Inbox and environment News: Issue 359

May 13 - 19, 2018: Issue 359

Our Budget Analysis – Coal, Climate, Reef

May 9, 2018: Media release - Australian Conservation Foundation
I’ve just stepped out of the federal budget lockup – a night when bespectacled boffins like me pore over a big pile of budget papers in a locked room.

I have to tell you, it doesn’t look good.

If you breathe air, live on Planet Earth or love nature, this was a bad budget.

A budget is about finance and economic decisions – but it's really about values. It’s about how our elected representatives choose, on our behalf, to spend our public money. What is most important, and what is least important?

Here’s how this budget stacks up:

A good government would stop companies digging up and burning coal – it’s damaging our climate and fuelling fire-storms, heatwaves, cyclones and floods.

This budget? The Turnbull Government’s listening to the coal barons, not the people. They’re giving Big Coal special treatment and actually paying big mining and big agricultural companies to keep burning diesel, pumping out pollution and damaging our climate.

This bonanza of fuel tax credit subsidies will cost the Australian people $6.9 billion in public money next year, and $29.9 billion to 2021-22.

Coal mining companies alone will receive over $1 billion a year in diesel fuel subsidies over the forward estimates.

And some of the world’s biggest and most polluting mining companies, like BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Glencore, will pay no tax on the fuel they use.

The World Bank, the OECD and other major international financial institutions are urging countries like Australia to rapidly end coal, gas and oil subsidies, as they just encourage companies to fuel more climate pollution.

So why on earth is the Turnbull Government choosing to subsidise and prop up polluting companies with a hefty chunk of public money, as they profoundly damage our climate?

A good government would make a plan to stop climate pollution and ramp up clean energy fast – so we can power our cities and towns with energy from the sun and wind. It’s clean, abundant and good for our communities and our planet.

This budget? They've been sweet-talked by the coal lobby to sabotage clean energy and keep us handcuffed to burning polluting fuels like coal, gas and oil.

The Turnbull government has chosen to slash investment in – you guessed it – cutting climate pollution. In 2017-18, the government spent $3 billion. This year, that’ll drop to $1.6 billion, and drop again to a just $1.25 billion in 2021-22. It's just climate change, the biggest issue of our times.

They’ve chosen not to give any more funding to the Emissions Reduction Fund – so there’s no financial support for industry and landowners to cut their pollution.

The Treasurer actually used his budget speech to confirm the government will stick to its ridiculously low 2030 pollution reduction targets.

While the Turnbull Government has largely chosen to push its polluting fuel-focused National Energy Guarantee proposal, it is still to deliver a comprehensive plan make Australia’s economy pollution-free.

This budget also gives no indication about how the Turnbull Government will cut rising pollution from rising from transport, heavy industry and agriculture. 

Our Great Barrier Reef is in serious trouble, with back to back bleaching two years in a row. A good government would rapidly cut climate pollution and prioritise coral resilience to give our beautiful reef a chance.

While it’s great the budget includes some funding to improve water quality, tackle crown-of-thorns starfish and build coral resilience, the Great Barrier Reef is in dire trouble. It needs sustained and increased funding to stop run off and meet the water quality targets that have been promised to the international community.

Most critically, this budget does very little to stop the biggest threat to the reef’s survival – climate pollution.

The clear majority of the Great Barrier Reef resilience package will be gone in the current budget year (2017-18). Not all the reef package is new money, with the budget papers indicating a redirection from previously announced funding. It is unclear how much has been redirected.

Really, this budget is just tinkering at the edges while the reef cooks on the Turnbull Government’s watch.

A good government would try to save our endangered wildlife – the thousands of possums, plants and critical ecosystems under threat.

They've made a deliberate decision not to invest in protecting wildlife at the brink of extinction. They've refused to help the scientists who know how to save our endangered species – their recovery plans are just sitting there gathering dust, with no funding to put them into practice. This budget puts in jeopardy threatened whole species of creatures like Leadbeater’s Possums, Palm Cockatoos and Southern Corroboree Frogs. 

A good government would focus on cutting climate pollution, stopping environmental destruction, mending the damage and looking after nature.

Instead, this government has chosen to slash environmental spending by 37 per cent since 2013-14 – even through the overall federal budget has actually increased by 18 per cent.

This is a values choice by the Turnbull Government not to care for our climate, the air we breathe, the water we drink or the web of life we're part of.

Planning for our future means making smart decisions about the world we want to live in. It means making choices to spend public money wisely – in a way that creates the conditions for the whole community of our living world to thrive.

Tonight, we survey the damage. 

First thing tomorrow, let's get back to work building a massive wave of people power to stand up to the coal lobby and demand our elected representatives make better choices. 

Because government decisions today shape the world – and climate – of people today and the generations that follow.

Economist at Australian Conservation Foundation.
  • A projected 43% cut to the environment budget from when the Coalition Government won office in 2013 out to the end of the forward estimates in 2021-22.
  • $1.2 billion overall environment budget for 2017-18. Projected $880 million budget for 2018-19.
  • $30 billion for the diesel fuel tax credits scheme across the forward estimates, almost nine times the environment budget.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has condemned the 2018-19 Federal Budget for pushing through more damaging environment cuts and continuing reckless fossil fuel subsidies.

ACF Chief Executive Officer, Kelly O’Shanassy, said a good government would have cut handouts to coal, gas and oil corporations, increased Australia’s clean energy and invested in restoring our precious rivers, forests and wildlife.

Instead, since 2013-14 environment investment has been cut by 37 per cent, while the overall federal budget has grown 18 per cent, taking the proportion of the overall budget invested in the environment to just 2 cents on the dollar.

“This is a reckless budget that actively encourages climate pollution, invests little in clean energy and slashes investment in Australia’s wildlife, forests and rivers,” Ms O’Shanassy said.

“This is a values choice by the Turnbull Government to slash investment in the clean water, healthy country and safe climate that sustains all Australians.

“It is a deliberate decision not to invest in halting Australia’s shameful species extinction record and puts in jeopardy our precious threatened creatures like the Leadbeater’s Possum, Palm Cockatoo and Southern Corroboree Frog.

“And while its slashing investment for our natural world, the Turnbull Government has maintained the subsidy for big miners and large agriculture corporations to keep burning diesel and produce climate pollution.

“Coal mining companies alone will receive over $1 billion a year in diesel fuel subsidies over the forward estimates.

“We welcome the investment in the resilience of our Great Barrier Reef, noting that it is not all new money. But this budget does little to stop the biggest threat to the reef’s survival – climate pollution.” 

Fossil Fuel Subsidies
  • No reform of the fuel tax credit subsidy, which will cost Australians $6.9 billion next year and $29.9 billion to 2021-22.
“This budget ensures that some of the world’s biggest mining companies, like BHP, Rio Tinto and Glencore, will pay no tax at all on the off-road fuel they use,” Ms O’Shanassy said.

“The World Bank, the OECD and other major international financial institutions are urging countries like Australia to abandon coal, gas and oil subsidies that encourage more climate pollution. So why is the Turnbull Government paying big polluting companies to wreck our climate and harm our communities for short-term gain?”

Climate Change and Clean Energy
  • Investment in cutting climate pollution will fall from $3 billion in 2017-18 to $1.6 billion in 2018-19, and is projected to drop further to $1.25 billion by 2021-22.
  • No further funding for the Emission Reduction Fund.
The Treasurer used his budget speech to confirm the government is sticking to its lowball 2030 pollution reduction targets.

“While the Turnbull Government has largely focus on its underwhelming National Energy Guarantee proposal, it is still to deliver a comprehensive plan to make Australia’s economy pollution free,” Ms O’Shanassy said.

“This budget gives Australians no indication of how the Turnbull Government will cut rising pollution from areas such as transport, heavy industry and agriculture.

“And there is no more money for the Emissions Reduction Fund, meaning the cupboard is bare for incentives to encourage industry and landowners to cut their pollution.” 

  • Clear majority of Great Barrier Reef resilience package will be spent in the current budget year (2017-18).
  • Not all the reef package is new money, with the budget papers indicating a redirection from previously announced funding. It is unclear how much has been redirected. 
“We welcome the increased investment in the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef through improving water quality, tackling crown of thorns and critical research,” Ms O’Shanassy said.

“But the Great Barrier Reef needs sustained and increased funding to stop pollution run-off and to meet the water quality targets that have been promised to the international community. We look forward to future investments in building the resilience of our reef.

“Australia is a beautiful country with unique wildlife and amazing places. But for all its natural beauty, the sad reality is that Australia is losing places we love like our native woodlands, and animals we love like the koala. Our government must protect our parks, rivers and forests for our wildlife and all Australians.”

EPA Fines Australian Native Landscapes $15,000 For Inappropriate Storage Of Materials

May 8, 2018: EPA Media release
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Australian Native Landscapes (ANL) $15,000 for the inappropriate storage of materials at their Cooranbong composting facility.

