Inbox and Environment News: Issue 329

September 10 - 16, 2017: Issue 329

Major Project Status For West Seahorse Project

7 September 2017: Media Release - Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science

The Australian Government has renewed its Major Project Status to the West Seahorse Project, which aims to develop an important oil reservoir off the coast of Victoria.

Major Project Status means the proponent, Carnarvon Hibiscus Pty Ltd, will get help coordinating Commonwealth approvals required to proceed with the project.

The status was granted under the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s Major Project Facilitation programme. 

The West Seahorse Project is located 14km from Ninety Mile Beach, off the Gippsland coast.

Carnarvon Hibiscus Pty Ltd will invest $140 million, with a further $100 million invested over the project’s operational life.

It expects to initially produce approximately 12,000 barrels of oil per day over an estimated six year period. 

The project may potentially unlock similar small stranded assets that have been undeveloped in the Gippsland basin, opening up further revenue and investment opportunities in the region.

Direct employment is estimated at 100 full-time positions during drilling and installation activities and 30 full time positions during the project’s operational phase. 

The Major Project Facilitation programme is administered by the Major Projects Facilitation Agency. 

Further information is available at

Increasing Effective Decision-Making For Coastal Marine Ecosystems

September 7, 2017: University of Queensland
Marine restoration, rather than protection, might be the most cost-effective solution for coastal marine ecosystems suffering from human activities, a new study has found.

The University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence in Environmental Decisions study examined how to best benefit coastal marine ecosystems on limited conservation budgets, to help managers better understand the trade-offs.

UQ Development Fellow Dr Megan Saunders said the researchers developed a model comparing scenarios of restoration versus protection, on land, or in the sea, for coastal marine ecosystems.

"Coastal ecosystems like seagrass, coral and mangroves occupy the narrow fringe of sea between the land and the deep ocean," Dr Saunders said.

"As such they provide easy access to the marine world -- they are shallow, close to shore, and relatively calm places compared to the open ocean.

"These same features also make coastal ecosystems vulnerable to human activities -- activities occurring both on land and in the ocean. Consequently, these ecosystems pose a number of challenges to managers."

Dr Saunders said conventional wisdom was that the most effective conservation actions to benefit coastal marine ecosystems involved implementing marine protected areas, or alternatively reducing land-based threats.

"Active marine restoration, on the other hand, is typically considered a low priority option," she said.

"This is due in part, to high costs and low success rates.

"However, our model, based on seagrass meadows and adjacent catchments in Southeast Queensland, found that contrary to conventional wisdom, and despite high costs, marine restoration may be the most cost-effective way over decades to maximise the extent of marine ecosystems under particular circumstances.

"This assumes that there is suitable habitat available for restoration (such as planting seagrass transplants); clearly, if suitable habitat does not exist, for example due to poor water quality, then other actions would take priority."

Dr Saunders said the researchers had developed some simple rules to guide decision-making for whether restoration or protection should occur in either marine or terrestrial environments to best benefit marine ecosystems.

"These rules-of-thumb illustrate how cost-effective conservation outcomes for connected land-ocean systems can proceed without complex modelling," she said.

Megan I. Saunders, Michael Bode, Scott Atkinson, Carissa J. Klein, Anna Metaxas, Jutta Beher, Maria Beger, Morena Mills, Sylvaine Giakoumi, Vivitskaia Tulloch, Hugh P. Possingham. Simple rules can guide whether land- or ocean-based conservation will best benefit marine ecosystems. PLOS Biology, 2017; 15 (9): e2001886 DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.2001886

$3 Million Boost For Our Native Wildlife On Threatened Species Day

Media release: 7 September 2017 - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
Today, the Turnbull Government is celebrating Threatened Species Day by announcing 19 new grants, worth more than $3 million, from the Threatened Species Recovery Fund to help community groups to fight extinction.

We are also celebrating the benefits of the Government's investment - since the appointment of Australia's first Threatened Species Commissioner in 2014 - of $228 million in more than 1,000 projects supporting our threatened species.

"Threatened Species Day is a reminder of the remarkable wildlife that we have to protect, like bandicoots and bilbies, mallee emu-wrens and Whibley wattle," said the Minister for the Environment and Energy.

"Thanks to the Threatened Species Strategy and the Government's investment, the future of many of our endangered animals and plants is now much more secure."

The Threatened Species Strategy makes a commitment to protect and recover some of our most precious and endangered animals and plants. Under the strategy, we have targeted 20 birds, 20 mammals and 30 plants for recovery by 2020. The habitat improvements to support these species will protect many more.

All 19 projects supported under this wave of funding will boost efforts to help recover species identified in the Threatened Species Strategy.

The Turnbull Government is providing $250,000 to protect wild populations of magenta lilly pilly in the Great Lakes area of New South Wales by improving its habitat and that of eight other threatened species in the area.

We are allocating $205,000 to support efforts to protect populations of golden bandicoot and the brush-tailed rabbit-rat from feral cats and other threats in the Dambimangari and Uunguu Indigenous Protected Areas of Western Australia.

We are investing almost $50,000 in a partnership between school kids and farmers to grow seedlings and create new habitat for Australia's rarest cockatoo, the south eastern red-tailed black cockatoo in South Australia.

"This Threatened Species Day, the Turnbull Government is proud to continue demonstrating our commitment to working closely with conservation and community groups, scientists and other governments to deliver the on ground actions required to save species," said the Minister for the Environment and Energy.

For more information on the projects funded, please visit:

$3 Million In Grants Now Available For Commuity Recycling Centres

Media release: EPA
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the NSW Environmental Trust (ET) are calling for local government, not-for-profit organisations and businesses from select Local Government areas to apply for grants to set up Community Recycling Centres (CRC) for the collection of household problem wastes.

The $3 million Community Recycling Centre grants program is now open as part of the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.  Community Recycling Centres make it easier for NSW residents to recycle or safely dispose items like oils, paints and batteries.

Applications are open until Wednesday 15 November 2017 with funding of up to $200,000 available to enhance existing facilities or build new facilities for the collection of problem waste. 
This is the fourth round of funding and it is designed to help keep problem waste out of the kerbside bin system by providing convenient and easy to use facilities for the community.

EPA Chair and CEO Barry Buffier said the aim of the program is to establish a network that will provide 90 per cent of NSW households with access to a free Community Recycling Centre for common household problem wastes.

“This funding focuses on our priority to establish Community Recycling Centres based on existing gaps in the network.

‘The funding to establish facilities in 22 priority Local Government Areas will mean residents will have a permanent facility available to people to drop-off low toxic wastes, such as gas bottles, household batteries, paint, oils and smoke detectors, Mr Buffier said.

‘To date, over 100 Community Recycling Centres have been funded in NSW and 62 are currently operational. Almost two million kilograms of household problem waste has been collected since the program started."
Priority LGAs for funding include: Blacktown, Canterbury Bankstown, The Hills, Ku-ring-gai, Northern Beaches, Sydney, Bayside, Camden, Goulburn Mulwaree, North Sydney, Parramatta, Ryde, Shellharbour, Wagga Wagga, Waverley, Wollondilly, Woollahra, Yass Valley, Central Coast, Cumberland, Lake Macquarie and Sutherland.
On behalf of the ET, Peter Dixon, Director Grants in the Office of Environment & Heritage states:

“This is one of our most successful community level grants programs. The take-up by local councils has been tremendous and the neighbourhoods with a new or upgraded Community Recycling Centre are enjoying the benefits of a free and convenient way of dropping off their problem wastes for environmentally friendly disposal and recycling”

Applications close 5pm, Wednesday 15 November 2017

For more information about the grants including how to apply and information sessions please visit:

For more information about Waste Less, Recycle More go to the EPA website:

Asparagus Fern

Asparagus Fern is our worst weed in Pittwater. The Bush Invaders is by PNHA member and primary school teacher Sylvia Saszczak. Share to spread the message about this horror weed.

Biologists Show Wildlife Loss And Climate Change Can Synergistically Increase Tick Abundance And The Risk Of Tick-Borne Disease

September 6, 2017
Around the world, ticks are one of the most important vectors of zoonotic diseases -- animal diseases communicable to humans -- and they're everywhere.

While North Americans worry about Lyme disease carried by blacklegged or deer ticks, on the other side of the globe, people contend with a different variety of tick-borne fevers. A new study by UC Santa Barbara researchers and colleagues suggests that the abundance of ticks that carry certain fevers are likely to rise in the future, thanks to a combination of wildlife loss and climate change.

The study used a large-scale experimental test to demonstrate synergistic effects of those phenomena on ticks and their pathogens. The investigators found that total tick abundance and abundance of infected ticks increased dramatically when large animals were lost -- and that this effect was exacerbated in dryer, low-productivity areas. Their analysis appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"Our research suggests that large mammal conservation may prevent increases in tick abundance and tick-borne disease risk," said lead author Georgia Titcomb, a graduate student in UCSB's Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology (EEMB). "These results are timely and relevant in light of widespread wildlife declines and unpredictable regional climatic shifts in a steadily warming world."

For their investigation, the scientists used a long-term, size-selective herbivore exclosure experiment at the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya to examine impacts to the abundance of ticks and two regionally important tick-borne pathogens, Coxiella burnetii and Rickettsia spp., the causative agents of Q fever and spotted fevers, respectively.

The experiment included four plot treatments. The first excluded all but the smallest rodent-sized herbivores, mostly mice; the second permitted intermediate-size animals such as hares and small antelope. In the third treatment, all animals but mega- herbivores such as giraffes and elephants were allowed to penetrate the plot. The control had no animal restrictions. The researchers spend more than a year conducting monthly hour-long tick drags in each plot.

