February 18 - 24, 2018: Issue 348

Brain scans show why people get aggressive after a drink or two

February 13, 2018: Springer Media
UNSW scientists measuring blood flow in the brain to better understand why people often become aggressive after drinking alcohol have found that brain areas that temper aggression shut off when people drink.
Researchers have used magnetic resonance imaging scans that measure blood flow in the brain to better understand why people often become aggressive and violent after drinking alcohol.

After only two drinks, the researchers noted changes in the working of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part normally involved in tempering a person's levels of aggression.

The study, led by Associate Professor Thomas Denson of the UNSW School of Psychology, is published in the journal Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, which is an official journal of the Psychonomic Society and is published by Springer.

According to most theories, alcohol-related aggression is caused by changes in the prefrontal cortex. However, there is a lack of substantial neuroimaging evidence to substantiate these ideas.

In this study, Denson and his team recruited 50 healthy young men. The participants were either given two drinks containing vodka, or placebo drinks without any alcohol. While lying in an MRI scanner, the participants then had to compete in a task which has regularly been used over the past 50 years to observe levels of aggression in response to provocation.

The functional magnetic resonance imaging allowed the researchers to see which areas of the brain were triggered when the task was performed. They could also compare the difference in scans between participants who had consumed alcohol and those who hadn't.

Being provoked was found to have no influence on participants' neural responses. However, when behaving aggressively, there was a dip in activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brains of those who had consumed alcoholic drinks. This dampening effect was also seen in the areas of the brain that are involved in reward. Also, heightened activity was noted in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with people's memory.

"Although there was an overall dampening effect of alcohol on the prefrontal cortex, even at a low dose of alcohol we observed a significant positive relationship between dorsomedial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity and alcohol-related aggression," says Denson.

"These regions may support different behaviors, such as peace versus aggression, depending on whether a person is sober or intoxicated."

The results are largely consistent with a growing body of research about the neural basis of aggression, and how it is triggered by changes in the way that the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system and reward-related regions of the brain function. The results of the current study are also consistent with several psychological theories of alcohol-related aggression.

"We encourage future, larger-scale investigations into the neural underpinnings of alcohol-related aggression with stronger doses and clinical samples. Doing so could eventually substantially reduce alcohol-related harm," says Denson.

Choosing Wisely: avoiding risky sedatives in older adults

February 12, 2018
They help many people sleep, or feel calmer or less anxious. But in older people, they also double the risk of car crashes, falls and broken hips.

That's why the medications known as benzodiazepines show up on international guidelines as drugs that very few people over the age of 65 should take.

Yet a sizable percentage of adults in that age group still have an active prescription for one, according to new research from three countries that have made a special effort to reduce their use.

Currently, about seven percent of older veterans in the United States have a benzodiazepine prescription, and the numbers are even higher in Canada and Australia, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

There's been a steady decline in all such prescriptions since new guidelines came out, the research shows. And the number of older adults starting on the drugs for the first time has dropped even faster.

But despite these reductions, the researchers say that the continued use of the drugs show much more needs to be done to alert providers, and patients and families, to their hazards and the need to find alternative treatments.

"This downward trend is definitely encouraging, in particular the trend in the new starts for these medications, because the easiest solution is to not start people on them at all," says Donovan Maust, M.D., M.S., an assistant professor of geriatric psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School who worked on the study and has studied the risks of psychoactive drugs on older adults.

He notes that research shows that newer antidepressant medications, and non-drug psychotherapy approaches, have been shown to help ease many of the symptoms that often prompt doctors to prescribe benzodiazepines -- without the risks. Also, research has shown that patients who take a benzodiazepine to calm the effects of acute stress are actually more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

More about the study

An international group of authors including Maust and his colleagues looked at data from older adults treated in three different healthcare systems between 2010 and 2016: the U.S. Veterans Affairs healthcare system; Canada's most populous province, Ontario; and Australia.

In all, the percentage of U.S. veterans over age 65 prescribed a benzodiazepine dropped from 9.2 percent in 2010 to 7.3 percent in 2016, and the percentage newly started on the drugs for the first time dropped from 2.6 percent to 1.7 percent over the same time period.

Maust notes that the veteran population likely has even lower benzodiazepine use than the general U.S. population because of ongoing VA efforts to discourage their use.

