Thursday, March 31, 2016


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG wants to give hoverboards to the Jihadis

Why investors are leaving 90,000 Sydney homes EMPTY and thousands more in Melbourne

Belinda Cleary must be very young.  She hasn't got a blind clue about the topic she addresses  below. 

You CANNOT "benefit from negative gearing" by leaving a property unoccupied.  Negative gearing applies to rental income only.  You have to let out the property to "benefit  from negative gearing".

The article is pretty downhill after that so let me give the major reason behind the vacancies:  Difficult tenants and no support for landlords in dealing with them.  The various State Governments have passed restrictive legislation that is strongly protective of tenants -- and thus causes large losses for landlords when a tenant trashes the place or fails to pay rent.  So if you have just bought a nice new house or apartment you may well decide not to let tenants mess it up for you -- by leaving it vacant.  You will still usually get benefits from capital gains.

Another TEMPORARY factor is a mismatch between requested rentals and what tenants will pay.  There has been a huge building boom in most of Australia's capital cities recently, with new apartment buildings springing up like mushrooms.  And the owners think they can get both the purchase price and the rental income that they could have got 2 years ago.  But they cannot.  The law of supply and demand says that a big increase in supply will lead to a big decrease in price.  So those new apartments will sell for less than projected and rent out for less than projected.

Owners of new builds, however, are often very reluctant to drop their expected rents so keep a property vacant for a year or so just hoping that someone will give them the rent that they calculated on.  As disappointment sets in, however, they will drop their requested rent and get the property let out.  So part of the vacancy factor is temporary.  Rents will fall markedly in the next two years, thus leading to higher occupancy rates

The second article below confirms part of what I have just said

Some of Sydney and Melbourne's most desirable suburbs are being left vacant by property investors who benefit more from negative gearing than they do by filling the homes.

Now experts are calling for Sydney property investors to fill their empty properties and end the 'artificial' housing shortage the city is experiencing.

UNSW Futures Research Centre has found that one in seven homes in the inner-city, eastern suburbs and north shore suburbs of Sydney are empty.

A similar report shows up to 88,000 homes are vacant in Melbourne's inner suburbs leading researchers to believe it is a nation-wide program.

Dr Laurence Troy and Professor Bill Randolph have published an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which explains investors are securing big tax properties so they can benefit from tax-breaks.

This means they benefit more from leaving their properties empty than they do by filling them.

It is estimated around 90,000 properties are sitting vacant in some of the city's most desirable suburbs.

'The number of empty dwellings could more than account for the notional supply shortfalls,' Dr Laurence Troy and Professor Bill Randolph wrote.

The areas which see the highest amount of vacancies are those where capital gains are high and rental yields are low.

The experts say this is 'no coincidence' and reflective of negative gearing.

A study in Melbourne last year suggested more than 80,000 properties in the Victorian capital were left empty The Age reported.

'Having property sitting vacant has a very high cost on the economy. It's very destructive to our national prosperity,' Catherine Cashmore, author of the Prosper report said.

The researchers in that study used water-use data to reveal how many homes in the city area were being under used.

The recently revealed Sydney study showed fringe suburbs which experience higher rental yields and lower capital gains had fewer empty properties.

Doctor Laurence Troy has said on social media that he and his team want 'houses for people to live in!'

The Futures Research Centre team believe both the housing supply and shortage issues can be solved by filling those vacant properties.

They explained that the structure of the housing market is driven by a poor match in supply and demand.

'This only further exacerbates the emerging spatial inequalities experienced in our major cities, driving affordability in central, well connected and serviced parts of the city,' they wrote. 

'Failure of governments to acknowledge the pervasive prevalence of empty homes only adds to the ongoing un-affordability crisis,' they wrote. 

Haymarket and The Rocks are the most vacant suburbs in Sydney but a more than 13 per cent of homes in Manly, Potts Point, Wooloomooloo, Darlinghurst and Kirribilly are also vacant.

The researchers noted many desirable inner-city suburbs have also been left vacant in other Australian state capitals.


Australia's apartment price crash is real

Apartments in central Melbourne are being resold at discounts of up to 30 per cent from their original off-plan purchase price, sales data shows.

Not all units have fallen in value, but analysis of a handful of transactions shows many apartments have failed to hold their value between original purchase and resale, typically a few years later.

One property where prices have fallen is 27 Little Collins Street, which includes 171 apartments in a 32-storey tower above a Sheraton-branded hotel, completed by developer Golden Age in July last year.

A three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment occupying 140 square metres and with two car parks sold for $1,565,000 in August, a 28.7 per cent discount on its November 2010 purchase price of $2,195,000.

A two-bedroom unit in the same building fell almost 23 per cent in less than a year, when it was bought for $1,075,000 last April, having previously been purchased for $1,320,000 in June 2014.

A number of smaller apartments without car parks suffered falls ranging from almost 4 per cent to 8 per cent between 2010 and their resale last year.

Melbourne’s surge in new apartments led to predictions more than a year ago than an oversupply was likely to push prices down. While greater supply would limit rental income growth, as long as interest rates remained low there was unlikely to be a big correction in prices because buyers could still fund the gap between rental income and their mortgage payments, said BIS Shrapnel analyst Angie Zigomanis.

“Anyone who’s bought an apartment off-plan and then looks to onsell within a couple of years will probably be looking at a 10 per cent decline, but the 40 per cent decline – it’s definitely not going to be the norm,” Mr Zigomanis said. “At the broader level those price falls will be mitigated by lower interest rates and the fact that people aren’t necessarily going to be obliged to put their property on the market.”

At 108 Flinders, a 190-apartment building by developer Riverlee completed in August 2014, data from five transactions shows prices are treading water or falling, the numbers from CoreLogic RP Data also show.

The figures point to a downturn in prices and demand for investor buyers of apartment dwellings.

“Generally speaking, you’re going to get a worse outcome if the apartment doesn’t appeal to owner-occupiers and only appeals to an investor,” said Matthew Baxter, a director of valuation firm Opteon.

“You’re more likely to have a more favourable outcome if the apartment you’ve purchased appealed to an owner-occupier as well as investors.”

Mr Baxter declined to comment on individual properties or their prices. The figures are not comprehensive and give no indication of the CBD apartment market as a whole.

Golden Age managing director Jeff Xu said sales in the building were limited and the rental vacancy rate was zero.

“Some apartments will lose value, but that does not mean every apartment project will lose value,” Mr Xu told The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday. “It depends on the location, quality and how you manage it as well.”
Settlement risks mount

But these figures confirm the growing concern about the scope for prices to fall in central Melbourne.

With the number of apartments due for settlement ballooning, concern is rising about whether buyers will be able to pay for them, especially at a time when banks are tightening their rules.

If banks value properties for less or cut the loan-to-value ratio they will offer customers, buyers are forced to pay more at time of settlement. If they cannot pay more, they may be forced to sell into a weakening market.

The CoreLogic numbers add to separate figures compiled by valuation firm WBP showing half of 1,794 properties purchased off-plan between December 2009 and August 2015 had been revalued below their purchase price.

WBP figures subsequently broken out for The Australian Financial Review in the 3000 postcode that includes central Melbourne show that the 197 properties valued suffered an average fall in value of $51,272, or 9.15 per cent.

In one case, a two-bedroom, one-bathroom unit purchased for $740,000 on 3 August last year was revalued at $600,000 – a 23 per cent discount – just 16 days later.


University tells students Britain 'invaded' Australia

What's wrong with saying "settled"?  "Settled" does not deny that there were other people there as well.  It is just typical Leftist hatred for the society they live in that lies behind this nonsense

A top Australian university has rejected claims it is trying to rewrite the nation's colonial history. Students are being encouraged to use the term "invaded" rather than "settled" or "discovered", and avoid the word "Aborigines".

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Indigenous Terminology guide states that Australia was "invaded, occupied and colonised".

But UNSW says it does not mandate what language can and cannot be used.  "It uses a more appropriate, less appropriate format," a UNSW spokesperson said in a statement to the BBC.

"The guide suggests referring to Captain [James] Cook as the first Englishman to map the continent's East Coast is 'more appropriate' than referring to his 'discovery' of Australia."

Students are instructed to use the terms "Indigenous Australian people" or "Aboriginal peoples" in place of "Aborigines" or "the Aboriginal people", to avoid implying that all Indigenous Australians are the same.

The guide also lists words such as "primitive", "simple", "native" and "prehistoric" as less appropriate than "complex and diverse societies".

Use of a term such as "nomadic" is discouraged on the grounds that it implies Indigenous Australians were not permanently settled, supporting the doctrine of terra nullius that English settlers used to justify occupying land in Australia. Rubbish. terra nullius was a much later doctrine

The guidelines have sparked outrage in Australia's tabloid Daily Telegraph newspaper and on talkback radio.

Conservative radio host Alan Jones said: "Don't try and restrict the thinking of university students by some so-called diversity toolkit on Indigenous terminology rubbish which dictates game, set and match that Cook's arrival in New South Wales must be referred to as an invasion."

"One student might well argue in favour of invasion and another in favour of settlement. The argument should be judged on its quality. But prejudice and political correctness are anathema to genuine scholarship and learning."


Taller, faster, sooner: Australia’s growth spurt

I have noticed this myself.  I was a bit over 5'10" in my youth and was regarded as tall in that era ('60s).  But there seem to many young people around me these days who are taller than I am, even women

The hardwood lintel capping the front door of Reynolds Cottage in Sydney’s The Rocks was built in 1829 and it’s just part of the obstacle course 18-year-old Jackson Raddysh must run each time he visits his father Wes’s workplace. Standing 191.7cm in his port-coloured Vans, Jackson looms over his 180.3cm-tall dad, who runs ghost tours of the former penal colony out of one of Australia’s oldest surviving dwellings.

When convicts built Reynolds Cottage nearly two centuries ago, the average male height in the colony was 165cm. They couldn’t have known that Australians would start growing at a rate of knots: over the past 150 years our average height has soared almost 15cm. Now each generation is 3-4cm taller than the previous one. At 177.8cm, the average male aged 18-24 years today is 8.1cm [3"] taller than a man aged 75 and over (169.7cm), according to the ABS. Women aged 18-24 (163.8cm) are also 8.1cm taller than those of their grandparents’ generation. (We’ve also grown outward, with average weight up 3.9kg for men and 4.1kg for women between 1995 and 2011-12.)

