Inbox and Environment News - Issue 242

 November 29 - December 5, 2015: Issue 242

Warkworth-Mount Thorley decision shows the Baird government’s biodiversity offsets policy is a farce

27 November, 2015: Nature Conservation Council

The final approval of Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley Warkworth mine expansion today makes a mockery of the state’s biodiversity offsets system. [1]

“What a disgrace. This decision shows that we need a total overhaul of the way coal and CSG is regulated in NSW,” NSW Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said.

“Some of the woodlands that will be destroyed include areas Rio Tinto promised to protect in perpetuity to offset the losses caused by the development of the original mine.

“Releasing the company from its offset obligations under the original approval is a betrayal of the residents of Bulga and the broader community, and makes a mockery of the Baird government’s biodiversity offsets policy.

“It also sets a dangerous precedent for the destruction of other biodiversity offset areas the community believes have been permanently protected.

“This is the clearest evidence yet that Mr Baird’s major projects biodiversity offsets policy needs to be completely rewritten.”

Today’s decision allows Rio Tinto to destroy 611 hectares of native bushland, including three endangered ecological communities:

•  Warkworth Sands Woodland (NSW Endangered Ecological Community)

• Central Hunter Grey Box–Ironbark Woodland (NSW Endangered Ecological Community)

•  Central Hunter Valley Eucalypt Forest and Woodland (Federal Critically Endangered Ecological Community) [2]

The mine expansion will also have a significant impact on endangered wildlife, including the Glossy Black Cockatoo, Swift Parrot, Regent Honey Eater, Squirrel Glider, and many other species. 

“The long-term survival prospect for these species diminishes each time a coal mine is allowed to chip away another chunk of habitat, and the government’s flawed biodiversity offsets policy is now adding to these losses,” Ms Smolski said.

“The biodiversity offsets policy needs to be rewritten to provide what the community expects – protection of essential habitat in perpetuity.  

Rio Tinto’s mine expansion is essentially the same project that the Land and Environment Court and Supreme Court of NSW rejected.

"The Baird government must bear full responsibility for allowing Rio Tinto to destroy the community of Bulga and the endangered woodlands on this site because, as the PAC commissions said, [3]the projects became approvable only after the government changed laws and policies to favor the company.”


[1] Warkworth PAC 

Mt Thorley PAC

[2] Federal Environment Department listed Central Hunter Valley Eucalypt Forest and Woodland as a Critically Endangered Ecological Community in May this year. Rio Tinto did not require federal approval to destroy 400 hectares of this woodland because the federal listing occurred after the development application was lodged.

[3]“The Commission notes that a number of important changes in government policy have been made in the past three years, and these are relevant to the assessment of this application. The Commission is satisfied the project is consistent with current government policy, particularly in relation to biodiversity, noise, air quality and socio-economic impacts.”  

 Planning Assessment Commission decisions Mt Thorley Warkworth and Drayton South

27.11.2015: Ministerial Media Release: The Hon. Rob Stokes MP, Minister for Planning

The NSW Government has been notified by the Planning Assessment Commission of its decisions on the applications for the Mt Thorley and Warkworth coal mining projects. 

At the same time, the Government received the Commission’s report of its review of the Drayton South coal mine proposal. 

Earlier this year the Government reformed the State’s mining policy to ensure economic, environmental and social considerations are appropriately balanced when considering mining projects.

The Commission has recommended approval for the Mount Thorley and Warkworth Continuation Projects, subject to stringent conditions. 

The Commission’s review of the proposed Drayton South Coal Project made a number of recommendations. The Commission’s first recommendation was that the project should not proceed. The Commission also recommended the imposition of buffer zones between contentious mining proposals and affected communities.

The Government will now consider all recommendations. 

Following today’s decision, the Government will shortly consult on a proposal to prohibit open cut mining within a 2.5km buffer between the Mt Thorley-Warkworth mine and the village of Bulga.

Fact sheets and reports on the decisions are available on the Commission’s website:

 People for the Plains Inc. v Santos NSW (Eastern) Pty Limited and Ors

November 26, 2015: EDO NSW

People for the Plains, represented by EDO NSW, is seeking an injunction in the NSW Land and Environment Court to prevent Santos from developing its 'Leewood' coal seam gas (CSG) wastewater treatment facility without first undertaking the proper planning and environmental assessment. The facility will be located near the Pilliga State Forest, near Narrabri in North-West NSW.

The Leewood facility will form one component of Santos's Narrabri Gas Project, and would treat over one million litres of toxic CSG wastewater each day.

In August 2015 the NSW Department of Industry approved the Leewood project through an amendment to the operational plan for Santos’ petroleum exploration in the area. People for the Plains argues that this approval is invalid because the Leewood project should have been assessed as an independent project, not as part of the company’s exploration work.

The Leewood project is best characterised as a water recycling or treatment facility, not a petroleum exploration project. Water treatment facilities need development consent under the Narrabri Local Environmental Plan (LEP). Santos avoided the need to obtain development consent by characterising the Leewood project as part of its broader petroleum exploration activities.

The development consent process for water treatment facilities is more rigorous and transparent than the process for petroleum exploration activities. It would require Santos to obtain an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, which would need to go on public exhibition for at least 30 days, giving the community a chance to have their say about the impacts of the proposal. It would also mean that, if the project is approved following this process, objectors would have the right to appeal this approval on the merits of the project in the Court.

Top: Narrabri Says NO - Image courtesy Jarra Joseph-McGrath

 YOU'RE THE VOICE - An Anthem From Women For Climate Action & Hope | 1 Million Women

Published on 22 Nov 2015: 1 Million Women

Using the power of music, we want to inspire every woman, man or child to ADD THEIR VOICE - - and join our united call to world leaders for strong action on climate change. #IMTHEVOICE

About: 1 Million Women transformed much-loved song, ‘You’re the Voice’ into a powerful anthem from women for climate action and hope. Featuring the lyrics ‘we’re not going to sit in silence, we’re not going to live in fear’ – the Anthem comes at a pivotal time as the world seeks a new treaty to prevent dangerous global warming at the climate change summit in Paris (COP21). There's never been a more important time to unite as one voice. 

A special thanks to the wonderful team behind this video! 

Creative Director: Andreas Smetana Music Producer: Ken FrancisEditor: Damian Dunne

Singers: Deni Hines, Melinda Schneider, Wendy Matthews, Ursula Yovich, St Vincent's Girls Choir, Rebecca O'Brien [aka the artist 'Darby', Australian Institute Of Music Singers

Production: Rachel Henderson, Ela Kabara, Mireille Lam, 1 Million Women. Major Partners: Andreas Smetana, The Passionfruit Collective. Partners: Australian Ethical, Australian Institute of Music, New Future PR, Web Edge Marketing, Milked



North Narrabeen Aquatic Reserve

Saturday 12 December, 2:30 - 4:30pm

Come and join us on a low tide rock platform tour. Once the ocean retreats an amazing world becomes uncovered for us to enjoy. Investigate the amazing diversity of life that lives between the land and the sea and how creatures survive in such a unique and challenging environment. Sea stars, sea hares, limpets and crabs are some of the amazing creatures that call these rock platforms home.

The tour is a great opportunity to learn about the amazingly abundant life that exists in these special places. Guided by local experts it’s a great way to learn more about a world that is rarely seen. An amazing adventure for all the family!

When: Saturday 12 December, 2:30 - 4:30pm

Where: Meet point provided on booking.

What to bring: Sturdy covered shoes that can get wet, hat, sunscreen, water, camera (optional).

Bookings Essential! Online - In person: Coastal Environment Centre, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen Phone: 1300 000 232

 Decarbonizing tourism: Would you pay US$11 for a carbon-free holiday?

November 24, 2015

The damaging effects of CO2 emissions from tourism could eventually be eliminated if travelers paid just US$11 per trip, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

Global tourism is largely dependent on fossil fuel energy, and emits more CO2than than all but five countries of the world. Recent estimates conclude that tourism, including transport, accommodation, and leisure activities contributed close to five per cent of total human-made emissions of CO2 world-wide.

"A dangerously warming world is not in the best interest of global tourism. Many of peoples' favorite tourism destinations and activities are at risk to climate change, from the ski industry to tropical beaches, from iconic species to cultural heritage. So investing in low-carbon tourism is really in the interests of both the tourism industry and travellers alike," said Professor Daniel Scott, from the University of Waterloo. "We have to ask ourselves, are we willing to pay less than the price of an extra checked bag to ensure future generations can marvel at the sights that inspire us today?"

The new study, led by Professor Scott, found that the most cost effective strategy for the tourism industry to meet the United Nations' recommended targets of reducing carbon emissions, includes a combination of strategic energy saving and renewable energy initiatives within the industry and buying carbon offsets from other parts of the global economy where emission reductions can be done at less cost.

