Inbox and environment News: Issue 365

June 24 - 30, 2018: Issue 365

NSW Planning Laws Failing To Create Meaningful Nexus Between Words And Action On Climate Change

June 20. 2018:  BY EDO NSW
A Court decision has exposed serious flaws in NSW planning laws. The Court’s finding is that the State’s planning laws do not require decision-makers to consider the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework and Australia’s status as a signatory to the Paris Agreement when considering the approval of coal mining projects in NSW. 

The Land and Environment Court has upheld the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) decision to approve the extension to Wilpinjong open-cut coal mine near Wollar in the Hunter Valley, despite a challenge on climate change grounds from the Wollar Progress Association, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO NSW).

EDO NSW argued in a February 2018 hearing that the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework and the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to the Paris Agreement were relevant policies that the PAC was required - but failed - to have regard to when considering the downstream greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal from Wilpinjong, a substantial proportion of which will be burnt at Bayswater Power Station in NSW.

In light of the finding, EDO NSW CEO David Morris emphasised the need for reform. “This is certainly not the judgment that we or our clients wanted. But perhaps it’s the judgment we needed. We now know that aspirational policy statements, like those contained in the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework, fail to have any meaningful application to NSW mine approvals. It’s these approvals - and the coal which is consequently mined and burned - that represent NSW’s greatest contribution to global climate change. The Government can no longer claim, or proceed under the illusion, that their policies on climate change have an 'on-ground effect'. They don’t - the Court’s judgment shows they are merely words that do not translate to action.”

“This decision adds weight to the need for law reform to make climate change a critical factor in determinations about projects which will contribute to it. This case highlights the missing link between our aspirations to cut emissions and the actions we must take to get there.”

EDO NSW is proud to have brought this important case on behalf the Wollar Progress Association. “Our client brought this case in the public interest – coal mining’s contribution to climate change is self-evidently a matter of public interest. They are, understandably, extremely disappointed with the decision and will digest the decision carefully before considering their options.”

Wilpinjong mine 2013.

Background to the Wilpinjong case
Wilpinjong coal mine in the south-western edge of the Hunter catchment is owned and operated by Peabody Energy US and has been in operation since 2006. The 28 square kilometre open-cut coal mine lies between Goulburn River National Park and Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve.

In April 2017, Wilpinjong Coal received permission from the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) [since replaced by the Independent Planning Commission] to expand its open-cut mining operations for an extra seven years and to develop a new open-cut pit that will clear protected native vegetation and bring the mine even closer to the village of Wollar. The Wollar Progress Association - represented by public interest environmental lawyers, EDO NSW - brought court action in August 2017 challenging this decision.

The Wollar Progress Association also argued – unsuccessfully - that the approval was invalid on two other grounds. Firstly, that the PAC was not properly constituted in accordance with legal requirements; and secondly, that the PAC did not undertake a proper assessment of the impacts on biodiversity, as the mine extension would clear endangered ecological communities.

Both grounds were affected by NSW Government amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) - clearly designed to nullify these aspects of our case before the hearing commenced.

Lock The Gate Urges Reinstatement Of Legal Check And Balance In Wake Of Wollar Court Loss

June 20, 2018
The devastating loss yesterday of Wollar Progress Association’s judicial review challenge to the approval of the Wilpinjong coal mine expansion has prompted Lock the Gate Alliance to call on the New South Wales Government to restore full legal appeal rights to communities affected by large scale coal mines.

Planning law in New South Wales allows the Planning Minister to take away the right to challenge the merit of coal mine approvals in the Land and Environment Court simply by telling the Independent Planning Commission to hold a public hearing. It is now routine for this to be done for all large and controversial mining projects, including the Wilpinjong Extension Project.

Communities affected by large coal mines in the Hunter Valley have repeatedly appealed to the Government to stop taking away the public’s right to challenge the merits of mining approvals that have significant environmental and social impacts.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “We have this terrible regulatory failure where decisions are made to approve coal mines that have irreversible damaging consequences, but there is no legal avenue for communities to appeal to the Land and Environment Court to test whether the Planning Commission got the balance right and made the right decision.

“The community at Wollar had only very narrow legal rights to challenge the approval of the Wilpinjong coal mine expansion. They were denied the right to seek review in the Land and Environment Court of the merits of the expansion of the Wilpinjong mine.

“The Planning Commission is not going to always make the right decision. No one does. Without merits appeal rights, bad decisions can’t be revisited and reviewed and over time, that means we’re losing small villages, we’re losing water resources and we’re losing productive land to coal mines that really are not in the public interest.

“You have to ask, what is the Government so afraid of that it continually closes off legal avenues for appeal for people affected by coal mines? Are they afraid that the Court will find that some of the coal mines being approved aren’t in the public interest after all?

“What the Hunter Valley needs is balance and to have balance, you need the crucial legal right to go to court and test the merits of mining approvals. We’re appealing to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts to let there be reasonable checks and balances in these high stakes mining decisions.”

Sydney Metro Northwest: Proposed SEPP Amendment

June 8, 2018: NSW Department of Planning
You are invited to have your say on a proposed amendment to the State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011 for the development of government-owned land adjoining the Sydney Metro Northwest corridor. 

The proposed amendment to the State and Regional Development SEPP aims to ensure a state-led, consistent and transparent planning pathway for the development of government land within the eight station precincts along Australia’s largest public transport infrastructure project; the $8.3 billion Sydney Metro Northwest. 

Outlined in the consultation paper, the proposed amendment nominates the Minister for Planning as the consent authority for future development on identified government-owned land, if the development meets the criteria of State Significant Development. 

State Significant Development must meet one or more of the following criteria: 
- a principal subdivision establishing major lots or public domain areas 
- the creation of new roadways and associated works 
- has a capital investment value of more than $30 million.
Exhibition Commences 08/06/2018
Exhibition Concludes         06/07/2018

NOPSEMA - Open For Comment: Environment Plan Assessment Guidance 

Since 2012, NOPSEMA has developed a series of guidance documents to inform and assist stakeholders in understanding NOPSEMA’s decision-making on environment plans and advise titleholders on how to interpret and meet the requirements of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (Environment Regulations). This guidance is comprised of a number of different document types, including:
  • policies that provide NOPSEMA’s interpretation of legislative provisions
  • guidelines that provide NOPSEMA guidance on how to meet legislative requirements
  • guidance notes that provide NOPSEMA’s expectations on an environmental management topic
  • information papers that provide further information, background and practices to foster improved environmental management outcomes.
In November 2017, the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator the Hon Matthew Canavan, announced a series of changes to improve the transparency of offshore petroleum environmental management. The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has commenced work to develop the necessary regulatory amendments.

In preparation for these changes, NOPSEMA is now seeking feedback on its guidance documents relating to the assessment of environment plan.

Guidance open for comment
NOPSEMA is seeking comment on the following key documents:

Comments may also be provided on any other published environmental management guidance document on the Environment Resources page.

How to provide comment
Comments are to be provided by 20 July 2018 using theONLINE SURVEYEnquiries should be directed

Next steps
NOPSEMA will consider the feedback received during the public comment period and may also conduct further consultation with stakeholders to address comments received. NOPSEMA will aim to publish a report by the end of 2018 to collate the comments received and provide a response on the merits of the feedback.

Budget Boost For Conservation

June 19, 2018: Media release - The Hon. Gabrielle Upton, NSW Minister for Environment
A $50 million commitment in today's Budget effectively doubles the amount the NSW Government spends to purchase conservation land over 5 years.
"This is a fantastic outcome for conservation," Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said.

"The plan is simple: purchase high conservation-priority land and add it to the State's reserves.

"It's a major win for the environment and provides a significant boost to the protection of our State's biodiversity.

"The purchases will be made under the Environmental Trust's Land Acquisition Program.

"It's another way we are increasing the State's National Parks estate, which allows us to protect a vast range of habitats and ecosystems, plant and animal species and landforms.

"In particular, we want to increase koala habitat to support the Government's recently announced Koala Strategy.

"This move effectively doubles the usual $5 million a year the Environmental Trust has committed to important land acquisition for the reserve system.

"Altogether, some $24.95 million has now been allocated by this Government to acquire land containing high-priority koala habitat.

"This investment in land acquisition for national parks, combined with the conservation efforts on private land, is another clear demonstration of the Government's commitment to taking action to improve environmental outcomes for NSW."

$1 Billion To Improve Liveability

June 19, 2018: Media Release - NSW Budget 2018–19, Anthony Roberts, Minister for Planning, Minister for Housing and Special Minister of State
As part of the 2018-19 Budget, $157.5 million will support recently announced initiatives to secure strategic open space, create and upgrade playspaces, and increase the tree canopy across Sydney, as part of the Five Million Trees for Greater Sydney program.
Minister for Planning and Housing Anthony Roberts said the funding of these projects will support the NSW Government’s recent announcement of the Open Spaces and Greener Sydney package.
“The funding that has been dedicated in this year’s Budget will enable land to be identified and purchased for public open space,” Mr Roberts said.
This comes after recent strategic land purchases by the NSW Government including 16 hectares of land in West Hoxton that comprises the critically endangered ecological community Cumberland Plain Woodland, which is to be dedicated open space as an extension to the Western Sydney Parklands.
“Funding will also go towards the Everyone Can Play in NSW program that will fund Councils by way of grants to renew, renovate or build more than 200 playgrounds.
“The NSW Government will plant more than 380,000 trees every year until 2030, as part of the 'Five Million Trees for Greater Sydney' program, that will more than double the tree canopy in Sydney from 16.8 per cent at present to a target 40 per cent.”
The Government has also committed to investing $1.4 billion over the next four years to help build essential local infrastructure and support growing communities.
Announced as part of the 2018-19 Budget, $235 million will be delivered this financial year, for infrastructure to support new housing.
Mr Roberts said funding in this year’s Budget and in the years to come will be vital in providing infrastructure needed for growing communities.

“The funding dedicated in this year’s budget will help provide essential infrastructure to support development in the areas where it is needed,” Mr Roberts said.
“This funding will provide for vital infrastructure such as roads, transport, parks, cycle and walkways, and drainage.
“As Sydney grows, it’s essential we back it up with targeted infrastructure development to ensure that our communities remain liveable.”

Please Help: Contribute To Significant Trees Register For Our Area

Significant trees listings wanted
Avalon Preservation Association
The next step in the Avalon Preservation Association's Avalon Cultural Audit is to identify and list significant trees in the area.

Roger Sayers has nominated the Spotted Gums in the reserve opposite Careel Bay Wharf.

