Inbox and Environment News - Issue 210

 April 19 - 25, 2015: Issue 210

 Children who understand others' perspectives found to be more popular among peers

April 15, 2015 - Preschoolers and school-age children who are good at identifying what others want, think, and feel are more popular in school than their peers who aren't as socially adept. That's the conclusion of a new meta-analysis--a type of study that looks at the results of many different studies--out of Australia.

The study was done at the University of Queensland, Australia, and appears in the journal Child Development.

"Our study suggests that understanding others' mental perspectives may facilitate the kind of interactions that help children become or remain popular," notes Virginia Slaughter, professor of psychology and head of the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland, who led the study. Popularity was measured via nominations by classroom peers and ratings by teachers.

The ability to figure out what other people are thinking and feeling comes into play in interpersonal interactions and helps us understand complex social situations, such as when one person double crosses another or uses sarcasm. This is also called theory of mind. While individual studies have shown an association with popularity in the past, this meta-analysis looked across the findings of multiple studies, increasing confidence that the overall pattern is clear.

In this work, researchers looked at 20 studies that addressed the relation between theory of mind and popularity. Together, the studies included 2,096 children from 2 to 10 years old from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. In all but three of the studies, most of the children were Caucasian, and although children across the 20 studies were from a mix of working-, middle-, and upper-class families, they were predominantly middle class.

In addition to finding an overall link between children's abilities to figure out what others think and feel and their popularity, the study found that this tie was similar for preschoolers and for older children. This suggests that understanding others' mental perspectives is important both for making friends in the early school years and for maintaining friendships as children grow older.

The study also found that the link was weaker for boys than girls, perhaps reflecting gender differences in how children relate to each other. For example, girls' friendships are often characterized by high levels of intimacy and resolving conflicts, which may mean that their interactions require more sensitivity in understanding others' thoughts and feelings.

"Our findings suggest that training children to be sensitive to others' thoughts and feelings may improve their relationships with peers," Slaughter adds. "This may be particularly important for children who are struggling with friendship issues, such as children who are socially isolated."

Virginia Slaughter, Kana Imuta, Candida C. Peterson, Julie D. Henry. Meta-Analysis of Theory of Mind and Peer Popularity in the Preschool and Early School Years. Child Development, 2015; DOI:10.1111/cdev.12372

 ANZAC Tea Map 

c/ - National Library of Australia

15th of April 2015

Shall we discuss the war over a cup of tea?

This month, our ‪#mapofthemonth‬ is a representation of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli, published in 1915 by Farrow Falcon Press, for a tea company! Robur positioned itself as a quality tea brand for families, one which ‘sells on its honest goodness.’ When the First World War broke out, commercial advertising began to feature war scenes and themes, as companies capitalised on the zeitgeist amongst those left at home.

This war map is a vivid depiction of the recent happenings on the Gallipoli peninsula, showing the landing sites of Anzac and Allied troops. The map is a bird’s eye view annotated with batteries, forts and warships, giving a feel for the dangers the Anzacs faced. Lithographed by noted Melbourne poster artist Cyril Dillon, the maps were intended as table covers, for engaging with the subject and advancing the Allied flags to Constantinople.

Issued at first in a spirit of optimism about the Gallipoli campaign, it went to several print runs and became one of the war’s most collectible maps. In a world dominated by print media, published maps such as these played a major role in illustrating the war for those on the home front.


The Hon Anthony Roberts MP The Hon Mark Speakman SC MP Minister for Industry Minister for the Environment Resources and Energy Minister for Heritage Assistant Minister for Planning 

MEDIA RELEASE Friday, 17 April 2015

Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts and Minister for the Environment Mark Speakman today visited Nyngan in Western NSW for the installation of the final solar panel at Australia’s largest solar project. Mr Speakman congratulated AGL, First Solar and the Nyngan community for their work on and support for the ground-breaking 102 megawatt (MW) plant. 

“The $290 million Nyngan solar plant is a major investment in renewable energy and demonstrates the NSW Government’s commitment to clean energy generation,” Mr Speakman said. 

“This 250-hectare field contains 1.36 million solar panels and will provide enough clean electricity to power 33,000 NSW homes when fully operational.

“The NSW Government is serious about supporting renewable energy, and has provided $65 million in funding for this project here in Nyngan and another 53MWsolar plant under construction near Broken Hill, the second largest solar plant in Australia. “Together, these solar plants will generate enough electricity to power more than 50,000 homes across NSW.” 

Mr Roberts said NSW was at the forefront of large scale solar and renewable energy. “NSW is leading Australia in supporting the clean energy sector, which supports more than 13,000 jobs, contributes to lower energy costs and provides employment and investment in regional communities,” Mr Roberts said. 

“The share of renewable energy in NSW’s electricity generation mix has almost doubled in the past five years with approximately 13 per cent of our energy generation coming from renewable sources in 2013. 

“This project will set an example that will help drive further investment in large scale solar in regional NSW and across Australia.”