The results showed that total wildlife exclusion increased total tick abundance by 130 percent at sites with a moderate amount of moisture and by 225 percent at dry, low-productivity sites. For a subset of months when differing degrees of exclusion were tested, total tick abundance increased from 170 percent in the plot with mega-herbivores to 360 percent when all large wildlife were excluded.

"This suggests that exposure risk will respond to wildlife loss and climate change in proportion to total tick abundance," said co-author Hillary Young, an EEMB associate professor and Titcomb's adviser. "We've shown these interacting effects increase disease risk, but they also highlight the need to incorporate ecological context when making predictions about the effects of wildlife loss on zoonotic disease dynamics."

Materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Original written by Julie Cohen.

New “Coastal Management Guide” Teaching Resource Released

Researchers from UNSW Water Resaerch Laborsatory (WRL) in partnership with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, have developed a new ‘Coastal Management Guide’ designed for High School teachers involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education:

The Guide is designed to assist teachers to engage their students (target ages 11 – 16 years) in the complex issues of Coastal Management, with coastal erosion as the “attractor”. Background information spanning topics such as ‘the dynamic coast’, ’what are the issues’, ‘managing for the future’ and ‘how do we measure coastal change’ is presented. A broad range of fully developed independent and guided student activities are provided for use inside and outside the classroom, including hands-on experiments, analysis of media reporting, and role-playing. 

The Guide targets Australian High School STEM curriculum areas (Years 7–10) of Physical Sciences, Human Society & its Environment (HSIE), Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences and Maths. More broadly, it is anticipated that the Guide’s educational themes and activities will provide a useful and stimulating resource in any classroom where ‘living at the coast’ can provide a launching point into diverse areas of secondary school STEM education.

The full Guide is freely available in two formats: pdf for download and eBook for online viewing.

Can Corals Survive Climate Change?

6th September 2017
A group of international scientists, including scientists from Australia, have issued advice that more research is urgently required to determine whether corals can acclimatise* and adapt to the rapid pace of climate change.

The team of coral experts, led by Dr. Gergely Torda from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), have delivered recommendations for future research.

As the Great Barrier Reef faces unprecedented coral mortality from back-to-back mass bleaching in 2016 and 2017, rising carbon dioxide and other natural and human-induced pressures, scientists advise more research is urgently needed into the poorly-understood mechanisms that corals might use to survive in a rapidly warming world.

“There is still a lot to understand about corals,” says Dr. Torda. “While our only real chance for their survival is to reverse climate change, a nugget of hope exists - that the corals may be able to adapt to their changing environment,” he says.

“However, there are major knowledge gaps around how fast corals can adapt or acclimatise to changes in their environment, and by what mechanisms they might use to achieve this,” adds co-author Professor Philip Munday of Coral CoE.

“For example,” explains Dr Jenni Donelson, co-author at Coral CoE,"recent studies show that fish can acclimatise to higher water temperatures when several generations are exposed to the same increased temperature, but whether corals can do the same, and how they might achieve this, is largely unknown."

Eight research recommendations are published today in the prestigious journal Nature Climate Change and arise from a workshop with a team of experts composed of 22 biologists from 11 institutions in five different countries.

The team agrees that further research identifying how corals respond to climate change is critical, as the Earth undergoes an unprecedented rate of environmental change.

AIMS Climate Change Scientist, Dr. Line Bay says, “There is sufficient inertia in the climate system that we will not be able to prevent further climate-related disturbances affecting the reef in the immediate future.”

“Solutions are required to help corals adapt and acclimate to near-term future climate pressures while we figure out how to reduce emissions and halt and reverse longer-term climate change.”

Co-authors Prof. Timothy Ravasi and Dr. Manuel Aranda from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) warn that the clock is ticking. “The Great Barrier Reef has suffered substantial losses of coral over the past two years. Understanding the mechanisms that could enable corals to cope with ocean warming is becoming increasingly important if we want to help these ecosystems,” they say.

The paper is focused on stony, reef-building corals, which are the ‘ecosystem engineers’ of tropical coral reefs. These corals build the frameworks that provide shelter, food and habitat for an entire ecosystem. When corals are lost, the diversity and abundance of other reef organisms declines, until ultimately the ecosystem collapses.

“Predicting the fate of coral reefs under climate change is subject to our understanding of the ability of corals to mount adaptive responses to environmental change,” says Dr. Torda. “Our paper sets out key research objectives and approaches to address this goal.”

“The time to act is now, as the window of opportunity to save coral reefs is rapidly closing,” he concludes.

The paper titled: “Rapid adaptive responses to climate change in corals” is published today in Nature Climate Change:

* “Acclimatisation” is the response of organisms to environmental change through non-genetic processes. It is different to adaptation, which involves inheritance of a genetic change.
AIMS Climate Scientist Dr Line Bay inspects a bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef earlier this year. Dr Bay was part of an international team of scientists who have identified the research needed to help predict how reef-building corals will cope with climate change. Image: Eric Matson/Australian Institute of Marine Science

Eighteenth Century Nautical Charts Reveal Coral Loss

September 7, 2017: University of Queensland
Centuries-old nautical charts, mapped by long-deceased sailors to avoid shipwrecks, have been used by modern scientists to study loss of coral reefs.

A new US and Australian study -- including research from The University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies -- compared early British charts to modern coral habitat maps to understand changes to reef environments.

Then and now: Key West, Florida. Credit: Courtesy the authors

UQ's Professor John Pandolfi said the study used information from surprisingly accurate 18th century nautical charts and satellite data to understand coral loss over more than two centuries in the Florida Keys.

"We found that some reefs had completely disappeared," Professor Pandolfi said.

The study was led by Loren McClenachan, Assistant Professor at Colby College, in Waterville, Maine, USA.

Professor McClenachan said more than half of the coral reef habitat mapped in the 1770s was no longer there. In some areas, particularly near land, coral loss was closer to 90 per cent.

"We found near the shore, entire sections of reef are gone, but in contrast, most coral mapped further from land is still coral reef habitat today," she said.

This estimate of change over centuries added to modern observations of recent loss of living corals.

The marine scientists measured the loss of coral reef habitats across a large geographic area, while most studies look more closely at the loss of living coral from smaller sections of the reef.

"We found that reef used to exist in areas that today are not even classified as reef habitat anymore," Professor Pandolfi said.

"When you add this to the 75 per cent loss of living coral in the Keys at that finer scale, the magnitude of change is much greater than anyone thought."

This work was undertaken while Professor McClenachan was a visiting researcher in Professor Pandolfi's lab at UQ's School of Biological Sciences in Brisbane, Australia, while on sabbatical from Colby College.

The research revealed the precision of the early maps. Postdoctoral researcher at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine Dr Benjamin Neal said the early chart makers represented the "Silicon Valley of their time."

"They had the best technology and they used it to create new information that conferred a lot of power," Dr Neal said.

"The maps were essential to expansion of the British Empire, and luckily for us, they also included a lot of useful ecological information."

Professor McClenachan said the findings had important conservation implications and pointed to a shifted spatial baseline.

"We tend to focus on known areas where we can measure change. That makes sense. Why would you look for coral where you never knew it was?" she said.

The authors said when large-scale changes like this were overlooked, scientists could lose sight of past abundance, lowering expectations for conservation and recovery.

Loren McClenachan, Grace O’Connor, Benjamin P. Neal, John M. Pandolfi, Jeremy B. C. Jackson. Ghost reefs: Nautical charts document large spatial scale of coral reef loss over 240 years. Science Advances, 2017; 3 (9): e1603155 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1603155

Australian Magpie 'Dunks' Its Food Before Eating, Researchers Find

September 7, 2017: Western Sydney University
Scientists at the University of York, in collaboration with researchers at Western Sydney University, have shown that the Australian Magpie may 'dunk' its food in water before eating, a process that appears to be 'copied' by its offspring.

The research could potentially shed more light on the dietary systems of some bird species and how they respond to the defences of its prey.

Food dunking is common behaviour in a range of bird species, but has never been observed in the Australian Magpie before. Not only was it observed in the adult bird, but the offspring were seen to copy the 'dunking' process.

Dunking is thought to be an important food-process for birds, but it remains unclear as to why some birds do this and some do not. One theory is that it helps moisten the food to make it more digestible and other theories suggest that it might help make unpalatable insects less toxic to eat.

Eleanor Drinkwater, PhD student at the University of York's Department of Biology, said: "Food dunking has been seen in at least 25 bird species, particularly in birds that have high cognitive abilities.

"The Australian Magpie is an intelligent animal, however we were not expecting to see dunking displayed by this bird. In a separate study on predator-prey interactions between katydids and Australian Magpies we were observing a family of magpie at a site near Kosciuszko National Park to see what they would do when offered the insect.

"We presented the wild magpie with a local insect called Mountain Katydid, which is thought to be distasteful due to the toxins it emits. The adult magpie first dragged and beat the insect on the ground before carrying it to a nearby puddle, dunking it and thrashing under water."

The adult male bird appeared to eat the insect under a nearby bush, before returning to take a second insect, repeating the action, but this time leaving the 'dunked' insect at the side of the puddle.

The team then observed a juvenile bird that had been watching the adult male pick up the discarded insect and mimic the actions of the adult male before eating the insect whole.

Eleanor continued: "Although more research is needed to understand why the bird dunks its food before eating, our initial assumptions are that it responds to the 'nasty tasting' chemical defences of the insect, by dunking it in water and making it more palatable.

"It was exciting to see that this process was copied by the juvenile bird, suggesting that this behaviour could be socially learnt. More research can now be done to determine how common this behaviour is from adult birds through to its offspring."

The research is published in the journal Australian Field Ornithology.