"The tourism sector has pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions 50 per cent by 2035. Our study demonstrates this is achievable, but will require determined action and significant investment -- starting at just under US$1 billion annually 2020s," said Professor Scott. "Divided equally among all domestic and international trips that's about a US$11 cost per trip -- basically the same price as many modest travel fees and taxes."

Decarbonizing global tourism represents a long-term investment, but given its tremendous growth, the relative cost is less than 0.1 per cent of the estimated global tourism economy in 2020 and increases to 3.6 per cent in 2050.

Spending by tourists represents the largest voluntary transfer of wealth in the world. This spending is vital to the economies of many countries and creates up to one in 11 jobs worldwide.

"Tourism is how billions of people explore new places and experience new cultures and the natural wonders of this world every year," said Scott. "Tourism can be a force for immense good, but it needs to be done within the carbon limits being negotiated by world leaders at the UN climate summit in Paris or else it will be regulated to do so."

The study, co-authored by researchers from Lund University, the University of Canterbury and NHTV Breda University, also looks at the risks of not taking action on climate change.

As global leaders gather in Paris seeking a much-anticipated agreement to keep global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, nations face increasing pressure to reduce emissions and contribute to decarbonizing the global economy.

"It is not peak oil that is a risk to future tourism development, but peak carbon," said Scott. "Our analysis shows that the tourism sector can be compatible with a decarbonized global economy, if governments and business leaders show collective leadership to make it happen."

Daniel Scott, Stefan Gössling, C. Michael Hall, Paul Peeters. Can tourism be part of the decarbonized global economy? The costs and risks of alternate carbon reduction policy pathways.Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 2015; 1 DOI:10.1080/09669582.2015.1107080

 Reforms to Better Manage Our Coast

Planning Minister Rob Stokes today (13.11.2015) released draft reforms for consultation to make coastal management in NSW simpler, forward-thinking and easier to implement. 

“The NSW Government recognises the importance of our state’s saltwater economy and we want to see thriving, resilient communities living, working and playing on a healthy coast now and into the future,” Mr Stokes said. 

“We want to replace and improve on the outdated and complex web of laws managing our coast. The current Act is complex, difficult to navigate, and its one-size-fits all approach is no longer fit for purpose. 

“Since the original Coastal Protection Act was enacted in 1979 our understanding of coastal processes has improved dramatically. We know our coastline is not a fixed object, but a dynamic, ever-changing environment with a range of natural processes.” 

The reforms include:  

• A draft Bill for a new Coastal Management Act.

• Key elements of a new Coastal Management Manual.

• Proposals for a new Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP). 

The draft Bill redefines the coast as four distinct areas of coastal wetlands and littoral rainforests; coastal vulnerability areas; coastal environment areas and coastal use areas to identify each area’s unique management requirements. 

The manual will provide guidance to local councils and clear, step-by-step instructions to support them to manage their coast using the new Coastal Management Act. 

The new SEPP will help manage the legacy of existing coastal hazards and help plan to ensure new hazards are avoided. 

A three-month consultation period will run to ensure everyone has a chance to have their say. Go to 


Our future on the coast: NSW coastal management reforms

The public consultation package includes a draft Coastal Management Bill, an Explanation of Intended Effect for the proposed new Coastal Management State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), and key elements of a draft coastal management manual.

Additional elements of the proposed new framework will be released later for public comment, including further components of the manual, maps of the coastal zone that will form part of the SEPP and proposals concerning the effects of coastal erosion on coastal boundaries.

Have your say

The public is invited to read the documents for consultation and provide feedback about the new approach.

Submit feedback by 29 February 2016 via consultation form or post to:

Office of Environment and Heritage, PO Box A290 , Sydney South. NSW 1232

 How climate change will impact NSW 2030-2070

OEH Media: Published on 19 Nov 2015

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has released new research conducted with the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre about the future impacts of heatwaves, urban heat, storms, bushfires and changes to water storage, surface runoff and soils across NSW over the next 15-55 years due to climate change. Government agencies, emergency and health services, local councils, businesses, farmers and the community can find out how these climate impacts will affect their area and use this information in their adaptation planning.

To find out more about how climate change will affect your region of NSW and to download our summary reports visithttp://www.climatechange.environment

Coraki Quarry- Have Your Say

The proposal involves establishing a new quarry to extract a maximum of 1 million tonnes per annum of hard rock material over an operating life of approximately 7 years subject to the duration of the Pacific Highway upgrade project. 

The project involves using a portion of the existing Petersons Quarry to establish and operate the processing plant. Vehicular access to the project is via Seelems Road and Petersons Quarry Road. The project will involve transporting material off-site by trucks, primarily to supply the Pacific Highway upgrade project.

Job Status EIS Exhibition

Project is currently on public exhibition and opportunity for public submissions is available

Assessment Type SSD

Project Type Mining, Petroleum & Extraction > Extractive Industries

Application Number SSD 7036

DGRS Issued: 22/05/2015

Exhibition Start 10/11/2015

Exhibition End 10/12/2015



Have your say on the expansion of a waste and recycling facility at Lucas Heights

10.11.2015: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment

A proposal to expand the existing waste and recycling facility at Lucas Heights is on exhibition for community feedback.

The Department of Planning and Environment is keen to hear the community’s views on the application which seeks to increase the quantity of waste processed at the Lucas Heights Resource Recovery Park by 410,000 tonnes to 1,140,000 tonnes per year by:

• increasing the capacity of the existing landfill by 8.3 million cubic metres and extending the life of the landfill from 2025 to 2037

• increasing the approved quantity of waste landfilled by 275,000 tonnes to 850,000 tonnes per year

• relocating the existing garden organics facility and increasing the capacity of green waste by 25,000 tonnes to 80,000 tonnes per year

• constructing an advanced resource recovery technology facility to recover resources (such as steel and organics) from up to 200,000 tonnes of general solid waste per year

• rehabilitating the site after closure in 2037 to create 124 hectares of parkland for future community use.

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said the local community always has an opportunity to share their views.

“Community consultation is an integral part of the planning process and the applicant will have to respond to the feedback we receive and this is taken into consideration when we develop our recommendations,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s easy to participate by going online and we encourage everyone to take a look and have their say.” 

To make a submission or view the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), visit

Submissions can be made from Friday 6 November until Friday 18 December 2015.

Written submissions can also be made to:

Department of Planning and Environment,  Attn: Director –Industry Assessments, GPO Box 39,  Sydney NSW 2001

The application and EIS is also available to view in person at:

• Department of Planning and Environment, 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney

• Sutherland Shire Council, 4-20 Eton Street, Sutherland

• Nature Conservation Council, Level 2, 5 Wilson Street, Newtown


Direct link:

 Have your say on extending the Rixs Creek Mine Project

03.11.2015: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment

A proposal to extend the Rix’s Creek Mine Project located near Singleton will be on exhibition from today for community feedback.

The Department of Planning and Environment is keen to hear the community’s views on the application which seeks to:

• extend the approved duration of mining operations from 2019 until 2038

• recover an additional 32 million tonnes of coal over the duration of the project

• increase the maximum approved extraction rate of coal from 2.8 million tonnes to 4.5 million tonnes per year

• extend the western boundary to construct a new area for waste rock

• increase the hours of operation of the coal handling and processing plant from four- and-a-half days a week to seven days a week

• transport up to approximately 2.7 million tonnes a year of coal via rail to the Port of Newcastle

• continue using the existing waste storage areas

• construct a second New England Highway underpass

• progressively rehabilitate the site.

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said the local community always has an opportunity to share their views.

“Community consultation is an integral part of the planning process and the applicant will have to respond to the feedback we receive and this is taken into consideration when we develop our recommendations,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s easy to participate by going online and we encourage everyone to take a look and have their say.”

To make a submission or view the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), visit

Submissions can be made from Tuesday 3 November until Thursday 3 December.

Written submissions can also be made to:

Department of Planning and Environment, Attn: Director – Resource Assessments GPO Box 39, Sydney NSW 2001

The application and EIS is also available to view in person at:

• Department of Planning and Environment, 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney

• Singleton Shire Council, Administration Centre, Corner of Queen Street & Civic Avenue, Singleton

• Nature Conservation Council, Level 2, 5 Wilson Street, Newtown


Direct link:

 Another win for the New South Wales environment! Coal mine expansion denied on appeal

20 November 2015: EDO NSW

Today, the NSW Court of Appeal dismissed Ashton Coal’s appeal to overturn a 2014 ruling of the Land and Environment Court that required the company to obtain prior permission to access a farm property before expanding its open cut coal mine near Camberwell in the Hunter Valley. 

