Friday, September 17, 2021

Greenie teacher guilty of common assault after putting a plastic bag over handicapped student’s head

A demonstration of what can happen to marine animals caught in plastic bags has left a Sunshine Coast teacher awaiting sentencing for common assault.

Jesslee Ann Regmi, 56, was demonstrating to a class the impacts of plastics on wildlife, specifically turtles, when she placed a plastic bag over the head of a young teenager without his consent on July 25, 2019.

Magistrate Rod Madsen found Regmi guilty of common assault after the matter went to a hearing in May.

During his judgment in Maroochydore Magistrates Court on Thursday, September 16, Mr Madsen said he found Regmi’s actions to be unlawful.

The court heard Regmi had approached the teen from behind and placed the bag over his head to show the class what can happen if plastics end up in the ocean and how marine animals can be harmed.

Despite Regmi giving evidence she had approached the teen in his line of vision before she placed the bag over his face, and not his head, Mr Madsen said the evidence given by the teacher aides who were in the class gave a clear picture of what occurred the day of the offence.

“All of the witnesses say the plastic bag was completely placed over the head of the complainant,” Mr Madsen said.

The court heard Regmi had in her defence argued the teen had given her permission to place the bag over his face and stood up during the presentation.

However, Mr Madsen said the teen, who had the intellectual capabilities of a six-year-old and was non-verbal according to evidence given by his mother, could not have implied any form of consent during the interaction with the plastic bag.

“In my view, I think it would not have been reasonable for the defendant to rely upon a non-verbal response of an intellectually impaired person to the demonstration, given she had some knowledge and experience with him,” he said.

The court heard the teacher aides present in the class had alerted the school principal the following day after they had felt the demonstration was “a bad idea”.

“The clear and overwhelming evidence was that in conducting the lesson, the defendant grabbed a plastic bag, placed it completely over the head of the child and then removed it without his consent,” Mr Madsen said.

“In my view, clearly a child like (the victim) should never have been exposed to that demonstration, particularly as he had limited capabilities.

“Clearly as he had an intellectual impairment, clearly he was never reasonably able to give consent.”

Regmi, who remains on bail, will be sentenced on Thursday, September 23.


Voluntary assisted dying ["euthanasia"] will become legal in Queensland following a historic and emotional victory in State Parliament

Queensland MPs voted 61-30 to legalised assisted dying on Thursday evening.

From 2023 Queenslanders suffering a terminal illness that is expected to cause death within 12 months will be able to choose when to end their life.

Clem Jones Trust chairman David Muir said there was an “overwhelming sense of relief” for terminally ill patients and their families. “Terminally ill patients are the centrepiece of this legislation and their families too, this is for their benefit,” he said.

“For many years polling in the community has shown this legislation and this issue is very popular with around 80 per cent approval.”

Deputy Opposition Leader David Janetzki attempted to amend the Bill, introducing 54 clauses including the provision to expand conscientious objection to include doctors and health practitioners.


Religious schools in Victoria are banned from sacking or refusing to hire staff because they are LGBTQ

New rules will come into effect in Victoria which bans religious schools from discriminating against staff who identify as LGBTQIA+.

The schools will no longer be able to sack staff or refuse to hire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Under current laws, 'faith-based' organisations are allowed to discriminate employees based on their sexuality, gender and marital status due to a gap in legislation.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said the state government would now look to close the 'unfair, hurtful' loophole that allows schools to use religion as the basis for its decision. 'People shouldn't have to hide who they are to keep their job,' Ms Symes said in a statement.

'We're closing this unfair, hurtful gap in our laws so that Victoria's LGBTIQ+ community won't have to pretend to be someone they're not, just to do the job they love.

'These laws strike the right balance between protecting the LGBTIQ+ community from discrimination and supporting the fundamental rights of religious bodies and schools to practice their faith.'

The new legislation means teachers and staff will be protected from getting the sack from religious institutions when disclosing their sexual orientation.

Foreseeably the move has sparked heated debate amongst the religious community with Lobby group Christian Schools Australia describing the state's proposal as an 'attack on people of faith'.

The group's public policy director Mark Spencer said it would oppose the legislation that he believed could 'change the nature of Christian schools'. 'Why is the Government trying to dictate to a Christian school who it can employ or in what role?' Mr Spencer said.

'The Attorney-General can choose all her staff on the basis of their political beliefs – why can't Christian schools simply choose all their staff on their religious beliefs?'

Ms Symes told The Age under the new reforms any discrimination against potential employees would need to be 'reasonable' and an important part of the job.

'For example, a school couldn't refuse to hire a gay or transgender person because of their identity but might be able to prevent that person being a religious studies teacher because of their religious belief,' she said.


Push to make sexual consent education compulsory in Australian curriculum to stem assaults

Sexual assault survivors and advocates say consent education needs to be compulsory, explicitly about intimate relationships and taught much earlier in all Australian schools.

And with the Australian curriculum undergoing its once-in-a-six-year review, they believe the opportunity for change is now.

In February 2021, then-university student Chanel Contos asked on Instagram, "have you or has anyone close to you ever been sexually assaulted by someone who went to a single sex school in Sydney?"

In the six months since then, her website, "Teach Us Consent", has received more than 6,000 testimonies and about 43,000 people have signed her Petition For Consent To Be Included In Australian Schools' Sex Education Earlier.

"The majority of signatories are now at university or in their early years of the workforce," Ms Contos said.

"They understand all too well the long-lasting impacts sexual assault has not just on the victim, but on their friends, family and wider community, so they're advocating for younger generations to receive the education that they were either deprived of or received far too late."

On Thursday, Teach Us Consent convened a roundtable, bringing together experts, political leaders and people with lived experience to discuss how respectful relationship, sex and consent education is best embedded in the national curriculum.

Ms Contos said consent needed to be mandated and taught in a way explicit to romantic relationships, at the same time children learnt about the biology of sex, in years 7, 8,9 and 10.

"We can save school-aged kids from experiencing sexual violence by introducing holistic, well-supported sexuality education earlier in the Australian national curriculum," she said.

Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia chief executive Hayley Foster said the ramifications of sexual assault could be lifelong, particularly for the victim.

"Children as young as 10 are getting their sex education from mainstream pornography, the vast majority of which depicts aggressive, non-consensual, violent, and degrading behaviour, and we're not stepping in to provide them with a reality check," Ms Foster said.

"Through our inaction, we're putting young people in harm's way and stealing their futures in the process."




Thursday, September 16, 2021

GPs hit out at restrictions on supposed Covid treatment Ivermectin

The general Leftist determination to find fault with Trump has to be factored into any judgment about Ivermectin. As I read it, the condemnations of it and the devotions to it are both too sweeping.

On my reading of the research literature, it is in a familiar class of drugs that is useful if taken early in disease onset but useless after that. So both sides can quote findings that support their position.

The move by Australia's legal drug authority to warn general practitioners against prescribing the drug Ivermectin as a supposed 'Covid treatment' has divided the grass roots medical fraternity.

Last week, the Therapeutic Goods Administration issued new restrictions on the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19 symptoms amid fear it was being handed out by GPs to those using it as an unauthorised treatment for the virus.

The drug, which has traditionally been used to treat lice and scabies in humans, and which also is used to treat conditions in animals, gained popularity as a potential Covid cure after ex-United States President Donald Trump talked it up while in office.

News of the direction stirred robust debate among doctors commenting under a Royal Australian College of General Practitioners article.

While some welcomed the decision, many appeared furious that they were being told what was best for their patients.

'The contempt we are held in by our bureaucracy is palpable,' one GP stated.

'Once again general practice is considered the lowest common denominator of medicine, and our competence and objectivity to treat our patients appropriately is questioned,' another doctor wrote.

Some GPs argued it was 'common knowledge' among doctors that vaccination alone was not the only approach to manage pandemics.

'Being vaccinated does not make anyone a superhuman to COVID infection. If our goal is to keep Australian safe from dying, shouldn't we give alternatives to those who for whatever reasons will rather die than take the vaccines,' one doctor wrote.

'India saved their nation with Ivermectin. Do we want people to die in their homes in the name of promoting vaccination? GPs should stand up for choice.'

GPs are now only able to prescribe ivermectin for TGA-approved indications, such as scabies and certain parasitic infections.

The changes mean only specific specialists , including infectious disease physicians, dermatologists, gastroenterologists and hepatologists, will be permitted to prescribe the drug for other 'unapproved indications' if they believe it appropriate.

'These changes have been introduced because of concerns with the prescribing of oral ivermectin for the claimed prevention or treatment of COVID-19,' the TGA told doctors.

'Ivermectin is not approved for use in COVID-19 in Australia or in other developed countries, and its use by the general public for COVID-19 is currently strongly discouraged by the National COVID Clinical Evidence Taskforce, the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration.'

'I am neither for or against Ivermectin at this stage,' one GP commented.

'WHO had given contradictory statements on Covid inflection right from the start. For example, no human to human transmission.'

Some GPs claimed they had been bullied by anti-vaxxers desperate for access to the drug to treat Covid.

'I have been approached by an aggressive family twice and I obliged once which was so hard next time that I needed to call police to get rid of that patient - frustrating indeed,' a GP stated.

It is understood the drug's promotion by anti-vaxxers has led to a dramatic increase in its uptake by the large sections of the community.

The drug has been used as an authorised treatment for Covid-19 in some eastern European, South American and Central American nations, and was used in India to during the outbreak of the Delta strain, but is not recommended by the WHO.

It came back into the headlines this month when prominent podcaster Joe Rogan said he used the drug and others to treat his Covid infection and rapidly recovered, with some attacking his promotion of unauthorised treatments.

A quick look on social media reveals the drug is widely promoted in anti-vaccination circles as an alternative to the jab.

'There has been a 3-4-fold increased dispensing of ivermectin prescriptions in recent months leading to national and local shortages for those who need the medicine for scabies and parasite infections,' GPs were warned.