E. Drinkwater, J. Ryeland, T. Haff, K.D.L. Umbers. A novel observation of food dunking in the Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen. Australian Field Ornithology, September 2017

Bilbies And Bettongs To Return To NSW

08 September, 2017 - by  DEBORAH SMITH: UNSW
UNSW scientists will reintroduce bilbies, burrowing bettongs, and five other native mammals that are extinct in NSW into large, predator-free exclosures in the north west of the state, as part of a major NSW Government initiative to protect threatened species.

NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton launched the Wild Deserts project this week on National Threatened Species Day.

Ms Upton announced that Dubbo’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo has commenced development of a 110-hectare breeding sanctuary for the Greater Bilby, which has not been seen for more than a century in the wild in NSW.

 A Bilby. Image: Hugh McGregor                                                        A Western Quoll. Image: Katherine Moseby. 

Greater Bilbies raised at the Dubbo sanctuary will be released into the fenced exclosures in Sturt National Park near Tibooburra in late 2019 as part of the Wild Deserts project.

“The breeding sanctuary is an extraordinary development that will make a nationally significant contribution to wildlife and environmental conservation,” Ms Upton said.

“This sanctuary shows why NSW is well on its way to becoming a global centre of excellence in wildlife conservation and education.”

UNSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton and UNSW Professor Richard Kingsford in the bilby exhibit at Taronga Zoo.

The Wild Deserts project is a partnership between the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, UNSW and Ecological Horizons, in collaboration with Taronga Conservation Society Australia.

Introduced red foxes and feral cats have been an ecological disaster and have driven many species of native mammals to extinction in western NSW.

It is part of the government’s $41.3 million Re-Wilding NSW initiative, which will bring back locally extinct mammals to three NSW National Parks.

UNSW scientist and Wild Deserts project leader, Professor Richard Kingsford, said the project is a groundbreaking conservation opportunity.

“UNSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science, in collaboration with Ecological Horizons, is looking forward to the opportunity to restore degraded ecosystems in western NSW, using the animals that used to be there,” he said.

“Introduced red foxes and feral cats have been an ecological disaster and have driven many species of native mammals to extinction in western NSW. Populations of many native mammals now exist only on offshore islands or in places on the mainland where introduced predators are rare or absent.

“The Greater Bilby is a delicate, but vital desert survivor. By digging for insects, seeds and plant roots, they help water and carbon infiltrate the soil, which in turn will trigger restoration of National Park’s desert ecosystems,” said Professor Kingsford, who is Director of the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science.

Western Quolls, Stick-nest Rats, Western Barred Bandicoots, Golden Bandicoots, and Crest-tailed Mulgara will also be among the species to be reintroduced into Sturt National Park.

UNSW Associate Professor Mike Letnic, a member of the Wild Deserts team, said that, in future, populations of native mammals would also be established in the wild, outside these protective enclosures.

A Western Barred Bandicoot. Image: Ben Parkhurst

“This will be possible because introduced predator populations are lower now than in the past, because their main prey species – rabbits – are much less common than they once were, due to biological control agents such as myxomatosis and calicivirus,” he said.

In the last 100 years, ecosystems in western NSW have been degraded by overgrazing by livestock and kangaroos and by the loss of native mammals.

“In addition to reinstating populations of these now rare mammals, we expect that their reintroduction will help to restore ecosystems. These native species create hotspots for the accumulation of soil nutrients through their digging activities, and they consume the seeds and seedlings of woody shrubs,” Associate Professor Letnic said.

“We expect that other species threatened by foxes and feral cats, such as native mice and ground-nesting birds, will also benefit by being in predator-free areas.”

Sanctuary Will Be A New Lifeline For Bilbies

7 September 2017: NSW Environment Minister, The Hon. Gabrielle Upton
Dubbo’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo has commenced development of a 110-hectare breeding sanctuary for the Greater Bilby in a bid to re-introduce them back into the wild in late 2019, Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton announced today.

The bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is presumed extinct in NSW (and a Spinifex hopping mouse Notomys alexis - the smaller animal) 
This is a significant step in the Wild Deserts project, which will bring back seven locally extinct mammals to Sturt National Park which hasn’t been seen for more than a century in NSW.

“The breeding sanctuary is an extraordinary development that will make a nationally significant contribution to wildlife and environmental conservation,” Ms Upton said.

“This sanctuary shows why NSW is well on its way to becoming a global centre of excellence in wildlife conservation and education.”

Next year ten Greater Bilbies will be introduced to the sanctuary following the installation of fencing and clearing of feral predators.

UNSW scientist and Director for the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science Professor Richard Kingsford, the Wild Deserts project lead, said that the Wild Deserts project was a ground-breaking conservation opportunity.

“The Greater Bilby is a delicate but vital desert survivor. By digging for insects, seeds and plant roots, they help water and carbon infiltrate the soil, which in turn will trigger a restoration of Sturt National Park’s desert ecosystems,” Professor Kingsford said.

“By restoring the native wildlife over the next 10 years, we will turn the desert around.”

The Wild Deserts project is a partnership between the Office of Environment and Heritage, the University of NSW Sydney and Ecological Horizons, in collaboration with Taronga Conservation Society Australia. The Greater Bilby breeding sanctuary at Taronga Western Plains Zoo has been made possible through a major philanthropic donation to the Taronga Foundation.

The Greater Bilby breeding sanctuary is part of a NSW Government $41.3 million Rewilding project. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy and UNSW are also reintroducing locally extinct mammals, including Greater Bilbies from the sanctuary, into Mallee Cliffs National Park and the Pilliga State Conservation Area.

“This is one of the world’s most significant biodiversity reconstruction projects – it aims to turn back the tide of mammal extinctions in Australia,” Australian Wildlife Conservancy Chief Executive Atticus Fleming said.

Ship Exhaust Makes Oceanic Thunderstorms More Intense

September 7, 2017: American Geophysical Union
Thunderstorms directly above two of the world's busiest shipping lanes are significantly more powerful than storms in areas of the ocean where ships don't travel, according to new research.

A new study mapping lightning around the globe finds lightning strokes occur nearly twice as often directly above heavily-trafficked shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea than they do in areas of the ocean adjacent to shipping lanes that have similar climates.

The difference in lightning activity can't be explained by changes in the weather, according to the study's authors, who conclude that aerosol particles emitted in ship exhaust are changing how storm clouds form over the ocean.

The new study is the first to show ship exhaust can alter thunderstorm intensity. The researchers conclude that particles from ship exhaust make cloud droplets smaller, lifting them higher in the atmosphere. This creates more ice particles and leads to more lightning.

The results provide some of the first evidence that humans are changing cloud formation on a nearly continual basis, rather than after a specific incident like a wildfire, according to the authors. Cloud formation can affect rainfall patterns and alter climate by changing how much sunlight clouds reflect to space.

"It's one of the clearest examples of how humans are actually changing the intensity of storm processes on Earth through the emission of particulates from combustion," said Joel Thornton, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle and lead author of the new study in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

"It is the first time we have, literally, a smoking gun, showing over pristine ocean areas that the lightning amount is more than doubling," said Daniel Rosenfeld, an atmospheric scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who was not connected to the study. "The study shows, highly unambiguously, the relationship between anthropogenic emissions -- in this case, from diesel engines -- on deep convective clouds."

Mapping lightning and exhaust
All combustion engines emit exhaust, which contains microscopic particles of soot and compounds of nitrogen and sulfur. These particles, known as aerosols, form the smog and haze typical of large cities. They also act as cloud condensation nuclei -- the seeds on which clouds form. Water vapor condenses around aerosols in the atmosphere, creating droplets that make up clouds.

Cargo ships crossing oceans emit exhaust continuously and scientists can use ship exhaust to better understand how aerosols affect cloud formation.

In the new study, co-author Katrina Virts, an atmospheric scientist at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was analyzing data from the World Wide Lightning Location Network, a network of sensors that locates lightning strokes all over the globe, when she noticed a nearly straight line of lightning strokes across the Indian Ocean.

Virts and her colleagues compared the lightning location data to maps of ships' exhaust plumes from a global database of ship emissions. Looking at the locations of 1.5 billion lightning strokes from 2005 to 2016, the team found nearly twice as many lightning strokes on average over major routes ships take across the northern Indian Ocean, through the Strait of Malacca and into the South China Sea, compared to adjacent areas of the ocean that have similar climates.

More than $5 trillion of world trade passes through the South China Sea every year and nearly 100,000 ships pass through the Strait of Malacca alone. Lightning is a measure of storm intensity, and the researchers detected the uptick in lightning at least as far back as 2005.

"All we had to do was make a map of where the lightning was enhanced and a map of where the ships are travelling and it was pretty obvious just from the co-location of both of those that the ships were somehow involved in enhancing lightning," Thornton said.

Forming cloud seeds
Water molecules need aerosols to condense into clouds. Where the atmosphere has few aerosol particles -- over the ocean, for instance -- water molecules have fewer particles to condense around, so cloud droplets are large.

When more aerosols are added to the air, like from ship exhaust, water molecules have more particles to collect around. More cloud droplets form, but they are smaller. Being lighter, these smaller droplets travel higher into the atmosphere and more of them reach the freezing line, creating more ice, which creates more lightning. Storm clouds become electrified when ice particles collide with each other and with unfrozen droplets in the cloud. Lightning is the atmosphere's way of neutralizing that built-up electric charge.

Ships burn dirtier fuels in the open ocean away from port, spewing more aerosols and creating even more lightning, Thornton said.

"I think it's a really exciting study because it's the most solid evidence I've seen that aerosol emissions can affect deep convective clouds and intensify them and increase their electrification," said Steven Sherwood, an atmospheric scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney who was not connected to the study.