More than that, though, the pattern of growth has changed significantly. Look around: at the schoolkids peering down on their teachers; at the lofty young athletes entering the ­Australian Institute of Sport (and not just to play basketball); at the adolescent girls shopping in the grown-up clothing aisles; at the huddles of skinny-jeaned teens Snapchatting, Spotifying and growing, still growing. You’re not imagining it: the younger generation is not only taller, it is shooting skyward earlier and faster.

“When I started teaching about 20 years ago, I was noticeably taller than my students,” says Timothy Olds, professor of health sciences at the University of South Australia. “Now there are very few I’m taller than.” Professor Olds studies the evolution of body size and shape in children and says that while better nutrition and improved public health help to explain the soaring heights, which typically max out around age 20 for boys and 16 for girls, there’s a new factor at play.

“Puberty appears to be very important,” he says. “We know that kids grow much more rapidly when they reach puberty. If they achieve that earlier, they are obviously growing faster younger, so kids are getting relatively taller.” The pubertal growth spurt is the most significant of the three major growth spurts — the first occurs in infancy, the second between the ages of six and eight — and there is a wealth of scientific data to show the age of onset of puberty has been falling, particularly in the past two decades.

At the turn of the 20th century, the average age for a girl to get her period was 16 to 17. Today that number has plummeted to a mean age of 12.5, with girls as young as seven starting to develop breasts and the growth spurt kicking in around 10. Similarly, boys are reaching puberty about four years earlier, around the age of 13. Why is unclear. Excess body fat, stress, less physical activity, and the presence of ­chemicals known as endocrine disrupters in food and the environment have all been touted as possible contributors.

Puberty is not just occurring earlier; some public health professionals say the process itself is compressed into a shorter time frame. “What was a process that perhaps took up to seven years now lasts three to four years,” says Professor George Patton, an epidemiologist at the Murdoch ­Childrens Research Institute in Melbourne. “So not only is the growth spurt occurring earlier, it tends to be over more quickly.”

Jackson was already approaching the average height of a colonial Australian adult by the age of 14 when, he says, he shot up 25cm. “It’s like something in my body just clicked and went, ‘Time to grow’,” he says.

Much has been made of our children growing heavier, with a quarter of all Australian kids now overweight or obese. But more stealthily, over the course of a generation, Gullivers like Jackson have been sprouting like dandelions in spring. (His 15-year-old sister, Sophie, is already as tall as their father.) And yet, says Patton, who also has a clinical background in child and adolescent ­psychiatry, our social systems are failing to keep pace. From fashion to furniture and official growth charts, from mental health protocols to the timing of the all-important transition from primary to secondary school, this rapid escalation, with its accompanying emotional upheaval, has caught us flat-footed. “We’ve learnt so much more about this phase of life; it is such an active phase of growth and development, particularly brain development, which until 15 years ago we had no idea about,” says Patton. “But have we taken that into account in any of the ­systems that we have in place to support, protect and empower kids during these years? No we haven’t.”

Forget apparitions in centuries-old attics; what’s really spooky is how quickly our kids are outgrowing the world around them.

There are no pencil marks edging up the door jambs in Professor Olds’ Adelaide home. No need. Son Spencer, 19 (176cm) and daughter Francesca, 17 (168cm) are measured expertly every year by their father’s anthropometry ­students using a height-measuring machine called a stadiometer. There’s little room for error as they are each measured 100 times. “It takes eight hours,” Olds laughs. “They get prodded and pinched, every skin fold is measured, every bone breadth is taken. But they get paid!”

Olds, 60 (180cm) anticipates his son will undergo a late growth spurt as he did and notes that his daughter, who’s 3cm taller than her mother Liz, already conforms to the dimensions predicted by a model he spent six years assembling. Olds compiled data on 644,613 children aged five to 17 between 1899 and 1999 and calculated that kids have been gaining a little over 1cm a decade for the past century. A 10-year-old boy, for example, stood on average 133cm tall in 1901, compared with 143cm at the tail-end of last century.

A 2006 study of 5000 South Australian ­adolescents by Olds’ University of Adelaide colleague, orthodontist Sarbin Ranjitkar, showed that steady increase continuing into the new millennium. “I was a bit surprised [the upward trend] was still continuing,” says Olds. “When I started in the 1990s, people were saying it was slowing but it’s not at all.”

Numerous studies have shown that society is significantly biased towards tall men: they get promoted more quickly, earn higher wages and have a better chance of finding a partner. A 2009 study, Does Size Matter in Australia? by Andrew Leigh, then economics professor at the ANU, and Michael Kortt from the ­University of Sydney found that an extra 5cm of height tends to secure a man an additional $1000 a year in wages.

So, height is a potent symbol. More than that, a new discipline of “anthropometric ­historians” now uses it to assess changes in the health and wellbeing of nations. According to an influential and oft-quoted 2006 paper, Underperformance in affluence: the remarkable relative decline in American heights in the second half of the 20th century by John Komlos and Benjamin Lauderdale, “height is indicative of how well the human organism thrives in its socio-economic environment.” The paper caused much consternation in the US as, by this measure, Americans are trailing much of the developed world. Once the tallest people on the planet — for 250 years they measured 7.6cm taller than Europeans — the Americans stopped growing about 60 years ago and much of the world’s population overtook them. Even the Japanese, once the shortest industrialised people on Earth, are catching up.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands has become a nation of giants. Over the past 200 years they’ve shot up 20cm to become the tallest population on the planet. There is widespread agreement within the scientific community that the incidence of disease and availability of medical services, especially during childhood, have a major impact on human size. The Netherlands has the world’s best — and free — prenatal and post-partum care, while America’s healthcare system and welfare safety net leave much to be desired. But because the increase in the Netherlands is more pronounced than that of the other ­European ­countries crowding the top end of the height charts — countries like Norway, ­Denmark, ­Sweden, Belgium and Germany — researchers believe there could be something other than environmental factors at play. Interestingly, a 2015 British study found taller men tended to have more children, leading its authors to ­suggest a process of natural selection may have been driving the astounding Dutch growth.

Diet is also crucial, with nutritionists claiming the removal of any one of 50 essential nutrients from a diet can restrict growth. This partly explains the height plateau in America, with its obesity problems and ultra-processed diet. In Australia, evidence shows kids are ­eating better than they did in the past. “We know kids are getting fatter, so we were ­doubtful about this,” says Olds, who looked at 2574 reports of energy intake in children from different countries dating back to 1854. Our great-grandparents “obviously expended more energy, but the amount they ate back then was unbelievable,” he says. “The other striking thing was how stodgy the diet was — huge amounts of meat and potatoes, very little fruit, no fresh vegetables. Our diet is so much better today in terms of variety and freshness and less saturated fat.”

A person’s height is mainly (about 80 per cent) determined by the combined effects of hundreds of genes. “Everyone is born with a genetic height potential but the likelihood they will reach that is based on a set of environmental circumstances such as nutrition,” says ­Professor Ravi Savarirayan, clinical geneticist and paediatrician at Victorian Clinical Genetics Services. He points to Korea where, since the country’s division, North Koreans have become several centimetres shorter than their counterparts in the South, despite similar genetics, “because they are starving”.

Stress is also an important factor. “If you starve a child they won’t grow, but even if you feed a child but neglect them, they won’t grow,” he says. Olds adds that historical data from World War II shows children’s growth decelerating during their attendance at boarding school, with “a catch-up growth when they were on holidays back with their families”.

Pffh is the sound of an exasperated mother trying to source age-appropriate clothes for her rapidly unfurling daughters.  At 185cm, Green knows what it’s like to feel out of step with the world. Benchtops and ergonomic desks are too low; she struggles with leg room on trains, planes and buses; and, on rainy days, must navigate a minefield of eye-poking umbrellas. In 2000, she established Tall People Australia for taller-than-average Australians. With only “a couple of hundred” in the club, she doesn’t have the numbers to form a powerful lobby group such as the Netherlands’ Klub Lange Mensen. So it’s more of an information network and social hub. But Green’s hoping for a revolution to make life easier for the girls who have inherited her genes: an 11-year-old who is 169cm and a 13-year-old who stands 177.8cm.

“There are a lot more places catering to large sizes because it’s more common to see overweight people in the community now,” Green says. Yet clothing manufacturers still operate on the same old standard height. “Even though we are growing taller as a nation, are we going to reach that point where businesses will think it’s viable to sustain a tall line?” she says. “In my lifetime it hasn’t changed much.”

Green is not alone in her despair. When ­Adelaide body-sizing expert Daisy Veitch teamed with Maciej Henneberg, professor of anthropological and comparative anatomy at the University of Adelaide, to conduct a national sizing survey in 2002, they were mainly concerned with filling a yawning gap in the data on the body shapes and sizes of adult Australians. But they also heard anecdotal evidence from a lot of distressed mothers. “We interviewed 5000 people about their shopping experiences and, overwhelmingly, the parents were telling us that young children were getting bigger faster,” says Veitch, who has advised Safe Work Australia and the US Air Force Research Laboratory on anthropometrical issues. “Now, imagine you’re the mother of a seven-year-old girl and you have to buy your child a size 12 and suddenly they’re being marketed sexy items. They’re being thrust into the tween market prematurely.”

Growth in children can be extremely rapid. Some studies have shown increases of half to a full centimetre in a single day; in one longitudinal study of 1000 children in NSW, a Year 8 boy grew 16cm over a 12-month period while a girl in Year 7 grew 13cm.

Elite sport is one area that’s been quick to size up the new generation and relatively fleet of foot in adapting. Staff at the Australian Institute of Sport, which enrols kids as young as eight, have adjusted their teaching methods after observing the increase in size of the centre’s 3D body scanners, endurance athletes’ altitude tents, even residence beds. “I’m continually astonished by how big the kids coming through are,” says AIS senior skills acquisition scientist Daniel Greenwood (185.4cms). “In the past decade, the biggest change I’ve noticed is in the team sports. Previously, there would be one tall person on each team, stuck in a certain role, whereas now the packs of kids are all taller.

“We’ve taken the reins off these tall kids, taken them out of traditional tall-kid positions, and had them show us what they’re capable of rather than what we expect them to do.” Training has also been modified. “Tall athletes are now better understood within physio circles,” Greenwood says. “Their muscles are tighter, their connective tissue is tighter, so there’s a greater emphasis on flexibility and an understanding they may not be able to do the same volumes of training as someone bulkier. We have to give them time and space to grow into their bodies.”