The Hunter Environment Lobby, represented by community legal centre EDO NSW, successfully defended the coal company’s appeal by arguing that the conditions laid out in the 2014 decision were an important safeguard for minimising the adverse environmental and social impacts of the mine’s expansion.

In the 2014 decision, the Land and Environment Court found that approval could be granted for the mine’s expansion, but only on condition that Ashton purchased, leased or gained permission from Mrs Wendy Bowman to access her farm. The property, which would be totally consumed by the mine’s expansion, is critical not just for the company to access the coal, but also to properly manage the mine’s impacts to ground and surface water. The company cannot compulsorily acquire her land.

Mrs Bowman has lived and farmed in and around the Camberwell area for most of her life. She belongs to the family who settled in the area in the late 1880s and who have been dairy farming there ever since. She has said that she does not intend to sell her property to the mining company.

“This decision reinforces the importance of court-enforced conditions designed to protect our environment,” EDO NSW Principal Solicitor Sue Higginson said. “It’s a timely reminder of how our laws can foster ecologically sustainable development. So often we need our laws to strike a balance between economic and ecological needs.”

Bev Smiles, of Hunter Environment Lobby, said “We’re delighted the Court of Appeal has upheld the conditions established by the Land and Environment Court. The condition about Wendy’s property is really important – it shows that communities can have a voice in big developments such as this. We’d like to thank EDO NSW for all their help in securing this decision.”

EDO NSW is grateful to barristers Robert White and Mark Seymour for representing the Hunter Environment Lobby in the Court of Appeal.

 Tweed Shire Koala Endangered Population Preliminary Determination



The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, has made a Final Determination to REJECT a proposal to list a population of the Koala Phascolarctos cinereus (Goldfuss, 1817) in the Tweed local government area east of the Pacific Highway as an ENDANGERED POPULATION in the Schedules of the Act. NOTICE OF PRELIMINARY DETERMINATION 

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, has made a Preliminary Determination to support a proposal to list a population of the Koala Phascolarctos cinereus (Goldfuss, 1817) between the Tweed and Brunswick Rivers east of the Pacific Highway as an ENDANGERED POPULATION in Part 2 of Schedule 1 of the Act. 

Any person may make a written submission regarding the Preliminary Determination. Send submissions to: Scientific Committee, PO Box 1967, Hurstville BC 1481. Attention Suzanne Chate. Submissions must be received by 4 December 2015. 

Copies of these Determinations, which contains the reasons for these determinations, may be obtained free of charge on the Internet, by contacting the Scientific Committee Unit, PO Box 1967 Hurstville BC 1481. Tel: (02) 9585 6940 or Fax (02) 9585 6606, or in person at the Office of Environment and Heritage Information Centre, Level 14, 59–61 Goulburn Street, Sydney. 

Copies of the determination may also be obtained from National Parks and Wildlife Service Area Offices and Visitor Centres, subject to availability. 

Dr Mark Eldridge 

Chairperson NSW Scientific Committee.

From New South Wales Government Gazette – Published online October 9th, 2015:

 New national plan stays hop, skip & jump ahead of rabbits

Federal Department of the Environment and Invasive Animals CRC - Joint media release: 26 November 2015

Australia’s long-running battle with the feral rabbit has entered a new phase, with the release for public comment of an updated national plan to tackle this major environmental pest.

The latest draft of the Department of the Environment’s threat abatement plan for rabbits has found they affect more than 300 nationally-threatened species, double the number estimated in 2008.

Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews said the rise in rabbit numbers was not only bad news for farmers, but also for threatened native species like quolls, bandicoots, bettongs and the mountain pygmy-possum. Even the amazing ballerina orchid is at risk from rabbits.

“It’s a sad fact there are more rabbits in Australia than there are of any native mammal species, including kangaroos,” Mr Andrews said. “Not only do rabbits compete with local animals for food and burrows but they also destroy habitat, eating native plants and eroding soils so that weeds take over. It only takes one rabbit per football field sized paddock to affect native species. The science is also clear that uncontrolled rabbit populations can allow feral cat numbers to escalate because the cats can breed more quickly when food is abundant.”

Andreas Glanznig, CEO of Invasive Animals CRC, said it was excellent to see the national plan identify rabbit biocontrol agents and other rabbit management techniques as a high priority which needs a long-term and ongoing commitment.

“Rabbit biocontrol has reduced the risk of extinction for many threatened species,” he said. “We know that when rabbit numbers fall the benefits to the environment are high. After the release of RHDV in 1996, studies found that populations of native animals increased, native vegetation regenerated, and fox and feral cat numbers decreased in some areas.

“However biocontrol is not a silver bullet and we must be vigilant when it comes to managing rabbits. Conventional control methods such as baiting, fumigation, warren ripping, exclusion fencing, shooting and trapping – done humanely – are also needed in line with biocontrol to maintain rabbit numbers at low levels.”

Mr Andrews said we all have a role to play in saving Australian wildlife from extinction and protecting farmers’ incomes.

“When Environment Minister Greg Hunt created the role of Threatened Species Commissioner and later launched Australia’s first Threatened Species Strategy, he made clear how critical he considers local support and community partnerships to be in conserving native species,” Mr Andrews said.

“Rabbits don’t stop at property boundaries and efforts to tackle them shouldn’t either. We need all landholders on board – from farmers and community groups to local governments and conservation land managers – if we are to tackle this threat effectively. Management is always more effective if neighbours coordinate their rabbit control activities.”

The threat abatement plan for competition and land degradation by rabbits is open for public comment until 16 March 2016 at

 Big data reveals glorious animation of bottom water

November 24, 2015: UNSW

A scene of an animation taken from data drawn from an ocean model run on the Australian super computer, Raijin, shows movement of Antarctic bottom water in the Weddell Sea. Credit: NCI / ANU / ARCCSS

A remarkably detailed animation of the movement of the densest and coldest water in the world around Antarctica has been produced using data generated on Australia's most powerful supercomputer, Raijin.

Chief Investigator Dr Andy Hogg from the ANU hub of ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science worked with the National Computational Infrastructure's Vizlab team, using a high-resolution ocean model, to produce the animation.

So much data was used, that it took seven hours to process just one second of the animation.

The visualization has revealed underwater ocean storms generated by eddies, waterfalls of cold dense water that plummet two kilometres off the Antarctic Continental Shelf into the abyss and underwater waves hundreds of metres high.

"Scientists who have seen the visualization have been astonished at the level of detail," said Associate Prof Dr Andy Hogg.

"But this visualization is about more than communicating the wonder of science to the public. Being able to actually see how the bottom water moves in three dimensions rather than just looking at numerical, two dimensional outputs has already opened new areas for scientific research."

This latest animation peels back much of the surface layer of the ocean to explore how the cold dense water produced on the Antarctic continental shelf spreads out into every ocean basin in the world.

The movement of this dense water is vital. It is the most oxygenated water in the deep ocean and its extreme density and coldness drive many of the significant currents in the major ocean basins connected to the Southern Ocean.

The distinctly different densities of water that move around Antarctica also make it important in regards to climate change. Because the most dense water forms near the surface, close to Antarctica, before descending to the ocean floor, any warming that occurs near the surface can be drawn down into the deep ocean.

Importantly, this drives heat and carbon into the deep ocean, which would otherwise have returned to the atmosphere.

"The inhospitable climate of Antarctica and the lack of sustained observations of the ocean in this region over a significant period of time adds to the importance of using ocean models to create visualizations like these," Dr Hogg said.

"It helps us understand what is happening in locations that are difficult to observe and may explain why Antarctic bottom water is disappearing, becoming less saline and warmer. It may also give us important insights into a future under climate change."

The above is reprinted from materials provided by University of New South Wales.

Circulation of the Southern Ocean

Published on 23 Nov 2015: NCINationalFacility

Chief Investigator, Dr Andy Hogg, from the ANU hub of ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science worked with the National Computational Infrastructure’s VizLab team, using a high-resolution ocean model, to produce the animation. 

The visualization has revealed underwater ocean storms generated by eddies, waterfalls of cold dense water that plummet two kilometres off the Antarctic Continental Shelf into the abyss and underwater waves hundreds of metres high.

 Nature paper shows crucial role of soil biodiversity in human health

November 24, 2015: University of Western Sydney

The role of soil biodiversity in promoting human health is underappreciated, and poor land management practices and environmental change are endangering lives needlessly, according to a new Western Sydney University research paper published in Nature.

Co-authored by Dr Uffe Nielsen from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, in conjunction with Professor Diana Wall of Colorado State University and Dr Johan Six of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the Perspectives Paper  outlines ten reasons why healthy and biodiverse soils are directly connected to human health.

"We are losing soils and soil biodiversity at a rapid pace, with substantial negative ramifications on human health worldwide," says Dr Nielsen.