EPA officers inspected the site in early January 2018 and found above ground tanks including drums, chemical containers and intermediate bulk containers containing oil, solvents and transmission fluids stored in the workshop without bunding or a spill containment system in place.

EPA Manager Regional Waste Compliance Cate Woods said if released to the environment, the liquids stored in above ground tanks would cause environmental harm.

“Inappropriate storage of materials can result in pollution including impacts on local waterways in the event of a spill and a lack of containment,” Ms Woods said.

“Environment Protection Licences detail strict conditions. Compliance with conditions is not optional – they outline the specific rules and conditions waste facilities must operate by to ensure minimal risk to the environment.”

ANL has now installed bunds in the workshop to ensure the materials are stored safely.

Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions. For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at

Budget Delivers For Energy, Reef And Environment

May 8, 2018: Media release - The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for the Environment and Energy
The Turnbull Government is taking strong action to reduce energy prices.

We are committed to giving Australian households and businesses affordable, reliable energy, while also meeting our international commitments.

The Government is powering forward with a $41.5 million investment to help keep the lights on and to put downward pressure on power bills.

An investment of $28.7 million over five years from 2017-18 will allow the Government to push ahead with its national leadership on energy policy, including:
  • the design and development of Australia’s first integrated climate and energy policy in the form of the National Energy Guarantee;
  • the implementation of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market (Finkel Review);
  • better forecasting and modelling to ensure the security and resilience of Australia’s energy infrastructure;
  • the creation of a consumer access data platform which will empower consumers to get a better deal on their power bill by giving them more information about their energy usage;
  • allowing the Commonwealth to continue leading the work of the COAG Energy Council in pursuing our ambitious energy agenda along with state and territory governments; and
  • improving the functioning of Australia’s gas market by following up the Prime Minister’s agreement with LNG exporters and continuing to address market transparency, liquidity and competition issues.
This leadership role also requires that the Government receives the best and most up-to-date advice regarding Australia’s energy future. We will invest $12.8 million over six years from 2018-19 in revitalised energy security and resilience assessments as recommended by the Finkel Review, with an additional $4.9 million every three years from 2024-25.

The energy security and resilience assessments include an accelerated examination of Australia’s domestic liquid fuel security to be completed by the end of this year. Australia’s liquid fuel supply increasingly depends on overseas sources and relies on market forces to maintain reliability and affordability. The assessment will identify whether the Government should take further steps to ensure Australia’s domestic fuel supply is reliable.

Our prudent Budget management allows us to make targeted investments to improve the health and resilience of our environment.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure and a national treasure supporting 64,000 jobs. The health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef will benefit from $535.8 million over five years from 2017-18. This investment accelerates the delivery of the $2 billion joint Australian and Queensland Government Reef 2050 Plan.

Through an innovative Reef Trust partnership, $443.8 million of this significant investment will be delivered with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Combined with funding from philanthropic and other sources, the initiative will improve water quality, control crown-of-thorns starfish and boost science for reef restoration.

The on-water management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will also receive a boost, with $22.3 million over five years and $10.2 million each year beyond this to expand the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s environmental management and compliance operations across the World Heritage Area.

Other Budget initiatives in the Environment portfolio include:
  • commitment to a world class Antarctic science program with around $13 million each year to ensure Australian science remains at the heart of our internationally recognised Antarctic program, safeguarding the polar region;
  • funding to improve the Bureau of Meteorology’s ICT systems and weather observations network. The investment will assist the Bureau to deliver critical services across the Australian economy, including to the aviation, emergency services, agriculture and defence sectors; and
  • a new flagship national heritage program providing up to $5.3 million in grants each year to managers of heritage sites and other groups, working in the community to protect and promote places on Australia’s National Heritage List. This will replace two existing programs.
This package of Budget measures are part of our plan to grow jobs and enterprise by ensuring access to affordable and reliable power while protecting our environment for generations to come.

Nominations Open For 2018 NSW Green Globe Awards

Sustainability leaders and innovators can now be nominated for the 19th annual Green Globe Awards, Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton announced today (April 17, 2018).

Ms Upton said the environmental awards honour people and projects across all sectors in NSW, with past winners setting the standard for a sustainable and clean NSW.

“The Green Globe Awards are a fantastic way to showcase the sustainability leaders who are inspiring environmental action and making a real difference in our communities,” Ms Upton said.

“I really encourage everyone to nominate leading sustainability initiatives out there – whether you’re a tiny social enterprise or a large organisation and everyone in between.”

The Green Globe Awards invite a diverse range of entries for 10 categories of awards, including business and community leadership, resource efficiency, Young Sustainability Champion and the ‘Best of the Best’ Premier’s Award for Environmental Excellence.

“You can nominate yourself or others working in sustainability in any sector – from fashion to food, built environment to biodiversity,” Ms Upton said.

“Last year we saw amazing finalists from micro-breweries to floating solar farms, from sustainable food education initiatives to seaweed research.”

Luke Menzel, Lead Chair of the Green Globe Awards judging panel, said that judges are impressed every year by the high standard of applications.

"The energy and enthusiasm we see in Green Globe Award candidates is always inspiring, and we're looking forward to another great showing in 2018," Mr Menzel said.

The Awards will be judged by a panel of independent experts and presented at a gala awards night on 4 October 2018.

Nominations are now open until 5pm on 8 June 2018. For more information and to nominate visit Green Globe Awards.

Permaculture Northern Beaches 2018 Events

Manly • Warringah • Pittwater | Sydney
Permaculture Northern Beaches (PNB) is an active local group based on Sydney's Northern Beaches.  Our parent body is  Permaculture Sydney North.

PNB hold monthly permaculture related events on the 4th Thursday of each month at 7:15pm at the  Nelson Heather Community Centre,  Banksia Room, 5 Jacksons Rd, Warriewood

Draft Plans Of Management For NSW Reserves, State And National Parks: Have Your Say

The Mother of Ducks Lagoon Nature Reserve Draft Plan of Management is now available for review and comment.
Public exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for members of the community to have a say in the future management of Mother of Ducks Lagoon Nature Reserve.

The draft plan of management is on public exhibition until 18 June 2018 and anyone can review the plan and provide comments.

The Toorale National Park and Toorale State Conservation Area Draft Plan of Management is available for public review and comment. The exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for members of the community to have a say in future management directions for the parks. 
Submissions must be received by 7 May 2018.

The Bobbiwaa Parks Draft Plan of Management covers Bobbiwaa State Conservation Area, Couradda National Park, Killarney State Conservation Area and Moema National Parkand is now available for public review and comment. The exhibition of the draft plan provides an important opportunity for members of the community to have a say in future management directions for these parks. 
Submissions must be received by 21 May 2018.

Pittwater Reserves

Northern Beaches Water Dragon Survey Evening Workshop 

Thanks so much for taking part in the Dragons of Sydney survey. We got about 977 survey responses in total– which is absolutely brilliant.
You noted that you were interested in being alerted to workshops about the results of the Eastern Water Dragon Backyard survey. 

Following are details about a workshop for respondents from the Northern Beaches.

Thursday 17th May, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Location: The Coastal Environment Centre
Entrance Pelican Path, Narrabeen Lagoon, Lake Park Road, North Narrabeen 

Little-researched but full of character, discover where and how Eastern Water Dragons survive in our busy city and what threats they face. Find out ways to make your garden dragon-friendly as part of the latest research into this iconic species. Presented by Stephanie Clark of the Dragons of Sydney Project.

Please respond to this email if you intend to attend the workshop.

Stephanie Clark
Citizen Science Officer
National Parks Association of NSW

Where Have All The Rangers Gone? 

(The Dingo's Breakfast + NSW voters)
Published May 7, 2018 by Wayne Richmond
Protest song by local group Loosely Woven 7 friends. 
Our indigenous park rangers have been cut by a third (from 150 to 100) as an economy measure. There have been broadscale cutbacks in NSW NPWS staff as well. We need these rangers and NWPS staff to care for and preserve these parks.

Avalon Boomerang Bags Update: May 2018

Tuesday 8th May 2018
Last days of stitching at Kate's creative space - SewCraftCook - thanks again for sharing it with us over the past year.

Saturday 12th May - Stall outside Woolies Avalon 
Come & join us in the morning - spreading the word, promoting a plastic free environment and selling some of our beautiful "Bought to support" bags as well as other enviro friendly cups, toothbrushes, straws and cutlery sets name a few.

Can you help for an hour or two- please send an email or call Robyn 0412 314 754

Tuesday 15th May 2018
We're moving - back to The Avalon Recreation Centre.
Moving from 11am from SewCraftCook, 20/14 Polo Ave, Mona Vale back to the Recreation Centre.

