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Victoria police ramps up offensive against protests

<p>There’s something very disturbing about scenes from the anti-lockdown protest at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne over the weekend.</p> <p>There’s a series of video footage posted online which shows scores of heavily armed and riot squad police far outnumbering protestors standing around, or sitting, or shopping, and many are chanting: chanting “peace and love” and “freedom”.</p> <p>And yet, 74 people were arrested and $280,000 in fines were handed out to those caught breaching lockdown restrictions. In one video, three police officers tackle a protestor, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-13/victoria-coronavirus-anti-lockdown-protest-arrests-melbourne/12659410">and an officer can be clearly seen kneeling on the man’s neck</a> while he is face down, being handcuffed.</p> <p>The protest’s leader is now also facing an <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/police-arrest-pregnant-woman-over-social-media-post/">incitement charge</a> as police prepare a search warrant for his home in Burwood East.</p> <p>Who is ‘policing’ the police?</p> <p>In the wake of the protest, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews praised the work of police ‘who did a good job in very difficult circumstances.’ He also added that: ‘protesting is stupid and dangerous and those who do it will be dealt with.’</p> <p>It’s a worrying sign of the erosion of democracy when the state’s Premier fails to see the one thing that is pretty clear to most other Australians: Melbournians are tired of the lockdowns, the heavy police presence around their city and the fact that people’s movements are being monitored 24/7, all of which show no signs of abating.</p> <p>And, before Covid-19, and before the states implemented strict public health laws to mandate public gatherings and individual social distancing, protesting was a perfectly normal way for Australians to express their views.</p> <p>But now, of course, that right is denied. In Melbourne public gatherings are strictly forbidden and people are confined to their homes except for one hour a day when they can travel for limited purposes and only within 5 kilometres from home without an exemption.</p> <p>A number of checkpoints are in operation around the metropolitan areas, and police are using number plate recognition technology to detect vehicles registered to ‘stage four’ areas.</p> <p>Police abusing their powers</p> <p>Many Australians are also starting to be very concerned that the extra powers afforded to police under Covid-19 public health enforcement laws have allowed them too much leeway to be able to ‘bend’ some of the rules of otherwise ‘normal’ policing. For example, that ‘<a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/recent-changes-to-police-powers-in-nsw/">arrest should be a measure of last resort</a>.’</p> <p>A Victoria police spokesman said many of the weekend lockdown protesters were aggressive and threatened violence towards officers, with one <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/criminal/offences/assault/assault-police/">charged with assaulting a police officer in execution of their duty</a>.</p> <p>But much of the <a href="https://twitter.com/7NewsMelbourne/status/1304973920437641217">video footage refutes that statement.</a> While a handful of protestors were agitated, and some threw fruit, by and large the crowd seemed compliant, although some did shout: “This is not a police state” and “you’ve got to be on the right side of history”.</p> <p>The ‘threatened violence towards officers’ is a cry that we often hear from police, and sometimes a difficult one to prove, despite the fact that there is a constant stream of video footage, not just from the weekend protests but of <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/police-officer-chokes-and-trips-woman-who-is-not-wearing-a-mask/">various incidents in recent times</a> in which clearly, police after often the ones using unnecessary force.</p> <p>Woman ‘dragged from her car’</p> <p>In fact, the weekend protests in Melbourne were sparked by video footage posted on social media by a Victorian woman, Natalie Bonnet, who was dragged from her car by police for not stating her name at a vehicle checkpoint. She had been stopped for allegedly not having a legal phone charging device mounted to her car.</p> <p>In the video – <a href="https://www.facebook.com/817678571/posts/10160115606228572/?extid=LykdgdNsQXbvpNH8&amp;d=n">which has been shared thousands of times online </a>–  she tells the police officer she is ‘scared’ to leave her vehicle because he is armed. Following this, the police officer reaches over her, unbuckles her seatbelt and manhandles her, pulling her out of the vehicle.</p> <p>She alleges four officers had their knees in her back and she couldn’t breathe as they handcuffed her.</p> <p>It’s understood she will face charges including: driving with obscured vision, failing to produce a licence, failing to state her name and address, resisting arrest, assaulting police and offensive language.</p> <p>As tensions escalate between police and the general public, there’s also a growing sense of mistrust in the police force, particularly in Victoria, but it’s not isolated to the state, and it’s it only further perpetuated by these incidents in which people are intimidated and manhandled. There is no doubt that being the victim of such behaviour can have lasting detrimental emotional effects.</p> <p><em>Written by Sonia Hickey. Republished with permission <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/victoria-police-ramps-up-offensive-against-protests/">of Sydney Criminal Lawyers. </a></em></p>

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Paid parental leave needs an overhaul if governments want us to have “one for the country”

<p>As Australia and New Zealand face the realities of slow growth, or even a decline in population, it’s time to ask if their governments are doing enough. Especially if they want to encourage people to have more babies.</p> <p>New Zealand’s fertility rate has hit an all-time <a href="https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO2008/S00108/nz-fertility-rate-is-at-all-time-low.htm">low</a> of 1.71 children per woman. The opposition National Party <a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/122653707/election-2020-national-launches-first-1000-days-policy-promises-3000-for-new-parents">wants</a> to entice parents with a NZ$3,000 “baby bonus” to be spent on family services.</p> <p>Australia’s population growth rate is <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-24/treasurer-josh-frydenberg-baby-boom-economy-recovery-coronavirus/12489678">forecast</a> to be 0.6% in 2021, its lowest since 1916.</p> <p>Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenburg urged Australians to have more children, reminding many of then treasurer Peter Costello’s <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/budget-bonus-for-mothers-and-families-20060508-ge29qi.html">encouragement to those who can</a> to have “one for mum, one for dad and one for the country”.</p> <p>But if governments want people to procreate for their nation, they must be prepared to help them, and that includes increases in paid parental leave.</p> <p><strong>The current system</strong></p> <p>New Zealand <a href="https://doi.org/10.26686/pq.v2i1.4189">introduced</a> <a href="https://www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays/parental-leave/types-of-parental-leave/">paid parental leave</a> in 1999, first as a tax credit then as a cash payment. Over time, the length was increased from 12 to 26 weeks, currently paid to <a href="https://www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays/parental-leave/parental-leave-payment/payment-amount/">a maximum of NZ$606.46 a week</a>.</p> <p>There is no paid parental leave offered to dads or partners (although they are legally entitled to two weeks’ unpaid leave). But mums may transfer a portion of the 26 weeks to the dad or partner.</p> <p>Ten years ago, Australia was one of the last countries in the developed world to adopt government-funded maternity leave.</p> <p>It offers the primary carer (<a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/cheaper-childcare/">99.5% of the time, the mum</a>) <a href="https://www.fairwork.gov.au/leave/maternity-and-parental-leave/paid-parental-leave">18 weeks of paid leave at the minimum wage</a> (<a href="https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/minimum-workplace-entitlements/minimum-wages">currently A$753.80</a>). Only two weeks at the minimum wage is provided for the secondary carer.</p> <p>When you compare the payment rates of parental leave to average salaries in each country (table below), Australia’s 18 weeks drops to an equivalent of 7.9 weeks annual average salary and New Zealand from 26 weeks to 15.5 weeks.</p> <p>These low leave payments appear even less generous when compared to the <a href="https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/Parental-leave-and-gender-equality.pdf">OECD average</a> of 54.1 weeks of paid parental leave for mums and <a href="https://www.oecd.org/els/soc/PF2_1_Parental_leave_systems.pdf">eight weeks </a> for dads or partners.</p> <p>While employers often top up state-paid parental leave entitlements, this is not always the case. For example, Australia’s <a href="https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/Parental-leave-and-gender-equality.pdf">Workplace Gender Equality Agency</a> found more than 70% of financial services companies offered paid parental leave, but more than 80% of retail businesses did not.</p> <p><strong>Earning or caring</strong></p> <p>Given that dads or partners on both sides of the ditch face either no income for two weeks or less then half of the average income, it’s no wonder they choose to keep working to support their families financially.</p> <p>We know from an Australian Human Rights Commission <a href="https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/SWP_Report_2014.pdf">study in 2014</a> that 85% of dads and partners surveyed took up to four weeks’ leave, and more than half said they would have liked to take more to spend time with mum and newborn. There are <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jftr.12363">substantial benefits</a> including an increase in the mental health and well‐being of fathers and their children as well as greater harmony for the couple.</p> <p>Motherhood <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-parenthood-continues-to-cost-women-more-than-men-97243">penalises</a> women, contributing to significantly <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-30/superannation-young-women-fear-retirement-canberra-ywca-report/11365120">lower lifetime earnings</a>. Not to mention the “second shift” of domestic duties they do if they are balancing work and family.</p> <p>If dads and partners spend more time with their families earlier on in their children’s lives, this increases the likelihood that household chores and caring responsibilities will be more <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.5172/jfs.2014.20.1.19">evenly distributed</a>.</p> <p>Womens’ employment has also <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-10/women-have-lost-jobs-faster-than-men-during-coronavirus-but-are/12338598">been</a> hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes receiving <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-09/childcare-changes-to-disproportionately-affect-women/12333398">less government assistance</a>.</p> <p>The move to roll back free child care in Australia was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jun/08/australian-government-to-end-free-childcare-on-12-july-in-move-labor-says-will-snap-families">called</a> a “betrayal of Australian families” and “an anti-women move” by Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi.</p> <p>In addition to the “second shift”, women bear the brunt of a “third shift” – known as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic">the mental load</a>. The business of running the family is characteristically undervalued and unpaid emotional labour, which is <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15487733.2020.1776561?needAccess=true">mostly</a> taken care of by women.</p> <p>For many dual-income families, lockdown has changed the allocation of household chores and caring responsibilities. <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-20/coronavirus-covid19-domestic-work-housework-gender-gap-women-men/12369708">Research</a> shows the gap between men and women has narrowed.</p> <p><strong>More women in the workplace</strong></p> <p>In the upcoming New Zealand election, it will be interesting to see how the different parties deal with supporting families, the gender pay gap and female workforce participation.</p> <p>If ever an example was needed to show how satisfying a non-traditional care arrangement can be for both parents, consider <a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/stayathome-dad-to-help-jacinda-ardern-be-pm--a-mum-20180119-h0kz9h">stay-at-home dad Clarke Gayford</a>, who supports Jacinda Ardern to be New Zealand’s prime minister.</p> <p>Our previous <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1441358220300070">research</a> found government policy alone does not increase the uptake of dads or partners taking parental leave. Changing workplace norms to support them is a key factor in creating flexible work arrangements and increasing parental leave uptake.</p> <p>Working from home has made <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/there-s-a-silver-lining-for-fathers-in-the-covid-crisis-20200424-p54n1z.html">fatherhood</a> more visible and increased the time some Australian dads <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-20/coronavirus-covid19-domestic-work-housework-gender-gap-women-men/12369708">spend</a> caring for their children.</p> <p>In a post-pandemic world, care responsibilities can no longer be labelled a private matter. New Zealand and Australia both have parental leave policies that fail to offer families real choices about care arrangements.</p> <p>Dads and partners need their own leave entitlements and greater acceptance of their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jftr.12363">caring responsibilities</a> in the workplace. These changes will challenge caring as women’s work, ease the burden on women and may even boost the fertility rate.</p> <p><em>Written by Sarah Duffy, Western Sydney University; Michelle O'Shea, Western Sydney University, and Patrick van Esch, Auckland University of Technology. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/paid-parental-leave-needs-an-overhaul-if-governments-want-us-to-have-one-for-the-country-145627">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Victoria now has a good roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions

<p>The COVID-19 <a href="https://www.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions-roadmaps">roadmap for Victoria</a> announced by Premier Daniel Andrews sets the state on the right path. Something like it should be emulated by New South Wales, which has not yet achieved zero new cases.</p> <p>Victoria’s roadmap towards what Andrews calls “COVID-normal” makes a <a href="https://theconversation.com/victorias-path-out-of-covid-19-lockdown-quick-reference-guides-145674">clear distinction between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria</a>. Restrictions are marginally less severe in regional Victoria, where the incidence of infections is lower.</p> <p>For metropolitan Melbourne there are five steps; regional Victoria has four. For each step, the roadmap outlines which restrictions will be lifted on our road towards the cherished status of COVID-normal – or zero active cases of COVID-19. The roadmap also provisionally outlines when restrictions will be lifted, although this depends on case numbers.</p> <p><strong>Get your news from people who know what they’re talking about.</strong></p> <p>Hear from them</p> <p>For metropolitan Melbourne, the curfew will be eased from next week to start at 9pm instead of 8pm. It will remain in place until new cases average fewer than five per day over the course of a fortnight – the criterion to move to the third step of the roadmap.</p> <p>The first two steps will still entail significant restrictions on public gatherings and visitors, plus the creation of a “single social bubble” allowance, under which people living alone can designate a person who can visit their home. Staged school returns will begin once there are fewer than 50 cases a day on a fortnightly average.</p> <p>Step three sees the partial resumption of Melbourne’s café culture, as well as hairdressing.</p> <p>A new <a href="https://theconversation.com/could-traffic-light-alerts-help-victoria-exit-lockdown-safely-144931">traffic light system</a> will also be introduced to allow a <a href="https://www.vic.gov.au/industry-restrictions-roadmap-metro-melbourne">phased reopening for businesses and workplaces</a>.</p> <p><strong>Is the roadmap heading in the right direction?</strong></p> <p>Grattan Institute’s four-point plan, detailed in our report last week titled <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/how-australia-can-get-to-zero-covid-19-cases/">Go for zero</a>, argues that states should reaffirm the <a href="https://www.pm.gov.au/media/national-cabinet-24jul20">National Cabinet’s target of zero transmissions</a> and set clear criteria for easing restrictions.</p> <p>The Victorian roadmap keeps appropriate restrictions until zero active cases – the Grattan criterion for defining zero – before the final step on the roadmap, COVID-normal.</p> <p>Grattan’s second criterion – clear and explicit staging of the easing of restrictions – is also met in the Victorian roadmap, but in a confusing way. The thresholds adopted in the Victorian plan are a mishmash of epidemiological criteria, case numbers and dates.</p> <p>It is entirely appropriate that the roadmap’s dates are purely provisional, and subject to epidemiological criteria such as average case numbers. But this raises the question of why the roadmap has dates at all.</p> <p>Victorians may read the epidemiological criteria as reasons to bring forward the provisional dates for easing restrictions, when in reality they are more likely to put the provisional dates back. The public might end up frustrated if the promised date passes with no reward for good behaviour.</p> <p>The epidemiological criteria are expressed in an extremely complex way: a 14-day threshold average, plus further criteria based on the source of infection. Until now, the public’s attention has been focused simply on the number of new cases each day.</p> <p>Introducing this more complex measure is a step backward. Expressing the criterion as an average also runs the risk of the threshold being met but the final few days of the 14-day averaging period revealing an upward trend. A simple and clear criterion, based on number of new cases, would have been better.</p> <p><strong>Politics as well as science?</strong></p> <p>The Victorian government has trumpeted the use of <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-06/victoria-coronavirus-covid-19-lockdown-restrictions-modelling/12633906">epidemiological modelling to support its decisions</a>. However the first two steps seem to be driven by a mix of politics and science.</p> <p>Step one will occur on September 13, regardless of the number of new cases detected between now and then. The new case threshold for step two is expressed as an average of 30-50 cases a day over the previous 14 days. It is unclear why there is a lower bound; why not just say “fewer than 50 cases”? If it is designed to give political flexibility, it defeats the purpose of clear criteria.</p> <p>Knowledge of the coronavirus and how it works – both in terms of clinical treatment and public health science – is advancing rapidly. We now know more about <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3223">which restrictions work best</a> than we did when Melbourne first entered its Stage 4 lockdown.</p> <p>Some restrictions included in the roadmap – such as night curfews – now have a weak evidence base. The evidence is also stronger now in <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31483-5/fulltext">allowing primary schools to return</a> before secondary schools, but the roadmap takes no account of this distinction. It is a pity the roadmap doesn’t align more closely with the latest science.</p> <p>Lockdowns are necessary, but they have big downsides which need to be weighed against the undoubted benefits. One main downside is that they <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/news/waves-of-inequity-in-the-coronavirus-pandemic/">hit the most disadvantaged people hardest</a>. The cost of social isolation has been somewhat ameliorated in the roadmap, with its provision for “social bubbles”, but this could perhaps have been more generous.</p> <p>Overall, Victoria’s roadmap is good. It identifies the right goal (zero active cases), it provides explicit criteria for when restrictions might be lifted (but unfortunately not as clear and simple as they could be), and each of the steps involves mostly appropriate restrictions.</p> <p>Victorians have every reason to share in Andrews’ hopefulness for a COVID-normal Christmas to cap off a very difficult year.</p> <p><em>Written by Stephen Duckett. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/victoria-now-has-a-good-roadmap-out-of-covid-19-restrictions-new-south-wales-should-emulate-it-145393">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

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Adani sets its legal “attack dog” on civilian activist

<p>Adani <a href="https://www.adaniaustralia.com/-/media/200826%20MS%20Adani%20FINAL">announced on 26 August</a> that it’s planning to sue long-term environmental activist Ben Pennings for the alleged damages he’s caused due to his part in the ongoing campaign to prevent the Indian mining giant’s Carmichael coal mine from going ahead in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.</p> <p>Spokesperson for the <a href="https://galileeblockade.net/">Galilee Blockade</a>, Pennings <a href="https://twitter.com/BenPennings/status/1298832089572204544">tweeted</a> the following day that he’d only just learnt that in the lead up to the launch of the civil proceedings, Adani had secretly applied twice to the Queensland Supreme Court for permission to raid his family home.</p> <p>Adani has sought an Anton Piller order, which is a damaging legal manoeuvre that consists of an unannounced raid to prevent prior destruction of any evidence. In this case, two Adani solicitors, an independent lawyer and a computer expert were to be sent in to check electronic devices.</p> <p>As Pennings pointed out in a statement, Adani has been running an “<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-25/adani-attack-dog-law-firm-facing-legal-services-commission-probe/10831088">attack dog</a>” legal strategy created by a Brisbane law firm. This involves targeting financially vulnerable activists with legal tactics to get the Carmichael mine running as soon as possible.</p> <p>The first victim of this strategy was Wangan and Jagalingou man Adrian Burragubba. The traditional owner launched multiple court actions to stop the Adani mine. And the transnational company took him to court <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/adani-bankrupts-traditional-owner-in-queensland">in August last year</a>, forcing him into bankruptcy, as it sought pending court costs.</p> <p>Targeting individuals</p> <p>“Serial coal miner Gautam Adani’s writ against peaceful campaigner Ben Pennings will send a shudder through every Australian who values democracy, free speech and the right to peaceful protest,” said renowned Australian environmentalist Bob Brown.</p> <p>“Adani’s writ follows his use of the court to evict Wangan and Jagalingou people from their land in the Galilee Basin where he is proceeding with an obscene environmentally-disastrous and unnecessary coalmine,” he told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.</p> <p>The former Australian Greens leader <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/the-stop-the-adani-convoy-an-interview-with-bob-brown/">led a car convoy across the country</a> in early 2019, calling for an end to the Adani mine, which is set to open up the Galilee Basin – one of the largest untouched coal reserves on Earth – to at least <a href="https://www.stopadani.com/why_stop_adani">eight more</a> mining projects.</p> <p>The decade-long campaign against Adani has made substantial impact. In late 2018, the company announced that it was scaling down its mine, as it couldn’t secure private sector investment here or overseas, after successful campaigns led financial institutions to <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/stop-adani-an-interview-with-the-galilee-blockades-ben-pennings/">boycott the mine</a>.</p> <p>So, since then, Adani has started to focus on its new tactic of singling out individuals.</p> <p>“Gautam Adani is echoing the American Wise Use Movement’s dictum that if you can’t win the environmental argument, take out the environmental advocates,” Brown maintained.</p> <p>Targeted intimidation</p> <p>After learning of Adani’s attempt to raid his family home, Pennings explained in a statement that he lives there with his wife and three children, one of whom has a disability. And he added that the corporation had done this in order to locate “corporate secrets” it believes he possesses.</p> <p>The attempt to have an Anton Piller order issued in relation to Pennings was made <a href="https://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2020/QSC20-249.pdf">in early June</a>, and following its rejection, Adani and its Carmichael Rail Network appealed this decision in July, only <a href="https://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2020/QCA20-169.pdf">to be rejected again</a>.</p> <p>The Supreme Court of Queensland found that Adani had failed to establish it was likely that Pennings had any “confidential information” stored on his computer. And it further cited an assessment of such orders as being highly damaging to those subjected to them.</p> <p>The raid on Pennings’ home was meant to benefit the mining giant in its civil action against the activist, which is supposedly all about protecting the right of Adani, its employees and its contractors “to carry out legal and legitimate business activities free from intimidation and harassment”.</p> <p>Adani further asserts that Pennings’ campaign has targeted other companies that were either existing or potential suppliers or had nothing to do with it at all. And the Indian corporation is seeking compensation in relation to trespass, inducing breach of contract and intimidation.</p> <p>The company then sets out that the civil action “is not about inflicting hardship on Mr Pennings”, rather it’s about protecting Adani’s rights to carry out its business and “give regional Queenslanders a fair go in terms of jobs and contracting opportunities”.</p> <p>Although, as Brown <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/the-stop-the-adani-convoy-an-interview-with-bob-brown/">pointed out</a> early last year, Adani is set to bring automation to regional Queensland, not employment.</p> <p>How good is silencing dissent?</p> <p>“This legal action does not seek to limit free speech,” Adani’s statement regarding the civil proceedings goes on to say. “As we have repeatedly stated, we believe a diversity of views is an important part of democracy.”</p> <p>However, it’s safe to say that the Indian mining giant is attempting to silence voices of opposition in the community, as while the sustained campaign against the mine hasn’t led to its abandonment, it has been effective in driving secondary boycotts.</p> <p>And it’s not only Adani that’s pushing for an end to these type of boycotts. This is something the prime minister and attorney general have had on their minds since prior to last summer’s unprecedented bushfire season reaching fever pitch.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/morrison-intensifies-campaign-to-silence-australians/">secondary boycott</a> involves activists putting pressure on a company, so it stops doing business with another. This type of campaign approach resulted in financial institutions globally boycotting investment in the Carmichael coal mine.</p> <p>Scott Morrison told a Queensland Resources Council luncheon <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/morrison-intensifies-campaign-to-silence-australians/">on 1 November</a> that he and Christian Porter were drafting laws that would allow for secondary boycotts to be outlawed in a similar manner to the way that they’re illegal in relation to union activities.</p> <p>“Environmental groups are targeting businesses and firms who provide goods or services to firms they don’t like, especially in the resources sector,” the PM said, as he laid out his plans to outlaw this type of activism, which allows “quiet Australians” to more easily participate in protest.</p> <p>“Nothing more clearly defines a Liberal Nationals Coalition government than our strong, full-throated support for traditional industries like mining,” Morrison added. “How good is mining for Australia?”</p> <p>In cahoots</p> <p>But prior to the enactment of any new laws, it seems that Adani will have to stick to its current legal tactic of trying to destroy the lives of individual activists with the aim of silencing them and deterring others to stand up to the company’s self-indulgent campaign to destroy the earth we walk upon.</p> <p>Of course, the mining giant shouldn’t have to wait too long, when you consider that the <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/turnbulls-new-laws-in-2018/">Turnbull government</a> rushed to amend the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/turnbull-clears-the-way-for-indian-company-to-build-adani-mine/">in mid-2017</a>, after a Federal Court decision threatened the validity of the Adani Indigenous land use agreement (ILUA).</p> <p>As for Mr Brown, he ended by saying that he’s “disgusted by this billionaire Goliath’s effort to silence an Australian citizen from speaking up for his heritage”.</p> <p><em>Written by Paul Gregoire. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/adani-sets-its-legal-attack-dog-on-civilian-activist/">Sydney Criminal Lawyers.</a> </em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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Backyard pilgrimages become the way to a spiritual journey thanks to COVID