"People understand that properly managing soils is key for the global food supply, and that soils are eroding. But less recognized is the role of living organisms in soils, and how management of those organisms benefits human health."

"It is time to properly recognize and manage soil biodiversity to achieve long-term sustainability goals related to global human health, because biodiversity in soils is connected to all life."

Dr Nielsen says a new approach towards soil is needed to recognize their centrality to human health, starting with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which currently only mention soil in four of 17 targets. 

"It is not enough to aim towards improvement of a single benefit related to 'food' or 'air' or 'water' or 'disease' control, because all are simultaneously dependent on soils and soil biodiversity," he says.

The ten reasons healthy soils are crucial in human health and wellbeing:

• Biodiverse soils can help to control populations of disease-causing organisms – in healthy soil communities, disease-causing organisms such as listeria, salmonella and toxoplasmosis that infect humans are naturally controlled by soil-dwelling organisms.

• Healthy, well-covered soils can reduce disease outbreaks – keeping the soil covered with litter and vegetation is a well-known principle for maintaining soil health. This is also an effective approach for reducing the impact of diseases such as anthrax that can infect livestock and humans.

• Carbon-rich soils may reduce outbreaks of human and animal parasites – research from rural Cambodia found a higher risk of infection by roundworms in areas that had been cleared for crops where the soil carbon content had declined.

• Exposure to soil microbes can reduce allergies – inhabitants of urban areas have generally lower diversity of bacteria on their skin and lower immunity expression, meaning that exposure to soil microbes can promote immune health.

• Soils have provided many of our current antibiotics and pest-control agents – losses of soil biodiversity may reduce sources of future agents. Already, researchers have found promising soil bacteria that act against tuberculosis bacteria.

• Soil organisms can provide biological control agents – researchers are turning to soil-dwelling organisms such as nematodes, bacteria and fungi to safely control other pests and diseases in crops, a better approach than relying on synthetic pesticides.

• Healthy soils mean healthier foods and more of it – biodiverse soils can promote better nutrient and water uptake by plants, which means that food is richer in nutrients essential to human well-being.

• Soil microbes can enhance crop plant resilience – in difficult seasons, the health of the soil can dictate whether or not the crop can survive to produce a good yield. New research demonstrates how reliant many crop plants are on soil fungi and bacteria.

• Healthy soils promote good clean air quality – we all remember the incredible red dust storm of 2009 in Australia. But healthy soils are also more stable soils that produce more plant cover and are less prone to wind and water erosion.

• Healthy soils provide clean and safe water – soils provide many benefits in delivering clean water to our populations, through filtration, decontamination by microbes and removal of pollutants. Our water cycle is very dependent on the ability of soils to support clean water collection.

 Jervis Bay communities to get a say on new residential and environmental land

23.11.2015: Departmental Media Release - Department of Planning and Environment

The Department of Planning and Environment has determined that Shoalhaven City Council can prepare a plan to rezone land in Culburra Beach, Callala Bay and Currarong for residential, commercial, industrial, recreational and environmental purposes.

The rezoning applies to almost 1,700 hectares of land that is rich in Aboriginal cultural heritage, high biodiversity values, threatened flora and fauna species and endangered ecological communities. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Environment said there is the potential through the planning process that over 1,200 hectares could be given to the Jervis Bay National Park as part of the rezoning process is complete, so important cultural and environmental characteristics could be managed and maintained.

“This is a win-win situation as sensitive environmental areas will be protected while Jervis Bay communities can be expanded,” the spokesperson said. 

“Extensive land within the Lake Wollumboola catchment, including Long Bow Point, will be zoned for environmental protection purposes due to its recognised high environmental sensitivity. 

“The exact boundaries of the land to be zoned for environmental protection within the Lake catchment will be determined after biodiversity offset and water quality studies have been prepared. 

“The rezoning strikes the right balance – new communities can be built, there is potential for an expanded national park and South Coast jewels like Long Bow Point are properly protected.” 

Following the completion of studies, the planning proposal will be publicly exhibited by Council for a minimum of 60 days. 

A final decision will not be made on the plan until submissions and all matters relevant to the exhibited proposal have been thoroughly considered. 

More details on the proposal and the Department’s decision can be found here:  

 Saving our Species 2016 wall calendar

New South Wales is home to some of the world's most beautiful plants and animals, but we are at risk of losing some of our species from the wild forever. Don't miss this opportunity to help support NSW threatened species recovery by purchasing your 2016 calendar.

The calendar includes interesting stories about how community groups, individuals and expert scientists efforts' are contributing to saving species in NSW.

In New South Wales:

• critically endangered species are at extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future

• endangered species are facing a very high risk of extinction in the near future

• vulnerable species are facing a high risk of extinction in the medium-term future.

Saving our Species is a conservation program that aims to maximise the number of threatened species that are being secured in the wild in New South Wales for 100 years. To find out how you can support our threatened wildlife and help preserve it for future generations, visitSaving our Species

All profits from the sale of the calendar will be invested in Saving our Species through the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife.

If you wish to make a donation directly to the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife to support the efforts of Saving Our Species, you can make a donation at The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife .  

You can purchase your calendar online at Shop NSW 

 Boosting incentives for voluntary action to reduce emissions

Media release: 24 November 2015 The Hon. Greg Hunt MP,Minister for the Environment

Ahead of climate talks in Paris, the Government is working to increase participation in the Carbon Neutral Program by boosting opportunities for participants and enhancing consumer recognition of carbon neutral leaders.

"The Australian Government has entered into an agreement with the Carbon Market Institute to provide information on the Carbon Neutral Program via a series of industry roadshows and targeted information sessions," said Minister Hunt.

"The Carbon Neutral Program certifies organisations, products, services and events. Just like the 'heart foundation tick', consumers can choose to purchase carbon neutral products or services."

"The Carbon Neutral Program is a great way for businesses large and small to be recognised for their climate change commitment."

The Carbon Market Institute's extensive networks will be leveraged by providing Carbon Neutral Program news and other events to the business community.

Organisations like Qantas, Virgin Australia, ANZ and the Melbourne City Council offset around a million tonnes of emissions per annum under the Carbon Neutral Program.

Many smaller businesses are also getting involved – just this week Ross Hill Wines in Orange achieved certification.

"The Carbon Market Institute is excited to work in partnership with the Department of Environment to increase awareness of the benefits to industry of going carbon neutral," said Peter Castellas, CEO of the Carbon Market Institute.

"Joining the Carbon Neutral Program is a great way for companies to demonstrate to consumers, suppliers and staff their commitment to voluntarily managing their emissions profile."

The Government is also making it easier to participate in the scheme by releasing new versions of the National Carbon Offset Standard and the Carbon Neutral Program Guidelines. These are rigorous benchmarks for carbon accounting and offsetting which organisations must meet in order to participate in the Carbon Neutral Program.

The Government recognises that the National Carbon Offset Standard will continually evolve and expand over time. In 2016 the Government will further review the eligibility of new types of offset units to ensure that carbon neutral organisations have access to high quality units.

 Massive 'development corridors' in Africa could spell environmental disaster

November 25, 2015

In sub-Saharan Africa, dozens of major 'development corridors,' including roads, railroads, pipelines, and port facilities, are in the works to increase agricultural production, mineral exports, and economic integration. And, if all goes according to plan, it's going to be a disaster, say researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on Nov. 25. They assessed the potential environmental impacts of 33 planned or existing corridors -- spanning 53,000 kilometers -- that would crisscross much of the African continent, opening up vast areas of sparsely populated land.

"In terms of development pressures, these corridors would be the biggest thing to hit Africa -- ever," says William Laurance of the Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.

Earlier this year, Laurance and his colleagues issued a warning that this unprecedented expansion of infrastructure would come at a great cost. In the new study, he and his colleagues sought to quantify those costs by mapping each corridor along with the estimated human occupancy and the environmental values, including endangered and endemic vertebrates, plant diversity, critical habitats, carbon storage, and climate-regulation services, inside a 50-kilometer-wide band overlaid onto each corridor. They also assessed the potential for each corridor to facilitate increases in agricultural production.

"We found striking variability in the likely environmental costs and economic benefits of the 33 'development corridors' that we assessed,' Laurance says. "Some of the corridors seem like a good idea, and some appear to be a really bad idea. Several of the corridors could be environmentally disastrous, in our view."

Based on the findings, Laurance says he thinks some of the planned development corridors should be cancelled altogether. His biggest concerns fall in areas near the equator, such as the Congo Basin, West Africa, and the rich tropical savannahs. Other corridors should proceed only with the most stringent safeguards and mitigation measures in place.