Ontario started with much higher prevalence: 18.2 percent of all older adults had a current prescription in 2010, declining to 13.4 percent by 2016. The province also made strides in reducing the percentage who started a prescription each year, from 6 percent to 4.4 percent.

Australia started off with the largest proportion of its over-65 population having a benzodiazepine prescription, at 20.2 percent in 2010. By 2016, that had declined to 16.8 percent. But the number of first-time prescriptions didn't go down much -- from 7 percent to 6.7 percent.

Choosing wisely together
All three countries participate in Choosing Wisely International, an effort supported by the Commonwealth Fund to help countries emulate the Choosing Wisely initiative launched by the American Board of Internal Medicine that now offers American doctors and patients dozens of evidence-based recommendations. Australia and Canada each have their own national initiatives.

In fact, benzodiazepine use by people over age 65 landed in the top 10 of all issues that the Choosing Wisely International group chose to focus attention on.

Jonathan Brett, MBBS, from the University of New South Wales and the study's lead author, notes "this analysis is the first publication of an international collaborative explicitly focused on the measurement of harmful or wasteful care."

Studying the use of the drugs in different countries was tricky because of the nature of data available from each national system, notes Maust, who is a member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

In the U.S. VA system, which shares one medical record system, the effort to educate providers about the risks of benzodiazepines in older patients, and to scrutinize prescriptions for them, appears to have borne fruit.

In Ontario and Australia, the oldest patients had the highest rates of existing or new prescriptions, which is how prescribing looks for non-Veteran older adults in the U.S.

Surprisingly, in the VA system, the youngest group of older patients -- those ages 65 to 74 -- had higher benzodiazepine prescription numbers than the oldest veterans.

Since 2012, all benzodiazepines have been listed on the American Geriatrics Society's Beers Criteria list of medications that carry outsize risks for older adults. The U.S. Choosing Wisely recommendations against them came out in 2013. But concerns about their use among older adults have been raised for over 20 years.

"When you consider that, it's disappointing that new use isn't dropping more," says Maust. "We need to bend the curve further, with special focus on those who have never been prescribed these medications before because the greatest risk of fall is in the first few weeks after starting on one of these drugs. And if you don't become a new user, you can't become a chronic user."

Jonathan Brett, Donovan T. Maust, Zach Bouck, Rosalinda V. Ignacio, Graham Mecredy, Eve A. Kerr, Sacha Bhatia, Adam G. Elshaug, Sallie A. Pearson. Benzodiazepine Use in Older Adults in the United States, Ontario, and Australia from 2010 to 2016. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/jgs.15292

Light-activated cancer drugs without toxic side effects: Fresh insight

February 13, 2018
Future cancer drugs that are activated by light and don't cause the toxic side-effects of current chemotherapy treatments are closer to becoming a reality, thanks to new research made possible by the Monash Warwick Alliance, an intercontinental collaboration between the University of Warwick (UK) and Monash University (Australia).

Led by Robbin Vernooij, a joint PhD student from the Monash Warwick Alliance, fresh insight has been gained into how a pioneering platinum-based chemotherapy drug candidate -- trans,trans,trans-[Pt(N3)2(OH)2(py)2] -- functions when activated by light.

The treatment -- originally developed by Professor Peter Sadler's research group in the University of Warwick's Department of Chemistry -- is an inorganic-metal compound with an unusual mechanism, which kills cancer cells in specific targeted areas, in an effort to minimize toxic side-effects on healthy tissue.

Completely inactive and non-toxic in the dark, the treatment can be inserted into cancerous areas, its functions triggered only when directed light hits it -- causing the compound to degrade into active platinum and releasing ligand molecules to attack cancer cells.

Using an old spectroscopic technique -- infrared spectroscopy -- the researchers observed what happens to the structure of the compound by following the metal as well as molecules released from the compound.

The researchers shone infrared light on the inorganic-metal compound in the laboratory, and measured the vibrations of its molecules as it was activated.

From this, they discovered the chemical and physical properties of the compound: some of the organic ligands, which are attached to the metal atoms of the compound, become detached and are replaced with water whilst other ligands remain stable around the metal.

This fresh insight into the mechanics of the treatment offers new hope that photoactive chemotherapy drug candidates, such as trans,trans,trans-[Pt(N3)2(OH)2(py)2], will progress from the laboratory to future clinical trials.