<p>Many major religious pilgrimages have been canceled or curtailed in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. These have included the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/world/middleeast/hajj-pilgrimage-canceled.html">Hajj</a>, a religious milestone for Muslims the world over; the Hindu pilgrimage, known as the <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-india/india-cancels-historic-hindu-pilgrimage-as-coronavirus-cases-mount-idUSKCN24N14P">Amarnath Yatra</a> high in the mountains of Kashmir; and <a href="https://www.orderofmalta.int/2020/03/12/coronavirus-cancelled-the-62nd-pilgrimage-to-lourdes-and-all-international-conferences/">pilgrimages to Lourdes</a> in France.</p> <p>Pilgrims have faced travel delays and cancellations for centuries. Reasons ranged from financial hardship and agricultural responsibilities to what is now all too familiar to modern-day pilgrims – plague or ill health.</p> <p>Then, as now, one strategy has been to bring the pilgrimage home or into the religious community.</p> <p><strong>Journey of a thousand miles</strong></p> <p>Pilgrimage can be an interior or outward journey and while <a href="https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/003043429">individual motivations may vary</a>, it can be an act of religious devotion or a way to seek closeness with the divine.</p> <p>Through the centuries and across cultures, those who longed to go on a sacred journey would find <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/1594960?seq=1">alternative ways to do so</a>.</p> <p>Reading travel narratives, tracing a map with the finger or eye, or <a href="https://www.britishmuseumshoponline.org/matter-of-faith-an-interdisciplinary-study-of-relics-and-relic-veneration-in-the-medieval-period.html">holding a souvenir</a> brought back from a sacred site helped facilitate a real sense of travel for the homebound pilgrim. Through these visual or material aids, people felt as though they, too, were having a pilgrimage experience, and even connecting with others.</p> <p>One such example is the story of the Dominican friar Felix Fabri, who was known for recording his own pilgrimages in various formats, some geared toward the laity and some for his brothers.</p> <p>Fabri was approached in the 1490s by a group of cloistered nuns, meaning that they had professed vows to lead a contemplative life in the quietude of their community. They desired a <a href="https://muse.jhu.edu/article/261870/pdf">devotional exercise</a> so they could receive the spiritual benefits of pilgrimage without having to break their promise of a life that was sheltered from the outside world.</p> <p>He produced “Die Sionpilger,” a virtual pilgrimage in the form of a day-to-day guidebook to Santiago de Compostela, Jerusalem and Rome. In these cities, pilgrims would encounter sites and scenes associated with many facets of their religion: shrines to honor Jesus and the saints, relics, great cathedrals and sacred landscapes associated with miraculous events and stories.</p> <p>Fabri’s guidebook sent the pilgrim on an imaginative journey of a thousand miles, without having to take a single step.</p> <p><strong>DIY pilgrimages</strong></p> <p>My current <a href="https://carepackagegtu.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/spotlight-barush/">book project</a> shows that from Lourdes to South Africa, from Jerusalem to England, from Ecuador to California, DIY pilgrimages are not just a medieval phenomenon. One such example is Phil Volker’s backyard Camino.</p> <p>Volker is a 72-year-old father and now grandfather, woodworker and veteran who mapped the Camino de Santiago onto his backyard in Vashon Island in the Pacific Northwest. Volker prays the rosary as he walks: for those who have been impacted by the pandemic, his family, his neighbors, the world.</p> <p>After a cancer diagnosis in 2013, a few things came together to inspire Volker to build a backyard Camino, including the film “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/07/movies/the-way-directed-by-emilio-estevez-review.html">The Way</a>,” a pocket-sized book of meditations, “<a href="https://annieoneil.com/">Everyday Camino With Annie</a>” by Annie O'Neil and <a href="https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo5974687.html">the story of Eratosthenes</a>, the Greek polymath from the second century B.C. who figured out a way to measure the circumference of the Earth using the Sun, a stick and a well.</p> <p>“For me, this guy was the grand godfather of do-it-yourselfers. How can someone pull off this kind of a caper with things at hand in his own backyard? It got me thinking, what else can come out of one’s backyard?,” he told me.</p> <p>Volker began walking a circuitous route around his 10-acre property on Vashon Island in the Pacific Northwest. It was a chance to exercise, which his doctors had encouraged, but also created a space to think and pray.</p> <p>Each lap around the property is just over a half-mile. Realizing that he was covering quite a distance, he found a map of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route to track his progress, calculating that 909 laps would get him from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to the Cathedral of St. James.</p> <p>To date, Volker has completed three 500-mile Caminos without leaving his backyard.</p> <p>Thanks to a <a href="http://philscamino.com/">documentary film</a>, Volker’s <a href="http://caminoheads.com/">daily blog</a> and an <a href="https://www.nwcatholic.org/features/nw-stories/vashon-camino-pilgrimage">article</a> in the magazine “Northwest Catholic,” the backyard Camino has attracted many visitors, some simply curious but many who are seeking healing and solace.</p> <p><strong>Pilgrimage and remembrance</strong></p> <p>The story of Volker’s backyard Camino inspired Sara Postlethwaite, a sister of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity, to map <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/travel/ireland/go-walk-st-kevin-s-way-co-wicklow-1.553577">St. Kevin’s Way</a>, a 19-mile pilgrimage route in County Wicklow, Ireland onto a series of daily 1.5-mile circuits in Daly City, California.</p> <p>The route rambles along roads and countryside from Hollywood to the ruins of the monastery that St. Kevin, a sixth-century abbot, had founded in Glendalough. Postlethwaite had intended to travel back to her native Ireland in the spring of 2020 to walk the route in person, but due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, she brought the pilgrimage to her home in Daly City.</p> <p>Every so often, Postlethwaite would check in on Google Maps to see where she was along the Irish route, pivoting the camera to see surrounding trees or, at one point, finding herself in the center of an old stone circle.</p> <p>Several joined Postlethwaite’s walk in solidarity, both in the U.S. and overseas.</p> <p>After each day’s walk, she paused at the shed at her community house, where she had drawn a to-scale version of the Market Cross at Glendalough.</p> <p>As Postlethwaite traced the intersecting knots, circles and image of the crucified Christ with her chalk, she reflected not just on the suffering caused by the pandemic but also about issues of racism, justice and privilege. In particular, she remembered <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/article/ahmaud-arbery-shooting-georgia.html">Ahmaud Arbery</a>, a Black jogger shot by two white men in a fatal confrontation in February 2020. She inscribed his name on the chalk cross.</p> <p>For Berkeley-based artist <a href="https://www.maggiepreston.com/">Maggie Preston</a>, a DIY chalk labyrinth on the street outside her house became a way to connect with her neighbors and her three-year-old son. There is a link here with the medieval strategies for bringing longer pilgrimages into the church or community. <a href="https://www.luc.edu/medieval/labyrinths/imaginary_pilgrimage.shtml">Scholars have suggested</a> that labyrinths may have been based on maps of Jerusalem, providing a scaled-down version of a much longer pilgrimage route.</p> <p>They started out by chalking in the places they could no longer go – the aquarium, the zoo, a train journey – and then created a simple labyrinth formed by a continuous path in seven half-circles.</p> <p>“A labyrinth gave us a greater destination, not just somewhere to imagine going, but a circuitous path to literally travel with our feet,” she told me.</p> <p>As neighbors discovered the labyrinth, it began to create a genuine sense of community akin to that which many seek to find when they embark on a much longer pilgrimage.</p> <p><strong>‘Relearn to pretend’</strong></p> <p>Volker’s cancer has progressed to stage IV and he celebrated his 100th chemo treatment back in 2017, but he is still walking and praying on a regular basis. He offers the following advice:</p> <p>“For folks starting their own backyard Camino I think that creating the myth is the most important consideration. Study maps, learn to pronounce the names of the towns, walk in the dust and the mud, be out there in the rain, drink their wine and eat their food, relearn to pretend.”</p> <p><em>Written by Kathryn Barush. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/as-coronavirus-curtails-travel-backyard-pilgrimages-become-the-way-to-a-spiritual-journey-143518">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Slow to adjust to the pandemic’s ‘new normal’?

<p>As COVID-19 lockdowns were introduced, we all suddenly had to find new ways of doing things. Schooling shifted online, meetings moved to Zoom, workplaces brought in new measures and even social events have changed to minimise physical interactions.</p> <p>Many of us have found it hard to adapt to these transformations in our lives. Our <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-020-0693-8">research</a> into memory, learning, and decision-making suggests part of the reason is that, for our brains, the change didn’t simply involve transferring existing skills to a new environment.</p> <p>More often, our brains are in effect learning entirely new skills, such as how to conduct a meeting while your cat walks across your computer keyboard, or how to work while filtering out the sound of kids yelling in the garden.</p> <p>However, our research may also offer some reassurance that in time we will come to terms with a new way of life.</p> <p><strong>How rats learn</strong></p> <p>Our new research, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-020-0693-8">published in Nature Neuroscience</a>, offers some suggestions about why doing new things can initially be so difficult, especially in a new or changing environment, but gets easier over time. Our findings indicate our surroundings have a changing influence on our choices and actions over time, and our brains process them differently as well.</p> <p>We taught rats how to perform new actions, such as pressing a lever for food, in one place. Next, we moved them to another room with different wallpaper, flooring, and odours.</p> <p>We then “asked” them to perform the same actions to receive a reward, but they were no longer able to do so. It was as if the rats needed to recall all the details of the memory of learning the task to perform it correctly, including the seemingly irrelevant ones.</p> <p>Things were different when we tested the rats again a week later. By this time they could make accurate choices in either environment.</p> <p>We also found that if we inactivated the hippocampus, the part of the brain that encodes detailed memories of the environment, rats could no longer perform a task they had just learned. However, they could still accurately perform tasks they had learned some time ago.</p> <p><strong>What this means for people</strong></p> <p>Our findings suggest that with experience and time, there’s a change in both the psychological mechanisms <em>and</em> the brain mechanisms of learning how to do new things and make choices.</p> <p>While the hippocampus appears to be crucial for a brief period, it becomes less important as time goes on.</p> <p>If even details that ultimately prove irrelevant are necessary for us to remember a new skill in the early stages of learning, this may help to explain why new behaviours can be so difficult to learn when our circumstances change. For our brains, working from home may be like learning a whole new job — not just doing the same job in a new place.</p> <p>But the good news is it gets easier. In the same way rats eventually adapt to a new environment, we humans can learn to work with Zoom calls and interrupting pets.</p> <p>These findings may also help us understand conditions in which the hippocampus is damaged, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, as well as psychiatric disorders such as depression and substance abuse. In time, better understanding could lead to insight into how people with such diseases might regain some functionality.</p> <p>The implications for humans do come with caveats, of course: our study was done in rats, not people. But if you have struggled to adapt to a new way of doing things during this pandemic, we hope that it is of some comfort to know you are not alone. Rats, too, struggle to learn how to do new things in new places — but it does get easier over time.</p> <p><em>Written by Laura Bradfield. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/slow-to-adjust-to-the-pandemics-new-normal-dont-worry-your-brains-just-learning-new-skills-144198">The Conversation.</a> </em></p> <p><em> </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/1-in-10-women-are-affected-by-endometriosis-so-why-does-it-take-so-long-to-diagnose-141803"></a></p>

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Air pollution could be making honey bees sick

