Politics & Society Blog


HRH Prince Harry visits UK soldier with new legs @ Macquarie University Hospital

On Thursday (7 May) Prince Harry (Captain Wales) visited Sydney’s Macquarie University Hospital to meet Lieutenant Alistair Spearing, a 31 year old British soldier who lost both of his legs above the knee in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2011. 

Lieutenant Spearing had travelled to Australia to receive groundbreaking treatment from orthopaedic surgeon Munjed Al Muderis. 

Associate Professor “ ..Munjed Al Muderis is not your typical surgeon. He fled Bagdad as a young medical student during Saddam Hussein’s rule. He spent time on Christmas Island as a refugee. And after starting a new life in Australia, he has since become a pioneering surgeon at Macquarie University Hospital. Associate Professor Al Muderis is gaining worldwide attention for his remarkable surgical work with amputees and in particular, his success using a revolutionary technique called osseointegration.

Osseointegration is where an implant is inserted into an amputee’s residual limb. When the implant integrates with the bone, it allows for a simple, quick and safe connection between the stump and an artificial limb. The procedure is providing amputees with greater mobility, comfort and quality of life."

Read more: http://mq.edu.au/newsroom/2015/05/07/profile-associate-professor-munjed-al-muderis/#ixzz3ZatDJXvt

This is a great story, see a brief video below-


Melbourne School settles disability case

The recent Australian case of Goldsmith v Yeshivah & Beth Rivkah Colleges Inc [2014] FCA 996 reveals only the bare bones of the alleged discriminatory conduct experienced by Ben Goldsmith, a 10-year old Asperger’s Syndrome sufferer. The reason for the lack of detail relates to the fact that the negotiated settlement required Federal Court approval (under Rule 9.70) because the applicant was under a legal incapacity.

Ben Goldsmith had attended the Melbourne based College between August 2009 and November 2011, at which later time he was suspended and then expelled. He suffered from pragmatic language disorder, fine motor skills disorder, depression, hyperactivity and aggression. 

It was alleged that the College had failed to “…provide for or properly accommodate the disabilities” of the young Ben.

The amount of the settlement is not disclosed in the judgement. Although it is unlikely to have been insignificant, the court noted that the methodology of calculating the amount may not have reflected compensation for some of the more serious allegations of restraint and bullying. However, in accepting and approving the settlement agreement, Justice North took account of an independent report submtted on behalf of the plaintiff and the fact that “…the applicants indicated that the provision for an apology from the respondent was an important element”.

A number of key conclusions might be drawn from the rather brief facts and reasons reported in this case.

Firstly, schools, colleges and universities need to have coherent and effective disability policies in place.

Secondly, such institutions need to be sure that they are properly equipped to cater for students with severe disabilities. If they are not so equipped, they need to properly articulate that to parents and/or students the limits of their capability to cope with and adequately serve severely disabled students.

Thirdly, if there has been a failure to cope or serve, the psychological power of a genuine and heartfelt apology can never be underestimated.

Another Gandhi story, but urban myth or not, it causes one to be reflective

Bob Middleton, an old school colleague, recently posted this on Facebook. He heard it from one of his long-time muso friends. I think it deserves repeating.

"When Gandhi was studying law at the University College of London, there was a professor, whose last name was Peters, who felt animosity for Gandhi, and because Gandhi never lowered his head towards him, their "arguments" were very common.

One day, Mr. Peters was having lunch at the dining room of the University and Gandhi came along with his tray and sat next to the professor. The professor, in his arrogance, said, "Mr. Gandhi: you do not understand… a pig and a bird do not sit together to eat ", to which Gandhi replied, "You do not worry professor, I'll fly away ", and he went and sat at another table.

Mr. Peters, green with rage, decided to take revenge on the next test, but Gandhi responded brilliantly to all questions. Then, Mr. Peters asked him the following question: "Mr. Gandhi, if you are walking down the street and find a package, and within it there is a bag of wisdom and another bag with a lot of money; which one will you take?”