Robbin Vernooij, lead author and joint researcher from the Monash Warwick Alliance, commented:

'"The current short comings of most chemotherapeutic agents are unfortunately undeniable, and therefore there is ongoing effort to develop new therapies and improve our understanding of how these agents work in effort to develop not only more effective, but also more selective, therapies to reduce the burden on patients.

''This is an exciting step forward, demonstrating the power of vibrational spectroscopic techniques combined with modern computing to provide new insights on how this particular photoactive chemotherapeutic agent works, which brings us one step closer to our goal of making more selective and effective cancer treatments''

Peter Sadler, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Warwick, commented:

"About half of all chemotherapy treatments for cancer current use a platinum compound, but if we can introduce new platinum compounds that avoid side-effects and are active against resistant cancers, that would be a major advance.

"Photoactivated platinum compounds offer such possibilities. They do not kill cells until irradiated with light, and the light can be directed to the tumour so avoiding unwanted damage to normal tissue.

"It is important that we understand how these new light-activated platinum compounds kill cancer cells. We believe they attack cancer cells in totally new ways and can combat resistance. Understanding at the molecular levels requires use of all the advanced technology that we can muster. In this case, advances have been made possible by a highly talented research student working with state-of-the-art equipment on opposite sides of the globe.

"We hope that new approaches involving the combination of light and chemotherapy can play a role in combatting the current short comings of cancer therapy and help to save lives."

The majority of cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy treatment currently receive a platinum-based compound, such as cisplatin. These therapies were developed over half a century ago, and cause toxic side-effects in patients, attacking healthy cells as well as cancerous ones.

There is also a growing resistance to more traditional cancer therapies, so new treatments are desperately required.

Robbin R. Vernooij, Tanmaya Joshi, Michael D. Horbury, Bim Graham, Ekaterina I. Izgorodina, Vasilios G. Stavros, Peter J. Sadler, Leone Spiccia, Bayden R. Wood. Spectroscopic Studies on Photoinduced Reactions of the Anticancer Prodrug, trans,trans,trans-[Pt(N3)2(OH)2(py)2]. Chemistry - A European Journal, 2018; DOI: 10.1002/chem.201705349

Time to rebuild the structure of Closing the Gap

Monday 12 February 2018: Australian Human Rights Commission
Australia is a long way short of closing the gap by 2030 and needs to rebuild the foundations of the strategy as a matter of urgency.

The Close the Gap Campaign welcomes the news that there has been an improvement in several closing the gap targets, however, only meeting 3 out of 7 targets for such a critical national priority is no cause for celebration.

Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO, said the Strategy needs a major recommitment to make the accelerated progress needed.

“After 10 years of closing the gap work, we all expected to be further ahead than just managing to meet 3 out of 7 targets,” Commissioner Oscar said.

“This is a national shame. In 2018, it is still a fact that our people live nearly a decade less than non-Indigenous peoples in this country. ”

Last Thursday, the Close the Gap Campaign released a highly critical review of the last 10 years of COAG’s Closing the Gap Strategy.

The Federal government is currently leading a refresh process of the Closing the Gap Strategy.

Close the Gap Co-Chair and Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Rod Little says the refresh process is the last chance to get government policy right, in order to achieve the goal of health equality by 2030.

“The analysis of the Campaign is that the Strategy will not work, or only partially work, if governments fails to resource it and stick to the plan.

“All Australian governments must return to the first principles and commitments of the Close the Gap Statement of Intent – first signed in 2008. This was an ambitious, landmark and human-rights based compact that we hold governments to,” said Mr Little.

The Campaign welcomed reports of the success of economic targets relating to Indigenous procurement, which is indicative of the value of targeting setting. Government must continue to be held accountable to national headline targets.

The Government is yet to provide any direct response to the health recommendations provided by the Campaign last week. For example, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) must be supported to expand much further. It is well established that ACCHOs are best placed to deliver culturally safe health services, which cut unnecessary hospital admissions, and lift access across the health system. 

There were some detailed and considered recommendations made by the Campaign in its Review launched on Thursday 8 February. We look forward to a detailed response to those recommendations from Federal, State and Territory governments.

The Close the Gap Campaign Review called for:

• A new Strategy must be co-designed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders and be underpinned by agreements negotiated between Federal, State and Territory governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders.

• The building blocks of a new strategy must include national funding agreements, implementation plans and clear accountability.