Please help us by contributing your pick of significant trees in the area so we can map them and enter into our database.

You can either post a picture/s on the APA Facebook page and identify location of tree/s and species type if known or email us with same at

Our new Avalon Preservation Association Noticeboard is finally installed on corner of Belle Property Building near Herforts Chemist Old Barrenjoey Rd Avalon Beach. Many thanks to Mark Griffin Belle Property for use of wall and Robert Adema for installation.

Give Seals Space While They Rest

June 22, 2018: NPWS
Following a string of seal sightings along the coast over the past week the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is calling on the public to give them plenty of space after small crowds gathered at a number of locations to get a closer look.

NPWS Ranger, Andrew Marshall, said today that when the seals haul out at beaches and rocky headlands people often mistakenly think they are in distress.

"Seal numbers are steadily growing and while they have become a fairly common sight on the south coast over the past twenty years and less so north of Sydney over the same time, we are now seeing more and more hauling out along the northern NSW coastline," he said.

"North of Sydney they are still a bit of a novelty for the public and of course that means they draw crowds of onlookers.

"People often think they are in trouble when they haul out along the coast but the reality is that the vast majority of these animals are simply having a rest and people should keep at least 40 metres away from adults and 80m if they are a pup.

"Only very occasionally do they require veterinary assistance," he said.

So far this week a half a dozen seals have been reported from as far south as Jervis Bay up to the mid north coast and include Sub Antarctic and New Zealand Fur seals and even one Long-nosed Fur Seal.

A large male New Zealand Fur Seal and a much smaller Sub Antarctic Fur Seal is still drawing the crowds at Lighthouse Beach at Port Macquarie.

"They might look fairly docile lying on a beach but they can move faster than you can when roused and they have a good set of sharp teeth.

"They are wild animals and so they can be dangerous if you get too close.

"The law states that you must remain at least 40 metres distance from a resting fur seal.

"Mostly they just want to rest at a location for a few days and they need this so please leave them alone. If you see a seal in distress or injured report them to the NPWS or ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia) but give them space please," Mr Marshall said.

Have Your Say On The Management Of Forests

May 15, 2018: Media Release
The NSW Government has begun consultation on the new Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOA), which sets out how native forestry operations are managed and regulated on public land in NSW.

Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole and Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton said the Coastal IFOA remake was a vital step forward in the NSW Government’s forestry reform agenda.

“The NSW Government is committed to the long term and sustainable management of NSW’s forestry estate, for the benefit of the community, environment and our $2.4 billion forestry and product manufacturing industry,” Mr Toole said.

“The NSW Government is determined to get the right balance between the environment and industry – environmental standards can be strengthened at the same time as providing long term security of wood supply and certainty to investors and the industry.

“For the proposed new Coastal IFOA, this means ensuring that we do not erode environmental values or impact the critical wood supplies that our regional economies or industry rely on. 

“Over the past six months, we have undertaken consultation on the Regional Forest Agreements, and this is the next important step.”

Ms Upton said the new Coastal IFOA includes once-in-a-generation changes that will ensure the environment is protected.

“For the first time ever, minimum thresholds are being set for the permanent protection of threatened species and habitat across the landscape, and the rules will be more transparent and enforceable,” Ms Upton said.

New legislation will be introduced that will increase penalty notices for not complying with the Coastal IFOA from $1,100 to $15,000. All other private native forestry businesses and regulated industries in NSW already face fines of at least $15,000.

“These changes are making it fairer for all industries to do business in NSW, while offering further protections to our State's forests,” Ms Upton said.

Other changes to the Coastal IFOA include:
  • The merger of four current Coastal IFOAs into a single approval for the entire coast of NSW;
  • New rules that place limits on harvesting impacts over time and across the landscape;
  • Map-based protections with simplified rules for operating near boundaries;
  • Increased mapping of threatened ecological species, koala habitats, streams and trees, and;
  • Permanent protections for giant trees and hollow-bearing trees.
  • To complement the new Coastal IFOA, the NSW Government will soon commence a mapping exercise, applying modern technologies to gain a better understanding of key state forest sites on the north coast.
This work will be overseen by the Natural Resources Commission with independent environmental assessments to be designed and carried out by the Office of Environment and Heritage. The public will have a chance to have their say on the proposed framework and mapping approach in 2019.

For more information, and to have your say on the Coastal IFOA, visit:

Extension Of Public Consultation For Draft Coastal IFOA

Following requests from stakeholders, the Minister for the Environment and Minister for Lands and Forestry have decided to extend the public consultation period for the draft Coastal IFOA for an additional two weeks. The deadline for submissions will now be Friday 13 July 2018.

From 'Proposed multi-scale landscape approach – download theMulti Scale Approach Factsheet here' Doc.;
 Includes all public coastal forests in NSW and consists of over 5.2 million hectares.
• Across this area of public forests is a patchwork of State Forests and forest protected in National Parks and State Flora Reserves.
• State Forests make up around 30% of the public forests in the Coastal IFOA area. Native timber production forests cover around 16% of this area.
Environmental protections include:
• An established network of protected public land conserving important habitat and ecosystems across coastal NSW.
• The broad landscape-based habitat protection network includes National parks, Flora Reserves and special management zones.
• Annual timber volume caps are also set to ensure a long term ecologically sustainable supply of timber.
• Reporting requirements apply and monitoring to evaluate and ensure environmental outcomes are being achieved.

• A defined geographic region with an average size of 50,000 hectares.
• Multiple timber production forests occur within each management area.
• These areas will be fixed and mapped at the commencement of the proposed IFOA.
• On average 50% of the management zone of state forests is protected.
Environmental protections include:
• Annual limits on the amount of harvesting in each management area to distribute harvesting across the landscape.
• A maximum of 10% of a management area can be harvested per year.
• If the management area is zoned for intensive harvesting,then a maximum of only 5% of that management area can be intensively harvested per year

• A defined area of timber production forests no larger than 1500 hectares.
• On average there are four local landscape areas in each State Forest.
• These areas will be mapped out progressively over time.
• An average of 38% is protected before the new wildlife habitat clump requirements are considered. This will increase to an average of 41%.
Environmental protections include:
• A minimum of 5% of the harvest area to be permanently protected as a wildlife habitat clump to maintain habitat diversity and connectivity.
• Rainforest, high conservation value old growth, habitat corridors and owl habitat will continue to be protected.
• Threatened ecological communities have been mapped and will be excluded from harvesting.
• Streams are more accurately mapped and exclusion zones apply to provide landscape connectivity and protect waterways.
• Distributeintensive harvesting across the landscape and over a minimum 21 year period.
• Improved koala mapping to retain koala browse trees to support movement between areas and food resources.

• A site is the area where harvesting is taking place. Sites vary in size from about 45 to 250 hectares.
• There are many sites, called coupes or compartments, within each local landscape area.
• An average of 41% of State Forests at a site scale will be protected, increasing to 45% with added tree retention clumps.

Environmental protections include:
• Areas will be permanently protected to provide short term refuge, maintain forest structure, and protect important habitat features.
• Additional areas no less than 5 – 8% of the harvest area will be permanently set aside as new tree retention clumps.
• Hollow-bearing trees, nest and roost trees and giant trees will be permanently protected to provide ongoing shelter and food resources.
• Some target surveys will be retained for unique species of plants and animals that require protection.
• Sites will now be measured, mapped and monitored with mobile and desktop devices.

Visit: Proposed changes to timber harvesting in NSW's coastal forests - NSW Government; 'Once approved, the new Coastal IFOA will set the rules for how we use and harvest these forests so it’s important that you have your say.'

$196m For A Healthier Environment

June 19, 2018: EPA
The NSW Government has committed $196 million in the 2018-19 Budget to protect the health of the environment, reduce waste and strengthen recycling, Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton announced today.

“The NSW Government is committed to providing a healthy environment for future generations,” Ms Upton said. 

The Environment Protection Authority budget for 2018-19 includes
  • $70 million to improve waste management and resource recovery 
  • $8 million for the management of contaminated land 
  • $5 million for asbestos management, including emergency asbestos clean-up.
“The 2018-19 Budget provides support for programs and initiatives to reduce litter and waste, tackle illegal dumping and strengthen recycling,” Ms Upton said.

“Diverting waste from landfill is a key priority and the NSW Government has set targets to increase the diversion of waste from landfill from 63% in 2014-15 to 75% by 2021.

“The Premier has also made it a priority to reduce the volume of litter in NSW by 40% by 2020, achieved through Return and Earn, Hey Tosser and council and community litter prevention grants.”

“In March, I announced a support package of up to $47 million to help local government and industry to respond to China’s National Sword policy.

“The support package provides a range of short, medium and long-term programs to ensure kerbside recycling continues and to promote industry innovation.”

Ms Upton said there is also funding for the emergency clean-up of asbestos, managing James Hardie Asbestos legacy sites at Parramatta and support for the Broken Hill Lead program and the management of PFAS.

Pittwater Reserves

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

Green Team Beach Cleans 2018!

Hosted by The Green Team
The Green Team is back for 2018! 
It has been estimated that we will have more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050...These beach cleans are aimed at reducing the vast amounts of plastic from entering our oceans before they harm marine life. 

Anyone and everyone is welcome! If you would like to come along, please bring a bucket, gloves and hat. Kids of all ages are also welcome! 

The Green Team is a Youth-run, volunteer-based environment initiative from Avalon, Sydney. Keeping our area green and clean.


Create a Habitat Stepping Stone!

Over 50 Pittwater households have already pledged to make a difference for our local wildlife, and you can too! Create a habitat stepping stone to help our wildlife out. It’s easy - just add a few beautiful habitat elements to your backyard or balcony to create a valuable wildlife-friendly stopover.

How it works

1) Discover: Visit the website below to find dozens of beautiful plants, nest boxes and water elements you can add to your backyard or balcony to help our local wildlife.

2) Pledge: Select three or more elements to add to your place. You can even show you care by choosing to have a bird appear on our online map.

3) Share: Join the Habitat Stepping Stones Facebook community to find out what’s happening in the natural world, and share your pics, tips and stories.

What you get                                  

• Enjoy the wonders of nature, right outside your window. • Free and discounted plants for your garden. • A Habitat Stepping Stone plaque for your front fence. • Local wildlife news and tips. • Become part of the Pittwater Habitat Stepping Stones community.

Get the kids involved and excited about helping out!