Increasingly, precipitous growth spurts are linked to earlier onset puberty with its attendant physical changes and emotional turmoil. And this is where the social scaffolding becomes shaky, says George Patton, who is also professor of adolescent health research at the University of ­Melbourne. “It’s an age where kids are still working out who they are, they’re still very limited in terms of interpersonal skills and they’re experiencing many new, challenging emotions,” he says. ­Without the corresponding social or emotional maturation, early puberty can be a confusing time, especially for girls, who may face sexual innuendo or teasing before they are able to deal with it. Risks for anxiety, depression, social exclusion and aggressive behaviour arise whenever puberty occurs but “kids going through puberty earlier encounter these challenges sooner and are less well prepared,” Patton says.

With his steel-rimmed glasses and kindly, unhurried manner, Patton blends science with compassion, emerging as an ideal advocate for young people at the most vulnerable phase of their lives. He and a team of researchers are undertaking the biggest longitudinal study of puberty in Australia, the Childhood to Adolescence ­Transition Study, in the hope of understanding “changes in the timing of puberty, the shape of puberty and what that means for the growth spurt that happens during the adolescent period”.

So far they’ve learnt that patterns of health and nutrition during childhood and the effective treatment of viral, bacterial and parasitic infections have “a profound effect” on the timing of the pubertal growth spurt. “And what we’ve come to understand is that it’s not just the ­timing of puberty that is earlier in the modern, higher-­income, better-nourished settings but the speed in which kids go through puberty,” he says, citing studies from the US and Denmark suggesting the onset of puberty occurs about one year earlier than two decades ago, at around 10 years old.

The transition in Australia from primary to secondary school, he says, is just one of numerous structures and ingrained practices that need to be rethought. “When the education system was designed, quite a long time ago, primary school was what happened prior to puberty and secondary school was what happened after and that aligned pretty much with the biology then,” Patton says. “What we have now is a system where, particularly for girls, but also to a certain extent with boys, you’ve got this transition between Grade 6 and 7 where it’s bang in the middle of the most profound developmental event in the life of children after birth. It’s a time of utterly profound change not just physically and in sexual reproductive maturity but emotionally, socially … You’re making this change at a point where it just makes no sense. And a lot of kids do struggle — they’ll be tracking along nicely to Grade 6 then you see this fall-off in educational achievement in Grade 7, 8 and 9 before you get a plateauing out when they’ve readjusted.”

Brisbane high school teacher Emma Warren, 38, has made peace with her height (195.5cm) but remembers her youth as a time of turbulence. “There are a lot of tall girls at my school struggling with low self-esteem, self-conscious about their height, and I’m a sort of mentor to them,” she says. Warren gets plenty of practice at home: her eldest daughter Sara, 17, is 178cm; Ingrid, 15, is 185cm, and her youngest, Wendy, 13, stands at a skyscraping 192cm. “Bendy Wendy”, as she’s sometimes called, recently tried on her first pair of heels, stilettos that lifted her a good 5cm closer to the gods. The teen twirled and strutted, turning the aisles of a suburban chain store into her own personal catwalk. As confidence lengthened her stride, she rehearsed the mantra her mother had lodged in her head: I’m not too tall; the world’s too small for me.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching at 95 per cent in northern section -- attributed to global warming

What bulldust!  For a start, coral bleaching is NOT coral death.  It is a stress response that leads to the expulsion of symbiotic algae.  There are about half a dozen things that can cause it.  And the ONE thing that can be excluded as a cause is anthropogenic global warming.  Why?  Because there has been none of that for nearly 19 years.  Things that don't exist don't cause anything. 

The ocean waters MAY have warmed but that will be due to natural factors such as El Nino.  The 2015 and early 2016 temperature upticks were DEMONSTRABLY due to El Nino and other natural factors, as CO2 levels were plateaued at the relevant time.

And it is not at all certain that a small temperature rise causes bleaching.  An ancient coral reef specimen now on display at the Natural History Museum in London is instructive.  It goes back to  160 million years ago.  The exhibit is proof that ancestors of modern corals somehow thrived during the Late Jurassic period when temperatures were warmer and atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide higher than they are today.

And if that's ancient history, how come corals survive in the Persian Gulf today at temperatures up to 8 degrees hotter that what we see in the tropical Pacific?

Bleaching may even be a positive thing. In recent years, scientists have discovered that some corals resist bleaching by hosting types of algae that can handle the heat, while others swap out the heat-stressed algae for tougher, heat-resistant strains.

And a recent study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science showed that warming in Australian waters actually INCREASED coral growth over the 20th century.

I could go on but I think I have said enough

All the points I have made above could have been made by any competent marine biologist -- and I can provide references for them all. But I am not a marine biologist. I am a psychologist. What a harrowed world we live in where a psychologist has to give the basic information that marine biologists dare not give.

An aerial survey of the northern Great Barrier Reef has shown that 95 per cent of the reefs are now severely bleached — far worse than previously thought.

Professor Terry Hughes, a coral reef expert based at James Cook University in Townsville who led the survey team, said the situation is now critical.

"This will change the Great Barrier Reef forever," Professor Hughes told 7.30.

"We're seeing huge levels of bleaching in the northern thousand-kilometre stretch of the Great Barrier Reef."

Of the 520 reefs he surveyed, only four showed no evidence of bleaching.  From Cairns to the Torres Strait, the once colourful ribbons of reef are a ghostly white.

"It's too early to tell precisely how many of the bleached coral will die, but judging from the extreme level even the most robust corals are snow white, I'd expect to see about half of those corals die in the coming month or so," Professor Hughes said.

This is the third global coral bleaching since 1998, and scientists have found no evidence of these disasters before the late 20th century.

"We have coral cores that provide 400 years of annual growth," explains Dr Neal Cantin from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

"We don't see the signatures of bleaching in reduced growth following a bleaching event until the recent 1998/2000 events."

Environment Minister Greg Hunt flew over the reef just eight days ago, before Professor Hughes' aerial survey, and announced some additional resources for monitoring the reef.

"There's good and bad news — the bottom three quarters of the reef is in strong condition," he said at the time.

"[But] as we head north of Lizard Island it becomes increasingly prone to bleaching."

The northern part of the Great Barrier Reef is the most pristine part of the marine park — and that is one possible glimmer of hope.

"On the bright side, it's more likely that these pristine reefs in the northern section will be better able to bounce back afterwards," Professor Hughes said.

"Nonetheless we're looking at 10-year recovery period, so this is a very severe blow."

Professor Justin Marshall, a reef scientist from the University of Queensland, said the reason for these bleaching events was clear.

"What we're seeing now is unequivocally to do with climate change," he told 7.30.

"The world has agreed, this is climate change, we're seeing climate change play out across our reefs."

Professor Hughes said he is frustrated about the whole climate change debate.

"The government has not been listening to us for the past 20 years," he said.

"It has been inevitable that this bleaching event would happen, and now it has.

"We need to join the global community in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.



American computer game company Found Guilty Of Breaching Australian Consumer Law

After an 18-month back and forth with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Australian Federal Court has finally ruled that Valve was in breach of Australian Consumer Law.

The ACCC’s major issue with Valve was its lack of a refund policy, which ran contrary to Australian Consumer law. Valve has since implemented its own refund policy in the wake of this case, but had no refund policy in August 2014 when the ACCC initially sued.

Valve’s defence was based around the fact that it doesn’t officially conduct business in Australia, only admitting it provided access to an online access portal to video games through a client. Valve denied this falls into the definition of ‘goods’ in Australian consumer law. Valve also maintained the Steam Subscriber Agreement is the law of the State of Washington, United States of America — not the law of Australia.

But the Australian Federal court disagreed, and found that Valve made misleading statements to consumers in its terms and conditions contained in three versions of its Steam Subscriber Agreement and two versions of its Steam Refund Policy. These misleading statements all focused on the rights of Australian consumers to a refund if they’ve been sold a faulty or defective product.

Justice Edelman that Valve was doing business in Australia and, as such, was bound to operate within Australian Consumer Law.

“The Federal Court’s decision reinforces that foreign based businesses selling goods and/or services to Australian consumers can be subject to Australian Consumer Law obligations, including the consumer guarantees,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“In this case, Valve is a US company operating mainly outside Australia, but, in making representations to Australian consumers, the Federal Court has found that Valve engaged in conduct in Australia. It is also significant that the Court held that, in any case, based on the facts, Valve was carrying on business in Australia.

“This is also the first time Courts have applied the extended definition of ‘goods’ to include “computer software” in the ACL. It will provide greater certainty where digital goods are supplied to consumers through online platforms.”

“Consumer issues in the online marketplace are a priority for the ACCC and we will continue to take appropriate enforcement action to hold businesses accountable for breaches of the ACL.”

Initially, in August 2014, the ACCC asked that Valve:

* Provide an email address that specifically deals with refunds as per Australian Consumer law.

* Provide a 1800 number to help consumers address any refund issues.

* Provide a PO Box address for consumers to deal with refunds.

* Appoint representatives (the ACCC refer to this person as a contact officer) to reply to consumers regarding refunds.

Back then Doug Lombardi informed Kotaku that Valve was “making every effort to cooperate with the Australian officials on this matter.”

No set amount was decided in terms of liability at the judgement, but there is a chance that, in addition to any liability, Valve will have to pay up to 75% of the ACCC’s legal costs.


Federal election 2016: Turnbull to ditch Abbott health cuts

Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have mapped out a health funding compromise to present to state premiers and treasurers at Friday’s COAG meeting.

Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are preparing to ditch Tony Abbott’s massive cuts to state hospital funding at a crucial meeting on Friday after the Prime Minister and Treasurer held a two-hour strategy discussion at Mr Turnbull’s harbourside mansion yesterday, countering talk of a rift at the top of the federal government.

Although federal sources insist the deal has not been finalised, states are confident they will be ­offered a four-year hospital funding agreement to 2020 based on the original formula agreed under the Gillard Labor government. This would create a $5 billion hit to Mr Morrison’s first budget.

The Australian understands the four-year agreement would be tied to a revolutionary tax reform proposal under which the states would be offered a share of income tax beyond 2020 to fund health and education.

The discussions at Mr Turnbull’s mansion in Sydney’s Point Piper, which were held without ­officials, came after a week of poor communication, including a controversial decision by the Prime Minister to bring forward the budget from May 10 to May 3 without telling the Treasurer in the hours before the final proposal was put to federal cabinet.

As Labor warns of “dysfunction” within the government, yesterday’s meeting was described as proof of an effective working relationship that would scotch ­rumours of a rift.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison have mapped out a health funding compromise to present to state premiers and treasurers at Friday’s Council of Australian Governments to neutralise hospital funding as an election issue.

