy. Mr Gaffney’s comments, reported on the National Secular Lobby website, suggest that the separation of church and state means, “…no religious group should feel as though they should be able to influence policy making in Australia.” The comments are made in the context of Tasmania’s debate over assisted suicide. “Mr Gaffney appears to exclude people of faith from the process of democracy, which is unconstitutional and undemocratic,” said ACL Tasmanian Director, Christopher Brohier.

“Tasmania is not a two-class society, divided between secularists who get to engage with politics and people of faith who don’t. Mr Gaffney’s comments view people of faith as second-class citizens, whose beliefs exclude them from democracy.” “Tasmania’s constitution protects religious freedom, indeed, it is the only state to do so, and the Commonwealth Constitution guarantees free political communication for all Australians.” “All Australians have the constitutionally guaranteed right to speak into the public affairs of state on the basis of their beliefs. One of our High Court Chief Justices has said, ‘it could not be otherwise.’”

Mr Brohier called on Mr Gaffney to withdraw his ill-advised remarks and debate the issue of assisted suicide on its merits. “The ACL has opposed an extraordinary bill which will permit people who are not terminally ill to be assisted to commit suicide on the basis of what might happen to them in the future. This is the sort of issue that needs to be debated.”

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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PERTH COUNCIL TO CANCEL CHRISTMAS NATIVITY EVENT

By Australian Newsletter

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has called on the City of Perth Commissioners to reverse their decision to cancel the popular Christmas Nativity Event. “Commissioner Hammond’s claim that the Nativity Event was ‘not all inclusive’ is laughable,” said ACL Western Australian Director Peter Abetz. “The Nativity Event has consistently drawn large crowds, including people with or without strong faith. With 52% of Australia’s population identifying as Christian, cancelling the Nativity is not inclusive! The Nativity Event has a cast of over 100 local singers and actors and has been a highlight in the Perth events calendar for 23 years.”

Mr Abetz went on “Christmas is part of Western Australia’s cultural heritage and should continue to be celebrated. Replacing the popular Nativity Event with concerts is not acceptable, as shown by the over 4,500 signatories to the change.org petition calling for the event to be reinstated.” The ACL acknowledges that the Commissioners want to encourage Christmas shoppers towards the City’s struggling retailers as they recover from the COVID-19 downturn. However, the City could relocate the Nativity Event back to Forrest Place and run it three times over the week leading up to Christmas. This will support tradition and business.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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