Change won't come easily. "The proponents of these projects include some very powerful economic interests, and no one can dispute the dire need to increase food security and economic development in Africa, where populations are growing very rapidly," Laurance says. "The trick -- and it's going to be a great challenge -- will be to amp up African food production without creating an environmental crisis in the process."

However, he and his colleagues were surprised to find that many of the proposed corridors are planned for places where the agricultural potential appears to be very limited, because of poor soils or climates or the remoteness of the area in question.

"One of the key justifications for these corridors is to ramp up farm and food production, but in fact it appears that massive mining investments--securing access to high-volume minerals such as iron ore and coal--are actually a key driver for a number of the corridors," Laurance says.

The researchers are calling for key stakeholders -- African governments, international lenders and donors, private investors, and others -- to carefully scrutinize the development corridors. He and his team hope to advance a research agenda aimed at better environmental assessment and planning for those corridors that do move forward. They also plan to follow up this comprehensive survey with more detailed studies of key corridors and to develop more local partnerships to advance this work.

"Africa is now facing a 'decade of decision,'" Laurance says. "The stakes are enormous. Once any particular development corridor is established, Pandora's Box will be opened and there won't be very much that one can do to control the onslaught of hunting, habitat disruption, and legal and illegal mining activities. The only real chance to manage this situation is to stop those corridors that are most likely to cause truly profound environmental damage and to create stringent land-use planning around those corridors that do proceed."

Laurance et al. Estimating the Environmental Costs of Africa's Massive ''Development Corridors. Current Biology, November 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.10.046

 Taking care of old oil wells

November 24, 2015

Thousands of old offshore oil wells will have to be plugged to prevent them leaking. The process may cost several hundred million Norwegian kroner, and you and me will have to find most of the money. Researchers are now proposing a solution that may offer some relief for what is a major headache for the Norwegian state.

"The first thing we have to do is get an overall picture of the wells in question, their condition, maturity and the cost of the technology," says Kjetil Midthun at SINTEF. "Then we can generate a database, and after that develop a planning tool designed to reduce costs. The industry and consultancy companies are showing great interest and we have 19 stakeholders participating in this project. These are costs that Norway has to bear and the time is right to get the preparatory work started," he says.

Storing up problems for the future

Thousands of oil wells have been drilled on the Norwegian shelf. They can be compared to human-made 'drinking straws' made of cement and steel, each extending for many kilometres below the sea floor. Most of these wells are still in production, but when they are finally abandoned they will have to be plugged to prevent them leaking and causing environmental damage. In the same way as the Norwegian state takes 78% of oil revenues in tax, it must also bear an equally large share of the costs involved in activities such as exploration and the plugging of wells. This means that the state (we're talking about the Norwegian taxpayer here) will have to bear the greater part of the plugging costs, estimated to be about NOK 900 billion. Both oil companies and researchers have be busying themselves trying to find out how these costs can be reduced, leading to the current launch of a project called ECOPA . The project is fully funded with NOK 8 million from the Research Council of Norway and will combine economic analysis with technological insight. Hopefully it will come up with answers to the following questions: Is it possible to reduce plugging costs? Can the plugging process be simplified and improved? Can plugging be carried out from vessels instead of drilling rigs? What new technologies are required?

Getting the big picture

"Everyone knows that plugging is an immature and very expensive process," says Midthun. "Our information database is somewhat limited," he says. "Very little detailed information is available about well plugging. For example, when the plugging operation took place, and how. Nor are we aware of factors such as whether or not equipment on the sea floor has been removed, when currently productive wells will be plugged, or what the total costs of the plugging operation will be. For this reason it's important for us to get as big a picture as possible before we proceed," he says. Many offshore operators and research centres are participating as consultants in this project. The multidisciplinary team of social science and petroleum researchers from SINTEF and NTNU want to establish a close working relationship with both the industry and the authorities. This is because it is they that are in possession of important sources of information. They also share the researchers need for a better overview of the challenges that everyone is facing. "We also have to review current legislation, regulations and standards," says Midthun. "For example, a secure cement plug on the Norwegian shelf typically has to be 100 metres long, although the standard on the UK shelf is more commonly 100 feet (approx. 30 metres). Such differences result in a variations in plugging costs, and it will be interesting to find out what this will mean in terms of the final bill the Norwegian taxpayer has to pay," he says.

The above is reprinted from materials provided by SINTEF. 

 Innovators and leading thinkers recognised in 2016 Australian Academy of Science awards

23 November 2015

Scientists who are leading the world on solar energy efficiency, helping to develop one-shot flu vaccines, and making portable biosensors to detect viruses are among the winners of the Australian Academy of Science’s annual honorific awards. 

Each year the Academy presents awards to recognise scientific excellence, to researchers in the early stage of their careers through to those who have made life-long achievements.

This year’s announcement includes 17 award winners across astronomy, nanoscience, mathematics, chemistry, physics, environmental science and human health.

Professor Martin Green, sometimes known as the “father of photovoltaics”, has won the prestigious Ian Wark Medal and Lecture for his world-record breaking work improving solar efficiency.

Dr Jane Elith and Associate Professor Cyrille Boyer, who recently won awards in the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, will be the recipients of this year’s Fenner and Le Févre prizes. 

The Academy President, Professor Andrew Holmes congratulated all the award winners for their work.

The awards will be formally presented at the Academy’s annual three day celebration of Australian science, Science at the Shine Dome, in Canberra in May 2016.

2016 Australian Academy of Science awards

Career honorifics

2016 David Craig Medal

Professor Jeffrey Reimers FAA University of Technology, Sydney

Professor Jeffrey Reimers is a chemist who has pioneered the application of chemical quantum theories in biochemical and technological areas. His work helps to explain the solar-to-electrical energy conversion during photosynthesis and has also evaluated the role of chemical quantum effects in manifesting consciousness.

2016 Haddon Forrester King Medal and Lecture

Professor Murray Hitzman Colorado School of Mines

Professor Murray Hitzman is a minerals scientist and geologist who has pioneered new understandings of the physics and chemistry of mineral formation. His research has an important impact upon mineral exploration around the world. 

2016 Mawson Medal and Lecture

Professor Colin Vincent Murray-Wallace University of Wollongong

Professor Colin Murray-Wallace is a coastal scientist who uses shells to track environmental and sea level change. This work is particularly relevant today in understanding coastal evolution under a progressive sea level rise.

2016 Ian Wark Medal and Lecture

Scientia Professor Martin Green AM FAA FRS FTSE UNSW

Known as the “Father of Photovoltaics”, Professor Martin Green is a world leader in the field. Several generations of his group’s technology have been successfully commercialised and he has helped develop some of the most efficient silicon solar cells in the world.

Mid-career honorifics

2016 Gustav Nossal Medal for Global Health

Professor David Wilson Burnet Institute

Associate Professor David Wilson models infectious disease outbreaks, particularly HIV. His modelling informs our understanding of future risks, enables better decision-making and how best to target resources in a global health context.

2016 Jacques Miller Medal for experimental biomedicine

Associate Professor Katherine Kedzierska The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Katherine Kedzierska researches immune responses to virus outbreaks, including influenza, with a particular focus on how best to protect vulnerable and high-risk groups. Her cutting edge work could lead to the development of a one-shot flu jab for life. 

2016 Nancy Millis Medal for Women in Science

Dr Elena Belousova ARC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems, Macquarie University

Dr Elena Belousova has achieved international renown for TerraneChron®, a method of analyzing trace elements in zircon and applying this technology to studying the evolution of the earth’s crust, with major significance for mineral exploration.

Early career honorifics

2016 John Booker Medal

Dr Paolo Falcaro CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering

Dr Paolo Falcaro engineers nano-materials with highly specialised properties. Working at the molecular level, he has developed materials to decontaminate water and improve medicine delivery. He is also developing portable biosensors to detect viruses during outbreaks. 

2016 Fenner Medal

Dr Jane Elith University of Melbourne

Dr Jane Elith has rapidly become one of the world’s most influential researchers in applied ecology. She uses novel tools to understand species distribution in the wild, helping to better inform environmental managers and governments on invasive species, land-use and improving biodiversity.

2016 Ruth Stephens Gani Medal

Associate Professor Geoffrey John Faulkner Mater Research Institute University of Queensland

Associate Professor Geofrey Faulkner has analysed the genomes of individual brain cells, identifying genetic changes that may impact how neurons function. His pioneering work has implications both for our understanding of brain disorders and future treatments. 

2016 Gottschalk Medal

Professor Ostoja Vucic University of Sydney

Professor Ostoja Vucic’s pioneering research has uncovered the processes that can trigger Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a motor neurone disease. His research has led to new treatments and a new technique to diagnose ALS, resulting in earlier, more effective interventions. 