The health watchdog has warned improper use of the drug can be associated with serious adverse effects, including severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness and neurological effects such as dizziness, seizures and coma.

Although some GPs remain skeptical of the TGA advice.

'Ivermectin is wrongly painted as a dangerous drug and a "serious overdose reaction" of diarhoea is mentioned. This is laughable,' one GP wrote.

'Many patients taking all sorts of medications are experiencing diarhoea and a S/E. Should we remove all these meds from GP's hands then?'

Former Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who in August assumed the leadership of Clive Palmer's United Australia Party, has repeatedly said drugs such as ivermectin and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine - another unproven treatment - should be used to treat Covid.

'I'm not saying take the drug. I'm not saying the drug works, but I'm saying the doctor should be free to sit down with their patient and make a decision,' he previously told SBS.

Last month, the equivalent to the TGA - the US FDA - put out a tweet urging people not to take ivermectin, amid a surge of calls to poison centers nationwide. 'You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,' the agency wrote.


Australia to make history by building a nuclear submarine fleet with the help of a new alliance with the US and Britain to counter the worrying rise of China in the Pacific

This is great news. That French deal was a stinker. It was another Malcolm Turnbull brainfart

Australia will build a nuclear-powered submarine fleet in a major new alliance with the US and Britain to counter the worrying rise of China in the Pacific.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday morning unveiled Australia's role in a landmark tripartite security group, known as 'AUUKUS', to switch to nuclear-powered submarines with help from its two of its biggest allies.

The landmark defence pact was announced in a historic joint press conference with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The deal will mean Australia will walk away from its controversial deal to spend up to $90 billion buying French diesel-powered submarines.

This is the first time Australia has ever embraced nuclear power after decades of debate - and the first time the U.S. and UK have shared their nuclear submarine technology with another nation.

Mr Morrison said though Australia has no plans to acquire nuclear weapons or build its own nuclear power capabilities.

Australia has at least 40 per cent of the world's uranium supplies and new submarine deal could pave the way for the country to embrace nuclear power to drastically reduce carbon emissions

The move towards a nuclear Australia has been described as 'China's Worst Nightmare' in a strategic bid to counter its influence in the region - especially in the South China Sea.

Thursday's announcement comes just days before Mr Morrison travels to Washington DC for the first in-person summit of the four 'Quad' nations - Australia, US, Japan and India.

Australia's relationship with China has become increasingly hostile ever since Mr Morrison demanded an inquiry into the origins of the Covid pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Arbitrary bans and trade tariffs were imposed on billions of dollars worth of key Australian exports to China including barley, wine, beef, cotton, seafood, coal, cobber and timber.

Australia is now set to follow its allies the US and UK, who both use nuclear technology, with speculation it would tear up the submarine deal with France.

Senior Australian ministers were involved in a flurry of late-night meetings on the top-secret shipbuilding program on Wednesday, with Anthony Albanese and other senior Labor MPs briefed on the matter.

The Prime Minister reportedly held concerns French-owned shipbuilder Naval Group would be unable to deliver submarines until 2030 with deadline and price disputes.

Mr Morrison reportedly tried to speak with the French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday regarding the new deal.

News of Australia's decision was instead reportedly disclosed to Paris by the secretary of the Defence Department, Greg Moriarty, the ABC reported.

The Australian Naval Institute has repeatedly criticised the troubled French submarine project while welcoming the use of nuclear technology.

'With regional tensions increasing, then building our own one-off type submarines which will arrive in the early 2030s is not good enough. We have no guarantee they will work,' the article stated.

'When we built the Collins class submarines (at exorbitant expense) they did not work properly for several years.

'Instead we should buy 12 of a proven design which is already in the water. We want long-range hunter-killer vessels. We also want them to be able to stay submerged for long periods to avoid detection. Nuclear does this in spades.'

It is speculated the US had planned to operate some of its nuclear submarines from Perth's naval base HMAS Stirling.

The UK, which also uses nuclear technology, is expected to support Australia with the move in the three-nation security pact.

Sources say plan is a move to counter China's rise in the technology and military sectors.

It is one of a string of initiatives designed to demonstrate Washington's global role after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Biden will next week host his first in-person summit of leaders of the Quad nations — made up of Australia, India, Japan and the United States — which have been coordinating against China's growing reach.


Neat. The person representing Britain in negotiations with Australia is an Australian

Britain’s Foreign Secretary has been demoted over his handling of the Afghanistan evacuation crisis and replaced in the prestigious post by one of Australia’s top allies.

Dominic Raab, who remained on holiday in the Greek islands as the Taliban swept into Kabul, was the biggest casualty of a cabinet reshuffle Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes will reset his flagging government.

Raab will be replaced as the third most senior minister by Liz Truss, whose post-Brexit work as International Trade Secretary has seen her popularity surge with Tory voters to the extent she is now seen as a potential future alternative to Johnson.

Truss was in charge of negotiating a new free trade agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom and stared down a push by protectionist forces within her party to water down the agreement.

She has a close personal friendship with Australia’s High Commissioner to Australia, George Brandis, and a good working relationship with former trade minister Simon Birmingham and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Brandis said Truss took on the role as the two nations deepened co-operation on the economy and security.

“Liz is a champion for the values we cherish, and Australia is delighted to see her take on this critical role at an important moment in our bilateral relationship,” he said.

“She has been a great friend of Australia during our free trade agreement negotiations. We warmly congratulate her on her new appointment.”

Raab was demoted to the more junior Justice Secretary post during Wednesday’s reshuffle but was also named Deputy Prime Minister in a bid to save face. The Deputy Prime Minister title is rarely used in Britain and confers the holder no real constitutional powers.

Only four other people have ever been formally appointed Deputy Prime Minister: Geoffrey Howe, Michael Heseltine, John Prescott and Nick Clegg.

Johnson had faced calls to sack Raab after he went on holiday in Crete as the Taliban advanced on Kabul but initially stood by him.

Raab denied the holiday interfered with the evacuation of Afghans, British citizens and interpreters.


Qld mine to produce 'new economy' element

Julia Creek is well and truly in the outback so Greenies are unlikely to find anything "endangered" there

An element used in the manufacture of large-scale renewable batteries that can be "charged thousands of times without degrading" will be mined in remote Queensland for the first time.

Vanadium is used in high strength, low alloy steel and is emerging as a "critical battery storage commodity" for its use in large-scale electricity grids.

Saint Elmo is the first mine approved in what the Queensland government describes as a "potential vanadium hub" in the far northwest, with several companies investigating the area.

In giving the project the green light, premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described vanadium as a "new economy mineral" that is also important in the manufacture of specialty steel.

She said the $250 million Saint Elmo mine near Julia Creek was the "first cab off the rank" for a new era in Queensland resources.

"This also lays the foundation for a potential next level new industry in Queensland manufacturing vanadium redox flow batteries," Ms Palaszczuk said in a statement on Wednesday.

First production from the mine is expected in late 2023 with an initial output of up to 5000 tonnes of vanadium pentoxide per year predicted.

Queensland exploration and mining company Multicom, which owns the mine, has forecast production to increase to 20,000 tonnes annually as the project expands.

Ore processing will occur on site with product to be shipped from the Port of Townsville, chief executive officer Shaun McCarthy said.




Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Students being told to 'deconstruct' Australian flag

The IPA's Bella D’Abrera says students being told to ‘deconstruct’ the Australian flag is part of a “wider problem in our society” where there is a minority of people who seem to “hate” Australia.

It comes as state and federal education ministers in Australia have slammed lessons put together by a third party and promoted by the NSW Education Department.

Students are asked to examine the Australian flag in part of a project to ‘deconstruct’ symbols of Australia.

"Unfortunately, these are the people who are writing the school curriculum, these are the people who are unelected bureaucrats sitting in the Department of Education in New South Wales," Ms D'Abrera told Sky News host Chris Kenny.

“It’s divisive, it’s critical race’s everything that they shouldn’t be taught.”


Electric cars still expensive to run

Despite no gasoline costs

The running costs for an electric vehicle have dropped more than $10,000 a year in the past five years, according to the RACQ.

The Queensland motoring group has included six electric vehicles during its annual review of the monthly and annual running costs of 81 different vehicles.

The survey measures all monthly expenses associated with normal private car ownership including loan repayments, fuel, tyres, servicing, insurance and government charges.

The survey finds the running costs of the most affordable electric vehicle on Queensland roads - MG’s ZS - is now $10,000 less than operating costs of the most affordable electric car five years ago.

Six electric vehicles were examined in the RACQ’s running costs survey, with the cheapest electric car costing $44,000 on-road, and the most expensive model $65,000.

RACQ spokeswoman Lauren Ritchie said electric vehicles were significantly more affordable but were more expensive than an average petrol car.

“The MG ZS is the cheapest EV on the market in Queensland and will set a buyer back $1086 per month to own and run,” Ms Ritchie said.

The RACQ’s on-road costs include loan repayments.

“Other EV models available include the Hyundai Ioniq Elite EV which costs $1207 per month, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at $1263 per month and the Nissan Leaf $1306 per month,” she said.

The average monthly running costs of all small cars in 2021 is $713, small SUVs $889; all medium-sized cars $1149; people movers $1336; electric car $1247; medium SUVs $1175; large SUVs $1388 and all-terrain vehicles $1599.

An equivalent petrol-run car is still on average $195 a month cheaper than an electric car, Ms Ritchie said.

“But with more models coming onto market and more EV charging infrastructure being rolled out in Queensland, now might be the right time to consider switching,” Ms Ritchie said.

She said the range of hybrid and full electric vehicles had surprised the RACQ’s on-road cost assessment teams.

She encouraged drivers considering an electric vehicle to explore the widening range of vehicles being offered.

“Drivers who are keen to transition to lower emissions transport but are concerned about range can also consider a plug-in hybrid or hybrid option,” she said.

