Thursday, August 21, 2014

Palmer bites the dust in dispute with Chinese

Federal MP and mining magnate Clive Palmer has lost his latest legal battle against Chinese giant CITIC Pacific for control of a key Pilbara iron ore port.

The Federal Court has today issued two rulings adverse to Mr Palmer's company Mineralogy's interests at Cape Preston port, used to ship ore from the multi-billion-dollar Sino Iron mine, about 100km south-west of Karratha.

It has upheld an appeal by Hong Kong-based CITIC challenging Mineralogy's designation by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport as the port operator, in January 2013.

In a separate case, the Federal Court has dismissed an application by Mineralogy seeking to overturn the approval of CITIC's maritime security plan at the port.

The department had declared it was a "security regulated port", requiring a maritime security plan (MSP) to protect it from potential terrorist and other threats.

CITIC ships ore out of Cape Preston, after buying the rights to mine the $10 billion Sino Iron project from Mineralogy.

The decisions come after Mr Palmer's comments on ABC's Q&A program on Monday night, where he called the Chinese government "bastards" and "mongrels" and claimed they "shoot their own people".

He later issued a statement saying his comments were directed only at CITIC, with which he is engaged in several long-running legal disputes.

Port operation should be taken out of Mineralogy's hands: CITIC

Lawyers for CITIC had proposed the state of Western Australia, or the harbourmaster appointed by it, should be the designated port operator instead of Mineralogy.

They were appealing an earlier decision by the Federal Court dismissing their application for a judicial review of the designation of Mineralogy as port operator.

In its ruling on the appeal, the court has now found the Department of Infrastructure and Transport did not take into account CITIC's views as required by law when it made the designation.

"That approach was based on a misunderstanding of the statutory requirements and resulted in a failure by the [department's] delegate to carry out the task assigned to him," the court's ruling said.

CITIC, which said it had been exporting iron ore from Cape Preston since December, welcomed the court's decision invalidating the designation of Mineralogy.

"We look forward to the secretary for the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development designating a new port operator for maritime security purposes in accordance with the requirements of the law," the company said in a statement.

In November last year, the secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development had accepted CITIC's maritime security plan for Cape Preston port.

The department has rejected Mineralogy's own proposed maritime security plans several times.

In court, Mineralogy's lawyers argued the decision had seriously prejudiced its rights at the port.

They said the decision was not properly authorised, was an improper exercise of power, involved an error in law and lacked evidence to justify the approval of CITIC's marine security plan.

Mineralogy claimed CITIC had established a near complete "lockout" of its employees from the port.

But Justice Neil McKerracher has upheld the validity of the department's decision and found Mineralogy's complaints could not be sustained.

"In this instance, the approval of [CITIC's security plan] had none of the adverse consequences that Mineralogy has suggested," Justice McKerracher said in his judgement.

He added: "The reality is that it is [CITIC] that is conducting all activities of any significance at the port and it was in its interests, not some future potential interest of Mineralogy, that was affected by the secretary's decision."

CITIC said it was pleased with the ruling.

Justice McKerracher rejected Mineralogy's assertion the department's approval of CITIC's maritime safety plan was "to the exclusion of Mineralogy's MSP".

He noted Mineralogy still had a right and obligation to obtain approval of its own maritime security plan for the port.

He also found the approval of CITIC's safety plan had "no effect at all" on Mineralogy's arguments in other litigation with CITIC claiming it had exclusive right to occupy and operate the Cape Preston facilities.

Mineralogy was ordered to pay CITIC's costs in both cases.


Student test anxiety relieved by new research

While NAPLAN marks slip across the country, new research suggests letting kids look at exams before they begin can help reduce anxiety and improve performance.

Child development researcher and PhD student Myrto Mavilidi, from the Early Start Research Institute at the University of Wollongong (UOW), said that test anxiety is a major threat to student performance that can lead them to ‘choking under pressure’.

“The stress related to pressure-filled exam situations has physiological effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, emotional effects, such as worries about the situation and its consequences, and cognitive effects, such as working memory load,” Ms Mavilidi said.

“Our research has found that even letting students skim their exams for one minute before they begin can help to reduce anxiety.”

Researchers from UOW and Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands tested the math skills of 117 sixth grade students across primary schools in Athens and found that both low-anxiety and high-anxiety students were less stressed and achieved better results if they were allowed to scan the test beforehand.

The study, recently published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, also found that students with higher anxiety levels needed significantly more response time and greater effort because their working memories were consumed by negative thoughts, and so performed worse on their exams.


Must not oppose mosque building

A divisive social media page protesting the development of a mosque in Bendigo has been shut down by Facebook for violating its community standards.

The "Stop the Mosque in Bendigo" page claims it was closed over a post calling for Muslim leaders in Australia to sign "a Muslim charter of understanding” abolishing violence against other religions.