<p>Whether it’s exhaust fumes from cars or smoke from power plants, air pollution is an often invisible threat that is <a href="https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1">a leading cause</a> of death worldwide. Breathing air laced with heavy metals, nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter has been linked to a range of chronic health conditions, <a href="https://theconversation.com/understanding-the-pollution-thats-hurting-our-health-25242">including</a> lung problems, heart disease, stroke and cancer.</p> <p>If air pollution can harm human health in so many different ways, it makes sense that other animals suffer from it too. Airborne pollutants affect all kinds of life, <a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.en.27.010182.002101">even insects</a>. In highly polluted areas of Serbia, for instance, <a href="https://peerj.com/articles/5197/">researchers found</a> pollutants lingering on the bodies of European honeybees. Car exhaust fumes are known to interrupt the scent cues that attract and guide bees towards flowers, while also <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-41876-w">interfering with</a> their ability to remember scents.</p> <p>Now, <a href="https://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.2009074117">a new study from India</a> has revealed how air pollution may be depleting the health of honey bees in the wild. These effects may not kill bees outright. But like humans repeatedly going to work under heavy stress or while feeling unwell, the researchers found that air pollution made bees sluggish in their daily activities and could be shortening their lives.</p> <p><strong>Unhealthy bees in Bangalore</strong></p> <p>India is one of the world’s <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/264662/top-producers-of-fresh-vegetables-worldwide/">largest producers</a> of fruit and vegetables. Essential to that success are pollinator species like the giant Asian honey bee. Unlike the managed European honey bee, these bees are predominantly wild and regularly resist humans and other animals eager to harvest their honey. Colonies can migrate over hundreds of kilometres within a year, pollinating a vast range of wild plants and crops across India.</p> <p>Researchers studied how this species was faring in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, where air pollution records have been <a href="https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/cover-story/you-think-delhi-is-polluted-bengalurus-pollution-levels-will-leave-you-breathless/articleshow/69065577.cms">reported as</a> some of the highest in the country. The giant Asian honey bees were observed and collected across four sites in the city over three years. Each had different standards of air pollution.</p> <p>The number of bees visiting flowers was significantly lower in the most polluted sites, possibly reducing how much plants in these places were pollinated. Bees from these sites died faster after capture, and, like houses in a dirty city, were partly covered in traces of arsenic and lead. They had arrhythmic heartbeats, fewer immune cells, and were more likely to show signs of stress.</p> <p>There are some caveats to consider, though. For one thing, areas with high pollution might have had fewer flowering plants, meaning bees were less likely to seek them out. Also, the researchers looked at the health of honey bees in parts of the city purely based on different levels of measured pollution. They couldn’t isolate the effect of the pollution with absolute certainty – there may have been hidden factors behind the unhealthy bees they uncovered.</p> <p>But, crucially, it wasn’t just bees that showed this trend. In a follow-up experiment, the study’s authors placed cages of fruit flies at the same sites. Just like the bees, the flies became coated in pollutants, died quicker where there was more air pollution, and showed higher levels of stress.</p> <p>The threat posed by pesticides is well known. But if air pollution is also affecting the health of a range of pollinating insects, what does that mean for ecosystems and food production?</p> <p><strong>Fewer cars, more flowers</strong></p> <p>Our diets would be severely limited if insects like honey bees were impaired in their pollinating duties, but the threat to entire ecosystems of losing these species is even more grave. Crop plants account for less than 0.1% of all flowering species, yet 85% of flowering plants are <a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.464.6928&amp;rep=rep1&amp;type=pdf">pollinated by</a> bees and other species.</p> <p>Giant Asian honey bees like the ones in Bangalore form large, aggressive colonies that can move between urban, farmed and forest habitats. These journeys expose them to very different levels of pollution, but the colonies of most other types of wild bee species are stationary. They nest in soil, undergrowth or masonry, and individuals travel relatively short distances. The levels of pollution they’re regularly exposed to are unlikely to change very much from one day to the next, and it’s these species that are likely to suffer most if they live in towns or cities where local pollution is high.</p> <p>Thankfully, there are ways to fix this problem. Replacing cars with clean alternatives like electrified public transport would go a long way to reducing pollution. Creating more urban green spaces with lots of trees and other plants would help filter the air too, while providing new food sources and habitat for bees.</p> <p>In many parts of the UK, roadside verges have been <a href="https://theconversation.com/roadside-wildflower-meadows-are-springing-up-across-the-uk-and-theyre-helping-wildlife-in-a-big-way-120014">converted to wildflower meadows</a> in recent years. In doing so, are local authorities inadvertently attracting bees to areas we know may be harmful? We don’t know, but it’s worth pondering. From September 2020, Coventry University is launching a citizen science project with the nation’s beekeepers to map the presence of fine particulate matter in the air around colonies, to begin to unravel what’s happening to honey bees in the UK.</p> <p>Air pollution is likely to be one part of a complex problem. Bees are sensitive to lots of toxins, but how these interact in the wild is fiendishly difficult to disentangle. We know <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13592-014-0308-z">cocktails of pesticides</a> can cause real damage too. But what happens when bees are exposed to these at the same time as air pollution? We don’t yet know, but answers are urgently needed.</p> <p><em>Written by Barbara Smith and Mark Brown. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/air-pollution-could-be-making-honey-bees-sick-new-study-144155">The Conversation.</a></em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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Defund the NSW Police Force Movement gains traction

<p>The recent <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/a-united-nsw-demands-an-end-to-first-nations-custody-deaths-and-police-brutality/">Stop All Black Deaths in Custody rally</a> brought central Sydney to a standstill, as citizens from all backgrounds came together to call for an end to the systemic racism and violence in the NSW policing and criminal justice systems.</p> <p>Law enforcement in this state developed out the British colonising project, at a time when its focus was on dispossessing First Nations peoples from their lands, whether that be via fatal force or paternalistic policy.</p> <p>The colonial legacy in the modern Australian system is all-pervasive. A stark reminder of it was the sight of NSW police <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliawilling/21-tweets-which-perfectly-capture-the-senseless-hypocrisy">surrounding the Captain Cook statue</a> in Sydney’s Hyde Park last Friday night, as Black Lives Matter protesters were <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/nsw-police-state-moves-to-silence-protest-voices/">overwhelmingly outnumbered</a> by the presence of officers.</p> <p>NSW Coalition governments of the last decade have had a tough on crime focus. And in late 2018, state premier Gladys Berejiklian <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/berejiklians-answer-to-falling-crime-intensify-policing-and-fill-prisons/">upped the numbers</a> of police by 1,500 officers, which was the largest increase in NSW policing in 30 years.</p> <p>Yet, with the NSW population being just over 7.5 million people, there are questions to be asked about why such a comparatively small population would warrant NSW police being one of the largest forces in the English-speaking world.</p> <p>And with the brute force of policing systems under the microscope right now, it may be high time to contemplate defunding the NSW police.</p> <p>The global campaign</p> <p>Calls to defund police aren’t new. But, the campaign has gained recent attention sparked by the graphic footage that showed African American man George Floyd <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/uniting-against-police-brutality-officer-murders-civilian-on-busy-street/">being killed</a> in public by a group of Minneapolis police officers, who were acting as if they were simply doing their duty.</p> <p>Defunding the police entails divesting funds from police forces and reallocating the finances towards investment in community-based forms of ensuring public safety and community support.</p> <p>Following the killing of Floyd, the Minneapolis City Council voted to dismantle its police department as it was deemed nonreformable. And council president Lisa Bender <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/minneapolis-city-council-votes-to-dismantle-police-after-anger-over-george-floyd-s-death-in-custody">told CNN</a>, that councillors are looking towards “a new model of public safety” that actually serves its purpose.</p> <p>The Australian context</p> <p>UTS Jumbunna Institute professor Chris Cunneen <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/some-us-cities-are-moving-to-defund-the-police-could-a-different-system-work-in-australia-too">explained in a recent article</a> that defunding would work differently in Australia, as this country doesn’t have separate police departments funded by councils, but rather reimagining the system would involve federal, state and territory governments.</p> <p>The professor of criminology points out that the defund the police campaign poses questions as to whether the current investment in policing and prisons is the way to go, or if alternatives, such social housing and domestic violence services, could lead to a reduction in crime.</p> <p>An example of how it would work, Cunneen outlines, is that instead of sending police out to deal with people suffering a mental health crisis – which often ends in violence – funds could be diverted towards establishing a mental health emergency response unit that could be deployed.</p> <p>And the professor <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/some-us-cities-are-moving-to-defund-the-police-could-a-different-system-work-in-australia-too">has further explained</a> that community-based models are already operating in many Aboriginal communities, whereby locals take part in night patrols that ensure public safety, prevent harm and also provide assistance to those in need.</p> <p>The overpolicing of First Nations</p> <p>The fact that the <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/what-powers-do-nsw-police-special-constables-have/">NSW Police Force</a> continues to operate with racial bias towards First Nations people is readily apparent when considering the statistics.</p> <p>The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) <a href="https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Publications/custody/NSW_Custody_Statistics_Mar2020.pdf">custody report</a> for the end of March this year reveals that 43 percent of those in NSW juvenile detention facilities were First Nations youths, yet they only account for <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/preventing-aboriginal-child-removals-an-interview-with-nellys-healing-centres-helen-eason/">around 5 percent</a> of the state population under 18 years old.</p> <p>Then there’s the NSW adult prisoner population. Of the 13,525 inmates at the end of March, 3,437 were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, meaning 25 percent of that population was First Nations, while Indigenous people only account for <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/2071.0~2016~Main%20Features~Aboriginal%20and%20Torres%20Strait%20Islander%20Population%20Data%20Summary~10">around 3 percent</a> of the overall populace.</p> <p>The Guardian has revealed that despite a cannabis cautioning scheme operating in NSW, between 2013 and 2017, police took <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jun/10/nsw-police-pursue-80-of-indigenous-people-caught-with-cannabis-through-courts">80 percent of Aboriginal people</a> found with small amounts of cannabis to court, which compared with just 52 percent of non-Indigenous people found with the drug.</p> <p>Last year’s UNSW report <a href="https://rlc.org.au/sites/default/files/attachments/Rethinking-strip-searches-by-NSW-Police-web.pdf">Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police</a> outlines that despite only making up 3 percent of the state population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for 10 percent of those police strip search in the field, and 22 percent of those strip searched in custody.</p> <p>And it’s an advantageous moment to reflect on the fact that NSW police has increased its use of strip searches by twentyfold since 2006.</p> <p>This has particularly been <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/nsw-police-treat-strip-searches-as-routine-procedure/">the case</a> over the last five years, to the point where peak hour commuters at Central Station are now <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/increased-intrusion-police-conducting-strip-searches-at-railway-stations/">greeted with screens</a> used to conduct these searches.</p> <p>A colonial legacy</p> <p>But, considering the NSW Police Force is so weighed down by historical prejudice, it might be asked if the Minneapolis model of dismantling the institution and building a new community-based body that doesn’t harbour prejudicial attitudes towards certain sectors of society is needed.</p> <p>As Melbourne Law School senior fellow Amanda Porter <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/the-inherent-racism-of-australian-police-an-interview-with-policing-academic-amanda-porter/">told Sydney Criminal Lawyers last week</a>, the policing bodies charged with dealing with the Aboriginal resistance to colonisation were all incorporated into the current NSW police system.</p> <p>The policing academic added that the early NSW Mounted Police has been described as “the most violent organisation in Australian history” by local historian Henry Reynolds.</p> <p>Inherent prejudice</p> <p>A recent incident in a Surry Hills park and its aftermath reveal that the prejudice in the current policing system just might be too deeply ingrained.</p> <p><a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/family-of-first-nations-teen-subjected-to-brutal-police-assault-demands-justice/">Footage shows</a> a NSW police constable kick the legs out from under a 16-year-old Aboriginal boy and throw him face first onto the ground.</p> <p>And while the teenager did make a verbal threat towards the officer, it was part of an exchange they were both partaking in.</p> <p>Indeed, the boy posed no actual physical threat to the constable whatsoever and yet the officer resorted to violence.</p> <p>The constable felt emboldened enough to do this just a week after the Floyd killing, when the entire globe was focused on police violence towards people of colour. And two days later, NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller simply put the incident down to one of his officers having “a bad day”.</p> <p>So, when you have the top cop casually dismissing an assault upon a First Nations teenager by one of his officers, it’s quite obvious that there’s something rotten in the state of the NSW Police Force.</p> <p><em>Written by Paul Gregoire. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/defund-the-nsw-police-force-movement-gains-traction/">Sydney Criminal Lawyers. </a> </em></p>

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The number of climate deniers in Australia is more than double the global average

