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VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING LAWS USED BY 124 VICTORIANS IN FIRST YEAR

By Australian Newsletter

More than 300 people have applied to end their lives in Victoria since the state’s voluntary assisted dying laws came into effect in June last year, and at least 124 have done so. The Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Review Board’s inaugural annual report, tabled in state parliament, shows 124 terminally ill Victorians legally ended their lives between June 19 last year and June 30 this year, swamping Premier Daniel Andrews’s June 2019 estimate of “around a dozen” people using the laws to die in their first year of existence. Permits to obtain lethal medication were issued to 231 people over the same period. The numbers have prompted concern from a group of eminent doctors, who say the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted inadequacies in the aged-care system and state Department of Health and Human Services which give little cause for confidence in VAD safeguards administered by DHHS.

The Australian Care Alliance, which opposes VAD, said the report raised “far more questions” than it answered. It said it was unclear how many doctors had participated in the process of sanctioning deaths under the laws, how long deaths took if there were complications in the dying process, how many of those who died were alone, and what proportion of applicants underwent palliative care assessment and treatment prior to opting for VAD. Emergency physician and former AMA vice-president Stephen Parnis said the pandemic had made clear that regulations governing aged care were “hopelessly inadequate”. “How can we have any confidence that the so-called safeguards for the dying are any better?” Dr Parnis asked. Geriatrician Mark Yates said professionals charged with the delivery of safe, ethical care for the frail and aged felt “unsupported in the current environment”.

Specialist physician John Daffy said Victorians had been promised dramatic improvement in palliative care services when the VAD laws passed in 2017. “In the three years since that promise, little has changed,’’ Dr Daffy said. “Access to palliative care has not improved, and VAD should not be the only option.’’ Self-administration permits for lethal medication were issued to 201 applicants and practitioner administration permits were issued to 30, while 134 applications were withdrawn due to the death of the applicant. Medication was dispensed to 154 people for self-administration, with 104 applicants dying by their own hand and 20 having the lethal medication administered by a medical practitioner. Forty-six people ended their lives under the laws between June 19 and December 31 last year, while 78 did so in the first six months of this year. The average age of those who died was 71, with ages ranging between 32 and 100.

Of those who died, 78 per cent had been diagnosed with a malignant condition. Half of all applicants proceeded from their first request to begin being assessed for eligibility to their final request for the medication within 19 days, with most permits then issued within two days. To be eligible for voluntary assisted dying, Victorians need to show evidence they have an incurable and advanced disease, illness or medical condition that is expected to cause death within six months (or within 12 months for a neurodegenerative condition). They also need to prove they are experiencing suffering they consider “intolerable”, have decision making capacity, are an adult, and an Australian citizen or permanent resident who has lived in Victoria for at least 12 months. Last December, Western Australia became the second Australian jurisdiction to pass voluntary assisted dying laws.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ONE NATION ANNOUNCES A PRO-LIFE POLICY

By Australian Newsletter

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party has announced a specific pro-life policy which acknowledges the scientific fact that a human being’s life begins in the womb. The policy was announced prior to the recent Queensland election with a promise to roll back what they referred to as Queensland Labor’s ‘brutal and extreme abortion law’. The policy seeks to:-

Reduce abortion gestational limits,

Ban sex-selective abortion,

Provide medical care for babies born alive during an abortion,

Provide pain-relieving anesthesia to babies prior to an abortion,

Restore medical professional’s full right to a conscientious objection,

Ban aborted baby organ harvesting,

Improve data reporting.

It is hoped that the policy will be retained into the future and was not an election specific policy designed as a strategic move to improve their electoral support prior to the Queensland election. In Queensland both the Liberal National Party and the Katter Australia Party also committed pre-election to review or roll back Labor’s Termination of Pregnancy Act (2018). Commitments such as these from Australian political parties and sitting members is an Australian first and a major step forward in the protection of every human life. Tireless campaigning from thousands of Queenslanders is reaping encouraging rewards.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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AUSTRALIANS PRAYING MORE DURING COVID 19

By Australian Newsletter

Churches may have closed their doors, but more Australians are opening their minds to spirituality and prayer.  Researchers have found Australians say they have been praying more during the COVID-19 crisis, suggesting the pandemic has led many to reassess their priorities in life. Katie Stringer from Leichhardt in Sydney, a teacher and mother of three children aged from 6 to 13, said she and her family had been praying more at home together during the pandemic. They read passages from the Bible during family meals and in the car during school drop-off. Mrs Stringer said the closure of their local Anglican church forced them to “assess their spiritual connection”.  “It reminded us our faith is also our responsibility and not just the responsibility of the minister in our church,” she said. “We needed to be proactive in talking to God.”

Social researcher Mark McCrindle surveyed 1002 people and found more than a third (35 per cent) said they were praying more and 41 per cent were thinking about God more. A quarter said they were reading the Bible more. Nearly a half (47 per cent) said they had thought more about their mortality and the meaning of life. “The research is showing that this COVID situation has rattled Australians and got them thinking about the big purpose of life,” Mr McCrindle said. “It’s got them re-prioritising their life.” Charles Sturt University Associate Professor Ruth Powell, who studies Australian spirituality said she was not surprised by the survey results. Her own research as director of the National Church Life Survey has shown a third of Australians pray or meditate “in normal times”. “In this context when a proportion say I think I am praying more, it’s not surprising if it has been heightened at this time,” she said.

“What we know from our own research is that Australians are already moderately religious or spiritual. “It’s often in times of crisis that you do go to the big spiritual questions.”  Macquarie University Professor Marion Maddox, an authority on the intersection of religion and politics, said it was not surprising many people would be thinking more about their spirituality and mortality during an existential crisis. “The bushfires would have had similar effects of making people think about the meaning and purpose of life or questions about environmental concerns and our relationship to the human world,” she said. “It’s at the same time that churches and places of collective worship are closing, so people aren’t able to gather and do their spiritual reflection as easily together. They can do it online, but it’s not quite the same.”

Anglican Bishop of South Sydney Michael Stead said he has received anecdotal feedback that parishioners were reading the Bible and praying more. “The enforced slow down and isolation of the COVID restrictions have meant that people have been forced to step off the treadmill and realise there is more to life than the endless grind of work and pursuit of material ends,” he said. “It has given people an opportunity to reflect more deeply on what is the ultimate meaning of life and hence to dig into spiritual resources to help answer those kind of questions. “There is a degree where we are all thinking about our own mortality now and that is forcing a reconnection back to God.”  Brian Houston, Senior Pastor at Hillsong Church said he had no doubt more people were asking questions about faith and their relationship with God during the pandemic. He said the availability of church online had made services “more accessible to people in the privacy of their own homes”.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher welcomed the McCrindle survey saying “when you consider that only 16% of the population attends church regularly and we’ve got more than 25% praying more during this period it shows there’s a level of spiritual practice in Australia, beyond what might get measured by church attendance”.  Professor Stephen Pickard, director of the Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre at Charles Sturt University said for some, the coronavirus pandemic was a time for slowing down, welcome solitude and more time with family. But for others, it was a time of loneliness, isolation, fear and financial hardship. He said the McCrindle survey suggested that sustained periods of isolation had been conducive to prayer and the discovery of spiritual resources people may not have realised they had. The stress of the coronavirus pandemic had “opened up a crack in the universe as we know it” and for some “a window to God’s presence that we hadn’t anticipated”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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TASMANIAN ASSISTED DYING BILL PASSES UPPER HOUSE

By Australian Newsletter

On 11 November we remember those who died so that we might live. The Tasmanian Upper House on that day last week voted to enable those who live to encourage people to die. Mr Christopher Brohier, the Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) Tasmanian Director said “It is sad that without proper thought or scrutiny, the Tasmanian Upper House has passed Mike Gaffney’s End of Life Bill. The Tasmanian Lower House must now exercise the rigour that was lacking in the Upper House to properly interrogate this Bill.” “The ACL welcomes Premier Gutwein’s announcement that an independent review panel will consider the amended bill and advise parliament next year.  “This is the careful and independent scrutiny that this flawed Bill should have been given in the Upper House.