 EPA issues AGL with a notice after gas leak

Media release: 15 April 2015

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued AGL with a notice for information and records in relation to a small gas leak that AGL detected at one of its Waukivory pilot wells on Thursday 2 April 2015.  The Waukivory pilot wells are part of AGL’s Gloucester Gas Project.

EPA Director North Gary Davey said the EPA is investigating the matter to ascertain if AGL has breached environment protection legislation or its environment protection licence conditions.

“During a meeting with EPA officers on Tuesday 7 April, AGL informed the EPA that a small gas leak occurred at Waukivory pilot well 12.

“The EPA inspected the site on Wednesday 8 April to begin its investigation of this issue.

“The EPA issued AGL with a notice on Monday 13 April directing the company to provide information and records about the gas leak; including the cause of the leak, methods used to detect the leak, records relating to the concentration of gas detected and actions undertaken by AGL in response to the detection of the leak.

“The information must be provided to the EPA by 30 April,” Mr Davey said.

AGL has been given approval by the Office of Coal Seam Gas  and the EPA to undertake work to release gas pressure that has built up in the four suspended Waukivory pilot wells. AGL has advised no gas leaks have been detected since the pressure in the well heads has been reduced.

AGL’s operations at Gloucester were suspended in January after BTEX chemicals were detected in monitoring samples.  The suspension remains in place while investigations continue.


MEDIA RELEASE Sunday 12 April 2015: Mark Speakman Minister for the Environment Minister for Heritage Assistant Minister for Planning 

Heritage Minister Mark Speakman today announced $28.5 million in additional NSW Government heritage funding over the next four years under the new Heritage Near Me initiative, which will primarily support local heritage assets. 

Under the new Heritage Near Me initiative, the NSW Government will fund a new Heritage Roadshow team of experts and a series of grants, namely the Heritage Activation Grants Program; the Local Heritage Community and Local Government Grants Program and Heritage Green Energy Grants Program. 

“The Heritage Near Me program will provide substantial new NSW Government funding for heritage items that local communities across the state hold dear,” Mr Speakman said. 

“The new Heritage Activation Grants Program will support heritage asset owners such as local councils to reactivate heritage spaces and precincts through works to support public access, ongoing heritage activities and safety improvements.

“There will be funding for minor conservation works and to help provide expert technical advice and service through the Local Heritage Community and Local Government Grants Program, which will help enhance local heritage assets.

 “The Heritage Green Energy Grants Program will support energy efficiency upgrades for businesses using heritage listed buildings. 

“The Heritage Near Me initiative will also fund a new team of eight specialists who will visit local areas to record historical information, support the community to protect important places and help local councils improve skills among their heritage staff. 

“This new Heritage Roadshow Team will work with local communities by assisting with technical advice; leveraging public and private investment in heritage items; and assisting local councils to identify, manage and protect local heritage. 

“Funds will also go into developing two new apps for local councils and communities to report and identify local heritage, and a new website containing records and information about NSW heritage.”

 950 seedlings planted at Dharawal National Park

Media release: 15 April 2015

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff and the local community planted 950 seedlings in Dharwal National Park on the 11 and 12 April which will help to rehabilitate the previously cleared Old Archers field site.

NPWS Regional Manager Diane Garrood said 29 volunteers assisted including three generations of the Durman family.

”The 950 seedlings were sourced from local seed stock and will help to restore this degraded part of the park,” Ms Garrood said.

“In addition, Koori Discovery Rangers shared traditional knowledge about local food sources and medicines. They introduced the volunteers to edible bush currants, insect repellents, banksia hair brushes and snake whistles. Volunteers learnt to wash their hands using soap suds made from local wattle leaves.

”We would like to thank the local volunteer community, Tharawal Local Aboriginal Land Council, Koori presenters, Macarthur Branch of the National Parks Association of NSW, Greening Australia and the funding bodies for enabling this superb weekend to occur.” 

Community tree planting weekends originated due to grant funding from the Greater Sydney Local Land Service.

Dharawal National Park is located approximately 45km south west of Sydney and straddles the Wollondilly, Wollongong and Campbelltown local government areas. Dharawal National Park encompasses almost the entire catchment of O’Hares and Stokes Creeks.

Dharawal conserves exceptional upland swamps, which contain some of the highest species-richness values in the world. Dharawal National Park has great significance for the Dharawal Aboriginal people with a high density of Aboriginal sites including well preserved examples of drawings, stencils and paintings.

 Your chance to comment on plan to tackle feral cat threat

Department of the Environment: Media release, 9 April 2015

Feral cats threaten the survival of over 100 native species in Australia, and now is your chance to have your say on how best to reduce their impact.

The Department of the Environment is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to its national threat abatement plan for predation by feral cats.

Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews said the latest version of the plan sets out a national framework to guide and coordinate Australia’s response to the biggest single threat to our mammals.

“If you’re an Australian animal that’s small and spends time on the ground, feral cats are enemy number one. We need to look at different ways to stop feral cats pushing native mammals, reptiles, frogs and ground-dwelling birds to extinction, and that’s why this plan is important. It’s critical for iconic animals such as bilbies, bandicoots and wallabies, and the science shows even falcons and platypuses are now at risk from feral cats,” Mr Andrews said.