No computer? No problem -Just write to the address below and we’ll mail you everything you need. Habitat Stepping Stones, Department of Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University NSW 2109. This project is assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust

Marine Reserves Are Vital - But Under Pressure

June 22, 2018: James Cook University
A massive study of nearly 1800 tropical coral reefs around the world has found that marine reserves near heavily populated areas struggle to do their job -- but are a vast improvement over having no protection at all.

Professor Josh Cinner from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia led a team of 37 scientists examining the effectiveness of different reef conservation strategies.

"Fish stocks were extremely depleted on reefs that were accessible to large human populations. Compared to marine reserves far from these human pressures, reserves near high human pressure had only a quarter of the fish and were a hundred times less likely to have top predators such as sharks," said Professor Cinner.

The scientists also studied how differences in ecological conditions between marine reserves, where fishing is prohibited, and places open to fishing changed as human pressures increased. "This tells you where you can get the biggest impact from implementing conservation," said Professor Cinner.

"A really novel and exciting part of our study found that the greatest difference in fish biomass between marine reserves and places open to fishing was in locations with medium to high human pressure. This means that, for most fisheries species, marine reserves have the biggest bang where human pressures are medium to high," he said.

For example, on reefs subject to high human pressure, marine reserves had five times more fish than openly fished reefs -- a benefit that can spillover into the depleted fisheries in surrounding areas.

"However, top predators such as sharks were a different kettle of fish," said co-author Dr Aaron MacNeil from Dalhousie University.

The scientists encountered top predators on less than 30% of their surveys conducted all across the globe, and very rarely in locations where human pressures were high.

"You'd have to do about 200 dives to see a top predator in reserves with the highest human pressure. But where human pressure was low, you'd be likely to see predators more than half the time," said Dr MacNeil.

Dr Michele Barnes from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at JCU said that in many places, social, economic, and cultural realities mean that marine reserves that entirely prohibit fishing are not an option.

"So, we also looked at how effective other forms of reef conservation were, such as restricting the types of fishing gear that people use. Our results were promising -- these restrictions certainly had better outcomes than doing nothing, but not as good as marine reserves. They were a sort of compromise," she said.

Professor Cinner said the study makes clear the benefits and limitations of implementing key coral reef conservation strategies in different types of locations. "Our research shows where managers will be able to maximise certain goals, such as sustaining top predators or improving the biomass of key fisheries species, and likewise, where they will be wasting their time," he said.

A grey reef shark swims over a reef in a large protected area far from humans. Photo credit: Nick Graham

Joshua E. Cinner, Eva Maire, Cindy Huchery, M. Aaron MacNeil, Nicholas A. J. Graham, Camilo Mora, Tim R. McClanahan, Michele L. Barnes, John N. Kittinger, Christina C. Hicks, Stephanie D’Agata, Andrew S. Hoey, Georgina G. Gurney, David A. Feary, Ivor D. Williams, Michel Kulbicki, Laurent Vigliola, Laurent Wantiez, Graham J. Edgar, Rick D. Stuart-Smith, Stuart A. Sandin, Alison Green, Marah J. Hardt, Maria Beger, Alan M. Friedlander, Shaun K. Wilson, Eran Brokovich, Andrew J. Brooks, Juan J. Cruz-Motta, David J. Booth, Pascale Chabanet, Charlotte Gough, Mark Tupper, Sebastian C. A. Ferse, U. Rashid Sumaila, Shinta Pardede, David Mouillot. Gravity of human impacts mediates coral reef conservation gains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201708001 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1708001115

Coral Reefs Losing Ability To Keep Pace With Sea-Level Rise

June 14, 2018 ARC Coral Reef Studies
Many coral reefs will be unable to keep growing fast enough to keep up with rising sea levels, leaving tropical coastlines and low-lying islands exposed to increased erosion and flooding risk, new research suggests.

An international team, led by scientists from University of Exeter, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Lancaster University and the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE), compared the maximum upward growth rates of coral reefs with predicted rates of sea-level rise, and found many reefs will be unable to keep pace.

Eroding reef. Photo by Prof Chris Perry, University of Exeter. 

The growth of coral reefs is strongly influenced by the amount and types of coral living on the reef surface. This growth is now being hampered by combinations of coral disease, deteriorating water quality and fishing pressure, along with severe impacts from “coral bleaching” caused by climate change.

“For many reefs across the Caribbean and Indian Ocean regions, where the study focused, rates of growth are slowing due to coral reef degradation,” said lead author Professor Chris Perry, of the University of Exeter.

“Meanwhile, rates of sea-level rise are increasing – and our results suggest reefs will be unable to keep up. As a result, water depths above most reefs will increase rapidly through this century.”

“Even under modest climate change prediction scenarios (RCP4.5) only about 3% of Indian Ocean reefs will be able to track local sea-level rise projections without sustained ecological recovery, whilst under continued high emission scenarios (RCP8.5) most reefs will experience water depth increases in excess of half a metre,” added co-author Dr Aimée Slangen of NIOZ, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.

“This is now of critical concern because reefs play a key role as natural sea defences by limiting coastal wave energy exposure,” commented Professor Nick Graham, of Lancaster University, another co-author of the study.

“Efforts to tackle climate change must therefore be coupled with careful management of fishing and water quality protection to prevent widespread submergence through this century.”

The researchers calculated growth rates for more than 200 tropical western Atlantic and Indian Ocean reefs.

“Now more than ever, we must limit global greenhouse gas emissions. Our predictions, even under the best case scenarios, suggest that by 2100 the inundation of reefs will expose coastal communities to significant threats of shoreline change,” said co-author Professor Peter Mumby of Coral CoE at The University of Queensland. “Healthier coral reefs will reduce the rate of seawater inundation.”

Professor Perry concluded: “The most worrying end-point scenario in this respect is that if predictions of increasing bleaching frequency are realised, many reefs may become locked into permanent low growth rate states, leading to more submergence under all future sea-level rise scenarios.”

The paper, published in the journal Nature, is entitled: “Loss of coral reef growth capacity to track sea-level rise under climate change.”

Citation: Perry, Chris T., Alvarez-Filip, Lorenzo, Graham, Nicholas A. J., Mumby, Peter J.,..Macdonald, Chancey et al. (2018). Loss of coral reef growth capacity to track future increases in sea level. Nature, 1476-4687 DOI – 10.1038/s41586-018-0194-z

Bogong Moths First Insect Known To Use Magnetic Sense In Long-Distance Nocturnal Migration

June 21, 2018
Each spring, millions of nocturnal Bogong moths hatch across breeding grounds throughout southeastern Australia before flying over 1,000 kilometers through the dark night to reach a limited number of high alpine caves in the Australian Alps. After a few months of summer dormancy in those cool mountain caves, the moths fly right back to the breeding grounds where they were born. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on June 21 have found that the moths, like migratory birds, depend on the Earth's magnetic field to guide them on their way.

The discovery offers the first reliable evidence that nocturnal insects can use the Earth's magnetic field to steer flight during migration, the researchers say.

"When we began this study, we were convinced that the Bogong moth would exclusively use celestial cues in the sky, such as the stars and the moon, for navigation during migration," says Eric Warrant of the University of Lund, Sweden. "This, it turned out, was not the case. We were very surprised when we discovered that these moths could sense the earth's magnetic field just like night-migratory birds -- and probably for the same reason."

Bogong moths and monarch butterflies are the only known insects to migrate over such long distances, and along such a specific route, to a distinct and geographically restricted destination visited by thousands of previous generations. In the new study, Warrant, David Dreyer, and colleagues set out to explore how such a small animal, with its tiny brain and nervous system, could travel so precisely and so far, having never been to their destination before. How could the same individuals then find their way back again after months in the mountains?

The researchers tethered migrating moths in an outdoor flight simulator. They found that the moths' flight direction turned predictably when dominant visual landmarks and a natural Earth-strength magnetic field were turned together. When those two cues were turned in conflicting ways, the moths became disoriented within minutes. The findings led the researchers to conclude that Bogong moths rely on a magnetic sense.

This photograph shows Bogong Moths on a cave wall. Credit: Eric Warrant

The findings suggest that nocturnally migrating insects might use the Earth's magnetic field as a compass during migration just as nocturnally migrating birds do. The researchers suspect the moths use a magnetic compass to determine their migratory direction and then align this direction with a celestial or terrestrial landmark in the same or a similar direction, which they then use as a visual beacon.

"This is essentially the same strategy we use when hiking in wilderness terrain: we determine our direction with a compass and then look for some distant landmark in roughly the same direction -- for instance a mountaintop or a distant tree -- and then head for this as we walk," Dreyer said. "When this landmark is no longer reliable, we again check our direction with the compass and choose a new landmark to orient towards."

The researchers say they would now like to dissect in more detail how and which visual and magnetic cues the moths use and how they are integrated in the brain. Due to the moth's relatively simple nervous system, they also hope to learn how the insects detect magnetic information, something that hasn't yet been achieved in any animal.

"The discovery of the magnetic sensor is one of the Holy Grails of sensory physiology," Warrant says.

David Dreyer, Barrie Frost, Henrik Mouritsen, Anja Günther, Ken Green, Mary Whitehouse, Sönke Johnsen, Stanley Heinze, Eric Warrant.The Earth’s Magnetic Field and Visual Landmarks Steer Migratory Flight Behavior in the Nocturnal Australian Bogong Moth. Current Biology, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.030

Six New Species Of Goblin Spiders Named After Famous Goblins And Brownies

June 22, 2018
Fictional characters originally 'described' by famous English children's writer Enid Blyton have given their names to six new species of minute goblin spiders discovered in the diminishing forests of Sri Lanka.

The newly discovered goblin spider species Xestaspis kandy in its natural habitat. Credit: Suresh P. Benjamin CC-BY 4.0

The goblins Bom, Snooky and Tumpy and the brownies Chippy, Snippy and Tiggy made their way from the pages of: "The Goblins Looking-Glass" (1947), "Billy's Little Boats" (1971) and "The Firework Goblins" (1971) to the scientific literature in a quest to shed light on the remarkable biodiversity of the island country of Sri Lanka, Indian Ocean.

As a result of their own adventure, which included sifting through the leaf litter of the local forests, scientists Prof. Suresh P. Benjamin and Ms. Sasanka Ranasinghe of the National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Sri Lanka, described a total of nine goblin spider species in six genera as new to science. Two of these genera are reported for the very first time from outside Australia.

Their paper is published in the open access journal Evolutionary Systematics.

With a total of 45 species in 13 genera, the goblin spider fauna in Sri Lanka -- a country taking up merely 65,610 km2 -- is already remarkably abundant. Moreover, apart from their diversity, these spiders amaze with their extreme endemism. While some of the six-eyed goblins can only be found at a few sites, other species can be seen nowhere outside a single forest patch.

