06 December 2008

Muslim school sacks teacher who wanted national anthem

A MUSLIM school has banned the national anthem at assemblies and sacked the teacher who asked for it to be played.

Australian International Islamic College teacher Pravin Chand was sacked last month, four months after his proposal for students to sing Advance Australia Fair was ruled to be against the "Islamic view and ethos".

A memo sent to teachers in July also announced "the singing of the anthem will be put on hold".

Yesterday, the Brisbane school denied it had banned the national anthem at assemblies.

The school chairman, Imam Abdul Quddoos Azhari, said students sang the national anthem "at every function, on every occasion".

But Mr Chand, whose version of events was backed by a second teacher, said he had not heard the anthem once this year.

"No national anthem, to me, means no integration with Australian kids," he said.

"Western values (at the school) are a no-no.

"It's like a paramilitary camp, that place."

Mr Chand's employment was terminated by the college board on the ground that he was "not fitting into the school's ethos".

Outgoing principal Azroul Liza Khalid, who started at the school in July, said she had not heard the anthem at assembly, although it was played on two or three other occasions.

Ms Khalid said she was told by a board member not to play the anthem, or any songs, on a Friday because it was a holy day. In July, school assembly day was moved from Monday to Friday.

The revelations follow a public outcry over a plan by the same Brisbane college to open another campus.

A vocal crowd draped in Australian flags and playing local rock anthems accused the college of promoting segregation, anti-Australian values and even terrorism.

Muslim leaders said the protests were "un-Australian" and claimed religion should not be used as a reason to protest against a school.

Local Education Minister Rod Welford's spokeswoman indicated it was unlikely a public school had ever banned the national anthem.

"It's not compulsory for schools to play the national anthem," she said.

"There's an expectation it would be played on formal occasions when the Australian flag is being raised."

A Catholic education spokesman said: "I'm absolutely confident that no Catholic school has ever banned the playing of the national anthem and never will".

The future of the proposed 60-pupil college at Carrara will be decided by Gold Coast City Council next year.

James O'Loan Herald Sun 5 Dec 2008

Victoria - on the move BACKWARDS 101

Motorists spend a day a year behind the wheel

MOTORISTS are spending an extra day a year behind the wheel because of government inaction on transport.

A typical driving commuter spends almost two weeks - about 336 hours - a year going to and from work.

When the Labor Government was elected in 1999, the same driver would spend only 12 days and 17 hours in the car every year for the same trip.

Tell us about your traffic nightmares below

Peak-hour average speeds have fallen dramatically in the past decade, while the Bracks and Brumby governments have been in office.

The average speed in morning peak has fallen from 37.5km/h in 1999-2000 to 34.8km/h in 2007-08.

In the afternoon, it's down from 41.4km/h to 37km/h.

The Government yesterday refused to confirm details of the transport plan revealed in yesterday's Herald Sun, except that two extra lanes would be squeezed on to the West Gate Bridge.

The bridge's lanes will be 40cm narrower than the current 3.5m width, and the emergency lane will make way for moving traffic.

Roads Minister Tim Pallas said a previous plan to introduce reversible lanes had been dumped. "(This) is better, it's safer and less costly," he said.

The $240 million project will strengthen the bridge's outer edges and install suicide prevention barriers.

Mr Pallas said the capacity of the road, which carries 160,000 vehicles a day, would increase by 50 per cent.

"This is a medium-term solution, and additional capacity will need to be built into our east-west movements," he said. "I'm not going to confirm or deny any aspects of what might be in the transport plan."

But Mr Pallas hinted that the plan, to be released next week, would include some form of east-west road.

"Melbourne has an unsustainable reliance, into the long term, on the West Gate Bridge," he said.

A road tunnel assisting the movement of freight out of the ports area is likely to be included in the package.

Transport insiders have tipped that the complete tunnel, linking with the Eastern Freeway as suggested by Sir Rod Eddington, will not be on the immediate agenda.

The Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry said any delays were putting off the inevitable.

These projects included an underground rail from Caulfield to Footscray and the removal of level crossings.

VECCI has also called for the Frankston Bypass, which the Government has already confirmed, and the northeast connector from Greensborough to Ringwood.

Plans to narrow the lanes on the West Gate were attacked yesterday by Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder. "What a load of hogwash," he said.

The Government needed to build a new road linking the east and west to ease congestion rather than attempt to cram more motorists on to the West Gate Bridge.

"It would appear the east-west connection has been taken off the agenda so around about a million-plus people living in the eastern suburbs are now stuck with a car park," he said.

Ashley Gardiner, Herald Sun 5 Dec 2008