Lazarus fears shipping law security risk

Lazarus fears shipping law security risk

Independent senator Glenn Lazarus has accused Labor of getting into bed with the Turnbull government to kill Australia’s shipping industry.

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Senator Lazarus said legislation which excludes Australian ships used solely for interstate voyages from security regulations will jeopardise Australian jobs and the security of the nation.

“At a time when terrorism is at an all-time high and security is a critical issue for our country, I cannot understand why the government would be putting forward such a bill and why Labor would support it,” he told the Senate on Wednesday.

Senator Lazarus said the legislation would allow foreign workers to move from port to port without any security assessment.

The Greens also opposed the bill, arguing the case for loosening security had not been made.

The legislation cleared parliament with the support of Labor.

Government frontbencher Richard Colbeck said the government was committed to boosting the shipping industry and reducing red tape.

He rejected Senator Lazarus’ claim that the bill enabled Australian workers to be replaced with foreign workers and insisted the changes would reduce running costs for Australian ship operators.

Senator Colbeck also rejected suggestions the legislation would increase security risks, insisting security would not be compromised.

“There is no increase to a ship’s security risk that comes from crossing a domestic state border,” he said.

The legislation had no impact on the security arrangements of foreign-flagged ships and several powers were available if a threat were to arise.

Beard bacteria could lead to new antibiotics

Beard bacteria could lead to new antibiotics

The looming crisis of antibiotic resistance means diseases that were once easily treatable are becoming deadly again.

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The over-prescription of antibiotics for conditions that don’t require them is spurring resistant mutations leading to so-called superbugs – multi-drug-resistant infections that can evade the medicines designed to kill them.

“What we’ve done as a human species is to basically coat the world in antibiotics by our overuse and inappropriate use. So, we’ve selected for these resistance mechanisms in the bacteria, so it’s why we’re seeing the problem that we’re seeing now,” said microbiologist Dr. Adam Roberts from University College London.

The race is now on to develop new medicines to treat these emerging, mutating infections.

Only a few new antibiotics have been developed and brought to market in the past few decades, but one surprising source of hope has recently emerged — beards.

The discovery came after a separate study to test the theory that most beards contain traces of faeces.

Swab samples were taken from 20 beards, with at least 100 bacteria growths detected.

“There was a previous study that showed there was a lot of faecal bacteria present in some of the beards analyzed,” Roberts said. “We wanted to either disprove or prove that that was actually correct, and we could find no evidence of that.”

Of about a hundred bacteria isolates taken from 20 beards, around 25 percent of these showed antibiotic activity against their indicator strain.

Microbiologists subsequently ran tests on all of the isolates that were taken from the beards as part of the research into new antibiotics.

“What we do is grid out the individual bacteria on an agar plate which has been pre-inoculated with an indicator strain. And then we see if that indicator strain can grow right up to the individual colonies from the beards or from anywhere else that we’ve got these bacteria from,” explained Roberts.

“And we found, quite surprisingly, that the beard isolates were quite capable of killing the indicator strain that we have; showing that they actually produce antibiotics themselves.”

Of about a hundred bacteria isolates taken from 20 beards, around 25 percent of these showed antibiotic activity against their indicator strain.

Medical science is currently in what’s known as a “discovery void”, with very few new antibiotics developed since the so-called ‘golden age’ of discovery in the 1950s and 60s. A recent British report estimated that antibiotic and microbial resistance could kill an extra 10 million people a year and cost up to $100 trillion USD by 2050 if it is not brought under control.

The team at UCL is part of a global effort to find new antibiotics before this crisis becomes more desperate. He said that while it might seem contradictory to be looking for even more antibiotics when it was their overuse that in-part triggered the current situation; having a raft of new medicines available would allow doctors to limit how long they are used for before they were put aside for a number of years. This would put less pressure on the bacteria to evolve resistance.

Roberts has been asking members of the public to send in swab samples to his laboratory from places where bacteria might be thriving. He said there have been some promising results.