"Being short-range endemics with very restricted distributions, these species may prove to be very important when it comes to monitoring the effects of climate change and other threats for the forest habitats in Sri Lanka," explain the researchers.

In European folklore, goblins and brownies are known as closely related small and often mischievous fairy-like creatures, which live in human homes and even do chores while the family is asleep, since they avoid being seen. In exchange, they expect from their 'hosts' to leave food for them.

Similarly, at size of a few millimetres, goblin spiders are extremely tough to notice on the forest floors they call home. Further, taking into consideration the anthropogenic factors affecting their habitat, the arachnids also turn out to be heavily dependent on humans.

U.G.S.L. Ranasinghe, Suresh P. Benjamin. Taxonomic descriptions of nine new species of the goblin spider genera Cavisternum, Grymeus, Ischnothyreus, Opopaea, Pelicinus and Silhouettella (Araneae, Oonopidae) from Sri Lanka. Evolutionary Systematics, 2018; 2 (1): 65 DOI: 10.3897/evolsyst.2.25200

Midwinter Madness – Antarctic Expeditioners Plunge Into Icy Pool

June 21, 2018
Australian Antarctic expeditioners have plunged into a pool cut into the sea ice to celebrate the winter solstice. 

With the temperature hovering around minus 22 degrees and the water temperature nearly minus 2 degrees, Casey research station expeditioners took a deep breath before dipping into the icy waters.

Casey Station Leader, Rebecca Jeffcoat, said midwinter day is the most anticipated occasion on the Antarctic calendar and has been celebrated from the time of the early explorers, such as Sir Douglas Mawson, right through to modern day expeditioners.

“Swimming in Antarctica’s below freezing waters is something of a mad tradition, but our hardy expeditioners look forward to it, with 21 of the 26 people on station brave enough to take an icy dip this year,” Ms Jeffcoat said. 

“Midwinter day is really important in Antarctica because it marks the halfway point of our year here on the ice and it means the sun will spend slightly longer in the sky each day.” 

Midwinter celebrations at Australia’s three Antarctic research stations and sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, include a feast, exchange of handmade gifts, midwinter play and messages from home. 

Celebrations also take place at the Division’s headquarters in Tasmania. There are 75 expeditioners currently living and working in Antarctica as part of the Australian Antarctic Program. 

Ms Jeffcoat, who is experiencing her first Antarctic winter, said the continent is extraordinary.

“The environment is spectacular and harsh, and we experience the most incredible range of conditions, from below freezing blizzards to auroras, or the midwinter twilight as the sun skims the horizon,” she said. 

“It is challenging being so far from family and friends, but we have built a really close knit community of friends on station that we’ll likely have for the rest of our lives as we’ve shared this great experience together. 

“We’re all really proud to be counted as one of the small number or people who have been lucky enough to winter in Antarctica, keeping the station running through the long cold months so we can then support the science of the Australian Antarctic Program.”

The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) and Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg MP sent video greetings to the expeditioners for their midwinter celebrations.

Barry Balkin during his midwinter dip (Photo: George Brettingham-Moore)

A New Era For Antarctic Science

21 June 2018: Joint media release - 
The Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP
Minister for the Environment and Energy
Sentator The Hon. Michaelia Cash
Minister for Jobs and Innovation
Senator The Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Education and Training
The Coalition Government is establishing a new Australian Antarctic Science Council to revitalise science research on a new platform, as well as boost Hobart's position as an Antarctic science hub, and as the premier gateway to Antarctica.

The new Antarctic Science Council will provide further strategic direction for the Australian Antarctic Program, oversee science funding priorities and ensure funds directly support Antarctic research, reducing administrative costs and making it easier to plan multi-year projects.

Australia has developed world-class Antarctic science capabilities over many decades, much of which is based in Hobart. Comprising an independent Chair and representatives from key Antarctic science agencies, the Council will enhance Australia's international reputation for Antarctic science.

The Coalition Government has committed more than $100 million over the next 10 years for Antarctic science, delivered through two new initiatives:

The Antarctic Science Collaboration Initiative with $5 million per year for 10 years from 2019-20, delivered by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.
The Special Research Initiative in Excellence in Antarctic Science with $8 million per year for seven years from January 2020, delivered by the Australian Research Council.
The establishment of the Council is the first step in implementing the recommendations of a review into the governance of Australia's Antarctic Science Program, undertaken by Mr Drew Clarke, a highly-respected former senior public servant.

The review was undertaken to ensure Antarctic investments are effective, joined-up and fit-for-purpose. The Government has supported, either in full or in principle, all nine recommendations in the Clarke Review.

This revamp of science funding delivers on the Coalition Government's Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan to increase Antarctic research.

The Clarke Review and the Government's response can be found at

Whether Wheat Weathers Heat Waves

June 20, 208
A heat wave sweeps through a city and people swelter, running indoors to find air conditioning. But crops out in a field aren't so lucky. For them, there is no escape.

Scientists in Australia are working to understand how heat waves impact wheat. They are mixing observational studies with techniques from computer science. This will allow them to create models to understand how wheat will respond in certain conditions.

Heat can affect plants and the soil, water, air, and microbes around them in many different ways. Knowing how all of these factors affect crops could help farmers protect their plants against heat waves' effects.

"Heat waves can greatly reduce wheat in growing regions and modeling could aid in finding strategies to limit the impact of extreme weather and climate change," says James Nuttall. Nuttall works for Australia's Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources. "This can specifically come in handy during the sensitive periods of crop flowering and the grain filling phase."

Wheat is an important crop with a worldwide production of 729 million tons in 2014. It is a major source of human nutrition. Nuttall says that maintaining stable production into the future includes finding ways to reduce the effects of heat stress to plants.

Nuttall and his team performed three experiments. They tried to get a complete picture of the different characteristics of heat stress, such as timing, intensity, and duration. They tested how plants responded to a multi-day heat wave and if it affected plants more during their flowering or grain-filling phase. They also studied how water availability during the heat wave affected the wheat.

Results showed that high temperatures five days before the wheat began to flower reduced the number of wheat grains on a plant. Also, a high-temperature event while the grain of wheat was growing reduced how big it got.

They then put all the results together into a computer simulation model. This allowed them to predict how wheat beyond just the plants in their experiment could be impacted by a heat wave.

Nuttall explains: "Crop modeling allows you to test responses for environment or treatment combinations, and also test how those interact with each other."

He says a good example is in climate change studies where scientists are interested in plants' response to carbon dioxide levels, temperature, and rainfall. A crop model allows them to test combinations of these factors on growth and yield.

"These models allow us to make a prediction of crop growth and yield," he says. "In finding ways to combat heat waves, modeling provides a tool to see the effects of climate and weather changes on wheat production. It helps us predict how wheat will react so we can try to stop any negative effects beforehand."

Nuttall says the next step in their research is to test their models using fields of wheat rather than a smaller sample of plants. They ultimately want to include their work in larger crop models to improve them.

"As a scientist, there is satisfaction in finding relationships between crop growth and stresses like heat waves," he says. "I also think the work is valuable because we can help crop models identify possible ways that allow us to keep producing the food our planet needs."

This research was funded by the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation and Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

James G. Nuttall, Kirsten M. Barlow, Audrey J. Delahunty, Brendan P. Christy, Garry J. O’Leary. Acute High Temperature Response in Wheat. Agronomy Journal, 2018; DOI: 10.2134/agronj2017.07.0392

Audrey Delahunty examines wheat exposed to acute high temperature, Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources. Credit: James Nuttall

Powerful Owl Release

March 18, 2018: Avalon Preservation Association
PNHA's Jacqui Marlow has advised that a Powerful Owl chick has been released in Plateau Park following its recuperation in Taronga Park. 

If you see it there being harassed, or even if you see it at all, can you please phone her on 0458 194 127.

Powerful owl family - photo courtesy PNHA


June 18, 2018
Prime Minister of Australia
The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull
The Turnbull Government is backing Australian businesses and Australian jobs by launching negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

We are seeking an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement to drive Australian exports, economic growth and create new Australian jobs.

A trade agreement with the EU will open the door to a market of half a billion consumers and a GDP of US$17.3 trillion - making it one of Australia’s biggest trade agreements once concluded.

Australian exporters are currently at a disadvantage to many of our biggest competitors because Australia lacks preferential access into the EU.

We will be working to secure better access for Australian food and agriculture products, creating the framework for open, fair and equitable trade.

Making Australian exports more competitive means our farmers can sell more produce, our professionals can provide more services and our manufacturers can make and sell more goods. The more Australia sells to the world, the more Australian jobs are created.

We will look to lock in access and create new commercially meaningful opportunities for Australian services exporters, with a focus on education, financial and professional services. We will also explore rules and initiatives to support the digital economy, innovation and increase opportunities for high-technology start ups.

As a bloc, the EU is Australia’s second largest trading partner, third largest export destination, and second largest services market.  The EU was Australia’s largest source of foreign investment in 2017.

The EU is one of the best opportunities for Australian businesses and is a key part of the Turnbull Government’s ambitious trade agenda. We will now have agreements, or negotiations underway, with all of our top ten trading partners. The Turnbull Government is pursuing Australia’s most ambitious trade agenda to open more markets, create a stronger economy and more Australian jobs.

The first round of negotiations will be held in Brussels in early July. We invite stakeholders to provide their views throughout the negotiating process.

Age Pension Application Process Needs Major Overhaul

June 21, 2018: National Seniors
The Centrelink application process for the Age Pension needs an urgent overhaul, according to National Seniors Australia.

National Seniors’ Interim CEO Professor John McCallum said Age Pension applicants had described the process as “too hard, too complicated and too long”.

Prof. McCallum said the Centrelink application process demanded immediate attention given the Federal Government was reforming the superannuation system.

Joint research by National Seniors and Retirement Essentials showed most applicants were dissatisfied with the service provided by Centrelink staff, whose job it was to help eligible retirees benefit from the security of the Age Pension.

The joint research analysed the views of 530 National Seniors members who had applied for the Aged Pension since 2016. It showed less than four in 10 – or 38.5 per cent – were satisfied with the process, 42.4 per cent were dissatisfied and 19 per cent ambivalent.

Applicants said their time and needs were not valued or recognised by Centrelink staff, describing the application process as “generally appalling”, and staff “unhelpful, disinterested and reluctant to answer questions”.