"We're emitting a lot of stuff into the atmosphere, including a lot of air pollution, particulate matter, and we don't know what it's doing to clouds," Sherwood said. "That's been a huge uncertainty for a long time. This study doesn't resolve that, but it gives us a foot in the door to be able to test our understanding in a way that will move us a step closer to resolving some of those bigger questions about what some of the general impacts are of our emissions on clouds."

Joel A. Thornton, Katrina S. Virts, Robert H. Holzworth, Todd P. Mitchell. Lightning Enhancement Over Major Oceanic Shipping Lanes.Geophysical Research Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/2017GL074982

The top map shows annual average lightning density at a resolution of about 10 kilometers (6 miles), as recorded by the WWLLN, from 2005 to 2016. The bottom map shows aerosol emissions from ships crossing routes in the Indian Ocean and South China sea from 2010.
Credit: Thornton et al/Geophysical Research Letters/AGU

Public Tours Re-Start At The Australian Institute Of Marine Science After Refurbishment

September 1, 2017: AIMS
AUSTRALIA’S premier marine science research facility at Cape Ferguson, south of Townsville will re-open its doors to the public this week after a major refurbishment.

Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) tour guide Varsha Balu will lead the first tours on Friday, now the first stage of the refurbishment has been completed.

The 22-year-old, biotechnology, chemistry and zoology undergraduate student, said she could not wait to show off the Institute’s modern new look and give people a behind the scenes view into current research.

“A lot of people should be better informed about what is going on, and we can show them what scientists are doing to help our marine environment,” Ms Balu said.

“The new media hub better showcases the invaluable work being undertaken at AIMS.”

Marine science student and tour guide Varsha Balu will be welcoming the public to the AIMS Townsville headquarters.

“When people come for a tour, we introduce them to the work happening at AIMS and they meet our Technology Development Team, then we take them to engineering and to the National Sea Simulator.”

AIMS’ Operations and Infrastructure Program Leader John Chappell said the tours had been paused during the refurbishment, which was part of a capital works plan to improve the main building.

“We have a 40-year capital works plan and the upgrade included everything from mechanical and electrical upgrades, to walls and flooring,” Dr Chappell said.

“We wanted to create a modern collaborative space in the media hub to be a meeting place to draw people together and to improve the storytelling around AIMS.

“This stage of the work has included modernised interior workspaces, new air conditioning systems and high-definition large video displays of AIMS’ work, with interactive touch screens in the media hub.”

Stage two is due to begin within the next 12 months and will include an upgrade to research laboratories and office spaces.

Dr Chappell said AIMS had offered marine science university students and PhD graduates the opportunity to guide the tours, to allow them to communicate their scientific knowledge and the work happening at AIMS.

“We put it out there to students who use AIMS for their own research or are interested in marine biology, to conduct the tours and they have jumped at the opportunity,” Dr Chappell said.

The tours are always very popular with visitors to the region and people from Townsville and are often booked out months in advance.

Tours operate every Friday morning between March and November. 

Pluto Features Given First Official Names

September 7, 2017: International Astronomical Union
The IAU has assigned names to fourteen geological features on the surface of Pluto. The names pay homage to the underworld mythology, pioneering space missions, historic pioneers who crossed new horizons in exploration, and scientists and engineers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. This is the first set of official names of surface features on Pluto to be approved by the IAU, the internationally recognised authority for naming celestial bodies and their surface features.

NASA's New Horizons team proposed the names to the IAU following the first reconnaissance of Pluto and its moons by the New Horizons spacecraft. Some of the names were suggested by members of the public during the Our Pluto campaign, which was launched as a partnership between the IAU, the New Horizons project and the SETI Institute. Other names had been used informally by the New Horizons science team to describe the many regions, mountain ranges, plains, valleys and craters discovered during the first close-up look at the surfaces of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.

"We're very excited to approve names recognising people of significance to Pluto and the pursuit of exploration as well as the mythology of the underworld. These names highlight the importance of pushing to the frontiers of discovery," said Rita Schulz, chair of the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature. "We appreciate the contribution of the general public in the form of their their naming suggestions and the New Horizons team for proposing these names to us."

More names are expected to be proposed to the IAU, both for Pluto and for its moons. "The approved designations honour many people and space missions who paved the way for the historic exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the most distant worlds ever explored," said Alan Stern, New Horizons Principal Investigator from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.

The approved Pluto surface feature names are listed below.

Tombaugh Regio honours Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997), the U.S. astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930 from Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

Burney crater honors Venetia Burney (1918-2009), who as an 11-year-old schoolgirl suggested the name "Pluto" for Clyde Tombaugh's newly discovered planet. Later in life she taught mathematics and economics.

Sputnik Planitia is a large plain named after Sputnik 1, the first space satellite, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.

Tenzing Montes and Hillary Montes are mountain ranges honouring Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986) and Sir Edmund Hillary (1919-2008), the Indian/Nepali Sherpa and New Zealand mountaineer who were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest and return safely.

Al-Idrisi Montes honours Ash-Sharif al-Idrisi (1100-1165/66), a noted Arab mapmaker and geographer whose landmark work of medieval geography is sometimes translated as "The Pleasure of Him Who Longs to Cross the Horizons."

Djanggawul Fossae defines a network of long, narrow depressions named for the Djanggawuls, three ancestral beings in indigenous Australian mythology who travelled between the island of the dead and Australia, creating the landscape and filling it with vegetation.

Sleipnir Fossa is named for the powerful, eight-legged horse of Norse mythology that carried the god Odin into the underworld.

Virgil Fossae honors Virgil, one of the greatest Roman poets and Dante's fictional guide through hell and purgatory in the Divine Comedy.

Adlivun Cavus is a deep depression named for Adlivun, the underworld in Inuit mythology.

Hayabusa Terra is a large land mass saluting the Japanese spacecraft and mission (2003-2010) that returned the first asteroid sample.

Voyager Terra honours the pair of NASA spacecraft, launched in 1977, that performed the first "grand tour" of all four giant planets. The Voyager spacecraft are now probing the boundary between the Sun and interstellar space.

Tartarus Dorsa is a ridge named for Tartarus, the deepest, darkest pit of the underworld in Greek mythology.

Elliot crater recognises James Elliot (1943-2011), an MIT researcher who pioneered the use of stellar occultations to study the Solar System -- leading to discoveries such as the rings of Uranus and the first detection of Pluto's thin atmosphere.

Pluto's first official surface-feature names are marked on this map, compiled from images and data gathered by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its flight through the Pluto system in 2015. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Ross Beyer

Eat Fat, Live Longer?

September 5, 2017
As more people live into their 80s and 90s, researchers have delved into the issues of health and quality of life during aging. A recent mouse study at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine sheds light on those questions by demonstrating that a high fat, or ketogenic, diet not only increases longevity but also improves physical strength.

"The results surprised me a little," said nutritionist Jon Ramsey, senior author of the paper that appears in the September issue of Cell Metabolism. "We expected some differences, but I was impressed by the magnitude we observed -- a 13 percent increase in median life span for the mice on a high fat vs high carb diet. In humans, that would be seven to 10 years. But equally important, those mice retained quality of health in later life."

Ramsey has spent the past 20 years looking at the mechanics that lead to aging, a contributing factor to most major diseases that impact rodents and humans alike. While calorie restriction has been shown in several studies to slow aging in many animals, Ramsey was interested in how a high fat diet may impact the aging process.

Ketogenic diets have gained popularity for a variety of health benefit claims, but scientists are still teasing out what happens during ketosis, when carbohydrate intake is so low that the body shifts from using glucose as the main fuel source to fat burning and producing ketones for energy.

The study mice were split into three groups: a regular rodent high-carb diet, a low carb/high fat diet, and a ketogenic diet (89-90 percent of total calorie intake). Originally concerned that the high fat diet would increase weight and decrease life span, the researchers kept the calorie count of each diet the same.

"We designed the diet not to focus on weight loss, but to look at metabolism," Ramsey said. "What does that do to aging?"

In addition to significantly increasing the median life span of mice in the study, the ketogenic diet increased memory and motor function (strength and coordination), and prevented an increase in age-related markers of inflammation. It had an impact on the incidence of tumors as well.

"In this case, many of the things we're looking at aren't much different from humans," Ramsey said. "At a fundamental level, humans follow similar changes and experience a decrease in overall function of organs during aging. This study indicates that a ketogenic diet can have a major impact on life and health span without major weight loss or restriction of intake. It also opens a new avenue for possible dietary interventions that have an impact on aging."

A companion study published by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in the same issue of Cell Metabolism shows that a ketogenic diet extends longevity and improves memory in aging mice.

Megan N. Roberts, Marita A. Wallace, Alexey A. Tomilov, Zeyu Zhou, George R. Marcotte, Dianna Tran, Gabriella Perez, Elena Gutierrez-Casado, Shinichiro Koike, Trina A. Knotts, Denise M. Imai, Stephen M. Griffey, Kyoungmi Kim, Kevork Hagopian, Fawaz G. Haj, Keith Baar, Gino A. Cortopassi, Jon J. Ramsey, Jose Alberto Lopez-Dominguez. A Ketogenic Diet Extends Longevity and Healthspan in Adult Mice. Cell Metabolism, 2017; 26 (3): 539 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.08.005

Nutrition Has Benefits For Brain Network Organization

September 7, 2017
Nutrition has been linked to cognitive performance, but researchers have not pinpointed what underlies the connection. A new study by University of Illinois researchers found that monounsaturated fatty acids -- a class of nutrients found in olive oils, nuts and avocados -- are linked to general intelligence, and that this relationship is driven by the correlation between MUFAs and the organization of the brain's attention network.

The study of 99 healthy older adults, recruited through Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, compared patterns of fatty acid nutrients found in blood samples, functional MRI data that measured the efficiency of brain networks, and results of a general intelligence test. The study was published in the journal NeuroImage.

