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Cheeky diet soft drink getting you through the work day? Here’s what that may mean for your health

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718">Lauren Ball</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-burch-438717">Emily Burch</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p>Many people are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7230225/">drinking less</a> sugary soft drink than in the past. This is a great win for public health, given the <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2749350">recognised risks</a> of diets high in sugar-sweetened drinks.</p> <p>But over time, intake of diet soft drinks has <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7230225/">grown</a>. In fact, it’s so high that these products are now regularly <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412020319188">detected in wastewater</a>.</p> <p>So what does the research say about how your health is affected in the long term if you drink them often?</p> <h2>What makes diet soft drinks sweet?</h2> <p>The World Health Organization (WHO) <a href="https://www.who.int/news/item/04-03-2015-who-calls-on-countries-to-reduce-sugars-intake-among-adults-and-children">advises</a> people “reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% or roughly 25 grams (six teaspoons) per day would provide additional health benefits.”</p> <p>But most regular soft drinks contain <a href="https://www.actiononsugar.org/surveys/2014/sugar-sweetened-beverages/">a lot of sugar</a>. A regular 335 millilitre can of original Coca-Cola contains at least <a href="https://www.coca-cola.com/ng/en/about-us/faq/how-much-sugar-is-in-cocacola-original-taste">seven</a> teaspoons of added sugar.</p> <p>Diet soft drinks are designed to taste similar to regular soft drinks but without the sugar. Instead of sugar, diet soft drinks contain artificial or natural sweeteners. The artificial sweeteners include aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. The natural sweeteners include stevia and monk fruit extract, which come from plant sources.</p> <p>Many artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar so less is needed to provide the same burst of sweetness.</p> <p>Diet soft drinks are marketed as healthier alternatives to regular soft drinks, particularly for people who want to reduce their sugar intake or manage their weight.</p> <p>But while surveys of Australian <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7551593/">adults</a> and <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/adolescents-knowledge-and-beliefs-regarding-health-risks-of-soda-and-diet-soda-consumption/32F3E0FD6727F18F04C63F0390595131">adolescents</a> show most people understand the benefits of reducing their sugar intake, they often aren’t as aware about how diet drinks may affect health more broadly.</p> <h2>What does the research say about aspartame?</h2> <p>The artificial sweeteners in soft drinks are considered safe for consumption by food authorities, including in the <a href="https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/aspartame-and-other-sweeteners-food">US</a> and <a href="https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/additives/aspartame">Australia</a>. However, some <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4899993/">researchers</a> have raised concern about the long-term risks of consumption.</p> <p>People who drink diet soft drinks regularly and often are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4446768/">more likely</a> to develop certain metabolic conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease) than those who don’t drink diet soft drinks.</p> <p>The link was found even after accounting for other dietary and lifestyle factors (such as physical activity).</p> <p>In 2023, the WHO announced reports had found aspartame – the main sweetener used in diet soft drinks – was “<a href="https://www.who.int/news/item/14-07-2023-aspartame-hazard-and-risk-assessment-results-released">possibly carcinogenic to humans</a>” (carcinogenic means cancer-causing).</p> <p>Importantly though, the report noted there is not enough current scientific evidence to be truly confident aspartame may increase the risk of cancer and emphasised it’s safe to consume occasionally.</p> <h2>Will diet soft drinks help manage weight?</h2> <p>Despite the word “diet” in the name, diet soft drinks are not strongly linked with weight management.</p> <p>In 2022, the WHO conducted a <a href="https://www.who.int/news/item/15-05-2023-who-advises-not-to-use-non-sugar-sweeteners-for-weight-control-in-newly-released-guideline">systematic review</a> (where researchers look at all available evidence on a topic) on whether the use of artificial sweeteners is beneficial for weight management.</p> <p>Overall, the randomised controlled trials they looked at suggested slightly more weight loss in people who used artificial sweeteners.</p> <p>But the observational studies (where no intervention occurs and participants are monitored over time) found people who consume high amounts of artificial sweeteners tended to have an increased risk of higher body mass index and a 76% increased likelihood of having obesity.</p> <p>In other words, artificial sweeteners may not directly help manage weight over the long term. This resulted in the WHO <a href="https://www.who.int/news/item/15-05-2023-who-advises-not-to-use-non-sugar-sweeteners-for-weight-control-in-newly-released-guideline">advising</a> artificial sweeteners should not be used to manage weight.</p> <p><a href="http://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(16)30296-0">Studies</a> in animals have suggested consuming high levels of artificial sweeteners can signal to the brain it is being starved of fuel, which can lead to more eating. However, the evidence for this happening in humans is still unproven.</p> <h2>What about inflammation and dental issues?</h2> <p>There is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10817473/">some early evidence</a> artificial sweeteners may irritate the lining of the digestive system, causing inflammation and increasing the likelihood of diarrhoea, constipation, bloating and other symptoms often associated with irritable bowel syndrome. However, this study noted more research is needed.</p> <p>High amounts of diet soft drinks have <a href="https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-023-17223-0">also been</a> linked with liver disease, which is based on inflammation.</p> <p>The consumption of diet soft drinks is also <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40368-019-00458-0#:%7E:text=Diet%20soft%20drinks%20often%20have,2006">associated</a> with dental erosion.</p> <p>Many soft drinks contain phosphoric and citric acid, which can damage your tooth enamel and contribute to dental erosion.</p> <h2>Moderation is key</h2> <p>As with many aspects of nutrition, moderation is key with diet soft drinks.</p> <p>Drinking diet soft drinks occasionally is unlikely to harm your health, but frequent or excessive intake may increase health risks in the longer term.</p> <p>Plain water, infused water, sparkling water, herbal teas or milks remain the best options for hydration.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/233438/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718">Lauren Ball</a>, Professor of Community Health and Wellbeing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-burch-438717">Emily Burch</a>, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/cheeky-diet-soft-drink-getting-you-through-the-work-day-heres-what-that-may-mean-for-your-health-233438">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Food & Wine

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Tragic moment mother returns to scene of fatal house fire

<p>In a heartbreaking moment, Stacey Gammage, 29, has returned to her devastated home in Lalor Park for the first time since the tragic fire that claimed the lives of three of her children. The fire, allegedly <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/finance/legal/dean-heasman-s-grandmother-breaks-silence-after-deadly-house-fire" target="_blank" rel="noopener">started by her partner, Dean Heasman</a>, 28, left the family reeling with loss and sorrow.</p> <p>On Sunday, shortly before 1am, Heasman allegedly set the family’s home ablaze and barricaded them inside. Two boys, aged two and six, were critically injured and later died at Westmead Hospital. The body of a five-month-old girl was also found by firefighters after extinguishing the flames.</p> <p>Returning on Tuesday afternoon, Stacey Gammage, still wearing her hospital wristband, was supported by family members and police as she read the numerous tributes and cards left outside the home. The street was closed for almost two hours to allow her to grieve privately.</p> <p>The devastated mother then returned to Westmead Hospital, where her four surviving children remain. The children, including a nine-year-old girl and three boys aged four, seven and 11, are all reported to be in stable condition.</p> <p>Heasman remains under police guard in an induced coma at Westmead Hospital, and no charges have yet been filed. Investigations continue under Strike Force Carrbridge. According to reports, Heasman allegedly threw a burning pillow at his wife, which contributed to the blaze. Investigators are also examining whether an accelerant was used, as a second explosion occurred moments after the initial fire began.</p> <p>Local hero Jarrod Hawkins, whose daughter is friends with one of the surviving children, rushed to the burning home and saved the nine-year-old girl and her three brothers. The eldest boy reportedly told his rescuers, "Dad tried to kill me."</p> <p>As the community mourns this unimaginable loss, they continue to leave floral tributes, stuffed toys, and candles at the scene, while detectives work tirelessly to uncover the full details of the tragedy.</p> <p><em>Image: Nine News</em></p>

Caring

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Aussies working in "priority occupations" eligible for cash increase

<p>Thousands of hard-working Aussies who work in certain areas are now eligible for new training and support payments of up to $10,000.</p> <p>The initiative comes to support Australians working in sectors with a high demand for skilled workers, and a commitment to clean energy.</p> <p>From July 1st, thousands of apprentices working in what the government deems as “priority occupations” are eligible for the $5,000 Australian Apprenticeship Training Support Payment. </p> <p>If those priority occupations also offer exposure and experience in “clean energy”, apprentices are instead eligible for the more lucrative New Energy Apprenticeship Support Payment of up to $10,000.</p> <p>The list of "priority occupations" is extensive and includes aged care workers, arborists, bakers, beauty therapists and many more. </p> <p>According to the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR), the jobs are characterised by a strong current demand for skilled workers, and a strong demand expected in the future.</p> <p>The clean energy jobs also include many different professions, with agricultural and agritech technicians, automotive electricians, regular electricians, gas fitters, glaziers, joiners, plumbers and welders all included.</p> <p>The full list of priority jobs can be found on the <a href="https://www.dewr.gov.au/skills-support-individuals/resources/appendix-australian-apprenticeship-priority-list-1-january-2024" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-link-type="article-inline">Department of Employment and Workplace Relations website.</a></p> <p>For the Australian Apprenticeship Training Support Payment, the $5000 payment comes in four instalments over two years, while the New Energy Apprentice Support Payment is paid out over the course of the apprenticeship — up to $5000 for part-time apprentices and up to $10,000 for full-time apprentices.</p> <p>It is hoped the payments will incentivise apprentices to remain on the career pathway.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Young woman exposes "hate" response to Origin's Welcome to Country