The ACL has been calling for such a review for months now. We are very pleased that the Premier has shown leadership on this critical issue for all Tasmanians. “The review should be designed to take submissions from the public and stakeholders. “Liberal party members will have a conscience vote on the Bill. We call upon the Australian Labor Party to allow their members a proper conscience vote.” The ACL calls on all Members of the House of Assembly to closely examine the Bill for risks to the elderly and vulnerable, and not to be rushed into supporting it on the basis of emotive arguments.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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ASIO ISSUES ALERT TO UNIVERSITIES OVER CHINA LINKS

By Australian Newsletter

Australia’s spy agency has warned universities about the risk to ­national security from Chinese government recruitment programs, including the Thousand Talents Plan, and has alerted them to the ­potential for collaboration to turn into espionage. ASIO gave private briefings to universities urging them to strengthen their disclosure ­regimes and making them aware of the risks of foreign talent recruitment programs including technology transfer, security sources said. The revelations come as the deputy chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Labor MP Anthony Byrne, supported a demand by his Liberal colleague and committee chairman Andrew Hastie for an “urgent” inquiry into the Thousand Talents Plan.

Mr Byrne said the inquiry should take place through the parliamentary committee in order to obtain classified briefings from Australian and US agencies. An investigation has revealed dozens of researchers at universities across the country had been recruited by the Thousand Talents Plan, which in some cases pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to academics and provides other lucrative perks. In exchange, academics are bound by contract terms that can include a requirement to assign intellectual property to Chinese universities. Mr Byrne said: “This raises an alarm about our national sovereignty. It would appear that Australian universities have turned a blind eye to their own academics selling their knowledge to a foreign power through a program that the FBI have identified as a national security and economic espionage threat. This is totally unacceptable.”

Education Minister Dan Tehan has revealed that his department would in coming weeks brief two ­powerful parliamentary committees on the issue. The “Thousand Talents Plan” is a Chinese Government program to recruit top scientists from around the world. It was originally designed to reverse China’s brain drain. Under Xi Jinping’s civil-military fusion, the Thousand Talents Plan helps China achieve technological and innovation advances. Western academics have been recruited through their colleagues, superiors or even via LinkedIn. They are offered a lucrative second-salary, upwards of $150,000 a year, with generous research funding. Some academics are given an entire new laboratory in a Chinese university and team of research staff.

Many are proud of their Thousand Talents link and participate with consent of their universities. Others have not disclosed the link to their universities and do not publicly admit to being part of the program. Some Thousand Talents contracts stipulate they cannot disclose their participation in the Chinese Government program without permission. They continue to work full-time for their Australian university while making frequent trips to China to visit the affiliated Thousand Talents Plan university. They continue to apply for Australian Research Council grants, with no checks about where the research will end up. Their new inventions are patented in China, often secretly.The inventions may be commercialised, with China reaping the economic benefits. Thousand Talents academics may be required to recruit more academics.

“I am working to ensure Australia’s higher education sector has strong protections against foreign interference,” Mr Tehan said. “In the coming weeks, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment will be providing in camera briefings on the government’s work to strengthen protections against foreign interference to the Senate Standing Committees on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.” ASIO has briefed universities on warning signs relating to academics who had been recruited by the Chinese government and also expressed concerns about some specific academics. ASIO confirmed the briefings on the Thousand Talents Plan and similar programs in a rare statement.

“ASIO regularly engages with Australian tertiary institutions and academia on national security issues,” a spokesperson said. “The details of those discussions are sensitive and it would be inappropriate to comment further.” Pressure is mounting on the Morrison government to hold an inquiry into foreign interference. Mr Tehan and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton both declined to comment on whether they supported the push. Higher education sources citing the sensitivity of the discussions, said ASIO had twice provided high-level briefings about foreign influence in the sector, including Thousand Talents and similar programs. The agency had also provided specific briefings to universities when it had particular concerns about a researcher, said sources involved in these discussions.

Universities already have disclosure registers for secondary employment and other conflicts of interest, but all contacted during the investigation of the Thousand Talents Plan declined to make these available. A security source said universities needed to be careful international collaboration did not become more serious and that they needed to be aware “there may be an espionage element”. “The starting point is research collaboration is overwhelmingly a good thing,” a senior security source said. “There are risks and these programs are sometimes used as a way of Intellectual Property or technology transfer.” The “Thousand Talents Plan” has been described by FBI director Christopher Wray as “economic espionage”.

Under “Thousand Talents Plan” contracts, scientists legally sign away the rights to their intellectual property to China. A standard clause in the contracts states China: “owns the copyrights of the works, inventions, patents and other intellectual properties produced by Party B (the academic) during the Contract period.” Many contracts order the scientist to observe the Chinese legal system, stating the academic: “shall observe relevant laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China and shall not interfere in China’s internal affairs.” Australian academics are also warned about religious practices, with contracts often stating: “Party B shall respect China’s religious policies, and shall not conduct any religious activities incompatible with his/her status as a foreign expert.”

They are offered a lucrative second salary, upwards of $150,000 a year, with generous research funding. Other perks include travel, tuition for their children and housing subsidies. Some academics are given an entire new laboratory in a Chinese university and team of research staff to work for them. They then have a “clone” team in China – often unbeknown to their Australian employer. The academic often makes numerous trips to China to conduct research. The aim of the program is to ‘own’ the research conducted and paid for by western universities. Another Thousand Talents contract states: “We anticipate that you will make several trips to China each year during the term of your engagement, but will perform much of your work remotely.”

China will benefit from the commercialisation: “Should Chinese scientists contribute to your discoveries in China, as we anticipate, our institutions will jointly own, protect and manage the commercialisation of these jointly-made discoveries.” While the FBI is investigating more than 1000 cases in the US involving real or attempted theft of intellectual property, with many involving the Thousand Talents plan, in Australia, there is no agency that combines intelligence and law-enforcement. The Thousand Talents Plan does not fall directly into ASIO’s remit and it also involves IP theft in exchange for money. This is not currently illegal in Australia, although it is open to police to make a case for fraud, if one exists.