We have several wonderful, amazing bodies lined up to help but if you're available please send an email to us. Thanks

Tuesday 22nd May 2018
We'll be ready to start creating our bags again from 11am - guaranteed the parking will be easier and the company terrific.  

Please come and join us.
We need sewers AND non-sewers , any enthusiastic body welcome. Please join us for an hour or two, even three or four. Pick up some fabric and create some bags at home, even help me create better newsletters.

Saturday 21st July
Avalon Car Boot Sale 8am-2pm Dunbar Park

It's on again- an awesome way for the community to clear those now unused items.

As well as our stall, we're having the "sausage sizzle", a great fundraiser for us......................thanks in advance to all our bar-b-quers, onion choppers and sandwich wrapperers.

Needing a few hands for this - it gives us great exposure and helps spread the message. Please reply or call Robyn for more info 0412 314 754

World Environment Day 2018 - Beat Plastic Pollution: If You Can’t Reuse It, Refuse It

Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for World Environment Day 2018, is a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. Chosen by this year’s host, India, the theme of World Environment Day 2018 invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife – and our own health.

While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences. Around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute. 500 billion disposable plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use.

Nearly one third of the plastic packaging we use escapes collection systems, which means that it ends up clogging our city streets and polluting our natural environment. Every year, up to 13 million tons of plastic leak into our oceans, where it smothers coral reefs and threatens vulnerable marine wildlife. The plastic that ends up in the oceans can circle the Earth four times in a single year, and it can persist for up to 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates.

Plastic also makes its way into our water supply – and thus into our bodies. What harm does that cause? Scientists still aren’t sure, but plastics contain a number of chemicals, many of which are toxic or disrupt hormones. Plastics can also serve as a magnet for other pollutants, including dioxins, metals and pesticides.

If you can’t reuse it, refuse it
This year’s World Environment Day provides an opportunity for each of us to embrace the many ways that we can help to combat plastic pollution around the world. And you don’t have to wait until 5 June to act.

There are so many things that we can do – from asking the restaurants you frequent to stop using plastic straws, to bringing your own coffee mug to work, to pressuring your local authorities to improve how they manage your city’s waste. Here are some other specific ideas:
  • Bring your own shopping bags to the supermarket
  • Pressure food suppliers to use non-plastic packagin
  • Refuse plastic cutlery
  • Pick up any plastic you see the next time you go for a walk on the beach
What else can we do to tackle this problem? Share your ideas on social media using the hashtag #BeatPlasticPollution.

Koala Strategy Will Save Australia's National Treasure

May 6, 2018: OE&H
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has today unveiled an unprecedented State strategy to protect Australia's iconic koala, including a special new koala hospital and major new reserves for the much-loved marsupial.

The NSW Government's Koala Strategy – the biggest commitment by any state government to secure koalas in the wild – will provide more natural habitat for koalas, tackle diseases, improve research and fix roadkill hotspots.

"Koalas are a national treasure. This strategy will ensure there are far more of them in the wild," Ms Berejiklian said.

"This unprecedented action is the first part of a long-term investment by the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government that will guarantee koalas have a very bright future in this State."

The centerpiece of the NSW Koala Strategy is setting aside large swathes of land where koalas can thrive and new habitats can be created.

"It is absolutely vital that we protect land where koalas currently live – and secure land where new koala colonies may exist in the future," said Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton.

"Initially, 24,538 hectares of state forest will be set aside for koalas – with more to come.

"This includes 4096 hectares of state forest with koala habitat on the Mid-North Coast that will be transferred to the national parks estate.

"A further 20,442 hectares of state forest with koala habitat will be set aside and managed as koala reserves. This includes state forests on the Far North Coast and in the Upper Hunter, Central Coast, Hawkesbury and Southern Highlands."

The NSW Government will commit $45 million for this strategy. This includes funding for further acquisitions of land that will be set aside for koala habitat.

In Port Stephens there will be a new $3 million koala hospital and tourism centre, providing specialist care for sick and injured koalas. Ultimately, it is envisaged that New South Wales will have a network of koala and wildlife hospitals.

On top of this there will be $4.5 million to boost koala rehabilitation across the State and deliver specialist training for veterinary surgeons and nurses. This will be done with help from experts at Taronga Zoo and tertiary institutions.

The NSW Government will also set up an injured koala hotline and fund new research into diseases affecting the marsupials. This includes trialing a chlamydia vaccine to decrease the incidence of the disease and increase healthy koala populations.

Large numbers of koalas are killed each year while crossing roads. The NSW Government will spend $3.3 million fixing roadkill hotspots, including Picton Road in Wollondilly where new fences will be built to prevent koalas getting on the road.

This will complement two existing wildlife underpasses that enable koalas to cross the road under safely.

The NSW Government will also draw up plans to reduce koala roadkill on Appin Road, Campbelltown.

Other measures in the NSW Koala Strategy include:
  • $8.9 million to improve our knowledge of koalas starting with the development of a statewide koala habitat database. This includes $2 million to research impacts of natural hazards and weather events on koalas.
  • $5 million for community initiatives to boost koala numbers, including planting new trees, provide water sources, pilot koala conservation areas on private land and eradicate weeds in existing koala habitats.
  • Rolling out a citizen scientist program that will allow local communities to identify and record koala sightings across the State.
  • The NSW Government will work in partnership with Taronga Zoo and tertiary institutions to increase wildlife care training for veterinarians and veterinary nurses.
The NSW Koala Strategy is the first phase of the NSW Government's response to an independent review into the decline of koala populations in key areas of New South Wales by the State's Chief Scientist & Engineer.

For more information about the NSW Koala Strategy, including a list of local projects, please visit: NSW Koala Strategy.

Endangered Loggerhead Turtle Hatchlings Released To The Wild

May 8, 2018: OE&H and NPWS
After 4 days in the care of volunteers from Australian Seabird Rescue (ASR), the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), with the help of NSW Fisheries, have released 65 rare and endangered Loggerhead turtle hatchlings back into the wild.
The loggerhead nest was first discovered by NPWS Rangers just over 3 months ago and they have been monitoring it ever since.

On Monday a concerned member of the public bought six unwell hatchlings in to the Byron NPWS office after discovering them struggling on the beach. NPWS Rangers determined they were from the monitored nest and decided to excavate the remaining hatchlings due to concerns for their survival if they were to be left in the nest any longer.

NPWS Ranger, Keely Markovina, said that it was pretty clear after excavating the nest that the hatchlings were not in great shape after incubating for 91 days.

"They were lethargic, cold and weak. We monitored them to see if they could make their own way into the ocean, but due to their condition and decent swells, the odds were not in their favour that day. We took them in to ASR for care for a few days to see how they'd go before releasing them".

"Given this species is in such trouble, we wanted to make sure we gave them every possible chance of surviving. So very few actually make it to adult breeding age anyway.

"They have had a lot thrown against them this season, including sand accretion, cool temperatures and tidal inundation in the nest.

"Regardless, this has been a big season for Loggerhead Turtle nests. We've recorded seven nests this season in the Byron-Tweed area. That's a lot. We usually get only one or two a season," Ms Markovina said.

A total of 65 turtle hatchlings were transported in a Fisheries boat almost 18 kilometres out to sea to be released by NPWS and ASR.

"Hopefully at least one makes it to maturity and one day comes back to nest in the same area." Ms Markovina said.

NPWS urges the community to report all sightings of turtle tracks, hatchlings and dead/injured turtles to their local NPWS office ASAP so that they can be managed for the conservation of the species.

Global Trade Spreads Deadly Frog Disease From Asia

May 10, 2018: James Cook University
New research has revealed a deadly disease that threatens the survival of the world's frogs originated from East Asia, and global trade was almost certainly responsible for the disease's spread.

The frog chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) has long been identified as a cause of the decline and extinction of species of amphibians across several continents since the 1970s.

It has spread around the world but until now it has remained unclear where killer strains of the pathogen first emerged.

An international team of researchers led by Imperial College London, including four scientists from the One Health Research Group at James Cook University, traced the ancestor of the pathogen to a single strain in East Asia.

Their findings support the idea that rather than dating back thousands of years, as previously thought, the range of the disease expanded greatly between 50 and 120 years ago, coinciding with the rapid global expansion of intercontinental trade.

According to the researchers, human movement of amphibians -- such as through the pet trade -- has directly contributed to spreading the pathogen around the world.

JCU's Dr Lee Skerratt, one of the authors of the paper, said the findings highlight the importance of global biosecurity measures.

"Australia has strict rules and regulations surrounding biosecurity and this finding confirms why regulations are so important," Dr Skerratt said.

"We hope this news will push policy change in countries with less strict biosecurity measures."

The team also uncovered additional strains of the fungus that could cause further species decline, highlighting the importance of strict biosecurity policies.

"If more strains are allowed to spread we could see additional extinctions," Dr Skerratt said.