“The new draft plan recognises there have been significant advances in feral cat research and control since the current plan was adopted in 2008. The use of remote sensing cameras and GPS tracking collars have made monitoring easier, and new baits will provide extra tools to control feral cats. We’ve eradicated feral cats from three Australian islands (Tasman Island, Faure Island and Macquarie Island) and are working towards that goal on two more (Christmas Island and Dirk Hartog Island).”

There’s a greater emphasis in the revised plan on:

having a feral cat bait available for use across all conservation areas in Australia

researching how fire and grazing practice can change native vegetation and impact on feral cats’ ability to hunt effectively

investigating further the role of diseases like toxoplasmosis spread by feral cats and how it passes on and affects native species, and

eradicating feral cats from islands and establishing more fenced reserves free from feral cats to protect threatened species under pressure from feral cats.

“We want to effectively control feral cats in different environments, develop alternative strategies for threatened species recovery, and increase public support for feral cat management.

“Later this month, the Department and the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre will hold a national feral cat workshop in Canberra, where Australia’s leading feral cat experts will advise the department on performance indicators for tackling the impact of feral cats and present their latest research.

“I’ll be attending and expect the workshop will feed valuable comments and ideas into the revised draft of the plan. I am especially interested in ideas and comments on hard and measurable targets for reducing the impacts of feral cats. There will be plenty of opportunity for others to provide input as well, with the plan open for comment until 8 July 2015,” Mr Andrews said.

Find out how you can make a submission on the plan at Draft varied Threat abatement plan for predation by feral cats

 Setting Australia’s post-2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations

The Australian Government has committed to a review of emissions reduction targets in 2015. The review is part of Australia’s preparations for the UNFCCC Paris Conference in December 2015, where negotiations on a new global climate agreement will conclude.

The UNFCCC Taskforce in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has been established to coordinate the review.

The taskforce is working closely with the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Industry and Science, the Environment and the Treasury. Further information on UNFCCC negotiations can be found at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. For information on action Australia is already taking on climate change, please see the Department of the Environment’s website.

Public Consultations on Australia’s Emissions Reduction Target

The Prime Minister, together with the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and the Environment, announced a public consultations process on Australia’s post-2020 emissions reduction target on 28 March 2015.

The Australian Government values the views of the Australian community. You are invited to submit your views on Australia’s post-2020 emissions reduction target.

Issues paper and fact sheet

To assist you in writing your submission, this issues paper  briefly outlines the context in which the Government is considering post-2020 emissions reduction targets for Australia.  Additional information about the UNFCCC preparations for a new global climate agreement  can be found in the accompanying fact sheet and links to background information

Information on how you can make a submission.  

Submissions open Saturday 28 March 2015 and close 3pm AEST Friday 24 April 2015.

Shark asks divers for help!!!

Published on 13 Apr 2015 by Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas

On April 4th 2015, we witnessed this shark approach our shark feed and ASK for help to remove a rope that was tight around her throat! We thankfully succeeded and now have named this lovely lady, 'Lucy'! We hope to see a lot more of her. Watch the amazing footage of the shark rescue here!!!

 AGL policy to provide pathway to decarbonisation of electricity generation

Friday, 17 April 2015 – AGL Media Release

AGL Energy Limited (AGL) today released a new Greenhouse Gas Policy, providing a pathway to decarbonisation of its electricity generation by 2050.

Managing Director and CEO, Andy Vesey, said the company recognised that it has a key role to play in gradually reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while providing secure and affordable electricity for over 3.8 million Australian households and businesses.

“Australia currently relies significantly on coal and gas to power its homes and industries with 88 percent of electricity produced from fossil fuels.

“To support the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to work towards the two degree goal1, companies such as AGL need to take the lead,” said Mr Vesey.

“This will be a measured process of decarbonisation, but one which I am proud to spearhead on behalf of AGL. AGL is the nation’s largest privately owned renewable energy investor and we will continue to invest in low-emissions technologies to reduce the emissions intensity of Australia’s electricity supply. It is important that government policy incentivise investment in lower-emitting technology while at the same time ensuring that older, less efficient and reliable power stations are removed from Australia’s energy mix. Decarbonisation and modernisation of Australia’s electricity system are important goals requiring effective policy.

“It will be an ongoing, progressive process, managing the efficient operations of our assets, and the transition of our people into new generation technologies and careers,” he said.Specifically, the revised GHG Policy states that AGL will:

Continue to provide the market with safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy options

Not build, finance or acquire new conventional coal-fired power stations in Australia (i.e. without carbon capture and storage)2.

Not extend the operating life of any of its existing coal-fired power stations

Close, by 2050, all existing coal-fired power stations in its portfolio

Improve the GHG efficiency of its operations, and those over which it has influence

Continue to invest in new renewable and near-zero emission technologies

Make available innovative and cost-effective solutions for its customers, such as distributed renewable generation, battery storage, and demand management solutions

Incorporate a forecast of future carbon pricing in to all generation capital expenditure decisions

Continue to be an advocate for effective long-term government policy to reduce Australia’s emissions in a manner that is consistent with the long term interests of consumers and investors.