"Our goal is to understand how nutrition might be used to support cognitive performance and to study the ways in which nutrition may influence the functional organization of the human brain," said study leader Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology. "This is important because if we want to develop nutritional interventions that are effective at enhancing cognitive performance, we need to understand the ways that these nutrients influence brain function."

"In this study, we examined the relationship between groups of fatty acids and brain networks that underlie general intelligence. In doing so, we sought to understand if brain network organization mediated the relationship between fatty acids and general intelligence," said Marta Zamroziewicz, a recent Ph.D. graduate of the neuroscience program at Illinois and lead author of the study.

Studies suggesting cognitive benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in MUFAs, inspired the researchers to focus on this group of fatty acids. They examined nutrients in participants' blood and found that the fatty acids clustered into two patterns: saturated fatty acids and MUFAs.

"Historically, the approach has been to focus on individual nutrients. But we know that dietary intake doesn't depend on any one specific nutrient; rather, it reflects broader dietary patterns," said Barbey, who also is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at Illinois.

The researchers found that general intelligence was associated with the brain's dorsal attention network, which plays a central role in attention-demanding tasks and everyday problem solving. In particular, the researchers found that general intelligence was associated with how efficiently the dorsal attention network is functionally organized used a measure called small-world propensity, which describes how well the neural network is connected within locally clustered regions as well as across globally integrated systems.

In turn, they found that those with higher levels of MUFAs in their blood had greater small-world propensity in their dorsal attention network. Taken together with an observed correlation between higher levels of MUFAs and greater general intelligence, these findings suggest a pathway by which MUFAs affect cognition.

"Our findings provide novel evidence that MUFAs are related to a very specific brain network, the dorsal attentional network, and how optimal this network is functionally organized," Barbey said. "Our results suggest that if we want to understand the relationship between MUFAs and general intelligence, we need to take the dorsal attention network into account. It's part of the underlying mechanism that contributes to their relationship."

Barbey hopes these findings will guide further research into how nutrition affects cognition and intelligence. In particular, the next step is to run an interventional study over time to see whether long-term MUFA intake influences brain network organization and intelligence.

"Our ability to relate those beneficial cognitive effects to specific properties of brain networks is exciting," Barbey said. "This gives us evidence of the mechanisms by which nutrition affects intelligence and motivates promising new directions for future research in nutritional cognitive neuroscience."

Marta K. Zamroziewicz, M. Tanveer Talukdar, Chris E. Zwilling, Aron K. Barbey. Nutritional status, brain network organization, and general intelligence. NeuroImage, 2017; 161: 241 DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.08.043

Study Offers A New Mindset In The Search For Stroke Therapies

September 7th, 2017 by GABRIELLE DUNLEVY: UNSW
UNSW researchers have identified a promising new avenue to explore in the search for stroke treatments, after translating findings from Alzheimer’s disease.

The study published in Nature Communications finds that mice deficient in tau, a protein within brain cells (neurons), are significantly protected from excitotoxic brain damage after experimental stroke.

Stroke is a major cause of death and disability, and there is only a short window for therapeutic intervention, aimed at restoring blood flow to the brain before neurons are irreversibly damaged.

Professor Lars Ittner and Dr Yazi Ke at UNSW and NeuRA had already established that in Alzheimer’s disease, memory deficits and early deaths were tau-dependent.

The researchers suspected a reduction of tau would also reduce acute brain damage in stroke.

“Tau as a drug target is intensively explored in Alzheimer’s disease, but as a drug target in stroke is completely new thinking,” Professor Ittner says.

“That’s where our paper has implications beyond mouse model molecular work. Drug development in this space should consider stroke as a disease that you can treat by targeting tau,” Dr Ke added.

The paper, with first author Dr Mian Bi and co-senior author Dr Ke, is the first to show a direct role of tau in brain damage after stroke. It demonstrates profound protection from brain damage, of more than 90 per cent, in the absence of tau.

Tau has been eyed as a therapeutic target in Alzheimer’s disease for several years, and Professor Ittner is hopeful that work in that area can also advance research on stroke.

But he cautions these findings were made in mouse models only, and that pathways to therapies take decades.

“This cannot yet be directly translated to therapy, but what it opens up is a new kind of thinking about the mechanisms that lead to brain damage after stroke, and as such, opens new avenues to develop therapies in the future,” he says.

Dr Bi says it will be important that other studies validate the work, and he is sure the findings will encourage more research in this direction.

“Around 10 years ago the drug development field in stroke was very hot, but most therapeutic stroke trials came to an end in failure,” he says.

“Avenues to therapy are very long, but this might re-start interest in the field with a new direction that hasn’t been tried before. It’s a bit of light after all the past failure.”

Professor Ittner agrees: “It’s a new insight into a disease that is at the molecular level, still poorly understood, and it needs such new insights or rethinking to make a step forward towards therapy.”

Parkinson's Severity Assessed Through Drawing

September 6, 2017
Researchers in Australia asked volunteers to draw a spiral on a sheet of paper. By analyzing how long it took them to draw the spiral and how hard they pressed on the paper with the pen, the team could not only tell which volunteers had Parkinson's disease, they could also tell how severe it was.

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes shaking, muscle rigidity and difficulty with walking. Many treatment options for Parkinson's are only effective when doctors diagnose the disease early, and when symptoms are very noticeable it may be too late. It's also important for doctors to be able to tell how severe the disease is, to make the right treatment decisions, and to follow-up the progression of symptoms.

One way to contribute to the diagnosis of Parkinson's involves getting patients to use a pen. Certain symptoms that appear early in the disease, such as rigidity, can interfere with a patient's ability to write or sketch. Handwriting can be influenced by a person's level of education and language proficiency, so a better alternative involves sketching a shape, such as a spiral.

One drawback to this approach is that only an expert can interpret the sketches, meaning that routine check-ups at a doctor's surgery aren't possible. However, even for an expert, it can be difficult to tell how severe the disease is from the sketches alone, especially at the early stages of the disease.

Previous research has found that Parkinson's patients tend to move their pen more slowly when sketching, and they also use less pressure on the page. While these factors are useful for telling if someone has Parkinson's or not, so far researchers have not been able to reliably gauge how severe someone's disease is, using pen speed or pressure.

In a new study, recently published in Frontiers in Neurology, a team of researchers in Australia set out to develop an automatic system to contribute to the diagnosis of Parkinson's, and to asess its severity, from the comfort of a community doctor's office. "Our aim was to develop an affordable and automated electronic system for early-stage diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, which could be used easily by a community doctor or nursing staff," explains Poonam Zham, a researcher involved in the study.

The researchers developed specialized software and combined it with a tablet computer that can measure writing speed, and a pen that can measure pressure on a page. They used the system to measure pen speed and pressure during a simple spiral sketching task in a sample of healthy volunteers and Parkinson's patients with different levels of disease severity. In a world-first, the system also mathematically combines pen speed and pressure into one measurement, which the team calls the Composite Index of Speed and Pen-pressure (CISP) score.

The system measured slower pen speeds, pen pressures and CISP scores in the Parkinson's patients, compared with the healthy volunteers, and all three measurements clearly indicated whether a participant had Parkinson's or not. On their own, pen speed and pressure were not sufficiently different between patients with different levels of Parkinson's severity, for the system to distinguish between them.

However, using the new CISP score, the system could tell whether the patients had level 1 or level 3 Parkinson's, using a particular disease severity scale. "The system can automatically provide accurate Parkinson's diagnosis and could also be used by community doctors to monitor the effect of treatment on the disease," says Zham. "This simple device can be used by community doctors for routine screening of their patients every few years after the patients are above middle-age."

Poonam Zham, Dinesh K. Kumar, Peter Dabnichki, Sridhar Poosapadi Arjunan, Sanjay Raghav. Distinguishing Different Stages of Parkinson’s Disease Using Composite Index of Speed and Pen-Pressure of Sketching a Spiral. Frontiers in Neurology, 2017; 8 DOI:10.3389/fneur.2017.00435

The researchers developed specialized software and combined it with a tablet computer that can measure writing speed, and a pen that can measure pressure on a page. They used the system to measure pen speed and pressure during a simple spiral sketching task in a sample of healthy volunteers and Parkinson's patients with different levels of disease severity.
Credit: Courtesy of Dinesh Kumar and Ms. Poonam Zham of the 'Affordable diagnostics' group in RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

New Ombudsman For NSW

6th September, 2017: NSW Premier, The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today announced the Government has proposed the appointment of Michael Barnes as the NSW Ombudsman.

Mr Barnes is currently the State Coroner of NSW, a role he commenced in 2014 following a career in law and academia stretching back to 1980. He recently handed down findings in the Inquest into the deaths arising from the Lindt Café siege.

“Mr Barnes brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this important role,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“I have every confidence that under his leadership, NSW Government agencies will continue to operate with fairness and transparency.”

The proposed appointment is subject to review by the NSW Parliament’s Committee on the Ombudsman, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission and the Crime Commission.

If approved by the Committee and the Governor, Mr Barnes will commence in the role on 4 December 2017.

Until that time, Professor John McMillan AO, who was appointed in 2015, will continue to serve as Acting NSW Ombudsman.

Ms Berejiklian thanked Professor McMillan for his service to NSW.

Flip-Flop Qubits: Radical New Quantum Computing Design Invented

September 6, 2017: University of New South Wales

Dr. Guilherme Tosi and Professor Andrea Morello at the UNSW labs with a dilution refrigerator, which cools silicon chips down to 0.01 degrees above absolute zero. Credit: Quentin Jones/UNSW

Engineers at Australia's University of New South Wales have invented a radical new architecture for quantum computing, based on novel 'flip-flop qubits', that promises to make the large-scale manufacture of quantum chips dramatically cheaper -- and easier -- than thought possible.