There is also the question of Australian Research Council grant funding going offshore. There are no checks and balances to ensure this does not happen. Official regulation of the sector is patchy, with universities themselves left to police questions of foreign interference. Mr Sharma said the revelations about the Thousand Talents program were deeply worrying. “If you’re employing an academic, you have a right to assume they are loyal to you, some of these academics seem to have been serving two masters, without the knowledge of their Australian university employer,” the Liberal MP said. Mr Wilson said: “It’s essential to be vigilant against the Chinese Communist Party’s tentacles.  Senator Kitching said Australia was “playing catch-up with other jurisdictions” when it came to combating this problem.

Source: Compiled by APN from media article

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COVID MONEY FUELING DRINKING AND GAMBLING IN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES

By Australian Newsletter

Indigenous leader Noel Pearson has warned that Government COVID 19 money such as the JobSeeker program and the ability to tap superannuation accounts is fuelling a surge in “drinking and gambling’’ in vulnerable communities across the nation. The Cape York Institute founder has also attacked governments for ignoring the pleas of Indigenous leaders to limit alcohol in their communities, a failure of policy that was driving misery, violence and hunger. After the West Australian government defied police and community leaders to implement a banned drinker register rather than blanket bottle shop restrictions in the Pilbara, Mr Pearson questioned whether state and territory governments were truly committed to the “shared decision-making” with peak Indigenous organisations that they signed up to in the Closing the Gap national agreement.

“There is grog chaos all over the country, from Cape York to the Pilbara,” Mr Pearson said. “With the JobSeeker supplement and superannuation withdrawals, the normal level of grog and gambling chaos has gone through the roof.” Mr Pearson questioned whether moves to ban problem drinkers would help curb the alcohol problem and accused state governments of being in thrall to hotel interests. “These state and territory governments are harlots to the Australian Hotels Association (AHA). The banned drinkers register will do nothing,’’ he said.  “It’s a fig leaf for a craven unwillingness to stop people from profiteering from misery, violence and hunger. “And these same governments have been charged with Closing the Gap? I thought these gov­ernments committed to ‘shared decision-making’ with the peak organisations?”

The McGowan government says the idea of the banned drinker register was floated widely, and that Indigenous people were among Pilbara residents consulted at public meetings. John Young, principal of the remote Catholic school in Wadeye, 400km southwest of Darwin, said school attendance had fallen to 30% since the federal government’s coronavirus supplement effectively doubled welfare payments. Teachers and school staff battled fatigue because they were kept up at night as alcohol wreaked havoc on the community. In the Pilbara, 1500km north of Perth, remote Aboriginal ­communities are dry but towns such as Port Hedland are not. Almost 12,000 of the region’s 60,000 residents are Indigenous. AHA’s WA chief executive, Bradley Woods, rejected Mr Pearson’s comments as unhelpful. His organisation championed the Banned Drinker Register.

It will also be rolled out on a voluntary basis in the far north Kimberley, where WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson and Indigenous leaders such as Ian Trust have called for blanket­ ­bottle shop restrictions on full-strength takeaway alcohol. “Targeted solutions are required to combat alcohol-related harm rather than blanket solutions that fail to direct the focus and resources of government towards those most in need,” Mr Woods said. The Northern Territory (NT) has had a banned drinker register since 2017. Stationing officers outside bottle shops who ask for identification has led to claims of racial profiling. Senior health officials believe it is not as effective as the NT’s floor price on alcohol, a first for Australia when it was introduced in Oct­ober 2018. It pushed up the price of cask wine from as little as 70c a standard drink to $1.30.

In April, a review found the NT floor price coincided with a fall in consumption of cask wine and a reduction in alcohol related violence. It did not affect tourist numbers. The NT government has flip-flopped on its support for a proposal for Darwin’s first Dan Murphy’s across the road from the city’s largest Aboriginal town camp. The fight over that bottle shop is in its fifth year. In the Pilbara, the latest debate over alcohol restrictions was prompted by confronting CCTV footage of women and girls being beaten by drunks in the streets of South Hedland. While Pilbara mining camps enforce restrictions on the amount and strength of alcohol its workers can consume while living and working on site, police said there was carnage in the towns of Port Hedland and South Hedland, where some people bought up to 3 cartons of beer on the day Centrelink payments arrived.

Ngurra Kujungka chair Bruce Booth said he was among Indigenous leaders in the Pilbara who favoured broad bottle shop restrictions so his people were not drawn to coastal towns, where they sometimes got stranded and in trouble. In his desert hometown of Nullagine, elders have a longstanding agreement with the hotel that full-strength takeaway beer can be sold from noon to 1pm only. If people want full strength beer after that, they must go inside the pub. “It keeps people safe, and the hotel can still make money,” Mr Booth said. The Coalition of Peaks, which rewrote the Closing the Gap agreement with the federal government, made shared decision-making with Indigenous people a priority reform.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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‘SAFE SCHOOLS’ PROGRAM OFFICIALLY DEFUNCT IN PARTS OF AUSTRALIA BUT…..

By Australian Newsletter

But like the hydra of Greek mythology, radical gender ideology seems to sprout new heads and find alternative ways into our children’s classrooms. It’s incredibly refreshing, then, to see Mark Latham tackling this issue head on. The former federal Labor leader turned NSW One Nation MP has introduced a bill to ban gender fluidity indoctrination from schools and to enshrine parental rights. While his proposed law only covers NSW, his stand is relevant to all state and territories. Here are some highlights of his recent speech on the subject.

“We hear a lot of talk in the political debate about colonisation, but the worst colonising practice in our society are attempts by social engineers, many of them in the education system, to take over the role of parents. It is part of the post-modernist attack on the nuclear family. In trying to unravel and remake our civilisation, they know the foundations of family are critical. If they can convince young people that things such as family and gender are socially constructed and that there is some kind of conspiracy to deny them their true identity, then no part of our culture is safe. Parents, not schools, are the teachers of the values of their children. There are some fine teachers in the education system, but at the end of the day they are strangers in the lives of families.

“They come and go while parents are there 24/7, loving, nurturing and celebrating the achievements of their children, and dealing with the problems late at night and on weekends, never with a six-week break. Parenting can be tough and, in the era of social media, it can be challenging. The main thing parents ask of schools in the social development of children is to do no harm. Do not confuse our children by telling five and six-year-olds that gender is as fluid as water and that they can be a boy one day and a girl the next; do not run classes in which 12-year-olds are told to pretend that they have come from another planet and arrive on earth without a penis or a vagina as Safe Schools did; do not confuse our children about the fixed biological reality of gender in that, other than a small number of cases, people are born male or female.

“Do not sexualise children, creating mental illnesses and other problems in their young lives; do not engage in the child abuse of promoting gender fluidity; and do not turn our schools into political indoctrination camps, imposing the personal views of educators onto students. Schools must deliver education, not indoctrination. The Government has some good intentions, but good intentions are not enough. The Berejiklian Government does not actually run the New South Wales school system. It is run by bureaucrats, the Teachers Federation and what I call the education establishment, the same group of academics who have given our State the fastest falling school results in the world. For such people, the 2017 decision to end Safe Schools was irrelevant. They run the education system, so they have simply found other ways of implementing the same policy.