Background information:

AGL’s full 2015 Greenhouse Gas Policy can be found on

AGL has 1,766 MW of renewable generation capacity, 17 percent of the total generation portfolio, making AGL the largest ASX listed owner, operator and developer of renewable energy generation in the country.

Today, AGL completed installation of the last solar PV panel at the 102 MW Nyngan Solar Plant, the largest utility-scale solar plant in Australia.

Last year alone AGL’s renewable portfolio was responsible for the abatement of 3.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

An AGL Applied Economic Policy and Research Working Paper with further information on climate change policy can be found on

AGL uses three approaches to measure and communicate the greenhouse gas impact of its business, and reports emissions annually through the AGL Sustainability Report.

1 The Commonwealth Government has committed to work towards a global agreement that limits global warming to less than 20 C above pre-industrial levels.

2 The term conventional is used to refer to coal-fired power plants that have a higher lifecycle emissions intensity than a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT).

 Blue Star Sustainability Awards - Keep NSW Beautiful

Calling all people dedicated to our environmental future - Our Blue Star Sustainability Awards are now open! These annual awards aim to reward both individuals and group projects in NSW which are committed to promoting responsible environmental practices in their local areas. There are 10 different award categories, each with a regional and metropolitan winner. To enter, all you have to do is submit a short form online - it couldn't be easier!

Entries close on Wednesday the 20th of May 2015, so if this sounds like you, someone you know, or a project currently underway in your local area, head to our page and get entering! See:

 Consultation invited on review of the National Carbon Offset Standard

The Australian Government has released a consultation paper on the review of the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) and the Carbon Neutral Program.

The NCOS provides companies the opportunity to voluntarily offset their carbon emissions and gain Government approved carbon neutral certification under the Carbon Neutral Program.

The NCOS helps businesses to calculate their carbon footprint or to develop carbon neutral products. It also assists consumers to make informed choices about carbon neutral products or services.

The Carbon Neutral Program, based on the NCOS, provides a way for businesses and other organisations to gain carbon neutral certification for their operations, products, services or events.

A diverse range of companies have chosen to become carbon neutral, including airlines, banks, councils and small businesses. Certified companies such as Qantas, ANZ, and Melbourne City Council offset around 1 million tonnes of emissions per annum under the Carbon Neutral Program.

The Government committed to review the NCOS as part of the Emissions Reduction Fund development in 2014 to ensure continuing integrity of the carbon offsets available to the Australian voluntary market and to improve uptake.

As part of the review, the government is seeking feedback on opportunities to broaden involvement in carbon neutral certification, including identifying certification models and making sure the eligible offsets list is up to date with the broader voluntary market.

The NCOS complements the Government's Direct Action Plan with the $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund as its centrepiece. Carbon Neutral Program participants have the opportunity to purchase ACCUs (Australian Carbon Credit Units) under the ERF including in projects such as savanna burning often done by Indigenous communities, environmental tree plantings and waste diversion activities.

The review is being conducted by the Department of the Environment in consultation with key stakeholders and the public. Businesses, community organisations and individuals are invited to make submissions on the consultation paper by 5pm AEST 22 April 2015.

The consultation paper and information on how to make a submission are available at

 Draft National Recovery Plan for the Southern Bent-wing Bat Miniopterus schreibersii bassanii

Linda F. Lumsden and Micaela L. Jemison, 2015

Public comment

You are invited to comment on this draft recovery plan in accordance with the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The public comment period closes 1 July 2015.

If you wish to comment on this draft plan, please send your comments, quoting the title of the plan, to:


Mail: Terrestrial Threatened Species Section, Protected Species and Communities Branch, Wildlife, Heritage and Marine Division, Department of the Environment, GPO Box 787, Canberra ACT 2601

About this document

This document constitutes the draft National Recovery Plan for the Southern Bent-wing Bat Miniopterus schreibersii bassanii. The recovery plan sets out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline of, and support the recovery of, the threatened Southern Bent-wing Bat. The Southern Bent-wing Bat is listed as critically endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 in Victoria where it is considered critically endangered and listed as endangered under theNational Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 in South Australia. It is also listed as endangered in the Action Plan for Australian Mammals 2012, under the revised taxonomic name of Miniopterus orianae bassanii. The long-term recovery objective is to ensure that the Southern Bent-wing Bat can survive, flourish and retain its potential for evolutionary development in the wild.

Documents at HERE

 Safeguard paper released for consultation: government to achieve targets

The Australian Government is seeking public feedback on options for the planned Emissions Reduction Fund safeguard mechanism.

The safeguard mechanism will ensure that abatement achieved under the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) is not offset by rises in emissions elsewhere in the economy.

Implementation of the crediting and purchasing components of the ERF are already underway, with the first auction to open on 15 April 2015.