The new chip design, detailed in the journal Nature Communications, allows for a silicon quantum processor that can be scaled up without the precise placement of atoms required in other approaches. Importantly, it allows quantum bits (or 'qubits') -- the basic unit of information in a quantum computer -- to be placed hundreds of nanometres apart and still remain coupled.

The design was conceived by a team led by Andrea Morello, Program Manager in UNSW-based ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) in Sydney, who said fabrication of the new design should be easily within reach of today's technology.

Lead author Guilherme Tosi, a Research Fellow at CQC2T, developed the pioneering concept along with Morello and co-authors Fahd Mohiyaddin, Vivien Schmitt and Stefanie Tenberg of CQC2T, with collaborators Rajib Rahman and Gerhard Klimeck of Purdue University in the USA.

"It's a brilliant design, and like many such conceptual leaps, it's amazing no-one had thought of it before," said Morello.

"What Guilherme and the team have invented is a new way to define a 'spin qubit' that uses both the electron and the nucleus of the atom. Crucially, this new qubit can be controlled using electric signals, instead of magnetic ones. Electric signals are significantly easier to distribute and localise within an electronic chip."

Tosi said the design sidesteps a challenge that all spin-based silicon qubits were expected to face as teams begin building larger and larger arrays of qubits: the need to space them at a distance of only 10-20 nanometres, or just 50 atoms apart.

"If they're too close, or too far apart, the 'entanglement' between quantum bits -- which is what makes quantum computers so special -- doesn't occur," Tosi said.

Researchers at UNSW already lead the world in making spin qubits at this scale, said Morello. "But if we want to make an array of thousands or millions of qubits so close together, it means that all the control lines, the control electronics and the readout devices must also be fabricated at that nanometric scale, and with that pitch and that density of electrodes. This new concept suggests another pathway."

At the other end of the spectrum are superconducting circuits -- pursued for instance by IBM and Google -- and ion traps. These systems are large and easier to fabricate, and are currently leading the way in the number of qubits that can be operated. However, due to their larger dimensions, in the long run they may face challenges when trying to assemble and operate millions of qubits, as required by the most useful quantum algorithms.

"Our new silicon-based approach sits right at the sweet spot," said Morello, a professor of quantum engineering at UNSW. "It's easier to fabricate than atomic-scale devices, but still allows us to place a million qubits on a square millimetre."

In the single-atom qubit used by Morello's team, and which Tosi's new design applies, a silicon chip is covered with a layer of insulating silicon oxide, on top of which rests a pattern of metallic electrodes that operate at temperatures near absolute zero and in the presence of a very strong magnetic field.

At the core is a phosphorus atom, from which Morello's team has previously built two functional qubits using an electron and the nucleus of the atom. These qubits, taken individually, have demonstrated world-record coherence times.

Tosi's conceptual breakthrough is the creation of an entirely new type of qubit, using both the nucleus and the electron. In this approach, a qubit '0' state is defined when the spin of the electron is down and the nucleus spin is up, while the '1' state is when the electron spin is up, and the nuclear spin is down.

"We call it the 'flip-flop' qubit," said Tosi. "To operate this qubit, you need to pull the electron a little bit away from the nucleus, using the electrodes at the top. By doing so, you also create an electric dipole."

"This is the crucial point," adds Morello. "These electric dipoles interact with each other over fairly large distances, a good fraction of a micron, or 1,000 nanometres.

"This means we can now place the single-atom qubits much further apart than previously thought possible," he continued. "So there is plenty of space to intersperse the key classical components such as interconnects, control electrodes and readout devices, while retaining the precise atom-like nature of the quantum bit."

Morello called Tosi's concept as significant as Bruce Kane seminal 1998 paper in Nature. Kane, then a senior research associate at UNSW, hit upon a new architecture that could make a silicon-based quantum computer a reality -- triggering Australia's race to build a quantum computer.

"Like Kane's paper, this is a theory, a proposal -- the qubit has yet to be built," said Morello. "We have some preliminary experimental data that suggests it's entirely feasible, so we're working to fully demonstrate this. But I think this is as visionary as Kane's original paper."

Building a quantum computer has been called the 'space race of the 21st century' -- a difficult and ambitious challenge with the potential to deliver revolutionary tools for tackling otherwise impossible calculations, with a plethora of useful applications in healthcare, defence, finance, chemistry and materials development, software debugging, aerospace and transport. Its speed and power lie in the fact that quantum systems can host multiple 'superpositions' of different initial states, and in the spooky 'entanglement' that only occurs at the quantum level the fundamental particles.

"It will take great engineering to bring quantum computing to commercial reality, and the work we see from this extraordinary team puts Australia in the driver's seat," said Mark Hoffman, UNSW's Dean of Engineering. "It's a great example of how UNSW, like many of the world's leading research universities, is today at the heart of a sophisticated global knowledge system that is shaping our future."

Guilherme Tosi, Fahd A. Mohiyaddin, Vivien Schmitt, Stefanie Tenberg, Rajib Rahman, Gerhard Klimeck, Andrea Morello. Silicon quantum processor with robust long-distance qubit couplings. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00378-x

NSW Health Investigating Hepatitis A Outbreak In Sydney

05 September 2017: NSW Health
​NSW Health has launched an investigation into a hepatitis A outbreak following confirmation of 12 cases in the past five weeks alone in Sydney and surrounding areas.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases with NSW Health, said 10 of these people contracted the disease in Australia – considerably higher than the average two cases of locally acquired hepatitis A each year.
“NSW Health is working with the NSW Food Authority to investigate the outbreak, including assessment of patterns of food distribution and any links to overseas outbreaks. However, no specific food has yet been connected to the outbreak,” said Dr Sheppeard.
“Hepatitis A is usually contracted overseas in high-risk countries, but 10 of these 12 people notified to NSW Health since July 26 have had no recent overseas travel.
“Travellers to high-risk countries and anyone at higher risk of infection, including men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, sewerage workers and childcare workers, should ensure that they are vaccinated against hepatitis A.
“Two doses of vaccine prevent infection and is available through GPs.”
Australia has a low incidence of hepatitis A and when outbreaks occur they are linked to consumption of contaminated food products or person-to-person spread.
There have been between 41 and 82 cases of Hepatitis A notified to NSW Health each year since 2013, mostly in people returning from high-risk countries.
Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that spreads in contaminated food or through poor hygiene. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, fever and yellowing of the skin, dark urine and pale stools.
The risk of spreading hepatitis A can be reduced by washing hands thoroughly, particularly after going to the toilet, touching soiled linen or items, changing nappies and before preparing or eating food.
Several hepatitis A outbreaks have been reported internationally in the past six months where hepatitis A is usually uncommon, including in Europe and California.
For further information on hepatitis see our NSW Health Hepatitis A fact sheet.

New Lifesaving Asthma Tools For Schools

04 September 2017: NSW Health Minister, The Hon. Brad Hazzard
​Children with asthma will benefit from two statewide initiatives launched today, which will greatly improve their care at school and potentially save lives.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said a first aid eBook and a standardised asthma action plan will help teachers and other school staff better identify a flare-up and act quickly to effectively manage asthma attacks.
“Asthma is often not understood as a potential killer but sadly, on average, it claims the lives of two children every year,” Mr Hazzard said.
“No child should die from asthma – it is vital that people looking after children know how to recognise signs of an asthma flare-up and how best to respond.
“As an asthmatic myself, I know how important it is to have an effective plan and there is no room for complacency.”
The Asthma First Aid Management in Schools eBook and the Schools and Child Services Action Plan for Asthma Flare-Up were developed by respiratory specialists at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, after a 2014 NSW Ombudsman report found 20 children died from asthma between 2004 and 2013.
Professor Adam Jaffe, Associate Director of Research at Sydney Children's Hospitals Network, said the eBook will be available to all NSW teachers and school staff, and can be downloaded in 51 countries via theApple iStore.
“Both the eBook and the Action Plan will give staff in schools the knowledge, tools and confidence they need to provide expert asthma first-aid in emergency situations,” Professor Jaffe said.

“Asthma can be just as dangerous as life-threatening food allergies. These resources offer best-practice training and information for all school staff, not just those able to attend face-to-face training.”
The action plan brings together multiple asthma resources to ensure school staff have one standardised asthma first-aid form in schools across NSW – similar to the anaphylaxis action plan currently in place in all NSW schools.

$2.46M To Unravel Genetic Mystery Of Bipolar Disorder

05 September 2017: Media Release - Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies
Groundbreaking genomic research into the cause of bipolar disorder could significantly impact the way people are treated for the illness, thanks to a $2.46 million NSW Government grant.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies today announced the grant would fund a major collaborative project to map the genetics of 1200 people in NSW with bipolar disorder.
“This grant is a real game changer. It will allow researchers to apply cutting-edge science to find answers to how this significant mental health condition is influenced by genetics,” Mr Hazzard said.
“By providing researchers with access to the latest genomics technology, the NSW Government is playing a part in establishing the state as a national and international leader in genomic medicine.”
Mrs Davies said about 250,000 people are affected by bipolar disorder in Australia.
“They face a range of issues, including reduced life expectancy due to increased risk of suicide and higher rates of severe cardiovascular disease,” Mrs Davies said.
“This project has the potential to identify the genetic makeup of people living with bipolar disorder and discover if they would benefit from personalised treatment.”
Led by Dr Janice Fullerton at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), researchers from multiple organisations will utilise whole genome sequencing techniques for the project.
“Bipolar disorder is most commonly treated with lithium, but this is only effective for 30 per cent of patients,” Dr Fullerton said.
The funding, from the latest round of NSW Genomics Collaborative Grants, will enable access to a sequencing facility at the Garvan Institute and involve researchers at the Sax Institute, NeuRA, Black Dog Institute, UNSW and the Prince of Wales Hospital.
The Office for Health and Medical Research will release details about future funding for genomic medicine research later this year.
For more information please visit .