“We’ve got other samples from all over the country; from child’s trampolines, to fridges, to cats. We’ve now got a selection of around 50 different bacteria which can kill multiple indicator strains. These include E.coli – a multi-drug resistant E.coli from a urinary tract infection. These include also Candida albicans [yeast infections] and MRSA [Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus]. So we’re concentrating our efforts now on finding out exactly what these bacteria are producing, because there’s just a small possibility that it might be a novel antibiotic.”

  

Henry, Guptill superb as NZ thrash Australia by 159 runs

Henry, Guptill superb as NZ thrash Australia by 159 runs

They were helped by an lbw decision against David Warner, who was told not to review by partner George Bailey despite the opener’s concerns about the height.

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Ball tracking suggested the ball would have gone well over the stumps, causing Warner to slam his bat into his pads as he watched the replay on the big screen.

Wicketkeeper Matthew Wade (37) and all-rounder James Faulkner (36), however, then put on 79 runs to partially resurrect Australia’s innings as they chased New Zealand’s 307-8.

Once Wade holed out at deep midwicket in the 21st over and Faulkner was bowled by Adam Milne in the 22nd, the match was all but over and they were bowled out for 148 in just 24.2 overs.

Henry finished with 3-41, while Boult had 3-38. Mitchell Santner bowled just two balls and took the last two wickets.

Martin Guptill top scored for New Zealand with 90, his highest total against Australia and his 29th one-day international half century.

The 29-year-old opener, who hit one of his five sixes onto the roof of the stand at the Auckland venue, shared in partnerships of 79 runs with captain Brendon McCullum (44) and 100 with Henry Nicholls (61).

New Zealand, who were asked to bat by Australia captain Steve Smith, had initially looked on course to set a total well in excess of 320 but lost wickets at critical times when batsmen looked set to push on.

John Hastings was the most economical of the visiting bowlers with 1-39 from 10 overs, while fifth seamer Mitchell Marsh had figures of 2-35 from seven.

The three-match one-day international series moves on to Wellington on Saturday with the sides also scheduled to play two tests.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O’Brien)

China enjoys short boost to economy over Lunar New Year

China enjoys short boost to economy over Lunar New Year

In China buying gold to give as a gift to loved ones for lunar new year is tradition.

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The precious metal symbolises wealth and good fortune.

“It’s a very stable and familiar way to invest money, especially for the older Chinese,” says Laura Luo, a Beijing-based communications professional.

“But I’ve chosen to invest in US dollars. I travel quite often and for me it made the most sense,” she says.

Luo has chosen to convert half her savings into US dollars because she says there are no other options for Mainland Chinese.

“Usually we go to the stock market, but now the stock market is crashing.”

Related:

Once a boon for speculators, China’s once-booming stock market took a dramatic turn last winter. More than three trillion US dollars in wealth was wiped from China’s stock market in less than three weeks.

The market seemed to momentarily restabilise, only to plummet twice in the early weeks of 2016. This triggered market-halting emergency circuit breakers which have since been removed.

The Shanghai Composite Index sunk by more than 20 percent, recording the worst January performance in the Chinese stock market’s 26-year history.

“Everyone’s worried about their assets. As Chinese we have a lot of our security in our savings, so everyone is being super cautious, especially in this climate,” says Luo.

In China approximately 35 per cent of household income goes into savings.

The country’s growth, which last year ground to its lowest point for 25 years, 6.9 percent down from 7.3 percent the previous year, is expected to slow further.

Economist Andrew Polk says further wage cuts and job losses are inevitable.

“The problem is, as the economy slows – as those upstream sectors, steel, cement, real estate, all those things slow down – you are going to get suppressed wage growth, you’re going to get more layoffs,” Polk says.

He says that the Year of the Monkey will be “a year of volatility,” and Australians will certainly be affected.

“China will be more of a wildcard for Australia this year… We should expect more gyration. Gyration in Yuan will send gyration into the Aussie dollar, something to watch,” Polk says.