Mr Abbott and Joe Hockey’s first budget, in May 2014, included $80bn in cuts to hospitals and schools in the period to 2024-25, with commonwealth funding limited to covering only increases in the cost of living and population.

Mr Abbott argued funding was not being cut, rather that Labor’s unfunded increases in spending were not being covered.

After differences on GST and the government’s tax reform strategy, the Prime Minister and Treasurer had been at odds over hospital funding following meetings with their state counterparts in December.

When federal and state officials met in Sydney 10 days ago to plan for the summit, the message from Martin Parkinson, the head of Mr Turnbull’s department, was that the Prime Minister was “fighting” to find a way to offer more health funding but that others around the cabinet table had no appetite for an increased offer.

State governments were told Mr Morrison was one of those ­resisting the increased offer. “They really need to put their cards on the table,” said one state official.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison accept that the formula imposed in May 2014 is not realistic, either politically or to secure sustainable health services. Mr Morrison’s chief of staff, Phil Gaetjens, was formerly head of the NSW Treasury Department and had prepared the NSW argument against the hospital funding arrangement.

Commonwealth officials say the final shape of the agreement on Friday has not yet been negotiated and the idea of a four-year deal is the states’ claim, rather than the commonwealth’s offer.

However, a four-year deal would push the issue of hospital funding beyond the 2019 election, while a date of 2020 is sufficiently distant to allow for sweeping tax reform. The idea of sharing the ­income tax base has been repeatedly proposed as a way of securing state government finances.

The commonwealth will also be looking for some contribution from the states. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has proposed savings on preventive health while NSW Premier Mike Baird has outlined a proposal for increased health funding. The states are understood to have quantified “significant” savings they can make by improving healthcare before patients need hospital treatment, such as better medication management and in-home care.

This would go some way to meeting Mr Turnbull’s demand that the states bear some of the burden in fixing the hospital funding problem rather than rely solely on more cash from Canberra.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison are expected to discuss their proposals with state counterparts within days, but the federal offer may not be formally proposed until Thursday, ahead of a dinner in Canberra that night. The Prime Minister will dine with premiers at The Lodge ahead of the official COAG meeting in Parliament House the next day, April 1.

In a significant step, given the speculation over the relationship between the Prime Minister and Treasurer, Mr Turnbull has ­ensured that Mr Morrison will be alongside him at the most important sessions on Friday, including a presentation on the economy.

Just as former prime minister John Howard hosted some COAG meetings with treasurer Peter Costello next to him, this Friday’s meeting is expected to be a show of unity between Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison.


Australia Post: snail mail gets even slower

Australia Post is trying to kill off its main business

Bills arriving after the due date, birthday cards missing their mark, and businesses unwittingly breaking the law – this is the reality of life under Australia Post's new two speed mail service. The mail is so slow that retirees are phoning in birthday wishes instead of writing cards and schools have stopped posting newsletters.

This super-slow snail mail was introduced by Australia Post on January 4, ostensibly to save money on overnight processing and planes. Stamp prices also went up – an ordinary letter now costs $1 and takes up to six working days to be delivered. (Maybe this is why the Prime Minister called a three-month election campaign – to make sure the postman has enough time to deliver all the political junk mail.)

But while the changes were announced last year, it appears some industries have been caught unawares. For example, the National Credit Providers Association has just realised its members could be breaching the National Credit Act because it requires they wait 30 days before taking someone to court over unpaid bills. The law actually states the day of notice is the date "it would have been delivered in the ordinary course of post".
Letter delivery has slowed right down since two-speed mail was introduced in January this year.

Letter delivery has slowed right down since two-speed mail was introduced in January this year. Photo: Jim Rice

The NCPA has since realised members cannot rely on "ordinary" post speeds any more.

"Our view is that you should allow a further two days to ensure that the document is delivered compared to the time you would have previously allowed," chief executive of the NCPA, Phil Johns, wrote in a recent letter to members.

He was now in urgent discussions with the corporate regulator and Treasury to make it legal for his members to email default notices.

Even paying the extra 50¢ for a priority sticker doesn't help a letter arrive much sooner according to Elly Foster, the franchise operations manager at Melbourne Body Corporate Management, which sends out notices to property owners and tenants.

"Under our statutory requirements, we are to forward notices in relation to meetings with 14 days' notice. And it used to be that we could send them 15 days before [the meeting]. Now it is a case of having to send them a minimum of 21 days," she said. "If nobody turns up because they have not got their notification of the meeting, it is obviously a waste of everybody's time and energy."

Schools have also decided to dump snail mail. Thornbury High School recently stopped posting its newsletter to hundreds of families because the news was old by the time parents read it.

"We have a deadline for our newsletter here at the school and the expectation was that parents would get it in two days," principal Peter Egeberg​ said. "Now that no longer happens." A quarter of families still receive a paper newsletter, but they now collect it from the school office.

A spokeswoman for Australia Post said this slower mail "will help to ensure a sustainable, world-class letters service can be maintained".

Last year the government-owned business reported revenues of $6.4 billion, including $2 billion from mail services, but recorded a $222 million loss, its first since corporatisation in 1989.

The spokeswoman also confirmed ordinary letters posted anywhere in Victoria go to Dandenong for sorting, including letters posted in regional towns to someone in the same town. This means something posted in Shepparton takes a 500-kilometre round trip. 

 She added that 97 per cent of letters sent in Australia were sent by business and government, and had been on the two-speed service since mid-2014

Asked whether Australia Post has seen an increase in complaints since the start of the year, she said it was "not required to publicly release any data related to customer complaints".

 The Postal Industry Ombudsman's latest annual report shows a 38 per cent increase in complaints about Australia Post in 2014-15 to 5613. It noted complaint numbers have tripled since 2007. 

One Hughesdale woman conducted her own experiment after a letter posted in Gippsland took two months to reach her in Melbourne's east.

"I put a piece of paper in the envelope saying the date of the letter and posted it to myself. It took about seven to eight days to get back to me," she said.

"I am not trusting [the post] as much. I have got to the stage now where I ring up and wish someone a happy birthday. If you want the card to get there on their birthday you would have to post it two weeks before."


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

'Precariat' generation missing out on Australian lifestyle

The story below is probably correct.  It is one of many stories that report on the unemployability of many young people today.  And where lies the blame for that?  Squarely on the Left-dominated educational system with its emphasis on saving the planet and glorifying homosexuality.

 Kids are encouraged to embark on studies that lead nowhere.  Take the kid used as an example below.  What did he do his degree in? "Contemporary music". Making money as a musician has always been a grind.  It's an oversupplied market. I knew a lot of musicians once and they were all usually "skint". 

My son shows how it can be if you have useful skills.  He was "headhunted" during his very first job interview by a member of the interviewing panel and given a job immediately.  So what are his skills?  He is an IT professional.  He is at ease writing multiple computer programming languages.  And such skills don't necessarily take long to acquire.  I learnt to program computers in the FORTRAN language from a course that consisted of just 4 mornings.

Young Australians have fewer opportunities for full-time work and affordable housing, creating a new "precariat" social class lacking security and predictability, according to a new book.

Jennifer Rayner, author of Generation Less: How Australia is Cheating the Young, said policies skewed towards the older generation dramatically increased disparities between the young and the old.

This, she said, had placed an "enduring handicap" on those born from the 1980s onwards.

"There have always been gaps between younger people and older people in Australia, and that's true everywhere because young people are starting out in life, because they haven't had as much time in the workforce," Ms Rayner said.

"But over the last 30 years in Australia what has happened is that all of those gaps are getting wider.

"What the data shows is that young people are going backwards compared to the people the same age 15 years ago."

Less than one in 30 young people reported being underemployed in the 1970s. But that figure now stood at about one in six, Ms Rayner said.

The number of young people working casually also jumped from 34 per cent in 1992 to 50 per cent in 2013.

Over the same period, the percentage of people working without entitlements in their 40s and 50s barely moved.

Unless policies around housing and the casualisation of the workforce changed, the disadvantage would become entrenched, Ms Rayner said.

"The fact that all of these trends and factors are ganging up on young people means that their experience of being an Australian is basically different from other generations," she said.

"The [youth] are currently part of the precariat and they will find themselves locked in there as they grow older, if these trends continue, and if nothing changes in their circumstances."

Ms Rayner said instability affected the material and emotional wellbeing of the young.

Something that 26-year-old Sam Johnston knows only too well. Mr Johnston moved to Melbourne in 2015 with his girlfriend Edie after a year travelling overseas.

He failed to find full-time work, but a bachelor's degree in contemporary music and a graduate diploma in education from Southern Cross University in NSW means he has a debt of about $30,000 "hanging over his head".

Mr Johnston said he "gave up" looking for full-time work in the "depth of winter" and was now focused on his gigs, which were easier to get. He also volunteers as a teacher's aide and tutors students to gain experience.

But the lack of income and the absence of a community in the new city has taken a toll.  "I had a bout with depression last year which lasted nine months," Mr Johnston said.  "I am still on antidepressants now, which is coming to a close very shortly."

Grattan Institute chief executive John Daley said the book's finding was consistent with the institute's research.

"There is a real danger of a generation that will be less well off than its parents," Mr Daley said.

"You can see it in an older cohort that has much more wealth than their predecessors, whereas wealth in younger households is not going up very fast.

"You see it in incomes, you see it in ... very rapidly falling rates of home ownerships."

Several factors, including rapidly falling interest rates, an age-based tax, welfare, and superannuation system geared towards older workers, were responsible for the situation, Mr Daley said.


April 1 premium rises prompt half a million angry Aussies to quit health insurance

This is bulldust.  A rise of $2 per week for a single person is a problem?  What can $2 buy you these days?  I can't think of anything.  It won't even buy you a custard tart in Woolworths

A PREMIUM rise three times the inflation rate has unleashed consumer rage on health funds with more than half a million people planning to quit their cover.

Premiums will rise by around $200 a year for a family and around $100 a year for singles on April 1.

And almost half of all health fund members plan to shop around to find a better deal a Galaxy poll commissioned by health fund iSelect has found.

More than 530,000 Australians told the survey they planned to ditch their insurance altogether, a move that could increase pressure on public hospitals.

Families and couples who already have hospital only or extras only (as opposed to combined health cover) are the most likely to quit their health fund.

One in five or 215,000 couple and families with hospital only or extras only are considering dropping their cover, the survey found.

“It’s possible these households have already pared back their cover as premiums have risen in recent years but this latest increase may be the tipping point that means they can simply no longer afford it,” iSelect spokeswoman Laura Crowden said.