One applicant said the mission of Centrelink appeared to be “to prevent as many people as possible from accessing income support”. Others complained of long wait times (whether phoning or visiting Centrelink offices), complicated forms and processes, and of receiving conflicting advice from different staff.

Prof. McCallum said 82 per cent of seniors sought assistance from Centrelink, financial advisers, friends or family when applying for the Age Pension, rather than attempting it independently. Despite this, many applicants remained dissatisfied with the experience.

The report had identified clear areas for improvement in Centrelink training, internal processes and management.

Prof. McCallum said it was essential the issues were addressed, given there were more than 700 applications for the Age Pension every working day, with a total of 174,000 applications processed in 2016-17.

“Our study provides clear evidence that senior Australians face unnecessary hurdles to access the Age Pension entitlements they rely on for their essential living expenses,” Prof. McCallum said.

“The complexity of the Centrelink processes, combined with insufficient call centre operators, long wait times and insufficient Financial Information Service Officers, is frustrating for older Australians.

“The complexity of the Centrelink processes, combined with insufficient call centre operators, long wait times and insufficient Financial Information Service Officers, is frustrating for older Australians.

“Today, Centrelink’s assistance is at the end of a long wait on the phone or in a queue at the local Centrelink office, an under-resourced (albeit competent) Financial Information Service, or an online service that has been poorly designed for the physical and digital capabilities and service needs of older people.

“While there are system improvements underway at Centrelink, they don’t appear to adequately address the frustrations faced by senior Australians. They are focussed on digital options that replace face-to-face services and Age Pension applicants do not appear to be a priority in the short or medium term.”

Centrelink call centre wait times increased last year, with almost 500,000 abandoned calls to the seniors help line. Prof. McCallum said the Federal Government’s announcement of 1000 additional operators would help ease the burden on busy phone lines.

But other issues, such as the overly complex Age Pension application process, needed to be addressed.

“Systems can be complex but the entry can be made easy with good design,” Prof. McCallum said.

“It’s critical that older consumers are involved in their design to ensure their useability. Similarly, attention to training and supervision can improve consumer experiences dramatically.”

Retirement Essentials CEO Paul Rogan said the research went beyond the anecdotal descriptions of Centrelink being a “nightmare”, to a better understanding of the cause and scale of the problem for senior Australians. 

“It is clear the system is not geared for seniors to independently (and confidently) apply for the Age Pension,” Mr Rogan said. “Centrelink and other groups must work together to make it easier for those who are eligible to access the entitlements they rely on to fund their basic needs in retirement.”

The full report can be accessed here

Laughter The Best Medicine For World Continence Week

June 18, 2018: The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister for Aged Care
Aged Care Minister and Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt today called on the one in four Australians affected by incontinence to make sure they seek help and receive the support available to live life to the full and learn to “laugh without leaking”.

Launching World Continence Week in Australia, Minister Wyatt said the condition affected more than five million people across the country but was a silent burden for too many people.

“The Government is providing in excess of $14 million over four years from 2016-17 until 2019-20 to ensure all Australians have access to the information and support they need to get help for continence problems,” said Minister Wyatt.

“That funding has helped the Continence Foundation create a new campaign Laugh without Leaking which takes the larrikin approach to help more Australians get past any embarrassment and seek help.

“I believe this rather irreverent take will get people with continence issues to realise they are not alone, and motivate them to talk to their doctor or call the National Continence Helpline.”

Minister Wyatt said there was a lot that could be done to treat continence problems.

“Not only can people better manage the condition, it can even be cured,” said Minister Wyatt.

“The assistance isn’t limited to medical advice - one of the innovations is the very useful map of public toilets freely available online and via mobile phone app. 

“Knowing you can easily and quickly locate one of 19,000 loos listed across the country can help give people back their confidence, independence and freedom.”

To date, there have been more 1.5 million downloads of the app and the website map is visited more than 800,000 times a year.

World Continence Week, from June 18 to 24, includes more than 200 events, talks, activities, displays and performances across the country to help de-stigmatise incontinence and encourage people to share their stories as ‘toilet humour’ and get treatment. 

In Canberra, the Continence Foundation is encouraging people to learn about the Public Toilet map and share a selfie with the “Aussie outdoor dunny” on display at the National General Assembly of Local Government, National Convention Centre from Sunday 17 June to Wednesday 20 June.

For information visit the Australian Continence Exchange (ACE). The National Continence Helpline is 1800 33 00 66.

The National Public Toilet Map is available online, along with apps available for Apple and Android mobile devices.

NSW Government Invests In Carers

June 15, 2018: Media release - NSW Minister for Disability Services, The Hon. Ray Williams
The NSW Government today announced 12 organisations across NSW will receive a share of $5.6 million over three years to run 14 projects supporting carers.

Carers across the State will benefit from the diverse range of projects funded by the new Carers Investment Program covering carer research, employment, education, health and wellbeing.

Minister for Disability Services, Ray Williams said the program funds innovative projects to support carers participate fully in their community.

“The NSW Government is committed to ensuring carers are supported and have the same choices and opportunities as everybody else,” Mr Williams said.

“Carers provide invaluable support to relatives and friends who need assistance due to their disability or illness, but these carers can often face barriers to looking after themselves.”

“The Carers Investment Program will support carers to overcome these challenges and allow them to thrive in various aspects of their lives.”

Projects funded under the program range from the establishment of a research centre purely dedicated to carer research, peer-support pilots, employment and training projects, and initiatives to support carers of people in health settings.

Carers NSW is one organisation to receive funding under the program for their new YC-Drive project that will support young carers to obtain their provisional drivers licences.

“Unfortunately, financial and practical barriers to obtaining a drivers licence are common among young carers,” Elena Katrakis, Carers NSW CEO said.

“Funding for this project will ensure young carers are given the opportunity to gain driving experience so they can gain independence and enjoy the same employment, educational and social opportunities as any other.”

For more information about the Carers Investment Program, visit:

More Than $25 Billion For Total Health Budget

June 19, 2018: Media release- the Hon. Brad Hazzard, NSW Minister for Health
Significantly boosting hospital services and emergency care, as well as supporting families across the State, are top priorities of the NSW Budget 2018, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard announced today.

More than $2.3 billion will be invested in capital, on top of almost $23 billion in recurrent spending over the coming year, taking the total health budget to more than $25 billion.

Mr Perrottet said the recurrent funding provides for almost half a million more emergency attendances, elective surgeries and non-admitted patient services.

“This record Budget will ensure patients across the State get world-class, timely care in our hospitals and health services no matter where they live,” he said.

“The NSW Liberals & Nationals have invested more in health than any Government before, and will continue to deliver a major capital program of new and upgraded health facilities as part of a record $8 billion investment over the next four years.”

Mr Perrottet said the Budget also added 1,370 health staff, including 950 nurses and midwives, 300 medical practitioners and 120 allied health professionals – resulting in a record frontline clinical and clinical support staff of over 105,000.

“This year’s staffing boost means that since 2011, there have been more than 16,000 nurses, midwives, doctors, allied health professionals and hospital support staff added to better serve the community,” Mr Perrottet said.

“The NSW Government continues to deliver the strongest economy in the country and is not only building more hospitals and delivering better health services but investing in our greatest health asset – the amazing staff who care for our patients.”

Mr Hazzard said this year’s Budget delivers on the Government’s 2015 election commitment to employ 360 new specialised nursing, midwifery and support positions and provide extra training positions for medical, allied and oral health.

“This Budget shows the Liberals & Nationals Government is committed to creating healthy communities, and is delivering vital, world-class health services closer to home right across NSW.”

The health highlights in the Budget include:
  • ​An additional $759 million for acute hospital services,providing:
  • ​40,000 extra emergency department attendances in addition to the 2.9 million currently provided
  • 3,200 elective surgeries in addition to the 225,500 currently provided
  • 52,000 acute inpatient admissions 
  • 400,000 more non-admitted patient services on top of the 13.9 million provided
  • ​More than $2.3 billion in capital works funding to continue building and redeveloping hospitals, health facilities and ambulance stations, as part of a record $8 billion investment over the next four years.
  • $2.1 billion for mental health services, including $20 million toupgrade mental health facilities as part of a $700 million statewide Mental Health Infrastructure Program.
  • $115 million in medical and scientific innovations to help fight diseases, including $60 million for cardiovascular medical research over four years ($150 million over 10 years).
  • $944 million in NSW Ambulance services, including $23.7 million for 200 more paramedics and 13 more call centre staff (700 paramedics and 50 call centre staff over four years).
  • $38 million to tackle obesity, including $25 million for childhood obesity.
  • A new $35.3 million Parents Package to support pregnant women and babies, including 100 more midwives to support maternity services and additional nurses for more postnatal home visits ($157 million over four years). 
  • $27.1 million for palliative care support, as part of the Government’s $100 million palliative care package.
  • An additional $12 million on drug and alcohol services, including expanding youth services, residential rehabilitation and treatment for pregnant women ($850 million over four years).
  • $10 million to deliver increased dental services.
  • $8.1 million to recruit a further 80 new specialised nursing, midwifery and support positions, fulfilling the Government’s 2015 election commitment to employ an additional 360.

Roads Maritime & Freight Delivering A Stronger More Affordable NSW

June 19, 2018: Media release - the Hon. Melinda Pavey
NSW Budget 2018 is delivering safer roads and easing cost of living pressures across the State by sealing country roads in Tibooburra, investing in the Coffs Harbour Bypass, slashing registration costs for caravanners and providing Toll Relief for drivers.

The NSW Government is also reducing travel times on main arterial routes such as King Georges Road, Henry Lawson Drive and Heathcote Road, as well as improving traffic flow on the M4 from Parramatta through to the Blue Mountains with the M4 Smart Motorway upgrade.

Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey said NSW Budget 2018 showcases our strong financial management with an overall investment of $9.1 billion to continue building and improving our road, maritime and freight infrastructure.

“Never before has NSW seen such investment in bold infrastructure. It’s a clear sign of our economic strength in being able to deliver more jobs, improve efficiency and provide benefits to consumers at the till,” Mrs Pavey said.

“From the city to the bush, we’re sharing the wealth so all regions continue to thrive. We will seal all highways in the regions, making our roads safer and more resilient, while at the same time addressing pinch points in urban areas to improve traffic flow and ease congestion.

“We are also investing in our freight network through the fixing country rail and road initiatives, which allows the movement of more than $200 billion worth of products such as whitegoods and grain throughout the State.

“We are delivering substantial benefits allowing commuters to spend less time in traffic and more time doing things they love.”