“Usually we go to the stock market, but now the stock market is crashing.”

But despite the grim forecast, Polk says the Chinese economy is making progress in other ways. “The services part of the economy that’s booming and that’s good because it’s an area of the economy that’s more labour intensive and that will help to relieve some of the upward pressure on unemployment.”

He also sees the jitters as a sign that the market is maturing and becoming more robust in the long-term. “

People watching from the outside see the stock market, see the currency and think, oh my gosh China’s economy is collapsing. That’s not the case by any means,” says Polk.

The lower Yuan is also pegged to boost domestic tourism, as well as exports.  Laura Luo says she definitely won’t be travelling overseas as much this new lunar year. But, optimistic about the stock markets’ future, she will be watching for a good time to buy in when it hits rock bottom.

“I think the market will eventually go up, so you might as well get in while the assets are cheap,” Luo says.

Watch an extended interview with economist Andrew Polk:

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Sporting bodies warned to adopt gender-neutral travel policies or risk funding cut

Sporting bodies warned to adopt gender-neutral travel policies or risk funding cut

The Australian Sports Commission is warning major sporting organisations that unless they bring equality to travel arrangements for men and women athletes, they could lose millions in funding.

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Surfing great Layne Beachley has welcomed the move, saying she had often witnessed the gender gap in other forms in her time as a professional surfer before retiring in 2010.

“There was huge disparity between the level of prize money, level of endorsements, level of marketing opportunity,” she told ABC News 24.

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“Now we are seeing that gap narrow. It will take time but it starts with education, awareness and someone taking a stance and saying this is unacceptable, we need to change it.”

Federal Sports Minister Sussan Ley said there was “no defensible reason” why male and female athletes should travel in different classes or stay in different standard accommodation when attending major international sporting event, such as world cups.

This view was shared in a letter from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) to some of the country’s top-funded sporting organisations, which outlined that gender-neutral travel policies would be a condition of government funding.  

Minister Ley said this was another step towards fair and equitable recognition for female athletes.

“We acknowledge there can be complexities in travel arrangements, especially in relation to sponsored travel, which is why this is a consultative process,” Minister Ley said.

“Ultimately this is about working with sports to embrace cultural change, but we are serious about gender-equity and we have appropriate measures in place to ensure these principles are adopted.”

The government currently invests in more than 800 of Australia’s best athletes under the Athlete Investment (dAIS) program, of which 50 per cent are female. 

University of NSW sport sponsoship expert Deborah Healey told SBS News women’s sports still captured less than 10 per cent of all commercial sponsorship.

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“I think that generally men’s sports are more marketable, or are seen to be more marketable,” she said.

“They attract more viewers if shown on television, so I think sponsors are often more keen to associate themselves.”

There have been several instances of gender inequality within Australian sport, such as last’s year pay dispute between members of Australia’s national women’s female football and Football Federation Australia.

It was reported that Matildas players were paid around $500 per match, while their male counterparts received around $7500.

In 2012, Basketball Australia was criticised after it was revealed that the more successful female team, the Opals, travelled in economy class to the London Olympics, while the men’s team, the Boomers, flew business.

Bid to raise profile of women’s sports

A Cricket Australia spokesperson told SBS News the organisation was working to “further professionalise the women’s game, including increasing pay for domestic cricketers and providing greater on and off-field opportunities for our players through initiatives such as the Women’s Big Bach League”.

“Addressing discrepancies between the class of air travel for male and female cricketers is another important issue that we are committed to resolving,” the spokesperson said.

In a statement, the FFA said it “understands and agrees with the objective of the ASC’s calls for a gender neutral travel policy for senior world championship events”.

“The global nature of our game means that the Westfield Matildas travel very regularly throughout the world for international friendlies as well as major senior championships like the FIFA World Cup.