<p>Australian news consumers are far more likely to believe climate change is “not at all” serious compared to news users in other countries. That’s according to new research that surveyed 2,131 Australians about their news consumption in relation to climate change.</p> <p><a href="http://www.canberra.edu.au/research/faculty-research-centres/nmrc/digital-news-report-australia-2020">The Digital News Report: Australia 2020</a> was conducted by the University of Canberra at the end of the severe bushfire season during January 17 and February 8, 2020.</p> <p>It also found the level of climate change concern varies considerably depending on age, gender, education, place of residence, political orientation and the type of news consumed.</p> <p>Young people are much more concerned than older generations, women are more concerned than men, and city-dwellers think it’s more serious than news consumers in regional and rural Australia.</p> <p><strong>15% don’t pay attention to climate change news</strong></p> <p>More than half (58%) of respondents say they consider climate change to be a very or extremely serious problem, 21% consider it somewhat serious, 10% consider it to be not very and 8% not at all serious.</p> <p>Out of the 40 countries in the survey, Australia’s 8% of “deniers” is more than double the global average of 3%. We’re beaten only by the US (12%) and Sweden (9%).</p> <p>While most Australian news consumers think climate change is an extremely or very serious problem (58%), this is still lower than the global average of 69%. Only ten countries in the survey are less concerned than we are.</p> <p><strong>Strident critics in commercial media</strong></p> <p>There’s a strong connection between the brands people use and whether they think climate change is serious.</p> <p>More than one-third (35%) of people who listen to commercial AM radio (such as 2GB, 2UE, 3AW) or watch Sky News consider climate change to be “not at all” or “not very” serious, followed by Fox News consumers (32%).</p> <p>This is perhaps not surprising when some of the most strident critics of climate change science can be found on commercial AM radio, Sky and Fox News.</p> <p>Among online brands, those who have the highest concern about climate change are readers of The Conversation (94%) and The Guardian Australia (93%), which reflects that their audiences are more likely left-leaning and younger.</p> <p>More than half of Australians get their information about climate change from traditional news sources (TV 28%, online 17%, radio 5%, newspapers 4%).</p> <p>However, 15% of Australians say they don’t pay any attention to news about climate change. This lack of interest is double the global average of 7%. Given climate change impacts everyone, this lack of engagement is troubling and reflects the difficulty in Australia to gain political momentum for action.</p> <p><strong>The polarised nature of the debate</strong></p> <p>The data show older generations are much less interested in news about climate change than news in general, and younger people are much more interested in news about climate change than other news.</p> <p>News consumers in regional Australia are also less likely to pay attention to news about climate change. One fifth (21%) of regional news consumers say they aren’t interested in climate change information compared to only 11% of their city counterparts.</p> <p>Given this survey was conducted during the bushfire season that hit regional and rural Australia hardest, these findings appear surprising at first glance.</p> <p>But it’s possible the results <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/3235.0Main+Features12018?OpenDocument">simply reflect</a> the ageing nature of regional and rural communities and a tendency toward more conservative politics. The report shows 27% of regional and rural news consumers identify as right-wing compared to 23% of city news consumers.</p> <p>And the data clearly reflect the polarised nature of the debate around climate change and the connection between political orientation, news brands and concern about the issue. It found right-wing news consumers are more likely to ignore news about climate change than left-wing, and they’re less likely to think reporting of the issue is accurate.</p> <p>Regardless of political orientation, only 36% of news consumers think climate change reporting is accurate. This indicates low levels of trust in climate change reporting and is in stark contrast with <a href="https://www.canberra.edu.au/research/faculty-research-centres/nmrc/publications/documents/COVID-19-Australian-news-and-misinformation.pdf">trust in COVID-19 reporting</a>, which was much higher at 53%.</p> <p>The findings also point to a significant section of the community that simply don’t pay attention to the issue, despite the calamitous bushfires.</p> <p>This presents a real challenge to news organisations. They must find ways of telling the climate change story to engage the 15% of people who aren’t interested, but are still feeling its effects.</p> <p><strong>19% want news confirming their worldview</strong></p> <p>Other key findings in the <a href="http://www.canberra.edu.au/research/faculty-research-centres/nmrc/digital-news-report-australia-2020">Digital News Report: Australia 2020</a> include:</p> <ul> <li>the majority of Australian news consumers will miss their local news services if they shut down: 76% would miss their local newspaper, 79% local TV news, 81% local radio news service and 74% would miss local online news offerings</li> <li>more than half (54%) of news consumers say they prefer impartial news, but 19% want news that confirms their worldview</li> <li>two-thirds (62%) of news consumers say independent journalism is important for society to function properly</li> <li>around half (54%) think journalists should report false statements from politicians and about one-quarter don’t</li> <li>news consumption and news sharing have increased since 2019, but interest in news has declined</li> <li>only 14% continue to pay for online news, but more are subscribing rather than making one-off donations</li> <li>TV is still the main source of news for Australians but continues to fall.</li> </ul> <p><strong>The ‘COVID-trust-bump’</strong></p> <p>In many ways these findings, including those on climate change reporting, reflect wider trends. Our interest in general news has been falling, along with our trust.</p> <p>This changed suddenly with COVID-19 when we saw a big rise in coverage specifically about the pandemic. Suddenly, the news was relevant to everyone, not just a few.</p> <p>We suspect that key to the “COVID-trust-bump” was the news media adopting a more <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/about/backstory/2020-06-11/abc-news-constructive-solutions-journalism/12335272">constructive approach</a> to reporting on this issue. Much of the sensationalism, conflict and partisanship that drives news – particularly climate change news – was muted and instead important health information from authoritative sources guided the coverage.</p> <p>This desire for impartial and independent news is reflected in the new <a href="http://www.canberra.edu.au/research/faculty-research-centres/nmrc/digital-news-report-australia-2020">report</a>. The challenge is getting people to pay for it.</p> <p><em>Written by Caroline Fisher and Sora Park. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-number-of-climate-deniers-in-australia-is-more-than-double-the-global-average-new-survey-finds-140450">The Conversation</a>. </em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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Takeaway containers shape what (and how) we eat

<p>Home cooks have been trying out their skills during isolation. But the way food tastes depends on more than your ability to follow a recipe.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25713964/">surroundings</a>, <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/485781">the people</a> <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jpepsy/article/25/7/471/952605">we share food with</a> and the design of our tableware – our cups, bowls and plates, cutlery and containers – affect the way we experience food.</p> <p>For example, eating from a heavier bowl can make you feel food is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0950329311000966?via%3Dihub">more filling and tastes better</a> than eating from a lighter one.</p> <p>Contrast this with fast food, which is most commonly served in lightweight disposable containers, which encourages <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666312001754">fast eating</a>, <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2907">underestimating</a> how much food you’re eating, and has even been linked to becoming <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23773044/">impatient</a>.</p> <p>These are just some examples of the vital, but largely unconscious, relationship between the design of our tableware – including size, shape, weight and colour – and how we eat.</p> <p>In design, this relationship is referred to as an object’s “<a href="https://jnd.org/affordances_and_design/">affordances</a>”. Affordances guide interactions between objects and people.</p> <p>As Australian sociologist <a href="https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/how-artifacts-afford">Jenny Davis writes</a>, affordances:</p> <p><em>…push, pull, enable, and constrain. Affordances are how objects shape behaviour for socially situated subjects.</em></p> <p>Designed objects don’t <em>make</em> us do things.</p> <p><strong>The colour of your crockery</strong></p> <p>When you visit a restaurant, the chances are your dinner will be served on a plain white plate.</p> <p>But French chef Sebastien Lepinoy has staff <a href="https://books.google.com.au/books?id=-5gCBAAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT118&amp;lpg=PT118&amp;dq=Sebastien+Lepinoy+paint+plates&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=8jc3yBavYd&amp;sig=ACfU3U0jRwMOQtM_NmOspLXcyXp9SiVTuQ&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwjqzNzj3MPpAhUOxjgGHQnvDlEQ6AEwCnoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=Sebastien%20Lepinoy%20paint%20plates&amp;f=false">paint the plates</a> to match the daily menu and “entice the appetite”.</p> <p>Research seems to back him up. Coloured plates can enhance flavours to actually change the dining experience.</p> <p>In <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22128561">one study</a>, salted popcorn eaten from a coloured bowl tasted sweeter than popcorn eaten from a white bowl. In <a href="https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Does-the-colour-of-the-mug-influence-the-taste-of-Doorn-Wuillemin/476e322e1de2c705e8691e14c72c814fd79e5e09">another</a>, a café latte served in a coloured mug tasted sweeter than one in a white mug.</p> <p>This association between colour and taste seems to apply to people from Germany to China.</p> <p>A review of <a href="https://flavourjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13411-015-0033-1">multiple studies</a> conducted in many countries over 30 years finds people consistently associated particular colours with specific tastes.</p> <p>Red, orange or pink is most often associated with sweetness, black with bitterness, yellow or green with sourness, and white and blue with saltiness.</p> <p><strong>The size of your plate</strong></p> <p>The influence of plate size on meal portions depends on the dining experience and whether you are <a href="https://www.deakin.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/897365/DUBELAAR-JACR-Plate-Size-Meta-Analysis-Paper-2016.pdf">serving yourself</a>. In a buffet, for example, people armed with a small plate may eat more because they can go back for multiple helpings.</p> <p>Nonetheless, average plate and portion sizes have <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/25/problem-portions-eating-too-much-food-control-cutting-down">increased</a> over the years. Back in her day, grandma used to serve meals on plates 25cm in diameter. Now, the average dinner plate is 28cm, and many restaurant dinner plates have expanded to <a href="https://www.nisbets.com.au/size-of-plates">30cm</a>.</p> <p>Our waistlines have also expanded. Research confirms we tend to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666311006064">eat more calories</a> when our plates are larger, because a larger capacity plate affords a greater portion size.</p> <p><strong>Plastic is too often ignored</strong></p> <p>The pace of our busy lives has led many people to rely on those handy takeaways in disposable plastic food containers just ready to pop into the microwave. And it’s tempting to use plastic cutlery and cups at barbecues, picnics and kids’ birthday parties.</p> <p>In contrast to heavy, fragile ceramic tableware, plastic tableware is <a href="https://discardstudies.com/2019/05/21/disposability/">designed to be ignored</a>. It is so lightweight, ubiquitous and cheap we don’t notice it and pay little mind to its disposal.</p> <p>Plastics have also changed how we eat and drink. An aversion to the strong smell of plastic containers that once might have caused people to <a href="https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/0747936042312066?journalCode=desi">wrap their sandwiches before placing them in Tupperware</a> seems to have disappeared. We drink hot coffee though plastic lids.</p> <p>Australian economic sociologist Gay Hawkins and her colleagues argue lightweight, plastic water bottles have created entirely new habits, such as “<a href="https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/ics/news/news_archive/2015/history_of_bottled_water_focus_of_new_book">constant sipping</a>” on the go. New products are then designed to fit and reinforce this habit.</p> <p><strong>Aesthetics matter</strong></p> <p>Healthy eating is not only characterised by what we eat but how we eat.</p> <p>For instance, eating mindfully – more thoughtfully and slowly by focusing on the experience of eating – can help you feel <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-eating-slowly-may-help-you-feel-full-faster-20101019605">full faster</a> and make a <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/351A3D01E43F49CC9794756BC950EFFC/S0954422417000154a.pdf/structured_literature_review_on_the_role_of_mindfulness_mindful_eating_and_intuitive_eating_in_changing_eating_behaviours_effectiveness_and_associated_potential_mechanisms.pdf">difference</a> to how we eat.</p> <p>And the Japanese cuisine <a href="https://guide.michelin.com/en/article/dining-out/kaiseki-cheatsheet-sg">Kaiseki</a> values this mindful, slower approach to eating. It consists of small portions of beautifully arranged food presented in a grouping of small, attractive, individual plates and bowls.</p> <p>This encourages the diner to eat more slowly and mindfully while appreciating not only the food but the variety and setting of the tableware.</p> <p>Japanese people’s slower eating practices even apply to “fast food”.</p> <p>One <a href="https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/00346651211277654/full/html">study</a> found Japanese people were more likely to eat in groups, to stay at fast food restaurants for longer and to share fast food, compared with their North American counterparts.</p> <p>Affordance theory is only now starting to account for <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0270467617714944">cultural diversity</a> in the ways in which designed objects shape practices and experiences.</p> <p>The studies we have reviewed show tableware influences how we eat. Size, shape, weight, colour and aesthetics all play a part in our experience of eating.</p> <p>This has wide implications for how we design for healthier eating – whether that’s to encourage eating well when we are out and about, or so we can better appreciate a tastier, healthier and more convivial meal at home.</p> <p><em>Written by Abby Mellick Lopes and Karen Weiss. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/plates-cups-and-takeaway-containers-shape-what-and-how-we-eat-137059">The Conversation</a>.</em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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Rebuilding Australia: what we can learn from the successes of post-war reconstruction