Without hesitating, Gandhi responded, "The one with the money, of course.” Mr. Peters, smiling, said, "I, in your place, would have taken the wisdom, don't you think?”

"Each one takes what one doesn't have," responded Gandhi indifferently. Mr. Peters, already hysterical, wrote on the exam sheet the word "idiot” and gave it to Gandhi. Gandhi took the exam sheet and sat down. 

A few minutes later, Gandhi went to the professor and said, “Mr. Peters, you signed the sheet, but you did not give me the grade."

Will the PUP alliance with Labor and the Greens make Australia ungovernable?

Clive Palmer’s PUP Senators have just voted with Labor and the Greens to reject the Government’s attempt to repeal the Carbon Tax and its associated “compensation” arrangements.

Palmer’s PUP also looks as if it will oppose much if not all of the Government’s proposals to move toward a balanced Budget. Basically, this means that as of today, the massive deficits will roll on.

Today’s antics in the Senate will do nothing to engender confidence, especially amongst Australia’s small-medium business community. Small businesses alone account for some 50% of total employment. If the uncertainty around the Abbott government’s ability to implement it’s economic policies continues for any length of time, the private sector will step back and growth will stall.

We can then expect a serious slowdown in the economy, accompanied by a spike in both unemployment and under-employment. The move to casualisation in the workplace will accelerate, with serious implications for the home-building, financial and retail sectors.

Victoria U law student wins against exclusion

In Durney v Victoria University & Ors [2014] VSC 161, Garde, J. of the Supreme Court of Victoria (11 April 2014) decided that Paul Durney, a law student excluded for alleged disruptive actions complaining about noise in the University Law Library, had been denied procedural fairness and natural justice.

The University alleged that Mr Durney, (who in dealing with the University in connection with his complaint indicated “...he was suffering from significant health issues”), had “..behaved inappropriately in a number of incidents” arising from the manner in which he prosecuted his complaint about noise levels in the Law Library.

The University sent two separate letters to Mr Durney. The second letter from the Vice-Chancellor indicated that he was giving consideration to the exclusion of Mr Durney from the University premises and requested that he respond within 7 days. Mr Durney did so.

Subsequently, the Vice Chancellor advised Mr Durney in a letter dated 19 October 2012 that he had been excluded from the University premises. Following a request by Mr Durney’s legal representatives, the Vice-Chancellor provided a statement of reasons for the decision dated 19 December 2012.

The statement of reasons listed 27 reports, statements and emails that the Vice-Chancellor had considered in making his decision. Of these, 7 were emails or letters sent by Mr Durney. Garde, J. stated “It was not suggested that any of the other twenty documents had been sighted by Mr Durney pior to the exclusion decision”. 

It appears that the approach taken by the University to treat the decision as purely an administrative one, without considering that it was a decision affecting rights of Mr Durney, meant that the requirements of procedural fairness and natural justice were not appropriately observed. Mr Durney “ ..had no opportunity to deal with relevant matters found in the twenty documents”.

Accordingly, the Vice-Chancellor’s exclusion decision was “…invalid and of no effect”.

The ‘murderous coward punch’ in New South Wales

With the charging of two men in a Sydney court this week with murder, no coward who now commits a violent unprovoked attack upon another person should be under any illusion. It is an entirely foreseeable outcome that a person subject to a surprise attack may fall heavily. It is also forseeable that if their head is impacted with a hard surface they may die.

Indeed, the number of very well publicised recent cases in Australia mean this foreseeability is such common knowledge, that a jury might be expected to impute such knowledge to any unprovoked attacker.

Section 18 of the NSW Crimes Act 1900 defines murder as follows-

"Murder shall be taken to have been committed where the act of the accused, or thing by him or her omitted to be done, causing the death charged, was done or omitted with reckless indifference to human life, or with intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm upon some person”.