Health Minister Sussan Ley has approved a 5.59 per cent premium rise that is more than three times the inflation rate.

Some health fund products are rising well in excess of this amount, Bupa’s Top Hospital with $250 excess is rising by 8.5 per cent and Medibank’s combined hospital and extras package for families by 9.5 per cent.


'Hard to watch': Afghans react to $6m Australian film aimed at asylum seekers

A movie commissioned by Australia’s immigration department to deter Afghan asylum seekers has had its premiere on local TV, seeking to reinforce a widely held view that unauthorised travel to Australia is not worth the risk.

The Journey is a lavish production depicting hopeful asylum seekers who meet tragic fates crossing the Indian Ocean.

Underwritten by $6m in Australian taxpayers’ money and filmed in three countries, it was shown on Friday on two channels in Afghanistan, the world’s second-largest source of refugees and migrants in 2015, after Syria.

“It was hard to watch. It made me very upset,” Ali Reza, an 18-year-old tailor said about the film. “I know they were actors, but these things really happen to Afghans.”

Put It Out There Pictures, which produced the film for $4.34m, says on its website the movie aims to inform audiences “about the futility of investing in people smugglers, the perils of the trip, and the hardline policies that await them if they do reach Australian waters”.

Judging from the responses of scores of young men who spoke to the Guardian, that goal was largely achieved.  “It was a good movie,” said Mostafa Ebadi, 23. “It showed the lies smugglers tell passengers before leaving.”

Mohammad Tawab, 23, said he had been particularly moved by scenes of refugees languishing in an Indonesian prison. For Yama Taheri, who was playing football in a downtown Kabul park, the most disturbing sequence was one in which three brothers drown. “It made me think that if I try to go with friends, this will be our destiny,” he said.

Before the current Syrian conflict forced millions to flee that country, Afghanistan was by far the largest producer of refugees in the world for more than three decades. Neighbouring countries Pakistan and Iran hosted most of the displaced Afghans, but Afghans were also the largest national group who sought to reach Australia by boat.

Almost all Afghans who have reached Australia by boat have been found to be refugees legally requiring protection. Each year since 2009, between 96% and 100% of Afghan asylum seekers have had their claims for refugee status upheld.

But in recent years fewer and fewer Afghans have set their sights on Australia. Harsher asylum policies and warning campaigns have deterred many. The vast majority of Afghan asylum seekers in 2015 went to Europe, with more than 150,000 to Germany alone.

For three years Daud Hossaini, 42, planned to join his brother in Australia. As asylum policies tightened, he hesitated, but retained hope that the forthcoming federal election might bring change. But on Friday, after seeing the movie, he finally buried his hopes of moving to Australia.  “If I die on the way, what’s the point of going?” he said.

Lapis Communications, who promoted and adapted the movie to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, denied they were producing government propaganda.  “The backers of the film are credited, that is neither hidden or denied,” said Sarah-Jean Cunningham, director of operations and business development. “More importantly, the ideas and values around the film are grounded in addressing a very serious and tragic issue – with the ultimate objective of saving lives.”

Cunningham denied the fee earned by Lapis – $1.63m – was excessive. “The cost is reflective of the extent of that significant scope of work,” she said.

However, not everyone bought the message. As security worsens and employment becomes scarcer, Afghans will continue to leave. Humayoon, 29, who saw part of the movie before rushing off to a wedding, said he was only staying in Afghanistan as long as he had a job.  “If I can’t feed my family, what am I supposed to do?”


Federal Labor party MPs Lobby Sydney University To Maintain  Antisemitic "Centre"

Pressure is mounting on the University of Sydney to back away from planned changes to its Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), with Federal Labor MPs writing to the University and urging it to reconsider.

In a letter seen by New Matilda, three Federal MPs and four of their state counterparts have implored the institution not to “downgrade” the Centre into a mini-department.

The CPACS is headed by Associate-Professor Jake Lynch, and has campaigned outside of the classroom on a number of issues. Lynch and others involved in the Centre are concerned the changes to its structure will threaten that side of its operations.

So too are Federal MPs Melissa Parke, Maria Vamvakinou, and Laurie Ferguson, who along with state MPs Paul Lynch, Julia Finn, Lynda Voltz, and Shaoquett Moselmane have signed a letter protesting the restructure and sent to the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Professor Barbara Caine.

“CPACS’s efforts to promote debate on issues like accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka, West Papua, Palestine and human rights generally provide the Australian and the global community with a sophisticated, alternative voice on topical and difficult issues, as reflected in acclamations for CPACS’ work by the likes of Dr Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu,” their letter says.

The letter goes on to urge the University to reconsider changing the Centre’s status.

“It cannot be good for our democracy and academic reputation to attenuate such voices. It would be particularly disturbing if a prestigious institution like Sydney University, by the simple expedient of withdrawing resources from CPACS, is seen to supress reflection and debate on important, even controversial, matters.”

The move follows similar action from NSW state Greens MPs, who wrote to the University earlier in the week warning the changes to the Centre could look like a ‘politically motivated attack’ to the broader community.

After being contacted for comment today, a spokesperson for University said they did not comment on correspondence with MPs. The University has previously argued the changes to the Centre are due to falling enrolments, but that has been disputed by Lynch.

Lynch has previously been the subject of controversy thanks to his support of the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions campaign. MPs who signed the letter, including Federal members Melissa Parke and Maria Vamvakinou, have been among Labor’s most outspoken supporters of Palestine.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Busybodies want to limit other people's choices

A small, low-cost inner-city "pied-√†-terre" might be just what is needed for someone who works in the city during the week but who spends the weekend at a pleasant rural property.  Many men work away from their families during the week.  My father did

THEY’VE been labelled “crappy” and “dog boxes in the sky”, apartments so small and badly designed there’s barely enough room to swing a cat — let alone a pooch.

There’s no space for luxuries like, you know, a dining room table, while some rooms don’t even sport windows.

The tiniest units in Australian cities are so small they would be illegal in crowded Hong Kong and New York.

But far from being spurned, compact flats are being heralded by some as the solution to the growing demand for city living.

However, there are moves afoot to clamp down on so-called “micro apartments” with calls for a minimum size for flats to stop developers squeezing more people into ever smaller spaces.

Earlier this month, Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle criticised developers who were sacrificing design for density.

“I am pro-development but some of the developments that have been put before us are shameful”, he told the Urban Development Institute in Adelaide.

Talking to he reeled off a list of developer requests he was outraged by, including windows separated from the rooms they were supposed to illuminate by a corridor so long it was “like something out of Alice in Wonderland”, glass walls whose role it was to filter light into windowless bedrooms but actually created “little caves”, and fridge doors that couldn’t open because of the cramped space.

There was even the builder who created a micro apartment without a kitchen with the reason that it would be ideal for someone who enjoyed eating out.

A critic of unchecked development, Mr Doyle said good design needed to be at the centre of new apartments to prevent “building the slums of tomorrow”.

Yet, for 24-year-old public relations consultant Elena Eckhardt, her tiny Sydney apartment, which she shares with her partner, is a bijou beauty.

“The apartment has a double bedroom, bathroom, laundry, joint kitchen and living room and balcony,” she told

“Despite it being so small I’ve decorated it so it feels very personal.”

At 48sq m her flat is skirting the regulations in NSW, known as SEPP 65, that set a minimum apartment size. One bedroom units can be no smaller than 50sq m but studio apartments can go down to a super snug 35sq m.

Ms Eckhardt’s bedroom is partially separate with openings in the wall letting some natural light “borrowed” from the living room which has large windows.

“It’s the smallest place I’ve lived,” she said of the unit in the city fringe suburb of Chippendale. “We wouldn’t be able to afford a big apartment in the CBD so I do definitely like being here at this stage in our lives.”

Ms Eckhardt said she could walk to work and any number of pubs and shops were in the local area. The couple are out most nights, so see the flat as less a place to linger and more somewhere to bed down in.

Nevertheless, they’ve had to make compromises. “We decided not to have a kitchen table because it’s too cluttered so we only have a table on the balcony and eat there or on the couch”.

“But having a separate bedroom was really important because there is two of us so it doesn’t feel like we’re sharing one room.”

Ms Eckhardt’s 48sq m are an indulgence of open space compared to an apartment advertised for rent in Melbourne CBD that was just 20sq m, or roughly the size of two car parking spots, the Age reported.

In Victoria, unlike NSW, there is no minimum apartment size. In the Victorian Government’s ‘Better Apartments’ consultation, Planning Minister Richard Wynne raised the prospect of a new apartment code which could see minimum sizes alongside a raft of other measures around natural light, noise and outdoor space.

The consultation found daylight and space were the top concerns for apartment dwellers with 76 per cent of respondents calling for a minimum apartment size.


Why women are the enemy of working mothers

It's broader than enmity to new mothers who work.  Women are great at tearing ALL other women down.  The "Sisterhood" is a myth.  Even your friends probably bad-mouth you behind your back.  Consciously or subconciously, most women see themselves as engaged in a never-ending competition for the affections of men, so regard all other women as potential rivals who have to be torn down.  And it's not unreasonable.  When men are inclined to "stray", there is usually a woman willing to stray with them

NEW mothers who return to work beware — women are out to get you.

Only 41 per cent of women would support a friend who chooses to go back to employment after having kids if they are not the primary breadwinner, according to a new survey.

But that figure rose to 89 per cent if the woman earned more than her partner, according to the survey of 2000 women by cosmetics company Heat.

Only about 14 per cent of households with dependent children under 15 are headed by a female breadwinner in Australia, although it is closer to 27 per cent in inner Sydney.

New mum Vilja Roman had little choice but to go back to work fulltime when her son Feliks was less than a year old. Under the terms of her contract, she would have had to pay back her maternity leave if she didn’t.  But Ms Roman, 35, felt judged.

She said: “I remember some of my colleagues were a bit surprised that I was going back fulltime. In my mothers’ group, others went back part-time or stayed at home, I was the only one who went back fulltime.

“The decision to go back fulltime is where I felt most judged. I don’t know how much of that was my personal feelings, as opposed to how much others judged me.”

Heather Gridley, an honorary ­fellow in psychology, said judgment often came when women felt pressured to defend their own choice.

“In doing that, you point to the other person as having made a less valid choice,” she said.

“Often, they are not choices at all. It can be quite painful. When you don’t get validation, self-doubt starts to emerge. I think women are particularly vulnerable to that.”

Anita Vitanova, founder of inner, said she found mothers felt judged “constantly”.