<p>As Australia begins to plot a recovery strategy from the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-12/australia-100-days-out-from-economic-cliff-coronavirus-supports/12345710">first recession in the country in decades</a>, the Morrison government needs to examine what has worked well in the past.</p> <p>Crises require strong leadership, national cohesion and a framework for carrying out recovery efforts on a grand scale.</p> <p>As such, there is a case to be made for a new Commonwealth agency to lead the recovery effort, built on the model of the <a href="http://guides.naa.gov.au/land-of-opportunity/chapter2/">Department of Post-War Reconstruction</a> that helped Australia emerge from the turmoil of the second world war.</p> <p><strong>The Department of Post-War Reconstruction</strong></p> <p>In December 1942, Prime Minister John Curtin established the Department of Post-War Reconstruction. Even though the war was still raging, its task was to begin planning and coordinating Australia’s transition to a peacetime economy.</p> <p>The department brought together a talented group of officials, many of them from the new discipline of economics, to advise the government. Its establishment reflected the efforts to which the Commonwealth government went after the war to professionalise the Australian public service.</p> <p>The department did not have a large staff. It was devised as a policy department that would coordinate the work of other agencies. The treasurer, <a href="http://primeministers.naa.gov.au/primeministers/chifley/">Ben Chifley</a>, was appointed the first minister for post-war reconstruction. <a href="http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/coombs-herbert-cole-nugget-246">H. C. “Nugget” Coombs</a>, one of <a href="https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/series/anu-lives-series-biography/seven-dwarfs-and-age-mandarins">Australia’s “seven dwarfs”</a>, named for their diminutive stature, was <a href="https://press.anu.edu.au/publications/series/anu-lives-series-biography/seven-dwarfs-and-age-mandarins">his first departmental secretary</a>.</p> <p>One of the major successes of the department was its contribution to the <a href="http://www.billmitchell.org/White_Paper_1945/index.html">full-employment policy</a>, a goal set by post-war governments to achieve a higher standard of living and regular employment for all Australians after the war.</p> <p>To that end, the department helped establish a new employment agency, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_Employment_Service">Commonwealth Employment Service</a>, to match workers with jobs. It also helped overhaul the social welfare system and create the <a href="http://www.pbs.gov.au/pbs/home;jsessionid=rjwrtlmhk03g1jj37lpmf4ge3">pharmaceutical benefits scheme</a>.</p> <p>Full employment became a bipartisan policy goal throughout the economic “golden age” from the end of the war to the 1970s. The policy was so popular that even the smallest deviation from it, such as during the “credit squeeze” of 1960-61, <a href="https://theconversation.com/issues-that-swung-elections-the-credit-squeeze-that-nearly-swept-menzies-from-power-in-1961-115140">almost cost the Menzies government re-election</a>.</p> <p>The Department of Post-War Reconstruction didn’t succeed in pushing through sweeping new federal powers for reconstruction in a 1944 referendum. Nonetheless, it found ingenious ways to foster Commonwealth-state cooperation, for instance, through <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/RP0708/08rp17">section 96 grants</a> (which provided federal funding to the states on terms and conditions set by the Commonwealth), and the federal funding of housing, hospitals and later universities in the states.</p> <p>New Commonwealth-state bodies were also devised to support the coal and aluminium industries. The Commonwealth and NSW state <a href="https://www.coalservices.com.au/mining/about-us/history/">Joint Coal Board</a>, for example, completely revamped the almost moribund NSW black coal industry. A revived and mechanised NSW coal industry became internationally competitive and a <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/featurearticlesbytitle/09E60850418239F6CA2570A80011A395">significant export earner for Australia by the 1970s</a>.</p> <p>On the international front, Chifley and Coombs supported Australia’s participation in the <a href="https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/wwii/98681.htm">1944 Bretton Woods Conference</a>, which reinvented the global financial system based on fixed exchange rates with the US dollar as a reserve currency. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were also established at the time.</p> <p>Chifley and Coombs supported the new international arrangements because they understood the revival of the global economy was essential for Australia’s own prosperity. As they hoped, the Bretton Woods system, the <a href="https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/gatt47.pdf">General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade</a> (GATT) and the <a href="https://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/marshall-plan">Marshall Plan</a> for western Europe all <a href="https://www.mup.com.au/books/jb-chifley-hardback">laid the global foundations for Australia’s domestic recovery</a>.</p> <p><strong>How a post-pandemic agency might work</strong></p> <p>The federal government has already trialled a new policy-making agency during the COVID-19 pandemic with its “wartime” National Cabinet, which featured federal and state governments and their agencies working as one.</p> <p>There are many ways a new economic recovery agency could build on the cohesion demonstrated by the National Cabinet and advise the Commonwealth government on rebuilding the economy.</p> <p>Specifically, it could <a href="https://taxpolicy.crawford.anu.edu.au/files/uploads/taxstudies_crawford_anu_edu_au/2015-06/julie_smith_paper_final_27-28_april_2015.pdf">help replicate Curtin’s achievement</a> in 1942 by advising on comprehensive reform of the Commonwealth-state taxation system. This process is already under way with several states calling for the <a href="https://mckellinstitute.org.au/app/uploads/McKell_Stamp_Duty_Land_tax.pdf">substitution of land taxes for stamp duties</a>.</p> <p>A post-COVID-19 agency could also be involved in the revamping of the welfare system (post-JobKeeper/JobSeeker) to cope with the higher levels of unemployment and under-employment.</p> <p>The agency could advise or coordinate a strategy for new infrastructure to create jobs, such as the building of hospitals, public housing and a transition to cleaner energy. Another possibility would be a return to independent petroleum refining, similar to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_Oil_Refineries">Billy Hughes’s Commonwealth Oil Refineries</a> that operated from 1919-52.</p> <p>And a new agency could advise on reviving other major industries, such as tourism, the airlines, the higher education sector and even the banking system. During the Global Financial Crisis, the Rudd government had to <a href="https://kevinrudd.com/2008/10/14/financial-crisis-kevin-rudd-address-to-the-nation/">underwrite loans to the banks and guarantee bank deposits</a>. A major intervention may again be required.</p> <p>Creating a Department of Post-War Reconstruction was considered by some to be the “<a href="https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/australias-boldest-experiment/">boldest experiment</a>” the country took after the war. And as a result, Australia’s post-war recovery was a remarkable success. This is what we need now – another bold experiment, in the spirit of bipartisanship.</p> <p><em>Written by David Lee. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/rebuilding-australia-what-we-can-learn-from-the-successes-of-post-war-reconstruction-137899">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Supreme Court says grace ain’t groceries: Reopening churches in a pandemic

<p>The highest court in the land has given states some leeway in determining when and how to safely reopen places of worship during the COVID-19 pandemic. The move lends support to state officials making science-informed decisions that may inhibit church congregants from fully engaging in their faith.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/19a1044_pok0.pdf">5-4 ruling</a> issued close to midnight on Friday, May 29, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to disturb the <a href="https://www.kpbs.org/news/2020/may/25/california-governor-issues-guidelines-churches-ope/">California governor’s order restricting religious service</a> gatherings as part of its emergency pandemic response effort.</p> <p>The decision is the latest turn in the debate over what places of worship may do during the lockdown and as the U.S. comes out of it. During the pandemic there have been <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/05/churches-reopen-coronavirus/612304/">frequent clashes</a> as federal, state and local officials try to balance protecting the public’s health with the rights of individuals and groups to gather and practice their faith.</p> <p>This is nothing new. I study public health law, ethics and policy, and I have seen how issues from <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/03/19/god-country-chickenpox-how-an-outbreak-entangled-one-school-vaccine-showdown/">vaccination exemptions</a> to <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2470438">responding to the opioid crisis</a> are steeped in such concerns.</p> <p><strong>Clashing over churches</strong></p> <p>The debate over church attendance began as soon the current crisis took hold and communities began to lockdown.</p> <p>One of the earliest high-profile clashes involved the <a href="https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/03/30/tampa-church-holds-packed-service-draws-warning-from-sheriffs-office/">arrest and jailing of a Tampa Bay, Florida-area pastor</a>. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, a controversial figure who has <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/bible-belt-us-coronavirus-pandemic-pastors-church-a9481226.html">dismissed coroanvirus as a “phantom plague</a>” held two large services in defiance of the county’s stay-at-home order and at a time when local COVID-19 cases were soaring. He was detained on May 30. But just two days after the arrest, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis <a href="https://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/orders/2020/EO_20-91-compressed.pdf">issued an executive order</a> declaring that “attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship” were to be protected as “essential activities.” He added that the state order would override any contradictory local restrictions.</p> <p>By that time, President Trump had already declared that Easter would be a “beautiful time” for the U.S. economy <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-easter.html">to be reopened</a> – a goal that put him <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/03/25/trump-needs-governors-reopen-economy-even-republican-ones-arent-onboard/">at odds with the science and some state governors</a>. That plan was <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=trump+abandons+easter&amp;rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS855US855&amp;oq=trump+abandons+easter&amp;aqs=chrome..69i57.2986j1j4&amp;sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8">later abandoned</a>.</p> <p>More recently, Trump described houses of worship as “<a href="https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/trump-church-reopening-essential-religious-freedom.html">essential places that provide essential services</a>.”</p> <p>But this characterization of live, in-person church services as “essential” blurs the distinct way that term was originally applied to businesses, services and employees in the crisis. “Essential” in this context referred to <a href="https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Version_3.1_CISA_Guidance_on_Essential_Critical_Infrastructure_Workers.pdf">critical contributors to our nation’s infrastructure and workforce</a>. They are the people involved with keeping our hospitals, food supplies, transport and utilities running, as well as law enforcement and our national defense.</p> <p>But the president and many states are applying the term “essential” more broadly, <a href="https://www.voanews.com/usa/are-person-religious-services-essential-during-pandemic">as a way to signal certain values</a>.</p> <p>This is especially true when examining the mix of states’ approaches to in-person church gatherings.</p> <p><strong>States and SCOTUS</strong></p> <p>By late May, <a href="https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/ny-nj-loosen-restrictions-on-gatherings-in-time-for-memorial-day-weekend/2430000/">even the states hit hardest by the virus</a> had begun to loosen their restrictions on gatherings. But when the first “stay-at-home” orders were issued, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/27/most-states-have-religious-exemptions-to-covid-19-social-distancing-rules/">California was just one of nine states</a> to ban live religious gatherings altogether. Meanwhile, around 20 other states initially limited live gatherings to 10 people or less. Doing so placed restrictions on church services akin to those on concerts, movie theaters or sporting events.</p> <p>But other states followed a similar approach to Florida, labeling religious gatherings as “essential,” or at least declaring that they <a href="https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/wcm/connect/gov/dd504af3-ae2c-4d2e-b2bd-02c1a3beed89/Director%27s+Order-+Amended+Mass+Gathering+3.17.20+%281%29.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&amp;CONVERT_TO=url&amp;CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_M1HGGIK0N0JO00QO9DDDDM3000-dd504af3-ae2c-4d2e-b2bd-02c1a3beed89-n3FI0mY">should be exempt</a> from restrictions in place for other types of gatherings.</p> <p>Indiana and Kansas both initially tried a political and scientific middle ground: characterizing church gatherings as “essential,” but still requiring that religious organizations follow the rules set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/faith-based.html">for in-person social gatherings</a>, minimizing and discouraging live meetings until the public health threat was reduced.</p> <p>From a public health perspective, restricting in-person religious gatherings makes sense. COVID-19 is most <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-drifts-through-the-air-in-microscopic-droplets-heres-the-science-of-infectious-aerosols-136663">easily spread as an aerosol</a>, such as when people are talking or singing. The risk of spread is also higher in closed spaces when in close proximity to someone infected and increases the longer you are near them.</p> <p>Church-related gatherings often have all these features, and have been the <a href="https://www.sacbee.com/news/coronavirus/article241715346.html">nexus</a> <a href="https://nypost.com/2020/04/13/virginia-pastor-who-held-packed-church-service-dies-of-coronavirus/">for</a> <a href="https://www.times-news.com/coronavirus/covid-19-outbreak-reported-in-hampshire-county-church/article_07e1d928-a119-11ea-8d6f-87aca62d04e4.html">many</a> <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6920e2.htm">cases</a> where COVID-19 has spread <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e6.htm">across a community</a>.</p> <p>Interestingly, the Trump administration <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/white-house-and-cdc-remove-coronavirus-warnings-about-choirs-in-faith-guidance/2020/05/28/5d9c526e-a117-11ea-9590-1858a893bd59_story.html">eliminated warnings about church choir activities from the CDC’s latest guidance</a> on safely reopening places of worship.</p> <p>Defiant churches tried different tactics to remain open. Some simply ignored the restrictions and continued to hold services. And California isn’t the only state to see state rules challenged in court. Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas and Virginia have all seen similar legal action.</p> <p>In many cases, the organizations fighting restrictions have <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/05/13/churches-have-been-astonishingly-hypocritical-during-pandemic/">cited the First Amendment</a> and argued that it is unconstitutional to restrict church gatherings, especially when other secular so-called “essential” or “life-sustaining” entities – such as grocery stores, liquor stores and laundromats – are allowed to stay open. This line of argument was echoed in the Supreme Court decision’s dissenting opinion written by Justice Brent Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court case.</p> <p>The Supreme Court, looking at the latest version of California’s restrictions – which limits churches to 25% capacity, or a maximum of 100 attendees – declined to second guess the state’s elected officials in their assessment of the best way to protect the public’s health. In his concurring opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts, the <a href="https://www.foxnews.com/politics/roberts-embraces-role-as-supreme-court-swing-justice-with-latest-church-ruling">pivotal vote in the church case</a>, seemed swayed by how officials endeavored to follow the science during a time “fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties.” He noted that religious services were more like social gatherings than “grocery stores, banks, and laundromats, in which people neither congregate in large groups nor remain in close proximity for extended periods.”</p> <p><strong>Good-faith efforts</strong></p> <p>The loosening of formal in-person gathering restrictions is beginning to take place across the country. This will likely make monitoring the rules more difficult and could result in greater reliance upon the vigilance of religious leaders, their congregants and perhaps <a href="https://religionnews.com/2020/05/07/as-pandemic-persists-churches-and-insurance-companies-grapple-with-risk/">guidance from the churches’ risk-averse liability insurance companies</a>. For now, most churches and other religious entities appear to <a href="https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2020/05/faith-leaders-protecting-human-life-is-priority-in-reopening-churches/">be remaining careful</a> amid <a href="https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/2020/05/08/coronavirus-indiana-places-worship-plan-stay-closed/3096391001/">concern over the still present risks</a>. <a href="https://www.wishtv.com/news/local-news/2-avon-churches-a-mile-apart-from-each-other-reopen-under-different-guidelines/">Some are not</a>.</p> <p>But should infection numbers spike in the near future, state officials have the knowledge that a majority on the Supreme Court – for now at least – appear willing to follow the science and support their good-faith efforts to manage public health emergencies.</p> <p><em>Written by Ross D. Silverman. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/when-it-comes-to-reopening-churches-in-the-pandemic-supreme-court-says-grace-aint-groceries-135287">The Conversation.</a> </em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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We’ll need more JobKeeper: Why even the best case for jobs isn’t good