2016 Anton Hales Medal

Associate Professor John Paterson University of New England

Associate Professor John Paterson is a world-leading researcher on the earliest animals in the fossil record, using exceptionally preserved Australian fossils to answer major questions relating to evolution, biogeography and palaeoecology. 

2016 Christopher Heyde Medal

Dr Luke Bennetts University of Adelaide

Dr Luke Bennetts is an applied mathematician who models how different kinds of waves interact with objects in their path. His work has improved understanding of how ocean waves interact with sea ice, with direct implications for understanding and forecasting Earth’s climate.

2016 Dorothy Hill Award

Dr Andréa Taschetto UNSW Australia

Dr Andrea Taschetto is a leader in climate systems science. Her research has significantly advanced our understanding of the role of the Pacific and Indian Oceans in regional climate variability.

2016 Pawsey Medal

Dr Ilya Shadrivov Australian National University

Dr Ilya Shadrivov is developing new metamaterials which have properties not usually found in nature, such as the ability to  selectively absorb some colours of light, or beam electromagnetic waves in specific directions. These have great implications for the next generation technologies. 

2016 Frederick White Prize

Dr Michael James Ireland Australian National University

Dr Michael Ireland develops and applies the latest optical and infrared technologies to build innovative astronomical instruments to investigate the lifecycles of stars and planets.

2016 Le Févre Memorial Prize

Associate Professor Cyrille Boyer UNSW

Associate Professor Cyrille Boyer is an authority in the field of polymer science, developing innovative methods of polymerisation. His demonstration of how chlorophyll and light can control polymerisation of functional macromolecules has implications for the synthesis of macromolecules using bio-resources.

Full citations at:

 Mental health risk for new dads

November 24, 2015: Australian National University

Researchers have found anxiety around the arrival of a new baby is just as common as postnatal depression, and the risks for men are nearly as high as for women.

Mental health researcher Dr Liana Leach reviewed 43 separate studies and found anxiety before and after a child arrives is just as prevalent as depression, affecting around one in ten men, around half the rate for women.

"Men can feel left out of the process, because pregnancy and childbirth are so integrally linked to the mother," said Dr Leach, from The Australian National University (ANU) Centre for Ageing, Health and Wellbeing.

"It can compound the problem. They don't seek help, because they think 'it's not so much about me'."

The causes of anxiety and depression around the arrival of a new baby are poorly understood. While results from individual studies vary, some studies suggest over 20 per cent of parents suffer from anxiety or depression.

The study has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

"Having a new baby is a time of great adjustment for many parents, and it is normal to be nervous, but anxiety can become a problem when it persists for extended periods and interferes with every day functioning," Dr Leach said.

Symptoms of anxiety can include worrying or feeling keyed up much of the time, feeling irritable, and fears for the baby's safety. Physical symptoms can include a racing heart, feeling sweaty, poor sleep and poor appetite.

There is good help available and people should in the first instance contact their GP, Dr Leach said.

"Couples should be aware of their mental health right from when they realise they are pregnant. Early intervention reduces the severity and duration of symptoms."

Risk factors include lack of social support, especially from a partner, financial difficulties and a history of mental health problems.

"Health care during the perinatal period should be about the whole family," Dr Leach said.

Liana S. Leach, Carmel Poyser, Amanda R. Cooklin, Rebecca Giallo. Prevalence and course of anxiety disorders (and symptom levels) in men across the perinatal period: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2016; 190: 675 DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.09.063

 No Jab, No Pay Will Start January 1, 2016

23 November 2015

The Government welcomes the passage of legislation designed to lift national immunisation rates and provide a stronger incentive for immunisation.

The Senate passed the No Jab, No Pay Bill this afternoon.

“This is an important win for families, for community health and, most importantly, for the safety of our children,” Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter said.

“Diseases, like polio, tetanus and diphtheria pose a serious threat. Immunisation is the safest and most effective way to protect our children from them.”

From 1 January 2016, parents will need to ensure their child’s immunisations are up-to-date to continue receiving Child Care Benefit, Child Care Rebate and an FTB-A payment.

“If a dangerous disease is preventable, then the Government believes we must do all we reasonably can to prevent it,” Mr Porter said.

“While Australia has childhood immunisation coverage of around 92 per cent, coverage of up to 95 per cent is required to stop the spread of diseases such as measles and whooping cough.”

“Thankfully, current generations are unlikely to have seen a child paralysed by polio, or a child with brain injury due to measles. We want to keep it that way.”

‘Vaccination objections’ on the basis of personal or philosophical beliefs will no longer be a valid immunisation exemption for these payments.

It remains the case that parents still have the right not to vaccinate their child. However, the no jab, no pay policy recognises the fact that rationales for a family’s choice not to immunise their children are not supported by public policy or medical research.

“If families choose not to vaccinate their children, this is recognised as an exercise of free choice which will have a financial impact on them. The benefits for the broader community from high rates of immunisation are too important for the Government not to take this action designed to maintain and improve rates of immunisation coverage in Australia,” Mr Porter said.

Exemptions will still apply for children who have a natural immunity or allergies to specific medicines, if diagnosed by a general practitioner.

Find out more about the changes or about immunisation

 Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation

24 November 2015

The Minister for Health, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, tonight announced the membership of the Expert Panel for the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation (the Review), together with its Terms of Reference. 

The Review will look at a range of factors that contribute to patient health outcomes and the quality use of medicines. 

“It will consider payments made to community pharmacy for dispensing Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines; the regulation of pharmacy, including Pharmacy Location Rules and how they support access to medicines on the PBS and supply chain arrangements.”

“This Review upholds a clear commitment I made during negotiations of the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement, to ensure dollars invested in pharmacy reflects ‘value-for-money’ and that the sector is working efficiently, effectively and remains viable to meet the needs of consumers.”

Minister Ley noted the three members of the Expert Panel have extensive pharmacy, economic and policy expertise, which will ensure the process leads to positive outcomes for pharmacists and consumers. 

Professor Stephen King, a Professor of Economics and former Dean at Monash University, will Chair the Review Panel. He will be joined by community pharmacist Mr Bill Scott; and Ms Jo Watson, current Deputy Chair of the CHF Board and consumer representative on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. 

According to Minister Ley “this will be an open and transparent process, seeking views from both the public and the industry”.

“The Review Panel will consult with a broad range of stakeholders, including consumer, pharmacy, wholesaler and health practitioner groups and report to Government by March 2017, helping inform future Community Pharmacy Agreement processes”. 

The Terms of Reference for the Review are available on the PBS website at 

Submissions will be invited following the release of a Discussion Paper during early 2016. Regular updates on the progress of the Review will also be made available on the PBS website. 

 Attitudes to domestic violence exposed

25 November 2015: Joint Media Release with:- Prime Minister The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Minister for Women Senator The Hon. Michaelia Cash

Violence against women is one of the great shames of our nation.

One in five women in Australia experiences sexual violence, one in four experiences emotional abuse and one in three experiences physical violence.

We need to break this cycle, and that starts with understanding where the problem begins.

The Government has today released confronting research highlighting the need for all Australians to challenge the negative attitudes that can lead to violence against women.

The research by Taylor Nelson Sofres shows that although the vast majority of Australians abhor domestic violence, too often we still blame women, we excuse men, and we minimise the severity of violence.

According to the research, many of us learn from an early age to condone or excuse disrespectful or aggressive behaviour towards women.

From an early age, boys and girls begin to believe there are reasons which make violent behaviour acceptable.

Girls question whether the behaviour is their fault, and boys tell each other it was a bit of joke.

The research shows a dangerous and engrained attitude in Australian society.

Every parent, teacher, employer, community leader must take responsibility.

The Government will use the research to inform the development of a $30 million national campaign, due to begin early next year, to reduce violence against women and their children.

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, so it is a fitting time for all Australians to begin challenging the attitudes fuelling violence.

Australia should be a nation known for its respect for women, and all of us have to play a part to make this a reality.

The research findings are available on the Department of Social Services website

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit

 Vitamin D does not reduce colds in asthma patients

November 23, 2015

Vitamin D supplements do not reduce the number or severity of colds in asthma patients, according to a new study published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Loren C. Denlinger, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin, and colleagues conducted a randomized, controlled trial of adults with mild-to-moderate asthma. Among African Americans in the study, those receiving supplemental vitamin D, rather than a placebo, experienced more colds.

The findings surprised the researchers who had previously published research showing a 40 percent reduction in asthma exacerbations in patients with a vitamin D deficiency who achieved normal levels of the vitamin with supplements. Because colds often trigger exacerbations, they hypothesized that vitamin D supplementation would reduce colds and cold severity.

"Other studies of vitamin D and colds have produced mixed results," Dr. Denlinger said. "Most of those studies were conducted among healthy patients. We wanted to ask the same question of a patient population in which the impact of a cold carries greater risk."