That is why the bill is needed: to legislate the provisions that the Government has been unable to provide for itself and students and families in New South Wales. My bill outlaws gender fluidity teaching, course development and teacher training and ends the accreditation, and thus the employment, of any individual breaking that law. The time for audits is over; we need stronger action, legislated action, to protect our children and families. At its core, post-modernism drains the trust and confidence of students in what they are being taught. It tells them that everything they know about their family, their gender, their country and everything they might learn about history, science and other subjects is being constructed to mislead them.

“That is a disease in most Western education systems and the core reason Asian systems have moved so far and so quickly ahead of us. How can our students and schools possibly succeed if the evidential base of knowledge is consistently undermined by telling students that such things are not real and factual, and that it is not really knowledge?  To properly ban Safe Schools, the New South Wales Government needs to kill cold dead the core premise on which it was based, that teachers have a legitimate role to play in shaping the morality of children on personal identity questions such as gender and sexuality. These matters must be the sole preserve of families. Since I was elected to this Parliament 16 months ago, my office has had a constant stream of complaints about politics in schools. Parents are sick and tired. They want this Parliament to make its choice.

Source:  Australian Family Coalition

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WESTERN AUSTRALIAN PREMIER CLAIMS CORONAVIRUS BORDER BAN HAS DESTROYED DRUG TRADE

By Australian Newsletter

Mark McGowan’s COVID-19 border ban and social restrictions have smashed the West Australian drug trade and driven down crime rates in the state, including in Aboriginal communities. Border restrictions imposed by the WA Premier have blocked the importation of drugs into the state from the east coast, doubling the price of methyl amphetamine and forcing drug users to source other illicit substances. In a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into COVID-19 criminal activity, the WA Police Force said closing the state’s borders had disrupted “the movement of illicit drugs across regional WA”.  “Illicit drugs became increasingly difficult to source, increasing prices within the metropolitan and southwest areas. It was reported in May 2020 that methyl amphetamine was extremely difficult to source,” the submission said.

“The price of methyl amphetamine effectively doubled at this time. Addicted users are suffering the effects of reduced supply, with reductions in purity also being reported to maintain drug sales. “The State of Emergency restrictions have undoubtedly impacted on the capacity of drug trafficking syndicates to import illicit drugs into WA.” The shortage of drugs has triggered “ongoing tensions” in the state’s prison system, triggering a spike in attempts to smuggle illicit substances through prisoner mail. WA police said the border ban had forced them to redirect “significant operational resources from core law enforcement activities. The inability to devolve these functions to persons other than police has adversely impacted on organisational capacity and delivery of policing services.”

Under COVID-19 biosecurity zones, where people returned to their primary Aboriginal communities between March and June, Kalgoorlie reported a 71.5 per cent decrease in burglary offences, 59.6 per cent reduction in stealing offences and a 33.5 per cent fall in property damage offences compared to the same period last year. WA police said the four-week COVID-19 temporary liquor restrictions on the sale of takeaway alcohol “had a positive impact on alcohol-related offending” with reported offences and anti-social behaviour decreasing across the Kimberley. With retail shops and licensed venues closing and more people staying at home, WA police said there had been a “steep decrease” in burglaries, stealing, assaults and drug-related offences in Perth.

“In contrast, Metropolitan Region crime statistics have shown a significant increase in family violence assaults and threatening behaviour offences since the beginning of March 2020. “The Women’s Council is expecting a large spike in refuge demand after the COVID-19 crisis is over and when women are feeling safer to leave.” The WA police submission said there had been an increase in reports about the “prevalence of COVID-19 related instances of racism and racist criminal activity”, particularly in Asian-Australian communities.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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LOTTERYWEST DECISION ON MARGARET COURT IN BREACH OF EQUAL OPPORTUNITY ACT

By Australian Newsletter

The Australian Christian Lobby has written to the Premier highlighting a serious breach of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 by the LotteryWest board which unanimously rejected the grant application of Victory Life Community Services Inc. The grant to enable a freezer van to be purchased to help support needy families, was rejected on the grounds of Pastor Margaret Court’s (Pastor of Victory Life) ‘biblical views on same-sex marriage’.  The WA Director of Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), Peter Abetz, said, “The LotteryWest board is not above the law. Section 62 of the Act makes it a specific offence to discriminate against another person in the provision of grants on the grounds of a person’s religious convictions.” “This rejection will affect all faith-based charities that hold traditional Christian, Muslim, Sikh or similar beliefs on human sexuality.

Any group which publicly upholds faith-based beliefs on human sexuality at odds with the board’s views will no longer be eligible for a grant. “At a meeting with LotteryWest,  two staff from Victory Life were told they need not apply in the future, that LotteryWest is a major sponsor of the Gay Lesbian Mardi Gras and that their applications would not be successful on account of Pastor Court’s views on marriage and gender issues. “It is an abuse of the Board’s decision-making power to punish people like Margaret Court for public commentary contrary to their own views,” Mr Abetz added. ACL calls on the Equal Opportunity Commission to instruct  LotteryWest, on their legal obligations under the Equal Opportunity Act 1984. The Premier needs to install a Board that genuinely values the multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature of WA society.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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WHY WERE FOUR NEWBORNS LEFT TO DIE?

By Australian Newsletter

Victoria’s stage-four lockdown prevented four sick newborn babies, who subsequently died, from being flown from Adelaide to Melbourne to receive lifesaving cardiac surgery. The babies, the fourth of whom died only last Friday, would normally have been taken by a team from Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital and flown to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital for specialist heart surgery. But with Melbourne under lockdown the distraught families of the infants were told that their children were not permitted to enter Victoria for the operations. And SA Health was also of the view that the babies should remain in Adelaide for fear of exposing them to the virus in Victorian hospitals as they were immunocompromised.

Aside from exposing the human impacts of the Victorian lockdown, the deaths of the children have been slammed as an indictment on the South Australian government, which rejected calls from medical specialists to establish a specialist paediatric cardiac service at the Womens Children Hospital (WCH). SA is the only mainland state without that service. The deaths of the babies emerged at a distressing hearing of the SA parliament’s public health committee, during which obstetrician John Svigos confirmed the lockdown meant the children could not receive the usual care. Professor Svigos said the starting point for the problem was the failure of the SA government to fund a specialist paediatric service, but that the Melbourne lockdown had also left the four babies with no hope.

“Particularly in our current COVID situation, where the usual process of referral to the Melbourne cardiac unit is no longer tenable, and referral to Sydney is on a case-by-case basis,” Professor Svigos told the committee. “I’ve been given to understand that the WCH has sadly seen the deaths of three babies in the past four weeks who were unable to be transferred, who almost certainly would have benefited from on-site cardiac services. I shall leave it to you to imagine the profound effect of these deaths on the parents, their families and the dedicated medical and nursing staff dealing with these tragedies.” Giving evidence after Professor Svigos, Salaried Medical Officers Association chief industrial office Bernadette Mulholland revealed that four babies had now died in the past month following the death of another last week.