<p>When it comes to the outlook for employment, there’s good news and bad news.</p> <p>To begin with the good news: with a bit of luck, the next few months will see the fastest expansion of employment in Australia’s history.</p> <p>The bad news? Well, there’s virtually no chance it will be enough to get employment to where it was in March, before the COVID-19 shutdown.</p> <p>In fact, even on a best-case scenario it’s likely by the end of September we will only be back to the worst points of the 1980s and 1990s recessions.</p> <p><strong>The best-case scenario</strong></p> <p>Other Bureau of Statistics data suggests that between mid-March and mid-April employment fell <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1EEze6-rwkdcKgJ0iLWD7PfmWoMz8ob6Q/view">1.3 to 1.6 million</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/prime-minister-scott-morrison-hopes-850-000-back-at-work-by-july-20200508-p54r12">Treasury</a> estimates that the planned reopening of the economy will result in a bounceback of 850,000 jobs.</p> <p>Suppose that a decrease of 1.3 million turns out to be the trough and recovery is uninterrupted.</p> <p>Employment at the end of September would then be 440,000 below where it was in March, 3.4% lower.</p> <p>The turnaround would be a considerable achievement.</p> <p>But even if it happens, we will have only recovered to around the worst points of the 1980s and 1990s recessions, where employment decreased by about 4 per cent.</p> <p>Employment won’t recover fully in this best-case scenario because some parts of the economy will still be shut down (including international travel) and COVID-19 will continue to cause many consumers to spend less than usual.</p> <p><strong>That best case is unlikely</strong></p> <p>There are several reasons to worry about whether the best-case can be achieved.</p> <p>First, job gains from reopening businesses are likely to be offset by losses in employment in other industries suffering from reduced consumer demand and business investment.</p> <p>While cafes and restaurants may start up again, Bureau of Statistics data shows that employment has <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/6160.0.55.001Main%20Features5Week%20ending%202%20May%202020?opendocument&amp;tabname=Summary&amp;prodno=6160.0.55.001&amp;issue=Week%20ending%202%20May%202020&amp;num=&amp;">begun to decline</a> in large industries such as construction and professional service.</p> <p>Second, the effects of reopening may not be all we expect. Labour hoarding – where businesses retain more workers than needed during an economic downturn - might mean that reopening doesn’t translate into as many new jobs as expected.</p> <p>This is likely to be particularly acute given that JobKeeper has effectively paid employers to subsidise labour.</p> <p>Third, impacts from longer-run structural changes in the economy might begin to cause employment losses, especially as JobKeeper is partially unwound.</p> <p><strong>So what are we to do?</strong></p> <p>Even under the best-case scenario employment will be substantially lower than before COVID-19 well into the future. And we can’t presume the best-case will happen. A compelling case exists for substantial ongoing economic stimulus post-September 2020.</p> <p>The labour market will not have fully recovered by then. To remove stimulus would only set back recovery. The question therefore should not be: is stimulus needed, but rather, what size and type of stimulus is needed.</p> <p>Continuing JobKeeper beyond September 2020 could have an important role in providing income security to affected workers and macroeconomic stimulus.</p> <p>It is a known policy, it operates effectively, and it appears to have community support. Replacing it with an alternative type of stimulus could risk harming confidence and the recovery.</p> <p><strong>We can’t simply end JobKeeper</strong></p> <p>An extra (and considerable) advantage of continuing JobKeeper is allowing time for a staged transition away from it. Stopping it will inevitably push up unemployment.</p> <p>A staged transition would spread out that adjustment rather than creating a shock in September.</p> <p>A transition from JobKeeper could be done via stepped decreases in the size of payment or progressively restricting eligibility as industries or businesses recover. The transition could begin at the end of September, or earlier if it is judged that employment is likely to have already recovered substantially before then.</p> <p>An objection to retaining JobKeeper is that it is preventing adjustment in the labour market, and disrupting the normal process of businesses starting up and failing.</p> <p>There are two responses.</p> <p>First, the question is not about whether JobKeeper should be permanent, but about the timing of its removal.</p> <p>Whenever it is (or starts to be) removed, labour mobility will return and any firms on life support will disappear. Having this happen via a staged transition is better than having it happen all at once.</p> <p>Second, the potential economic losses from unemployment in a depressed economy swamp the potential losses from having inefficient firms operating for longer.</p> <p>Our number one priority has to be maintaining and restoring employment.</p> <p><em>Written by Jeff Borland. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-even-the-best-case-for-jobs-isnt-good-well-need-more-jobkeeper-139648">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Here is how you can navigate public transport as safely as possible as coronavirus restrictions ease

<p>As coronavirus restrictions continue to ease, one of the key challenges we face is how to deal with people moving around a lot more.</p> <p>In particular, as more of us start to head back to school and the office in the coming weeks and months, more of us will be getting on buses, trains and trams.</p> <p>So what is public transport going to look like as we relax restrictions, and how can we navigate this safely?</p> <p><strong>Workplaces can help</strong></p> <p>Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has emphasised <a href="https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/victoria-coronavirus-update-daniel-andrews-says-working-from-home-will-stay-c-1042934">working from home</a> will be one of the last measures the state will ease.</p> <p>But even when restrictions are relaxed, do we all need to go into the office as much as we used to?</p> <p>Working from home has become the “new normal” for many of us, and we’ve learnt a lot about how to do this successfully. Employers have adjusted too, with some indicating <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/business-52765165">they will encourage</a> increased remote working moving forward.</p> <p>So one of the obvious things we can do to reduce the numbers of people using public transport is to continue to work from home where possible.</p> <p>Another option is for workplaces to implement flexible start times. If we can reduce the numbers of people using public transport during peak times, this will make a significant difference in reducing crowding.</p> <p><strong>Public transport providers and governments</strong></p> <p>State governments have introduced <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/nsw-public-transport-changes-marshals-security-to-enforce-coronavirus-social-distancing/4a6c3554-547d-4c76-b562-d071343eb06f">additional cleaning practices</a> on public transport networks. These will continue, and may even be increased, as more people return to public transport.</p> <p>Although increased cleaning is important, physical distancing remains the key to safely moving large numbers of people again. Governments will need to consider some changes to ensure people can keep a safe distance from others on their commute.</p> <p>As we’ve seen with the easing of restrictions, different states will take different approaches.</p> <p>For example, New South Wales has imposed limits on how many people can board a bus or train. A maximum of <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-nsw-public-transport-rules-how-many-people-can-go-on-bus-train/77bf87a6-288a-4015-86b5-87786fb6729c">32 people</a> are allowed in a train carriage (normally one carriage holds 123 passengers), while buses are limited to 12 passengers (capacity is normally 63).</p> <p>Further, markings on the seats and floors of buses and trains indicate where people can sit and stand.</p> <p>Marshals are also <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/nsw-public-transport-changes-marshals-security-to-enforce-coronavirus-social-distancing/4a6c3554-547d-4c76-b562-d071343eb06f">being stationed</a> around the public transport network to ensure commuters are following the rules.</p> <p>In a similar move, the South Australian government revealed they <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-29/coronavirus-plan-for-adelaide-trains-buses-and-trams/12301252">will remove seats</a> from Adelaide trains.</p> <p>In contrast, Queensland is not imposing any passenger limits, instead asking commuters to use their common sense. The government <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-22/coronavirus-queensland-commuters-distancing-public-transport/12263506">says</a> there is plenty of room on public transport in Queensland at present, and the risk of virus transmission is low given the small number of active cases.</p> <p>Similarly, Victoria has not imposed passenger limits. But the <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/shift-work-and-days-at-home-on-the-cards-to-avoid-public-transport-overcrowding-20200530-p54xz6.html">government has indicated</a> commuters will be able to access information about which public transport services are the least crowded to assist travel planning.</p> <p>Some states have flagged <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/shift-work-and-days-at-home-on-the-cards-to-avoid-public-transport-overcrowding-20200530-p54xz6.html">extra services</a> may be needed to avoid overcrowding, though the extent to which this will be possible is dependent on resources.</p> <p>In addition to <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/extra-services-added-to-sydney-s-straining-transport-network-20200523-p54vrs.html">extra services</a>, NSW has <a href="https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/news-and-events/media-releases/physical-distancing-on-transport-key-to-a-safe-pathway-back-to-work">indicated</a> it will boost car parking and enhance access for cyclists and pedestrians.</p> <p><strong>What can you do?</strong></p> <p>The main responsibility around keeping virus transmission suppressed as we relax restrictions rests with us as individuals to behave sensibly and responsibly.</p> <p>The same principles apply when we use public transport as when we navigate all public spaces.</p> <p>Maintaining physical distance from others and washing our hands regularly are possibly even more important when we’re using public transport, given we potentially come into contact with a lot of people in an enclosed space.</p> <p>We know SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com.au/coronavirus-risk-higher-tight-indoor-spaces-with-little-air-flow-2020-5?r=US&amp;IR=T">more likely</a> to spread indoors than outdoors. We also know prolonged contact with someone infected with the virus increases the risk of transmission, as compared to a passing encounter.</p> <p>So public transport commutes have the potential to pose a significant risk of virus transmission, especially if you’re sitting next to an infected person on a long journey.</p> <p>Taking hand sanitiser when you use public transport is a good idea so you can clean your hands while travelling. You may be touching contaminated surfaces, for example the bars and handles for balance.</p> <p>In addition, washing your hands thoroughly with soap as soon as you arrive at your destination should become a part of your routine.</p> <p>Importantly, if you’re sick you should not be leaving the house, let alone taking public transport or going to work.</p> <p><strong>What about masks?</strong></p> <p>Wearing a mask on public transport is an issue of <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/chief-medical-officer-backs-voluntary-use-of-face-masks-on-public-transport-20200529-p54xrd.html">personal preference</a>.</p> <p>But if you choose to wear a mask, it’s important to understand a couple of things.</p> <p>First, masks need to be <a href="https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks">put on and taken off correctly</a> so you don’t inadvertently infect yourself in the process.</p> <p>And while masks potentially offer <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-mask/art-20485449">some additional protection</a> to you and others, it’s still critical to follow physical distancing and other hygiene measures.</p> <p><em>Written by Hassan Vally. </em><em>Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/as-coronavirus-restrictions-ease-heres-how-you-can-navigate-public-transport-as-safely-as-possible-138845"><em>The Conversation.</em></a></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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Money for social housing over home buyers’ grants is the key to construction stimulus