The safeguard mechanism consultation paper released today incorporates views from across the community, including feedback received from businesses and community groups during the extensive consultation on the ERF Terms of Reference and Green Paper.

Businesses and the community are invited to make a submission on the safeguard mechanism public consultation paper by 27 April 2015.

The Government will consider this feedback in making final policy decisions on safeguard design, and will then release draft legislative rules for further comment.

The rules will be finalised in late 2015 and the safeguard mechanism will commence on 1 July 2016.

The ERF is the centrepiece of the Australian Government's efforts to tackle climate change.

The ERF will help drive private sector investment to achieve emissions reductions. The important thing is that emissions reductions are real, measurable and additional to business as usual.

Figures released this week by the Department of Environment show we will easily meet our commitment to reduce Australia's emissions by five per cent from 2000 levels by 2020.

Under Labor, Australia's abatement challenge to achieve the five per cent target was forecast to be 1,335 Mt CO2-e in 2008. This has now fallen to 236 Mt CO2-e.

We will achieve our emissions reduction targets, but unlike Labor, we'll do it without a multi-billion dollar job-destroying carbon tax.

Further information on the Emissions Reduction Fund is available at:

 Nation’s largest diabetes conversation

15 April 2015

Federal Minister for Health Sussan Ley is calling on Australians to have their say as part of the nation’s largest conversation about the best ways to prevent, treat and cure diabetes. 

Ms Ley today announced the opening of a national consultation process to help guide the Abbott Government’s development of a National Diabetes Strategy – an election commitment. 

Ms Ley said diabetes affected the lives of most people in some way, shape or form and this was a critical opportunity for all Australians to participate in finding the best ways to prevent, treat and cure this rapidly growing national problem at the Department of Health's Consultation Hub. 

“Over one million Australians are now living with diabetes, while hundreds of thousands more are either at high risk of contracting the disease or are living with it and don’t know,” Ms Ley said. 

“However, diabetes doesn’t just affect the lives of those who have it. It takes a heavy toll on their family and friends, their job, the sustainability of the health budget and our national prosperity. 

“For example, the overall cost of diabetes to the Australian economy is estimated to be as high as $14 billion annually. 

“That’s why it’s so important we get a broad diversity of views. Whether you’re a carer, parent, employer, doctor, researcher or someone living with the disease, we want to hear your views, experiences and ideas about addressing this rapidly growing national problem.” 

Ms Ley said there were over 200 new cases of diabetes diagnosed in Australia every day. 

“Diabetes also contributes to a range of other serious health burdens, including heart attacks, strokes, amputation, blindness, kidney failure, depression and nerve disease, which is why this government is committed to delivering a National Diabetes Strategy,” Ms Ley said. 

“This national strategy will aim to prioritise Australia’s response to diabetes; identify the best approaches to addressing the impact of diabetes in the community; and position Australia as an international leader in diabetes prevention, management and research.” 

Comments received through this consultation will inform the National Diabetes Strategy, due for release late 2015. Consultation will close Friday May 17. 

Ms Ley thanked the National Diabetes Strategy Advisory Group for their work, including developing a consultation paper to help generate public discussion and ideas and is available at the Department of Health's Consultation Hub.

The call for public feedback follows face-to-face consultations held last year in Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Alice Springs and Hobart. 

The National Diabetes Strategy Advisory Group is co-chaired by the Hon. Judi Moylan and Professor Paul Zimmet AO and supported by a range of health, community and economic experts. 

Additional Facts and Figures: 

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for approximately 85 per cent of people with diabetes. 

Diabetes is underlying or associated cause of one in every ten deaths in Australia. 

Healthcare that is directly attributable to diabetes costs approximately $1.7 billion per year, while the total cost of diabetes annually has been estimated to be as high as $14 billion. 

Annual direct costs for people with diabetes complications are more than twice as much as for people without complications; $9,600 compared with $3,500. 

It is estimated that for every 100 people with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in Australia, at least another 25 may be living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. 

Obesity is considered a major cause of diabetes. At present, 63 per cent of Australian adults over the age of 18 are overweight or obese, as are approximately 25% per cent of children aged between 5 and 17, and these rates are even higher among people from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Details of Online Discussion and Questionnaire at: here

The consultation is open until 11:59pm AEST on Sunday 17 May 2015 

 Appointment of the Honourable Michelle Gordon to the High Court of Australia

14 April 2015

Today, his Excellency the Governor-General accepted the advice of the Government to appoint the Honourable Michelle Marjorie Gordon, a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, as the next Justice of the High Court of Australia. Justice Gordon will replace the Honourable Justice Kenneth Hayne AC, who will reach the statutory retirement on 5 June 2015. 

Justice Gordon has enjoyed a distinguished career in the law, both at the Bar and on the Bench.

Her Honour graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Jurisprudence in 1986 and a Bachelor of Laws in 1987.

Justice Gordon was born and educated in Perth and started her legal career at the then leading commercial law practice Robinson Cox (now Clayton Utz) in 1987. In 1988, she moved to Melbourne to practice at Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks (now Allens). She worked in commercial litigation, and was appointed a Senior Associate at that firm in July 1992. Her Honour was then called to the Victorian Bar in November 1992. 