<p>The young woman who delivered the Welcome to Country at the State of Origin has opened up on the "overwhelming" response to it, revealing how she has "received a lot of hate".</p> <p>Savannah Fynn, 22, was invited to deliver the Welcome to Country and while it was generally well received, it also led to radio host Kyle Sandilands slamming the practice in general, saying the practice had become “overused and lost its impact”.</p> <p>Since then, Fynn revealed that she has received an overwhelming amount of hate online, with some even jumping to criticise her appearance. </p> <p>“I was just so worried I would stutter or mess up my words because I’d never spoken in front of that many people,” Fynn told <em><a title="www.dailytelegraph.com.au" href="https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/lifestyle/stellar" target="_blank" rel="noopener" data-tgev="event119" data-tgev-container="bodylink" data-tgev-order="stellar" data-tgev-label="lifestyle" data-tgev-metric="ev">Stellar</a></em>.</p> <p>“But once I finished, I felt a moment of relief. I ran straight over to my nan, obviously one of my Elders, and I gave her a big hug and a cuddle. It’s definitely an overwhelming feeling, getting all this attention. It’s not something I’m used to at all."</p> <p>“I’m a very quiet person so this is a big change. Even though it’s all positive, I struggle with taking compliments and I get a bit shy. I’m kind of ready for it to die down!”</p> <p>“As sad as it is, being a lighter skin colour, I’ve received a lot of hate for that,” the 22-year-old university student said.</p> <p>“A lot of people have picked on the way I look, the way I speak, even coming down to having blonde hair. My hair is actually dark, I’ve just dyed it blonde."</p> <p>“I think people also get very confused as to what an Acknowledgement and Welcome actually is. We’re not welcoming you to Australia; obviously you live here."</p> <p>“We’re welcoming you to the traditional owners of that land and acknowledging the traditional land. And in terms of comments about overuse, I feel you have to respect everyone’s opinions, even if you may not agree."</p> <p>“Being a First Nations person, I find it wonderful seeing my culture embraced. But obviously you can’t please everyone.”</p> <p>Fynn is aiming to be a young role model and hopes to show “young Indigenous people that we can get up and speak”.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Nine </em></p> <p style="box-sizing: inherit; margin: 0px 0px 24px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', HelveticaNeue, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size-adjust: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-variant-alternates: inherit; font-variant-ligatures: inherit; font-variant-numeric: inherit; font-variant-east-asian: inherit; font-variant-position: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; font-size: 18px; vertical-align: baseline;"> </p> <p> </p>

TV

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What is ‘breathwork’? And do I need to do it?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/theresa-larkin-952095">Theresa Larkin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/judy-pickard-831093">Judy Pickard</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <p>From “breathwork recipes” to breathing techniques, many <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5WpkWxNrDI/">social media</a> and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/breathing-exercise">health websites</a> are recommending breathwork to reduce stress.</p> <p>But breathwork is not new. Rather it is the latest in a long history of breathing techniques such as <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7336946/">Pranayama</a> from India and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9312231/#:%7E:text=Qigong%2C%20on%20the%20other%20hand,one%20or%20two%20balancing%20poses.">qigong</a> from China. Such practices have been used for thousands of years to promote a healthy mind and body.</p> <p>The benefits can be immediate and obvious. Try taking a deep breath in through your nose and exhaling slowly. Do you feel a little calmer?</p> <p>So, what’s the difference between the breathing we do to keep us alive and breathwork?</p> <h2>Breathwork is about control</h2> <p>Breathwork is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9873947/#bib3">not the same</a> as <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6189422/">other mindfulness practices</a>. While the latter focus on observing the breath, breathwork is about <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-27247-y">controlling inhalation and exhalation</a>.</p> <p>Normally, breathing happens automatically via messages from the brain, outside our conscious control. But we can control our breath, by directing the movement of our diaphragm and mouth.</p> <p><a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/diaphragmatic-breathing">The diaphragm</a> is a large muscle that separates our thoracic (chest) and abdominal (belly) cavities. When the diaphragm contracts, it expands the thoracic cavity and pulls air into the lungs.</p> <p>Controlling how deep, how often, how fast and through what (nose or mouth) we inhale is the crux of breathwork, from <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/breath-of-fire-yoga">fire breathing</a> to the <a href="https://www.headspace.com/content/meditation/humming-bee-breath/9422">humming bee breath</a>.</p> <h2>Breathwork can calm or excite</h2> <p>Even small bits of breathwork can have physical and mental health benefits and <a href="https://theconversation.com/stuck-in-fight-or-flight-mode-5-ways-to-complete-the-stress-cycle-and-avoid-burnout-or-depression-218599">complete the stress cycle</a> to avoid burnout.</p> <p>Calming breathwork includes diaphragmatic (belly) breathing, slow breathing, pausing between breaths, and specifically slowing down the exhale.</p> <p>In diaphragmatic breathing, you consciously contract your diaphragm down into your abdomen to inhale. This pushes your belly outwards and makes your breathing deeper and slower.</p> <p>You can also <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3681046/">slow the breath</a> by doing:</p> <ul> <li> <p><a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321805">box breathing</a> (count to four for each of four steps: breathe in, hold, breathe out, hold), or</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38092805/">coherent breathing</a> (controlled slow breathing of five or six breaths per minute), or</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/alternate-nostril-breathing#benefits">alternate nostril breathing</a> (close the left nostril and breathe in slowly through the right nostril, then close the right nostril and breathe out slowly through the left nostril, then repeat the opposite way).</p> </li> </ul> <p>You can slow down the exhalation specifically by counting, humming or pursing your lips as you breathe out.</p> <p>In contrast to these calming breathing practices, energising fast-paced breathwork increases arousal. For example, <a href="https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-breath-of-fire-yoga">fire breathing</a> (breathe in and out quickly, but not deeply, through your nose in a consistent rhythm) and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/breathing-exercise#breath-focus">Lion’s breath</a> (breathe out through your mouth, stick your tongue out and make a strong “haa” sound).</p> <h2>What is happening in the body?</h2> <p>Deep and slow breathing, especially with a long exhale, is the best way to <a href="https://theconversation.com/our-vagus-nerves-help-us-rest-digest-and-restore-can-you-really-reset-them-to-feel-better-210469">stimulate the vagus nerves</a>. The vagus nerves pass through the diaphragm and are the main nerves of the parasympathetic nervous system.</p> <p>Simulating the vagus nerves calms our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) stress response. This improves mood, lowers the stress hormone <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5455070/">cortisol</a> and helps to regulate emotions and responses. It also promotes more <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137615/">coordinated brain activity</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6189422/">improves immune function and reduces inflammation</a>.</p> <p>Taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths also has <a href="https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9445-diaphragmatic-breathing">physical benefits</a>. This improves blood flow, lung function and exercise performance, increases oxygen in the body, and strengthens the diaphragm.</p> <p><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-023-02294-2#:%7E:text=Accumulating%20evidence%20supports%20the%20efficacy,et%20al.%2C%202001">Slow breathing</a> reduces heart rate and blood pressure and increases heart rate variability (normal variation in <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/heart-rate-variability-new-way-track-well-2017112212789">time between heart beats</a>). These are linked to better heart health.</p> <p>Taking shallow, quick, rhythmic breaths in and out through your nose stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. Short-term, controlled activation of the stress response is healthy and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36624160/">develops resilience to stress</a>.</p> <h2>Breathing in through the nose</h2> <p>We are designed to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6986941/">inhale through our nose</a>, not our mouth. Inside our nose are lots of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544232/">blood vessels, mucous glands and tiny hairs called cilia</a>. These warm and humidify the air we breathe and filter out germs and toxins.</p> <p>We want the air that reaches our airways and lungs to be clean and moist. Cold and dry air is irritating to our nose and throat, and we don’t want germs to get into the body.</p> <p><a href="https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpregu.00148.2023?utm_source=AJPRegu&amp;utm_medium=PressRelease&amp;utm_campaign=1.17.2024">Nasal breathing</a> increases parasympathetic activity and releases nitric oxide, which improves airway dilation and lowers blood pressure.</p> <p>Consistently breathing through our mouth <a href="https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/mouth-breathing">is not healthy</a>. It can lead to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7455204/">pollutants</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8967998/#:%7E:text=Hence%2C%20we%20sought%20to%20synthesize,barriers%20to%20long%2Dterm%20enjoyment.">infections</a> reaching the lungs, snoring, sleep apnoea, and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6986941/">dental issues</a> including cavities and jaw joint problems.</p> <h2>A free workout</h2> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5709795/">Slow breathing</a> – even short sessions at home – can reduce stress, anxiety and depression in the general population and among those with clinical depression or anxiety. Research on breathwork in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4309518/">helping post-traumatic stress disorder</a> (PTSD) is also promising.</p> <p>Diaphragmatic breathing to improve lung function and strengthen the diaphragm can improve breathing and exercise intolerance in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9690833/">chronic heart failure</a>, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33076360/">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease</a> and <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/diaphragmatic-breathing#conditions-it-can-help-with">asthma</a>. It can also <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8967998/#:%7E:text=Hence%2C%20we%20sought%20to%20synthesize,barriers%20to%20long%2Dterm%20enjoyment.">improve exercise performance</a> and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19875429/">reduce oxidative stress</a> (an imbalance of more free radicals and/or less antioxidants, which can damage cells) after exercise.</p> <h2>A mind-body connection you can access any time</h2> <p>If you feel stressed or anxious, you might subconsciously <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/breathing-to-reduce-stress">take shallow, quick breaths</a>, but this can make you feel more anxious. Deep diaphragmatic breaths through your nose and focusing on strong exhalations can help break this cycle and bring calm and mental clarity.</p> <p>Just <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-27247-y">a few minutes a day</a> of breathwork can improve your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Daily deep breathing exercises <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/physiology/articles/10.3389/fphys.2023.1040091/full">in the workplace</a> reduce blood pressure and stress, which is important since <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-burnout-and-how-to-prevent-it-in-the-workplace-insights-from-a-clinical-psychologist-196578">burnout rates are high</a>.</p> <p>Bottom line: any conscious control of your breath throughout the day is positive.</p> <p>So, next time you are waiting in a line, at traffic lights or for the kettle to boil, take a moment to focus on your breath. Breathe deeply into your belly through your nose, exhale slowly, and enjoy the benefits.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231192/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/theresa-larkin-952095">Theresa Larkin</a>, Associate professor of Medical Sciences, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/judy-pickard-831093">Judy Pickard</a>, Senior Lecturer, Clinical Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-breathwork-and-do-i-need-to-do-it-231192">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Julian Assange returns to Australia after guilty plea