"Countries need to act now to improve regulations before these additional strains spread."

Chytrid fungus causes a disease called chytridiomycosis that leads to heart failure, and is responsible for the decline or extinction of hundreds of species of frogs.

The paper, Recent Asian origin of chytrid fungi causing global amphibian declines, was published in Science today.

These findings come on the 20th anniversary of Dr Lee Berger's discovery during her PhD that the chytrid fungus is the cause of global amphibian species decline.

Dr Berger led the Australian contribution and was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Postdoctoral Fellow at James Cook University from 2004 to 2016.

Corroboree frog getting tested for chytrid. Credit: Image courtesy of James Cook University

Simon J. O’Hanlon, Adrien Rieux, Rhys A. Farrer, Gonçalo M. Rosa, Bruce Waldman, Arnaud Bataille, Tiffany A. Kosch, Kris A. Murray, Balázs Brankovics, Matteo Fumagalli, Michael D. Martin, Nathan Wales, Mario Alvarado-Rybak, Kieran A. Bates, Lee Berger, Susanne Böll, Lola Brookes, Frances Clare, Elodie A. Courtois, Andrew A. Cunningham, Thomas M. Doherty-Bone, Pria Ghosh, David J. Gower, William E. Hintz, Jacob Höglund, Thomas S. Jenkinson, Chun-Fu Lin, Anssi Laurila, Adeline Loyau, An Martel, Sara Meurling, Claude Miaud, Pete Minting, Frank Pasmans, Dirk S. Schmeller, Benedikt R. Schmidt, Jennifer M. G. Shelton, Lee F. Skerratt, Freya Smith, Claudio Soto-Azat, Matteo Spagnoletti, Giulia Tessa, Luís Felipe Toledo, Andrés Valenzuela-Sánchez, Ruhan Verster, Judit Vörös, Rebecca J. Webb, Claudia Wierzbicki, Emma Wombwell, Kelly R. Zamudio, David M. Aanensen, Timothy Y. James, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Ché Weldon, Jaime Bosch, François Balloux, Trenton W. J. Garner, Matthew C. Fisher. Recent Asian origin of chytrid fungi causing global amphibian declines. Science, 2018; 360 (6389): 621 DOI: 10.1126/science.aar1965

Incredible “Incubator Bird” To Be Saved By Rat Removal On Pacific Island

May 8, 2018: BirdLife International - report by Jessica Law
The Micronesian Scrubfowl Megapodius laperouse is a genius at inventing ways to keep its eggs warm. Those on the Northern Mariana Islands burrow into volcanic cinder fields or use the geothermal heat beneath the ground to warm their unhatched young. Across the Palau archipelago, they bury their eggs in large mounds of sun-soaked sand in beachside forests. Ingeniously, they incorporate the warmth of rotting vegetation into the construction, adding more to the pile to increase the heat of the nest, or removing it if it becomes too hot.

And that’s not the only remarkable thing about their upbringing, because Micronesian Scrubfowl chicks are super-precocial – meaning they hatch in a more mature condition than almost any other bird species. They emerge as fully-feathered miniature adults, ready to run, pursue prey and, almost uniquely among birds, can even fly on their first day of hatching.

But sadly, it seems they have been no match for rats. Invasive rats have been attacking bird nests and, without the timely intervention of a new project*, the Micronesian Scrubfowl’s extraordinary natural behaviours could have been lost forever. The species is currently classed as Endangered - and these birds aren’t the only ones feeling the devastation.

It started with a shipwreck
Kayangel Atoll in the Pacific Nation of Palau has been particularly hard hit by the rodent invasion. It all started with a shipwreck in the late 1980s. “Rats fleeing a sinking ship” is a well-known figure of speech, but in this case, it had very real repercussions. The rodents soon started to multiply. Kayangel’s 60 residents would go out to their fields to find their crops devoured or damaged before they could be harvested. For such a small island, with humans existing in a delicate balance with nature, this was particularly perturbing.

Ungilreng Takawo, Kayangel Island’s matriarch, explains the extent of the impact: “The presence of rats on the island caused many challenges for agriculture. The rats damaged our crops such as bananas, sweet potatoes, and corn. We welcome this project, and if successful, it will allow the local people to grow the crops they wish to grow.”

Heather Ketebengang from Palau Conservation Society (BirdLife Partner) said, “Palauans have long shared the land and waters with native plants and wildlife. Invasive rats disrupted this natural balance. Hopes are high for the future of Kayangel.”

Laying the bait
The project in question took the form of a grueling two-month marathon over March and April this year, with the conservation team* spreading bait across 45 kilometres of trails, in order to target every single rat on the island. The Kayangel community played a vital role by removing alternative food sources for the rats, forcing them to take the bait. Residents are now waiting with baited breath for 2019’s survey, which will discover whether efforts have been successful.

Rats were successfully removed from three nearby islets. Today, they are teeming with wildlife
And there’s every likelihood they will be. A similar project in 2012 offered a glimpse of what Kayangel could soon become, when the Palau Conservation Society and BirdLife International successfully removed invasive rats from three nearby, uninhabited islets. Today, these islets are now teeming with wildlife.

Steve Cranwell, Pacific Programme Manager at BirdLife International, is confident in the project’s success: “Given this investment, we are optimistic that Kayangel will once again be rat free and will remain so, restoring harmony between the natural environment, livelihoods, and cultural identity on the island.”

And it’s not just Scubfowl and people who will benefit from this timely intervention: the project contributes to the planet’s biodiversity as a whole. Kayangel is home to a wealth of fascinating species, many of them threatened with extinction. We hope that soon, the endemic Palau Flying Fox Pteropus pelewensis (Near Threatened) will swoop to greater heights, while the Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata(Critically Endangered) and Green Sea Turtle Chelonia mydas (Endangered) can nest on Kayangel’s rat-free beaches in safety.

Tommy Hall, Project Manager at Island Conservation, puts it in a nutshell: “It has been a privilege to work closely with the Kayangel community on this project. In the absence of invasive rats, native plants and animals will be able to naturally recover. We look forward to seeing the recovery of native species that have been struggling under the impacts of invasive rats. The Micronesian Scrubfowl will once again have a chance to thrive.”

The Micronesian Scrubfowl incubates its eggs using volcanic heat © Island Conservation

NSW Pharmacists Supported To Help Palliative Care Patients

May 10, 2018: The Hon. Brad Hazzard, NSW Minister for Health
Pharmacists across NSW will be supported to improve medication management for palliative care patients, to help people who choose to spend their last days at home.
Parliamentary Secretary for Regional and Rural Health Leslie Williams today announced the NSW Government was investing $200,000 in 2018/19 to improve the support pharmacists provide to palliative care patients in the community. 
“The NSW Government is committed to breaking down barriers in the health system so people get palliative care at the right time, in the right ways,” Mrs Williams said.
“As health professionals, pharmacists in our communities play a unique role in dispensing medication and providing advice to palliative care patients. In 2015-16 there were about 83,000 palliative care-related prescriptions provided to almost 52,000 patients across Australia.
“This funding will help us collect insights from community pharmacists and other experts regarding how patients can be better supported by improving access to palliative care medication and providing advice on medicines.
“The NSW Government listened to the community at palliative care roundtables and is delivering on our Budget commitment to look after our regional and rural communities,” Mrs Williams said.
The funding is part of the NSW Government’s record palliative care investment of an additional $100 million over the next four years, including $17.4 million in 2017-18. This is in addition to the $210 million spent on palliative care services each year.
The Clinical Excellence Commission is hosting workshops and consultation with representatives from community pharmacy, public and private palliative care services, community nursing, residential aged care, academics and consumers on ways to enhance medication management. 
The first workshop was convened in Sydney today and will be followed by two regional and rural expert reference group meetings to ensure initiatives meet rural and regional community palliative care needs. 
A further meeting with key stakeholders is planned for 5 June, to develop outcomes that ensure improvements will be put into practice.
The 2017-18 State Budget also included funding for:
  • ​palliative care training for 300 nurses and allied health staff
  • 300 scholarships for rural and regional staff to enhance palliative care skills 
  • an additional 9 palliative care specialists in rural and regional areas 
  • two post graduate fellow  positions to provide relief for rural and regional palliative care medicine specialists and palliative care medicine education to other specialists and general practitioners
  • an additional 30 palliative care nurses across NSW providing care in hospitals, homes and nursing homes

Gene Disruption Signals Cerebral Palsy And Autism Link

May 10, 2018: University of Adelaide
University of Adelaide researchers have uncovered a genetic signal common to both cerebral palsy and autism.

The finding comes from the first large-scale study of gene expression in children with cerebral palsy.

The researchers, from the University's Australian Collaborative Cerebral Palsy Research Group in the Robinson Research Institute, also showed common underlying molecular pathways in clinically diverse cerebral palsy. They say both findings add significantly to the weight of evidence for underlying genetic causes of cerebral palsy.

"Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability of childhood with a frequency of around two in every 1000 live births," says lead researcher Dr Clare van Eyk, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide. "We know that, like autism, it's a disorder of brain development primarily during pregnancy. But the underlying causes of cerebral palsy are still poorly understood."

In this study, the researchers use new RNA sequencing technology to measure the gene messengers (RNA) in cells from children with cerebral palsy.

Cell lines from 182 individuals with cerebral palsy were studied and many showed disruption of cell signalling and inflammatory pathways, as seen in some children with autism.

"The results showed that the neurological or signalling pathways being disrupted in children with cerebral palsy overlap with those disruptions seen in autism," says Dr van Eyk. "This supports a common biological change in both cerebral palsy and autism. Autism and cerebral palsy do sometimes co-exist, which further underlines common causation in some individuals."

This is the latest in a series of studies from the University of Adelaide which have found increasing numbers of genetic mutations that are the likely cause of cerebral palsy. Using this data together with existing DNA sequencing results increases the proportion of individuals with a likely genetic cause to around 25%.

The University's Cerebral Palsy Research Group is led by Emeritus Professor Alastair MacLennan and Professor Jozef Gecz, Channel 7 Children's Research Foundation Chair for the Prevention of Childhood Disability. They are leading the world in discovering an increasing genetic basis to cerebral palsy.

"This research continues to refute the historical assumption that cerebral palsy is often due to difficulties at birth," says Professor MacLennan.

Clare L. van Eyk, Mark A. Corbett, Alison Gardner, Bregje W. van Bon, Jessica L. Broadbent, Kelly Harper, Alastair H. MacLennan, Jozef Gecz. Analysis of 182 cerebral palsy transcriptomes points to dysregulation of trophic signalling pathways and overlap with autism. Translational Psychiatry, 2018; 8 (1) DOI:10.1038/s41398-018-0136-4

Guaranteeing Essential Services - Record Investment In Health

May 8, 2018: Joint Media Release
The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health

Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie 
Deputy Leader of The Nationals
Minister for Rural Health
Minister for Sport

The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP
Minister for Aged Care
Minister for Indigenous Health

The 2018–19 Budget is guaranteeing the essential health services that Australians rely on, with a $12.4 billion increase in the Health Budget and a $414.5 billion investment in health, aged care and sport.

We will increase:
  • Medicare funding by $4.8 billion;
  • public hospital funding by more than $30 billion;
  • investment in new medicines by $2.4 billion; and
  • funding for aged care by $5.0 billion.
We will invest in a National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan of $1.3 billion, including a ground-breaking $500 million Australian Genomics Health Futures Mission.

The Government is also delivering the More Choices for a Longer Life Package to help Australians maximise the opportunities that a longer life brings.

Guaranteeing Medicare with record funding
The Turnbull Government will continue our absolute rock-solid commitment to Medicare with an additional $4.8 billion investment, building on the Medicare Guarantee Fund we established last year.

For 2017-18, $34.4 billion has been credited to the Fund. A further credit of $35.3 billion will be made to meet the estimated Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) expenditure for 2018-19.

Medicare spending is guaranteed and increasing every year from $24 billion in 2017-18 to $28.8 billion in 2021-22 to support healthcare for every Australian.

Indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule, which the Government reintroduced in last year’s Budget will deliver an additional $1.5 billion for Medicare services through to 2021-22.

Following recommendations from the expert MBS Review Taskforce and the independent Medical Services Advisory Committee we will provide new Medicare support for renal dialysis in remote communities, MRI scans for prostate cancer checks, a new cutting edge 3D mammography test for the early detection of breast cancer and new genetic testing for cystic fibrosis.

More choices for a longer life
The 2018-19 Budget will deliver the More Choices For a Longer Life package which will support older Australians to live longer and be better prepared, healthier, more independent and connected to their communities,

The Package gives older Australians more choices and greater flexibility, including:
  • An additional 14,000 high-level home care packages so older Australians can stay in their homes longer if they want to;
  • Allowing pensioners to earn more without reducing their pension;
  • Greater flexibility to use home equity to increase retirement incomes.
Since the last Budget, the Turnbull Government has delivered an extra 20,000 high-level home care packages, to support people to live at home longer.

We will provide 13,500 new residential aged care places and 775 short-term restorative places to be made available where they are most needed, plus $60 million for capital investment.

We will also invest $40.0 million to support aged care providers in regional, rural and remote Australia for urgent building and maintenance works.

More than $105 million will improve access to culturally safe aged care services in remote Indigenous communities.

The Turnbull Government will establish an Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to create a tough cop on the beat to ensure older Australians receive the best possible care, with an additional $50 million to assist providers implement the new standards.

MyAged Care will be improved with an investment of $61.7 million to make it easier to use, along with simplifying the forms required to apply for aged care services, and $7.4 million to trial navigators to assist people to choose the aged care services that suit their needs.

We will invest $32.8 million to improve palliative care for older Australians living in residential aged care, filling current gaps in support services, $5.3 million for innovations in managing dementia, and $102.5 million for mental health programs for older Australians.

And people over 65 will be assisted to undertake more physical activity, with locally-based sporting organisations receiving grants totalling $22.9 million to deliver new programs for older Australians.

The Government is helping Australians to work for as long as they want, laying the foundations for a secure retirement. We will provide up to $10,000 in Restart wage subsidies for employing Australians aged 50 and over. The Skills and Training incentive will provide up to $2,000 to fund up-skilling opportunities for mature aged workers.

The 2018-19 Budget delivers measures to boost living standards and expand retirement income options to give retirees confidence in their financial security.

We are increasing the Pension Work Bonus to allow age pensioners to earn an extra $50 per fortnight without reducing their pension. The Pension Loans Scheme will be expanded giving greater flexibility to use home equity to boost retirement incomes, e.g. up to $17,787 a year for a full rate age pensioner (couple).

Providing record access to life-saving and life-improving medicines
The Turnbull Government will invest $2.4 billion on new medicines to build on our commitment to guarantee those essential services that all Australians rely on. This includes a new $1 billion provision to maintain our commitment to listing all new medicines recommendation by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

Unlike Labor, we list and will continue to list, every single drug recommended by the medical experts – the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee – with approximately $9 billion of investment in new drug listings since coming into government.

In particular, the Government will provide $703.6 million for the listing of Kisqali ® on the PBS to support women with breast cancer. Without subsidy, patients would pay $71,820 per year.

We will also list Spinraza ® on the PBS, a life-changing medicine which treats the devastating illness Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Without subsidy, patients would pay more than $367,850 per year. These new listings mean patients will have access to these medicines paying a maximum of $39.50 per script. Concessional patients, including pensioners, will pay just $6.40.

The Turnbull Government has also signed a landmark agreement with Medicines Australia to improve access to life saving medicines for rare diseases through key reforms to the Life Saving Drugs Program.

Record Commonwealth funding for public hospitals
The Government will deliver more than $30 billion in additional public hospital funding under a five-year National Health Agreement, with funding increasing for every state and territory, every year.

From 2020-21 to 2024-25, the new agreement will deliver a record $130.2 billion in public hospital funding, with six of Australia’s eight states and territories now covered by this new agreement, including three Labor governments and three Liberal governments.

This represents a more than doubling of public hospital funding under the Coalition Government, rising from $13.3 billion in 2012-13 to $28.7 billion in 2024-25.

Supporting better mental health for all Australians
The Turnbull Government will deliver an increase of $338.1 million in mental health funding, with a focus on suicide prevention, research and older Australians and advancing the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.

We will expand the beyondblue Way Back Support Service across Australia, which provides outreach, follow-up care and practical support to people discharged from hospital after a suicide attempt. This will see an investment of $37.6 million.

We will provide Lifeline Australia $33.8 million to support its phone counselling services, and SANE Australia will receive $1.2 million for the Better off With You campaign.

The Government will fund a new Million Minds Mission through the Medical Research Future Fund. Over the next 10 years, $125 million will be invested in new research to support an additional million people with mental illness, through new research, diagnosis and treatment.

Men over 85 years of age have the highest risk of suicide for all ages. That’s why the Government will deliver $82.5 million for psychological services in residential aged care, while mental health nurses will help develop and deliver a $20 million program to support older Australians in the community who are isolated and at risk.

The National Mental Health Commission will receive an increase of $12.4 million to oversee mental health reform and take an expanded role under the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. Funding of $4.7 million will support the continued operation of Head to Health, the new digital gateway for mental health services.

We will also fund the Royal Flying Doctor Service for mental health outreach, which will receive $20.4 million to ensure regional and rural Australians get care wherever they are.

Life-saving and job creating investment in medical research
The Government will deliver $6 billion in record funding for Australia’s health and medical research sector, including $3.5 billion for the National Health and Medical Research Council, $2 billion in disbursements from the Medical Research Future Fund and $500 million from the Biomedical Translation Fund.

