Backdown or backlash: Premier warned on school cuts

Premier Barry O’Farrell has refused to restore $1.7 billion over four years to the education budget, provoking a likely voter backlash – a coalition of public, independent and Catholic schools has warned.
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The coalition, representing 12 groups including the NSW Teachers Federation, school principals from all sectors, and Catholic and independent school parents, met the Premier and the Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, on Thursday to demand the education funds be restored.

The representatives, who form the NSW Education Alliance, said they left the meeting “astounded” the Premier would not retreat from the biggest cuts to education since the late 1980s, under the Greiner Government.

Stephen Grieve, the president of the NSW Parents Council, which represents parents of children at independent schools, warned the cuts would cause an electoral backlash against the government.

“The Greiner government had a significant majority but, after Dr Terry Metherell tried to behave in a similar fashion, they were reduced to a minority government,” Mr Grieve said.

“This coalition of … professional associations and parents groups from all sectors is simply unprecedented. It shows the resolute and implacable opposition to these cuts.”

Lila Mularczyk, president of the NSW Secondary Principals Council, said the education coalition refused to accept the budget cuts, which would adversely impact on the education of children.

“We told the Premier we won’t back down,” she said. “School communities across NSW will fight this decision until it is overturned.”

“A budget is always about choices and priorities.

“It was absolutely astonishing that the Premier of NSW is willingly putting NSW education in jeopardy.”

John Quessy, general secretary of the NSW Independent Union, said he was “amazed” the government “is still in denial”.

“If the attitude doesn’t go, then the government has to go,” he said.

Mr Piccoli said the education groups “got to have their say” in a meeting that ran for more than an hour.

“It is not surprising they are unhappy with the savings measures,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on consulting and listening to stakeholders, but we can’t always do what they ask.

“At the end of the day, the Premier made it clear these decisions were out of our hands.

“If there was an expectation the government could change the decision – those expectations were unrealistic.

“We are spending the maximum amount we can in education and health. We can’t spend more.”

Mr Piccoli also said the Federal Government had not yet made a commitment to renewing national partnership funding for education or the Gonski schools funding model.

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Veteran walks 8000km for charity, guided by Google

Trekking along … Winston at a durian fruit stand near Sematan, Malaysia. “Pretty oval” … the map of Winston’s journey.
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If you worry that our culture’s reliance on GPS and mobile maps is ruining our ability to explore the hidden nooks and crannies — the unexpected — in our world, this story is for you.

It’s the tale of former Marine Sergeant Winston Fiore, 27, who just completed a 408 day, 5000 mile (8047 kilometre) walk through nine countries in south-east Asia to raise funds for the International Children’s Surgical Foundation — an organisation that provides free plastic surgeries to children in developing countries, mostly who suffer from a cleft palate.

It’s also the story of how blind reliance on maps on your mobile device — in this case walking directions in Google Maps — can lead a traveller to find people and places he would never have found otherwise, simply by directing him to the shortest distance between point A and point B.

The story begins in 2007, when Fiore was deployed with the Marine Corps to Senegal for three weeks of training. It was the first time the Bloomington, Indiana, native had visited a developing country, and he was struck by how little of the world he had seen. While crammed in the back of a van, he resolved to spend a year travelling on foot through a developing part of the world.

Back in the US, he hooked up with the International Children’s Surgical Foundation after coming across an article about the founder, and chose to do his trek in south-east Asia, where there is a disproportionate number of children who suffer from a cleft palate.

He began mapping out his trip in 2010, creating what he describes as a “pretty oval” route that would take him through some of the biggest metropolitan areas in Brunei, China, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The route was about 5000 miles — a nice round number, and he thought he could do it in a year.

Then in October 2011, he set off.

The first week of his trek, he made printouts of the walking directions from Google Maps — fumbling through the pages each day, trying to figure out where to turn, or if he had gotten off track. Then he discovered he could buy a SIM card in whatever country he was in, and was able to get directions directly off his phone.

Each morning of the trek, Fiore would wake up and map out his 25 miles (40 kilometres) for the day. And each day he followed the maps’ directions. There were boring days in Laos walking through one palm oil plantation after another, but there were also magical moments — like when an elderly couple who spoke no English took him into their home when there was no other structure around and gave him dinner and breakfast before sending him on his way.