<p>Julian Assange is set to return to Australia on Wednesday night after pleading guilty to a single count of espionage, ending his 14-year legal saga. </p> <p>The WikiLeaks founder pleaded guilty at a court hearing in a federal court in Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the Pacific, on Wednesday morning. </p> <p>The 52-year-old was accompanied by Australian ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd as he pleaded guilty to a single felony charge for publishing US military secrets, in a deal with the US justice department that will secure his freedom. </p> <p>The hearing is the culmination of the US government’s years-long pursuit of Assange, who has been painted both as a hero of press freedom and a reckless criminal for exposing hundreds of thousands of sensitive military documents through WikiLeaks. </p> <p>During the hearing, Assange was asked by the judge to explain “what it is you did”, as Assange explained, “working as a journalist, I encouraged my source to provide information that was said to be classified in order to publish that information.”</p> <p>Under the deal with the US justice department, Assange will be free to leave the court due to time already served in a UK prison and to travel on to Australia to be reunited with his family.</p> <p>Assange's wife Stella, a lawyer who married the WikiLeaks founder in prison in 2022, told the BBC from Australia that it had been “touch and go” over 72 hours whether the deal would go ahead.</p> <p>“He will be a free man once it is signed off by a judge,” she said, adding that she is still coming to terms with the news. </p> <p>Following the hearing, Assange's lawyer addressed the press and praised the judge for withholding a jail sentence.</p> <p>"The prosecution of Julian Assange is unprecedented," he said.</p> <div> <p>"In the 100 years of the Espionage Act it has never been used by the US to pursue a publisher, a journalist, like Mr Assange."</p> <p>He went on to say that Assange has "suffered tremendously" over the last 14 years, adding that he would remain a "powerful voice" as WikiLeaks continues its work when Assange lands in Australia.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Samantha Solomn/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Editorial </em></p> </div>

Legal

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Ash Barty announces surprise return to tennis

<p>Ash Barty is set to return to the courts of Wimbledon for the first time since retiring in March 2022. </p> <p>The Aussie tennis legend agreed to take part in an invitational doubles match. </p> <p>Barty will play in the exhibition match on Tuesday July 9 (UK time), and the event will include a women's doubles, men's double, and mixed doubles event. </p> <p>Wimbledon took to Instagram to announce the news on Wednesday morning. </p> <p>"Reunited with the Wimbledon grass," they said, with a picture of Barty. </p> <p>"Delighted to have our 2021 singles champion Ash Barty returning for this year's Invitational Doubles."</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/C8aXBTrtZ5S/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C8aXBTrtZ5S/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Wimbledon (@wimbledon)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Since her retirement, Barty married her partner Gary Kissick in July 2022 and gave birth to her son Hayden a year later. </p> <p>Barty's return to the courts come one month after she announced that <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/entertainment/tv/never-say-never-ash-barty-s-surprising-new-career-move" target="_blank" rel="noopener">she will be commentating </a>as part of the BBC's team for Wimbledon alongside Nick Kyrgios. </p> <p><em>Image: Instagram</em></p>

News

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Worrying pattern of cancellations shows Australian TV's grim future

<p>As the future of free-to-air Australian television continues to be more and more "uncertain", a worrying pattern of dozens of cancelled programs show how the industry has been in trouble for quite some time. </p> <p>In recent years, dozens of seemingly popular shows have been axed across three major networks with thousands of people across the industry preparing themselves for further cancellations, pay cuts, job losses and career changes.</p> <p>According to <a href="https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/exclusive-34-axed-aussie-shows-revealed-as-future-of-free-to-air-tv-uncertain-224725084.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Yahoo Lifestyle</em></a>, 34 shows across Seven, Nine and Ten have either been axed, put on an indefinite hiatus, or quietly removed from TV schedules with no mention of it again over the last five years. </p> <p>Many Aussie TV staples such as <em>Millionaire Hot Seat</em>, <em>The Bachelor</em>, and <em>Australian Ninja Warrior</em>, which were all once the highest rated shows on television, have been binned due to declining viewership and dwindling ratings. </p> <p>Channel Ten's <em>The Masked Singer</em> has also become a casualty in the TV wars, as host Dave Hughes <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/entertainment/tv/hughesy-spills-the-beans-on-major-shows-set-to-be-axed" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shared</a> that he simply hadn't received a production schedule for the new season of the show, only to discover it had been shelved. </p> <p>In an attempt to breathe new life into the channels, newer shows like Shaynna Blaze’s <em>Country Home Rescue</em> or Kate Langbroek’s <em>My Mum, Your Dad</em> premiered, but have only survived for single seasons after failing to grab an audience. </p> <p>Even revived classics like <em>Big Brother</em>, <em>Celebrity Apprentice</em> and <em><a href="https://oversixty.com.au/entertainment/tv/channel-10-axes-another-show-amid-ratings-crisis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Gladiators</a></em> haven’t been able to survive as they now face growing competition from streaming giants like Netflix and Stan.</p> <p>As the list of cancelled shows continues to grow, one seasoned lighting director, who asked to remain anonymous, told Yahoo Lifestyle that job insecurity for casts and crews is a major concern. </p> <p>They said, “Every year the breaks between jobs are getting longer and longer to the point a lot of us (crew) are now leaving the industry. Ten years ago we’d be booked consistently with jobs locked in 12 months in advance for all of the networks, now everyone’s scrambling to try to get on a three-day pilot shoot. Everything is so uncertain.”</p> <p>Below are all of the free-to-air shows from the last five years that haven’t been renewed.</p> <p id="channel-seven"><strong>Channel Seven</strong></p> <p>Big Brother (2001-2008, 2012-2014, 2020-2023)</p> <p>SAS Australia (2020-2023)</p> <p>This Is Your Life (1975-1980, 1995-2005, 2008, 2011, 2022-2023)</p> <p>Blow Up (2023)</p> <p>Million Dollar Island (2023)</p> <p>We Interrupt This Broadcast (2023)</p> <p>The Voice: Generations (2022)</p> <p>Big Brother VIP (2021)</p> <p>Holey Moley (2021)</p> <p>Ultimate Tag (2021)</p> <p>Wife Swap Australia (2012, 2021)</p> <p>House Rules (2013-2020)</p> <p>Plate of Origin (2020)</p> <p>Pooch Perfect (2020)</p> <p id="channel-nine"><strong>Channel Nine</strong></p> <p>Millionaire Hot Seat (2009–2023)</p> <p>My Mum, Your Dad (2022-2023)</p> <p>The Beach House Escape (2023)</p> <p>Rush (2023)</p> <p>Snackmasters (2021-2022)</p> <p>Australian Ninja Warrior (2017-2022)</p> <p>Beauty and the Geek (2009-2014, 2021-2022)</p> <p>Celebrity Apprentice (2011-2015, 2021-2022)</p> <p>Country Homes Rescue (2022)</p> <p>This Time Next Year (2017-2019)</p> <p>Australia’s Most Identical</p> <p id="channel-ten"><strong>Channel Ten</strong></p> <p>Gladiators (1995-1996, 2008, 2024)</p> <p>The Bachelor (2013-2023)</p> <p>Studio 10 (2013-2023)</p> <p>The Masked Singer (2019-2023)</p> <p>The Traitors (2022-2023)</p> <p>Would I Lie To You? Australia (2022-2023)</p> <p>The Real Love Boat (2022)</p> <p>The Bachelorette (2015-2021)</p> <p>Bachelor In Paradise (2018-2020)</p> <p><em>Image credits: Ten / Seven </em></p>