Justice Gordon quickly became one of the leaders at the Bar, establishing a busy practice specialising in commercial law, trade practices and taxation. In 2003, Her Honour took silk after only eleven years. 

Justice Gordon was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in April 2007. The contribution Her Honour has made to the development of the law, particularly in commercial law, is widely recognised by her colleagues on the Bench and at the Bar.

On behalf of the Government, I congratulate Justice Gordon on her appointment. She will be sworn in on 9 June 2015. 

May I also take the opportunity to thank Justice Hayne for his many years of distinguished judicial service to the Australian people, and wish him a long, happy and active retirement.

 Artist George Gittoes AM wins Sydney Peace Prize 2015

13 April 2015

Australian artist George Gittoes AM has been selected to receive the 2015 Sydney Peace Prize. The Prize will be awarded on Tuesday 10 November at Sydney Town Hall.

The 2015 Sydney Peace Prize Jury's citation reads:

"George Gittoes AM: For exposing injustice for over 45 years as a humanist artist, activist and filmmaker, for his courage to witness and confront violence in the war zones of the world, for enlisting the arts to subdue aggression and for enlivening the creative spirit to promote tolerance, respect and peace with justice."

The Sydney Peace Prize is Australia's only annual international prize for peace. For the past seventeen years the Sydney Peace Foundation at the University of Sydney has awarded it to someone who has made a significant contribution to peace with justice, respect for human rights and the language and practice of non-violence. Past winners include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Arundhati Roy and Noam Chomsky.

Gittoes grew up in the Sydney suburb of Rockdale and studied Fine Arts at The University of Sydney. In 1970 he helped establish The Yellow House artists collective in Kings Cross with others including Martin Sharp and Brett Whitely.

Gittoes' activism evolved through his work as a painter, film maker and photojournalist. He has chronicled conflicts and social upheavals in places including Nicaragua, Somalia, Cambodia, Western Sahara, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Bougainville, East Timor, South Africa, Palestine, Iraq and Pakistan.

In 1995 Gittoes was a witness to the massacre of thousands of Rwandans at a displaced persons camp where they had sought protection from UN peacekeeping forces. This inspired his painting, The Preacher, which won the 1995 Blake Prize for religious art.

"At a time when the world is speeding into a new cycle of war," says George Gittoes, "it is inspiring that the Sydney Peace Foundation values art as a way to help overcome the brutality. The award of the Sydney Peace Prize is a wonderful and unexpected honour".

"George Gittoes is daring, brash and irreverent - qualities Australians identify with," says David Hirsch, Chair of the Foundation. "He is also generous, open-minded and compassionate - qualities we also identify with, but which have been in short supply in recent years. The Jury felt his unique approach to peacebuilding and social justice should be recognised and applauded."

Gittoes is currently based in Jalalabad, Afghanistan - arguably the most dangerous city in the world. Against all odds, and at great personal risk from the Taliban, he has established a new Yellow House artists collective. Its mission is to bring peace and positive social change, not with weapons of war but with a broad range of creative media and strategies.

Gittoes' documentary film Love City Jalalabad won awards for Best Documentary and Most Socially Relevant Film at the New York Winter Indie Film Festival in February this year.

Art historian Dr Rod Pattenden says: "His images pry open the door to a conversation about what it means to be human at the very limits, where petty myths, tired illusions and worn-out symbols collapse. This is the dare at the heart of his practice - to activate the imagination rather than fear, and to create hope in the face of chaos."

"I feel privileged to have been able to spend much of my life creating beauty in the face of the destruction of war," says Gittoes. "I have been waging a personal war against war with art."

The Sydney Peace Prize will be presented at Sydney Town Hall on Tuesday 10 November where George Gittoes will be delivering the 2015 City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture. For more information and tickets visit


Troops landing at Anzac Cove, Turkey  25 April 1915, Rex Nan Kivell Collection, nla.pic-vn6573047

How would Australian soldiers, political leaders and the media have tweeted the Anzac experience if they had social media?

Imagine the landing at Gallipoli reported by uncensored social media, where soldiers, officers, nurses and the media report what they see, think and feel.

The ABC invited the National Library of Australia, along with the Museum of Australian Democracy and the Australian War Memorial to contribute our primary sources from our First World War collections to their ABC Gallipoli Twitter Project.

The project, developed along with Twitter Australia, stems from one central Twitter account—@ABCNews1915—and represents the twitter accounts of over 60 First World War personalities from April 1915. The accounts will tweet in ‘real time’, from historical records of the thoughts and comments from those who were at Gallipoli 100 years ago.

