Government has no plans to block internet pornography

There are no plans for Australia to follow the UK policy of requiring internet service providers to offer network-level filters that block online porn.

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The option isn’t part of the government’s response to a senate committee inquiry into harm being done to children through access to pornography.

The government will wait instead for new research and will support continued education for parents and teachers.

The inquiry received 416 submissions, many of which proposed filtering pornographic content to make it inaccessible for children.

Britain introduced optional filtering for new ISP customers at the end of 2013 and it’s been extended to existing users on a rolling basis.

The committee reported that between six and 40 per cent of UK customers [depending on the ISP] had taken up filtering by June 2015.

The Australian Christian Lobby recommended blocking pornography at ISP level by default, requiring adults to opt in.

The Burnet Institute argued ISP-level filtering was unlikely to succeed for technical reasons and the committee heard that parental control tools currently exist.

The government acknowledged evidence that pornography harms children.

The Royal Australian College of Physicians submitted that one study found 28 per cent of 9-16 year-olds had seen sexual material online and 73 per cent of 15-16 year-olds.

A 2013 UK study revealed 11 as the average first age of exposure to pornography.

Evidence to the committee showed harm included pornography being used as sex education; distress for young children; addictive behaviour; changing sexual practices; consequences for body image and self-esteem; viewing women as sex objects and potential sexual offending.

The Australian Medical Association submitted the proliferation of online pornography was shaping social norms in relation to sexuality.

“The AMA believes that children viewing highly sexualised pornographic material are at risk of negatively affecting their psychological development and mental health by potentially skewing their views of normality and acceptable behaviour,” the submission said.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists told the inquiry that children exposed to pornographic material could exhibit inappropriate and distorted sexual behaviour.

“Anecdotally, exposure to pornography is an element of some presentations at child and adolescent mental health services, however more research and data is needed in this area,” the college said.

Professor Freda Briggs [dec], foundation chair of child development at the University of South Australia, submitted last year that child sex offenders used pornography to seduce targeted victims.

“There is research evidence that pornography affects the brain in much the same way as drugs,” Professor Briggs wrote.

“It can become addictive.

“There is international evidence that some children become addicted to downloading pornography and rape younger children.

“… clearly we are paying too high a price for adults’ right to view whatever they wish regardless of the consequences for young people and society.”

The committee concluded more research was needed and suggested a national forum to “build consensus on whether a problem exists that warrants government intervention, and if so, the policy options that should be pursued”.

The government’s response says having the right policy settings and programs in place is critical.

It says in July 2015 the government established the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner to take a national leadership role with education resources through a web portal.

“While significant progress has been made to increase the protection for vulnerable Australians on the internet more can always be done,” the response says.

“The government is committed to further consultation and research to ensure that our future policy responses can be even more effectively and efficiently targeted.”

Canberra teachers reduce hours to deal with workload stress

Some Canberra teachers are reducing their hours to better cope with a workload the education union has labelled a major threat to the workforce’s health and wellbeing.

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One long-serving secondary school teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, said the increasing expectation that teachers would complete administrative work without recognition of what they already did left her feeling like she was “drowning”.

Teachers in Canberra preschools and primary schools may teach up to 21 hours and 30 minutes face-to-face each week. In high schools and colleges, teachers may be asked to teach up to 19 hours weekly, averaged over the year.

As well, teachers are expected to undertake curriculum planning, assessment, student supervision, reporting, professional learning, parent-teacher interviews and “activities to enrich the educational experience of students”, an Education Directorate spokeswoman said.

The Canberra teacher said “intrusive” administrative work was unable to be completed during school hours and had eaten into family life.

She this year reduced her workload from full-time to .8, a reduction of one day per week, and said several others she knew had done the same.

“It’s not about the stuff that I really love which is preparing, and I even enjoy marking kids’ work and reporting,” she said.

“It’s filling out online surveys and the burden of administration stuff about TQI [ACT Teacher Quality Institute], it just sort of seems that instead of having a couple of jobs you have to do a day it seems that it’s job after job after job.

“You can’t breathe.”

Australian Education Union ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler said excessive workload was a threat to the sector’s ability to attract and retain quality staff.