TV

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Beware of ‘tax hacks’ to maximise your return this year. The tax office is taking a close look at incorrect claims

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ann-kayis-kumar-466422">Ann Kayis-Kumar</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>For many people a tax refund is a much-anticipated lump sum of money.</p> <p>So, it is understandable Australians will be looking for ways to maximise their returns – particularly we are in a cost-of-living crisis.</p> <p>But, whether you do your own return or use a tax agent, taking risks is not advised.</p> <h2>Be wary of tax hacks</h2> <p>But be wary of “tax hacks” you might hear about from online sources (I’m looking at you, <a href="https://www.afr.com/companies/professional-services/tiktok-gst-fraud-hit-on-tax-office-blows-out-to-4-6b-20230813-p5dw2y">TikTok</a>). Two truisms spring to mind:</p> <p><strong>1. Don’t let the tax tail wag the dog</strong></p> <p>Many tax hacks suggest you spend considerable money on purchases up front to claim tax deductions. But a tax deduction isn’t actually worth the value amount of your spend.</p> <p>For example: let’s say you’re on a taxable income of A$60,000 per year, which puts you roughly in the <a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/how-wealthy-are-you-compared-to-everyone-else-in-eight-charts-20221214-p5c6a8">50th percentile</a> of income earners and means your <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/tax-rates-and-codes/tax-rates-australian-residents#ato-Australianresidenttaxrates2020to2025">marginal tax rate is 32.5 cents</a>.</p> <p>You might spend $1,000 on a purchase in the hope of getting a sweet $1,000 tax deduction. However, you’re going to be $675 out of pocket. This is because that $1,000 deduction is only worth $325 (because tax is calculated on your taxable income, which is assessable income less allowable deductions).</p> <p>It will be worth even less next year because of the introduction of the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-02-27/stage-three-tax-cut-changes-pass-senate/103519338">revised Stage 3 tax cuts</a> and that’s a good thing because you’ll be paying less tax overall.</p> <p><strong>2. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is</strong></p> <p>Even if you use a registered tax agent (and it’s important to check they are registered by checking <a href="https://www.tpb.gov.au/public-register">the Tax Practitioners’ Board</a>), it’s a common pitfall to think any aggressive deductions they might suggest are their responsibility if the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) comes knocking. That’s not the case.</p> <p>Taxpayers are responsible for errors in returns made by their tax agents, so the ATO will hold you responsible.</p> <p>Indeed, the <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/media-centre/ato-flags-3-key-focus-areas-for-this-tax-time">ATO has announced</a> it will be taking a close look at three common errors being made by taxpayers:</p> <ul> <li> <p>incorrectly claiming work-related expenses</p> </li> <li> <p>inflating claims for rental properties</p> </li> <li> <p>failing to include all income when lodging.</p> </li> </ul> <p>It might be tempting to think you’ve got away with over claiming deductions or under reporting income but the ATO has sophisticated systems to <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/About-ATO/Commitments-and-reporting/Information-and-privacy/How-we-use-data-and-analytics">analyse your data</a>) and track your claims.</p> <p>You’ll need to substantiate your claims, so keep records. If the tax office finds mistakes, you could face <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals-and-families/paying-the-ato/interest-and-penalties/penalties/penalties-for-making-false-or-misleading-statements">financial penalties</a>, even jail time.</p> <p>Two months ago, a woman was sentenced to two years and six months jail and ordered to repay $39,600 after she lodged three fraudulent Business Activity Statements and received a GST refund to which she wasn’t entitled. While under investigation, she then sent eight false statements to the ATO and tried to claim more money.</p> <p>This is one on many individuals named on the <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/about-ato/tax-avoidance/the-fight-against-tax-crime/our-focus/refund-fraud/gst-refund-fraud-attempts/operation-protego">ATO’s website</a> highlighting the results of regular crackdowns.</p> <h2>So, should I use a tax agent?</h2> <p>There are nearly 20.5 million active tax file numbers registered to individuals in Australia and last tax year the ATO received 13.7 million individual tax return lodgements. This was a 3% increase on the previous year. Of these lodgements more than 5.6 million were lodged by self-preparers and more than 8 million were lodged by tax agents.</p> <p>It <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-paying-for-tax-advice-save-money-only-if-youre-wealthy-184641">makes sense</a> most Australians use agents to prepare and lodge their tax returns. It’s easier, less stressful, gives you confidence the job is being done right and saves time.</p> <p>Having said that, it does come at a price (see above on the value of deductions), and previous research which finds that <a href="https://theconversation.com/does-paying-for-tax-advice-save-money-only-if-youre-wealthy-184641">every extra dollar spent on a tax agent</a> only yields an estimated tax savings of 20 cents), and if you have simple tax affairs then it’s relatively easy and quick to do it yourself.</p> <h2>How do I prepare my tax return?</h2> <p>Generally, everyone should be lodging an income tax return each year (or, if you don’t need to lodge a tax return, lodging a non-lodgement advice). The ATO has a “Do I need to lodge a tax return?” tool <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals-and-families/your-tax-return/before-you-prepare-your-tax-return/work-out-if-you-need-to-lodge-a-tax-return">if you’re unsure</a>.</p> <p>It also has a useful <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals-and-families/your-tax-return/how-to-lodge-your-tax-return/lodge-your-tax-return-online-with-mytax">two minute video</a> which steps you through the process for lodging with their online system myTax.</p> <p>For those of us with simple tax affairs, you just need to follow these steps:</p> <ol> <li> <p>gather and prepare all your information regarding income from work, interest, dividends and any other income such as capital gains from crypto assets or sale of shares</p> </li> <li> <p>then gather and prepare all your information on deductions and work expenses to be claimed making sure you have the evidence to back up your claims. This can be in the form receipts, invoices, log books and diary entries</p> </li> <li> <p>if you are a self-preparer you can log onto your myGov or the ATO’s app to prepare and lodge your return. If you wait until late-July you’ll have the benefit of the ATO’s pre-filled data, too. This gives you plenty of time to make the October 31 deadline.</p> </li> </ol> <p>There’s also the option to use the ATO’s free, volunteer-run TaxHelp program (provided you meet the <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals-and-families/your-tax-return/help-and-support-to-lodge-your-tax-return/tax-help-program">eligibility criteria</a>), your local Tax Clinic (<a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals-and-families/financial-difficulties-and-disasters/support-to-lodge-and-pay/national-tax-clinic-program">details here</a>), or by seeking help from a registered tax agent. Just make sure you engage them before the October 31 deadline.</p> <h2>Where it might get tricky</h2> <p>But for others, for example if you have an ABN, it gets a bit more complicated. If you operate your business as a sole trader, you must lodge a tax return, even if your income is below the tax-free threshold.</p> <p>And if you have registered for GST – which you must do when your business or enterprise has a GST turnover of $75,000 or more, or if you are a taxi driver or Uber driver – then you will also need to submit quarterly BAS.</p> <p>It gets even more complicated for partnerships, trusts and companies, so it is best to seek the guidance and professional expertise of a registered tax agent, if you aren’t already.</p> <h2>What if I can’t afford a tax agent?</h2> <p>This year, many Australians are doing it tough. Indeed, research by the ASIC’s Moneysmart program estimates <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-06-04/asic-survey-millions-of-australians-facing-financial-difficulty/103926704">more than five million Australians</a> are in financial strife.</p> <p>Many people will find it hard to prioritise paying a registered tax agent when they cannot afford basic necessities like food.</p> <p>If you’re in this situation, you might find it useful to get in touch with a free financial counsellor via the <a href="https://ndh.org.au/">National Debt Helpline</a> or the <a href="https://sbdh.org.au/">Small Business Debt Helpline</a>.</p> <h2>Don’t procrastinate</h2> <p>Don’t put off doing your tax. If you’re behind, it might seem daunting to get back on track, especially if you think you’ll have to pay extra tax this year instead of getting a refund. But not lodging your returns will backfire. Like avoiding a trip to the doctor to get a skin check, the longer you wait, the more the problem will grow.</p> <p>Reaching out to the ATO is the key because they have tools to support you, including payment plans. It also shows the ATO that you are willing to comply. Ultimately, being up to date will save you fines, interest and penalties.</p> <p>If you are one of the <a href="https://theconversation.com/worried-youll-lodge-a-late-tax-return-at-least-80-000-australians-cant-afford-tax-advice-211267">80,000 Australians in serious hardship</a> who need but can’t afford professional help to complete and lodge overdue returns, the government-funded <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Gen/National-Tax-Clinic-program/">National Tax Clinics Program</a> can help with free tax advice.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231693/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ann-kayis-kumar-466422">Ann Kayis-Kumar</a>, Associate Professor Ann Kayis-Kumar is the Founding Director of UNSW Tax and Business Advisory Clinic, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/beware-of-tax-hacks-to-maximise-your-return-this-year-the-tax-office-is-taking-a-close-look-at-incorrect-claims-231693">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Super funds are using ‘nudges’ to help you make financial decisions. How do they work?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fernanda-mata-1533222">Fernanda Mata</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/breanna-wright-267597">Breanna Wright</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/liam-smith-5152">Liam Smith</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>Late last year the federal government announced <a href="https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/stephen-jones-2022/media-releases/government-unveils-comprehensive-financial-advice">measures</a> to make it easier for Australians to access financial advice.</p> <p>As part of this, the government wants super funds to use “nudges” to get members to engage more with their retirement investments and superannuation, especially when they’re starting work and approaching retirement.</p> <p>While the legislation containing the changes is still in the consultation phase, super funds are <a href="https://www.afr.com/companies/financial-services/super-funds-spend-big-ahead-of-advice-reforms-20240418-p5fkx6">upskilling staff</a> and making other changes to improve customer service or risk a government crackdown.</p> <p>Telling funds to use <a href="https://www.behaviourworksaustralia.org/blog/nudging-what-is-it-and-how-can-we-use-it-forgood">nudge theory</a> to advise on super comes as more than five million Australians are heading towards retirement.</p> <h2>What is nudge theory?</h2> <p>Nudging is used to encourage people to pick the “better” option, without taking away their freedom to choose differently.</p> <p>For example, sending regular reminders to members about the benefits of voluntary contributions can get them to increase the amount they put in. This nudge makes it easier for them to contribute more – the better option – while still allowing them to choose not to.</p> <p>Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones <a href="https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/stephen-jones-2022/media-releases/government-unveils-comprehensive-financial-advice">explained</a> the government’s changes were needed because so-called “fin-fluencers” were providing unregulated financial advice on social media platforms to Australians unable to pay an adviser.</p> <h2>Helping people protect their interests</h2> <p>There are three ways, supported by research, nudges can help Australians engage with their super.</p> <p><strong>1. Future self visualisation</strong></p> <p>This involves getting young people to think about their <a href="https://www.halhershfield.com/considering-the-future-self">future selves</a> and visualise their life in retirement. This can help them to recognise the long-term benefits of getting actively involved with their super.</p> <p>Showing fund members how they might look when older by using an ageing filter software, for example, can make this visualisation more real for them and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/23794607231190607">enhance understanding of their future selves, leading to higher engagement</a>.</p> <p><strong>2. Simplification</strong></p> <p>We all know financial products and superannuation can be complicated. The information and choices presented can lead to <a href="https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/choice-overload-bias">decision paralysis</a>, causing people to delay or opt out of making a decision. By simplifying the process, funds can motivate people to get more engaged with their super.</p> <p>To get people to make voluntary contributions, for example, it might be more effective for funds to recommend <a href="https://siepr.stanford.edu/news/how-simple-nudge-can-motivate-workers-save-retirement">a specific percentage of their salary</a> rather than offering several options. Deciding whether to boost contributions by an extra 3%, 4% or 5% can be overwhelming, especially for people with poor <a href="https://theconversation.com/are-you-financially-literate-here-are-7-signs-youre-on-the-right-track-202331">financial literacy</a>.</p> <p><strong>3. Language and framing</strong></p> <p>The way options are framed and the language super funds use can significantly impact member engagement.</p> <p>Australians may be more likely to make higher voluntary contributions if they are asked how much they want <a href="https://www.bi.team/press-releases/the-small-nudges-that-could-make-young-people-142000-better-off-in-retirement/">to “invest” in their super </a> instead of how much they want to “contribute” or “add”.</p> <p>The word “invest” encourages people to think about future benefits, motivating them to make higher contributions.</p> <p>How options are labelled can also have an impact on <a href="https://www.bi.team/press-releases/the-small-nudges-that-could-make-young-people-142000-better-off-in-retirement/">member engagement</a> and decision making.</p> <p>For example, highlighting concrete benefits of different voluntary payments, such as “a 4% contribution keeps you above the poverty line”, and “a 10% contribution allows for a comfortable retirement according to Australian standards” can increase how much people are willing to contribute.</p> <h2>Ethical use of nudges</h2> <p>The <a href="https://www.superreview.com.au/news/superannuation/industry-body-backs-super-fund-nudges-though-parameters-need-be-set">Financial Services Council</a> backs the government on getting super funds to nudge members about contributions and investments but says there are limits.</p> <p>Parameters around nudging should be set […] to ensure that the language is appropriate and does not ultimately amount to defaulting.</p> <p>For example, letting a customer know that as they approach retirement, they need to make a decision about what retirement product they wish to utilise would be an acceptable nudge, while contacting a customer to let them know that they will be placed in a product when they retire, would not necessarily be acceptable.</p> <p>The council emphasises the importance of super funds recognising <a href="https://www.superreview.com.au/news/superannuation/industry-body-backs-super-fund-nudges-though-parameters-need-be-set">people’s autonomy</a> when delivering a “soft” or “hard” nudge.</p> <p>Soft nudges are gentle prompts and reminders designed to guide people to make good choices without pressuring them, such as sending an email reminder to review their investment options. Hard nudges are more direct in their guidance. These might include recommending specific investment options.</p> <p>Despite these differences, <a href="https://www.behaviourworksaustralia.org/blog/can-we-have-a-quiet-word-about-behavioural-science">ethical use of nudges</a> should encourage engagement while respecting people’s autonomy by making it easy for them to opt out.</p> <p>The use of nudges presents a valuable opportunity to increase superannuation fund members’ engagement.</p> <p>Whether through future self visualisation, simplification or language framing, ethical nudges can motivate members to take action, leading to greater confidence in navigating the retirement transition and achieving retirement goals.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/230404/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fernanda-mata-1533222">Fernanda Mata</a>, Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/breanna-wright-267597">Breanna Wright</a>, Research fellow, BehaviourWorks Australia, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/liam-smith-5152">Liam Smith</a>, Director, BehaviourWorks, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/super-funds-are-using-nudges-to-help-you-make-financial-decisions-how-do-they-work-230404">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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“Just return it”: Tragic appeal after grandma’s home robbed during her funeral