Once, as he was walking along a three-lane highway in Taiwan, he was directed to take a right onto a tiny road that turned into a brick stairwell embedded in the forest that led to a Buddhist temple in the woods. Another time, in China he was directed to turn off a paved road and discovered a massive, imposing temple that looked like something out of Batman Begins. He walked up the stairs and was fed by the monks who lived there.

Then there was the time, also in China, where the directions led him to the edge of a river with no bridge in sight. Just as he was starting to freak out, he saw a man who ferries people across the river, and he got a ride for free.

“It’s not like the directions said, ‘There will be an old Chinese man to ferry you across the river, and he likes mangos,'” said Fiore. “But the walking directions routed me there, and he was able to get me across the river.”

Fiore completed his journey on Tuesday, and has raised $US65,000 of his $US75,000 goal to give to the International Children’s Surgical Foundation. That’s enough money to fund more than 200 operations. (Note that he is still accepting donations).

He also got to discover the unexpected, with the help of a mapping app.

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‘Speak English or die:’ pair released as police hunt for instigator

Fanny Desaintjores, inset, with one of the men who abused her aboard the bus. A man and a woman involved in the tirade have been identified, police say.
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Nasty stuff … A screen shot of the racist rant, filmed by another commuter.

Police have arrested two people in relation to a racist and sexist tirade on a French tourist aboard a Melbourne bus but say they are still looking for a man who instigated the verbal attack.

The pair, from Hampton Park, have been released without charge.

A police spokeswoman said a 24-year-old man and 21-year-old woman had been released pending further inquiries.

The French woman was called a c—, a dog and threatened with having her breasts cut off after she sang a song in her native language on the bus between Mordialloc and Caulfield on November 11.

The incident, filmed by Melbourne comedian and bus passenger Mike Nayna, sparked outrage here and overseas after it went viral on YouTube.

A police spokeswoman confirmed a formal complaint had been made to police, and another passenger had provided them with video of the incident.

A couple pushing a pram, who are believed to be the pair arrested and then released by police, can be seen abusing the woman, with the man shouting: “I’ll f—ing boxcutter you right now, dog” before both disembarked.

Investigators are seeking further assistance to identify others in the footage. One is a man, who is described by police as having a red face and dirty blonde hair, but is yet to be identified.

Police could charge those responsible for the incident with assault or language related offences, and racial vilification.

In 2010, three men were the first in Victoria charged with inciting racial hatred, accused of verbally and physically assaulting an Indian man on a bus between Frankston and Rye. All three had charges against them dropped last year.

with Adrian Lowe

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Abbott: I won’t use gender and class to divide nation

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he would not use gender and class to divide nation.Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has accused Prime Minister Julia Gillard of trying to divide Australia with gender and class wars.
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Speaking at a business function in Perth on Thursday, Mr Abbott promised that if he were to be elected prime minister he would not pit one Australian against another.

He said Ms Gillard had played the victim card with her recent parliamentary speech against misogyny that went viral around the world.

But it was her policies and leadership, not her gender, he said, that attracted the opposition’s criticisms.

”I think I can say with absolute confidence that you will never find from me any attempt to invoke the gender war against my political opponents,” Mr Abbott said.

”Never, ever will I attempt to say that as a man I have been the victim of powerful forces beyond my control and how dare [any] prime minister of Australia play the victim card.

”If there is one thing which marks the current government as utterly unworthy of leading this country, it is the attempt to set one Australian against another for party political advantage.”

The Opposition Leader said Ms Gillard was also engaged in class warfare by trying to set workers against their bosses.

”Now, one thing I will never do, should I have the honour of leading this country, is deliberately set out to divide Australian against Australian,” he said. ”You will never find from me invocation of a false class war.

”I will never try to set workers against managers because I understand, in a way I fear the current incumbents do not, that it is only by working together that we are going to generate the prosperity that all Australians have a right to expect.”

Last month, Ms Gillard delivered a fiery attack in Parliament against Mr Abbott, describing him as sexist and a misogynist.

To make her point, the Prime Minister used examples of the Opposition Leader standing and talking at political rallies next to people holding signs describing her as a witch.

Ms Gillard’s speech was noted across the globe, many political leaders and commentators applauding her.

In Australia, the speech received a mixed reception. But since then Mr Abbott has gone to great lengths to dispel the perception that he has a problem with women.

He has appeared several times publicly with his wife and daughters in a bid to expose his gentler side.

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