Walter Kudrycz, our First World War historian who recently worked with us on our current exhibition, Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War, sourced quotes from Sir John Monash’s personal diary, Joseph Beeston’s manuscripts and albums, and Merv Higgins’ letters primarily to capture moments from April 1915. We also provided snippets from cablegrams from King George V, images from Beeston’s albums and quotes from General William Bridges.

by the beginning of April we were fit for anything #Anzac100 @JoBeetson1915

It is going to be a cold, hungry and thirsty business #Anzac100 @Bridges1915

all day on board in blinding rain and heavy sea. In evening receive Operative Order and write my order thereon #Anzac100 @Monash1915

The project uses the strengths of our national collections to be a voice—for those who no longer can tell the story of Gallipoli—to a contemporary audience. These uncensored personal reflections were touching to collate and explore more than the fight, but also the boredom, the humour and the wait.

Follow @ABCNews1915 on Twitter from April 1 to experience Gallipoli 100 years on.

As far as I can learn every officer in that Battn. was hit #Anzac100 @ MervHiggins1915

 Healthcare professionals must recognize importance of human rights to improve healthcare for women, experts say

April 14, 2015 - Women's human rights need to be addressed globally in order to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, says RCOG Vice President, Professor Lesley Regan, in her lecture tomorrow at the joint RCOG/RANZCOG World Congress in Brisbane, Australia. 

Professor Regan's presentation 'Why mothers die: Women's human rights' focuses on the impact of human rights on women's reproductive health and the role of healthcare professionals in improving the status of women worldwide.

In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. By 2009, the UN Human Rights Council had acknowledged that preventable maternal mortality was a human rights violation, and health advocates started using human rights mechanisms to make Governments honour their commitment to ensure access to services essential for reproductive health and wellbeing.

A human rights approach to women's healthcare is essential, notes Professor Regan. It not only provides valuable tools to hold Governments legally accountable to address the preventable causes of maternal death, but also allows for the distribution of resources and medicines, such as effective contraception and misoprostol to reduce postpartum haemorrhage, a leading cause of maternal mortality globally.

However, Professor Regan notes that far too many countries are turning a blind eye to a human rights approach, and gender inequalities and violence, including child marriage, rape and female genital mutilation are rife.

Healthcare professionals have an important role to play in tackling gender inequalities and domestic violence and are often the first and only point of contact for women to reach out to.

Professor Lesley Regan says:

"A critically important reason why global efforts to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity have been slow is the low value that society, political, religious, community and family leaders have placed on a woman's life.

"The contributions made by mothers to society are far reaching and countries that fail to protect women's rights have the worst economic, educational, maternal and child health outcomes.

"Advocacy for women is an obligation for everyone engaged in reproductive healthcare. It is therefore crucial that all healthcare professionals understand how to embed human rights principles into every aspect of their delivery of care.

"Women should know about their rights when accessing healthcare. We need to empower them with the knowledge they need to help us protect and preserve their fundamental rights."

 Osteoporosis diagnosis contributes to hearing loss risk

April 16, 2015 - People who have osteoporosis face a 1.76-fold higher risk of developing sudden deafness than those who do not have the bone disease, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Osteoporosis is a progressive condition in which bones become structurally weak and are more likely to fracture or break, according to the Hormone Health Network. More than 40 million people nationwide already have osteoporosis or are at risk of developing the condition due to low bone mass, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), also called sudden deafness, is an unexplained, rapid loss of hearing that typically happens in one ear, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. It can happen at once or over the course of several days. About half of the people who develop SSHL will spontaneously regain their hearing, but it is important to seek treatment immediately. About 85 percent of those who are treated for the condition recover some hearing.

"A growing body of evidence indicates that osteoporosis affects not only bone health, but the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems," said one of the study's authors, Kai-Jen Tien, MD, of the Chi Mei Medical Center in Taiwan. "Our findings suggest sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) can be another broader health problem connected to osteoporosis."

The retrospective cohort study examined medical records for 10,660 Taiwan residents who were diagnosed with osteoporosis between 1999 and 2008, compared them to 31,980 people who did not have the condition. Using national insurance records, the researchers analyzed how many participants were diagnosed with sudden deafness by the end of 2011.

The participants who were diagnosed with osteoporosis had a much higher risk of developing sudden sensorineural hearing loss than the control group. Among the participants who had osteoporosis, 91 were diagnosed with SSHL during the follow-up period. In comparison, the control group, which was triple the size, included 155 people who were diagnosed with SSHL.

Researchers aren't sure what biological mechanism is responsible for the relationship. Tien theorizes cardiovascular risk factors, bone demineralization, inflammation and endothelial dysfunction may contribute to the association.

"More people worldwide are suffering from osteoporosis, and our work shows they are at risk of sensorineural hearing loss as well as bone fracture and other problems," Tien said. "Patients who have osteoporosis should be aware they need to seek medical help immediately if they experience hearing loss."

1. Mei-Chen Yeh, Shih-Feng Weng, Yuan-Chi Shen, Chien-Wen Chou, Chwen-Yi Yang, Jhi-Joung Wang, Kai-Jen Tien. Increased Risk of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss in Patients With Osteoporosis: A Population-based, Propensity Score-matched, Longitudinal Follow-up Study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2015; jc.2014-4316 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2014-4316

 Scientists discover protein that boosts immunity to viruses and cancer

April 16, 2015 - Scientists have discovered a protein that plays a central role in promoting immunity to viruses and cancer, opening the door to new therapies. Experiments in mice and human cells have shown that the protein promotes the proliferation of cytotoxic T cells, which kill cancer cells and cells infected with viruses. The discovery was unexpected because the new protein had no known function and doesn’t resemble any other protein.