Clearly, the ordinary person would consider a cowardly sneak attack upon an unsuspecting victim to have been committed with the requisite “reckless indifference to human life”. 

In any event, the intent of such cowards can be assumed to be to “inflict grievous bodily harm”, because a coward does not want the victim to be in a position to respond to the attack. These cowards are after all, usually sissy boys at heart.

Thus, there can be no doubt that deaths arising from a coward punch attack are likely to constitute murder in virtually all cases. 

Further, accomplices or companions of the attacker, knowing that their companion is about to attack, may expose themselves to a similar murder charge. This is because did not seek to deter their companion from conducting the attack. In this connection, not preventing an attack may well be a "thing by him or her omitted to be done, causing the death charged”.

The confected controversy about alcohol or drug fuelled violence is a furphy. It is the hatred in the person that causes the attack. Alcohol, drugs, race, religion or sexuality may be triggers for evil to surface, but NEVER an excuse. 

Everyone must take personal responsibility for the impact of their actions.

Making Australia's MBAs Both Relevant & Flexible

Professor Alex Frino, Dean of MGSM is on record (The Australian 3 April 2013 and the Australian Financial Review 15 and 29 April 2013) suggesting that a 27% decline in Australian MBA enrolments since 2007 is primarily due to economic factors. These include business conditions generally and fee increases of up to 32%. He also indicted that the Gillard Labor government’s proposal for a $2,000 limit on self-education expenses would potentially lead to a further decline in enrolments.

In today's The Australian newspaper, Andrew Trounson's article Eyes on Libs to lift MBA demand quoted Professor Michael Powell, PVC Business at Griffith University, as saying he "...hoped that a post-election boost to economic confidence and a rethink on self-education expenses would help support a tentative recovery in enrolments after a flat demand for postgraduate business courses in Australia over the past 2 years". Professor Powell also commented on the "…signs of the international market turning around".

Economic factors no doubt weigh heavily on many prospective MBA students in Australia. It is also undeniable that the contraction in international student enrolments over the past 5-6 years has had a significant impact. However, I have for several years been reflecting on the possibility that some of the decline in MBA enrolments may be because many prospective students do not see current MBA degrees as providing outcomes relevant to them.

In this connection, many currently offered Australian MBAs are hampered by an academic view that “…an MBA must look like this”. That view reflects a progression from an academic opinion that students “should” have particular knowledge/skills sets, to those academics actively creating MBA programs in which students “must” have those knowledge/skills sets (a normative approach).

In my reflections upon possible new directions for the development of MBA programs in Australia, I have been somewhat influenced by the research of:

Klieman & Kass (2007), reported as Giving MBA Programs the Third Degree, in the Journal of Management Education, Vol.31, N0.1, February 2007, 81-103.

Klieman & Kass postulate that many business schools retain what they describe as the “normative MBA”. These are the MBA programs that have injected “…scientific method and quantitative analysis into their curricula” to make them more "academic" than the original post WW2 vocationally based programs. These authors regard that approach as being problematic because it assumes “…that there is a single knowledge set that all MBA students should acquire” (p.82).

The second type of program they describe as the “reactive mission-based MBA” which arose out of the AACSB accreditation standards of 1991. The authors suggest that some schools developed their missions without changing the curricula, leading to the retention of core units inconsistent with the mission. Further, unit redevelopment is most often undertaken by academics not sufficiently familiar with management jobs in industry.

Klieman & Kass (2007) proposed a “proactive mission-based MBA” advocating a “…more methodical approach to curriculum development, one that utilises the collective knowledge of all relevant stakeholders, not just a narrow few” (p85). A primary step in this approach is to “…produce a clear statement of the MBA program’s mission” (p88).

Rubin & Dierdorff (2009), reported as How Relevant Is the MBA? Assessing the Alignment of Required Curricula and Required Managerial Competencies, in the Academy of Management Learning & Education, Vol.8, No.2, 208-224.