But some of those who reported the page to Facebook say they were told it was removed because it breached Facebook’s policy on hate speech.

The page sprang up earlier this year in response to a City of Greater Bendigo decision in June to grant a planning permit for a $3 million mosque, the first of its kind for the regional city.

It was taken down after at least two Bendigo residents complained about it to Facebook, the Bendigo Advertiser reported.

One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she made a report because she found the page’s contents embarrassing and unfair to Muslim people.

"I believe the page is hate speech and I don't think that the average Muslim person living in Bendigo should have to see the stuff that was on that page. The page promoted hate, fear and misguided intolerance and made me embarrassed to live in Bendigo," she told the Bendigo Advertiser.

Tara Harding, also a Bendigo resident, later posted on Facebook: "This was a great community effort by many of the Bendigo residents. I'm happy to say I too received a notification this page was shut down after reporting the page in July."

One of the administrators of the anti-mosque page, Monika Evers, dramatically withdrew a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal challenge to the planning permit after a legal bid to have her identity hidden was thrown out. 

She had told the tribunal she’d received death threats and feared for her safety. The other administrator of the page was a woman called Julie Kendall.

“You know we have been riding a very unpopular stance with our page by many Australians,” Stop the Mosque in Bendigo wrote in an email announcing the closure of the page on Tuesday.

The email went on to explain Facebook had unpublished the page after its administrators boosted a post by an ex-Muslim calling for a more moderate approach to other religions to be adopted by Muslim leaders.

The administrator wrote she was: “considering my options before resurrecting the page” and claimed it had previously been hacked “as part of an ongoing campaign to personally vilify me".

Dr Seyed Sheriffdeen from the Australian Islamic Mission, the group behind the mosque, said he had visited the page only once and found its contents to be “purely racist”.

The move by members of the Bendigo community to have it removed had been heartening, he said.

“It is nice to see people standing for justice and at least a fair go,” he said. “I’m really appreciating the amount of effort taken by local non-Muslim residents to stand up for justice in this community.”


Tasmanian abalone contain protein being developed for new herpes treatment

A fish processor's healed hand warts has alerted scientists to the herpes-fighting properties of the blue blood of the Tasmanian blacklip abalone.

Researchers have found the abalone from pristine bays along the state's coast contain potent anti-viral properties that chemical engineers and virologists have shown block the herpes virus's entry into cells.

Scientists have discovered the same protein that gives the blood its blue colour also has anti-viral properties.

Adrian Cuthbertson from Marine Biotechnologies Australia, which is working with University of Sydney staff and other researchers, said the potential of the abalone blood in developing a better treatment was a chance discovery.

"Initially we started out looking at the prospect of developing an immune support supplement, and that serendipitously led us to the discovery that it was effective on cold sores," he said.

Mr Cutherbertson said 10 years ago when the company was involved in abalone serum trials relating to cancer treatments, patients reported fewer cases of cold sore breakouts.

"Around the same time we had an employee responsible for loading and unloading abalone shell containers," he said.  "After a month of working with the shellfish, he found the viral warts which had plagued his hands for years disappeared."

Mr Cuthbertson said he then contacted chemical engineers at the University of Sydney and virus researchers at the Westmead Millennium Institute to work on the discovery.

Most herpes medication works to manage the symptoms, but the anti-viral properties found in abalone act as a preventative measure.

Professor Fariba Dehghan, director of the university's bioengineering research, said their study showed the particular abalone hemocyanin inhibited the herpes simplex infection.

She said hemocyanins had a primary function of collecting and delivering oxygen to tissues.

"We know once infection occurs the virus integrates itself into a body's nerve cells, where it lays dormant awaiting reactivation," she said

"When awakened it travels back along the nerve tracks to the surface where it takes the form of watery blisters and ulcers on the skin."

Professor Tony Cunningham from Westmead Millennium Institutes said researchers were confident they could develop a therapy to replace current treatments that shorten the disease but do not kill the virus.

"With the information we have now, we are hopeful that we can develop an anti-viral therapy that will prevent or reduce the recurrence of the virus and/or hasten healing of the lesions," he said.

Mr Cuthbertson said there was a potential for a boost to Tasmania's abalone industry when a commercial product was developed.

"In terms of the abalone industry for Tasmania, it has the potential to substantially increase the value of it - this is, if you like, the ultimate value-add process," he said.

"We've now got to the stage where there's every possibility that we can develop pharmaceutical drugs from some of the bi-products.

"We would be hopeful that in the next 18 months to two years that we've got some serious interest from pharmaceutical companies."

The anti-viral therapy's form is still unclear and researchers said it was possible it could be a cream, a nasal spray or a tablet.

The researchers said more than 70 per cent of Australians carried the herpes simplex 1 virus.

About 13 per cent carry the herpes simplex 2 virus, which can cause genital herpes.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We routinely check for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.