Full Pokies ‘Pre-Commitment Systems’ Needed

Media Release — 5 September 2017
Australians need the protection of full ‘pre-commitment systems’ to reduce the financial and social harm from poker machines, according to a discussion paper released today by the Australian Gambling Research Centre.

Eight per cent of the Australian adult population – or 1.4million people  – experience some degree of gambling problem. Of these almost half are moderate or high risk gamblers, with poker machines the most harmful form of gambling in Australia.

Australians need the protection of full ‘pre-commitment systems’ to reduce the financial and social harm from poker machines, according to a discussion paper released today by the Australian Gambling Research Centre.

Eight per cent of the Australian adult population – or 1.4million people  – experience some degree of gambling problem. Of these almost half are moderate or high risk gamblers, with poker machines the most harmful form of gambling in Australia.

Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) Manager, Dr Anna Thomas said to be the most effective there needs to be a universal pre-commitment system for poker machines that operates across all jurisdictions with binding loss limits.

“Full pre-commitment systems require gamblers to set a binding limit on the amount of money they wish to spend before a gambling session starts,” Dr Thomas said.

“This can help people to manage how much money they spend and can reduce the harm for gamblers who are already chronically over-spending.

“The evidence from trials here and overseas indicates that binding, universal systems provide the best protection from harm. However, these systems are not yet available in Australia.”

Currently full pre-commitment systems operate in Norway and Sweden and partial systems have been trialled in venues in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. In 2015, Victoria became the first state to adopt a partial, voluntary pre-commitment system.

AGRC Research Fellow, Dr Angela Rintoul said poker machine users often underestimate their gambling expenditure by substantial amounts and commonly report spending more than they intended.

“Poker machines are designed using increasingly sophisticated structural characteristics, such as ‘losses disguised as wins’ and ‘near misses’ that encourage users to spend more money and time on them.” Dr Rintoul said.

“In Australia, unlike most other countries, gaming machines are highly accessible and available for use in local hotels and clubs for up to 20 hours a day.

“Pre-commitment can provide a way for gamblers to set and track monetary and time limits to prevent unintended, excessive pokies use.

“However, partial systems that don’t require all gamblers to use the system may be ineffective in supporting gamblers to stick to pre-determined limits.

“Experiences internationally and in Australia have demonstrated that the uptake of voluntary or partial pre-commitment systems is low.

“A full, universal system – where an individual’s spending on all machines is captured – is the most useful in ensuring gamblers are prevented from exceeding their limits.

“Evidence demonstrates that pre-commitment features help gamblers reduce their expenditure.

“A South Australian trial of pre-commitment measures in 70 venues reported high risk gamblers reduced their spending by 56 per cent.”

Dr Rintoul said pre-commitment systems must be intuitive and simple to navigate to encourage engagement with all features of the system as well as protecting consumers’ privacy.

“It is also important not to link pre-commitment systems to venue operator loyalty programs,” she said. “This can send conflicting messages to consumers who on the one hand are being rewarded for increasing their spending while also being offered a tool to contain their spending.

“Despite this obvious conflict, a number of systems have adopted this model, including the partial pre-commitment system in Victoria.”

Access the 

The Australian Gambling Research Centre is based at the Australian Institute of Family Studies; the Australian Government's key research body in the area of family wellbeing. AIFS conducts original research to increase understanding of Australian families and the issues that affect them. Go to:

High Court Decision On Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey

7 September 2017
Joint media release
Attorney General
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Acting Special Minister of State
Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
The Government welcomes the decision by the High Court of Australia today to confirm the validity of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.
We have always been confident, that the process we adopted to deliver on our commitment, to give Australians a say on whether or not the law on marriage should be changed to allow same sex couples to marry, was consistent with all the relevant requirements.

The Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey will now proceed as planned, with the ABS starting to mail out survey forms from 12 September 2017 onwards.

A final result will be declared by the Australian Statistician at 11.30am on 15 November 2017.

The Government intends to move swiftly now with proposed legislation to provide for relevant additional safeguards to complement existing legal protections and to support the fair and proper conduct of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.

We encourage all Australians on the Electoral Roll and eligible to vote in an election to have their say by returning their completed survey forms as soon as possible.

And we encourage all those involved in campaigning for either the Yes or No cases to do so with courtesy and respect.

The Government thanks the Solicitor-General, Dr Stephen Donaghue QC and his legal team for their hard work and skilful advocacy.

Quantum Tech Has Its Sights Set On Human Biochemistry

September 6, 2017

Electron spin image of copper (II) ions in a patterned region of the diamond defined by the kangaroo. The scale bar in the image is 10 micrometers.
Credit: David Simpson

Australian scientists have developed a new tool for imaging life at the nanoscale that will provide new insights into the role of transition metal ions such as copper in neuro-degenerative diseases.

In a new paper published in Nature Communications, a team of researchers at the University of Melbourne reveal a "quantum kangaroo" that demonstrates a way to detect and image electronic spins non-invasively with ambient sensitivities and resolution orders of magnitude never before achieved. The breakthrough will provide physicians and researchers with a new tool for probing the role transition metal ions play in biology and disease.

Electron spin resonance (ESR) techniques have been a mainstay in understanding biochemical processes in biological systems. Yet ESR has not seen the rapid growth compared to its sister technology, nuclear magnetic resonance, which is now a mature technology used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look inside the body.

Both ESR and NMR apply a magnetic field to image molecules, but unlike NMR, ESR can reveal biochemistry related to metal ions and free radicals. The challenge is that in biological systems the detectable concentration of electron spins is many orders of magnitude lower than nuclear spins. Hence, the roadblock for the development of ESR-based imaging techniques has been the sensitivity required -- typically billions of electronic spins have been needed to generate a sufficient signal for successful imaging.

Enter: quantum technology. A team led by Professor Lloyd Hollenberg has used a specially engineered array of quantum probes in diamond to demonstrate non-invasive ESR imaging with sub-cellular resolution. Remarkably, the system is able to image and interrogate very small regions containing only a few thousand electron spins.

"The sensing and imaging technology we are developing enables us to view life in completely new ways, with greater sensitivity and resolution derived from the fundamental interactions of sample and probe at the quantum mechanical level," said Hollenberg, who is Deputy Director of the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) and Thomas Baker Chair at the University of Melbourne.

"This dramatic improvement in ESR imaging technology is an exciting development and a clear demonstration of how quantum technology can be used to enhance signal sensitivity and provide solutions to long standing problems, for example probing human biochemistry at even finer scales."

Scaling ESR technology down to sub-micron resolution has been challenging because such a reduction in spatial resolution requires substantially better sensitivity. However, this is precisely what quantum probes offer -- high sensitivity with high spatial resolution.

By generating an array of quantum probes in diamond, using the material's unique nitrogen-vacancy colour centre, the interdisciplinary research team was able to image and detect electronic spin species at the diffraction limit of light, 300 nanometres. Critically, the sensing technology is able to provide spectroscopic information on the particular source of electronic spins being imaged.

Dr David Simpson, lead author and co-head of sensing and imaging at the Centre for Neural Engineering said that the technology can provide new insight into the role transition metal ions play in biology.

"Transition metal ions are implicated in several neuro-degenerative diseases, however, little is known about their concentration and oxidation state within living cells," he said.

"We aim to adapt this new form of sensing to begin probing such effects in a range of biological systems."

One of the unique advantages of quantum-based sensing is that it does not interfere with the sample being imaged. Other approaches rely on fluorescent molecules binding to particular targets of interest. While these approaches are species-specific, they modify the functionality and availability of the target species being imaged.

PhD student and co-author on the paper Robert Ryan explained the technique.

"Our technique relies on passive, non-invasive detection of electronic spins by observing their interaction with the quantum probe array," said Ryan.

"By carefully tuning an external magnet into resonance with the quantum probes, we are able to listen to the magnetic noise created by the sample's electronic spins. Different electronic spin species have different resonance conditions; therefore we are able to detect and image various electronic spin targets."

A key to the success of the work was collaboration among the team members, who were drawn from different research centres across the university.

"The interdisciplinary aspect of this research helped push the boundaries of what is possible," said Professor Paul Mulvaney, co-author and Director of the Centre for Exciton Science in the School of Chemistry at the University of Melbourne.

"From a chemistry perspective, it is surprising to see that a fragile quantum system can accommodate the fluctuating environment encountered in ?real' chemical systems and the inherent fluctuations in the environment of ions undergoing ligand rearrangement. The complementary expertise within chemistry, physics and neuroscience has led to this advance."

David A. Simpson et al. Electron paramagnetic resonance microscopy using spins in diamond under ambient conditions. Nature Communications, September 2017 DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00466-y

Former Top Regulator Appointed To Australian Maritime Safety Authority Board

04 September 2017: Media Release - The Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
A former CEO of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), with extensive experience in managing financial and resource sector institutions, has been appointed to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Board.

Announcing the appointment of Ms Jane Cutler today, Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said her knowledge and experience would assist the board in its deliberations on a wide range of issues critical to the ongoing successful management of Australia's maritime safety interests.

“Having been a CEO of NOPSEMA and President of Woodside Energy, Ms Cutler possesses considerable knowledge of environmental and energy sector issues relevant to AMSA's operations,” Mr Chester said.

“She has also held positions as a director, business development manager and environmental and safety coordinator at BHP; as an engineer at Esso Australia Ltd; and is currently an advisor with the World Bank.”