By way of background, in their previous research, Dierdorff and Rubin (2006), Toward a comprehensive empirical model of managerial competencies (presented to the MERInstitute of the Graduate Management Admission Council), “…empirically derived six distinct behavioral competencies that best describe the essential behavioral requirements for all managers” (Rubin & Dierdorff, 2009, p210). These were-

1.     Managing decision-making processes                (19.66%)

2.     Managing Human Capital                                  (19.01%)

3.     Managing Strategy & innovation                        (17.14%)

4.     Managing the task environment                         (17.02%)

5.     Managing administration & control                     (16.55%)

6.     Managing logistics & technology                         (10.61%)

The requirements above are ranked by importance (in brackets) by incumbent managers.

The Rubin & Dierdorff (2009) research indicated that the curriculum coverage by graduate schools was almost counter-intuitive to the incumbent manager ratings (see their Figure 1 below). These findings provide some empirical support to the conclusions by Klieman & Kass (2007) regarding perceived deficiencies of both the “normative MBA” and “reactive mission-based MBA”.

This behavioural competency research by Rubin & Dierdorff may represent an effective proxy for Klieman & Kass’ “…collective knowledge of all relevant stakeholders” referred to above. In that event, the "mission" might simply put, be to design an MBA program that allows students the flexibility of achieving levels of behavioural competency relevant to their own existing or prospective employment situations.

The Rubin & Dierdorff “…essential behavioral requirements for all managers” seem to be affirmed by the results of the 2013 “Tomorrow’s MBA” survey of prospective MBA students by CarringtonCrisp (The New Diversity: Executive Summary 2013 found at- http://www.carringtoncrisp.com/images/PDFs/Tomorrows_MBA_2013_Exec_Summary.pdf). 

This survey found the top 3 content items considered by prospective students as important for an MBA program were (in order) – Strategic Management, Leadership and Managing People & Organisations.

One of the possibilities for achieving a truly relevant and flexible MBA program could be for some Australian universities to consider establishing a “virtual” Graduate School of Business across several discipline schools.

For the purpose of stimulating debate, I put forward two possible alternatives for redesigning a more utilitarian Australian MBA.

ALTERNATIVE 1

A 12-unit competency focused “proactive mission-based MBA” program might look like this. It has 4-core units and guides students to complete a sufficient number of electives within the various competencies to ensure a balanced learning outcome in a relevant and relatively flexible manner.

A Competency Focused MBA Degree

1. Managing Decision-making                      

Compulsory core                                          

Decision Models

Plus min 1 elective ex this competency         

Statistics, Accounting for Managers

2. Managing Human Capital             

Compulsory core #1                                    

Organisational Behaviour

Compulsory core #2                                    

Human Resource Management

Plus min 2 electives ex this competency       

Dispute Resolution, Leadership, Ethics & Governance

3. Managing Strategy & Innovation             

Compulsory core                                          

Strategic Management

Plus min 1 elective ex this competency         

Entrepreneurship, Game Theory

4. Managing the Task Environment             

Min 1 elective ex this competency                  

Marketing Management, Globalisation, International Economics

5. Managing Administration & Control                   

Min 1 elective ex this competency                   

Law for Managers, XBRL & IFRS Issues, Choose a Finance elective

6. Managing Logistics & Technology                       

Min 1 elective ex this competency                    

Supply Chain Management, Logistics Management, e-Commerce, Management Information Systems

ALTERNATIVE 2

A Fully Flexible MBA Degree

A fully flexible 12-unit MBA program might only need the 3 essential core units of Strategic Management, Leadership and Managing People and Organisations. This would allow students to thereafter effectively “build their own” MBA, using appropriate units chosen from across their university's relevant offerings.

The rationale for this approach is that not every manager will be managing the finance or logistics of a business corporation. 