“We hear anecdotally from teachers who have regrettably chosen to go part-time and thereby reduce their income in order to cope with demands,” he said.

“Hours of 50 per week for teachers and more than 60 per week for school leaders are unsustainable and cannot continue.”

The union welcomed recent government initiatives that recognised teacher workload. The Education Directorate allocated $6 million to address workload issues in 2016-17.

“Each school has an established workload committee to monitor, review and address local site workload issues,” the directorate spokeswoman said.

“In addition, the directorate has established a system workload leadership team to support schools to develop and implement workload reduction plans and drive sustainable workload reduction to enable teachers’ time to focus on their core role of improving student learning in the classroom. Teachers are required to participate in approved professional learning and time is allocated to this.

“The ACT government is committed to supporting teachers through a range of measures including employing support staff to provide administrative support for teachers.”

Classroom teachers in their first year of teaching have reduced face-to-face teaching loads, the directorate spokeswoman said.

Latest measles case spent time at Powerhouse, shopping centre

Sydney’s measles patient count continues to rise, with the latest infectious person spending time at the Powerhouse Museum, Darling Harbour and a busy shopping centre in the middle of school holidays.

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NSW Health is urging people between 20 and 40 years old to check they have been fully immunised against the infectious disease, reporting the latest person to contract measles only had their first dose of the vaccine.

The most recent case brings to 17 the number of patients connected to an outbreak in western Sydney, and the total number of NSW measles cases so far this year to 23.

While infectious, the individual visited: Powerhouse Museum on April 14 in the early afternoonRashays, Darling Harbour on April 14 later in the afternoonLiverpool Westfield, including an optometry practice on April 13,15 and 17Blacktown Hospital on April 15 between approximately 7.30 and 8pmCasula Central Medical Practice and Chemist Warehouse on April 18 at approximately 10am

“Our public health units are contacting people known to have been in those locations to offer preventive injections, as appropriate. However, it will not be possible to identify and contact all people who may have been exposed to the disease,” Director of Communicable Disease at NSW Health Vicky Sheppeard said.

“Measles is highly contagious and is spread in the air through coughing or sneezing by someone who is unwell with the disease,” she said.

People born between 1966 and 1994 may have only had one dose of the vaccine rather than the two doses needed due to the changing vaccination schedules over the period, Dr Sheppeard said.

“We are urging all people in this age bracket to check their vaccination history and have the measles vaccine if they do not have a record of having received two doses previously.

“Don’t assume you are covered unless you have written records of two doses. It is perfectly safe to have the measles vaccine again, if you are not sure whether you’ve had two doses of the vaccination in the past,” she said.

The vaccine is free to people in this age group through GPs.

Dr Sheppeard said it was important for people to watch for symptoms, arrange to see the GP if concerned, and limit exposure to others until the GP has made a diagnosis.

Symptoms of measles include fever, sore red eyes and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head and neck to the rest of the body.

‘Bad for the world’: what Australians really think of Donald Trump

US Vice-President Mike Pence has his work cut out for him during his first Australian visit this weekend, with a new poll showing 60 per cent of voters have a negative view of Donald Trump.

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Mr Pence, the first senior US administration official to visit Australia since the Republicans’ shock election wins last year, will meet Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney to discuss regional security and the North Korean nuclear threat, as part of efforts to reassure America’s allies in Asia and smooth over relations with the federal government.

A new poll from the left-leaning think-tank the Australia Institute shows 60 per cent of Australians think Mr Trump’s election will result in a negative outcome for the world, while 48 per cent said Australia should be more independent from America on military and security matters.

The poll of 1420 voters released on Friday showed 19 per cent said the New York businessman’s win was a positive outcome, with 65 per cent of women and 55 per cent of men responding negatively.

Asked if Australian “politicians should be more like Donald Trump”, 70 per cent of respondents disagreed.

There was little support for Mr Trump to be invited to address federal Parliament, with 54 per cent answering no and 32 per cent saying the President should receive the honour.

Mr Trump’s domestic approval ratings are the worst for a new president in recent history.

Australia Institute deputy director Ebony Bennett said voters had a dim view of Mr Trump as an ally.