<p>A family has been left "traumatised" after the home of their 81-year-old grandmother was broken into by heartless thieves on the day of her funeral. </p> <p>The house of 81-year-old Nola Bulkeley was targeted last Friday as her family and friends farewelled the mother of three and grandmother of 10, after she died from pancreatic cancer on May 27th. </p> <p>Nola's son Andrew recalled the moment they found out about the robbery, telling 2GB radio on Monday,  "Some of the children and grandchildren went back to the house and when they arrived, they discovered that someone had accessed the house and taken a range of things."</p> <p>"Not only was it very, very sad, but it was confronting. Was someone else still in the house? We just didn't know. [We were] a bit blown away and it brought the wake to a pretty quick end."</p> <p>Andrew went on to describe Nola as a "wonderful woman" and "special grandmother", as their family continue to grieve their loss.</p> <p>"Mum lived in that house for 42 years and not once did someone access it in that way, it's very disappointing," he said.</p> <p>"Mum didn't have a lot of expensive jewellery but she had a whole little range of items that over the years she talked about with the grandkids."</p> <p>"She'd talk about when she left Earth... she'd be pleased to see them have it."</p> <p>He urged those responsible to return the jewellery, saying, "Please, just return it ... just leave it on the front doorstep, or something like that."</p> <p>"It's really broken the family's heart. I thank God she was not there to experience this injustice. She would have been so upset."</p> <p>Nola's grandchildren, who had been staying at the house in Sydney's north-west, discovered the theft when they returned to the house after the wake following Nola's funeral.</p> <p>Nola's daughter-in-law Celine said her three children felt "traumatised" by the break-in, saying, "We feel she has been violated ... her special items have been taken."</p> <p>Police were called to the home and forensic experts carried out an examination to identify the thieves, with the investigation still ongoing. </p> <p><em>Image credits: 2GB </em></p>

Legal

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After 180 years, new clues are revealing just how general anaesthesia works in the brain