The foundation of the Government’s commitment to health and medical research is a new job boosting $1.3 billion National Health and Medical Industry Growth Plan, to improve health outcomes for hundreds of thousands of Australians, create tens of thousands of new jobs, and develop the next generation of Australia’s global leading industries.

The centrepiece of the Plan is a $500 million Australian Genomics Health Futures Mission which will help more than 200,000 Australians live longer and receive better treatment tailored to their medical needs.

The first genomics project will be Mackenzie’s Mission, with $20 million being provided for a pre-conception screening trial for rare and debilitating birth disorders including Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Fragile X and Cystic Fibrosis.

We will also establish a new $240 million Frontier Science Program to develop innovative medical ideas, research, devices and treatments.

Clinical trials offer the hope of better diagnosis, treatment and ultimately cures. The Turnbull Government will provide $248 million to support clinical trial activity through the highly successful rare cancer, rare diseases and unmet need clinical trials and registries program.

We will also establish a new $125 million chronic disease fund, the Targeted Translation Research Accelerator, with a focus on diabetes and cardiac disease.

Stronger Rural Health Strategy to deliver high quality care
The Turnbull Government will deliver the most comprehensive rural health package in decades, which will improve access to doctors, nurses and other health care services for all Australians, especially those in the regions.

The Stronger Rural Health Strategy will improve the delivery of healthcare by ensuring we have the right health care professionals located in the regions. It will provide greater opportunities for Australian doctors through better teaching, training, recruitment and retention. The package will see growth in multidisciplinary care and increased access to nursing and allied health services.

This comprehensive strategy has been developed in close consultation with the AMA, RACGP, ACRRM and other rural medical leaders.

In order to support teaching in the regions, we will invest $95.4 million to create the new Murray Darling Medical Schools Network comprising of the University of NSW (Wagga Wagga), University of Sydney (Dubbo), Charles Sturt University/Western Sydney University (Orange), Monash University (Bendigo, Mildura), and University of Melbourne/La Trobe University (Bendigo, Wodonga, Shepparton). The Government will also include Curtin University (for medical training) and La Trobe University (for nursing and allied health training) in the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program.

This will be done while retaining the existing number of Commonwealth Supported Places for medical students.

This is a fundamental change in the teaching and supply of rural and regional doctors and will transform rural training schools, enabling students to undertake most of their education and training in rural areas to provide a continuum for doctors to learn, train and work in the regions.

The Stronger Rural Health Strategy will mean more Australian doctors for the regions.

Better targeting support to improve Indigenous health
The Budget provides ever greater support for our effort to Close the Gap and better targets funding to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with funding for Indigenous Health of $3.9 billion from 2018-19 to 2021-22 and $10 billion over a decade.

In particular, the Turnbull Government will deliver $33.4 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce, and provide funding to prevent and treat complex and chronic health conditions including eye disease ($34.3 million), hearing loss ($30.0 million), and crusted scabies ($4.8 million).

Boosting essential infant and maternal health services
To give Australian children the best possible start in life, we are investing $77.9 million in infant and maternal health and for the first 2,000 days of a child’s life.

This includes $17.5 million for maternal and infant health medical research.

Health professionals will give parents-to-be simple and effective guidance on staying healthy during pregnancy with a $3.0 million program.

The Government will extend the childhood immunisation education campaign, targeting areas with low vaccination rates.

Every mother will be given the opportunity to vaccinate against whooping cough, with $39.5 million to fund the pertussis vaccine to all pregnant women.

To help parents keep track of their children’s health from birth, the Government will introduce a national digital baby book with $5.0 million of funding, replacing state and territory hard copy baby books, and giving children their passport to a lifelong health record.

We will invest $6.2 million to subsidise the cost of more insulin pumps for children with type 1 diabetes.

With injury the leading cause of death of children aged one to 16 years, the Government will fund $0.9 million for the development of a new National Injury Prevention Strategy aimed at reducing childhood injuries. In addition, funding of $1.0 million for the SeeMore Safety Program will support preschool and kindergarten children and their families to reduce the number of preventable childhood injuries.

We will also roll out a new $1 million program to assist GPs to learn more about endometriosis, so they can better diagnose and treat the condition, which can affect around one in ten women and is a key contributor to infertility.

Promoting a healthy and active Australia
The Turnbull Government will invest $230 million to implement a range of sport and physical activity initiatives that will see more Australians, more active, more often.

This investment builds on our national strengths and will provide more opportunities for Australians to participate in sport and physical activity and promote healthy, active life styles.

The Government will invest $28.9 million in participation grants targeted at less active Australians.

This includes an extension of the Local Sporting Champions grants program which will see more than 3,000 additional young athletes receiving support, including for young athletes in the regions to attend competitions.

The Government will also provide $41.7 million towards extending the popular Sporting Schools Program which provides opportunities for children to participate in sport by reducing the financial burden for parents and building a culture of the enjoyment and benefits of sport for a digitally focused generation.

The Government is acting to reduce drowning at Australia’s beaches, rivers and waterways, as well as improving safety on our snow fields through the Water and Snow Safety Program, with a total investment of $48.5 million.

Participation in sport is vital for the health and wellbeing of all Australians, and is foundational to the Government’s sport plan which will be released later this year.

The Turnbull Government is delivering a strong economy which means we can guarantee the essentials that Australians rely on like Medicare, hospitals, lifesaving medicines and aged care.

NSW Gives Flu Immunity A Shot In The Arm

May 4, 2018: NSW Health
NSW Health is encouraged by the large number of health workers and the community who are getting their flu jab early ahead of winter.

More than a million doses of the influenza vaccine for national and state programs have been received by doctors and clinics over the past month.

A further 90,000 doses of state-funded vaccine have also been distributed for the vaccination of NSW Health frontline staff.

Staff at Concord Hospital set an early benchmark for colleagues across the state with more than 1350 workers having their flu jab in one day.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director of Communicable Diseases, said local health districts have been holding events to encourage people to get vaccinated and provide them with tips to reduce the spread of flu.

“We had one of the worst flu seasons on record last year causing more than 650 flu-related deaths,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“Already we’ve seen great community uptake across the state. In Dubbo recently, around 800 people got their flu shot at an event hosted by Western NSW Local Health District.” 

The NSW Government has invested $22.75 million on statewide immunisation programs in 2017-18, including $3.5 million for free flu shots to children up to five years of age.

Local Health Districts are currently implementing their winter plans for hospitals, which include vaccinating their frontline health staff and promoting additional good hygiene practices.

“The flu vaccination remains free for certain high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, children up to five years of age, people over 65 years, most Aboriginal people and those with conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart problems.”

“It’s in your hands to get your flu vaccination and get ready for winter”.

Four tips to counter flu:
  • Get flu jab early.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Clean your hands.
  • Stay home when sick.
For more information, see

Happy Mother's Day From The ABS! 

May 11, 2018: Australian Bureau of Statistics
If you are one of the more than six million mums in Australia or countless more mother figures, Happy Mother’s Day. In celebration, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has pulled some numbers about mums in Australia.

Let's hear it for the mums
The median age of first-time mums in 2016 was 30.5 – up from 29 in 2011 – with women aged 30-34 having the highest fertility rate of 123 babies per 1,000 women. The teenage fertility rate continued to decline.

The total fertility rate in 2016 was 1.789 babies per woman, down from 1.875 in 2006 and 1.805 in 1996. Since 1976, Australia’s fertility rate has been below the replacement level of 2.1.

In 2016, mums made up at least 77 per cent of Australian women aged 15 years and over, and at least 20 per cent of women aged 20-29 were mums. At least 10,300 – or 0.2 per cent of all women who had given birth – were in same-sex relationships.

Life satisfaction and health 
On average, partnered mums rated life satisfaction at 7.8 out of 10 – higher than 6.9 for single mums, but lower than 8 out of 10 for women with no children. 

76 per cent of single mums felt their health was good, very good or excellent, compared with 90 per cent of partnered mums.

Connection with community
Our General Social Survey data (2014) reveals 58 per cent of partnered mums and 55 per cent of single mums had contact with other family or friends every day. A further 39 per cent of partnered mums and 41 per cent of single mums had contact with family or friends at least once a week.

Some 15 per cent of all mums have experienced homelessness. However, this issue is more likely to affect single mothers, with almost a third (32 per cent) having experienced homelessness at some point, compared with 10 per cent of mothers in couple families.

The good news is that most mums (96 per cent of partnered mothers and 93 per cent of single mothers) felt they would be able to get support in times of crisis.

More mothers in paid employment
According to the 2016 Census, full-time working mothers were most commonly employed in primary or secondary education, hospitals, and aged care. The most common occupation for mothers working full-time was as a general clerk performing administrative duties. For those working part-time, most were employed as sales assistants. This is unchanged from 2011.