• Maternal and infant health programs and a focus on addressing chronic disease must be retained and expanded.

• Strategy targets must be retained and inputs for good health must be measured. State and Territory governments should also report on targets in relation to their jurisdiction.

• The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan Implementation Plan should be fully costed, funded and implemented – and focus on identifying and filling health service gaps.

• The Strategy should work to an overarching health infrastructure and housing plan that works to build the right physical environment for health to flourish.

You can download a copy of the Close the Gap Campaign’s Review here

Brain sciences researcher pinpoints brain circuit that triggers fear relapse

February 13, 2018
Steve Maren, the Claude H. Everett Jr. '47 Chair of Liberal Arts professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University, and his Emotion and Memory Systems Laboratory (EMSL) have made a breakthrough discovery in the process of fear relapse.

A paper on their findings, called "Hippocampus-driven feed-forward inhibition of the prefrontal cortex mediates relapse of extinguished fear," was published in the February issue of Nature Neuroscience, a scholarly scientific journal that focuses on original research papers on brain science.

Maren said this discovery could prove helpful for clinicians treating disorders like PTSD.

"Patients often undergo exposure therapy to reduce their fear of situations and stimuli associated with trauma," Maren said. "Although exposure therapy is often effective, pathological fear and anxiety are known to return or 'relapse' under a number of circumstances. This often occurs, for example, when trauma-related stimuli, which have come to be tolerated during therapy, are unexpectedly experienced outside of the clinical context. Relapse of fear after therapy has been estimated to occur in upwards of two-thirds of patients undergoing exposure therapy."

In their research, Maren and his team studied the relationship between three parts of the brain: the hippocampus, which is involved in memory; the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in executive control and regulation; and the amygdala, which is involved in emotion. While the neurocircuit between the three have long been known to process fear, this study has been able to pinpoint connections between the hippocampus and a specific type of cell in the prefrontal cortex that is involved in a relapse of fear.

Travis Goode, a graduate student and member of the research team, said, "This has wide-spread implications for treating fear disorders in the future, as we now know what part of the brain to target."

Other members of the research team from Texas A&M include Jingji Jin, Thomas F. Giustino, Qian Wang, Gillian M. Acca, and Paul J. Fitzgerald. EMSL also collaborated with the Sah Laboratory in Australia, led by Pankaj Sah.

Roger Marek, Jingji Jin, Travis D. Goode, Thomas F. Giustino, Qian Wang, Gillian M. Acca, Roopashri Holehonnur, Jonathan E. Ploski, Paul J. Fitzgerald, Timothy Lynagh, Joseph W. Lynch, Stephen Maren, Pankaj Sah. Hippocampus-driven feed-forward inhibition of the prefrontal cortex mediates relapse of extinguished fear. Nature Neuroscience, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41593-018-0073-9

Water filtration breakthrough using metal-organic frameworks

February 2018: Monash University
With two billion people worldwide lacking access to clean and safe drinking water, joint research by Monash University, CSIRO and the University of Texas at Austin published today in Sciences Advances may offer a breakthrough new solution.

It all comes down to metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), an amazing next generation material that have the largest internal surface area of any known substance. The sponge like crystals can be used to capture, store and release chemical compounds. In this case, the salt and ions in sea water.

Dr Huacheng Zhang, Professor Huanting Wang and Associate Professor Zhe Liu and their team in the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, in collaboration with Dr Anita Hill of CSIRO and Professor Benny Freeman of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, have recently discovered that MOF membranes can mimic the filtering function, or 'ion selectivity', of organic cell membranes.

With further development, these membranes have significant potential to perform the dual functions of removing salts from seawater and separating metal ions in a highly efficient and cost effective manner, offering a revolutionary new technological approach for the water and mining industries.

Currently, reverse osmosis membranes are responsible for more than half of the world's desalination capacity, and the last stage of most water treatment processes, yet these membranes have room for improvement by a factor of 2 to 3 in energy consumption. They do not operate on the principles of dehydration of ions, or selective ion transport in biological channels, the subject of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Roderick MacKinnon and Peter Agre, and therefore have significant limitations.

