News Desk


By Australian Newsletter

The nation’s top universities are “not interested in promoting the study of things Australian” and are “failing in their responsibilities as national institutions”, leading academics and historians have warned.  Greg Melleuish, a professor at the University of Wollongong, has told a parliamentary inquiry that universities are “primarily international in their loyalties” and are becoming “highly authoritarian”.  Dr Melleuish’s view was supported by one of Australia’s leading historians, Stuart Macintyre, a former dean of the Faculty of Arts at Melbourne University, who said that universities should “pay some regard to their national responsibilities”.

Flinders University English professor Robert Phiddian said international scholarship was ranked more highly than local scholarship.  The role played by the higher education sector in framing Australian identity and democracy is being examined by a Senate inquiry.  The committee’s deputy chair, Amanda Stoker, warned that identity politics and postmodernism had “shamed” ordinary people into abandoning the political centre ground.  She said that “academic disdain” for Australian culture and identity had contributed to minimising the study of Australian history and resulted in a diminished sense of national pride within the university sector.

In his submission to the legal and constitutional affairs references committee, Dr Melleuish said:  “It is positively disadvantageous to have an Australian focus to one’s research, especially in the humanities and social sciences.  “Articles on Australian topics rarely make it into ‘top-level international journals’ and Australian journals are generally not highly ranked.  There is little incentive for academics, especially in the humanities and social sciences, to pursue Australian research projects.  “There is a strong argument to be made that Australian universities, funded by Australians, are failing in their responsibilities as national institutions.”

Professor Macintyre said some fields of Australian research were being disadvantaged because of “silly” university policies.  “Universities, partly because they are competing for international students, need to score well in international research rankings. And they are based primarily on journal citations on an international basis,” he said.  “That has disadvantaged various fields of Australian research.  It arises from the competitive nature of the system with deans who issue lists of journals you can and cannot publish in, which are starving these fields.  And it’s particularly silly because most of the deans haven’t done research in decades.

Professor Macintyre said it was a “form of competition” that was disadvantaging the national interest.  “We put an enormous amount of money into enabling Australians to go to university and a smaller amount into supporting research at universities,” he said.  “We should expect them to pay some regard to their national responsibilities.”  Professor Phiddian agreed that universities’ focus on doing well in international rankings had resulted in Australian and also New Zealand studies, being downgraded.  “International scholarship is more highly ranked than local scholarship,” said Professor Phiddian of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres.

Professor Phiddian went on “It probably makes perfectly good sense in chemistry and mathematics.  But in the arts and humanities, it generates a bias against Australian and New Zealand research.”  He said Australia had university leaders “who think universities are machines for generating university rankings”.  Maurice Newman, a former chancellor of Macquarie University, said opposition to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation exemplified a major problem in Australian universities.  “Western civilisation is something which is impossible to defend in a modern university,” Mr Newman said.  “What is inferred to us is that we are part of an inferior culture.”

“It goes to the whole issue of how we came here and questions the legitimacy of our civilisation and our society and that’s what seems to be pretty much the broad view in universities these days” Newman said.  He said universities and the corporate world were “looking more to the global view than to national interests” and adopting theories on climate change and identity politics without critical assessment.  Professor Melleuish, a political conservative who has specialised in political ideologies and systems, used his submission to sound the alarm on universities being increasingly motivated by rising in international rankings and attracting as many foreign students as possible.

He said universities had shifted from being institutions with a “strong democratic flavour to ones that are run top down by individuals who see themselves as absolute rulers”.  “Australian universities have increasingly become highly authoritarian institutions,” Professor Melleuish said.  “There is clearly a connection between their desire to become international institutions and their increasing authoritarianism.  They have moved away from being national institutions, devoted to the national interest and imbued with the Australian democratic spirit to being something quite different that is inimical to the democratic culture of Australia.”

Senator Stoker said universities played a “key role in shaping identity and culture”.  “There is some force in Professor Melleuish’s submission that academic disdain for Australian culture, combined with measures of performance that align incentives with international rather than Australian interests, have expunged our history and national pride from the curriculum,” she said.  “They have been replaced with cultural cringe, embarrassment about our history and aspiration to a globalist outlook.  As a consequence, students can fail to appreciate the freedoms that made our nation rise so swiftly, or the history that shows our democracy is worth valuing and protecting.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

Queensland’s most senior religious leaders, have united in a bid to push against the legalisation of euthanasia in that State.  An open letter signed by 16 religious authorities urges “high quality palliative care” over voluntary assisted dying.  Catholic Archbishop Coleridge, along with Anglican Archbishop Aspinall, Uniting Church Rev David Baker as well as Jewish, Islamic, Wesleyan, Lutheran, Baptist and other leaders wrote that voluntary assisted dying (VAD) is “not dying well”.  “The Queensland Government should maintain the current laws and improve palliative care for a flourishing Queensland based on human freedom, human dignity and the common good,” the letter stated.