She told the committee that the problem was South Australia’s failure to provide cardiac services that exist for babies in every other state except Tasmania. “If we had that service here in SA that would prevent the deaths of some of these children,” she said. She was backed by Professor Svigos, who said that while SA Health spent $5m a year transferring sick babies and children interstate, a specialist unit at the WCH would cost $6m to establish and $1m a year to operate. Ms Mulholland said doctors had advised her “that in these four cases, the issue was Victoria not being able to retrieve the babies’’. ALP health spokesman Chris Picton said the problem would not have occurred if the government had funded the service. But independent upper-house MP Connie Bonaros said Labor had cut the funding and the Liberals refused to reinstate it.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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CHURCH LEADERS URGE VICTORIAN AND WESTERN AUSTRALIAN PREMIERS TO OPEN CHURCHES

By Australian Newsletter

295 church pastors and leaders have written an open letter to Premier Daniel Andrews urging him to allow churches to open for indoor worship, for the wellbeing of the church members and the wider community. “The Australian Christian Lobby congratulates the joint effort of these church leaders,” Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) spokesperson Jasmine Yuen said. “Their letter expresses concern about the mental health and wellbeing of the community in this prolonged lockdown. Suicidal thoughts and self-harm among young people have spiked. The church leaders’ concerns further highlight the negative impacts raised for months by many Victorian health professionals, warning the government against a prolonged and strict lockdown.

“The daily new COVID-19 cases in Victoria are at the lowest in months. The Andrews government cannot justify continuing a draconian lockdown that hurts the economy, livelihoods and the health and mental wellbeing of the community. “These church leaders now join business and hospitality sectors calling on the Andrews government to remove restrictions. Churches can apply a COVID-Safe Plan and social distancing measures. For instance, contact tracing is easier than in public places, making church services a safe place for people to gather.” The ACL calls upon the Andrews government to listen to these respected church leaders, allow churches to open and contribute to community wellbeing.

Editors note:  Despite recent announcements of the lifting of many restrictions in Victoria, Churches will only be allowed 20 worshippers inside and 50 outside. This means the vast majority of Churches will remain closed.

The Western Australian (WA) Government is the latest Government to discriminate against Churches. The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has labelled the WA Premier’s latest easing of COVID restrictions unfair. “Somehow, comedy lounges are okay but churches are not – it doesn’t make sense,” ACL State Director Peter Abetz said. “It is unfair, even discriminatory to scrap the ‘2-metre rule’ in theatres, concert halls, auditoriums, amphitheatres, cinemas, comedy lounges, and performing arts centres but not places of worship. The government statement said such venues are ‘low risk’ as they are seated and ticketed. Churches are also seated and the gatherings are similar from week to week, making them easily traceable.” “Until now, Western Australia had treated places of worship like other venues, but not any more.

“Faith groups provide an essential service for community health and mental well-being. They have gone out of their way to be COVID-safe. These latest, arbitrary rules are unfair and will undermine community support for the restrictions. The ACL calls upon the Premier to swiftly review and update the easing of restrictions.” Abetz said.

Source: Compiled by APN from information gained from various sources 

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ABUSED WESTERN AUSTRALIAN GIRL 11 DIES FROM SELF-HARM

By Australian Newsletter

An 11-year-old Aboriginal girl who disclosed repeated sexual abuse has died from injuries police suspect were self-inflicted. The girl died in Perth Children’s Hospital last week surrounded by distraught relatives, many of whom had supported her as she helped police investigate her alleged abuser. The girl had recently provided what prosecutors considered as crucial evidence in a video interview. The man charged with abusing her was on bail when the girl is believed to have inflicted injuries on herself that proved fatal. The fact her alleged abuser was not in jail awaiting trial has caused enormous distress inside the girl’s family. Dozens of relatives were at the hospital after it became clear she would not live. The girl was rushed from the southwest of Western Australia to hospital on the Monday and died the following afternoon.

There was shock and grief among police and child protection workers who had been working with the little girl’s family in the wake of her disclosures. Lindsay Hale, a director at the West Australian child protection department known as Communities said in an emailed statement that he extended his condolences to the family. In a statement, police confirmed a “tragic incident” involving an 11-year-old girl who attempted self-harm in a small town south of Perth. The family of the girl was being supported by Gerry ­Georgatos and Megan Krakouer from the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project.  Ms Krakouer, a Noongar woman arranged for some relatives in jail to be allowed out to say goodbye to the little girl. “Everybody is devastated, police included, but none more than the mother, siblings and family” she said

Compiled by APN from media reports

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QUEENSLAND LABOR TO LEGALISE EUTHANASIA: RELIGIOUS LEADERS CRY BETRAYAL

By Australian Newsletter

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says a re-elected Labor government would move to legalise voluntary-assisted dying. Making the major announcement at Labor’s campaign launch at Beenleigh, Ms Palaszczuk said all of her MPs would be given a conscience vote on the issue, which she referred to the Queensland Law Reform Commission this year. “I believe individuals and families should be empowered to consider all the options available in consultation with their medical professionals,” she said.  “That’s why today I can commit that the government I lead will introduce legislation in February next year to provide for the legalisation of voluntary assisted dying.” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has however denied picking a fight with the churches on the contentious issue of euthanasia during the state election campaign.

Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge has challenged Ms Palaszczuk to explain why she reneged on a commitment to let the Queensland Law Reform Commission report on draft voluntary assisted dying legislation in March, before it was put to state parliament. Asked to explain the change in light of Archbishop Coleridge’s concerns, Ms Palaszczuk said it was only fast-tracked by a matter of weeks. “It is a deeply personal issue, families, people have been raising it with me,” Ms Palaszczuk said. “We put the extra funding into palliative care as well, at the end of the day this is a choice for individuals.” Asked whether it was wise to pick a fight with the churches on the issue, Ms Palaszczuk denied that’s what was happening. “No, that’s not true, that’s not happening at all,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“I respect the churches, I went to a Catholic high school, we can agree to disagree on a whole range of matters, I absolutely respect the views of individuals, and as I’ve said, this is an incredibly, deeply personal choice for individuals. But I’m on the record saying what I believe.” While Ms Palaszczuk has said she would vote for the reform, Ms Frecklington has not said where she stands on the issue. Nationals Senator Matt Canavan said “The Queensland Labor Party’s proposed euthanasia legislation is merely an attempt to “distract people from the emptiness of the Labor Party policy platform.”  Expressing his “disappointment” in Ms Palaszczuk, the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane and former national primate Phillip Aspinall said there must be “political judgments involved in the absence of any other rationale” to fast-track the nation’s third right-to-die law.

Ms Palaszczuk stunned sections of her own party, the churches and activists on both sides of the debate by announcing she would introduce VAD legislation in February if the government was returned at Saturday week’s state election. For the first time the Premier also revealed she was personally pro-euthanasia saying: “Yes, I would vote for it.” Describing the developments as a “bolt from the blue”, Dr Coleridge said Ms Palaszczuk had reneged on a “clear commitment” to parliament on May 21 to “not rush” the process and wait for the QLRC to report on March 1 before proceeding with a VAD law. “That was turned on its head by the Premier’s announcement,” Dr Coleridge said. “So the question is what happened in the meantime, why or under what pressure has the Premier made this clearly political judgment and set it within the context of an electoral campaign?