The researchers followed asthma patients who were undergoing inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) tapering, Denlinger added, to test the hypothesis that vitamin D might bolster the potency of the ICS.

The multi-center AsthmaNet Vitamin D Add-on Therapy Enhances Corticosteroid Responsiveness (VIDA) trial enrolled 408 adults with mild-to-moderate asthma whose vitamin D levels were insufficient or deficient (25-OH-D3 < 30 ng/mL). Those enrolled had asthma symptoms despite low-dose ICS therapy. The patients were randomized to receive either vitamin D supplementation (100,000 IU once, then 4000 IU daily) or placebo for 28 weeks. Neither the patients nor their physicians knew whether they received vitamin D or the placebo.

During that time, about half the participants experienced at least one cold. The severity of their colds was measured by the Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey-21 (WURSS-21).

The researchers analyzed separately the results of the 82 percent of participants receiving supplements who achieved vitamin D sufficiency within 12 weeks. Achieving sufficiency made no difference in number of colds or their severity this group experienced.

The researchers wrote that one possible explanation for the unexpected finding: asthma patients with low vitamin D levels may be more likely to experience upper respiratory infections asymptomatically than those with normal levels of vitamin D, which is known to trigger an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response may, in turn, reduce the risk of lower airway infections, which are triggers for asthma exacerbations.

Although there are other reasons to recommend vitamin D supplements for asthma patients, including the fact that they are at greater risk for bone weakening, Denlinger said, "we can't recommend vitamin D for the prevention of colds."

Loren C. Denlinger, Tonya S King, Juan Carlos Cardet, Timothy Craig, Fernando Holguin, Daniel J Jackson, Monica Kraft, Stephen P Peters, Kristie Ross, Kaharu Sumino, Homer A. Boushey, Nizar N. Jarjour, Michael E Wechsler, Sally E. Wenzel, Mario Castro, Pedro C. Avila. Vitamin D Supplementation and the Risk of Colds in Patients with Asthma.American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2015; DOI:10.1164/rccm.201506-1169OC

How Earth's Pacific plates collapsed

November 24, 2015: Australian National University

This image shows Professor Arculus, The Australian National University. Credit: Charles Tambiah & MNF

Scientists drilling into the ocean floor have for the first time found out what happens when one tectonic plate first gets pushed under another.

The international expedition drilled into the Pacific ocean floor and found distinctive rocks formed when the Pacific tectonic plate changed direction and began to plunge under the Philippine Sea Plate about 50 million years ago.

"It's a bit like a rugby scrum, with two rows of forwards pushing on each other. Then one side goes down and the other side goes over the top," said study leader Professor Richard Arculus, from The Australian National University (ANU).

"But we never knew what started the scrum collapsing," said Professor Arculus, a petrologist in the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

The new knowledge will help scientists understand the huge earthquakes and volcanoes that form where the Earth's plates collide and one plate gets pushed under the other.

As part of the International Ocean Discovery Program, the team studied the sea floor in 4,700 metres of water in the Amami Sankaku Basin of the north-western Pacific Ocean, near the Izu-Bonin-Mariana Trench, which forms the deepest parts of the Earth's oceans.

Drilling 1,600 metres into the sea floor, the team recovered rock types from the extensive rifts and big volcanoes that were initiated as one plate bored under the other in a process known as subduction.

"We found rocks low in titanium, but high in scandium and vanadium, so the Earth's mantle overlying the subducting plate must have been around 1,300 degrees Celsius and perhaps 150 degrees hotter than we expected to find," Professor Arculus said.

The team found the tectonic scrum collapsed at the south end first and then the Pacific Plate rapidly collapsed 1,000 kilometres northwards in about one million years.

"It's quite complex. There's a scissoring motion going on. You'd need skycam to see the 3D nature of it," Professor Arculus said.

Professor Arculus said that the new knowledge could give insights into the formation of copper and gold deposits that are often formed where plates collide.

The research is published in Nature Geoscience.

Richard J. Arculus, Osamu Ishizuka, Kara A. Bogus, Michael Gurnis, Rosemary Hickey-Vargas, Mohammed H. Aljahdali, Alexandre N. Bandini-Maeder, Andrew P. Barth, Philipp A. Brandl, Laureen Drab, Rodrigo do Monte Guerra, Morihisa Hamada, Fuqing Jiang, Kyoko Kanayama, Sev Kender, Yuki Kusano, He Li, Lorne C. Loudin, Marco Maffione, Kathleen M. Marsaglia, Anders McCarthy, Sebastién Meffre, Antony Morris, Martin Neuhaus, Ivan P. Savov, Clara Sena, Frank J. Tepley III, Cees van der Land, Gene M. Yogodzinski, Zhaohui Zhang. A record of spontaneous subduction initiation in the Izu–Bonin–Mariana arc. Nature Geoscience, 2015; 8 (9): 728 DOI:10.1038/ngeo2515

 Ants filmed building moving bridges from their live bodies

24 November 2015: University of Sydney

An international team of researchers has discovered bridges built by ants with their bodies can move from the building point, changing position as required. Applications could include the development of swarm robots for use in areas such as disaster relief and deep sea exploration.

Army ants build living bridges by linking their bodies to span gaps and create shortcuts across rainforests in Central and South America. An international team of researchers has now discovered these bridges can move from their original building point to span large gaps and change position as required.

The bridges stop moving when they become so long that the increasing costs incurred by locking workers into the structure outweigh the benefit that the colony gains from further shortening their trail. Bridges dismantle when the ants in the structure sense the traffic walking over them slows down below a critical threshold.

Co-lead author Dr Christopher Reid, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Sydney’s Insect Behaviour and Ecology Lab and formerly with the New Jersey Institute of Technology, said the findings could be applied to develop swarm robotics for exploration and rescue operations. By analysing how ants optimise utility, researchers may be able to create simple control algorithms to allow swarms of robots to behave in similar ways to an ant colony.

The paper, ‘Army ants dynamically adjust living bridges in response to a cost–benefit trade-off’, is published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The team of researchers – from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (Konstanz, Germany), University of Konstanz, and the United States’s New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University and George Washington University – found the bridges can assemble and disassemble in seconds. They can also change their position in response to the immediate environment.

The dynamic nature of the bridges has been found to facilitate travel by the colony at maximum speed, across unknown and potentially dangerous terrains. Prior to the study it was assumed that, once they had been built, the bridges were relatively static structures.

“Indeed, after starting at intersections between twigs or lianas travelled by the ants, the bridges slowly move away from their starting point, creating shortcuts and progressively lengthening by addition of new workers, before stopping, suspended in mid-air,” said Dr Reid.

“In many cases, the ants could have created better shortcuts, but instead they ceased moving their bridges before achieving the shortest route possible.”

The researchers discovered that, although ants benefitted from shorter travelling distances because of their bridges, they also incurred a cost by sequestering workers that could be used for other important tasks. When building their bridges, army ants had to balance this cost-benefit trade-off.

Dr Reid said the findings had implications for other self-assembling systems, such as reconfigurable materials and autonomous robotic swarms. “Artificial systems made of independent robots operating via the same principles as the army ants could build large-scale structures as needed,” Dr Reid said.

“Such swarms could accomplish remarkable tasks, such as creating bridges to navigate complex terrain, plugs to repair structural breaches, or supports to stabilise a failing structure.

“These systems could also enable robots to operate in complex unpredictable settings, such as in natural disaster areas, where human presence is dangerous or problematic."

The full paper can be viewed here.

Top: Ant bridge from below. Source: Chris R Reid, Matthew Lutz & New Jersey Institute of Technology

 Industrial design grads develop life-saving products

23 November, 2015:  Fran Strachan - UNSW

Above: Protecting humans and marine life - the Triton AV shark detector by final year Industrial Design student Peter Calaitzopoulus.

A shark detecting "security guard in the sea" and a portable dialysis machine are just two potentially life-saving devices designed by UNSW Industrial Design graduates.

A shark detecting "security guard in the sea" designed to preserve marine and human life, and a portable dialysis machine are just two potentially life-saving devices designed by UNSW Industrial Design graduates.

Triton ASV, designed by final year Industrial Design student Peter Calaitzopoulus, is an autonomous water vehicle that uses dual frequency identification sonar to relay high definition images to surf life-saving patrol towers, alerting life guards to sharks in the area.

Equipped with GPS and obstacle avoidance acoustics the vehicle can scout the surf unpiloted up to 5km from the shoreline offering an affordable and accurate alternative to aerial surveillance.

"Triton ASV has the capacity to prevent shark attacks without the destruction of by-catch and shark culling."

“Triton is a drone for the water, I call it the ‘security guard in the sea’,” said Calaitzopoulus who was determined to develop an environmentally friendly design to replace shark nets and drum-lines.