The 2018-19 NSW Budget commits additional funds for:
• Road safety – a $600 million boost brings the total allocation to $1.9 billion over five years to improve road safety in NSW, including targeted safety infrastructure upgrades as well as enhanced enforcement;

• Heathcote Road – $173 million towards upgrading the Woronora River bridge and widening between Hammondville and Voyager Point;

• Nowra Bridge – $155 million reserved to match Australian Government funding and enable a new Princes Highway bridge to be built across the Shoalhaven River;

• Henry Lawson Drive – $100 million for widening between the M5 Motorway and Milperra Road, and;

• Sealing Country Roads –$an additional $40 million will allow initial sealing of the last two unsealed State Highways in NSW – the Cobb and Silver City Highways – to be completed by 2023.

Major funding allocations in 2018-19 include:
• $1.8 billion for the new Westconnex motorway with the M4 East Tunnel opening in first half of 2019;

• $1.7 billion for maintenance of road, maritime and freight assets;

• $1.2 billion to continue the NSW and Australian Government funded Pacific Highway upgrade, including planning and preconstruction for the Coffs Harbour Bypass;

• $439 million for the NSW and Australian Government funded Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan which is providing upgrades of key routes from Liverpool, Penrith and Campbelltown to access to the new Western Sydney Airport;

• $334 million for established Sydney roads including upgrades to Heathcote Road, Henry Lawson Drive and King Georges Road;

• $281 million for easing congestion at pinch points across Sydney including upgrades around Sydney airport and the M4 Smart Motorway;

• $244 million for the Princes Highway, allowing construction to commence on the Albion Park Rail Bypass, Berry to Bomaderry upgrade and the replacement bridge at Batemans Bay;

• $178 million to continue planning and preconstruction for the F6 extension Stage 1, Western Harbour Tunnel, Beaches Link and Sydney Gateway;

• $165 million for Central Coast roads including widening the Pacific Motorway and upgrading the Empire Bay Drive intersection with The Scenic Road and Cochrone Street at Kincumber;

• $168 million investment in maritime improvements across NSW for commercial and recreational fishers and boaters;

• $119 million for road freight safety and productivity in regional New South Wales;

• $87 million on Freight Rail infrastructure upgrades, including the Fixing Country Rail program designed to enhance rail infrastructure and eliminate connectivity constraints affecting regional freight services;

• $84 million for the New England Highway including the Scone bypass and the Bolivia Hill upgrade between Glen Innes and Tenterfield;

• $81 million for Bridges for the Bush, allowing construction of new bridges to commence at Gunnedah, Barrington and on Nerriga Road near Braidwood;

• $62 million for the Newell Highway including fast tracking the delivery of overtaking lanes through an innovative contract approach and planning for the new Dubbo bridge, and;

• $55 million for upgrades to Hunter roads, including completion of the intersection upgrade where the M1 Motorway meets John Renshaw Drive and Weakleys Drive.

“NSW Budget 2018 represents the largest dedicated investment in road safety, enabling us to deliver further road safety upgrades and initiatives to save lives and reduce serious injuries on our roads,” Mrs Pavey said.

A Healthier Start For Aboriginal Kids In NSW

June 21, 2018: NSW Health
Aboriginal children face a brighter future with the teenage motherhood rate almost halving in 20 years, smoking in pregnancy down by a third, and child vaccination rates among the best in the country.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said this year’s Chief Health Officer’s report, Aboriginal Kids – a healthy start to life, showed some very positive trends in Aboriginal children’s health.

“The first five years of a person’s life are the most important for laying foundations for learning, health and wellbeing,” Dr Chant said.

“So I’m very pleased to see the percentage of Aboriginal teenage mothers has almost halved since 1994, down from 23 to 13 per cent.

“The Aboriginal infant mortality rate has dropped substantially, too, and the full immunisation rates for Aboriginal children at five years of age are actually higher than the rate for non-Aboriginal children - at 97 per cent compared to 94 per cent - which is a terrific result.”

Another pleasing sign for Dr Chant was the percentage of Aboriginal children receiving health assessments, which has almost tripled since 2010-11.

Report co-author Stephen Blunden, the acting Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council said the progress in Aboriginal children’s health was a reflection of successful partnerships within the community.

“This is a good example of what a difference we can make when we work together,” Mr Blunden said. “There’s still work to be done in other areas of Aboriginal health but we should not lose sight of the major achievements we’ve reached in recent years because they’re improving the lives of the next generation of our community - our children.”

Dr Chant said NSW Health is committed to continuing efforts to improve the health of Aboriginal people in NSW through the Aboriginal Health Plan 2013-2023 and doing so collaboratively across government, and with the Aboriginal community health services.

UNSW Report Casts Doubt On Affordable Housing Planning Policy In Sydney

June 21st, 2018: UNSW Media
A report by UNSW Sydney’s City Futures Research Centre has found that the NSW government’s Affordable Rental Housing policy has delivered little genuinely affordable rental housing for very-low and low-income households.

The report on the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009 (ARHSEPP) found that very few approved additional dwellings were offered as private rental and ARHSEPP provisions were being used to overcome minimum apartment standards.

“The results strongly suggest that the ARHSEPP is not fit for purpose and needs to be replaced by new provisions that provide affordable rental options for low-income households,” the Director of City Futures Research Centre, Professor Bill Randolph, said.

The report was commissioned by the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) and focused on the dwellings delivered under the policy in southern and central Sydney.

The ARHSEPP was designed to facilitate the private development of more diverse and affordable rental housing options in the private market, but there has been very little monitoring to understand if the policy has been successful.

“While the ARHSEPP has delivered large numbers of dwellings across central and southern Sydney, it appears that many of the provisions are being used to circumvent other development controls, such as apartment design standards and dwelling mix, rather than deliver genuinely affordable rental housing,” lead report author Dr Laurence Troy said.

The report also found that growth of secondary dwellings, or granny flats, in the SSROC region in 2015/16 was six times higher than 2008, the year before the policy began.

Yet rents were marginally higher than comparable dwellings in each area.

“It is also not clear that these new secondary dwellings and boarding rooms are being counted as part of the growing stock of housing,” Dr Troy said.

“So we are adding considerable pressure to parts of Sydney without properly planning for wider infrastructure and community services.”

Clearer snapshot
SSROC President Cr John Faker said the report was important in understanding the real impacts of ARHSEPP in the SSROC region where there was a great need for affordable housing.

“Finally, we have a clearer snapshot that this policy is not providing the affordable housing that Sydney so much needs,” Cr Faker said.

The report found that since 2009 more than 9000 new boarding rooms were approved in SSROC and nearly 6000 of these were in the City of Sydney.

Half of the new boarding rooms were concentrated around universities and targeted student accommodation, but were only marginally cheaper than one-bed units near the universities.

But outside this area, the boarding rooms were 20-40% cheaper compared to one-bedroom units.

The report found that the Affordable Rental Housing policy needed to be integrated within a broader affordable housing strategy, and more explicitly linked to supporting the delivery of local affordable housing targets required as part of the Greater Sydney Region Plan.

SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said SSROC covered a third of the Greater Sydney Region’s population, with more than 1.7 million people calling it their home.

“This report is vital to our 11 SSROC councils as they continue to plan for the future and try to meet the ongoing demands of providing genuinely affordable housing.”

Around The World, People Have Surprisingly Modest Notions Of The 'Ideal' Life

June 20, 2018
It seems reasonable that people would want to maximize various aspects of life if they were given the opportunity to do so, whether it's the pleasure they feel, how intelligent they are, or how much personal freedom they have. In actuality, people around the world seem to aspire for more moderate levels of these and other traits, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Our research shows that people's sense of perfection is surprisingly modest," says psychological scientist Matthew J. Hornsey of the University of Queensland, first author on the research. "People wanted to have positive qualities, such as health and happiness, but not to the exclusion of other darker experiences -- they wanted about 75% of a good thing."

Furthermore, people said, on average, that they ideally wanted to live until they were 90 years old, which is only slightly higher than the current average life expectancy. Even when participants imagined that they could take a magic pill guaranteeing eternal youth, their ideal life expectancy increased by only a few decades, to a median of 120 years old. And when people were invited to choose their ideal IQ, the median score was about 130 -- a score that would classify someone as smart, but not a genius.

The data also revealed that participants from holistic cultures -- those that value notions of contradiction, change, and context -- chose ideal levels of traits that were consistently lower than those reported by participants from nonholistic cultures.

"Interestingly, the ratings of perfection were more modest in countries that had traditions of Buddhism and Confucianism," says Hornsey. "This makes sense -- these Eastern philosophies and religions tend to place more emphasis on the notion that seemingly contradictory forces coexist in a complementary, interrelated state, such that one cannot exist without the other."

In one study, Hornsey and colleagues analyzed data from a total of 2,392 participants in Australia, Chile, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Peru, Russia, and the United States. The researchers classified China, Hong Kong, India, and Japan as holistic cultures, predominantly influenced by religions or philosophies (such as Buddhism, Hinduism, or Taoism) that emphasize a more holistic worldview. They classified the other five regions -- Australia, Chile, Peru, Russia, and the United States -- as nonholistic cultures.

Participants in each region received a questionnaire translated into their native language. In response to a series of questions, participants reported their ideal level of intelligence; they also reported how long they would choose to live under normal circumstance and how long they would choose to live if they could take a magic pill ensuring eternal youth.

Using a scale that ranged from 0 (none) to 100 (maximum), participants indicated their ideal levels of health, individual freedom, happiness, pleasure, and self-esteem. They used the same scale to rate ideal levels of societal characteristics, such as morality, equality of opportunity, technological advancement, and national security.

In general, participants tended to rate their ideal levels of individual characteristics to be about 70-80%, although there was some variation across the traits. For example, many more participants chose to maximize health than chose to maximize happiness. Participants' ideals were also relatively modest for both intelligence and longevity, even when there were no limits on the levels they could choose.

The researchers found that participants in holistic cultures reported lower ideal levels for each individual trait than did participants who lived in nonholistic cultures.

A second study with 5,650 participants in 27 countries produced a similar pattern of results. Importantly, this study showed that participants from the Philippines and Indonesia -- regions that are collectivist but not holistic -- reported ideal levels of individual traits that were similar to those of participants from other nonholistic countries. This finding suggests that the difference between holistic and nonholistic cultures is unlikely to be explained by differences in collectivism.

In both studies, the researchers found no crosscultural differences in ideal levels of societal characteristics.

"This principle of maximization is threaded through many prominent philosophical and economic theories," Hornsey notes. "But our data suggest that people have much more complex, blended notions of perfection, ones that embrace both light and dark."