“I really don’t understand what motivated her or under what pressure she has made the decision. But one has to ask the question.” Dr Coleridge said.  Dr Aspinall said he could only conclude Ms Palaszczuk perceived a political advantage in “gazumping” the law reform commission and advancing the timetable to legislate to next February if Labor won the election. “There does not seem to be any real explanation for that,” he said. “So one can only judge that, in the midst of an election campaign, it is due to electoral considerations there must be political judgments involved in the absence of any other rationale.” Ms Palaszczuk had previously insisted she would give “extra assistance” to the law reform commission and pledged the government wouldn’t finalise its position until the agency reported. This followed a majority decision by an all-party parliamentary committee to back VAD, with Liberal National Party dissenting, and refer a draft bill to the QLRC for vetting.

Asked this week to explain the rush, Ms Palaszczuk said: “I think it’s a very important issue for Queenslanders, it’s been raised with me countless times and there’s no reason that any extra assistance that the law reform commission requires, can’t be given. We can bring that forward so that parliament can have a vote. As I’ve said, it’ll be a conscience vote for the members of my team if we are re-elected, and I hope it is a conscience vote for all parliamentarians.” Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington would not be drawn on her personal view on euthanasia or whether an LNP government would bring on VAD legislation. The party’s policy position is opposed to assisted dying, but Ms Frecklington has said she would allow LNP MPs to vote their conscience if a bill came before state parliament.

“I will wait and see the response from the law reform commission and this is an issue that is serious and it affects people’s lives, so it is important that we listen to the complex nature of the laws and that’s why the Law Reform Commission is looking at drafting those laws,” Ms Frecklington said. Pressed on whether she supported the premise of euthanasia, she said she believed no one should have to die alone or in pain.  The row erupted as a coalition of pro-VAD groups released a survey of nearly 600 candidates running in the October 31 election on where they stood. Of the 597 candidates polled, 164 were in favour of assisted dying, 37 were unclear or uncommitted, 13 opposed and 383 did not respond. Both Dr Coleridge and Dr Aspinall confirmed they had not personally discussed assisted dying with Ms Palaszczuk or received assurances from her on the timing of any legislation.

However, Dr Coleridge said the churches had no reason to do so; they had relied on the Premier’s assurance to parliament that the QLRC would report on a draft bill first. Factional sources in the Labor Right said their understanding was the questions had been put off until after the election and Ms Palaszczuk’s announcement blindsided them. “We didn’t expect it to be front and centre of the election campaign,” Dr Coleridge told The Australian. “Our hope had been it could be dealt with in a calmer and clearer situation beyond the election. The draft legislation would be presented by the law reform commission and then would, as the Premier said, be given careful consideration by the government before it was presented to the Queensland parliament without the rather overheated context of an electoral campaign.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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AGED-CARE OPERATOR IN EUTHANASIA THREAT

By Australian Newsletter

One of Queensland’s top aged-care operators has threatened to quit the industry if it is forced to provide voluntary euthanasia. The warning by Southern Cross Care, which runs 11 aged-care homes and five retirement villages, echoes alarm by the Mater Group of Catholic hospitals about Queensland becoming the third state to introduce an assisted dying law. Voluntary assisted dying (VAD) is being driven as a grassroots election issue by pro-euthanasia groups and, on the other side, by churches and the right-to-life lobby. Chief executive Jason Eldering said VAD would put Catholic-aligned Southern Cross in a difficult position. “We would not be willing to join the assisted dying process,” he said. “We would help any of our clients or residents to move to a location where they wished to pursue the assisted dying process, but we would never intervene to cause death in our facilities.”

His comments came after the chairman of the Mater Group, Francis Sullivan, said that the private provider would not allow VAD in any of its 10 hospitals in Queensland or refer terminally ill patients who asked to die. Victoria’s foundational VAD law allows institutions such as hospitals and retirement homes to opt out on conscientious grounds and, unlike the situation with elective abortion, does not require dissenting doctors to refer patients.  The scheme came into effect in June 2019, followed by the passage of right-to-die legislation through the WA parliament in December. In March, a parliamentary committee in Queensland came out in favour of assisted dying and referred draft legislation to the QLRC. The proposed bill reflects the Victorian law by permitting a health or aged-care “entity” to refuse VAD, but it must then arrange to transfer the patient to a facility where it can be administered.

The expectation is that a re-elected Labor government under Annastacia Palaszczuk would proceed with VAD. Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington is guarded on the issue, saying she would wait to see the QLRC report, due in March. LNP policy is opposed to VAD, but she said MPs would have a conscience vote on any legislation. Mr Eldering said Southern Cross Care wanted clarity to ensure that aged-care providers would not be compelled to participate if assisted dying came in. “We are saying that the legislation and our mission are incompatible if that was the case and we were forced to join,” he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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HILLSONG’S BRIAN HOUSTON CHALLENGES NSW CORONAVIRUS RULES ON CHURCHES

By Australian Newsletter

A prominent church leader has challenged the NSW government, claiming some coronavirus restrictions on religious gatherings border on discrimination. Hillsong founder Brian Houston has urged church leaders to “unite to take a stand” against ongoing restrictions in a series of social media posts. Under the current NSW Health COVID-19 restrictions, a place of public worship must not exceed 100 people and is subject to the one person per 4sq m rule. Despite the NSW government flagging an easing of restrictions to allow up to 300 people to attend weddings from December, and allowing hospitality venues to host a maximum of 500 people seated at outdoor events from last Friday, religious gatherings have so far been excluded.  “We are all committed to keeping people safe, but it seems churches are not even being considered for a steady easing of restrictions,” Pastor Houston said.

In his online post Houston went on “So interesting that the NSW Government are about to allow 300 people to attend an indoor wedding, and things are being relaxed for the hospitality industry, but still no change for churches. We have a building with space for 4000 people yet can only have 100 in there. Reason given is ‘church people know each other (are too friendly). Do you think people are not friendly at weddings? It is getting to the point where it is discrimination.” Coronavirus restrictions in regional Victoria have also followed a similar trend, with religion lagging behind hospitality businesses. Regional Victorian hospitality businesses can now host up to 40 customers indoors and 70 people outdoors, but religious gatherings are limited to 20 worshippers outdoors, which will increase to 50 from November 1.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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EDUCATION MINISTER LAUNCHES REVIEW INTO UNIVERSITIES FREE SPEECH CODE

By Australian Newsletter

Universities will face a sweeping review into whether they are meeting national standards for freedom of speech in the face of several censorship controversies engulfing higher education. Former Deakin University vice-chancellor Sally Walker will be tasked with investigating whether universities are in alignment with the free speech code devised by former High Court chief justice Robert French. The review will assess whether there are gaps in their responses to freedom-of-speech issues, and if more action is required to make sure university leaders protect academic freedoms. Education Minister Dan Tehan commissioned Mr French to create the free speech code for universities and argued a second review was needed to ensure universities were implementing its core principles.