For example, University Deans manage educators and students (higher education theory, policy, educational management and education law may be their key needs). Public sector mandarins manage public servants and serve their Ministers and various sections of society (political science, policy, administrative law and industrial relations may be their key needs). Social welfare sector leaders manage social workers, psychologists, external service providers and welfare “clients” (psychology, negotiation & mediation, risk management, elder law and health & social policy may be their key needs).

‘Soft skills’ including ethics and governance should, as a minimum, be embedded in each of the 3 essential core units. 

What I am suggesting is that universities need to have greater trust in the ability of prospective MBA students to craft the content of their MBAs to suit their personal academic and career goals. In this connection, the majority of prospective MBA students don't need an elite "executive" MBA. They want their degree to be relevant, flexible and above all, affordable!

Duty of care requires an employer to reprimand and counsel bullies

In Wolters v The University of the Sunshine Coast [2013] QCA 228, a decision delivered by the Court of Appeal of the Queensland Supreme Court yesterday, their Honours unanimously decided that the University should (through its Vice Chancellor) have reprimanded and counselled an employee about the bullying of a more junior employee.

The case proved expensive for the University. Although the appellant Ms Wolters had a pyrrihc victory at first instance (a $100 nominal damages award), on appeal she was awarded $364,008.06 plus costs. 

The court found that "…to discharge its duty of care, the respondent, via Professor Thomas, ought to have reprimanded Mr Bradley" in connection with his earlier treatment of another employee. The judgement further found that "…it was more likely than not that had the respondent taken appropriate action to reprimand and counsel Mr Bradley, the incident with the appellant would not have occurred".

This case is not only an important one in clarifying the employer's duty of care in the workplace, it may also prove to be a pivotal one in the development of the emerging specialty of education law.

In this connection, if a university owes a duty of care to protect its employees, it almost certainly has a similar duty of care to its students. 

Thus the decision in this case suggests universities may also need to review the manner in which it responds to student complaints about the way they have been treated by their teacher.

Dual-degrees for the professions: USA VC finesses the Melbourne model

The 3-year bachelor degree followed by a 2-year masters for "professions" planned by USA VC David LLoyd has much to recommend it- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/dual-degree-programs-emerge-for-teachers-therapists/story-e6frgcjx-1226700819975

Of course, graduates of these packages will reach the workforce 2 years later than those who opt for the basic undergraduate degree. However, it is likely that significant numbers who chose the dual-degree option will decide to scale back to part-time study when they articulate to the postgraduate element of their discipline.

That may give them the opportunity to gain valuable real world experience and mentoring, whilst enriching their postgraduate studies.

Unfortunately, the missing link for teachers continues to be the formalisation of their profession. Both universities and governments need to make this an urgent focus if Australia is to boost the quality of learning and teaching at all levels - primary, secondary and tertiary. 

A good start would be for the masters level courses to contain mandatory units in ethical, legal and professional responsibilities as a precursur to professional accreditation (as is required of accountants, lawyers, medicos and other established professions).

The Australian Labor Party's Swansong

Wayne Swan's 2013-2014 Budget is nothing but a sham and a shambles. 

It is a sham because virtually none of it is seriously expected to be initiated or effected in the little time Labor has left in government. It is not intended to be a real budget at all, just a pale imitation, a counterfeit. In the cold, hard light of morning, it can only be explained as a spoiling exercise. 

Although this budget is clearly intended to make the job of an Abbott/Hockey government much more difficult, the real pain over the next two parliaments will be felt across the whole Australian community. Labor's shameless perfidy has produced a scorched earth policy that will do harm to us all.

It is a shambles because there is no overarching budget theme. It contains no map for the future and no 'report card' on the 2012-2013 Budget. 

The lack of a 'report card' is entirely understandable - how could Swan convincingly explain the $20.5 billion arithmetic error in his last effort?

The country would best be served by an immediate election. We need Abbott and Hockey to start fixing this disaster ASAP!


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