A parliamentary committee has been tasked with assessing aged care, end-of-life and palliative care and VAD.  It is due to report back by March this year.  The religious leaders argue that to legalise VAD “is a failure because we have done nothing to improve the circumstances that lead to people experiencing such unnecessary and avoidable suffering in the first place”.  “We have failed in our responsibility to affirm the worth of every Queenslander and the meaningfulness of every life, leading some among us, especially the most vulnerable, to believe that they are worth nothing and that they would be ‘better off dead’,” the letter stated.

They added that VAD “undermines efforts” to tackle the “crisis of suicide”.  “We believe better end-of-life care begins with better conversations about death and dying and how we can die well in ways that do not undermine the foundational values of our society,” they wrote.  The leaders said Queenslanders didn’t yet have universal access to specialist palliative care that addresses the physical, psycho-social and spiritual needs of people.  Independent MP Sandy Bolton has urged the major parties to work together to ensure parliament voted on new laws to legalise euthanasia before the State Election in October 2020.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

The Australian Psychological Association (APA) is making moves to totally exclude parents where transgender children are concerned.  Children under 16 should be allowed to go ahead with irreversible transgender surgery against the wishes of both parents and without mandatory counselling, the Australian Psychological Association says.  In an unpublished law reform submission, the peak body representing 24,000 psychologists says opposition of both parents should not stand in the way of a child under 16 consenting to surgery, such as a double mastectomy, as long as the doctors are “competent” in assessing the child’s capacity to make decisions.

Currently court approval and counselling is required prior to surgery.  But the APA say this creates an “an unnecessary burden” as the child would have had enough medical care by that point.  The APA say parents can be a “a significant barrier” to children seeking to transition.  The APA would prefer hospitals and the courts have authority over children.  Not all experts agree.  A paediatrician with more than two decades’ experience said the brain’s frontal lobe, crucial to complex decision-making, does not reach maturity until the age of 25.  “Young people are making life-changing decisions about their bodies before their brains and cognitive function have fully matured,” he said.

Source: Binary

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By Australian Newsletter

Scott Morrison has released the government’s updated draft religious discrimination bill, which includes stronger protections for faith-based groups and individuals and provides a clearer definition of vilification as “incitement of hatred or violence”.  The major overhaul of the initial draft bill, comes after a backlash from major religious groups and others.  The Prime Minister, who delayed tabling the religious discrimination bill in the final week of parliament, said the second draft of the religious discrimination legislation incorporated “many of the key changes that were suggested by religious bodies and other stakeholders”.

In a joint statement with Mr Porter, Mr Morrison said submissions in response to the new religious freedom draft bills would close on January 31.  “The release of the revised bill for a further period of consultation will provide all members of the Australian community an opportunity to consider these revisions and whether the amended bill further addresses the issues they have raised,” they said.  “As we have said, this is not a process that should be rushed.  What is important is that we get this legislation right and deliver lasting reforms that provide real protections for all Australians.”

Following extensive consultation on the religious freedoms package, including almost 6000 submissions and Mr Porter meeting with close to 100 stakeholder groups, the government has decided on several key changes to the original draft bill.  These include making it clearer for religious bodies to implement staffing and other decisions based “upon faith” in line with existing federal law.  Religious benevolent institutions will also be included in the definition of ‘religious bodies’.  Provisions aimed at supporting existing conscientious objections processes have been narrowed so that they apply only to nurses, midwives, doctors, psychologists and pharmacists.

Conscientious objections provisions have been made clearer in relation to not allowing a right “to discriminate against particular individuals based upon gender or other characteristics”.  As previously flagged by Mr Porter, there are also new provisions for faith-based hospitals and aged care facilities.  The new bill supports that “the current status quo under federal law is maintained, allowing religious hospitals, aged care facilities and accommodation providers (such as retirement homes) to employ staff to preserve a religious ethos, with additional specific protections for religious camps and conference centres”.

Mr Morrison and Mr Porter confirmed amendments had been made to clarify certain provisions, which had been described by legal experts as “ambiguous”.  “The term ‘vilify’ has been defined as incitement of hatred or violence,” they said.  “In addition, a definition of ‘conscientiously object’ has been included in response from a range of stakeholders, including the Australian Medical Association.  “Any form of discrimination will not be tolerated by our government.  We already have in place laws that protect people from discrimination on the basis of their race, sex, age or disabilities.”  Controversial religious statements made at work Christmas parties will not be protected.

