Push for Christian values in class

Education ministers will meet today to consider a proposed revised national curriculum that elevates the study of Western and Christian heritage in history.

What we know:

  • A leaked briefing reveals that the plan will give students “the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the importance of our Western and Christian heritage in the development of Australia as a prosperous and peaceful democracy” (SMH); 
  • References to Christian heritage have been restored to the Civics and Citizenship course after anger over use of the word “multi-faith” and omissions of references to Christianity;
  • The plan would also remove references to the Anzac legend as “contested”;
  • Before he stepped aside amid harassment allegations, federal education minister Alan Tudge said the Australian history curriculum was so negative that young people would be reluctant to defend their nation (Crikey); 
  • Tudge will not attend Friday’s meeting with state and territory education ministers as his role is being filled by Employment Minister Stuart Robert;
  • The revised English curriculum will remove references to “balanced literacy” and reinforce the primacy of phonics in reading;
  • Maths changes include reversing a decision to push back the introduction of times tables from year 3 to 4 and postpone linear equations from year 7 to year 8;
  • It comes as a survey of Australian teachers found 92% said they did not have enough time to prepare effectively for classroom teaching (School News). 
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Morrison backflip on religious bill

The right of church schools to expel students due to their sexuality or gender will be scrapped as part of the Morrison government’s push to legislate religious freedom laws.

What we know:

  • Christian groups accused Scott Morrison of “betraying” the intent of the bill by announcing an amendment that would prevent students being expelled (The Guardian);  
  • Morrison made the surprise announcement on Brisbane radio on Thursday, distancing the federal government from Citipointe Christian College’s attempt to get families to sign an anti-gay and anti-trans enrolment contract;
  • Christian College principal Brian Mulheran had been lobbying senators for the “right to discriminate” against gay people (The Guardian); 
  • Morrison’s move represents a major shift from Wednesday evening, when assistant attorney-general Amanda Stoker said amendments to protect children would be dealt with separately to the religious bill;
  • “Scott Morrison has betrayed the foundation of the religious discrimination bill,” said FamilyVoice spokesperson Greg Bondar;
  • LGBTQ+ rights organisation Equality Australia welcomed the commitment but still called for the bill to be scrapped;
  • Two parliamentary inquiries into the Religious Discrimination Bill are due to hand in reports today (The Saturday Paper). 
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Facebook shares freefall

The parent company of Facebook may have suffered the biggest one day loss in share value, shedding $US230bn after a disappointing revenue report revealed users are abandoning the platform.

Shares in Meta, which owns Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, dropped more than 25% on Thursday (The Verge). 

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg blamed the rise of rivals such as TikTok, as well as Apple’s new privacy settings that reduce data tracking (Financial Times). 

“There’s a clear trend where less data is available to deliver personalised ads,” Zuckerberg said.

Profits were squeezed by investment in the metaverse, as well as higher spending at its virtual and augmented reality technology arm.

Meta isn’t the only tech company to shed value in recent days, with Netflix, Spotify and PayPal all dropping dramatically.

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New Zealand border to open in 5 steps

New Zealand has announced a phased reopening of its borders, which have been closed for nearly two years during the pandemic.

The country of five million people has only recorded 53 Covid deaths, but the approach has left thousands of New Zealanders stranded overseas.

New Zealand will reopen in a five-stage approach (NZ Herald): 

  • Step 1: fully vaccinated New Zealanders in Australia can return home from February 27;
  • Step 2: fully jabbed citizens in all other countries can arrive from March 13, along with critical and skilled foreign workers;
  • Step 3: up to 5000 international students are allowed into the country from April 12;
  • Step 4: Australians and all other visitors who normally travel visa-free to NZ are expected to be able to travel to the country no later than July;
  • Step 5: from October all other visitors and students who normally require a visa can enter.
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Islamic State leader killed in raid

US President Joe Biden claims the leader of Islamic State blew himself and his family up during a US special forces raid in Syria that resulted in the death of multiple civilians.

Biden alleged Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi detonated a bomb as US forces approached him, also killing women and children around him (Reuters). 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby described Thursday’s raid as a success, saying “there were no US casualties”.

Syrian rescue workers said at least 13 people including six children and four women were killed by clashes and explosions that erupted after the raid began.

Residents said helicopters landed and heavy gunfire and explosions were heard during the midnight raid, with US forces using loudspeakers to warn women and children to leave the area.

Quraishi had led Islamic State since the death of its founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was also killed when he allegedly detonated explosives during a US raid in 2019.

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When you force something underground it gains a certain mystique ... the type of individuals that we deal with, will certainly be attracted to the prohibition of this type of symbol.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Dave Hudson argues against banning the swastika, which he appears to have confused with smoking (ABC).

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Postscript: What Jeff Bezos wants, Jeff Bezos gets — Rotterdam to dismantle historic bridge for billionaire’s superyacht

Bezos’s gigantic, 430-million-euro yacht is too big for the iconic Koningshaven Bridge, which dates from 1878 and was rebuilt after being bombed by the Nazis in 1940 during World War II ... the decision has angered some in the Netherlands as the local council promised after a major renovation in 2017 that it would never again dismantle the bridge, known to Rotterdammers as De Hef (Bilyonaro).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.