“For example a $30,000 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid costs $821per month.”

The most affordable petrol-powered car in the survey is the MG3 Core, which costs $607 to run each month.

The most expensive car to run is the Nissan Y62 Patrol Ti at $2220 a month.

“The costs associated with owning and running a car really do add up for whichever vehicle you choose,” Mr Ritchie said.

“Drivers should do their homework and really weigh up just where they want to spend their money.”

The RACQ running-costs survey is based on driving 15,000 kilometres a year, with the full cost of the vehicle paid out over a five-year loan.

The cost of petrol used in the 2021 survey was 131.90 cents a litre for unleaded petrol, 146.40 cents per litre for premium petrol; 127.30 cents per litre for diesel engines.

Costs for electric vehicles were calculated using an average domestic electricity tariff of 23.93 cents per kilowatt hour.


Farmers get nod to clear land for bushfire protection. Greenies howl

Environmental groups say a new code allowing land clearing 25 metres out from fences will do little to aid protection against bushfires in NSW but could have devastating impacts on wildlife.

The state government over the weekend released its long-awaited code for landholders "to reduce the potential for the spread" of fires from or into properties. "This should be undertaken with consideration of environmental impacts," the code states.

The 25-metre distance on either side of the fence, though, was not among the 76 specific recommendations of the state's bushfire inquiry after the 2019-20 fires.

Instead, the review called for a simplification of the vegetation clearing policies to ensure they were "clear and easy to navigate for the community, and that they enable appropriate bush fire risk management by individual landowners without undue cost or complexity".

Independent upper house MP Justin Field said the 25-metre measure "was totally plucked from the air" without scientific basis.

"These rules will be a disaster for regional communities," Mr Field said. "We're going to see vegetation bulldozed, chopped down, piled up and likely burnt across the state as a result of this decision with almost no regard to the environmental impact.

"This is going to pit neighbour against neighbour and will create massive fragmentation of bushland, leading to a further drying out of the landscape that may increase bushfire risks."

Proponents for the clearing had sought even wider clearing and for them to be applied to national parks before the cabinet compromised on the 25-metre zone that avoided the national park estate, according to one official who asked for anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly.

An uproar from some local councils, though, led to the Sydney metropolitan region being excluded from the clearing code. Areas close to rivers and other sensitive regions including core koala habitat are also excluded.

"There was quite a lot of thought that went into that [25-metre] distance," Kyle Stewart, an RFS Deputy Commissioner, said, adding it provided "an operational distance" that balanced firefighting effectiveness and other factors such as conservation.

The RFS would work with partner state agencies to help enforce the code's provisions, he said.

Martin Tebbutt, a resident near the Blue Mountains town of Bilpin, said Mr Elliott had "done a snow job" because nothing had changed for his land as it was within the Greater Sydney region.

"We won't be able to protect ourselves along our boundary," Mr Tebbutt said, adding that even 10 metres from the fence line would have been sufficient. Getting approval through the Hawkesbury Council for any clearing would continue to be "quite onerous", he said.

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said councils within the Sydney Metropolitan areas "would be given the opportunity to opt-in to ensure the Code is applicable to any pockets of rural zoned land within their Local Government Area".

"The onus is on the landowner to ensure that they comply with the applicable regulations," he said.

The Herald also sought comment from Environment Minister Matt Kean and Planning Minister Rob Stokes.

Chris Gambian, head of the Nature Conservation Council, said thousands of hectares of wildlife habitat would be destroyed without requiring an independent assessment of the environmental impacts.

"Neither the NSW Bushfire Inquiry nor the royal commission recommend land clearing on property boundaries as a valid response to the Black Summer fires, but politicians in the government think they know better," Mr Gambian said.

"If these codes stand, it will be a black mark on the record of Matt Kean, who in many respects has been a good minister for the environment."

According to the self-assessed clearing, "it is the responsibility of the owner of the land to maintain a copy of the Rural Boundary Clearing online tool search results from the day that the clearing is undertaken. Landowners are required to provide evidence of the online search tool results in the circumstance that a relevant regulatory authority seeks such evidence".


Australia plugs for a land carbon sink

Endorsed by the Australian government in a widely unnoticed dot-point in May’s federal Budget and even given faint praise in modest mentions by the IPCC itself, a campaign to enhance the significant capacity of the soil to act as a carbon sink has a particular relevance to Australia.

Although there may be scope for some reservations about the entirety of claims by Mulloon Institute chair (and my former political colleague and friend) Gary Nairn that ‘it is possible to absorb the world’s annual anthropogenic emissions in our soils’, there is no doubt about the science that soil plays a role (understated in the latest catastrophe-oriented IPCC report) in reducing the impact of climate change through the natural cycle of soil carbon sequestration – and in particular by the land rehydration techniques employed by Mulloon in the NSW Southern Tablelands in conjunction with the government’s National Landcare Program and as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Critical of IPCC’s reliance on cutting emissions as the only recommended way to deal with climate change, Nairn points to other, simpler solutions: ‘soil contains two to three times more carbon than the atmosphere…. The long-term removal, capture or sequestration in soil of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helps slow or reverses atmospheric CO2 pollution’. With the IPCC forecasting a future of less rain overall but more intensive events, risking flooding and erosion, Nairn’s view that ‘the least expensive and most practical action that will quickly get results, including a return on investment, is fixing and rehydrating our degraded landscapes’, has the backing of Prime Minister Morrison. When Energy Minister Angus Taylor announced the May budget’s $37 million funding of National Soil Innovation (included in the budget’s $233 million towards improving farming productivity, profitability and participation in the Emissions Reduction Fund), Taylor said the fund would support the development of technologies to reduce the measurement costs involved in ‘unlocking the untapped potential of our soils in line with our approach to reducing emissions by innovation not elimination’.

This cause was taken up earlier this year by the Menzies Research Centre’s James Mathias in the Daily Telegraph with the claim that ‘Increasing soil organic carbon is the single most useful step we can take to remove excessive carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By improving the way we farm, agriculture can become a net consumer of atmospheric carbon. Since Australian farming soils in aggregate are low by world standards, the potential to absorb carbon and turn it into productive use is huge. The benefits of soil carbon, however, go further than sequestration. Even without the imperative to restore the carbon balance, richer soils are more productive and require fewer inputs.

Australia is not alone in looking to better ways of dealing with CO2. In the US, the ultra-green Union of Concerned Scientists last month described the management of soil carbon as ‘an important tool in battling the climate crisis. By adopting healthy soil practices that keep carbon in soil and sequester carbon for the long term, farmers can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Such practices can boost resilience to increasingly extreme droughts and floods, reduce air and water pollution, and help farmers and their communities to thrive’.

While still focussing overwhelmingly on the negative impact on the land (floods, fire and famine) of its forecast human-emissions-caused global warming than on the positive prospects of land-use changes to assist the removal of greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, the IPCC has nevertheless become more aware of the potential of land carbon sinks – and acknowledges that biological methods of increasing land carbon storage also enhance primary productivity. But in the IPCC’s current ‘Advice to Policymakers’ there are no policy proposals, no urgent campaign to turn land sinks into a positive weapon, even though it accepts that there is a potential to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and durably store it in reservoirs. It projects that higher CO2 emissions will result in natural land carbon sinks taking up, in absolute terms, progressively larger amounts of CO2. However, the share of emissions absorbed by land is projected to decline with increasing cumulative CO2 emissions, resulting in a higher proportion of emitted CO2 remaining in the atmosphere.

The IPCC reckons that two-thirds of the estimated carbon lost from the soil as a result of human agriculture over 12,000 years is recoverable with best management practices. ‘These may be applied to the restoration of marginal or degraded land but may also be used in traditional agricultural lands’. But while restoration of degraded forests and non-forest ecosystems can play a large role in carbon sequestration, the IPCC warns against afforestation of native grasslands, savannas, and open-canopy woodlands that lead to the undesirable loss of unique natural ecosystems with rich biodiversity, carbon storage and other ecosystem benefits. All this endorses much of the Mulloon approach, with its rehydration focus being reinforced by the IPCC’s satellite observation that links lower global-scale terrestrial water storage with a lower global net land CO2 sink.

But there remains a gap between many of the IPCC’s conclusions and hard evidence to support them. As the American Enterprise Institute conservative think-tank opined last month, ‘it is important to recognise that the assumption of many politicians, environmental groups, and no small number of scientist-activists — that humans are the single most significant cause of climate change — is simply unsupported by the available science….Public discussion of the climate crisis consistently ignores the very real possibility that the small amount of warming that will likely occur might yield noteworthy benefits….[such as] a substantial (CO2-induced) greening of the earth over the past 35 years. Though there will likely be some negative consequences of a warming planet, there will likely be positive effects as well’.

So why no public IPCC campaign for world leaders to prioritise land carbon sinks, with their immediate and diverse benefits, as a less economically-destructive alternative? The suspicion is that the catastrophists at the IPCC won’t abide anything that reduces the alleged urgency of their emissions reduction mantra. As the AEI says, ‘Instead of merely dismissing the faux science that lends support to climate alarmism as a “hoax,” conservatives must do more to engage with and reclaim the growing body of scientific evidence that supports their climate-change realism’.




Tuesday, September 14, 2021

‘It’s a risky time for Labor’: Chris Kenny

Losing Fitzgibbon is sad. He was the last of the old-time Laborites who actually cared about the worker instead of transexuals and the rest of that fruity crew. The Labor party no longer represents the worker and the workers are noticing.

Much has been said about the backroom deal in favour of Kristina Keneally. As a former Premier she should have broad appeal but Western Sydney might not be included in that if it is still largely working class instead of ethnic. As S.M. Lipset noted in the '60s, the workers are "ethnocentic" and may not like having an American representing them. America is not popular with a lot of ethnics either

“There’s a fair bit happening around the Labor Party at the moment, and it might not be doing them much good,” he said.