“Women do judge each other, mainly to justify and validate their own choices,” she said. “Very often it won’t be a direct attack but it will be more of the ‘I would never’ dig.

“It takes a lot of confidence to know who you really are when becoming a mother and it’s not something you can prepare or practise.”

Gillian Franklin, the chief executive of the company that carried out the survey, said women should be ­encouraging their friends.

“We need to release women from the guilt, and help them make choices on their own terms,” she said.


Tasmania is on the brink of an entirely avoidable power crisis

Because of Green bribery for "renewable" power from the former Gillard government, Tasmania ran down its big hydro dams.  So the water is not now there when it is needed to cover a drought

Tasmania appears to be on the brink of a crisis, with the island state only weeks away from serious blackouts if there is no significant rainfall.

The seriousness of the issue at hand isn’t suggested by Techly as being down to mismanagement by Tasmanian officials, simply a sequence of unforeseen problems.

Multiple sources in Tasmania and the mainland describe the situation as dire.

Tasmania has just two months supply of water to feed its hydroelectric dams, unless there is significant rainfall. Energy storage, or the level of water available to generate hydro-power, is at historic lows. Rainfall into catchment areas in the past 12-months has been around one-third of projected rainfall, based on thirty-year modelling. Without hydropower, Tasmania’s energy demands at normal peaks far exceed current generation.

Dam levels were reduced during the carbon tax era, where hydroelectric or carbon neutral power generation was extremely valuable. Hydro Tasmania, the body who maintain and run a series of 55 major dams and 30 hydropower stations within, was very profitable during this time, as it drained water for great revenues.

Indeed, in the quirks of the carbon tax arrangements, the sale of renewable energy certificates or RECs accounted for more than 70 per cent of revenue inflows. (It is not suggested that reducing dam levels during this time was malfeasant.)

Basslink. Tasmania is supplied both power and data connections via the Basslink submarine cable. That cable is no small matter – it runs for 370 kilometres undersea, it is rated to 500MW and cost over a half a billion dollars to install between 2003-06, including testing and commissioning.

However, on 21 December 2015, it was announced the Basslink was disconnected due to a faulty interconnector. Given the cable is underwater, and the fault was located as around approximately 100 kilometres off the Tasmanian coast, the Basslink controlling body called Basslink first announced that it would be repaired and returned to service by 19 March 2016.

That date has since fallen into the abyss as more than 100 experts, including 16 or more from Italy, plus a specialist ship, try to fix the cable. Basslink advised on March 13th that the cable would be fixed by late May.

Normally, a Basslink outage isn’t a big deal. The mainland has to adjust how it distributes power across the Eastern Seaboard, and given the cable supplies an absolute peak of 500MW, it doesn’t shoulder the entire load, but provides greater flexibility for operators, and reduces the average cost of power. It also helps to balance peak and off-peak loads across the grid.

Additional power from non-renewables in Tasmania includes three significant gas turbine and thermal power stations which provide 535 MWh of power at full capacity.

But Tasmania has far more hydroelectric power – more than 2300MW of hydropower at full capacity.

Techly understands that if Basslink can’t be fixed for an economic cost, it may not be fixed at all, depending on the assessments currently underway.


Federal election 2016: Bernardi risks Lib split with new group

Rightwing Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has laid the groundwork to launch a new political force, the Australian Conservatives, to “give a voice back to Australia’s forgotten people”.

In a move that risks further splintering the Turnbull government, a company controlled by the South Australian senator’s wife has applied to trademark the name and logos of the new group, with the stated aim of providing the “services of a political party”.

Senator Bernardi, who in ­September warned of a possible schism of the Liberal Party if Malcolm Turnbull did not uphold the party’s “distinctly conservative” character, yesterday described the Australian Conservatives as a program of his existing Conservative Leadership Foundation.

He would not provide further details about what the program ­involved or give an assurance he would not leave the Liberals to lead a breakaway party.

In a rousing email to supporters on Monday, Senator Bernardi ­referred repeatedly to the “silent majority of Australian Conservatives” who were challenging “the leftist agenda of big government and decaying society”.

“Unless the mainstream parties connect with the ‘forgotten people’ they will choose a different path. It’s a global phenomenon and would be foolish to think it won’t emerge in Australia,” he wrote, citing the rise of Donald Trump.

“My mission (is) to build a movement that will change politics. To fight against the tyranny of political correctness and give a voice back to Australia’s forgotten people.

“That’s what Sir Robert Menzies sought to do over 70 years ago in forming the Liberal Party. It’s time Australian Conservatives ­reclaimed Menzies’s vision.”

After Mr Turnbull seized the prime ministership in September, Senator Bernardi raised the prospect of a split in the Liberal Party unless it maintained a “distinctly conservative vision”.

“I don’t want it to come to that,” he said at the time. “I want us to be a mainstream conservative party, rather than just a vehicle for ­‘anything goes, as long as I can climb the greasy pole’.”

The senator yesterday would not say whether the risk of a party split had subsided.

Senator Bernardi, a conservative stalwart, regards Islam as a ­“totalitarian political and religious ideology” and strongly opposes gay-friendly initiatives such as same-sex marriage and the Safe Schools Coalition anti-bullying program. His foundation aims to train young conservatives to effectively advocate political change through business, media, academic, political and community organisations.

Senator Bernardi is not due to face re-election until 2019 in a standard half-Senate election, but would be up for election this year if the Prime Minister proceeds with his threat of a July 2 double dissolution.

The Liberal Party’s conservative fringe is being wooed by the Australian Liberty Alliance, which draws inspiration from populist Dutch MP Geert Wilders and champions a 10-year moratorium on Muslim immigration.

Tony Abbott in February warned the Liberal base would “flirt” with “more extreme alternatives” such as the ALA unless the Turnbull government maintained tough immigration and counter-terrorism policies. Mr Abbott has long cautioned against allowing fringe politicians to erode the Liberal base.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Why can't the Queensland police be polite?

The English police are traditionally polite so it's not impossible.

An elderly couple I know recently were "raided" by police in search of pornography.  I once had my car stolen and offered good evidence about who stole it but they weren't interested.  So pornography is more important than car theft?

The lady of the house is completely computer illiterate and the husband just uses his old computer to play solitaire.  But six cops and a computer expert barged into the house and ordered the couple around, leaving the lady in some distress.

And the husband has a heart problem.  What might the stress have done to him?

The police found nothing.  Why were they there in the first place?  Bungledom amplified by arrogance.

Oliver Cromwell's famous plea to some stiff-necked Scots could well apply to the Queensland police: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken".  The plea was ignored by those to whom it was addressed -- to their great woe.

Australian refugee intake will minimise single Sunni men, favour Christians

Is Australia the only country in the world with a sane refugee policy?

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says ‘we have a problem with second or third-generation new Australians (who) are radicalising online’.

Australia will minimise its intake of single Sunni men as it vets the 12,000 Syrian refugees the government has pledged to take from Syria, prioritising instead Christian family groups who can never return home.

As Malcolm Turnbull fended off suggestions he had conflated the European refugee crisis with the terror attacks in Brussels and Paris, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Australia had “a problem’’ with second and third-generation migrants who become extremists.

Speaking after Belgium’s ambassador to Australia, Jean-Luc Bodson, chided the government for connecting the Brussels terror attack with ­Europe’s migrant policies, Mr Dutton said some Euro­pean countries had adopted a “more passive’’ approach to terrorism and the challenges it posed to Western values.

“There’s been a different ­approach in some European ­nations to terrorists, a more passive approach,’’ Mr Dutton said. “That’s not the case in Australia. We’re not going to tolerate any view at all which is designed to kill off the Australian way of life or cause mass harm.’’

Mr Dutton also drew a connection between Australia’s migration program and homegrown extremists, many of whom have been second-generation Lebanese or Afghan migrants.

“We have a problem in this country with second or third-­generation new Australians and people that are radicalising online, people who believe that they owe some ­allegiance to another part of the world.’’

On Thursday, a day after the Prime Minister delivered a speech critiquing Europe’s migration policies, Mr Bodson said the ­remarks were “dangerous’’.

‘’It’s precisely what (Islamic State) wants,’’ the Belgian envoy said. “That we would make a confusion between terrorism and ­migrants and between terrorism and Islam.’’

The comments came after Mr Turnbull accused Islamic State of exploiting the European refugee crisis, which has been caused by the Syrian civil war, to smuggle its operatives in among the millions of refugees streaming into southern Europe.

On Thursday, Mr Turnbull told the ABC his words were “carefully checked’’ by his security advisers.  “I don’t think anyone would ­seriously doubt what I said,’’ Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Dutton said so far fewer than 100 of the 12,000 refugees Australia had pledged to take from war-ravaged Syria or northern Iraq had arrived in the country.

The government has said it would prioritise persecuted min­orities in choosing the 12,000, widely understood to be code for non-­Islamic migrants.

Christian groups, such as Yaz­idis, who have been massacred and enslaved by Islamic State in northern Iraq, will be given preference, partly because — unlike Sunni groups — they will never be able to return to their homes.

Authorities will largely pass over refugees from high-risk groups, such as single Sunni men.

The government has pledged to vet the 12,000 new migrants, subjecting them to biometric checks as well as checking their bona fides with Australia’s intelligence partners.


Belgium ambassador to Australia labels Malcolm Turnbull’s comments as ‘dangerous’

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has stood by his warning that terror group Islamic State was using the Syrian refugee crisis as a way to smuggle extremists into Europe.

Despite offending Belgium’s ambassador to Australia and ignoring Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel’s request for solidarity, Mr Turnbull linked the Brussels terror attacks to Europe’s refugee crisis during a speech at the Lowy Institute this week.

“The attacks in Brussels are an unfortunate reminder of how violent Islamist extremism appears to have reached a crisis point in Europe,” Mr Turnbull said.

“European governments are confronted by a perfect storm of failed or neglected integration, foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, porous borders and intelligence and security apparatus struggling to keep pace with the scope and breadth of the threat.”

Mr Turnbull quoted Bernard Squarcini, a former head of France’s domestic intelligence agency, the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence, describing these factors as creating “a favourable ecosystem for an Islamist milieu”.

“The external borders are difficult to manage. Recent intelligence indicates that ISIL is using the refugee crisis to send operatives into Europe.”

Belgium’s Ambassador to Australia, Jean-Luc Bodson, fired back, describing the comments as “dangerous, because it’s precisely what ISIS wants — that we would make a confusion between terrorism and migrants and between terrorism and Islam,” Mr Bodson told ABC News.