“What this review is about is ensuring that all Australians understand the importance of freedom of speech and academic inquiry, and that our universities understand that,” Mr Tehan said. “We are seeing challenges to free speech and academic inquiry across the globe. I want, and the government wants, these freedoms to be the pillars of our universities. Robert French did an outstanding job and we want to ensure that code is lived up to by our universities.”  All universities have agreed to implement the French code by the end of the year, but there are concerns in both government and academia that universities are resistant to reform and the exemptions in some universities’ free speech codes are too broad.

The University of NSW (UNSW) has apologised for caving in to Chinese protests and deleting material critical of the mainland crackdown in Hong Kong. Two Queensland institutions, the University of Queensland and James Cook University, are also being sued in freedom of speech cases by a suspended student and a sacked professor respectively. UNSW became further embroiled in the free speech controversy when it was revealed that the reason for deleting a tweet from the university’s official Twitter account, was presented differently to Chinese students. The tweet, which publicised the call from a UNSW adjunct law lecturer for UN action on human rights violations in Hong Kong, was taken down after it offended Chinese law students at the university and was attacked in the Chinese government-owned newspaper Global Times.

Professor Jacobs apologised in an email to staff and said the deletion of the tweet was not in line with the university’s freedom-of-speech policy that allows staff and students to express any view that can be legally expressed in Australia. However, two days earlier the university had sent a letter in Mandarin to Chinese students and alumni saying the tweet was deleted because it was misleading. The letter apologised for the trouble “the incident” had caused. Elaine Pearson, the lecturer whose views on Hong Kong were referred to in the tweet, and also expressed in a story on the UNSW website, said that “it seems the university is saying one thing to international students and one thing to university staff”.

“It undermines the sincerity of the apology which went to staff,” said Ms Pearson, who is also the Australian director of Human Rights Watch. Mr Tehan said he would not prejudge the findings of Professor Walker’s inquiry but he did not rule out making the free speech code mandatory by Christmas. “Obviously the terms of reference state she can provide advice on that,” he said. “If there is advice we should make any changes, I will move as quickly as possible to implement that.” Professor Walker, a highly regarded law academic who led Deakin for eight years and whose husband Brendan Murphy is the federal Health Department secretary who has led the national response to COVID-19,  will hand over her findings to the government in November.

Mr French, now chancellor of the University of Western Australia, was commissioned to develop a voluntary code for university free speech in November 2018 following protests against gender studies critic Bettina Arndt’s campus speaking tour in which she denied there was a rape crisis affecting Australian students. Since then, 20 universities have implemented the code in some form and 14 are in the process of developing a new free speech policy in line with Mr French’s framework. In the past several months alone, four major universities have faced serious free speech issues. University of Queensland student Drew Pavlou, who was suspended from UQ over his criticism of Chinese influence on campus, is suing the university, its chancellor and vice-chancellor for $3.5m.A UQ disciplinary panel suspended Mr Pavlou’s enrolment for two years after he sparked an international incident last year when he staged a campus protest against China.

And a report in The Australian reveals that some federal South Australian MPs are concerned about rising Chinese influence at the University of Adelaide, as the cash-strapped institution seeks to hire former UQ vice-chancellor Peter Hoj as its new leader. Sacked James Cook University professor Peter Ridd will also go to the High Court over his controversial sacking for publicly criticising the institution over its climate change science. The Federal Circuit Court recently found that the Townsville based university had not acted unlawfully when it sacked their employee of 30 years in 2018 for breaching its code of conduct with his criticism, overturning a previous decision to award him $1.2m.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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FOREIGN FORCES SPYING ON DIASPORA SAYS ASIO

By Australian Newsletter

The nation’s spy agency has warned foreign governments are targeting diaspora communities, using threats of harm and intimidation against individuals and families in Australia and overseas. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has described the level of foreign interference in the country as “extensive”, with overseas governments seeking to influence diaspora communities “to control opposition”. ASIO, which does not name China in its submission to a Senate inquiry, said interference in Australia involved “clandestine or deceptive activities” overseen by foreign powers.  “Australia is a multicultural society with a diverse range of diaspora groups,” ASIO said. “These groups are often the victims of foreign interference. “Interference has included threats of harm to individuals and/or their families, both in Australia and abroad.”

In some cases, foreign governments will seek to use members of the diaspora community in Australia to monitor, direct and influence the activities of the same diaspora communities. “These threats have come directly from foreign government representatives and also from other members of the diaspora communities themselves, acting at the direction of the foreign government.” The national security agency, led by director-general of security Mike Burgess, is in contact with more than 100 ethnic and religious groups and was actively working with diaspora communities to “protect them from attempts at foreign interference”. China has criticised Australia in recent years over moves by the Turnbull and Morrison governments to increase monitoring, detection and enforcement of foreign interference.

ASIO also warned of “communal violence”, described as “activities that promote violence between different groups of people in the community”. “The impact of COVID-19, including a potentially declining economy and increased public anxiety, could motivate disaffected demographics to violence. Groups or individuals promoting communal violence could exploit the pandemic to target specific ethnic communities,” it said. “In the past six months, there have been no large-scale incidents of violence between groups in the Australian community. While community cohesion has been tested by COVID-19 and local reactions to recent overseas protest movements, we do not expect large-scale incidents of communal violence in Australia.”

With the national terrorism threat level remaining at “probable”, ASIO said Sunni Islamist extremism continued to be the “principal source of the terrorist threat”, linked to small groups or individuals. In a separate submission, Australian Multicultural Council chair Sev Ozdowski said it was the responsibility of the government to “protect refugee from attacks on them by the agents of foreign governments”.  “The relationship between the countries of origin and refugee communities in Australia may be tense on occasions,” Dr Ozdowski said. “It is important to allow refugee communities to challenge, within Australian law, the human rights abuse abroad and their actions to advance democratic institutions in their country of origin.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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PRAYER FOR THE QUEENSLAND ELECTION

By Australian Newsletter

There has been an exciting new initiative launched to pray for the Queensland Elections coming up on 31st October.

There are 3 aspects to this:-

  1. A small booklet titled State Election Prayer Guide.
  1. A weekly ZOOM prayer meeting on Thursday night 7.30-9.00pm (Queensland time) until 5th November. ZOOM meeting number 99088282300 password 631082.
  1. A website using the Kajabi Platform where you can access more specific prayer points as they become available (and particularly for your electorate).

This will be available to everyone at no cost when you sign up and click on Connect to the Online Community.

So go to www.prayerqldelections.com  to download the Prayer Guide and connect to the online community.

For further information email dmrowsome@gmail.com or go to www.brisbaneprays.com

Source: Brisbane Prays

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FOREIGN STUDENTS BULLY UNIVERSITY LECTURERS TO PASS

By Australian Newsletter

Australian university lecturers are being cowed into lowering their academic standards by “highly organised” networks of international students making co-ordinated attacks against any staff members whose assignments and examinations prove too difficult to pass. Despite presenting themselves as the purveyors of elite education, academics at some of the country’s most prestigious universities said they had been forced to “dumb down” courses to ensure foreign students with little or no English were able to complete degrees, or else they risked being targeted by official complaints signed by groups of up to 100 pupils. Academics are concerned the lowering of standards for overseas students means Australian students’ education is also suffering.