Co-authors on the research include Paul G. Bain (University of Bath), Emily Ann Harris (University of Queensland), Nadezhda Lebedeva (National research University), Emiko S. Kashima (LaTrobe University), Yanjun Guan (Durham University Business School), Roberto González (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), Sylvia X. Chen (Hong Kong Polytechnic University), and Sheyla Blumen (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú).

Chilean data collection was supported by the Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (FONDAP15130009) and the Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Research (FONDAP15110006). Russian data collection was supported by a subsidy granted by the government of the Russian Federation for implementation of the Global Competitiveness Program.

Matthew J. Hornsey, Paul G. Bain, Emily A. Harris, Nadezhda Lebedeva, Emiko S. Kashima, Yanjun Guan, Roberto González, Sylvia Xiaohua Chen, Sheyla Blumen. How Much Is Enough in a Perfect World? Cultural Variation in Ideal Levels of Happiness, Pleasure, Freedom, Health, Self-Esteem, Longevity, and Intelligence. Psychological Science, 2018; 095679761876805 DOI:10.1177/0956797618768058

$2.3 Billion Investment Continues NSW Hospitals Building Bonanza

June 19, 2018: Media release- the Hon. Brad Hazzard, NSW Minister for Health
NSW will benefit from a $2.3 billion investment in world-class hospitals and health services in 2018-19, with a record $8 billion being invested over the next four years for new facilities, upgrades and redevelopments. 
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said this record Budget delivers funding for 40 new, upgraded or redeveloped hospitals.
“Our Government is committed to providing state-of-the-art health facilities for all of NSW,” he said.
“Not only are metropolitan and regional communities all over NSW benefiting from new and improved emergency departments, more inpatient wards and operating theatres and better intensive cares services, but the health construction boom is bringing jobs to towns across the State.”
Mr Hazzard said a healthy economy means a healthy hospital system. 
“The NSW Government’s record health funding ensures our nurses, doctors and other clinicians can continue to provide the best possible care, supported by the most modern equipment in the newest facilities,” he said.
New major works and programs commencing in 2018-19 include: 
  • A major redevelopment of the Liverpool Health and Academic Precinct, including a  Comprehensive Cancer Centre, expanded emergency department, surgical, maternity and neonatal care, inpatient and ambulatory care services.
  • Stage One of Griffith Base Hospital, which will provide expanded inpatient, ambulatory care  services and critical care services.
  • Begin work on the Western Cancer Centre at Dubbo, which will deliver an integrated cancer diagnostic and treatment service for people in remote areas of Western NSW.
  • Commencing the statewide Mental Health Infrastructure Program, which will focus on improving therapeutic environments in acute mental health units, new specialist services for children and adolescents, mothers and their babies, and older persons, and an enhancement of assessment rooms to provide care and support in the community.
  • Commencing a new Rural Health Infrastructure Program, which will provide capacity to undertake upgrades and refurbishments to areas such as emergency departments, bathrooms, waiting areas, wards and treatment spaces of smaller rural facilities, including Tenterfield, Dungog, Scone and Gloucester.
Other highlights of the health capital works investment for 2018-19 include:
  • Continue the Westmead Hospital redevelopment (more than $188 million). 
  • Continue the expansion of the Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals ($90 million).
  • Continue the Nepean Hospital and Integrated Ambulatory Services Redevelopment ($94 million, including the car park).
  • Fast track works to expand and refurbish the birthing suite and refurbish existing theatres at St George Hospital ($10 million).
  • Refurbish the Bankstown-Lidcombe Emergency Department ($6.5 million).
  • Enhance hospital builds already in progress at Grafton, Inverell, Manning, Coffs Harbour, Cooma and Bowral (an extra $22.5 million in 2018-19, bringing the total 2018-19 allocation to $87 million). • $75 million for the next stage of Rouse Hill.
  • Commence car parks at Campbelltown, Wyong and Port Macquarie hospitals ($33.6 million).
  • Rollout of the Critical Communications Enhancement Program for NSW Ambulance, including the enhanced Government Radio Network, which will consolidate more than 70 separate radio networks to a single platform, addressing priority blackspots, and development of a "Push to Talk" service on ruggedised smartphone handsets as a fallback option during network failures ($17.7 million).
  • Undertake planning for John Hunter, Nepean Stage 2, Sydney Children’s Hospital Westmead Stage 2, Albury medical care and obstetric and neonatal services, Canterbury, Bankstown, Shoalhaven (Nowra), Hornsby and Goulburn ambulatory care ($15 million). 
  • Continue work on building new hospitals at Tweed, Macksville, Maitland, and Mudgee ($108.6 million).
  • Continue three Information and Communication Technology projects to deliver easy to read, accurate and more accessible patient records and hospital pathology results, and upgrade digital infrastructure across the State ($115.1 million).
  • Continue to invest in NSW Ambulance stations across the State through the Sydney Ambulance Metropolitan Infrastructure Strategy ($20 million) and the Rural Ambulance Infrastructure Reconfiguration program ($16.4 million).
  • Continue to foster cutting-edge research and clinical innovation with the second phase of the Medical Research Infrastructure Initiatives ($11 million).

$14.4 Billion To Deliver Public Transport

June 19, 2018: Media release - Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, The Hon. Andrew Constance
The NSW Government today announced a $14.4 billion budget for public transport and infrastructure, an investment that will continue to fuel the State’s infrastructure boom while providing quality services for customers.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said the coming year will see a massive step in the transformation of public transport in Sydney with passenger services commencing on the new Sydney Metro Northwest in the first half of 2019. Australia’s first automated trains will provide customers with a new, world-class rail service between the north west of Sydney and Chatswood.

“In addition to reserving an initial $3 billion for Metro West, the NSW Budget 2018 includes a total of $4.3 billion for the Sydney Metro network, including $1.9 billion to continue building Sydney Metro City and Southwest, $2.4 billion to complete Sydney Metro Northwest,” Mr Constance said.

“The budget includes $258 million to start construction of Parramatta Light Rail Stage 1, to connect the Parramatta CBD with places being transformed across the region, including the Westmead health precinct. A further $20 million is budgeted for planning Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 which will run north of the Parramatta River and link to Sydney Olympic Park.

“There’s also $110 million to deliver Newcastle Light Rail, which will see high capacity, frequent services commence through the Newcastle city centre in 2019, supporting precinct development.”

Mr Constance said that as well as building new and enhanced transport networks, the Budget is also focussed on continuing to deliver fleet enhancements, including $496 million to continue delivering the New Intercity Fleet for Central Coast, Newcastle, Blue Mountains and Illawarra customers, over $400 million for new trains to service the Sydney Trains network and $179 million to purchase new buses to accommodate growth in NSW bus services and to replace old buses.

“We’re starting a rail tech revolution with $880 million committed for digital systems on the rail network to replace legacy signalling and train control with modern, intelligent systems that will improve service reliability and the network’s ability to recover after major incidents.

“These funds will also be used to plan for the initial stages of capacity improvements for the T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra and T8 Airport and South lines that will boost frequency on these critical suburban rail lines.”

The budget includes $133 million for the Transport Access Program to continue to make more transport services accessible, with upgrades like lifts, escalators and ramps to stations and wharves to make it easier for people with limited mobility and parents with prams.

Regional public transport customers will benefit from a $31 million investment to continue procurement of a new regional rail fleet and maintenance facility to replace the ageing XPT, XPLORER and Endeavour trains and create more comfortable and more reliable services for customers travelling long distances.

Other public transport and infrastructure highlights in the 2018-19 NSW Budget include:
  • $1.5 billion to maintain the Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink Intercity networks, helping make journeys more reliable and facilitating rail freight movement through the state’s busiest rail corridors;
  • $1.2 billion for public transport concessions including pensioners, seniors, people with disabilities and the school student transport scheme;
  • $137 million for the Northern Beaches B-Line, with infrastructure improvements along the route between Mona Vale and the Sydney CBD to further improve reliability;
  • $132 million toward the Central Walk project, a new underground pedestrian concourse at Central Station to better connect customers to trains, light rail and new Sydney Metro underground platforms;
  • $87 million for Community Transport and Home and Community Care services to help people across the state who have difficulties accessing transport, and;
  • Funding for planning of additional commuter car parking at Leppington, Edmondson Park, Engadine, and Schofields.

Toothpaste And Hand Wash Are Causing Antibiotic Resistance

June 19, 2018: University of Queensland
A common ingredient in toothpaste and hand wash could be contributing to antibiotic resistance, according to University of Queensland research.

A study led by Dr Jianhua Guo from UQ's Advanced Water Management Centre focused on triclosan, a compound used in more than 2000 personal care products.

Dr Guo said while it was well-known the overuse and misuse of antibiotics could create 'superbugs', researchers were unaware that other chemicals could also induce antibiotic resistance until now.

"Wastewater from residential areas has similar or even higher levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes compared to hospitals, where you would expect greater antibiotic concentrations," he said.

"We then wondered whether non-antibiotic, antimicrobial (NAAM) chemicals such as triclosan can directly induce antibiotic resistance," Dr Guo said.

"These chemicals are used in much larger quantities at an everyday level, so you end up with high residual levels in the wider environment, which can induce multi-drug resistance.

"This discovery provides strong evidence that the triclosan found in personal care products that we use daily is accelerating the spread of antibiotic resistance."

Advanced Water Management Centre Director, Professor Zhiguo Yuan, said the discovery should be a wake-up call to re-evaluate the potential impact of such chemicals.

"While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of triclosan in antibacterial soap, the previous lack of unequivocal evidence prevented such a policy being adopted in other countries," Professor Yuan said.

Antimicrobial resistance has become a major threat to public health globally with approximately 700,000 people a year dying from antimicrobial-resistant infections.

The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance report predicted this will reach 10 million deaths a year by 2050 if no action is taken now.
Ji Lu, Min Jin, Son Hoang Nguyen, Likai Mao, Jie Li, Lachlan J.M. Coin, Zhiguo Yuan, Jianhua Guo. Non-antibiotic antimicrobial triclosan induces multiple antibiotic resistance through genetic mutation. Environment International, 2018; 118: 257 DOI:10.1016/j.envint.2018.06.004

Atrial Fibrillation: Weight Loss Reverses Heart Condition In Obesity Sufferers

June 20, 2018: University of Adelaide
Australian research shows for the first time that obese people who are suffering from atrial fibrillation can reduce or reverse the effects of the condition by losing weight.