Researchers from Imperial College London who led the study are now developing a gene therapy designed to boost the infection-fighting cells, and hope to begin human trials in three years. 

The study also involved researchers at Queen Mary University of London, ETH Zurich and Harvard Medical School. Their discovery, which has been six years in the making, is reported today in the journal Science.

Cytotoxic T cells are an important component of the immune system, but when faced with serious infections or advanced cancer, they are often unable to proliferate in large enough quantities to fight the disease.

By screening mice with genetic mutations, the Imperial team discovered a strain of mice that produced 10 times as many cytotoxic T cells when infected with a virus compared with normal mice. These mice suppressed the infection more effectively, and were more resistant to cancer. They also produced more of a second type of T cells, memory cells, enabling them to recognise infections they have encountered previously and launch a rapid response.

The mice with enhanced immunity produced high levels of a hitherto unknown protein, which the researchers named lymphocyte expansion molecule, or LEM. They went on to show that LEM modulates the proliferation of human T cells as well as in mice.

The researchers now aim to develop a gene therapy designed to improve immunity by boosting the production of LEM. With the support of Imperial Innovations, the technology commercialisation company for the College, the researchers have filed two patents. A company called ImmunarT has been formed with the aim of commercialising the technology.

Professor Philip Ashton-Rickardt from the Section of Immunobiology in the Department of Medicine at Imperial, who led the study, said: “Cancer cells have ways to suppress T cell activity, helping them to escape the immune system. Genetically engineering T cells to augment their ability to fight cancer has been a goal for some time and techniques for modifying them already exist. By introducing an active version of the LEM gene into the T cells of cancer patients, we hope we can provide a robust treatment for patients. 

“Next we will test the therapy in mice, make sure it is safe and see if it can be combined with other therapies. If all goes well, we hope to be ready to carry out human trials in about three years.”

Dr Claudio Mauro, who led the research from the Centre for Biochemical Pharmacology, based within Queen Mary University of London’s William Harvey Research Institute, said: “This study has identified the novel protein LEM and unlocked an unexpected way of enhancing the ability of our immune system to fight viruses or cancers. This is based on the ability of the protein LEM to regulate specific energy circuits, and particularly mitochondrial respiration, in a subset of white blood cells known as cytotoxic T cells. This discovery has immediate consequences for the delivery of innovative therapeutic approaches to cancer. Its ramifications, however, are far greater as they can help explaining the biological mechanisms of widespread human diseases involving altered immune and inflammatory responses. These include chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, such as atherosclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.”

The research was funded by the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the British Heart Foundation.

Dr Mike Turner, Head of Infection and Immunobiology at The Wellcome Trust, said: “The discovery of a protein that could boost the immune response to not only cancer, but also to viruses, is a fascinating one. Further investigation in animal models is needed before human trials can commence, but there is potential for a new type of treatment that capitalises on the immune system’s innate ability to detect and kill abnormal cells.”

Isobel Okoye, Lihui Wang, Katharina Pallmer, Kirsten Richter, Takahuru Ichimura, Robert Haas, Josh Crouse, Onjee Choi, Dean Heathcote, Elena Lovo, Claudio Mauro, Reza Abdi, Annette Oxenius, Sophie Rutschmann, and Philip G. Ashton-Rickardt. The protein LEM promotes CD8 T cell immunity through effects on mitochondrial respiration. Science, April 2015 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa7516 


An idea was born

Frustrated at being unable to obtain Local Pittwater Actual weather from any source the means to achieve such information was investigated. (All current internet weather sites give Terrey Hills weather even when you request one anywhere around Pittwater)

Through the Federal Minister for The Environment, referred to the Bureau of Meteorology to be told that just one station would cost $29,000 and that no funding was available – that was a red rag to a bull.

This is despite the fact that there are no BoM Coastal Weather Stations between North Head and Norah Head – a distance of 67Kms. Going south there are stations every 11 – 30Kms to Kiama.

Without any Government assistance, private equity was volunteered by a very generous local willing to give back something to our idyllic Pittwater.

Not only is he funding one station – the aim is to eventually have 5 -6 around Pittwater.

This data will benefit sailors, fishermen, power boats, seaplanes, Marine Rescue, Maritime, Water Police, National Parks, the Rural Fire Service and yacht clubs.

On Saturday 21st February, 2015 the first station was commissioned at Observation Point, Palm Beach. 

This website is most comprehensive with the data available in various formats including gauges that give analog and digital readings:

Webcams will be incorporated subsequently to give a birds-eye-view.

Permission is pending from Rob Stokes – State Member for the Environment – to position one station on Barrenjoey Lighthouse.

This will give both coastal and Pittwater coverage.

Other sites will follow when siting permission is obtained.

Report by Rohan Walter