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adam-d-hines-767066">Adam D Hines</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4773932/pdf/BLT.15.159293.pdf/">Over 350 million surgeries</a> are performed globally each year. For most of us, it’s likely at some point in our lives we’ll have to undergo a procedure that needs general anaesthesia.</p> <p>Even though it is one of the safest medical practices, we still don’t have a complete, thorough understanding of precisely how anaesthetic drugs work in the brain.</p> <p>In fact, it has largely remained a mystery since general anaesthesia was introduced into medicine over <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/08941939.2015.1061826">180 years ago</a>.</p> <p>Our study published <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0588-23.2024">in The Journal of Neuroscience today</a> provides new clues on the intricacies of the process. General anaesthetic drugs seem to only affect specific parts of the brain responsible for keeping us alert and awake.</p> <h2>Brain cells striking a balance</h2> <p>In a study using fruit flies, we found a potential way that allows anaesthetic drugs to interact with specific types of neurons (brain cells), and it’s all to do with proteins. Your brain has around <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cne.21974">86 billion neurons</a> and not all of them are the same – it’s these differences that allow general anaesthesia to be effective.</p> <p>To be clear, we’re not completely in the dark on <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0165614719300951">how anaesthetic drugs affect us</a>. We know why general anaesthetics are able to make us lose consciousness so quickly, thanks to a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/367607a0">landmark discovery made in 1994</a>.</p> <p>But to better understand the fine details, we first have to look to the minute differences between the cells in our brains.</p> <p>Broadly speaking, there are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6591655/">two main categories of neurons in the brain</a>.</p> <p>The first are what we call “excitatory” neurons, generally responsible for keeping us alert and awake. The second are “inhibitory” neurons – their job is to regulate and control the excitatory ones.</p> <p>In our day-to-day lives, excitatory and inhibitory neurons are constantly working and balancing one another.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/npp2017294">When we fall asleep</a>, there are inhibitory neurons in the brain that “silence” the excitatory ones keeping us awake. This happens <a href="https://askdruniverse.wsu.edu/2018/01/07/why-do-we-get-tired/">gradually over time</a>, which is why you may feel progressively more tired through the day.</p> <p>General anaesthetics speed up this process by directly silencing these excitatory neurons without any action from the inhibitory ones. This is why your anaesthetist will tell you that they’ll “put you to sleep” for the procedure: <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrn2372">it’s essentially the same process</a>.</p> <h2>A special kind of sleep</h2> <p>While we know why anaesthetics put us to sleep, the question then becomes: “why do we <em>stay</em> asleep during surgery?”. If you went to bed tonight, fell asleep and somebody tried to do surgery on you, you’d wake up with quite a shock.</p> <p>To date, there is no strong consensus in the field as to why general anaesthesia causes people to remain unconscious during surgery.</p> <p>Over the last couple of decades, researchers have proposed several potential explanations, but they all seem to point to one root cause. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7709148/#:%7E:text=At%20presynaptic%20part%2C%20voltage%2Dgated,anesthetics%20to%20inhibiting%20neurotransmitter%20release.">Neurons stop talking to each other</a> when exposed to general anaesthetics.</p> <p>While the idea of “cells talking to each other” may sound a little strange, it’s a <a href="https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain-basics/brain/brain-physiology/action-potentials-and-synapses">fundamental concept in neuroscience</a>. Without this communication, our brains wouldn’t be able to function at all. And it allows the brain to know what’s happening throughout the body.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/593888/original/file-20240514-16-5fletd.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/593888/original/file-20240514-16-5fletd.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/593888/original/file-20240514-16-5fletd.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=600&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/593888/original/file-20240514-16-5fletd.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=600&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/593888/original/file-20240514-16-5fletd.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=600&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/593888/original/file-20240514-16-5fletd.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=754&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/593888/original/file-20240514-16-5fletd.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=754&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/593888/original/file-20240514-16-5fletd.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=754&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Two branching structures in orange, green, blue and yellow colours on a black background." /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Colourised neurons in the brain of a fly.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Adam Hines</span></span></figcaption></figure> <h2>What did we discover?</h2> <p>Our new study shows that general anaesthetics appear to stop excitatory neurons from communicating, but not inhibitory ones. <a href="https://www.jneurosci.org/content/40/21/4103">This concept isn’t new</a>, but we found some compelling evidence as to <em>why</em> only excitatory neurons are affected.</p> <p>For neurons to communicate, proteins have to get involved. One of the jobs these proteins have is to get neurons to release molecules called <a href="https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22513-neurotransmitters">neurotransmitters</a>. These chemical messengers are what gets signals across from one neuron to another: dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin are all neurotransmitters, for example.</p> <p>We found that general anaesthetics impair the ability of these proteins to release neurotransmitters, but only in excitatory neurons. To test this, we used <a href="https://www.eneuro.org/content/8/3/ENEURO.0057-21.2021"><em>Drosophila melanogaster</em> fruit flies</a> and <a href="https://imb.uq.edu.au/research/facilities/microscopy/training-manuals/microscopy-online-resources/image-capture/super-resolution-microscopy">super resolution microscopy</a> to directly see what effects a general anaesthetic was having on these proteins at a molecular scale.</p> <p>Part of what makes excitatory and inhibitory neurons different from each other is that they <a href="https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.00007.2012">express different types of the same protein</a>. This is kind of like having two cars of the same make and model, but one is green and has a sports package, while the other is just standard and red. They both do the same thing, but one’s just a little bit different.</p> <p>Neurotransmitter release is a complex process involving lots of different proteins. If one piece of the puzzle isn’t exactly right, then general anaesthetics won’t be able to do their job.</p> <p>As a next research step, we will need to figure out which piece of the puzzle is different, to understand why general anaesthetics only stop excitatory communication.</p> <p>Ultimately, our results hint that the drugs used in general anaesthetics cause massive global inhibition in the brain. By silencing excitability in two ways, these drugs put us to sleep and keep it that way.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/229713/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adam-d-hines-767066">Adam D Hines</a>, Research fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/after-180-years-new-clues-are-revealing-just-how-general-anaesthesia-works-in-the-brain-229713">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Body

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King Charles returns to public duties for the first time since diagnosis

<p>King Charles has made his first official public appearance since being diagnosed with cancer in February. </p> <p>In a symbolic appearance on Tuesday morning, the royal visited the Macmillan Cancer Centre at the University College Hospital donning a navy pinstripe suit with a light blue shirt and a pink dinosaur tie.</p> <p>The monarch was joined by his wife, Queen Camilla, with the couple sporting huge smiles as they waved to the crowd outside of the London hospital. </p> <p>The royal couple met with clinicians, patients and families of patients during the visit, and when asked by one patient how his treatment was going, Charles replied: "I'm alright, thank you".</p> <p>In one photo Charles can be seen tenderly placing his hand on the arms of a patient as he spoke with them. </p> <p>One patient discussed her chemotherapy with Charles, who who told her: “I’ve got to have my treatment this afternoon as well,” according to the <em>Mirror</em>.</p> <p>He also shared his reaction to finding out about his diagnosis for the first time, telling one patient: “It’s always a bit of a shock, isn’t it, when they tell you?”</p> <p>The King's hospital visit comes just days after the Palace released a statement confirming that he was showing progress with his treatment and would be resuming official duties. </p> <p>“His Majesty The King will shortly return to public-facing duties after a period of treatment and recuperation following his recent cancer diagnosis,”  it read, before announcing the visit to the cancer centre. </p> <p>“This visit will be the first in a number of external engagements His Majesty will undertake in the weeks ahead.”</p> <p>Despite this, his upcoming summer schedule would not be a full one, with events like the King's Birthday parade, known as Trooping the Colour, and the Royal Ascot, being undertaken on a case-by-case basis. </p> <p>He also plans to host the Emperor and Empress of Japan in late June. </p> <p>“As the first anniversary of the Coronation approaches, Their Majesties remain deeply grateful for the many kindnesses and good wishes they have received from around the world throughout the joys and challenges of the past year,” the statement concluded. </p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Caring

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Jetstar celebrates 20th birthday with "return for free" flights

<p>Jetstar is celebrating its 20th birthday with massive sales and “return for free” flights across Australia and the world. </p> <p>The budget airline is offering over 200,000 “return for free” flights to 64 domestic and 33 international destinations, including popular holiday spots like Japan and Thailand. </p> <p>“Since launching in 2004, Jetstar has enabled hundreds of millions of Australian passengers to travel to more places, more often for less,” Jetstar Group CEO, Stephanie Tully, said.</p> <p>The 20th birthday sale will run for 48 hours, starting at 12.00am AEST on Wednesday, May 1, and end at 11.59pm AEST Thursday 2 May.</p> <p>The travel dates will vary according to the route, but for domestic flights dates include mid-January to late March 2025 and mid-June 2024 to late March 2025 for international services. </p> <p>Club Jetstar members will have 12 hours of exclusive early access from midday Tuesday.</p> <p><strong>A few of the destinations included in the offer can be seen below: </strong></p> <p><strong>Domestic:</strong></p> <ul> <li>Sydney to Ballina Byron from $86</li> <li>Melbourne (Tullamarine) to Launceston from $87</li> <li>Sydney to Gold Coast from $99</li> <li>Newcastle to Melbourne (Tullamarine) from $124</li> <li>Gold Coast to Melbourne (Tullamarine) from $125</li> <li>Perth to Gold Coast from $262</li> </ul> <p><strong>International: </strong></p> <ul> <li>Gold Coast to Wellington from $243</li> <li>Brisbane to Auckland from $266</li> <li>Perth to Bangkok from $309</li> <li>Perth to Phuket from $329</li> <li>Adelaide to Bali (Denpasar) from $349</li> <li>Melbourne (Tullamarine) to Singapore from $399</li> <li>Sydney to Honolulu from $449</li> <li>Brisbane to Seoul (Incheon) from $479</li> <li>Sydney to Osaka from $548</li> </ul> <p>A complete list of all the destinations and details can be found on the <a href="https://www.jetstar.com/au/en/deals?pid=mainnav%3Adeals&amp;flight-type=2&amp;adults=1&amp;origin=SYD#deals-content" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jetstar website</a>. </p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Stamp duty is holding us back from moving homes – we’ve worked out how much