“FFA has stated on several occasions its long term plans to grow women’s football in Australia under the Whole of Football Plan and the first stage of that was to ensure FFA invested heavily in the pre-World Cup Program to give the Matildas the best possible opportunity to perform in Canada.  

“This included preparation tournaments and camps in Europe. That has been followed by pay increases and better conditions in the latest CBA.

“As we see future growth in women’s football we will continue to improve the Matildas conditions in conjunction with funding of the W-League, elite pathways and grassroots to ensure the Matildas program is underpinned for generations to come.”

Today’s announcement has been a hot topic on social media.

#australiansportscommission If you funding gives #basketballaustralia players enough money to fly business class yr overfunding them!

— Lorraine Tobin (@lsw1305) February 2, 2016

Post by Enduro Queensland on Tuesday, February 2, 2016.

In 2013, the Australian Sports Commission released governance principles calling on top-funded sports to work towards a target of 40 per cent female representation on boards.

The average level of female representation on the boards of the top-22 funded sports has since increased by 12 per cent, jumping from 27 per cent in 2013 to 39 per cent.

related reading

Lambie meets with PM over defence abuse claims

Lambie meets with PM over defence abuse claims

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie has met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to discuss the case of two men she believes have been victims of a defence force cover-up.

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In a blistering attack, made under parliamentary privilege, Senator Lambie called for David Morrison to resign as Australian of the Year over his involvement in the cases of SAS trooper Evan Donaldson and former army officer Marcus Saltmarsh.

She told the Senate on Wednesday Mr Turnbull had agreed to support a general mediation process for the men.

“I can only hope that happens extremely quickly.”

She’s also released a copy of a letter requesting a meeting with Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin, to take official statements from the men.

Senator Lambie, a former non-commissioned army officer, claimed the cover-up of Mr Saltmarsh’s case had been at a very high level, “spectacular and absolutely deliberate”.

Both he and Trooper Donaldson had been the “subject of extraordinary abuse of office by senior members of the Australian Army”.

Mr Saltmarsh should be classified as having a total permanent impairment for post-traumatic stress disorder after being sent 28 autopsy photos of his best mate, Senator Lambie said.

While serving in East Timor in 2000, Mr Saltmarsh’s rifle independently discharged, accidentally killing Corporal Stuart Jones.

A military court found he had no case to answer, Senator Lambie said.

Senator Lambie said General Morrison, the former chief of army, was aware of his department’s “attack” on Mr Saltmarsh.

“On that point alone, Mr Morrison should resign from his Australian of the Year position, let alone the involvement he has had in SAS Trooper Donaldson’s matters and his appalling advocacy for ordinary diggers and veterans,” she said.

Trooper Donaldson had been the victim of brutal sexual abuse and other assaults during secret training exercises run by the Defence Intelligence Organisation.

“Evan was bashed, bound, bagged, blindfolded, stripped naked, placed in stress positions, deprived of sleep and food for 96 hours and during that time he was sexually assaulted and left bleeding,” the senator said.

He had been the subject of almost seven years of government investigations and the Defence Department had misled six defence ministers, including the current minister Marise Payne, over the case.

Senator Lambie said the minister’s latest compensation offer to Mr Donaldson had been grossly inadequate.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon said the alleged incident involving Trooper Donaldson was unacceptable and cruel and must be resolved as soon as possible.

“What he has gone through has been appalling. Defence needs to sort this out as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Former church leaders apologise for abuse

Former church leaders apologise for abuse

Former Australian governor-general Peter Hollingworth admits that in 1993 he was more worried about the welfare of a pedophile priest than a young victim, and 23 years later has offered a personal apology for his poor handling of the matter.

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A 47-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, on Wednesday gave evidence to a royal commission hearing that through his childhood connection with Brisbane’s St Barnabas Anglican Church at Sunnybank and the Church of England Boys’ Society, he was sexually abused by then-lay preacher John Elliot in the 1980s.

As a young adult in 1993, by which time Elliot had been ordained a priest and appointed rector of Dalby parish, the victim took his complaint to Dr Hollingworth who was then archbishop of the diocese of Brisbane.