Mr Chester said the AMSA Board was responsible for overseeing AMSA's resources and finances and helping to chart the authority's longer term course.

“Ms Cutler's corporate and regulatory expertise, together with her formal qualifications in business administration, environmental studies and chemical and materials engineering, makes her an invaluable addition to the board,” he said.

“Her three-year appointment will help ensure the board continues to provide AMSA with the leadership and advice it requires to maintain Australia's maritime safety capabilities and environmental protection standards at best-practice levels.”

Targeted Tax Measures To Improve Housing Affordability

September 7, 2017: Joint media release with
The  Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Treasuer and The Hon Michael Sukkar MP, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer

The Turnbull Government is moving forward on the housing affordability package announced in the Budget.

Legislation introduced into the Parliament today will:
  • enable prospective first home buyers to save for a deposit inside superannuation through the First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSSS)
  • allow older Australians to contribute the proceeds of the sale of their family home to superannuation
  • better target deductions relating to residential investment properties
and boost the availability of rental accommodation in the market
First Home Super Saver Scheme
The FHSSS legislation will enable prospective first home buyers to save for a deposit inside their superannuation account. This will be a game changer for young Australians trying to get their first place.

Individuals can contribute up to $30,000 (up to $15,000 a year within existing caps) into superannuation and will be able to withdraw the contributions from 1 July 2018. These contributions, along with deemed earnings, can be withdrawn for a deposit with withdrawals taxed at a marginal tax rate less a 30 per cent offset.

For most people, the FHSSS will enable them to boost the savings they can put towards a deposit by 30 per cent compared with saving through a standard deposit account. This will give prospective first home buyers a significant step up at a time when saving for a deposit is becoming increasingly difficult for many people.

The downsizing measure will allow older Australians to contribute proceeds from the sale of their family home into their superannuation accounts. Many older Australians will be attracted to take up this concession and in so doing vacate larger properties which no longer suit their needs.

From 1 July 2018, people aged over 65 will be able to make an additional non-concessional contribution of up to $300,000 into superannuation when they sell their home which they’ve held for at least ten years. Both members of a couple can take advantage of this measure, meaning up to $600,000 of contributions may be made by a couple from the proceeds of selling their home.

This will encourage people, who may have been put off by existing restrictions and caps, to move house and free up larger homes for growing families.

Protecting Negative Gearing
The Government’s housing integrity measure will restore integrity to the tax treatment of residential investment properties. The Government will disallow claims for travel expense deductions and limit plant and equipment depreciation deductions to new assets only.

From 1 July 2017, travel costs for individual investors inspecting and maintaining residential investment properties will no longer be deductible. This will improve the integrity of the tax system by preventing residential property investors from taking holidays at the taxpayers’ expense.

By limiting plant and equipment depreciation deductions the Government is cracking down on investment property abuse by removing the existing opportunities for capital items to be depreciated by multiple owners in excess of their actual value.

These measures have been subject to extensive public consultation. The Government has responded to stakeholders’ feedback by enabling investors to claim plant and equipment depreciation deductions in situations where a developer/renovator tenants a property prior to selling it to an investor, provided the property is:
  1. Purchased by an investor within six months of the property being completed by a developer/renovator; and
  2. The developer/renovator has not claimed depreciation deductions.
Together, the travel and plant and equipment deduction changes will improve the integrity of the tax system and are estimated to generate $800 million in revenue over the forward estimates.

Vacancy Levy
The Government’s foreign resident vacancy levy and will implement an annual vacancy charge on foreign owners of residential real estate where property is not occupied or genuinely available on the rental market for at least six months in a 12 month period.

The vacancy charge builds on the Government’s existing foreign investment regime to increase the number of houses available to live in. The charge provides a financial incentive for the foreign owner to make their property available on the rental market.

The vacancy charge applies to foreign persons who make a foreign investment application for residential property from 7:30PM (AEST) on 9 May 2017.

The Australia Taxation Office, responsible for residential real estate applications under the foreign investment framework, will administer the vacancy charge.

Through the comprehensive housing affordability package announced in the Budget, the Government is radically improving outcomes across the entire housing spectrum, from first home buyers, to renters, to downsizers, to those in community and affordable housing, and those suffering homelessness. This is getting on with it.

Appointment Of Dr. James Renwick SC As Independent National Security Legalisation Monitor

07 September 2017
Prime Minister, The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull
I am pleased to announce the Governor-General has appointed Dr James Renwick SC as Australia’s Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. Dr Renwick has been acting as the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor since early 2017.

The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor performs an important role in ensuring that Australia’s national security and counter-terrorism legislation accords with the rule of law and is applied in a manner consistent with Australia’s human rights obligations.

Dr Renwick’s appointment demonstrates the Government’s ongoing commitment to national security. As an eminent barrister, Dr Renwick brings a wealth of legal expertise and a strong understanding of national security issues and the operation of relevant security agencies.

Dr Renwick is currently Senior Counsel at 12 Wentworth Selborne Chambers in Sydney and has been a senior member of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal since 2014. He was appointed Senior Counsel in 2011 and was formerly a Principal Legal Officer at the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and Northern Territory Department of Law.

I congratulate Dr Renwick on his appointment.

Agriculture Now Largest Contributor To National GDP Growth And Fastest Growing Economic Sector

7 September 2017: Media Release - Deputy Prime Minister, National Party Leader and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, The Hon. Barnaby Joyce

  • Australian agriculture the largest contributor to national GDP growth in 2016-17, contributing 0.5 percentage points of national total 1.9 per cent growth.
  • The agricultural sector also grew the fastest of all 19 industries in 2016-17—up a formidable 23 per cent.
  • Livestock and cropping industries major contributors, but other billion dollar agriculture industries also significant.
Under the leadership of the Coalition Government, Australian agriculture has emerged as the fastest growing sector and the largest contributor to national GDP growth in 2016-17, cementing its position as one of the economic powerhouses driving the nation.​

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the agriculture sector grew the fastest of all 19 industries in 2016-17—up a formidable 23 per cent—particularly driven by the grains and livestock industries, but with other agricultural industries also performing strongly.  

“Australian agriculture contributed 0.5 percentage points of the nation’s total 1.9 per cent growth over the course of the year, an outstanding contribution given the size of the sector compared to total national GDP,” Minister Joyce said.

“The Coalition Government has a real vision for Australia’s agriculture sector and from day one we have delivered practical policies and genuine investment to turn the show around and transform agriculture in this nation.

“I hate to think what the state of agriculture and the support for our farmers would be under Labor, I don’t even think they have an agriculture policy—have nothing to say on the subject.”

Agriculture contributed over $50 billion in exports in 2016-17, just under 14 per cent of our total goods and services exports. This is up from $41 billion five years ago.

“While grains and livestock products each contributed around $10 billion each to this export performance, other agricultural industries are also billion dollar performers. For example, in 2016-17 our pulses exports to the world were worth over $3 billion, wine exports $2.4 billion, nuts exports $822 million and citrus over $330 million,” Minister Joyce said.

“Australia has seen great growth in produce to markets such as India. India is going nuts for Australia’s nuts with value of almond exports up over 50 per cent for the first half of 2017. Chickpea exports to India increased by almost 90 per cent in 2016-17 to a record value of $1.1 billion.”

Minister Joyce said strong growth has seen China overtake the US as our most valuable market for wine for the first time ever. Wine exports to China totalled $596 million in 2016–17, a 43 per cent increase on the previous year. 

“The Coalition Government has delivered strong agriculture policies, including opening up market access for Australian producers to some of the nation’s most important export markets, including free trade deals with China, Japan and Korea,” Minister Joyce said.

“Through the Coalition’s $4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper we have been working to create a better business environment for farmers, and to build the infrastructure needed to support continued growth—through a whole raft of policies, which our agriculture sector is responding to with enthusiasm. 

“These policies and investments have provided a solid foundation for growth, and it is great to see how effectively Aussie farmers are capitalising on the opportunities on offer to increase production and exports.”

Fast facts
Gross value of farm production is estimated by ABARES to have reached a record $62.8 billion in 2016-17.
The value of farm exports alone is estimated by ABARES to have reached a record $48 billion in 2016-17, plus fisheries exports of around $1.4 billion and forestry product exports of over $3 billion. 
Total value of Australian nut exports was $822 million in 2016-17, with India the largest market for Australian nuts at a value of $143 million. ​

Australia Awards 2018

Media release: 7 September 2017 - Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop MP
Today I announce the Australian Government will provide more than 3,700 Australia Awards Scholarships and Fellowships in 2018 to emerging leaders from 40 countries in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, to study in Australia and the Pacific.

The Government will contribute $320 million from our aid program to the Australia Awards in 2018, funding 1,272 Scholarships for study at Australian institutions and 94 Fellowship grants involving 1,136 fellows across 48 Australian host organisations. Australian hosts include government agencies, universities, research centres, national sports organisations, NGOs and industry bodies.

The 2018 Australia Awards program will also provide funding for 950 Australia Awards short courses and 345 scholarships for study at universities in the Pacific.

The Awards offer the next generation of global leaders an opportunity to undertake study, research and professional development which will help them contribute to development in their home countries. Students will acquire knowledge, skills and cultivate networks across a range of areas, including engineering, education, health, agriculture and public sector management.

The Australia Awards complement the work of the Government’s New Colombo Plan, which is supporting more than 30,000 Australian undergraduates to live, study and work in the Indo-Pacific region. Australia’s international alumni are influencers and leaders in their home countries, and through our Global Alumni Strategy, we grow a community that strengthens and maintains our regional connections.

Together, the New Colombo Plan and the Australia Awards deepen Australia’s engagement with the region and facilitate genuine two-way educational exchange.

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.