“They’ve been doing okay in the polls, but they wouldn’t want to get too far ahead of themselves.”

It comes as Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has announced his retirement from politics at the next federal election.

Mr Kenny said Fitzgibbon “will be missed because he’s been a voice of reason”.

“Anyway, the other sign of hubris is something I mentioned last week, and that is the factional move to parachute Kristina Keneally into the safe seat of Fowler in Western Sydney,” he said.

“She’s doing it, apparently not for her own advantage, but to help the people of the Western suburbs.”


Australia's farmers on track for record-breaking season easily surpassing $70bn worth of produce

Where's that food shortage Greenies are always predicting? Agricultural output is trending up, not down

It is official. Australian farmers are having a record-breaking good time.

Government economists at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) now expect the agriculture industry will grow a whopping $73 billion worth of produce this financial year.

If realised, it will be the first time farmers have broken through the $70 billion barrier, up from $66.3 billion in 2020-21 and $59.6 billion in drought-ravaged 2017-18.

Good weather across most of the country, combined with drought in Russia, Canada, and the United States, will boost returns for grain growers now expected to export $30 billion of winter crop — an increase of 17 per cent.

ABARES says sugar, cotton, and grain growers are on track to reel in almost $40 billion in 2021-22.

An almost insatiable hunger for protein, a return to good seasons, and herd rebuilding is expected to keep livestock prices near record highs, with the value of the red meat sector forecast to jump by 8 per cent this year to $33.5 billion.

The value of Aussie-grown fruit and vegetables is also expected to hit a record, hauling in more than $12 billion at the farm gate.

ABARES expects a global economic recovery to keep wool prices strong and the high cost of livestock feed in China to drive up demand for Australian dairy products.

"The forecast for next year is due to a combination of factors, all tumbling neatly into place," said ABARES executive director Jared Greenville.

"While there are risks related to mice, labour availability, and continued uncertainties due to COVID-19, we are expecting national production to remain robust."

The value of Australia's food and fibre exports is also expected to be a record, jumping by 12 per cent to $54.7 billion for 2021-22.

The latest commodity forecast, released by ABARES today, shows the value of Australia's farm production revised up by 12 per cent, or $8 billion, considered the largest revision made in a single quarter for 21 years.

Not all smooth sailing

ABARES has identified Australia's international trade relationships, access to farm workers, high international freight costs, and pests — in particular the mouse plague — as potential disrupters to the farm sector's good fortunes.

Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine was also a concern.

"The speed of COVID-19 vaccine distribution is the key downside risk, especially in emerging and developing economies," today's report said.

"Continued outbreaks increase the risk of further virus variants which could be more resistant to vaccines, more infectious, or more likely to cause death or serious illness.

"This would slow the recovery in travel and discretionary spending, and lead to reduced prices for agricultural products."

The report did not discuss Australia's domestic vaccine rollout.

It said the loss of Australia's most valuable market, China, for wine and barley due to political tensions was still having an effect on returns.

"While agricultural exporters are proving adept at diversifying into new markets or taking advantages of changes in trade flows, this does come with transition costs and lower prices as has been seen for barley," Dr Greenville said.

He estimated the price of Australian barley had dropped by as much as 20 per cent since China introduced tariffs in May 2020.

According to ABARES, the value of wine exports will fall an extra 12 per cent in 2021-22 also due to tariffs imposed by China.

It said the labour shortage, exacerbated by COVID border restrictions, contributed to about a 5 per cent jump in the retail price of fruit and vegetables last year.

ABARES expects retail prices for fruit and vegetables will be similar again this year.


Australia now the biggest gold producer

What happened to South Africa? Black rule, I guess

Australia has become the biggest gold producer in the world, overtaking China for the first time.

It's great news for gold miner Red 5 which is ramping up efforts to begin production at its King of the Hill mine in Western Australia's Goldfields.

"We started constructing in October 2020 and we're on track for the first gold in about seven or eight months time, in the June quarter of 2022," Red 5 managing director Mark Williams says.

The miner is turning the switch back on at the open cut and underground gold mine it bought four years ago.

The timing is pretty good too, with spot gold prices hovering at about $US1,800 an ounce.

"We've been able to essentially beat the rush with the escalation in the pricing," Mr Williams tells The Business.

How did we top China?

China has been the world's biggest gold producer since 2007, with Australia the second largest producer for about a decade.

Gold analysts Surbiton Associates report China produced 153 tonnes of gold in the first half of this calendar year.

Australian gold miners produced 157 tonnes.

"That's the first time that's happened," Surbiton Associates director Sandra Close says.

But, she adds, it wasn't an increase in Australian production that led to the switch.

"The Chinese, I believe, have had some problems in the mines with some safety problems, some personnel being killed, so at the moment some of the mines are being investigated.

"We shall have to see what happens to gold production in the next six months, both in Australia and in China."

Australian gold production is rising

The last two years have been the best on record for Australian gold producers.

In the 2019/20 financial year 328 tonnes of gold was retrieved from beneath Australian soil — the most ever in a year.

Last financial year was the second best year, yielding 321 tonnes.

"We do have a larger number of smaller mines compared to some of the other gold mining countries such as, say, the US," explains Dr Close.

"That gives us a little more flexibility sometimes."

IBISWorld research predicts the $26 billion sector will see revenue rise 11.6 per cent this year "due to continued uncertainty about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy".

It says the growth is also due to an anticipated surge in industry output and higher gold prices.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals investment in gold exploration rose more than any other commodity in the June quarter, up 19.3 per cent to $429.8 million.

Why does the gold price go up when everything else goes down?
Gold is known as a safe haven asset.

Generally the price of gold increases when there's political and economic instability.

"Gold is the one safe haven asset that everybody flocks to in times of difficulty, in times of turmoil and trouble," says The Perth Mint's chief executive Richard Hayes.

"Given where the world is today with COVID and the terrible problems that we've seen around the world, the demand for both gold and silver has gone through the roof."

But it's not always a straight line.

The gold price fell when the COVID-19 pandemic first took hold around the world.

"The initial reaction was quite negative — we actually saw in March 2020 gold prices fall roughly about 11 per cent and that was a reflection of a flight to safety and the market running towards the US dollar," explains Commonwealth Bank director of mining and energy commodities research Vivek Dhar.

Six months later, gold peaked at a new high.

"We have certainly seen a lot of volatility because up until August last year we actually saw gold track higher to lift above $US2,000 an ounce," he says

It's now come back down and is worth about $US1,800 an ounce.

"But it's held at the $US1,800 mark rather than the sort of $US1,200, $US1,300, $US1,400 mark that it was holding at pre-COVID," Mr Hayes adds.

"So certainly that's up by 20 to 25 per cent on where it was two years ago."

What about digital currencies like bitcoin?

Some argue digital currencies are giving gold a run for its money as the ultimate store of wealth.

But the extreme volatility of the likes of bitcoin and ethereum, where the price can move more than 10 per cent in a single day, has others arguing it's too risky.

"Bitcoin or ethereum coin exists in cyberspace. At the end of the day, it's simply an entry in an electronic ledger," argues Mr Hayes.

"If you look through history at commodities, where they have shot from relative obscurity to prominence, like South Sea pearls or the tulips out of Amsterdam, they all went through the same cycle that we're seeing now with cryptocurrencies — they went up spectacularly in value and fell just as quickly."

What else drives the gold price?

The biggest factor affecting the gold price right now is the US Federal Reserve and a weaker US dollar.

While the Reserve Bank of Australia is continuing with its tapering of bond buying, the US central bank is yet to move.

"A delay to tapering is likely to provide less support for the US dollar than otherwise and that should be positive for gold," Mr Dhar explains.

"While the inverse relationship between gold and the US dollar has deviated significantly in the past, in recent months movements in the US dollar have provided a reliable steer of gold price movements."

Which means we could see the gold price, and its contribution to our economy, rise again.


AGL faces investor climate push ahead of coal demerger

AGL, the nation’s heaviest greenhouse gas emitter, is set to face pressure from shareholders to commit to stronger decarbonisation targets and detail how its demerged businesses will match their spending plans with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

As investors prepare to cast their votes ahead of AGL’s annual general meeting, prominent proxy advisor Institutional Shareholder Services has recommended backing an activist-led push for stronger climate action because it would allow shareholders to make an informed decision about the looming demerger.

“Additional disclosure is needed regarding the expected assumptions on future power prices and maintenance and fuel cost and demand for fossil fuel power generation,” said the firm, which advises large investors on how to vote on board appointments, executive pay and other corporate matters.

AGL last month reported a $2.06 billion full-year loss, largely driven by the continued influx of new wind and solar power driving down wholesale power prices across to levels where coal is increasingly unable to compete, and warned of further profit pain to come.

Responding to the pressures of the clean-energy transition, AGL is proposing to split itself into two companies: AGL Australia, to hold its power, gas and telecommunications retailing divisions as well as some cleaner generation assets; and Accel Energy, which will own its carbon-heavy coal and gas-fired power stations.

Oil and gas sector ‘losing appeal’ even as prices recover

The motion to be heard at AGL’s investor meeting on September 22 was prepared by the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), a shareholder activist group, and calls for the company to set out “short, medium and long-term” targets for the direct and indirect carbon emissions of both the demerged entities.

“AGL saw a 34 per cent decline in net profit after tax in financial year 2021,” ACCR climate director Dan Gocher said. “But these losses will pale in comparison to what lies ahead if AGL continues to do nothing.”

With its fleet of power plants across the country, AGL is Australia’s top carbon emitter, accounting for 8 per cent of national emissions. Like heavy polluters worldwide, it has faced a rising tide of pressure from activists and increasingly climate-conscious major investors to improve its carbon credentials and, in particular, reduce reliance on thermal coal.