“Our Prime Minister during his first press conference yesterday, actually asked for solidarity, and asked for people not to blame one community, because it’s the worst thing we could do and it is the most counter productive.

“My view is that the terrorists who committed the latest attacks and in Paris and in Belgium are European-raised and born. Maybe from foreign origins, but they are Europeans.

“So it has nothing to do with the refugee crisis and I think that is the main danger to assimilate that.”

In a heated interview on Lateline with host Tony Jones last night, Mr Turnbull responded to claims he’d gone too far, backing his stance by assuring “everything I said was carefully checked by my security advisers”.

“My job as Prime Minister of Australia is to explain these events to Australians and in particular to explain the context, to explain where there are similarities and where there are differences,” he said.

“And there are very big differences between the security environment in Europe and Australia.

“We have a much more successful multicultural society than many European countries and we have stronger borders.

“I don’t think anyone would seriously doubt what I said.

“There is an enormous flood of refugees going into Europe and of course it’s very challenging for the Europeans. There is a very serious crisis. The humanitarian crisis in Syria of course is of a scale not seen for many, many years.

“It is not entirely without precedent of course but it is an extraordinary one — millions of people fleeing that unhappy country and many of them of course going into Europe.

“It strains the resources of the security services and the border agencies in Europe.”

Mr Jones quizzed Mr Turnbull as to whether fear of importing terrorists accounted for the reason that just 26 Syrian refugees have arrived in Australia, despite pledging an intake of 12,000.

“We are taking great care. We take security and border protection very seriously,” he replied.

“We are not afeared. We look at this in a very clear-eyed way and we protect the security of Australians diligently and in a very realistic and pragmatic way.

“Bringing people in from that environment demands that there be careful security checks, whether they are part of the 12,000 additional refugee places or the normal humanitarian intake. And ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) and our other agencies — the AFP (Australian Federal Police) and so forth — are taking great care in ensuring that those people who come in are as far as we can ascertain, not people that would pose any security risk to Australians.

“And we make no apology for that. My job as Prime Minister of Australia, first and foremost, is to keep Australians safe.”


Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’: Sydney Grammar head

A top Australian school has banned laptops in class, warning that technology “distracts’’ from old-school quality teaching.

The headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, John Vallance, yesterday described the billions of dollars spent on computers in Australian schools over the past seven years as a “scandalous waste of money’’.

“I’ve seen so many schools with limited budgets spending a disproportionate amount of their money on technology that doesn’t really bring any measurable, or non-measurable, benefits,’’ he said.

“Schools have spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars­ on interactive whiteboards, digital projectors, and now they’re all being jettisoned.’’

Sydney Grammar has banned students from bringing laptops to school, even in the senior years, and requires them to handwrite assignments and essays until Year 10. Its old-school policy bucks the prevailing trend in most Aus­tralian high schools, and many primary schools, to require parents­ to purchase laptops for use in the classroom.

Dr Vallance said the Rudd-­Gillard government’s $2.4 billion Digital Education Revolution, which used taxpayer funds to buy laptops for high school students, was money wasted. “It didn’t really do anything except enrich Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard and Apple,’’ he said. “They’ve got very powerful lobby influence in the educational community.’’

Sydney Grammar students have access to computers in the school computer lab, and use laptops at home.

But Dr Vallance regards­ laptops as a distraction in the classroom. “We see teaching as fundamentally a social activity,’’ he said. “It’s about interaction ­between people, about discussion, about conversation.

“We find that having laptops or iPads in the classroom inhibit conversation — it’s distracting.

“If you’re lucky enough to have a good teacher and a motivating group of classmates, it would seem a waste to introduce anything that’s going to be a distraction from the benefits that kind of social context will give you.’’

Academically, Sydney Grammar rates among Australia’s top-performing schools, and is frequented by the sons of Sydney’s business and political elite. Almost one in five of its Year 12 graduates placed in the top 1 per cent of Australian students for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank university entry scores last year.

The school’s alumni includes three prime ministers — Malcolm Turnbull, who attended on a scholarship, Edmund Barton and William McMahon — as well as bush poet Banjo Paterson and business chief David Gonski, the architect of a needs-based funding model to help disadvantaged students.

The private boys’ school, which charges fees of $32,644 a year, routinely tops the league tables in the national literacy and numeracy tests.

Dr Vallance said he preferred to spend on teaching staff than on technology. “In the schools where they have laptops, they get stolen, they get dropped in the playground, they get broken, you have to hire extra staff to fix them, you’ve got to replace them every few years. They end up being massive lines in the budgets of schools which at the same time have leaky toilets and rooves and ramshackle buildings.

“If I had a choice between filling a classroom with laptops or hiring another teacher, I’d take the other teacher every day of the week.’’

Dr Vallance — who will step down as headmaster next year, after 18 years in the job — is a Cambridge scholar, a trustee of the State Library of NSW Foundation and a director of the National Art School.

In 2014 the Coalition government appointed him as a specialist reviewer of the national arts curriculum, which he criticised as “rambling, vague and patronising’’ with “a tendency towards the elimination of rigour’’.

Dr Vallance said yesterday laptops had “introduced a great deal of slackness’’ in teaching. “It’s made it much easier of giving the illusion of having prepared a lesson,’’ he said.

He also criticised as “crazy’’ plans by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to computerise the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy tests next year.

“That means generations of students will be doing NAPLAN on computers, they won’t be allowed to write by hand, which I think is crazy,’’ he said. “Allowing children to lose that capacity to express themselves by writing is a very dangerous thing.’’

Dr Vallance said Sydney Grammar had been studying the difference between handwritten and computer-typed tasks among boys in Year 3 and Year 5.

“In creative writing tasks, they find it much easier to write by hand, to put their ideas down on a piece of paper, than they do with a keyboard,’’ he said.

Dr Vallance said he was sure people would call him a “dinosaur’’. “But I’m in no way anti-technology,’’ he said. “I love gadgets. It’s partly because we all love gadgets so much that we have these rules, otherwise we’d all just muck about. Technology is a servant, not a master.

“You can’t end up allowing the tail to wag the dog, which I think it is at the moment.’’

Dr Vallance said computers in the classroom robbed children of the chance to debate and discuss ideas with the teacher.

“One of the most powerful tools in education is conversation,’’ he said.

“The digital delivery of teaching materials across Australia has had a really powerful normative effect.

“It’s making it quite difficult for children to learn how to disagree, how not to toe the party line, because they can’t question things — the possibility of questioning things has been taken away from them.’’

Dr Vallance said it was a “really scandalous situation’’ that Australia was “spending more on education than ever before and the results are gradually getting worse and worse’’. He said it cost $250,000-$500,000 to equip a moderate-sized high school with interactive whiteboards, which are only used at Sydney Grammar if teachers request them. “That’s a huge amount of money in the life of a school, that could translate to quite a few good members of staff,’’ he said.

“I think when people come to write the history of this period in education … this investment in classroom technology is going to be seen as a huge fraud.’’

The OECD has also questioned the growing reliance on technology in schools. In a report last year, it said schools must give students a solid foundation in reading, writing and maths before introducing computers. It found that heavy users of computers in the classroom “do a lot worse in most learning outcomes’’.

“In the end, technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching,’’ the OECD report concluded.


Friday, March 25, 2016

What is Lyme Disease?

Australia has lots of ticks but Lyme-type diseases in Australia seem to be caused by a different organism to that seen in North America -- so the same therapy does not work

"I’VE been diagnosed with Lyme disease but no one believes me," my patient says, handing me a thick pile of blood test results from America.

I’m immediately concerned. She’s obviously unwell and looking for answers, but I’ve seen patients with similar results and I’m worried she’s being scammed.

Lyme disease is real, but there’s no scientific proof that it’s occurring in Australia. My patient has never travelled to an area known to have Lyme disease, so I know she’s been given the wrong information somewhere along the line.

Borrelia is the cause of Lyme disease and this bacteria is transmitted to humans via tick bites in North America and Europe.

My patient explained that after months of fatigue, muscle pain and headaches she wasn’t getting anywhere with her usual doctor. In desperation, she consulted Dr Google and quickly diagnosed herself with Lyme.

She read internet forums and learned about a "Great Australian Lyme Conspiracy", where regular doctors don’t believe that Lyme even exists, but she felt hopeful when she discovered the name of a charismatic Lyme practitioner.

She travelled a long way to attend his Lyme clinic and he backed up her diagnosis. He explained that local pathology labs never gave correct results, but a special lab in America would confirm their fears.

She sent her blood overseas and paid more than a thousand dollars to receive a positive diagnosis of Lyme disease from an unaccredited lab.

Pathology labs in Australia are asked to comply with strict guidelines. They’re closely monitored and accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA), an organisation that ensures patients receive accurate results.

Patients who’ve been bitten by ticks in Australia have their blood tested at accredited labs all the time, but so far we haven’t seen a test come back positive for Borrelia infection.

Lyme activists will tell you that NATA-accredited labs don’t detect Borrelia because their machines aren’t sensitive enough to pick it up. The truth is that unaccredited labs aren’t specific enough, and tend to deliver positive results for Borrelia whether you’ve got Lyme disease or not.

My patient was told that Borrelia was all through her body, eating her joints and rotting her brain, and her Lyme practitioner recommended a long course of high-dose antibiotics.

Panicked by this horrific news and desperate to get her old Lyme-free life back, she obediently commenced treatment. Six months on and feeling much worse than when she’d started, she attended my clinic looking for more help.

When this all began, she was definitely sick. Australians are getting a mysterious illness from tick bites all the time. We don’t know what it is, but we know it’s not Lyme.

Lyme activists are not known to be scientific, but are known to be politically powerful. In 2013 they pressured the Australian government to investigate Lyme disease and in response, the Chief Medical Officer formed the Clinical Advisory Committee on Lyme disease (CACLD).

In 2014 the CACLD concluded that there was "no routine finding of Borrelia in ticks in Australia" and recommended that further research was necessary to find a cause of this mysterious illness affecting Australians. An updated statement was released in February 2016 by the Department of Health, reiterating that "so far there is no conclusive evidence of a causative agent in Australia".

It’s already bad enough that Australian patients are provided with unvalidated results, but even if they were infected with Borrelia, the therapy offered by Lyme practitioners doesn’t follow therapeutic guidelines.

Using up to four weeks of antibiotics is the treatment recommended to eradicate Borrelia. This makes most people feel better, but some patients continue to feel unwell after Borrelia is long gone. This is known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome and is caused by the bacteria triggering the immune system to cause chronic inflammation.