Mr Morrison said it made sense that religion “should be included so that Australians are free to live their lives in the way they choose to”. “We also understand that this process is about striking a balance and that the protections we deliver must be a shield from discrimination, not a sword.”  Christian Schools Australia director of public policy Mark Spencer welcomed the updated religious discrimination bill, thanking Mr Porter for “getting into the Christmas spirit”.  “The revised exposure draft shows that the government has been listening to the concerns of faith communities, and other groups, and provides much needed clarity around a number of areas,” Mr Spencer said.

“It is vital that we take the time to get this legislation right.  The second draft shows that we are well on the way to doing so.”  Mr Spencer called on the government to include consultation with the Opposition on the legislation”.  “We know that parents across Australia were saying to us how important the protection of values, beliefs, and freedom of religion are to them, our national polling during the election indicated that 66% of Australians support legal protections for religious freedom,” he said.  “Ordinary Australian, mums and dads, people of faith across Australia, want to see the major parties work together to get this legislation right.

Mr Morrison is open to further changes and the Coalition will work with Labor on amendments ahead of the legislation being finalised in February.  Mr Porter has clarified that a religious school or church does not discriminate if they preference staff and students on their faith.  “A Catholic school could fill a position with a Catholic simply because their preference is it be filled by a Catholic,” Mr Porter said. Association of Independent Schools NSW chief executive Geoff Newcombe said amendments appeared to address the original concern of faith-based schools over their right to preference the employment of teachers of the same faith.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

The McGowan Labor government will introduce Australia’s most liberal voluntary assisted dying laws following a marathon parliamentary debate.  The West Australian government was forced to drop one of the most contentious elements of its planned laws; a clause that gave authority to about 70,000 people from 16 occupations to suggest voluntary assisted dying to a person with a terminal illness.  This included podiatrists, optometrists, dental hygienists, chiropractors and people practising Chinese medicine.  The amended bill that passed the WA upper house 24-11 last week still allows doctors and senior nurses to raise the subject of voluntary assisted dying with a patient.

This is not permitted in Victoria, which in June became the first state to make voluntary assisted dying legal.  There, the onus is on the patient to tell their doctor they want help to die.  The WA bill, which is due to become law after the lower house approves amendments is more practical than Victoria’s, according to Perth doctor Alida Lancee, who became the face of Australia’s euthanasia debate in 2015 when she admitted giving a lethal dose of morphine to an 80-year-old woman with end-stage emphysema.  The woman had tried to take her own life twice.

Dr Lancee said the WA laws would be better than Victoria’s which placed too many obstacles in the way of a terminally ill person who wanted to die well.  In WA, a doctor with a conscientious objection to voluntary assisted dying will be able to refuse to help a patient die but still must give the patient standardised information about the steps they can take and how.  In Victoria, doctors with a conscientious objection are under no obligation to provide information about voluntary assisted dying to a patient who asks.  “If you are in dire straits, the last thing you need is a doctor who gives you judgment,” Dr Lancee said.

Greens MP Robin Chapple, who helped usher the bill through the upper house, said he was proud to be part of a decades-long movement “to ensure we all have the comfort of choice at the end of our lives”.  “This is a momentous occasion, and I am beside myself with relief and happiness,” Mr Chapple said.  The bill was supported by 12 Labor MPs, two Liberals, four Nationals, four Greens and one MP each from One Nation and the Liberal Democrats.  Seven Liberal MPs were opposed along with one each from Labor, One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, and one independent.

The WA laws will make voluntary assisted dying available only to adults who have been given a terminal diagnosis, are in intolerable pain and have between six and 12 months to live depending on the illness.  This is the same as in Victoria.  But under the WA laws, a patient will be able to get help to die provided they have been independently assessed by two doctors.  Both doctors can be GPs so long as they have 10 years of experience.  The process is stricter in Victoria, where one of the assessing doctors must have “specialised knowledge or qualifications” in the illness that the patient is dying from.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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By Australian Newsletter

Hillsong leader Brian Houston has attended a faith briefing at the White House alongside worship leaders.  In September, Houston denied reports that the White House rejected having him at a state dinner with Australian leaders.  The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is friends with Houston, wanted him there but that the White House turned down the PM’s request.  In a video put up by the White House, Houston said he had just been praying for Donald Trump in the Oval Office and that “I do, as an Australian, really believe that we need a strong America in the world, and when America is strong the world is a better place.”

He praised administration initiatives which he said were helping freedom of religion and to just see, generally, the great spirit in the White House where people are optimistic about the future.  “Praise God for the opportunity” Houston said.  Also in attendance were worship leaders Kari Jobe and husband Cody Carnes who prayed in the Cabinet room and Oval Office, listening to the faith briefing.  “The thing that moved me the most is just how everyone is so for making sure we’re changing people’s lives and not leaving aside those that are marginalised and those that have been trafficked.  I’m just so thankful to have been part of this to just see what God is doing.”

Source: Premier News Service

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