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-garvin-1453835">Nick Garvin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p>If just one state of Australia, New South Wales, scrapped its stamp duty on real-estate transactions, about 100,000 more Australians would move homes each year, according to our <a href="https://e61.in/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Stamp-duty-effects-on-purchases-and-moves.pdf">best estimates</a>.</p> <p>Stamp duty is an unquestioned part of buying a home in Australia – you put your details in an online mortgage calculator, and stamp duty is automatically deducted from the amount you have to contribute.</p> <p>It’s easy to overlook how much more affordable a home would be without it.</p> <p>That means it’s also easy to overlook how much more Australians would buy and move if stamp duty wasn’t there.</p> <p>The 2010 Henry Tax Review found stamp duty was <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-10/afts_final_report_part_2_vol_1_consolidated.pdf">inequitable</a>. It taxes most the people who most need to or want to move.</p> <p>The review reported: "Ideally, there would be no role for any stamp duties, including conveyancing stamp duties, in a modern Australian tax system. Recognising the revenue needs of the States, the removal of stamp duty should be achieved through a switch to more efficient taxes, such as those levied on broad consumption or land bases."</p> <p>But does stamp duty actually stop anyone moving? It’s a claim more often made than assessed, which is what our team at the <a href="https://e61.in/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Stamp-duty-effects-on-purchases-and-moves.pdf">e61 Institute</a> set out to do.</p> <p>We used real-estate transaction data and a natural experiment.</p> <h2>What happened when Queensland hiked stamp duty</h2> <p>In 2011, Queensland hiked stamp duty for most buyers by removing some concessions for owner-occupiers at short notice.</p> <p>For owner-occupiers it increased stamp duty by about one percentage point, lifting the average rate from 1.26% of the purchase price to 2.27%.</p> <p>What we found gives us the best estimate to date of what stamp duty does to home purchases.</p> <p>A one percentage point increase in stamp duty causes the number of home purchases to decline by 7.2%.</p> <p>The number of moves (changes of address) falls by about as much.</p> <p>The effect appears to be indiscriminate. Purchases of houses fell about as much as purchases of apartments, and purchases in cities fell about as much as purchases in regions.</p> <p>Moves between suburbs and moves interstate dropped by similar rates.</p> <p>With NSW stamp duty currently averaging about <a href="https://conveyancing.com.au/need-to-know/stamp-duty-nsw">3.5%</a> of the purchase price, our estimates suggest there would be about 25% more purchases and moves by home owners if it were scrapped completely. That’s 100,000 moves.</p> <p>Victoria’s higher rate of stamp duty, about <a href="https://www.sro.vic.gov.au/rates-taxes-duties-and-levies/general-land-transfer-duty-property-current-rates">4.2%</a>, means if it was scrapped there would be about 30% more purchases. That’s another 90,000 moves.</p> <h2>Even low headline rates have big effects</h2> <p>The big effect from small-looking headline rates ought not to be surprising.</p> <p>When someone buys a home, they typically front up much less cash than the purchase price. While stamp duty seems low as a percentage of the purchase price, it is high as a percentage of the cash the buyer needs to find.</p> <p>Here’s an example. If stamp duty is 4% of the purchase price, and a purchaser pays $800,000 for a property with a mortgage deposit of $160,000, the $32,000 stamp duty adds 20%, not 4%, to what’s needed.</p> <p>If the deposit takes five years to save, stamp duty makes it six.</p> <p>A similar thing happens when an owner-occupier changes address. If the buyer sells a fully owned home for $700,000 and buys a new home for $800,000, the upgrade ought to cost them $100,000. A 4% stamp duty lifts that to $132,000.</p> <p>Averaged across all Australian cities, stamp duty costs about <a href="https://e61.in/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Stepped-on-by-Stamp-Duty.pdf">five months</a> of after-tax earnings. In Sydney and Melbourne, it’s six.</p> <h2>Stamp duty has bracket creep</h2> <p>This cost has steadily climbed from around <a href="https://e61.in/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Stepped-on-by-Stamp-Duty.pdf">six weeks</a> of total earnings in the 1990s. It has happened because home prices have climbed faster than incomes and because stamp duty has brackets, meaning more buyers have been pushed into higher ones.</p> <p>Replacing the stamp duty revenue that states have come to rely on would not be easy, but a switch would almost certainly help the economy function better.</p> <p>The more that people are able to move, the more they will move to jobs to which they are better suited, boosting productivity.</p> <p>The more that people downsize when they want to, the more housing will be made available for others.</p> <p>Our findings suggest the costs are far from trivial, making a switch away from stamp duty worthwhile, even if it is disruptive and takes time.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/225773/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-garvin-1453835">Nick Garvin</a>, Adjunct Fellow, Department of Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/stamp-duty-is-holding-us-back-from-moving-homes-weve-worked-out-how-much-225773">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Kevin Bacon returns to Footloose roots for a special cause

<p>Kevin Bacon has taken a step back in time to return to the Utah high school where the 1984 movie <em>Footloose</em> was filmed. </p> <p>Students at Payson High School launched the #BacontoPayson social media campaign several months ago in an attempt to get the Hollywood legend to attend the school's final prom. </p> <p>The high schoolers recreated movie scenes and choreographed videos in the hopes of capturing Bacon's attention, willing him to return to the school before the campus relocates at the end of the school year. </p> <p>The online campaign worked, as the 65-year-old actor returned to Payson on Saturday where he addressed the students and praised their valiant efforts to get him back to the iconic school, but not before striding onto the stage while the iconic song <em>Footloose</em> blared through the grounds. </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C6CNgyNJOrk/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C6CNgyNJOrk/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by SixDegrees.org (@sixdegreesofkb)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>"When I first heard about this Bacon to Payson thing, I was like, 'Wow, this is crazy.' But you were all just tireless," Bacon said in his speech on the school's football field on Saturday, according to <em><a title="" href="https://www.abc4.com/news/wasatch-front/kevin-bacon-returns-to-payson-high-on-prom-night-for-40th-anniversary-of-footloose/" target="" rel="">ABC7</a></em>. "You talked me into it."</p> <p>As part of Payson High School's effort to get Bacon back on campus, they pledged to create 5000 essential resource kits to help his <a href="https://www.sixdegrees.org/footloose" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Sixdegrees.org</a> foundation, which benefits underserved and under-resourced communities.</p> <p>The organisation has a goal of packing and distributing up to 40,000 kits as part of its "Footloose40" initiative, which marks the 40th anniversary of the film's release. </p> <p>In his speech on Saturday, Bacon thanked the students for "turning what could be just a movie star coming back to get a pat on the back into something really positive."</p> <p>Bacon was awarded with an honorary Payson High School diploma, posed for photos with students and even swung by his locker during his visit during his visit.</p> <p><em>Image credits: TikTok / Paramount Pictures</em></p>

Movies

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"Welcome home, Harold": Iconic Neighbours actor returns to Ramsay Street

<p>More than 15 years after his departure, Harold Bishop is returning to Ramsay Street. </p> <p>Ian Smith's character has long been a fan favourite on <em>Neighbours</em>, after originally starring on the soap between 1987 and 1991, before he returned in 1996 until his departure in 2009. </p> <p>Since then, Harold has made multiple guest appearances, including in the 2022 finale.</p> <p>When Amazon picked up the Aussie show, Smith rejoined the cast for a short time but quickly left after a health scare.</p> <p>But now, Harold is making another comeback. </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5fVoAlvJEJ/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5fVoAlvJEJ/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Neighbours (@neighbours)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>The official <em>Neighbours</em> Instagram shared the exciting news of his return, writing, “After 15 years of living away, the legendary Harold Bishop is returning to Erinsborough."</p> <p>“We are thrilled to welcome Ian Smith back to the show and the opening titles, where he belongs.”</p> <p>Fan were quick to flood the comment section with excitable messages, rejoicing in the fact that a fan favourite character was returning. </p> <p>“The best news. The show misses an elder character like Harold,” one person wrote.</p> <p>Another commented, “Absolutely amazing news to wake up too. Welcome home, Harold.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images / YouTube </em></p>

TV

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Unique way couple raised $11K for their wedding