He told Dr Hollingworth that Elliot was a pedophile who had abused him repeatedly over a number of years and that he should not be permitted to have any further contact with the public.

“From that first meeting onward I felt that Dr Hollingworth did not want to remove Elliot from the Dalby parish, and that … I should forgive him and move on,” the victim said.

Dr Hollingworth admitted on Wednesday that his response was inadequate, although he added he couldn’t have just sacked Elliot.

“I want to make an apology to (the victim) and to all the members of his family for the way which his complaint of abuse against John Elliot was handled when it was first referred to me as archbishop of Brisbane in 1993,” Dr Hollingworth told the commission hearing in Hobart.

“After a great deal of consideration over the past 22 years I acknowledge unreservedly that my actions were misguided, wrong and a serious error of judgment and that I genuinely regret it.”

He added that at the time he did not understand the repercussions of child sexual abuse.

“I failed to make your needs my absolute first priority,” he said.

“Instead, I was overly concerned for the needs of Elliot and his family and those of the parish.”

Dr Hollingworth confronted Elliot with the allegations in 1993 and the priest admitted his wrongdoing but insisted he had not offended since ordination.

A psychiatrist subsequently assessed Elliot and told Dr Hollingworth there was no treatment or cure for pedophilia and that the “disorder” would likely recur.

The church imposed conditions on Elliot including that he not spend any time alone with boys.

Elliot retired as Dalby rector in 1996 and has since been jailed for offences against seven boys.

Dr Hollingworth became governor-general in June 2001, a position he relinquished in 2003 in response to the church’s handling of the abuse allegations.

Former head of the Adelaide diocese, Bishop Ian Gordon George, also apologised on Wednesday for his handling of reports naming layman Robert Brandenburg as a sexual predator.

The commission continues its hearing on Thursday.

Ley told to step in on Lyme doctor attacks

Ley told to step in on Lyme doctor attacks

Independent senator John Madigan has lashed out at the medical profession’s bullying of doctors treating patients with suspected Lyme disease.

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Health authorities and medical experts insist the tick-borne disease can’t be contracted in Australia.

But many Australians who have never left the country believe they are suffering from Lyme disease.

Senator Madigan says doctors treating patients with Lyme-like illness are being bullied and harassed out of their profession.

He’s called on the government to insist the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency immediately stop targeting doctors treating Lyme.

“I call on Health Minister Sussan Ley to reign in her AHPRA attack dog,” he told parliament on Wednesday.

“This campaign of harassment and bullying is creating medical refugees out of thousands of sick Australians who now can’t obtain treatment or who must go overseas to do so.”

Two Senate inquiries, referred by Senator Madigan, are investigating the prevalence of Lyme-like illness in Australia and bullying in the medical profession.

Senator Madigan said Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Baggoley had previously told a Senate hearing that the Health Department and Medical Board did not support a policy of warning doctors from treating Lyme, insisting AHPRA had no official position on Lyme disease in Australia.

“This is not true,” he said.

He said Geoffrey Kemp, a Camberwell GP with more than 40 years experience, had treated more than 350 patients for Lyme-like symptoms but was unable to continue because of “outrageous” restrictions on his practice, including that he not practise without a workplace supervisor.

Synthetic cannabis trialled on Vic kids

Synthetic cannabis trialled on Vic kids

A tiny group of Victorian children will try synthetic cannabis as part of an international clinical trial to understand the effects of synthetic cannabis on severe epilepsy in kids.

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The trial in Melbourne at Austin Health will begin in February with 10 children who have severe forms of epilepsy, and whose condition has not improved despite trying three different anti-epilepsy drugs.

Austin health director Ingrid Scheffer says the study, which will expand to include 60 children by the end of the year, is a first in Australia and is part of an international effort to understand the effects of synthetic cannabis on epilepsy in kids.