In the mining industry, membrane processes are being developed to reduce water pollution, as well as for recovering valuable metals. For example, lithium-ion batteries are now the most popular power source for mobile electronic devices, however at current rates of consumption, there is rising demand likely to require lithium production from non-traditional sources, such as recovery from salt water and waste process streams. If economically and technologically feasible, direct extraction and purification of lithium from such a complex liquid system would have profound economic impacts.

These innovations are now possible thanks to this new research. Monash University's Professor Huanting Wang said, "We can use our findings to address the challenges of water desalination. Instead of relying on the current costly and energy intensive processes, this research opens up the potential for removing salt ions from water in a far more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable way."

"Also, this is just the start of the potential for this phenomenon. We'll continue researching how the lithium ion selectivity of these membranes can be further applied. Lithium ions are abundant in seawater, so this has implications for the mining industry who current use inefficient chemical treatments to extract lithium from rocks and brines. Global demand for lithium required for electronics and batteries is very high. These membranes offer the potential for a very effective way to extract lithium ions from seawater, a plentiful and easily accessible resource."

Building on the growing scientific understanding of MOFs, CSIRO's Dr Anita Hill said the research offers another potential real-world use for the next-generation material. "The prospect of using MOFs for sustainable water filtration is incredibly exciting from a public good perspective, while delivering a better way of extracting lithium ions to meet global demand could create new industries for Australia," Dr Hill said.

The University of Texas in Austin Professor Benny Freeman says, "Produced water from shale gas fields in Texas is rich in lithium. Advanced separation materials concepts, such as this, could potentially turn this waste stream into a resource recovery opportunity. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with these distinguished colleagues from Monash and CSIRO via the Australian-American Fulbright Commission for the U.S. Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation sponsored by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)."

Huacheng Zhang, Jue Hou, Yaoxin Hu, Peiyao Wang, Ranwen Ou, Lei Jiang, Jefferson Zhe Liu, Benny D. Freeman, Anita J. Hill and Huanting Wang. Ultrafast selective transport of alkali metal ions in metal organic frameworks with subnanometer pores. Sciences Advances, 2018; DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaq0066

Affordable housing limited by ad hoc funding, new research finds

February 14, 2018: AHURI Media
Affordable housing project outcomes are being driven more by funding opportunities than by defined housing needs, new research by UNSW Sydney has revealed.

The research, Paying for affordable housing in different market contexts, was undertaken for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI). 

Report authors Professor Bill Randolph, Dr Laurence Troy, Dr Vivienne Milligan and Ryan van den Nouwelant, from the City Futures Research Centre in the UNSW Faculty of Built Environment, analysed six recently completed affordable housing developments across Australia.

An interactive modelling tool, the ‘Affordable Housing Assessment Tool’ (AHAT), was developed to determine how affordable housing project costs, revenues and subsidies impacted affordability for the range of lower income households in need of affordable housing.

Funding opportunities for affordable housing include having access to government land; public and private capital and debt finance; tenant rents, including from commercial tenancies; and sales of properties to the private market.

Depending on how these diverse sources of funding are combined can add complexity, cost and financial risk to delivering affordable housing.

For instance, in the absence of adequate funding, community housing providers are having to reduce the proportion of their developments dedicated to social and affordable housing in order to reduce project debt to levels that can be serviced by rents from low-income tenants.

"What we have developed for the first time is a tool that enables us to start with housing needs, then figure out which types of subsidies and policies will best be able to fund projects to meet those needs," says Dr Troy.

"By using this tool we also found subsidising the private sector to produce affordable housing that is available for a defined period of time is less cost effective over the longer term than directing such subsidies to not-for-profit housing providers."

The report makes a number of policy recommendations to help affordable housing meet the needs of low-income households:
  • make public land available at below-market cost to support affordable housing development;
  • keep affordable housing in the not-for-profit housing sector to retain for the long term the social benefit created by public investment;
  • encourage mixed tenure developments and development at scale;
  • provide ‘gap funding’ to help reduce the need for private financing;
  • use needs-based modelling for investment decisions and to drive the allocation of subsidies.
The research report is available here.

Consultation on online copyright infringement

February 13, 2018: Australian Government Dept. of Communication and the Arts
We are seeking views on the effectiveness and efficiency of Australia’s online copyright infringement amendment.

The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 was introduced to help reduce online copyright infringement and disrupt large-scale violations by websites operating outside of Australia.

This review supports the Government’s commitment to review the operation of the online infringement amendment after it came into effect on 27 June 2015.