Since the 1996 Census, the proportion of mothers who are active in the workforce has increased from 46.1 per cent to 53.4 per cent. Mothers are increasingly likely to be employers or self-employed, with this percentage rising from 3.9 per cent to 6.7 per cent in the last 20 years.

As for housework, half of mums aged between 20 and 49 (inclusive) do 15 or more hours of unpaid domestic work a week, compared to 9 per cent of women with no children. Both figures had fallen – 57 per cent and 11 per cent respectively – from the 2006 numbers.
The number of mothers who study has grown by 9.6 per cent per cent since 2011. In 2016, roughly 95,100 – or 1.6 per cent – of mothers were studying full-time at technical, tertiary or other institutions. 

The proportion of mothers with post-school qualifications has greatly increased since 1996, from 23.2 per cent to 51.5 percent. Over the same period, qualifications for mothers in nursing and hairdressing have become less common (13.2 per cent to 9.4 per cent and 4.4 per cent to 3.1 per cent respectively) while accounting (2.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent) and business management have become more popular (0.6 per cent to 2.6 per cent).

Then there are the 114,800 mums who work, study and care for their children under the age of 15 at the same time.

Thank you to all the mums and mother figures. May your weekend be full of love, laughter and breakfasts in bed.

For more information, please see the General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2014 (cat. no. 4159.0), Births, Australia, 2016 (cat. no. 3301.0), and the Census of Population and Housing: Australia Revealed, 2016 (cat. no. 2024.0).

The Big Bell Test: Global Physics Experiment Challenges Einstein

May 9, 2018: ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences
On November 30th, 2016, more than 100,000 people around the world contributed to a suite of first-of-a-kind quantum physics experiments known as The BIG Bell Test. Using smartphones and other internet-connected devices, participants contributed unpredictable bits, which determined how entangled atoms, photons, and superconducting devices were measured in twelve laboratories around the world. Scientists used the human input to close a stubborn loophole in tests of Einstein's principle of local realism. The results have now been analysed, and are reported in this week's Nature.

In a Bell test (named for the physicist John Stewart Bell), pairs of entangled particles such as photons are generated and sent to different locations, where particle properties such as the photons' colours or time of arrival are measured. If the measurement results tend to agree, regardless of which properties we choose to measure, it implies something very surprising: either the measurement of one particle instantly affects the other particle (despite being far away), or even stranger, the properties never really existed, but rather were created by the measurement itself. Either possibility contradicts local realism, Einstein's worldview of a universe independent of our observations, in which no influence can travel faster than light.

The BIG Bell Test asked human volunteers, known as Bellsters, to choose the measurements, in order to close the so-called "freedom-of-choice loophole" -- the possibility that the particles themselves influence the choice of measurement. Such influence, if it existed, would invalidate the test; it would be like allowing students to write their own exam questions. This loophole cannot be closed by choosing with dice or random number generators, because there is always the possibility that these physical systems are coordinated with the entangled particles. Human choices introduce the element of free will, by which people can choose independently of whatever the particles might be doing.

Led by ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences, in Barcelona, the BIG Bell Test recruited participants worldwide to contribute unpredictable sequences of zeros and ones (bits) through an online video game. The bits were routed to state-of-the-art experiments in Brisbane, Shanghai, Vienna, Rome, Munich, Zurich, Nice, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Concepción Chile and Boulder Colorado, where they were used to set the angles of polarizers and other laboratory elements to determine how entangled particles were measured.

Participants contributed with more than 90 million bits, making possible a strong test of local realism, as well as other experiments on realism in quantum mechanics. The obtained results strongly disagree Einstein's worldview, close the freedom-of-choice loophole for the first time, and demonstrate several new methods in the study of entanglement and local realism.

The ICFO Quantum Memory Experiment
Each of the twelve labs around the world carried out a different experiment, to test local realism in different physical systems and to test other concepts related to realism. ICFO contributed with two experiments. The ICFO 1 team, composed of Pau Farrera and Dr. Georg Heinze, led by ICREA Prof. at ICFO Hugues de Riedmatten, performed a Bell test using entanglement between two very different objects: a single photon and a trapped cloud with millions of atoms. 

This cloud acted as a "quantum memory" storing for some time the matter part of the entangled state, and transferring it later into another single photon. The entanglement was analysed using optical interferometers and single photon detectors. The measurement settings of these interferometers were chosen by the random numbers provided by the Bellsters. Specifically, the random numbers were deciding the voltages that were applied to a piezoelectric device attached to the interferometers. The results obtained clearly contradict the concept of local realism.

The ICFO 2 team performed a Bell test using entanglement between two single photons of different color generated with a solid-state photon pair source. The researchers, Dr. Andreas Lenhard, Alessandro Seri, Dr. Daniel Rieländer, and Dr. Margherita Mazzera, led by ICREA Prof. Hugues de Riedmatten, could generate narrow-band photon pairs in several discrete frequency modes. After separating the photons of the pair, their entanglement was analysed using, in each of the two arms, an electro-optic modulator to overlap the different frequency modes and an optical cavity as spectral filter. 

The random numbers provided by the Bellsters were exploited to choose the voltages driving both the modulation amplitude and phase of the electro-optics modulators. The experiment was done in collaboration with the ICFO researchers Dr. Osvaldo Jimenez, Dr. Alejandro Mattár and Dr. Daniel Cavalcanti, led by ICREA Prof. at ICFO Antonio Acín. They developed a model to describe the generated entangled state and find the optimal measurements to contradict local realism. From the experiment performed on November 30th, 2016, local realism theories can be ruled out with a significance level of 3 standard deviations, while a stronger violation, of more than 8 standard deviations, was achieved in the weeks following the Big Bell Test day by performing longer measurements with stored human random numbers.

Hugues de Riedmatten, ICREA Professor at ICFO: "The BBT was a great experience. It was amazing to see random numbers created by Bellsters all around the world take control of our experiments in real time, and to see so many people participating in a quantum physics experiment."

Carlos Abellan, researcher at ICFO and instigator of the project: "The BIG Bell Test was an incredibly challenging and ambitious project. It sounded impossibly difficult on day zero, but became a reality through the efforts of dozens of passionate scientists, science communicators, journalists and media, and especially the tens of thousands of people that contributed to the experiment during November 30th, 2016."

Morgan Mitchell, leader of the BBT project and ICREA Professor at ICFO: "What is most amazing for me is that the argument between Einstein and Niels Bohr, after more than 90 years of effort to make it rigorous and experimentally testable, still retains a human and philosophical element. We know that the Higgs boson and gravitational waves exist thanks to amazing machines, physical systems built to test the laws of physics. But local realism is a question we can't fully answer with a machine. It seems we ourselves must be part of the experiment, to keep the Universe honest."

The BIG Bell Test team once again would like to thank the thousands of participants who so generously and enthusiastically contributed to this initiative. Without this essential contribution, the experiment would have never been possible.

Participating Institutions
The twelve labs that ran experiments on November 30th of 2016 were:
  • CQC2T and Griffith University (Brisbane-Australia),
  • EQuS and University of Queensland (Brisbane-Australia)
  • The node CEFOP/Department of Electrical Engineering of the Universidad de Concepción (Concepción-Chile), together with the Department of Electrical Engineering -- Linköping University, the University of Sevilla and the Dipartimento di Fisica -- Sapienza Università di Roma,
  • The Quantum Information Lab of the Dipartimento di Fisica -- Sapienza Università di Roma with the International Institute of Physics del Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (Brazil),
  • CAS -- University of Science and Technology of China (Hefei-China),
  • CITEDEF/Universidad de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires),
  • ICFO (Barcelona),
  • IQOQI/OEAW (Vienna-Austria),
  • LMU-Ludwig-Maximilian University (Munich),
  • INPHYNI -- Université Côte d'Azur/CNRS (Nice-France),
  • NIST (Boulder- USA),
  • QUDEV- ETH Zurich (Zurich).
More information
The BIG Bell Test website:
Video of the BIG Bell Test:

The BIG Bell Test Collaboration. Challenging local realism with human choices. Nature, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0085-3

This is the BIG Bell Test Initiative, November 30th 2016. Credit: ICFO

A Sustainable Welfare Safety Net To Support All Australians

May 8, 2018: Media release - The Hon Michael Keenan MP, Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation and The Hon Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Social Services
The Turnbull Government is continuing to provide a genuine safety net for those most in need, while making it more sustainable by strengthening the integrity of the system.

Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan said the Turnbull Government was focussed on helping Australians take advantage of the more than 1,000 jobs being created every day in the economy.

“A sustainable welfare safety net helps the Government live within its means, which guarantees support is provided to those who need it the most,” Mr Tehan said.