AGL is preparing to shut down its Liddell coal generator in NSW next year but is not scheduled to close the neighbouring Bayswater plant until 2035. Its newest coal plant, Loy Yang A in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, is licensed to run for another 27 years until 2048.

AGL has urged investors to vote down the ACCR’s resolution, saying the targets it calls for would require the accelerated closure of AGL’s coal-fired power stations before adequate replacement capacity being developed and would jeopardise the supply of reliable and affordable electricity to customers.

“AGL understands the critical importance of decarbonisation of the electricity sector and the acceleration of the energy transition,” the company said. “However, AGL does not consider it is in the best interests of Accel Energy or AGL Australia to make the commitments set out in this resolution at this time.”

A company spokeswoman said that AGL, for more than a decade, had been investing in renewable and flexible generation as part of its pathway to decarbonisation and was committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Our proposed demerger will position both organisations to continue to deliver and build on that commitment,” she said.

AGL splits off coal power stations as green shift accelerates

“As part of the proposed demerger, AGL Energy will set separate climate commitments for Accel Energy and AGL Australia, enabling each business to focus on their respective strategic opportunities and challenges presented by the accelerating energy transition.”

Last year, more than 20 per cent of AGL’s investors supported a motion filed by the ACCR calling for the company to bring forward its coal exit plans.

AGL has pledged that both demerged companies would put their climate reporting to a non-binding advisory shareholder vote at their first annual general meetings.




Monday, September 13, 2021

‘Woke Left is destroying Labor’: Political legend unloads on his own party

An ALP stalwart has sensationally claimed Labor’s Left are obsessed with climate change, identity politics and cancel culture.

It’s a hot and sticky Sunday afternoon in Dimbulah in the early 1950s and a young Keith De Lacy leaves his family’s tobacco field with his father, Ernie, a former cane cutter and the local president of the Communist Party.

Keith had a far-from-privileged upbringing, as the second eldest of four children for Irene and Ernie, who did it tough during the Great Depression but who instil in their children an appreciation of education, a collectivist mindset and appreciation of hard work.

Now 81, Keith De Lacy lives in an apartment overlooking the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens. It’s a stone’s throw from state parliament, where he spent his best working years as one of Queensland’s most-respected treasurers during the Goss government, from 1989 to 1996.

His father and those hardworking, solid “red raggers’’ of his childhood are ultimately the reason he joined the Labor Party in 1970.

De Lacy’s faith in Labor was born out of those early days when workers gravitated to the party to protect themselves from opportunistic employers.

But now, he laments, it is a far cry from today’s Labor Party, which he says has lost its moral and ethical compass.

The Labor Party, De Lacy believes, faces an existential crisis that could ultimately lead to its political extinction.

De Lacy has outlined his crisis of faith in the party in a wide-ranging new memoir, A Philosophical Journey, in which he eviscerates the Labor Left’s obsession with climate change, identity politics and cancel culture, and its love affair with the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements.

He pulls no punches.

He says the Rudd government accelerated the electoral carnage as the Labor Party threw its lot in with the elites, when Labor’s reason for existing over many decades was to fight them.

The so-called progressives, De Lacy says, “have nothing more than a patronising, sneering contempt for working class people and their culture’’.

He accuses the “woke’’ brigade within the Left faction of Labor of alienating average Australians. “Certainly in terms of philosophy, the woke Left of the Labor Party is destroying itself through overreach … simply by overdoing it,’’ De Lacy says.

He writes of a “massive cultural evolution’’ over the past few decades, underscored by a mindset highly critical of the society in which we live, which “sees only the bad and ignores the good’’.

“It is supported by a range of ideological carcinomas, some newly minted, and others given a new lease of life in a grand postmodern reinvention,’’ he says.

“They are killing themselves. Most Australians are not in the front line of politics, yet they have a reasonable and sensible view of the world.

“Yet the Left are telling them that ‘you are a racist’ and your sons and grandsons are sexual monsters.

“They just won’t cop that, and nor should they. My point is that our society is suffering from a disease called ‘overreach’.”

In his book, De Lacy refers to film producer Harvey Weinstein, who was outed as a sexual predator and “millions of women with an agenda jumped on board, and sexual harassment became the cry’’.

“The Me Too movement exploded out of the blocks. But it burst into overreach within the blink of an eye,’’ he writes.

“Many men were tried in the media and the court of public opinion with no presumption of innocence. “Inevitably it became a political tool.’’

De Lacy says the Me Too movement is in danger of losing the support of the mainstream.

“There are many women out there who have sons and husbands and vex how these loved ones are going to negotiate the rocky shoals of the Me Too tsunami, the new rules of engagement,’’ he says. “Men are being turned off, especially the notion that all men are rapists.

“Many male executives are now reluctant to relate one-on-one with females to offer comfort and support, whether working, travelling or mentoring.

“The worst outcome is that it turns it into a woman versus man contest (and) serial predators use it as a cover.’’

De Lacy says the Black Lives Matter movement suffers from the same disease, stoking the fires of racism to overcome racism.

“Hysterical activists are the greatest dead weight an otherwise noble cause can have,’’ he says. De Lacy says protesters turned off Mr and Mrs Average, and the proof was in the 19-year term of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen as premier.

“Sir Joh, a superficially mediocre leader, served more than seven terms, ably assisted by well-meaning opponents who became intoxicated by a cause, to their own detriment,’’ he writes.

“I hate to say it, but the reconciliation overtures of Indigenous Australians are in my view now in danger of being killed by the self-defeating exuberance of the Black Lives Matter protests who unfairly stain the motives of all Australians, to the extent that the potential referendum looks to be a dead duck, killed by friendly fire.

“The Australian philosophy is to live and let live, which can manifest itself as, I have nothing against it, but if you try to shove it down my neck, you can go jump.’’

In his book, De Lacy talks of Karl Marx, the true father of identity politics, who did not believe in individualism, but that people were members of a class.

“The Labor Party was therefore a logical manifestation of group identity, representing the working class,’’ he says.

He says the Labor Party formed to pursue workers’ rights democratically, yet “it seems okay these days for trade unions to break what they term unjust laws, or for groups to ignore democratic verdicts and glue themselves to a public road”.

De Lacy says women enjoy a vital and expanding role within society, however, he says you wouldn’t know this if you listened to so-called progressives and feminists, who promote the identity politics of discrimination.

“We seem more determined than ever to put people into identity prisons based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class,’’ he says.

“People in identity grouping become prisoners, sentenced to a life of grievance, blame shifting, non-performance, unhappiness, emotional anger and even hatred.

“Once you can absolve yourself of personal responsibility, once it is always someone else’s fault, or the fault of history, there is a loss of agency – no way out. There is only misery.’’

De Lacy talks of the term “white privilege” or as some refer to it as “stale, pale and male’’.

“This constant refrain of ‘white male privilege’ can be a bit tiresome, especially the obligatory guilt associated with it.

“Many of the people who I see occupying the higher stations in life these days come from working class backgrounds.

“Most people who get to the top do it through hard work and application.

“And attitude. Not because of intrinsic privilege. Most people (not all) who end up on Struggle Street do so because of their own personal shortcomings, not because privileged oppressors got in the way.’’

De Lacy points to Chelsea Clinton, who landed a job at NBC as a special correspondent paying $900,000 a year, while her mother, Hillary, flies around America condemning white privilege.

“There is a crisis of values out there,’’ he says.

“We are paying the price, as are many vulnerable women and children.

“Boy-girl relationships are destined for a major rewrite going into the future.’’


Regions To Bear Brunt Of Feel-Good Emissions Target

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Australia would “not achieve net zero [emissions] in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities”,

Rather, “it will be won in places like the Pilbara, the Hunter, Gladstone, Portland, Whyalla, Bell Bay, the Riverina. In the factories of our regional towns and outer suburbs,” Morrison said at the Business Council of Australia event.

But for the people who live and work in these regions, a net zero target is far from a “win”.

A net zero emissions target is a policy designed by inner-city elites, and it only serves their narrow interests.

These elites insist that Australia needs to drastically reduce its carbon emissions, even though we only account for about 1.1 per cent of global emissions. To put that in perspective, every 16 days China emits the same amount of carbon emissions that Australia does in an entire year.

“Reducing Australia’s emissions to zero will have no discernible impact on global emissions. But it certainly makes the inner-city elites feel like they’re being responsible global citizens.”

For Australians in the outer suburbs and regions however, the cost couldn’t be greater.

Research by the Institute of Public Affairs published earlier this year estimated that a net zero emissions target would place up to 653,000 jobs at risk. And, no surprises, these at-risk jobs are overwhelmingly concentrated in regional areas. Some regional electorates could see as many as one in four jobs placed at direct risk, and this doesn’t account for the flow-on effects of mass job destruction.

The experience of the loss of Australia’s car manufacturing industry demonstrates the point. A survey by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union found that two years after Holden’s Elizabeth plant closed 24 per cent of laid-off workers remained unemployed, and two-thirds of those who found a job were in part-time, casual, or contract employment. Only 5 per cent of the workers had a new job that had the same or better working conditions.

We know from the experience to date that Australia has reduced its emissions at a great cost to those living in the regions. As National members of parliament Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan wrote in a newspaper article in February, “the emissions from people living in cities have gone up during the past 30 years, but their moral guilt has been eased by sending the bill to the bush”.

The mechanism for this was a clause in the Kyoto agreement that allowed Australia to claim a carbon credit if we cleared less land each year than the 688,000ha cleared in 1990. As Joyce and Canavan explained, this “led to state governments imposing ever tightening restrictions on land clearing.

Now Australia clears just 50,000ha of land a year. This is not enough to keep our farming land at a constant amount, let alone develop new areas. In fact, if we had not stripped the right from farmers to develop their own land, Australia’s emissions would have gone up, not down, in the past 30 years.”

The adoption of a net zero emissions target would do exactly the same thing: allow inner-city types to feel good about their so-called “action on climate change”, which does not extend beyond putting Australians living in the regions out of work.