As part of our consultation round, we will meet with stakeholder groups affected by the amendment, including peak bodies and their members, to discuss their experiences and views.

Submissions close on 16 March at 5.00 pm (AEST).

Find out more:

Public consultation on draft legislation to toughen the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law

February 12, 2018: Media Release - The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services
If a multinational corporation makes money in Australia, it’s only right that they pay tax in Australia, which is why the Turnbull Government has introduced new laws to close loopholes and ensure profits are taxed here.

Today the Government has released for public consultation new Exposure Draft legislation and draft Explanatory Memorandum to implement the Government’s 2017-18 Budget announcement that it would toughen the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law (MAAL).

The Turnbull Government’s MAAL took effect from 1 January 2016 and prevents multinationals from escaping Australian tax by using artificial or contrived arrangements to avoid having a taxable presence in Australia.

To date the Australia Taxation Office has identified 38 taxpayers that have brought or are bringing their Australian sourced sales onshore in response to the MAAL.  The result is the ATO expects an additional $7 billion in income each year will be returned to the Australian tax base.

In further action against tax avoidance by multinationals, the Government is strengthening the MAAL by preventing the use of foreign trusts and partnerships in corporate structures to avoid the application of the MAAL.

The new legislation will ensure that the MAAL continues to operate as intended and that multinationals pay the right amount of tax on their Australian income. The new rules complement the Government’s Diverted Profits Tax and strong track record in stopping multinational tax avoidance.

The Turnbull Government is committed to putting Australia at the forefront of global efforts to improve tax system integrity.

The Exposure Draft legislation and Explanatory Memorandum are available on the Treasury website.

Submissions are due by Friday, 23 February 2018. The Government encourages all interested stakeholders to make a submission.

Melbourne's Domain Parkland & Memorial Precinct earns permanent place on National Heritage List

February 11, 2018: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP
Minister for the Environment and Energy
One of Australia’s outstanding government domains and an area which takes in landmarks such as Government House Victoria, the Domain Parklands, Melbourne Observatory and Shrine of Remembrance as well as some of Melbourne’s best known vistas has been permanently added to Australia’s National Heritage List.

The area, to be known as Melbourne’s Domain Parkland and Memorial Precinct, secured emergency heritage protection in February 2017, in the face of development pressures from Melbourne’s Metro Rail Project.

“Last year, I urged the Victorian Government to consider the impacts from the Melbourne Metro Rail Project on this important part of the city and approved St Kilda Road and Environs for interim listing,” Minister Frydenberg said.

“The permanent listing means this significant historic site and grand old part of Melbourne will be protected from future actions that may impact its National Heritage values.

“It’s good news for Melburnians and all Australians interested in our nation’s story.”

The new Melbourne's Domain Parkland and Memorial Precinct National Heritage place encompasses 109 hectares south of the CBD between St Kilda Road and the Yarra River.

Much of the Precinct was developed over the course of the nineteenth century, including during the Victorian gold rush – a boom time for growth in Melbourne. Melbourne embraced its status as one of the world’s great cities with ambitious plans for boulevards, parks and places for scientific research and discovery.

The Precinct also became a gathering place to commemorate significant events and people. It is home to the Shrine of Remembrance, built to honour those who lost their lives in war. It also includes the King's Domain Resting Place which is the commemorative burial place for 38 Victorian Aboriginal people.

The permanent inclusion of Melbourne's Domain Parkland and Memorial Precinct in the National Heritage List cannot affect decisions made before the site’s listing, including those allowing trees to be removed from St Kilda Road, but will protect it from future actions that may impact its National Heritage values.

“The Precinct will now have ongoing protection as a National Heritage place and join the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Melbourne Cricket Ground as one of Australia’s most prestigious heritage sites,” Minister Frydenberg said.

For more information on this listing, go to: www.environment.gov.au/melbourne-domain-parkland-memorial-precinct

Realtime payments, any hour, any day of the week

February 13, 2018: Media Release - The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia
Australians will now be able to make instant electronic payments at any time of the day, with the launch of the New Payments Platform (NPP) today.

The Turnbull Government welcomes the launch of the new platform which is set to revolutionise the payments process for millions of Australians, making payments faster and simpler for consumers and businesses.

Using the NPP, Australians will be able to transfer money to each other instantly, 24/7, on any day of the week, including weekends and public holidays. This overhaul of the payments system means Australians will no longer have to wait for bank transfers and payments to arrive in their account.