Published in the heart journal Europace, the researchers found that a 10% loss in weight along with management of associated risk factors, can reverse the progression of the disease. They studied 355 overweight or obese people who lost varying amounts of weight.

The research was led by the Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI).

"This is the first time that evidence has been found that if people who are obese and are suffering from atrial fibrillation the disease can be alleviated by losing weight and treating lifestyle factors," says lead author Melissa Middeldorp, PhD researcher from the University of Adelaide's Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders.

Atrial fibrillation (AF), Australia's most common heart rhythm disorder, is a leading cause of stroke and can lead to heart failure. Millions of people around the world are diagnosed with this condition every year. Chest pain, a 'racing' or unusual heart beat and shortness of breath are all symptoms of AF.

"AF is a progressive disease in which initial short, intermittent symptoms develop into more sustained forms of the condition. Obesity and lifestyle factors are associated with its progression," says Ms Middeldorp.

The number of overweight and obese adults has doubled over the past two decades, with Australia now being ranked as one of the fattest developed nations.

"The study showed that if obese people lose more than 10% of their weight and subsequent management of other risks to their lifestyle, they can reverse the progression of the disease. People who lost weight experienced fewer symptoms, required less treatment and had better outcomes. Those who previously had sustained symptoms experienced only intermittent symptoms or indeed stopped experiencing AF entirely," says Ms Middeldorp.

"Progression of the disease is shown to have a direct link with the degree of weight loss. Without weight loss, there is a progression of AF to more persistent forms of AF."

The Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders is led by Professor Prash Sanders, world leader in atrial fibrillation research.

"This study shows that weight-loss and treating lifestyle factors is an essential component for effectively managing AF, in many instances being an alternative to surgery or drug intervention. Melissa's work has widespread implications for the management of this disease globally and is good news for people with the condition," says Professor Sanders.

"With record levels of obesity in Australia and in most high-income countries, this study gives hope that obese people can have a better quality of life as well as reducing their dependence on health-care services if they lose weight."

Melissa E Middeldorp, Rajeev K Pathak, Megan Meredith, Abhinav B Mehta, Adrian D Elliott, Rajiv Mahajan, Darragh Twomey, Celine Gallagher, Jeroen M L Hendriks, Dominik Linz, R Doug McEvoy, Walter P Abhayaratna, Jonathan M Kalman, Dennis H Lau, Prashanthan Sanders. PREVEntion and regReSsive Effect of weight-loss and risk factor modification on Atrial Fibrillation: the REVERSE-AF study. EP Europace, 2018; DOI:10.1093/europace/euy117

Why Older People Respond Poorly To Cancer Treatment

June 19, 2018: Monash University
It's called the Silver Tsunami -- the increased incidence of cancer with ageing, combined with the rapidly ageing population means that the Australian health system needs to prepare for an onslaught of cancer diagnoses.

A new study out of Monash University, published today in the journalCell Reports, may have found a group of immune cells that increase in number with age but are too worn out to fight off diseases.

Professor Nicole La Gruta and Dr Kylie Quinn, from Monash University's Biomedicine Discovery Institute, have found that a subset of immune cells, called virtual memory T cells, make up around 5% of T cells in young animal models and humans but accumulate significantly with old age and lose the ability to become activated. 
Importantly, the Monash researchers found that another subset, called true naïve T cells, retain their capacity to mount an immune response but decline in frequency dramatically with increasing age, from 90 per cent to 30 per cent in animal models and humans. These shifts are likely caused by age-related inflammation or "inflamm-ageing."

According to Professor La Gruta, the accumulation of dysfunctional virtual memory T cells, in addition to the loss of true naïve T cells, may explain why older people have reduced immune responses to cancer and vaccines, and why cancer immunotherapy is less successful in the elderly.

"In cancer immunotherapy, a patient's own T cells are stimulated to kill cancer cells and it has been hugely successful for certain forms of cancer. Unfortunately, older patients or people over 65 years of age respond less well than younger ones," Professor La Gruta said.

"This may be because of the differences we see in these T cell subsets in older versus younger patients," she said.

"Now that we understand the impact of ageing on these T cells, we may be able to selectively target them to improve this cutting edge cancer treatment."

According to Prof La Gruta and Dr Quinn, this may mean developing treatments to remove dysfunctional virtual memory T cells or enrich for functional true naïve T cells during cancer immunotherapy or developing treatments that reduce chronic inflammation to prevent immune decline.

"Using these observations, we may be able to tailor cancer immunotherapy specifically for the needs of an older patient's immune system- this is where medicine must head to meet the needs of our ageing society," Professor La Gruta said.

Cancer -- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
In 2014, people aged 65 and over were estimated to account for more than:
  • half (58 per cent) of new cancer cases diagnosed
  • three-quarters (77 per cent) of cancer related deaths
Overall, for older Australians, lung cancer is the most common cause of death from cancer, followed by prostate, colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer (women).

Kylie M. Quinn, Annette Fox, Kim L. Harland, Brendan E. Russ, Jasmine Li, Thi H.O. Nguyen, Liyen Loh, Moshe Olshanksy, Haroon Naeem, Kirill Tsyganov, Florian Wiede, Rosela Webster, Chantelle Blyth, Xavier Y.X. Sng, Tony Tiganis, David Powell, Peter C. Doherty, Stephen J. Turner, Katherine Kedzierska, Nicole L. La Gruta. Age-Related Decline in Primary CD8 T Cell Responses Is Associated with the Development of Senescence in Virtual Memory CD8 T Cells. Cell Reports, 2018; 23 (12): 3512 DOI:10.1016/j.celrep.2018.05.057

Fetal T Cells Are First Responders To Infection In Adults

June 20, 2018
Cornell University researchers have discovered there is a division of labor among immune cells that fight invading pathogens in the body.

The study, published in the journal Cell, finds for the first time that fetal immune cells are present in adults and have specialized roles during infection. In fact, the first immune cells made in early life are fast-acting first responders to microbes in adulthood.

These immune cells -- called CD8+ T cells -- come in fetal and adult varieties, which originate in separate parts of the body and are hardwired with intrinsically different properties. The current paradigm is that, around the time of birth, the body switches from making and using fetal T cells to adult T cells to defend itself. But Cornell researchers used a unique study design to show that fetal T cells persist into adulthood and have different roles than adult cells in fighting infection.

"This discovery has led to the new idea that we might be able to predict how individuals will respond to infection based on how many fetal cells are present in the adult pool and isolate the fast-acting fetal-derived cells for certain therapeutic interventions, such as infections and cancer immunotherapy," said Brian Rudd, associate professor of immunology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the paper's senior author. Norah Smith, a research associate in Rudd's lab, is the paper's first author.

In adults, newly formed T cells recognize a signature protein on a pathogen when they first encounter it. That signal then activates the T cells and equips them to fight and proliferate up to 15 times, producing up to 10 million cells in a week. Once the pathogen has been cleared, most of those adult T cells die, but up to 10 percent survive and are stored in a pool of memory cells, allowing for a rapid recall response if that same pathogen were to strike again.

Fetal-derived cells, on the other hand, are generalists and do not form into memory cells. They respond to inflammatory signals and activate faster than adult T cells, allowing them to provide a broad swath of protection against pathogens they don't specifically recognize, Rudd said.

"It's the way that the immune system hedges its bet: It has cells that can respond at different rates," Rudd said.

Future work will explore how genetic and environmental factors, such as diet and gut bacteria, may alter the developmental layers in the immune system.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia.

Norah L. Smith, Ravi K. Patel, Arnold Reynaldi, Jennifer K. Grenier, Jocelyn Wang, Neva B. Watson, Kito Nzingha, Kristel J. Yee Mon, Seth A. Peng, Andrew Grimson, Miles P. Davenport, Brian D. Rudd.Developmental Origin Governs CD8+ T Cell Fate Decisions during Infection. Cell, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.05.029

Scientists Calculate Impact Of China's Ban On Plastic Waste Imports

June 201, 2018: University of Georgia
While recycling is often touted as the solution to the large-scale production of plastic waste, upwards of half of the plastic waste intended for recycling is exported from higher income countries to other nations, with China historically taking the largest share.

But in 2017, China passed the "National Sword" policy, which permanently bans the import of non-industrial plastic waste as of January 2018. Now, scientists from the University of Georgia have calculated the potential global impact of this legislation and how it might affect efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the world's landfills and natural environment.

They published their findings today in the journal Science Advances.

"We know from our previous studies that only 9 percent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled, and the majority of it ends up in landfills or the natural environment," said Jenna Jambeck, associate professor in UGA's College of engineering and co-author of the study. "About 111 million metric tons of plastic waste is going to be displaced because of the import ban through 2030, so we're going to have to develop more robust recycling programs domestically and rethink the use and design of plastic products if we want to deal with this waste responsibly."

Global annual imports and exports of plastic waste skyrocketed in 1993, growing by about 800 percent through 2016.

Since reporting began in 1992, China has accepted about 106 million metric tons of plastic waste, which accounts for nearly half of the world's plastic waste imports. China and Hong Kong have imported more than 72 percent of all plastic waste, but most of the waste that enters Hong Kong -- about 63 percent -- is exported to China.

High income countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas account for more than 85 percent of all global plastic waste exports. Taken collectively, the European Union is the top exporter.

"Plastic waste was once a fairly profitable business for China, because they could use or resell the recycled plastic waste," said Amy Brooks, a doctoral student in UGA's College of Engineering and lead author of the paper. "But a lot of the plastic China received in recent years was poor quality, and it became difficult to turn a profit. China is also producing more plastic waste domestically, so it doesn't have to rely on other nations for waste."

For exporters, cheap processing fees in China meant that shipping waste overseas was less expensive than transporting the materials domestically via truck or rail, said Brooks.

"It's hard to predict what will happen to the plastic waste that was once destined for Chinese processing facilities," said Jambeck. "Some of it could be diverted to other countries, but most of them lack the infrastructure to manage their own waste let alone the waste produced by the rest of the world."

The import of plastic waste to China contributed an additional 10 to 13 percent of plastic waste on top of what they were already having a difficult time managing because of rapid economic growth before the import ban took effect, Jambeck said.

"Without bold new ideas and system-wide changes, even the relatively low current recycling rates will no longer be met, and our previously recycled materials could now end up in landfills," Jambeck said.
Amy L. Brooks, Shunli Wang, Jenna R. Jambeck. The Chinese import ban and its impact on global plastic waste trade. Science Advances, 2018; 4 (6): eaat0131 DOI:10.1126/sciadv.aat0131

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.