When those working in relatively higher-emitting industries raise concerns about their job security, they are told that the new wave of “green jobs” will ensure that they can continue to work and provide for their family. But these promises ring hollow. IPA research has identified that for each renewable activity job created since 2010, five manufacturing jobs have been destroyed.

The NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap details how the Berejiklian government plans to force expensive and unreliable renewable energy onto households and businesses.

Under the roadmap, the government will establish five renewable energy zones over the next decade and “support an expected 6300 construction jobs and 2800 ongoing jobs mostly in regional NSW”.

In other words, the NSW government’s plan admits that only 900 jobs would be created each year, with the vast majority of these being temporary.

Where the 107,000 people employed in agriculture and mining across the state are supposed to work if their jobs are destroyed as a result of the emissions reduction effort is not made clear.

Perhaps that’s because to the inner-city elites, some jobs are more important than others.


Welcome to the two Australias

Joe Hildebrand

For the first time in more than a century the federation is crumbling. We are no longer a single country but once more a rabble of bitter and bickering states. We are back in the days of fighting over the correct width of railway tracks.

This sounds both outrageous and absurd — and it is. The problem is that it is also quite literally the state of the nation right now.

We have a situation in which the two geographically largest states, Queensland and WA, are openly rejecting the plan for national unity to which they themselves committed just weeks ago. Half of mainland Australia has effectively declared it no longer wants to be part of a single nation.

And now our foundational and most populous state of NSW has declared that it will open up its borders to the rest of the world while the hermit states declare they will not even open theirs to the rest of the country.

In short, we have a scenario in which foreign citizens will be able to fly from Singapore to Sydney but Australian citizens won’t be able to drive from Ballina to Brisbane.

Not since the Berlin airlift, in which international planes flew into the free west of the city while domestic trains were blockaded by the communist east, has there been such an utterly idiotic state of affairs.

Why? Because we are two Australias. Hell, maybe more.

We initially managed to stop the spread of Covid-19 through geographical good fortune. We were an island nation that shut its borders, something we have become adept at.

But soon after we became a loose coalition of states and territories that shut down both their own borders and themselves and did whatever else seemed politically expedient to their leaders.

For the more remote sparsely populated states this was arguably a reasonable option but for Australia’s only two truly international metropolises the story was catastrophically different.

Melbourne tried to eliminate the virus and failed. Again and again and again and again and again and again.

Indeed, such was the diehard devotion of the lockdown brigade that one self-proclaimed health expert declared to me — without any apparent trace of irony — that the only reason Lockdown 6 didn’t work was because Lockdown 5 wasn’t long and hard enough.

It is hard to follow such logic without inducing a migraine, suffice to say that apparently the only reason Covid is with us at all is because not enough people have been bricked up in their basement walls.

To his credit, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews this week conceded that his short and sharp/hard and fast lockdown strategy had no chance of constraining the Delta variant. Hard and fast it may have been but short and sharp it certainly was not.

This fact was of course already well known in NSW, where even our once-unbeatable contact tracing system was beaten by the Delta variant, and in New Zealand, which pursued an even harder and faster lockdown strategy than Victoria and was still overrun.

But unfortunately Andrews’ army of online apparatchiks didn’t seem to get the memo. Instead they started attacking Victorians themselves for not being obedient enough.

One particularly notorious account which purports to be close to the Andrews government even made this extraordinary statement on Twitter: “The underpinning theme in Victoria is noncompliance. People working against us by not following the rules, or promoting noncompliance. I called these people traitors and I have absolutely no regrets.”

This is the sort of line Joe Stalin himself might have sketched on the back of a beer coaster. Another commenter called the same people “sickening wretches”.

The problem is that if you look at the areas where the virus is spreading most widely and where the noncompliance is occurring these people are overwhelmingly in struggling communities, migrant communities, lower socio-economic communities and — needless to say — Labor electorates.

If you ever needed any more proof that the new puritanical left actively hates poor people you need look no further than that tweet.

Once more these hard-line fanatics are creating two Australias: The pure and the impure, the clean and unclean. It is verging on the language of genocide.

Compare this to the approach of NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns, whose response to the same type of communities in south west and western Sydney was to ensure all local Labor MPs were reaching out to their constituents and ensure they were getting vaccinated.

Meanwhile, when it comes to breaking the rules at a macro level that’s apparently no problem.

Queensland and WA are now openly rejecting the very rules that they themselves agreed to, holding millions of lives and livelihoods to ransom while conducting completely unfounded scare campaigns about the impact of Covid-19 on children.

Once more the extremism and violence of the language is both shameful and chilling. And these are supposed to be the touchy-feely tolerant ones.

So welcome to the two Australias – one hard-line and humourless, the other happy and human. I know which one I’d rather be living in.


Don’t despair of the COVID obsessives, they are an antidote to apathy

Unlike accused criminals, hospital patients get to remain anonymous when they do something so dumb it lands them in trouble. Mercifully, there was no name or sex attached to the COVID-positive “Patient X” admitted to Westmead Hospital after overdosing on the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin.

Westmead toxicologist Associate Professor Naren Gunja concluded, “Thankfully they didn’t develop severe toxicity [from ivermectin], but it didn’t help their COVID either.” The “treatment” brought to mind another cure for parasites: the proverbial man who successfully eliminated his bed bugs by burning down his house.

But we can reconstruct Patient X’s logic. Ivermectin is a drug promoted by medical experts from Donald Trump to Craig Kelly MP, who claim it has anti-COVID-19 properties. Normally, it is used to fight worms, lice and rosacea. It’s quite possible that it was Kelly’s leadership that persuaded Patient X to give it a whirl. I received a text from Kelly last week, being one of the lucky thousands of Australians whose phone number was hoovered up by his supposedly random distribution system. Thanks for the spam, Mr Kelly. I don’t have rosacea (not now), worms (not since I was a teenager), and nits (ditto, when I had hair) – but if I get COVID-19, I’ll keep your musings in mind.

The thing about Patient X overdosing was this: in the remote possibility that ivermectin might work against COVID-19, you have to overdose on it to give it a chance. According to a 2020 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, ivermectin can only act against a virus (in vitro) at eight times the approved dose. The US State of Mississippi has reported that 70 per cent of calls to its poisons centre came from people who bought ivermectin at livestock supply centres. Fourteen other studies involving more than 1600 patients, in a review cited by the Australian Department of Health, have yet to produce evidence of ivermectin’s anti-COVID properties. Maybe the subjects just didn’t take enough to bring on the vomiting and diarrhoea and, as with certain hallucinogenic fungi, it’s only after the puking finishes that things start happening.

But what would doctors know? We live amid the ultra-democratisation of knowledge, when Dr Google has hijacked our brains and made everyone a freaking expert.

The taps are fully open on instant expertise. Medical know-how is infectious in the community. There’s a public health expert who’s been chalking footpaths near my house saying things like “COVID 97 per cent survival” and “suicide rate up 53 per cent”. Out on my allotted exercise time, not even the birdsong can keep up with the overheard snippets of expertise: authoritative declarations about vaccination percentages and infection numbers, ICU admissions, post-lockdown jobs data and Delta mortality rates. Some families are so surfeited with their own expertise that they have banned COVID-related conversation after 6pm. You just need a break from all that knowledge.

Podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan tests positive for COVID-19
In these highly strung, data-obsessed days, few can resist the power of a scientific-sounding number. Who is not fixated on that double-dose rate hitting 70 per cent, the daily infection rate announcement to which we tune in every morning, the cultish allure of hard stats? These kinds of numbers used to be divided into two categories: lies and damned lies. The Soviets raised a love of numbers to a fetish: statistics on manufacturing production were one side of the coin on which the dark side was measured by quotas sent to the gulag. Even in benign places like Australia in the 1980s, few can forget Paul Keating’s lustful gurglings of “a beautiful set of numbers” as he sought to educate the public on macroeconomics. Sufficiently educated, the public then hit him over the head with a number of its own, a 17 per cent interest rate. Today, citizens cite data as a cushion against anxiety.

It’s easy to deride the epidemic of self-made expertise. But, as I drink from my half-full glass of home remedies, I like to think that what we are living with is a lot better than the alternative: a population which is indifferent, incurious, uninterested, asleep. I grew up in such a population. The so-called Generation X, raised in an atmosphere of post-Vietnam cynicism, pummelled by unemployment and rolling recessions, tended not to look to politics and public policy for solutions.

Amid this general withdrawal, politics became a magnet for the mediocre. And now we reap the harvest of our apathy: the flower of Generation X in Canberra, the major political parties led by a charlatan and an incompetent. If you are Generation X or thereabouts, you must be embarrassed what your long-ago apathy has coughed up.

By contrast, the cohort growing up now are being forced to make decisions about their world. If today’s crisis is breeding tomorrow’s leaders, then the sheer quantity of argument around COVID-19 can only motivate future action. People tuning in to their state premier’s 10am or 11am briefing is a fundamental change of habit, an increase in community engagement and, let’s hope, a kind of rehearsal for the bigger challenges that await, challenges in which the scientific overlaps with the moral.

Whether it’s through instant Wiki-expertise or a more substantial inquiry, COVID has prompted Australians to engage with public policy in a way few have lived long enough to have experienced. They are engaged with the search for political solutions to this crisis as they have never been engaged before. The attention on our health systems, the curiosity about the interlocking mechanisms between jurisdictions (whoever thought federalism would be the galvanising passion of our time?), and the sheer volume of argument is not only unprecedented but, viewed through my half-full glass, reason for optimism.

Ivermectin, COVID-19, and making sense of scientific evidence
Even the pandemic of Google-brain gives cause for hope. I’m encouraged by people chalking the pavements and protesting against police heavy-handedness even if I suspect they are less than fully hinged. The lingering threat to democracy, beyond this pandemic, isn’t people who want to convince you of their nonsense. It’s people who don’t care, people who submit passively, people who don’t ask questions. We shouldn’t worry as much about those spreading misinformation as those who accept it unthinkingly.