Gone will be the days of frustrating three-day waits for transfers between accounts of different banks. Customers will be able to securely pay businesses, split restaurant bills with their friends, and pay a tradesperson instantly.

Customers will also be able to include more information with their payments, such as additional text, invoices and receipts. This simplified approach will help businesses to make payments quickly and efficiently and let them get back to running their business.

The NPP has been collaboratively designed and built by 13 key Australian financial institutions, including the Reserve Bank of Australia and the major banks, with the support of the Turnbull Government. Other financial institutions will be able to connect to the NPP directly or via an existing participant that offers connection services to smaller financial institutions.

Initially, around 60 banks, building societies and credit unions will be connected to the NPP, with more to connect over the coming months.

Bank customers will be contacted with details of when and how they can access the new services and asked to nominate a PayID code - such as a phone number, email address or ABN - that will identify you. No more having to remember BSBs and account numbers in order to make or receive payments.

PayID will also provide more assurance about payments by letting users see the name of the individual or business they are paying, before the payment is finalised.

The NPP will also provide the infrastructure for new and innovative payment services. The first of these –Osko – will commence rolling out from today.

Osko by BPAY will let people make instant direct payments to other users through online and mobile banking portals without needing to download a separate app. Over time other innovative services will also look to make use of the data-rich message capability of the NPP.

The launch today complements the Government's FinTech agenda, and I look forward to the development of other NPP services that will add even more convenience, functionality and efficiency to how individuals and businesses make payments.

The financial institutions that have built the NPP have had security and fraud prevention front of mind during its development.

Financial institutions already use real-time credit card fraud detection and online banking authentication tools to protect customers. They are building on these tools as they roll out the NPP to customers, including:
  • real time payments can only be made by customers logging in to their usual internet or mobile banking platform and authorising a payment;
  • banks will use a number of innovative fraud detection tools to identify, stop and examine unusual or suspicious payments;
  • PayID enables customers to check the name of the account holder they are paying before authorising a payment; and
  • the NPP itself is certified to the highest data security standards and is monitored 24/7.
As with any Australian financial services, consumers should continue to remain vigilant about scams asking them for payment or for logins and passwords. Customers should contact their financial institution if they have any suspicions about anyone asking for payment or account information.

Further information is available at the NPPA website or from individual financial institutions.

Australian Industry proves world beater, smashing $1bn milestone for superjet

13 February 2018: Media Release
The Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, today announced that Australian industry has been collectively awarded over $1 billion in production for the F-35 program.

The strength of Australia’s defence industry has made it a significant and crucial contributor to the program which will support up to 5000 Australian jobs by 2023.

“More than 50 Australian companies directly shared in the production contracts to date, with many more indirectly benefiting through supply chain work,” Minister Pyne said.

“Australian industry continues to prove its global competitiveness by performing better than initial forecasts, with Australian industry involvement expected to exceed $2 billion by 2023.”

“The journey of Australian industry’s involvement in the global F-35 Program has been one of great success and long-term economic opportunity for Australia.

In 2016 the Joint Strike Fighter program supported more than 2400 jobs across Australia, which is set to grow to 5000 by 2023.

“Further opportunities are expected for Australian companies to increase production contract values over the next four years as F-35 production rates more than double.

“Australian industry is manufacturing parts that will be fitted to every F-35 aircraft in production across the globe.

“Australian success in the Joint Strike Fighter program isn’t limited to manufacturing parts. Australian industry has also been chosen as the maintenance hub for the engines, airframes and 64 of 65 components which have been assigned by the Joint Project Office.

“When I travel to the U.S. in April I will be arguing for more work for Australia, we have the capability and we deserve the work,” Minister Pyne said.

In a major milestone for the Australian F-35A Project, the first Australian-made Vertical Tail – produced by Victorian-based company Marand – was fitted to Australia’s third F-35A aircraft as it neared completion at Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, in August 2017.

The stealthy, advanced F-35A represents a significant change in capabilities and will give Australia an edge against the emergence regionally of advanced capabilities.

The first two Australian F-35A aircraft are scheduled to arrive for permanent basing at RAAF Base Williamtown, New South Wales, in December.

By the time of Final Operating Capability, expected in December 2023, Australia will have a training squadron and three operational squadrons comprising 72 aircraft.