Local patients don’t get better from their first month of antibiotics (because they don’t have Lyme disease) so some practitioners try harder and increase the dose or extend the treatment for 12 months or more, and it still doesn’t work.

My patient fell into this camp. She felt worse than when she’d started treatment and I diagnosed her with severe jaundice due to drug-induced hepatitis. In other words, she was bright yellow because the high-dose antibiotics were causing liver failure.

I sent her straight to hospital in an attempt to save her liver and her life.

She was definitely unwell to begin with, but science is yet to confirm the cause of her mysterious tick-borne disease. Treating her blindly for Lyme was not the right way to go.

Political pressure from Lyme activists has resulted in a Senate Inquiry which is now underway. I’m hopeful that the Senate will uncover the actual ‘Great Australian Lyme Conspiracy’, where vulnerable patients are being scammed with expensive unaccredited tests, where unscientific and untruthful diagnoses are handed out, and where inappropriate and bogus treatments are endangering the lives of already unwell people.

Please note that this information is not an opinion, but has been written in consultation with some of Australia’s leading infectious disease physicians and pathologists.

Let’s end the conspiracy and work together to find the true cause of this mysterious illness with science-based medicine. It’s only then that we might be able to find a cure.


We'll take back Iranians with pride: Zarif

Iran will take back failed asylum seekers "with pride" but only if they return voluntarily from Australia. 

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop held wide-ranging formal talks with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Canberra on Tuesday during the first visit by a senior Iranian minister in 13 years.  The pair discussed combating people-smuggling, boosting trade ties and global security issues.

Following the meeting, Dr Zarif said it was within Canberra's legal right to deport Iranians.

"We cannot force anybody to come back to Iran but if anybody wants to come back voluntarily, we always take our citizens with pride," he told reporters.

The prospects of securing a deal for the mandatory return of 9000 failed asylum seekers to Iran is looking slim with negotiations still in early stages.

A group of 30 Iranian democracy supporters rallied on the lawns of Parliament House protesting human rights abuses and the execution of political prisoners including women and children.

"Our message to the foreign minister is clear, stop the hangings in Iran, stop killing innocent people," spokesman Mohammad Sadeghpour told AAP.

Dr Zarif said he was happy to talk about human rights but warned about the need for a more serious approach to discussions.

"Where human rights does not become an instrument of political pressure," he said.

Ms Bishop also raised Iran's controversial missile tests - namely the political circumstances surrounding the timing and how Iran was being perceived by the global community.

She said the proper legal process was for the UN Security Council to consider the matter.


Australia's boom made everybody richer but inequality remained

It's highly likely that you can't have it both ways. The poor don't create economic growth.  Rich people do. And "The poor ye always have with you"

Australia's 25 years of sustained economic growth in a highly unpredictable and volatile global economic environment is truly remarkable and unprecedented at the world stage. The country's outstanding run, however, stands out alongside increased public concern that poverty has remained  high and increasing, particularly for certain population groups.

The Poverty Report published in 2014 by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) reports that 2.55 million Australian residents lived below the poverty line in 2012.  This is about 14 per cent of all Australian residents in 2012.

One widely held view has been that Australia's economic growth does not reach the poor as fully as it does other members of society. This demands the question, "How good has Australia's economic growth been for the poor?"

To set the scene, an overview of significant economic events from that point on is instructive. In 1993, Australia was just coming out of a deep recession, and the Hawke-Keating government led recovery by continuing on with the economic liberalisation reforms that lifted the economy up in the mid-1980s. 

When the Liberals were voted to power in 1996, the Howard government moved swiftly to reduce government expenditure, prioritise a return to budget surplus and instigate industrial relations reforms to further speed up economic recovery. The short-term pains that accompanied these reforms were rationalised as unfortunate but necessary for achieving economic efficiencies critical for the long-term growth performance of the economy.

It was apparent that equity was less important as a reform goal, despite the political rhetoric.

In the 1990s, Australia's economic performance was characterised by low inflation targeting and high productivity. The first is a lesson learned from the last recession, and the latter is a result obtained from a long process of labour pro-market reforms dating back from the 1980s and which culminated in a formal shift towards enterprise bargaining early on in the Howard regime. Australia grew strongly under these policies. Towards the end of the decade, the country's economic growth was quite robust so much so that the economy got through the severe Asian financial crises of 1998 virtually unscathed.
Tax and mining

In the 2000s, the Australian economy continued to grow strongly on the back of a successful tax reform program introduced in the early years, and the Australian mining boom. Experts estimate the boom to have officially started in 2004, when Australian minerals had a surge in commodity prices and a tremendous increase in the trade of terms, particularly with China.

A second stage is identified to have begun in late 2005, when sustained international demand for our minerals led mining companies to reinvestment their superprofits by opening up new mines, building new infrastructure and acquiring/developing new technologies – all to accommodate growth in demand. It is this capital investment stage that is known to have peaked in 2013, and signalled the end of the mining boom. Through that 2004 to 2013 period, Australia had a change of government.

As well, the global recession of 2008 seriously threatened the stability of the economy.  The Australian economy, however, continued to grow through all these hurdles, albeit at reduced rates. Fact is, the economy did so well that Australia topped the list of countries that were least affected by the global financial crisis, where this included China, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden among others.
Gap grows wider

So, back to the question: Is Australia's growth good for the poor? Our research investigations show that between 1993 and 2009, mean household incomes steadily increased by 76 per cent or 4.7 per cent per annum. So incomes were growing as the economy was growing.  Our calculations, however, also reveal that economic inequality – the gap between the rich and the poor, as measured by the Gini coefficient – increased by 8.6 per cent over that same period.

A deeper look into this showed that inequality levels worsened relatively slowly between 1993 and 2003, at a total overall rate of just 2.4 per cent for the entire 11-year period (or about 0.22 per cent each year); while inequality levels rose sharply by 8.6 per cent overall between 2003 and 2009 (this translates to a 1.4 per cent increase in inequality level each year in that  six-year period). So, the gap between the rich and the poor increased as the economy grew, and it increased more sharply after the global financial crisis.

With regards to poverty, our calculations show that national poverty rates appeared steady at 11 per cent between 1993 and 2010, but in fact, poverty estimates followed a U-curve path during that 17-year period. More specifically, we found that poverty rates decreased by 10 per cent between 1993 and 1998; but from 1998 to 2010, poverty rates increased by about 0.6 per cent per annum or a total of 6.4 per cent. This latter 13-year period can be further divided into 1998-2003 and 2004-09, where the second period incorporates the global recession of 2008.

Our calculations show that poverty rates increased during both four-year periods, but it is curious to find  that the increase in poverty rates during the recession-free period of 1998-2003 was larger than the increase in poverty rates observed in the recession-riddled period of 2003-09.

Proper econometric analysis needs to be undertaken to determine any causal effects of growth on poverty and inequality, but these results from our initial explorations are telling. Overall, we find that average household incomes increased as the economy grew in the 1990s, but economic inequality also increased through the period.

Poverty rates appeared to have decreased with growth in the early years, but this did not last, presumably because the global crisis dominated outcomes in the economy including an increase in overall poverty levels in the last few years.
The lessons

What do these tell us about long-run growth and poverty reduction?  First is that economic growth is a powerful instrument for reducing poverty. Empirical evidence supports this statement and the experience of many advanced and emerging countries demonstrate the powerful influence that growth can have on poverty alleviation.   Second is that inequality can worsen as the economy grows.

This is what we find for Australia, and it implies that the income of poor households grew slower than the growth of average income, and/or that the income of the rich grew faster than the average income. Third is that economic growth is not a sufficient condition for poverty reduction. As we can see in Australia, poverty can increase even whilst the economy is growing.

For any government, it is very clear that the aim to reduce poverty levels over a desired period of time must have, at its core, measures to promote rapid and sustained economic growth.


Some refugees refused asylum in Australia over security concerns

Some people wanting to come to Australia under the expanded refugee program have been flagged as security risks, Justice Minister Michael Keenan says.

The Abbott government last year pledged to take 12,000 extra refugees from Iraq and Syria as part of a one-off intake.

As of last week, fewer than 30 refugees had been resettled in Australia under the program, although about 9,000 people were partway through the security check process.

Mr Keenan told the ABC today strict security checks had been put in place to ensure no-one viewed as a risk would be granted asylum in Australia.

He could not provide a number of those refused asylum, but said the number was "relatively minimal".

"I understand there's been a couple of people ... flagged within that process and again the Australian people should be reassured that [when] 12,000 do arrive in Australia, [they] have been rigorously vetted and they will not pose any security risk."


SA Police settle homeless man’s $100,000 brutality lawsuit out of court, second man now missing

ONE of two homeless men who were bashed by a baton-wielding SA Police officer in the city has received an out-of-court settlement — while the other has gone missing.

On Thursday, the Adelaide Magistrates Court heard Christopher John Mackie had been offered a settlement in his $100,000 lawsuit.

All that remains is for Mr Mackie — who left SA and has refused to return, still fearful after his ordeal — to sign off on the offer.

However his friend, Shaun Robert Jones, will receive no money after the court dismissed his claim for want of prosecution.  The court was told Mr Jones went missing in Alice Springs last October, and the search for him had since been called off.

Last year, Mr Jones and Mr Mackie filed excessive force and assault compensation claims against SA Police and Constable Matthew Schwarz.

The lawsuits arose from an incident at Whitmore Square in
December 2012, which was filmed by Channel 7 and, when shown on television and, caused a public furore.

Mr Jones and Mr Mackie were charged over the incident and, at trial, Const Schwarz admitted striking them repeatedly because he feared his weapon “wasn’t working”.

The court condemned his evidence, threw out the charges and ordered SA Police pay $35,000 in court costs.

On Thursday Andrew Carpenter, for the men, said Mr Mackie’s claim was close to being resolved.  “We have reached an in-principle settlement and need only for the terms to be finalised,” he said.

“We have the difficulty of trying to get instructions from our client, who has since last year moved to a remote part of Australia.  “He’s quite scared of returning to the state based on the assault.”

Mr Carpenter asked for six weeks to obtain his client’s signature, and said he could “neither reject nor agree to” SA Police’s application to dismiss Mr Jones’ claim.

“We’ve had no instructions ... I was advised by Mr Mackie in October last year that Mr Jones was missing,” he said. “I’ve been in contact with missing persons in the NT, multiple times, and of late they had called off the search.”

Magistrate Brionny Kennewell granted the adjournment, dismissed Mr Jones’ claim and refused SA Police’s application for costs.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here