This crisis has stirred up enough argumentative energy to light up the globe. A return to apathy will return it to darkness. The only number that is really dangerous to our future is zero: a public with zero interest, zero thinking, zero to say.

And thanks for the medical advice, Mr Kelly. I’ll grab some ivermectin when my sister-in-law’s horse gets worms.




Sunday, September 12, 2021

‘Version 2.0’ of UQ COVID-19 vaccine to start clinical trials in 2022

The head of the team developing the University of Queensland COVID-19 vaccine candidate says the “window has closed” on that vaccine joining the global fight against the pandemic, but confirmed they are working on version 2.0.

Speaking at an online scientific symposium on Friday, UQ Professor Paul Young said they were well down the road to developing a new version of their vaccine candidate, using the same molecular clamp technology.

Professor Young told the meeting that after the initial version 1.0 vaccine was abandoned in December 2020 because of cross-reactivity issues with HIV screening tests, he fully expected the international funding body that initially backed the research, to request he and his team move on to other projects.

However, in a Zoom call shortly after announcing to the world that they had failed in their initial push for an Australian-developed COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine’s backers told him to go back and try again.

“When I got on that Zoom meeting, there were 126 people there,” he said.

“Having seen our phase one clinical data, they were unanimous with wanting us to stay focused on COVID. So, we have done that, and we are taking a new COVID vaccine forward.”

The UQ team had initially been backed by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global partnership launched in 2017 to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics, and then partnered with pharmaceutical company CSL to manufacture the vaccine.

Version 1.0 had performed well in the initial clinical trials, giving well over 90 per cent coverage against the Wuhan strain of the virus, using a molecular “clamp” to hold a protein in a shape that mimicked part of the spike protein seen on the outside of SARS-CoV-2, which caused the body to make antibodies for the virus.

However, the actual clamp molecule used was sourced from the HIV virus because it was very effective and the researchers didn’t have time to look for a better candidate.

Although there was no risk of contracting HIV from the small molecule, it did set off HIV screening tests, something the researchers did not initially think would happen.

Professor Young said they briefly considered pressing forward with the vaccine anyway and using a work-around, but ultimately decided against it because the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines were more advanced in their development.

“What tipped us over in the end was not wanting to cause vaccine hesitancy,” he said.

“And so the right decision was made at that particular time. Whether that was the right decision, given the fullness of time, I don’t know.

“But we’ve turned it around and found a successful alternative, so that we’re very pleased with, and we will progress with that.”

Professor Young said they had developed around 20 new versions of the vaccine, using a different molecule for the “clamp” used to hold the spike protein together.

He said they would be entering clinical trials in 2022, with work being done on animal models in the near future.

“Not surprisingly, we’re looking at a number of different variants including Delta, and the new clamp is working well,” he said.

Professor Young said he had been heartened by the massive outpouring of public support for the UQ vaccine project, both from the project’s commercial partner CSL, and the Queensland and federal governments, not to mention many private philanthropic investors.

He said some gave more than others, but all gave what they could.

“My favourite memory is receiving a letter from a boy in Melbourne who sent us 70 cents, which is all he had in his share jar,” he said.

“It was that level of community support; it buoyed us, it was absolutely extraordinary.”

The online conference was organised by Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, and run by the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine, with the theme “Making sense of COVID-19”.


‘Their views will not be muzzled’: News Corp’s local boss outlines climate campaign

News Corp Australia’s executive chairman Michael Miller has told local staff the company’s commentators such as Andrew Bolt and Rowan Dean will not be “muzzled” as part of a company-wide editorial project focused on climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

In an all staff email obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Mr Miller confirmed plans for a company-wide climate change campaign in October, but said the push was not conceived due to pressure from advertisers and that different viewpoints will be featured in it.

“Our plans are not in response to any advertiser questions or concerns,” he said. “However, since the coverage this week, it has been great to be contacted by our clients and major Australian companies who are interested in how they can be involved.”

“All our commentators and columnists will be encouraged to participate, and their views will not be ‘muzzled’” .

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age this week revealed plans for the Rupert Murdoch-controlled media company to begin advocating for reducing emissions, marking a major shift in its long-standing editorial hostility towards carbon reduction policies. The article said a plan was devised to limit – but not muzzle – dissenting voices among News Corp’s stable of conservative commentators.

The article sparked a furious response from Bolt, who said on his television program midweek he would leave the organisation if the plan was true.

“So we are going to champion a useless gesture by Australia that won’t lower the temperature but will cost jobs and money - when we are already in the schtuck?,” he said this week.

“A pretend fix, to a pretend crisis, after we campaigned against the carbon tax? Okay. But it’s the boss’ paper, it’s their right to campaign even for something stupid and seem like fools for once fighting against what we are now fighting for,” Bolt told his Sky News viewers. “If that is what the Murdoch media will ask of me, I am out of here.”

“If I’m still here, you’ll know it was all untrue. If I’m gone, worry,” he said.

News Corp’s campaign is set to feature in city tabloids including Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Melbourne’s Herald Sun, national broadsheet The Australian and on Sky News.

Mr Miller said the “major editorial project” was first discussed in March at a meeting of News Corp’s editorial board, which is chaired by The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Dore. He said the work will focus on key environmental and climate issues and the options Australia need to consider reaching a zero emissions target. It will feature leaders in the field and perspectives from lawmakers, scientists, academics and business leaders.

“Australians have told us that caring for the environment is a priority,” Mr Miller wrote. “They have told us that they are interested in the issues, the political and personal choices, as well as the costs and trade offs involved. They also want to know more about how their choices can help make the planet a better, greener place.“

“We will endeavour to ensure that all views, not just the popular ones, are heard,” he said.

Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire has in recent years faced growing international condemnation and pressure over its editorial stance on climate change, which has previously cast doubt over the science behind global warming.

Negative publicity about its coverage appeared in global outlets such as The New York Times and Financial Times during Australia’s deadly bushfires almost two years ago. The coverage by local tabloids and national masthead The Australian also triggered a comment from Murdoch’s youngest son, James Murdoch, who publicly denounced the outlets’ “ongoing denial” of climate change. Mr Murdoch quit the News Corp board last August due to concerns about its editorial stance.

Climate change scepticism has proven difficult to uphold as leading corporations start to aggressively push their green credentials. Woolworths and Coles used the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to broadcast advertisements that focused on their green credentials. But Mr Miller said to staff that the reason for the editorial work was due to the changing needs of its audience, rather than any requests from advertisers.

Mr Miller said News Corp will also reinvigorate 1 Degree - an initiative which began in Australia in 2007 following a famous speech by Rupert Murdoch where he said the planet deserved “the benefit of the doubt”.

News Corporation’s global environmental targets include reducing its fuel and electricity emissions 60 per cent by 2030 on a 2016 base year, reduced supply chain carbon emissions 20 per cent by 2030 and hit net zero by 2050.

”No doubt other media and social platform users will try to take issue with our coverage and attempt to make News the story, however we have never been afraid of pushing boundaries and facilitating tough and uncomfortable conversations,” Mr Miller said. “This is a conversation which Australia needs to have.“


Self-appointed guardians of acceptability are quick to press cancel on new human rights chief

Even before commencing in the role, the new human rights commissioner has contributed significantly to the human rights discussion in Australia. The appointment of Lorraine Finlay has horrified sections of the activist commentariat. From Crikey to ABC radio, Finlay’s supposed sins were listed and repeated: she has spoken against affirmative consent, the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. She has even criticised the Australian Human Rights Commission itself. With a finger firmly on the “cancel” button, the self-appointed arbiters of acceptable culture have sought to end Finlay’s tenure before it begins.

While fulminating over Finlay’s appointment, they omitted what she had actually said on each of these topics. So here I lay out, in her own words, the unacceptable and regressive views of Lorraine Finlay, a law lecturer at Murdoch University, who has worked as a senior human trafficking specialist with the Australian Mission to Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Judge for yourself whether they are incompatible with upholding human rights.

Referring to NSW’s move to enshrine affirmative consent in sexual assault laws, Finlay said that “affirmative consent standards make for a great moral code, but a bad legal standard”. She explained that a “yes-means-yes” standard “means that an individual accused is now required to show that at every step along the way they actually got or were able to prove there was enthusiastic consent to what they were doing”. So, she concluded, “the biggest concern with this is the due process issue”.

Proving sexual consent and rape will remain a fraught issue, regardless whether we operate under a “no-means-no” or a “yes-means-yes” framework. The fact is, there are almost never witnesses who can confirm that consent was explicitly obtained. The idea of an app to keep a record of consent was rubbished because, as consent education advocate Chanel Contos said, perpetrators could point to it as evidence, even if consent was later withdrawn. “Consent can be taken back at any time, and an app couldn’t account for that,” she told the media.

So “yes means yes” relies on the idea that consent can be withdrawn at any time, turning a sexual encounter into rape, without an outward signal from the victim if the victim freezes. And the burden of proof required to convict someone of the heinous crime of rape, punishable by many years of jail, falls on the accused, who is guilty until proven innocent. Finlay’s contention is that this is wrong and the standard of innocent until proven guilty must apply.

The objections Finlay has expressed to Section 18C, which makes it unlawful to offend, humiliate or intimidate based on race, are practical. In a 2016 article for The Conversation she and her co-authors referred to the case of a group of students at Queensland University of Technology, who were thrown out of an unsigned computer room reserved for Indigenous students and posted about it on Facebook. “Just got kicked out of the unsigned Indigenous computer room. QUT stopping segregation with segregation … ?” one student wrote. Cindy Prior, the Indigenous woman who ejected the students from the space and later brought the suit, also alleges that one student used a racial slur on the Facebook thread that he later deleted. That allegation was unable to be proven and was categorically denied at the time.