“That is why the Government is providing $53.9 million to enable more students from regional and remote Australia to qualify for Youth Allowance, or receive a higher rate of payment, and $92.6 million to ensure existing clients of Commonwealth disability support programs who are ineligible for the NDIS continue to receive the support they need.

“We will ensure our targeted safety net helps people when they need it, but that people receive only what they are entitled to – nothing more and nothing less. Where welfare recipients have received money they are not entitled do, we will ensure those debts are repaid.

“We will improve the integrity of the welfare system by working with the states to suspend payments to those who have outstanding warrants for indictable criminal offences, and enabling those with court-imposed fines to deduct payments from their welfare.”  

We are also improving the technology that powers the welfare payment system to make it faster and easier for Australians to deal with Centrelink.

Human Services Minister and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Transformation Michael Keenan said the funding for technological enhancements in this year’s budget would deliver multiple benefits such as reducing claim processing times and the cost of administering the payment system.

“Digital innovation is not just limited to the welfare system, it is being driven across the whole of government with the aim of making life as easy as possible for those dealing with a variety of departments,” Mr Keenan said.

“Enabling people to conduct most of their business online removes the need for them to visit government offices or call us with questions, speeding up the time it takes to process their claims.

“While we deliver these major transformation projects, we remain committed to ensuring Australians can access the services they need which is why we are also boosting our telephone capacity.”

Digitally transforming the welfare payment system
  • From 1 July 2018, $316.2 million will be rolled out over four years to enhance how welfare benefits are claimed and processed. The Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation Programme (WPIT) has already delivered significant improvements to the way students access Austudy and Youth Allowance payments. Those claiming job seeker, age and disability pensions and carer payments will be the next to reap the benefits from digital transformation.
  • Improving the way Australians interact with Government services is also a priority and we have allocated $50 million in 2018-19 to manage customer demand while the Department of Human Services continues to transform delivery of payments and services.
Delivering Australia’s digital future
  • From 1 July 2018, the Government will invest $92.4 million in the next phase of work on its whole of government digital identity solution. Govpass will unlock access to a host of online services, while reducing the burden on individuals to have to prove who they are each time they want to make a transaction. The funding will build the underlying infrastructure for Govpass and roll out pilot services to over 500,000 users, delivering a range of benefits such as being able to create a Tax File Number online from as early as October 2018.
  • The Government is also investing $20.5 million over the forward estimates to reform the Australian data system. A new data sharing and release framework will be introduced to strengthen the Government’s use, sharing and management of data. A National Data Commissioner will be appointed to oversee and monitor the framework. New legislation will streamline how government agencies use and reuse public data, subject to appropriate data safeguards. This measure is in addition to the measure and investment the Government is making in the Consumer Data Right.
Supporting families and people with disability
  • $64.3 million for the Jobs and Market Fund to support the growth of disability service providers and the disability care workforce to meet the needs of the NDIS.
  • $9.9 million in grants to Disability Employment Service providers to adjust to changes in the program while continuing to offer better quality support and services to Australians with disability seeking employment.
  • An additional $11.5 million over 18 months has been committed to meet increased demand whilst providing 48 trauma specialist counsellors to 1800RESPECT, the national domestic and family violence and sexual assault counselling, information and support service. 
  • An additional $6.7 million to train around 7,400 frontline workers such as nurses, counsellors, disability and settlement services workers to help them identify and support victims of domestic and family violence.
Supporting regional students
  • The Government is increasing the Youth Allowance parental income cut-off for the regional workforce self‑supporting independence criteria from $150,000 to $160,000. The new $160,000 cut-off will be increased by $10,000 for each additional child in the family. The Government is also changing the year for assessing parental income to the year prior to any gap year. Students will know whether their parental income is above or below the cut-off before they make the decision to defer university studies, take a gap year and work, to qualify as independent.
  • $38.1 million for ABSTUDY recipients to ensure secondary students who move away from home to study remain supported. The Government will also make it easier for scholarships to be approved under ABSTUDY.
Ensuring welfare integrity and sustainability so Government lives within its means 
  • From 1 March 2019, welfare recipients who have not paid a court-imposed fine will have money deducted from their regular payment until the debt is paid. Welfare recipients with outstanding warrants for indictable criminal offences will have their payment suspended for up to four weeks or until the warrant is cleared, and cancelled thereafter where the warrant remains outstanding.  The Commonwealth Government will work closely with state and territory governments to identify welfare recipients with outstanding warrants for serious criminal offences and court-imposed fines.
  • From 1 July 2019, the Government will focus on the recovery of Centrelink debts over $10,000 and speedier repayments from people who have the capacity to pay and are no longer reliant on welfare. Over $1.2 billion in Centrelink overpayments is owed to the Government by people no longer on welfare payments and not in a repayment arrangement. The Government will also continue its data-matching programs for an additional year to reduce welfare overpayments and maintain the integrity of the welfare system.
  • From 1 January 2019, Disability Support Pension recipients who are in prison will have their payments suspended for 13 weeks rather than the current two years before being cancelled. This provides consistency with other income support payment recipients. Once released, they can reapply for the Disability Support Pension or an alternate income support payment, such as Newstart.

Boosting The Effects Of Vitamin D To Tackle Diabetes

May 10, 2018
In a paper published May 10, 2018, in Cell, researchers from the Salk Institute report a potential new approach for treating diabetes by protecting beta cells -- the cells in the pancreas that produce, store and release the hormone insulin. When beta cells become dysfunctional, the body can't make insulin to control blood sugar (glucose) and levels of glucose can rise to dangerous -- even fatal -- levels.

The investigators accomplished their goal by using an unexpected source: vitamin D. Vitamin D in cells and mouse models proved beneficial in treating damaged beta cells. It also provided new insights about gene regulation that could be applied to developing treatments for other diseases, including cancer.

"We know that diabetes is a disease caused by inflammation," explains senior author Ronald Evans, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and holder of Salk's March of Dimes Chair in Molecular and Developmental Biology. "In this study, we identified the vitamin D receptor as an important modulator of both inflammation and beta cell survival."

Using beta cells created from embryonic stem cells, the investigators were able to identify a compound, iBRD9, that appeared to enhance the activation of the vitamin D receptor when it was combined with vitamin D to improve the survival of beta cells. The team accomplished this by conducting a screening test to look for compounds that improved the survival of beta cells in a dish. They then tested the combination in a mouse model of diabetes and showed that it could bring glucose back to normal levels in the animals.

"This study started out by looking at the role of vitamin D in beta cells," says Zong Wei, a research associate in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory and the study's first author. "Epidemiological studies in patients have suggested a correlation between high vitamin D concentrations in the blood and a lower risk of diabetes, but the underlying mechanism was not well understood. It's been hard to protect beta cells with the vitamin alone. We now have some ideas about how we might be able to take advantage of this connection."

The underlying process has to do with transcription -- the way that genes are translated into proteins. Combining the new compound with vitamin D allowed certain protective genes to be expressed at much higher levels than they are in diseased cells.

"Activating the vitamin D receptor can trigger the anti-inflammatory function of genes to help cells survive under stressed conditions," says Michael Downes, a Salk senior staff scientist and co-corresponding author. "By using a screening system that we developed in the lab, we've been able to identify an important piece of that puzzle that allows for super-activation of the Vitamin D pathway."

The discovery's implications can have far-reaching implications: It identifies a basic mechanism that can be translated into drugging many different targets in the clinic.

"In this study, we looked at diabetes, but because this is an important receptor it could potentially be universal for any treatments where you need to boost the effect of vitamin D," adds Ruth Yu, a Salk staff researcher and one of the study's authors. "For example, we are especially interested in looking at it in pancreatic cancer, which is a disease that our lab already studies."

The investigators say that, although the new compound did not appear to cause any side effects in the mice, further testing is needed before clinical trials can begin.

The paper's other authors were Eiji Yoshihara, Nanhai He, Nasun Hah, Weiwei Fan, Antonio Pinto, Timothy Huddy, Yuhao Wang, Brittany Ross, Gabriela Estepa, Yang Dai, Ning Ding, Mara Sherman, Sungsoon Fang, Xuan Zhao and Annette Atkins of Salk; and Christopher Liddle of the Westmead Institute for Medical Research and Sydney Medical School in Sydney, Australia.

This work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and its National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Ipsen/Biomeasure, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Ellison Medical Foundation, and a gift from Steven and Lisa Altman.

Zong Wei, Eiji Yoshihara, Nanhai He, Nasun Hah, Weiwei Fan, Antonio F.M. Pinto, Timothy Huddy, Yuhao Wang, Brittany Ross, Gabriela Estepa, Yang Dai, Ning Ding, Mara H. Sherman, Sungsoon Fang, Xuan Zhao, Christopher Liddle, Annette R. Atkins, Ruth T. Yu, Michael Downes, Ronald M. Evans. Vitamin D Switches BAF Complexes to Protect β Cells. Cell, 2018; DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2018.04.013

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.