Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan.

ALARMED

The PISA global education rankings show Australian students are performing at record low standards in reading, maths and science, with NSW recording the biggest fall of all, Nine reports. Education Minister Dan Tehan said the results should have “alarm bells ringing” and plans to raise the results at next week’s Education Council meeting.

Australian students’ maths performance has fallen to the OECD average for the first time in the comparison’s history, with 23 countries now recording “significantly higher” results. The proportion of Australian students among the low performers has increased, and fewer students are now meeting the National Proficient Standard.

IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW

Liberal MP Gladys Liu has been linked to a Liberal donor at the centre of a major organised crime probe, Nine reports.

Liu secured access to the government for Allen Saylav, who was later implicated in a cash drop of suspected drug money linked to Crown high-roller Zhang Genjiang. Saylav, who is endorsed by the Chinese Communist Party, was then CEO of the Australian subsidiary of Chinese-controlled green energy group Brighsun, which wanted to revive the Australian auto industry by manufacturing electric buses in Victoria. There is, however, no suggestion she had knowledge of any criminal behaviour. Senator Jacqui Lambie, meanwhile, has blasted the major parties over Chinese influence and is calling on Australia to pull back economic ties with China.

SUMMER IS COMING

Emergency bushfire warnings have been issued for Sydney, while cracks” in Victoria’s emergency system are expected to be laid bare within weeks.

More than 20% of the Blue Mountains world heritage area has been burnt by out-of-control bushfires in NSW, with hazardous smoke blanketing Sydney. A scorching summer is expected to cause blackouts in Victoria, and authorities are scrambling to ensure the state’s firefighting fleet is prepared for an early start to the year’s fire season. A West Australian coroner investigating 2015 bushfire deaths has warned that climate change is increasing the risks of bushfires, while the World Meteorological Organization says the last decade was one of “exceptional heat” — almost certainly the hottest on record.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I could give them to you. You could take every one you want.

Donald Trump

The US president clashed with his French counterpart in an extraordinary press conference ahead of NATO.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Most people transferred under medevac law now living in community detention

Porter opens door to talks with Lambie, Hanson on union-busting bill

Australian MPs plan to visit ailing Julian Assange in British jai

Woodman still represents alleged mafia man and Premier admits donation

RBA tipped for deeper rate cuts in 2020 even as economy lifts

Young LNP: Leader suspended over video denigrating Indigenous culture

Up to 60% of Australians will drop private health by 2030 without reform, report finds

Murray Darling Basin: fight for water triggers inquiry ($)

Canberra wary of content ‘tax’ on tech giants Facebook and Google ($)

Aussie values under threat, says Home Affairs ($)

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

The airline making big money deporting asylum seekers

“For ABF, the great advantage of Skytraders is it allows these successive transfers to happen out of the public eye. Passenger airlines tend to attract greater scrutiny for their role in the deportation business — Qantas, for example, is currently grappling with shareholder resolutions to change its stance, while in Europe, planes have been grounded by activists attempting to stop deportations. That extra visibility on Qantas leads to more humane treatment compared to Skytraders, says Anees. On Qantas, he’s allowed to keep his phone, which he uses to contact relatives and lawyers. ‘For a moment of time you feel like you get to live a normal life,’ Anees says. ‘Because they are the people on the plane who are the normal people.’”


Forget religious freedom; the church just wants power

“There is no substantial attack on religious freedom in Australia. There is cultural racism directed at West Asian Muslims, much anti-Indigenous and anti-African-Australian racism, and a comparatively small (and disproportionately reported) anti-Semitism. There is, however, vigorous criticism of the Catholic church for its collapse into satanic, adversarial manufacture of hardcore, dog-collared paedophile predators over several decades — and the CIS’ survey shows just how few Australians want to extend them a special legal status.”

 


The importance of hearing what She Said

“When the two New York Times journalists published the first story October 2017 about the sexual misconduct of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, a giant dam broke. Millions of women around the world, using the hashtag #metoo on social media, told stories of mistreatment. Large numbers of high-profile men found themselves, for the first, time being held accountable for their conduct. Weinstein is now facing criminal charges and a raft of civil lawsuits. Speaking from her home in Brooklyn, Kantor tells Crikey that the book was a testament to ‘the power of facts’. ‘Facts matter, stories matter and women’s voices matter,’ she says. Kantor says she wants ‘people to remember this story as being a testament to the power of journalism … which stepped in where all the other systems had failed’.”

THE COMMENTARIAT

The PISA problem: ‘The rest of the world is moving away from us’ Jordan Baker (The Age/Sydney Morning Herald):  “We will hear myriad reasons, as everyone uses the results as an opportunity to push their perspective. Some will say it’s due to NAPLAN and the My School website. Others will say it’s about funding, or curriculum, or student engagement or a failure to teach critical thinking. But there is one thing we know for certain that will improve our education system: investment in quality teaching. Research repeatedly shows it is the most powerful driver of a student’s performance. And more needs to be done on this front – Australia needs to both raise the calibre of students studying to become teachers, and to develop its workforce. That would mean increased scrutiny of university education degrees, by tightening conditions around who is accepted, and what teachers-to-be are taught. It would mean far better workforce planning across the board, but for mathematics in particular.”

PISA results: How did system get this so wrong? ($) – Rebecca Urban (The Australian): “The irony of Australia’s predicament is that a stack of credible evidence already exists as to how young people acquire knowledge, learn new skills, and develop higher order analysis and problem-solving skills. After all, humans have been learning, creating, inventing and achieving since day dot. A rigorous knowledge-based curriculum has been associated with superior learning outcomes in many domains, and is likely to be credited with helping to lift results for the United Kingdom. Equally, explicit teaching practices, which is the act of breaking down new topics into small parts and involves explanation, demonstration and practice, are associated with better learning outcomes than more recently popular inquiry-style learning approaches. Meanwhile, high expectations for all students and disciplined classrooms are essential.”

As a father, I found Julie-Ann’s story heartbreaking ($) –  Anthony Albanese – (The Daily Telegraph): “Last Thursday it was my honour to meet Julie-Ann Finney. Julie-Ann outlined the circumstances of the death of her son David, a former Royal Australian Navy sailor who took his own life in February. As a father, I found Julie-Ann’s story heartbreaking. No mother or father should have to bury their child in such circumstances. Our nation has lost too many Australian Defence Force veterans to suicide. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has revealed 415 Defence personnel took their own lives between 2001 and 2017, including serving, ex-serving and reserve employees.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Leading Uighur activist Rushan Abbas will speak with a range of government and foreign affairs contacts on the human rights crisis in Xinjiang.

  • An inquiry into Australia’s waste management and recycling industries will hear from the Department of Environment and Energy.

Sydney

  • NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore will speak at a summit on Sydney’s Western Harbour Precinct.

  • The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards will be held.

  • Bangarra Dance Theatre will launch Knowledge Ground, a free, fully immersive installation experience that celebrates Australia’s leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performing arts company.

Melbourne

  • A directions hearing will be held for the inquest into the Brighton siege terror attack.

  • Mediation will continue between Israel Folau and Rugby Australia at the Federal Court.

  • Locals will rally to show their concern about the dangerous levels of air pollution from the $16 billion North East Link project.

Brisbane

  • Queensland’s independent council election observer will be launched as an Australian-first initiative to clamp down on fake news and hold council candidates to account.

Perth

  • Premier Mark McGowan will deliver the keynote speech at CEDA’s “WA State of the State 2019”.

London

  • The United Kingdom will host the NATO heads of state and government in London.