Finlay argued that in the application of 18C, “the process itself is the punishment” because defending it causes “significant costs in time, money and stress”. One of the students involved abandoned his ambition of becoming a teacher “because parents or students may Google his name and find he was accused of racism”.

Section 18C was also the context of another of Finlay’s crimes: criticism of the AHRC. She and her co-authors wrote that, “the AHRC’s conduct in [the QUT] case has been disgraceful. Judge Jarrett’s dismissal of this case raises the question of why the AHRC did not initially reject Prior’s complaints against the students. That the AHRC proceeded to conciliation may have given Prior false hope that her case against them had merit.” Prior was bankrupted by her unsuccessful attempt to sue the students. She was also subjected to vile racial abuse as a result of the exposure the trial received – much of it from overseas, outside the jurisdiction of Australian law.

Finlay’s documented objection to an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is that “we don’t want to be dividing our country on the basis of race”. Her views are recorded in a video made along with Indigenous opponents of the Voice who agree.

It is obviously possible to argue against any or all of Finlay’s positions, but that is not what the activists who seek to “cancel” her are doing. They skate over the detail and context of her arguments and instead seek to create a situation in which only people with views that conform to their own are eligible to participate in public life. It sounds better to accuse Finlay of objecting to affirmative consent, protections against race hate and inclusion than it does to say that she is against the abolition of due process, trial by media, and segregation. The latter are all reasonable arguments in complicated matters. This is cancel culture in action: an attempt to win difficult debates by playing the woman instead of the ball.


NSW Jewish community granted exemption to mark new year celebrations

Jews will be able to perform a sacred ritual of the Jewish new year festival after the NSW Health Minister granted believers an exemption to the state’s public health orders.

Brad Hazzard has given permission for rabbis to blow the shofar – a ram's horn – outdoors during the Rosh Hashanah celebrations on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Rosh Hashanah celebrates the birth of humanity and usually involves synagogue services, prayer and food. A key element is the blowing of the shofar, which is a Jewish call for repentance.

Rabbi Paul Lewin from the North Shore Synagogue in Lindfield said the festivities would look different to usual due to the lockdown restrictions on gatherings and movement.

“It’s a real family affair to go to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah. It will be really missed this year,” he said. “There’s joy for the festival but certainly a pang of sadness we can’t celebrate it in its full glory.”

Orthodox Jews face extra challenges to celebrate remotely because of their strict adherence to Sabbath conditions that includes no technology.

“From sundown, all our mobile phones are off, computers are off, the TV is off,” Rabbi Lewin said. “One of the biggest problems we have is we can’t livestream services. My synagogue is going to have a Zoom an hour before the start of Rosh Hashanah, so we all bring in the holiday together.”

Many synagogues in Sydney have also organised take-home packs for congregants consisting of honey, apples and booklets of sermons.

The celebrations last for two days – from sunset on Monday until sunset on Wednesday and one of the key rituals is the sounding of the shofar.

Only a rabbi can blow the horn, so it’s the only ritual that believers can’t perform at home on their own. The exemption will allow rabbis to sound the shofar on Tuesday and Wednesday at parks across the state.

Rabbi Benjamin Elton from the Great Synagogue in Sydney’s CBD said the exemption was a “great relief”. He will be blowing the shofar at Hyde Park in the mornings and Rushcutters Bay in the afternoons.

“We expect people will naturally distribute themselves across all the [time] slots, so it won’t be too crowded on any one occasion,” he said.

The conditions of the health exemption are that rabbis can blow the horn only in 10-minute increments for up to three hours each day. Under Jewish tradition, there is no requirement for followers to hear the horn at a particular decibel level or length of time, so they can simply walk through the park as part of their daily exercise.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Darren Bark said he was grateful the horn-sounding ritual could proceed.

“The community appreciates the co-operation of NSW Health and its work with the community to have very strict conditions that allow this to occur with negligible risk,” he said.

"With synagogues closed, limits on gatherings and restrictions on travel, this year’s Jewish High Holy Days will look unlike anything we have seen before. Many families will be unable to celebrate together as they have for generations. But we are together in spirit, even if physically apart."


Australian mother develops Covid-killing disinfectant in just two months to protect her vulnerable husband from the virus

A mum-of-four has revealed how she and her husband came up with Australia's first TGA approved 'Covid-killing' disinfectant in just two months.

Sophie Westlake, 45, was terrified for her family, and in particular her immuno-compromised husband Steve, 53, when Covid-19 swept across the globe in 2020.

Steve has Myasthenia Gravis a condition similar to MS, and had several lymph nodes in his chest removed as a young man which left him with a compromised immune system for life.

Sophie wanted to keep the people she loved safe but couldn't find a disinfectant which was proven to kill the virus on surfaces.

And when she phoned large cleaning-product manufacturers she was disheartened by their lack of enthusiasm to make a Covid-killing disinfected.

So, with the help of her husband who has a medical background and their four children, Sophie created Virosol - and took it to the TGA for approval.

'This all came about at the start of the first lockdown, when we had no idea what we were dealing with, there was just no information about Covid so everyone was scared,' she told FEMAIL.

'We didn't have much else to do apart from baking and craft activities, being in lockdown, so we just spent heaps of time researching.

'As a family we are very proud to have been the first cab off the rank for TGA approval.'

Once the first products hit the shelves, Sophie received calls from the large companies asking how she managed to get her disinfectant over the line so quickly.

'The big companies all wanted to know how we got TGA approval in two months when it can sometimes take years,' she said.

'I don't really know how to answer that but I guess it's because I was just being really annoying and calling them every second day to get it pushed through,' she said.


An antibody cocktail that can beat Delta to be tested

Australian researchers have been given a $5 million grant to carry out human trials of a breakthrough Covid antibody treatment thought to stop the disease progressing.

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research scientist Associate Professor Wai-Hong Tham’s team has found two potent antibodies proven to fight Delta and other Covid variants in a petri dish.

With the new funding from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) the team will mix the antibodies into a cocktail and manufacture enough in Australia to be used in a human clinical trial to test whether they are safe to use.

These trials are expected to begin within 12 months.

“Monoclonal antibodies are just lab made versions of antibodies that sort of mimic what our bodies already make to fight infection,” Associate Professor Tham said.

“We know that when you combine two different antibodies against the virus, you can limit viral escape against treatment,” she said.

When used early in the infection they can stop the virus progressing and prevent people going to hospital.

It took the team just nine months to identify the antibodies after receiving a previous MRFF grant.

Australia has already approved for use existing monoclonal antibody treatments produced overseas called Sotrovimab and Remdesivir.

“So ours are more potent than Sotrovimab from GSK. The other thing that’s different about ours is that we use two antibodies, rather than one,” Associate Professor Tham said.

The antibodies also work against the key Covid variants.

“We’ve tested them against the Delta variant, we don’t obviously have Mu yet, but we’ve tested, Alpha, Beat and Delta,” she said.

The treatment will be manufactured entirely in Victorian and Queensland-based production facilities including at the University of Queensland, and at the CSIRO in Clayton Victoria.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said research was a key weapon in the ongoing fight against Covid-19 and central to the Government’s Covid-19 National Health Plan.

“Our plan provides support across primary care, aged care, hospitals and research, and includes funding from the MRFF for a Coronavirus Research Response,” Minister Hunt said.

“We are backing our best and brightest researchers to drive innovation and contribute to global efforts to control the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The considerable expertise of Australia’s world-class health and medical researchers is critical for ensuring preparedness and the safety of all Australians and the global community.”

To date, the Government has invested $96 million from the MRFF in Covid-19 research.

Sotrovimab is being used in Australia to treat of people with mild to moderate Covid-19 who are also at a high risk of being hospitalised.

It is expected that approximately 10 per cent of people with Covid-19 may have some benefit from Sotrovimab.

Remdesivir has been available in Australia since mid-2020 and is used to treat people who have more severe Covid-19


‘I won’t have a bar of it’: Minister slams national curriculum draft over ANZAC Day stance

ANZAC day is when Australians remember their war dead

Education Minister Alan Tudge has slammed the draft of the national curriculum, which suggests students should be encouraged to contest the importance of ANZAC Day, saying he “won’t have a bar of it”.

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge has attacked proposed changes to the Australian curriculum, slamming the idea that Anzac Day should be “contested”.

Speaking on triple j Hack on Tuesday night, Mr Tudge said he was concerned the draft curriculum painted “an overly negative view of Australia”, taking particular umbrage with the changes to how Anzac Day is referenced.

Under the proposed draft curriculum, Year 9 kids would learn “the commemoration of World War I, including different historical interpretations and contested debates about the nature and significance of the Anzac legend and the war”.

“In relation to what occurred in 1788, the arrivals of the First Fleet, people should learn about that, and they should learn the perspective from Indigenous people at that time as well,” Mr Tudge said.

“However, there’s things that I don’t like, such as the way that Anzac Day is presented, for example.

“Instead of Anzac Day being presented as the most sacred of all days in Australia, where we stop, we reflect, we commemorate the 100,000 people who have died for our freedoms, it’s presented as a contested idea … Anzac Day is not a contested idea, apart from an absolute fringe element in our society.

“The word contested itself is used 19 times throughout the curriculum – it’s asking people to, instead of just accepting these for the things which they are, such as Anzac Day, to really challenge them and to contest them.”

Mr Tudge has been a vocal opponent to the proposed curriculum changes – particularly in Year 7 to 10 history – and has also slammed the curriculum’s failure to mention Captain James Cook.

Other changes to the history curriculum include “contested debates about the colonial and settler societies, such as contested terms, including ‘colonisation’, ‘settlement’ and ‘invasion’.”

The final revisions to the Australian curriculum will be provided to education ministers for consideration and endorsement by the end of this year, with an updated version to be available for 2022.