Visit: Key Australian companies who have shared in AU$1 billion in F-35 Production contracts

Australian Humanitarian Assistance to Tonga

13 February 2018: Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Defence
The Australian Government is providing emergency humanitarian assistance to help the people of Tonga, following Tropical Cyclone Gita.

Our thoughts are with the people of Tonga after the destructive storm struck overnight as a Category 4 cyclone, causing severe damage to the capital Nuku’alofa.

Following a request from the Tongan Government, Australia has deployed $350,000 in life-saving equipment including emergency shelter, kitchen and hygiene kits to assist over 2,000 people in need. 

Australia has released humanitarian supplies, including tarpaulins and water purification tablets, through the Tongan Red Cross.

The Australian Defence Force will conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, as part of the broader whole of government effort to support the Government of Tonga.

A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster will deliver much needed emergency relief supplies to Tonga this evening. The ADF is also ready to assist with debris removal, water, sanitation and distribution of emergency supplies on request from the Government of Tonga.

To further assist in the response, two civilian humanitarian specialists have been deployed at this stage, in addition to an Australian-funded humanitarian specialist already working with Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office.

An Australian medical expert is working with New Zealand specialists and Tongan authorities to assess health services in affected areas.

Australian officials are travelling to Tonga to help provide assistance to Australians affected by the disaster. All Australians in Tonga are advised to remain indoors and follow the instructions of local authorities. At the time of issue, DFAT had not received any requests for consular assistance.

Middle Earth preserved in giant bird dung

February 12, 2018: University of Adelaide
While the giant birds that once dominated New Zealand are all extinct, a study of their preserved dung (coprolites) has revealed many aspects of their ancient ecosystem, with important insights for ongoing conservation efforts.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, the study, by the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) and Landcare Research NZ, reconstructed the prehuman New Zealand ecosystem using coprolites ranging from 120 to 1500 years old.

The ancient dried dung originated from four species of extinct giant moa and the critically endangered kakapo parrot, and contained genetic records of diet, pathogens, and the behavior of the birds. Such detailed pictures of the pre-historic ecosystem are critical for present-day ecological restoration efforts, but are not available from the conventional fossil record of preserved skeletons.

The ancient dung samples were excavated from caves and rockshelters across New Zealand by Dr Jamie Wood, of Landcare Research. He says, "Coprolites were actually more common than we'd thought, once we started looking for them. And it turns out they contain a huge range of important information about past ecosystems."

Lead author Alex Boast, a PhD student at Landcare Research says, "A key finding was that the giant birds were eating a wide range of mushrooms and fungi, including species that are critical for the beech forests that are widespread across New Zealand. The brightly colored mushrooms remain distinctive parts of these forests today, but it appears they were meant to be eaten and then distributed by the moa.

"Worryingly, introduced mammals which consume these mushrooms don't appear to produce fertile spores, so this critical ecosystem function of the giant birds has been lost -- with serious implications for the long-term health of New Zealand's beech forests."

The research was performed at ACAD where Postdoctoral Research Associate and microbiome specialist, Dr Laura Weyrich, says, "Moa coprolites contained a surprising diversity of parasites, many completely new to science. Several parasites appear to be specialized to single moa species, so that a range of parasites became extinct with each moa species. As a result, we have probably underestimated the loss of biodiversity associated with the extinction of the megafauna."

ACAD Director, Professor Alan Cooper, who led the study, says, "The wide diversity of DNA we retrieved from the dung has allowed us to reconstruct many aspects of the behavior and interactions of species that we've never been able to see before. This important new method allows us to see how prehuman ecosystems have been altered, which is often hard to identify, and to guide our efforts in correcting some of the resulting damage."

Alexander P. Boast, Laura S. Weyrich, Jamie R. Wood, Jessica L. Metcalf, Rob Knight, Alan Cooper. Coprolites reveal ecological interactions lost with the extinction of New Zealand birds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201712337 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1712337115

Beautiful Bondi, 1926

An early silent documentary showing the attractions of Bondi Beach and the surrounding Waverley area. Beaches include Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama. Surfing, swimming, sunbaking, life savers, all the beach activities and features that are seen on these beaches today were just as popular in the 1920s. Hotels and apartment developments are seen under construction, many of which remain as Bondi heritage today.
From National Film and Sound Archives

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