“As a nation with a strong alliance with the United States, Australia is well positioned to provide frank and fearless counsel to the Trump administration,” she said.

The alliance was rocked by a January phone call between Mr Trump and Mr Turnbull, when the pair clashed over an asylum seeker deal signed with the Obama administration.

Mr Pence will meet Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten during the three-day visit.

Sydney stars to the fore in any debate on team of the year

When looking to pick an A-League team of the season it’s tempting just to stick in the whole of the Sydney first XI.

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After all, Graham Arnold’s team have proven themselves week after week to be so far ahead of the rest that even second-placed Melbourne Victory have needed binoculars to see them in the distance.

Sydney has set a new benchmark for the most competition points in a season, their 66 in 27 games bettering Brisbane Roar’s 2010-11 record of 65 points in a 30-game season.

They also set a record for an undefeated start to a campaign, going 19 games without a loss, and also became the first team to post 20 wins in a regular season.

Not surprisingly, the 17 points by which they won the title was also a new standard, bettering the 12 points Victory had to spare over their opposition in 2006-07.

What has been a key to Sydney’s success has been their parsimony at the back, which is why our team of the season features four of the Sydney back five. Hardly surprising given they have conceded only 12 goals in 27 matches, keeping 16 clean sheets in the process.

So step forward Danny Vukovic, Rhyan Grant, Alex Wilkinson and Michael Zullo, respectively the goalkeeper, right-back, centre-half and left-back of the all-conquering Sydney squad.

Vukovic has given Sydney stability between the posts and his excellent form this season was rewarded by national-team coach Ange Postecoglou with a call-up for the Socceroos for the recent World Cup qualifiers against the UAE and Iraq.

So, too, was marauding full-back Rhyan Grant, whose driving runs and energy have made him a key component on the flanks for the Premiers.

Alex Wilkinson’s days in the Socceroos may be over but he is still a rock-solid proposition at the heart of defence. Along with Vukovic he has given Sydney a solid spine that they lacked before and his calmness and organisational ability have played a major role in the Sky Blues’ concession of so few goals.

Zullo is, like Wilkinson, another former Socceroo who appears to have been discarded at national-team level. But he has enjoyed a new lease of life in the NSW capital after leaving Melbourne City last season and his pace and skill on the left flank mirrors Grant’s work on the right.

There are few candidates who stand out to partner Wilkinson. Jordi Buijs would be a contender, but the Dutchman only joined Sydney in January and missed half the season.

Evergreen Jade North has started in 24 games for Brisbane this season, but perhaps Danish defender Michael Jakobsen might get the nod. His coach, Michael Valkanis, says he is the best centre-back in the league, and City badly missed his defensive nous when he was out of action for eight weeks.

Given this is a team that will play only on paper we can eschew some of the niceties of real-life selection.

Were this side facing an Asian Champions League opponent we might be tempted to field two midfielders of the ilk of Sydney pair Brandon O’Neill and Josh Brilliante to provide a base for the likes of Milos Ninkovic, their Sky Blue teammate, to wave his creative wand.

But as it’s playing in fantasy land we can dispense with the blue-collar virtues of holding midfielders and plump for creativity in our midfield unit.

So the Serbian Ninkovic is the first name on this list, alongside the Argentinian Nicolas Martinez, who has lit up the centre of the park for Western Sydney Wanderers as Tony Popovic’s men made a late-season charge to the finals.

We can also find a place for Melbourne Victory’s James Troisi, whose consistent season and attacking flair has allowed him to win his place back in the Socceroos squad.

Up front it’s hard to go past the two men who shared the Golden Boot award this season, Victory’s Besart Berisha and Brisbane’s Jamie Maclaren, with Perth’s scintillating Spaniard Diego Castro also adding to the squad’s attacking armoury.

Tim Cahill has delivered in the big moments for Melbourne City, so he is on the bench, alongside teammate Bruno Fornaroli, Kiwi winger Marco Rojas, with Rojas’ Victory teammate Lawrence Thomas as back-up shot stopper and the aforementioned O’Neill and Brillan

This is a side that is certainly entertaining and attacking. And who, in a fantasy world, is going to argue against picking a side that plays fantasy football?