The drug developed by US pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics Inc to help children with refractory epilepsy is made from a synthetic version of a therapeutic compound found in the cannabis plant, called a cannabidiol.

Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Wednesday the government was dedicating $150,000 to the trial.

“[Medicinal cannabis] can potentially provide enormous benefits … to the quality of life of children that suffer from very severe forms of a whole range of different neurological conditions,” he told reporters.

Victoria has also joined a NSW-led trial into medicinal cannabis – due to begin at the end of 2016 – exploring the use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products in providing relief for severely ill patients.

The state government also hopes a series of cannabis cultivation trials will begin if the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2015 is passed in early 2016.

Professor Scheffer said trialling synthetic cannabidiol was a safe option despite recent reports saying synthetic cannabis was more dangerous than plant-based cannabis.

“Cannabis has cannabidiol and THC, which is the psychoactive component, and that’s the part that is used at parties and to get high,” she said.

“We’re not giving THC, and that’s another reason the synthetic compound is exciting, because they won’t get any THC.”

Professor Scheffer said results for the first phase of the trial – and there will be three phases – would hopefully be made available by the end of this year.

Changes likely after ODI debacle: Smith

Changes likely after ODI debacle: Smith

Steve Smith has forecast changes after Australia’s worst loss under his captaincy, a demoralising 159-run one-day international (ODI) defeat to New Zealand in Auckland.

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Smith’s men began their NZ tour on Wednesday in disastrous fashion, suffering a collapse of 5-8 after the hosts had posted a total of 8-307.

It was the first time they had lost six wickets in the opening 10 overs of a ODI innings.

They were eventually rolled for 148 in 24.2 overs – never before have Australia been skittled so quickly in an ODI.

Usman Khawaja is likely to return on Saturday, when the tourists will attempt to square the three-match ODI series in Wellington.

“After this batting display, it (changes) will be talked about amongst selectors. It wasn’t our best display so I’m sure that will be talked about,” Smith said.

“We didn’t adapt well enough and we were outplayed.

“I’d like to forget tonight’s game, to be perfectly honest.

“It hasn’t been a great start to the series for us.”

The result is a wake-up call when it comes to Australia’s hopes of regaining the No.1 Test ranking, which they have a chance to do in the two-match series that starts in nine days against the Black Caps.

The debacle had a sense of deja vu about it, raising plenty of questions – of technique, temperament, selections and scheduling.

“I’m not sure it’s technical. It’s just about backing your defence early, giving yourself a little bit longer out there to get used to the conditions before you start playing bigger shots,” Smith said.

The skipper spoke pre-match of the need to bat conservatively at Eden Park, vowing to learn the lessons of a woeful defeat at the same venue during the 2015 World Cup.

For months, Smith and David Warner have highlighted the need to be wary of the swinging ball in NZ.

The captain and vice-captain made it clear their side needed to be better in foreign conditions, especially when the ball was doing a bit.

Those words have been ringing out in recent years at Cricket Australia’s training base in Brisbane and administrative headquarters in Melbourne.

But when the heat went on after NZ were invited to bat first by Smith, the visitors were again found wanting.

Edges flew and wickets tumbled in scenes reminiscent of the side’s collapse of 8-26 against the same opposition in 2015 at the same ground.

“We did what we did here last time during the World Cup. We lost wickets early and we weren’t able to survive,” Smith said.

Smith and Warner pushed their side to 1-33 before all hell broke loose in front of 25,882 fans.

Warner was wrongly given out lbw but opted against reviewing the decision.

Otherwise, the carnage was caused by Trent Boult and Matt Henry – plus a spectacular one-handed catch from Kane Williamson.

“I don’t think the ball was really moving around that much today so that was a bit disappointing,” Smith said.

All of it unfolded on the same pitch that man of the match Martin Guptill excelled on, scoring 90 and sharing a boundary-laden opening stand of 79 runs with Brendon McCullum.

“It got a little bit slower … it was obviously tough conditions out there,” Henry charitably said after grabbing three wickets.