The University of Sydney confirmed it had received 135 formal complaints about staff regarding coursework or assessments last year. “A significant number of similar complaints indicates there was a co-ordinated approach among some complainants about a relatively small number of teaching staff,” a spokesperson said. “The main reason for complaints were related to assessment processes that were alleged to have been conducted unreasonably or unfairly. All complaints were considered and, where appropriate, used to inform improvements in teaching practice.” One professor, who teaches at a respected Group of Eight university in Sydney, said the complaints were taken so seriously by university management that they had the potential to derail careers.

“International students didn’t used to be organised but in the past two years that has all changed,” said the lecturer, who asked not to be named for fear of professional repercussions. “Their studying strategy is usually memorisation: memorisation of sample questions, and they always request the exams from the previous year to memorise the answers, memorise the methods in a very narrow way, and they have an expectation that the exam this year is going to be very similar. “If your exam questions are a bit challenging or written in a way that is different to what they have done before, then they will complain. There are groups that put together letters to complain, signed by 100 students. Then those letters go high up in the university and we can get into trouble. It has happened to several colleagues — it has happened to me.

“We then have to provide explanations … and meet with one of your supervisors to discuss it and that kind of thing.  “The universities don’t care about educating these students,  but they depend on the money that comes from them. “The trade-off is clear. It is actually easier for us to adapt to these students’ expectations. We know they’ll give us very good evaluations if we do, and then we’re not going to get into trouble and we are even going to be praised. There is really no incentive to set difficult exams.” Another professor at a Group of Eight university said the situation had been exacerbated by an over-reliance on Australia’s $34bn international education industry and that foreign students were too often admitted to courses despite lacking the English skills needed to understand the subject.

“It is absolutely corrupt. It’s a disgraceful system,” she said. “I don’t know what passes for language training in China but most of the students I see from there haven’t even the most basic English skills and can’t construct a single, grammatical sentence. And these are the masters degree candidates.” She said the situation had also resulted in a dramatic surge in cheating, and that complaints to university management were routinely ignored. “What these students do now is they’ll just buy an essay, written by someone else, as they know you can’t trace it.” she said.  “Even though you know they didn’t write it, there’s an unwillingness, when you report it to the academic integrity office, for them to say, ‘This needs to be dealt with’. I started out idealistic but I don’t even bother sending stuff to academic integrity anymore.”

A number of universities contacted denied they had experienced any issues with co-ordinated complaints against staff, while a University of NSW spokesperson said there had been “no major letter-writing campaigns” regarding coursework or assessments. UNSW economics professor Gigi Foster said universities that prioritised revenue over learning were depriving both Australian students and international students of a world-class education. “We have a responsibility to domestic students and to the taxpayers who are underwriting the university sector in this country,” Ms Foster said. “We also have a responsibility if we make an offer to a foreign student and we bring them to our shores and expect them to succeed, but they can’t because our admissions process has failed them due to economic reasons. That is a moral travesty, and it’s offensive.”

The temptations for campuses are clear. Even three years ago, high-fee-paying foreign students accounted for almost 30 per cent of tertiary students across the country and made up more than 40 per cent of all students across the nation’s most prestigious six east coast institutions. That year, international students injected $708m into annual revenue at UNSW, $756m at Melbourne University, $752m at the University of Sydney and $810m at Monash University. University of Sydney professor Salvatore Babones said the financial windfalls were so vast, many institutions had devised “preparatory programs” to ensure foreign students could be admitted even if their English failed to meet the university’s official prerequisites.

He said the University of Sydney required foreign students to attain an International English Language Testing System score of 7.0 — which is considered a “good user” of the language, before they could be enrolled. However, the university had a “pathway program” with Taylors College that accepts students with a score of 5.0, or a “modest user” with only a partial command of the language. “The rationale is they attend a year-long English language curriculum at Taylors College (before transitioning to Sydney University). But we hear a lot of stories about the program not being taken seriously by students and that it’s a culture in which it is impossible to fail,” he said. “We know something like 95% of international students come through the preparatory programs and then move on to the university of their choice. It is a situation that is ripe for abuse.”

The programs are set to be one of the issues raised in the NSW government’s parliamentary inquiry into the future development of the state’s tertiary education system. One Nation NSW Upper House member Mark Latham said the inquiry would look closely at the universities’ reliance on foreign funding. “They dumb down their academic standards and basically tell overseas students, ‘If you can pay the money, you’ll end up with a piece of paper from our degree factory’,” Mr Latham said. All universities approached, including the Group of Eight institutions, denied there was a problem when it comes to international students who cannot understand what they are being taught.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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SENATOR FACES THREAT OF FINES FOR ‘INSULTING’ ANTI- DISCRIMINATION COMMISSIONER

By Australian Newsletter

A Tasmanian Liberal senator and her supporters have been warned they could be prosecuted for “insulting” the state’s anti-discrimination commissioner in a rapidly escalating war over free speech in the transgender debate. Equal Opportunity Tasmania, in an email sent to Senator Claire Chandler, suggests she could face prosecution for “hindering” and “insulting” the anti-discrimination commissioner. The row followed Anti-­Discrimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt’s decision to accept a complaint against Senator Chandler over a statement, emailed to a constituent, that read: “Women’s sport, women’s toilets and women’s changing rooms are designed for the female sex and should remain that way.”

Senator Chandler, who has been outspoken on the issue since her election to federal parliament in 2019, has publicly called on the commissioner to dismiss the complaint, and only last week emailed a letter to Ms Bolt saying she would not withdraw or amend her statement. Senator Chandler said about 20 minutes after emailing that letter, an Equal Opportunity Tasmania investigation and conciliation officer emailed her, supplying “a sample of emails that the commissioner has received since your public statements about the complaint”. “Legal action can be taken against any person who uses insulting language towards any person exercising any power under the Anti-Discrimination Act,” the email said. It warned that those who “hinder” or “use insulting language” against the commissioner could be fined.

Senator Chandler said the threat was “extraordinary” and she would not rule out a complaint to the Senate privileges committee alleging interference with her work as a parliamentarian.  “The clear implication here is that they don’t only want me to stop speaking about this issue more broadly, they also want me to tell other Australians to do the same,” Senator Chandler said. “I’m simply not going to do that. There are genuine concerns at play here around my ability to undertake my role as a member of parliament and be able to discuss public policy issues with constituents. “Even more so, there’s a concern that constituents are not going to be able to contact their MPs inquiring as to their views and expect an honest response.”

Ms Bolt did not respond to a request for comment, her office citing “confidentiality provisions in the state’s anti-discrimination act.” The complaint against Senator Chandler was made by a constituent who emailed her seeking a further explanation of her views, following an opinion piece she penned for Hobart’s The Mercury newspaper. The constituent then complained about the article and the senator’s emailed explanation. Ms Bolt rejected the complaint related to the article but accepted the component related to the email. Ms Bolt said Senator Chandler’s comments in the email were such that a person who is a member of the LGBTIQ+ and gender diverse community could be humiliated, intimidated, offended and insulted.”  Senator Chandler said she would consider all legal options if the complaint was not dropped.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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