“I spent my childhood snorkelling in Jervis Bay where I developed a huge respect for the local flora and fauna. That’s what inspired me to design Triton ASV, it has the capacity to prevent shark attacks without the destruction of by-catch and shark culling,” Calaitzopoulus said.

Graduating student Marcus Lee has designed a potentially life-saving device called Vita, a user-friendly, portable dialysis machine for kidney disease patients living in remote communities.

The affordable and portable haemodialysis machine operates without power or purified water and can be used in the comfort of a patient’s home.

Kidney disease sufferers in remote communities could use the portable Vita dialysis machine, designed by graduate Marcus Lee, in the comfort of their homes.

The industrial designer travelled to remote communities in the Northern Territory to research his design idea. Supported by Western Desert Dialysis, Lee spent a week visiting patients in hospitals and at home and met with medical staff.

Lee said he wanted to provide a solution to the poor treatment outcomes and low survival rates that result from patients with kidney disease living in remote areas.

“It’s literally ‘plug and play’ with five main components connected to a digital interface,” says Lee.

“Once a patient has been trained to use it they can manage their treatment independently.”

“Patients were either skipping their dialysis treatment because it was too far to travel or they had been forced to leave their communities to live closer to a hospital which had a devastating effect on them emotionally."

“Patients were either skipping their dialysis treatment because it was too far to travel or they had been forced to leave their communities to live closer to a hospital which had a devastating effect on them emotionally. I realised I had to find a way take the dialysis machine to them.”

Discipline Director Stephen Ward said this year’s graduating students were focused on design proposals that contribute to the wellbeing of individuals and the community.

“Design for social good has emerged as a theme in recent graduate exhibitions. I think students are becoming increasingly disillusioned by the idea of a career redesigning consumer appliances and would rather make a difference in the world.”

More medical designs from UNSW Industrial Design students:

Liftsie – an assistive lifting device that reduces the risk of back injury for home carers

Speaksee – a kit of wearable bluetooth microphones that visualise conversations for those with profound hearing loss

Respia – a wearable asthma management system that tracks and records respiratory health and medication use

Navi – a wearable assistive device to help people with poor vision avoid obstacles

The Industrial Design exhibition has long been a launching pad for up and coming designers. UNSW alumnus Alfred Boyadgis started his own company Forcite Helmet Systems on the merits of a high-tech police motorcycle helmet he developed in his final year at UNSW, while many other graduates, including Boyadgis, have gone on to win prestigious Dyson design awards.  

To view all the graduate designs download the catalogue

 Liquid acoustics half way to the earth's core

November 24, 2015

The most direct information about the interior of the earth comes from measuring how seismic acoustic waves--such as those created by earthquakes -- travel through the earth. Those measurements show that 95% of the earth's core is liquid. But, scientists also want to know the composition of the liquid, and that is harder. Now, in research published in Nature Communications, scientists from the Materials Dynamics Laboratory at the RIKEN SPring-8 Center, along with collaborators from the Tokyo Institute of Technology's Earth-Life Science Institute and other institutes, have succeeded in measuring the speed of sound in mixtures of liquid iron and carbon in extreme conditions, allowing limits to be set on the core composition.

According to Alfred Baron, head of the Materials Dynamics Laboratory, "Understanding the composition of the liquid within the earth's core is an important question, as it can give us clues about how the earth was formed." It is known that the liquid in the core is mostly molten iron, but it has a density about 10% too small to be only iron, and geoscientists are trying to determine what elements are mixed with the iron to reduce its density.

Worldwide, researchers are now creating a 'catalogue' that matches sound velocities with material composition and temperature. However, the temperatures of materials inside the earth range up to several thousand degrees (greater than 5,000 K) and the pressures reach several million atmospheres, so measurements are difficult. Thus the 'catalogue' has grown very slowly, with each point requiring man-years of work. Also, even though 95% of the earth's core is liquid, almost all the measurements so far have been of solids because they are easier to handle.

With the current work, the researchers succeeded in extending the catalogue to include the first liquid measurements taken at very high pressure. Using a combination of diamond anvil cell technology -- where a sample is squeezed between two diamonds -- laser heating, and a large inelastic scattering spectrometer at SPring-8, weighing more than 20 tons, they were able to measure the sound velocity of liquid iron-carbon mixtures at very high temperatures and pressures. While the values they achieved were only about half that of the outermost part of the liquid core -- where the pressure is about 1.3 million atmospheres, and the temperature about 4,000 K--they were able to extrapolate to core conditions from the measurements.

According to first author of the study, Yoichi Nakajima, "The extrapolation gives us important insights, suggesting that at most only about 1.2% of the core, by weight, is carbon. Thus while there may be, and, in fact, probably is, some carbon in the core, there must also be some other light elements, such as silicon, oxygen, sulfur or hydrogen." Says Baron, "While already leading the world in our ability to measure velocities like this under extreme conditions, we will continue to work with different materials and even more extreme conditions at a new RIKEN facility, the Quantum NanoDynamics Beamline, BL43LXU, at SPring-8."

Yoichi Nakajima, Saori Imada, Kei Hirose, Tetsuya Komabayashi, Haruka Ozawa, Shigehiko Tateno, Satoshi Tsutsui, Yasuhiro Kuwayama, Alfred Q. R. Baron. Carbon-depleted outer core revealed by sound velocity measurements of liquid iron–carbon alloy. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 8942 DOI:10.1038/NCOMMS9942

 Loss of mastodons aided domestication of pumpkins, squash

November 23, 2015

Cucurbita seeds were found in mastadon dung. Credit: Lee Newsom, Penn State

If Pleistocene megafauna -- mastodons, mammoths, giant sloths and others -- had not become extinct, humans might not be eating pumpkin pie and squash for the holidays, according to an international team of anthropologists.

"It's been suggested before and I think it's a very reasonable hypothesis, that wild species of pumpkin and squash weren't used for food early in the domestication process," said Logan Kistler, NERC Independent Research Fellow, University of Warwick, U.K. and recent Penn State postdoctoral fellow. "Rather, they might have been useful for a variety of other purposes like the bottle gourd, as containers, tools, fishnet floats, etc. At some point, as a symbiotic relationship developed, palatability evolved, but the details of that process aren't known at the present."

Researchers believe that initially humans did not eat wild pumpkin and squash -- members of the cucurbita family -- because the wild fruit is not only bitter but also toxic to humans and smaller animals. However, clear evidence exists that very large animals -- megafauna -- that lived 12,000 years ago did eat these fruit.

"Lee Newsom (associate professor of anthropology, Penn State and study co-author) has recovered many wild gourd/squash seeds from ancient Mastodon dung, suggesting that large herbivores may have been an important feature in the natural history of these wild plants," said Kistler.

The researchers looked at varieties of modern domestic cucurbits, modern wild cucurbits and archaeological specimens. They believe that changes in distribution of the wild plants are directly related to the disappearance of the large animals.

"We performed an ancient DNA study of cucurbita including modern wild plants, domesticated plants and archaeological samples from multiple locations," said George Perry, assistant professor of anthropology and biology. "The results suggest, or confirm, that some lineages domesticated by humans are now extinct in the wild."

Without elephant-sized animals to distribute seeds, wild plants will grow only where the fruit drops -- as far as the pumpkin rolls. At the same time, the disappearance of megafauna altered the landscape from one of a patchwork of environments to something more uniform. Cucurbita are weedy plants that liked the disturbed landscape created by the megafauna, but faired less well in the new landscape of the Holocene.

The researchers also looked at bitter taste receptors in animals and found that smaller animals with more diverse dietary patterns posses many more bitter taste receptors than large animals that ete only a few things.

"We compared bitter taste receptor genes in about 40 living mammals and found that body sizes and dietary breadth were important," said Perry. "The greater the size, the fewer receptors. The greater the dietary depth, the more receptors."

If humans initially used cucurbita for nonfood applications, they somehow eventually managed to find those plants that mutated and lost their toxicity. According to Kistler, cucurbita may have been domesticated at least six different times in six different places.

"There is a huge amount of diversity in some of the domestic species and between them as well," said Kistler. "Cucurbita pepo is probably the most variable, with jack-o-lantern pumpkins, acorn squash, zucchinis and others.Cucurbita moschata contains the butternut squashes and the kind of pumpkin that goes into the cans that a lot of folks will be baking into pies in a few weeks."

L. Kistler, L. A. Newsom, T. M. Ryan, A. C. Clarke, B. D. Smith, G. H. Perry. Gourds and squashes (Cucurbita spp.) adapted to megafaunal extinction and ecological anachronism through domestication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1516109112

Disclaimer: These articles are not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Pittwater Online News or its staff.