<p>When Andie Lickiss proposed to Pagan on New Years Eve in 2021, he had no idea that the pair would spend the next year collecting trash from their neighbours. </p> <p>With the cost-of-living on the rise, the couple were doing everything they could to save up for their dream wedding on September 2023. </p> <p>“We were both working two jobs, trying to save for a house, and everything is just so expensive,” Pagan told <em>7Life</em>. </p> <p>“We didn’t want the wedding to put us in debt.”</p> <p>While thinking of ways to cut corners and save more money, Pagan - who was a keen recycler and had been using a state government-run recycling initiative, Return and Earn, since 2018 - felt inspired to take her recycling to the next level after spotting a wheelie bin in her backyard. </p> <p>Pagan then took to her local community Facebook page to ask her neighbours for their unwanted bottles and cans to help with the cost of their wedding, with the initiative offering 10 cents per aluminium can, plastic or glass bottle deposited.</p> <p>“I had about 50 messages from people ... saying they will just stack them outside their house and we can come and collect,” she said. </p> <p>She then started mapping out the perfect route to pick up the recycling ,and not long after, the couple began their trash-collecting journey almost every day after work in their ute and trailer. </p> <p>“People might laugh because it is only 10 cents (per container),” she said. </p> <p>“But every little bit counts.”</p> <p>Over 19 months the couple recycled more than 100,000 containers, and made memories along the way, as they got closer to their neighbours who would donate cardboard boxes and wheelie bins full of empty cans and bottles. </p> <p>They also volunteered at local sporting events and spent weekends cleaning up fields and stadiums. </p> <p>Each dollar went towards their goal of $4,500 to pay for their dream photographer, with the couple sometimes pocketing more than $400 at a time when they cashed in each load. </p> <p>Within six months the couple had reached their goal, but they didn't stop there. </p> <p>“I couldn’t believe it,” Pagan said. </p> <p>“We just decided to keep going. The cost of living wasn’t getting cheaper.”</p> <p>Andie and Pagan cashed in cans and bottles right up until the week before their wedding. </p> <p>“We never told anyone how much we made,” Pagan said. </p> <p>“Our celebrant announced it at the wedding (and) the looks on everyone’s faces! They were so shocked, and our photographers caught it.”</p> <p>The couple collected a grand total of $11,127.50 with the help of their local community, and now Pagan encourages others to reach out and ask for help. </p> <p>“I hope that people who are doing it tough are not afraid to reach out and ask for help.”</p> <p><em>Images: 7News</em></p>

Relationships

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How to fall asleep without sleeping pills: 7 natural sleep aids that actually work

<p>It’s 3am and you’re suddenly wide awake. Try these seven science-backed strategies to fall back to sleep fast.</p> <p><strong>Give meditation a try </strong></p> <p>As a mindfulness coach, I’m very aware of the day-to-day anxieties and worries that can interfere with a good night’s sleep. One of the most effective natural sleep aids is a quick meditation session to ease yourself out of those stresses. If you’ve never meditated before, you’ll likely find the meditation interrupted by thoughts flashing through your mind.</p> <p>It’s important for you to know that this isn’t a failure on your part, and that you aren’t doing anything wrong. Thinking is just what the brain does, as naturally as lungs take in air. The point is to be non-judgmental yet aware of your thoughts, bodily experiences and breath, moment by moment.</p> <p><em>Sleep better, feel better! <a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-wellness/rollers-resistance/27-72435-gaiam-strengthen-stretch-kit?affiliate=GAIAM6O" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This Blackout Sleep Mask from Gaiam</a> will help you feel well rested and renewed. </em></p> <p><strong>Stop wanting to fall asleep</strong></p> <p>It’s counterintuitive, isn’t it? Sometimes trying too hard to do something is the very thing that prevents us from achieving it – and that’s never more true than when it comes to falling asleep. Desperately wanting to sleep will only stoke anxieties that will further stress your brain, essentially feeding it the message that it’s not safe to sleep.</p> <p>Throw in those worries about your to-do list at work the following day, and the whole thing can snowball into a panic attack. Try letting go of that feeling that you absolutely must sleep now, and observe your own anxieties for what they are without judgment. When you stop looking at sleep as a goal, you’ll find it easier to fall asleep.</p> <p><em>Before you climb into bed, set aside 10-15 minutes to help relax your body and mind, with <a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-wellness/restore-massage/27-73353-gaiam-wellness-acupressure-neck-back-pillow?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">this wellness acupressure neck and back pillow from Gaiam</a>.</em></p> <p><strong>Start a journal </strong></p> <p>If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep, pick up a pen and paper (not your phone!), and start writing: simply scribble down an account of what’s going on inside your head. Although there’s no “right” way to journal, you might start by listing the events of your day, and from there, how those events and encounters made you feel.</p> <p>Building this structured picture of your thoughts may help you see that the problem that’s keeping you up at night, and is likely less overwhelming than you thought. Why my insistence on a pen and paper? First off, studies show the simple motor action that’s involved in the act of handwriting has a calming effect. Secondly, the light emitted by laptops and phones isn’t conducive to falling asleep.</p> <p><strong>Find yourself a "3am friend"</strong></p> <p>Some of us are lucky to have a ‘3am friend’, that close confidant you can call up in the wee hours knowing that they won’t hold it against you in the morning. Although it’s great to have someone to talk to when you want to fall asleep, it’s important that the conversation doesn’t just rehash the anxieties that are preventing you from catching shut-eye in the first place.</p> <p>Rather than using the call to seek solutions for those issues, talk about things that calm your nerves, or even have them assist you in deep breathing. It may sound silly, but doing a series of deep, relaxing breaths can help you let go of the troubles that are keeping you wide awake.</p> <p><strong>Take a warm shower</strong></p> <p>Taking a warm shower not only relaxes your muscles and soothes minor aches and pains, but it also raises your core body temperature. As soon as you step out of the shower, your body starts working at lowering that temperature, which is something that normally happens when you’re falling asleep naturally.</p> <p>(That’s why we always feel the need for a blanket when we sleep, no matter how warm it is!) By kick-starting that temperature-lowering process, you’re tricking your body into falling asleep fast.</p> <p><strong>Stretch yourself to sleep </strong></p> <p>Anxiety keeping you up? Research suggests mild stretching can help take the edge off and relax muscles that have become stiff and sore after a long day. We’re not talking intricate yoga poses or acrobatics here, either: Simple stretches like an overhead arm stretch and bending over to touch your toes should do the trick. Ramp up the relaxation potential with a soundtrack of ambient noise at a volume that’s just barely audible.</p> <p>There are plenty of white noise apps that are free to download, but soft music can work as well (so long as there are no lyrics). Just remember, if you’re using an electronic device to play these sleep-promoting sounds, make sure it’s placed screen-down so you’re not distracted by the light it emits.</p> <p><em>Stretching is healing, and this <a href="https://gaiam.innovations.com.au/p/gaiam-wellness/rollers-resistance/27-72435-gaiam-strengthen-stretch-kit?affiliate=GAIAM60" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Strengthen and Stretch Kit from Gaiam</a> is a great way to start. An on-line workout is also included to get you started.</em></p> <p><strong>Read (or listen!) to something new</strong></p> <p>When you’re struggling with insomnia, it might be tempting to pull an old favourite off the bookshelf. In reality, it’s better to read or listen to an audio book that covers a topic on which you know absolutely nothing. New information, while taking attention away from the stressors that are keeping you up at night, gives your brain enough of a workout to make it tire more quickly than when it’s engaged with familiar subjects and concepts.</p> <p>Again, if it’s an audio book or podcast you’re listening to, make sure the light-emitting side of the device is face down to keep the room as dark as possible. Darkness and warmth play an essential part in the production and maintenance of melatonin, the hormone that plays the central role falling asleep.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article by </em><em>Deepak Kashyap </em><em style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/conditions/sleep/how-to-fall-asleep-without-sleeping-pills-7-natural-sleep-aids-that-actually-work" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Body

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Jimmy Barnes makes his triumphant return to the stage

<p>Jimmy Barnes has made his return to the stage for the first time in three months. </p> <p>The Aussie rocker was welcomed to the stage at Byron Bay's Bluesfest with a roar of applause from the crowd, as he performed for the first time since his open hear surgery three months ago. </p> <p>The 67-year-old said he felt good about his long-awaited return to the stage, although he was worried he would "pop a valve" mid song. </p> <p>"There was a time when I thought I might die but I knew if I could get back on my feet, I'd be up singing again," Barnes told <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/jimmy-barnes-kicks-off-tour-at-bluesfest-in-byron-after-open-heart-surgery/6d4e0006-13c4-4bd0-a623-d8f9e05a575d" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Nine News</em></a>.</p> <p>"The best thing I can do for my recovery is get out there and sing, it makes me feel human, makes me feel good."</p> <p>After singing his hot track <em>Working Class Man</em>, Barnes told the crowd in Byron Bay, "It's good to be here."</p> <p>"It's good to be f***ing anywhere." </p> <p>His daughter Mahalia Barnes said that he had given it "a good go over the years" and was grateful to see her father doing what he loves most. </p> <p>"In recent times he's been so healthy and we're grateful he was fit and this didn't win."</p> <p>In December 2023, Barnes shocked his fans when he announced he was being rushed into open heart surgery after developing a dangerous bacterial infection. </p> <p>Since then, he has documented his recovery journey on social media, all while thanking his fans for sticking by him and sharing how excited he has been to return to the stage. </p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

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