<p>There’s no doubt Australia’s construction industry is facing tough times. COVID-19 has caused migration to slow to a trickle. Some 2.6 million Australians have either <a href="https://blog.grattan.edu.au/2020/05/the-modest-rise-in-unemployment-hides-a-much-grimmer-picture/">lost their jobs</a> or had their hours cut in the past two months. Many economists <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/banks-warn-house-prices-could-fall-up-to-30-per-cent-as-rental-vacancies-surge-20200513-p54sgy.html">expect</a> property prices to fall.</p> <p>It all adds up to fewer homes being built in the coming months. That means fewer jobs in the construction industry, which employs nearly one in 10 Australians. The sector has already lost <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/6160.0.55.001Main%20Features5Week%20ending%202%20May%202020?opendocument&amp;tabname=Summary&amp;prodno=6160.0.55.001&amp;issue=Week%20ending%202%20May%202020&amp;num=&amp;view=">nearly 7%</a> of its workforce since March.</p> <p>The Morrison Government is <a href="https://www.afr.com/policy/economy/new-home-buyers-to-get-cash-grants-20200531-p54y3g">set to anounce</a> a stimulus package for the construction sector as soon as this week. But what should it include?</p> <p><strong>More home-buyer grants on the way</strong></p> <p>The federal government has signalled it will offer cash grants of at least A$20,000 to buyers of newly built homes. Unlike <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/rudd-unveils-104b-stimulus-plan-20081014-50a6.html">past</a> schemes that have targeted first home buyers, it seems these new grants will be available to everyone including upsizers and investors. Grants may also be <a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/coronavirus-renovation-rescue-for-tradies-jobs/news-story/bece00028670b6e7b7281f3bacc84ce7">extended</a> to renovations.</p> <p>Large handouts would prompt some more residential construction by encouraging some people to bring forward their home purchases. It’s why in 2008 the Rudd government <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/rudd-unveils-104b-stimulus-plan-20081014-50a6.html">tripled</a> the first home buyer grant to A$21,000 for new homes in response to the Global Financial Crisis.</p> <p>But under such schemes, governments also end up giving grants to people who would have bought a home anyway. Even the more pessimistic industry forecasts <a href="https://www.businessnewsaus.com.au/articles/hia-forecasts-new-home-building-to-fall-in-half.html">expect</a> 110,000 homes to be built in Australia next year. Giving A$20,000 to all of these home buyers would cost A$2.2 billion without adding a single construction job. Grants of A$40,000 would double the bill.</p> <p>That’s a lot of spending for little economic gain.</p> <p>Nor do grants to home buyers actually make housing more affordable. They are typically passed through <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/901-Housing-affordability.pdf">into higher house prices</a>, which benefits sellers more than buyers. In this case, that is likely to include developers eager to clear their existing stock of both newly and nearly built homes.</p> <p>Cash grants for renovations would likely hit the economy quicker since they don’t necessarily require building approvals. But they bring their own problems. Grants will likely see in-demand tradies raise their prices, especially if the government is effectively paying for most of the work done. It will be also be harder for officials administering the scheme to determine if the work has been done before paying out the money.</p> <p>Nor is it clear the renovation sector needs further stimulus: reports suggest COVID-19 is driving a <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/we-ve-never-had-it-this-busy-home-isolation-drives-renovation-boom-20200416-p54khh.html">renovation boom</a> across many parts of Australia. Research by credit bureau Illion and economic consultancy AlphaBeta shows spending on home improvements is <a href="https://www.alphabeta.com/illiontracking/">already 33% higher</a> than pre-COVID levels.</p> <p><strong>There’s a better option</strong></p> <p>There’s a better way to support residential construction without providing such big windfalls to developers: fund the building of more social housing.</p> <p>Social housing – where rents are <a href="https://www.pc.gov.au/research/ongoing/report-on-government-services/2018/housing-and-homelessness/housing/rogs-2018-partg-chapter18.pdf">typically capped</a> at no more than 30% of household income – provides a safety net to vulnerable Australians.</p> <p>In particular, the Morrison government should repeat another GFC-era policy, the <a href="http://www.nwhn.net.au/admin/file/content101/c6/social_housing_initiative_review.pdf">Social Housing Initiative</a>, under which 19,500 social housing units were built and another 80,000 refurbished over two years, at a cost of A$5.2 billion.</p> <p>Under the initiative the federal government funded the states to build social housing units directly or <a href="https://www.ahuri.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/2772/AHURI_Positioning_Paper_No155_Design-innovations-delivered-under-the-Nation-Building-Economic-Stimulus-Plan-Social-Housing-Initiative.pdf">contract</a> community housing providers to act as housing developers</p> <p>Public residential construction approvals <a href="https://blog.grattan.edu.au/2019/09/learning-from-past-mistakes-lessons-from-the-national-rental-affordability-scheme/">spiked</a> within months of the announcement.</p> <p>Building 30,000 new social housing units today would cost between <a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/enemies-unite-in-call-for-10b-housing-fund-20200429-p54oej">A$10 billion an A$15 billion</a>. Because state governments and community housing providers won’t have to worry about finance, marketing and sales, they’ll be able to get to work building homes much quicker than the private sector.</p> <p><strong>The boost to the economy would be pretty immediate.</strong></p> <p>Just as important, building social housing would also help tackle the growing scourge of homelessness. At the most recent Census (2016), <a href="https://blog.grattan.edu.au/2019/06/who-is-homeless-in-australia/">more than 116,000 people</a> were homeless, up from 90,000 a decade earlier. COVID-19 has shown us that if we let people live in unhealthy conditions it can help spread disease – affecting everybody’s health.</p> <p>The drivers of homelessness are complex. Nonetheless the best Australian <a href="https://theconversation.com/social-housing-protects-against-homelessness-but-other-benefits-are-less-clear-97446">evidence</a> and international <a href="https://insidestory.org.au/you-dont-see-people-sleeping-on-the-streets/">experience</a> shows social housing substantially reduces tenants’ risk of homelessness. But Australia’s stagnating social housing stock means there is little “flow” of social housing available for people whose lives take a big turn for the worse.</p> <p>Funding social housing won’t boost house prices or provide windfalls for developers. It will do more to keep construction workers on the job, while also helping some of our most vulnerable Australians.</p> <p><em>Written by Brendan Coates. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/money-for-social-housing-not-home-buyers-grants-is-the-key-to-construction-stimulus-139743">The Conversation. </a></p>

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The Leadbeater’s possum finally had its day in court. It may change the future of logging in Australia

<p>The Federal Court <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-27/leadbeaters-possum-federal-court-rules-vicforests-logging-breach/12292046">last week ruled</a> that VicForests – a timber company owned by the Victorian government – breached environmental laws when they razed the habitat of the critically endangered <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=273">Leadbeater’s possum</a> and the vulnerable <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=254">greater glider</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/27/vicforests-breached-forestry-agreement-with-central-highlands-logging-court-rules">Environmentalists</a> welcomed the judge’s decision, which sets an important legal precedent.</p> <p>Under so-called “regional forest agreements”, a number of logging operations around Australia are exempt from federal environment laws. This effectively puts logging interests above those of <a href="https://npansw.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/npa_regional-forest-agreements-have-failed-to-protect-the-environment.pdf">threatened species</a>. The court ruling narrows these exemptions and provides an opportunity to create stronger forestry laws.</p> <p><strong>A legal loophole</strong></p> <p>Since 1971, the Leadbeater’s possum has been the faunal emblem of Victoria. But only about 1,200 adults are left in the wild, almost exclusively in the Central Highlands region.</p> <p>Official <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species/pubs/273-conservation-advice-22062019.pdf">conservation advice</a> identifies the greatest threat to the species as habitat loss and fragmentation caused by the collapse of hollow-bearing trees, wildfire, logging and climate change.</p> <p>Australia’s federal environmental laws require environmental impact assessment of any action likely to significantly impact a matter of national environmental significance, <a href="http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/epabca1999588/s18.html">such as a listed threatened species</a>.</p> <p>But thanks to exemptions under regional forest agreements, logging has continued in the Central Highlands – <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/while-victoria-s-forests-burnt-logging-continued-20200115-p53rm3.html">even in the aftermath of this summer’s devastating bushfires</a>.</p> <p><strong>So what are regional forest agreements?</strong></p> <p>Regional forest agreements were designed as a response to the so-called “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/20/regional-forest-agreement-renewals-spark-fresh-forest-wars">forest wars</a>” of the 1980s and 1990s.</p> <p>In 1995, after logging trucks blockaded parliament, then Prime Minister Paul Keating offered a deal to the states: the federal government would accredit state forest management systems, and in return federal law would no longer apply to logging operations. Drawing up regional forest agreements between state and federal governments achieved this.</p> <p>Between 1997 and 2001, <a href="https://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry/policies/rfa">ten different agreements</a> were signed, covering logging regions in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia. These agreements were for 20 years, which means many have now either expired and been renewed or extended, or are about to expire.</p> <p>The agreements are <a href="http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/rfaa2002268/s4.html">supposed to satisfy a number of conditions</a>. This includes that they’re based on an assessment of environmental and social values of forest areas. They should also provide for the ecologically sustainable management and use of forested areas, and the long-term stability of forest and forest industries.</p> <p>But <a href="https://www.publish.csiro.au/PC/PC15042">conservation experts argue</a> the agreements have failed both to deliver certainty to forestry operations or to protect environmental values and ensure the conservation of biodiversity.</p> <p><strong>History of the court case</strong></p> <p>The legal proceedings against VicForests were initiated in 2017 by <a href="https://www.leadbeaters.org.au/">Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum</a>, a small community group which relied on crowd funding to cover legal costs.</p> <p>Initially, the group argued Victoria’s failure to undertake a required review of the <a href="https://www.agriculture.gov.au/forestry/policies/rfa/regions/vic-centralhighlands">Central Highlands regional forest agreements</a> every five years meant the usual exemption to federal environment laws should not apply.</p> <p>But in early 2018, Justice Mortimer <a href="https://www.judgments.fedcourt.gov.au/judgments/Judgments/fca/single/2018/2018fca0178">ruled</a> against this. But she also rejected VicForests’ arguments that any operation in an area covered by a regional forest agreement is automatically exempt from federal law.</p> <p>She ruled that the logging operations will only be exempt from federal law if they comply with Victoria’s accredited system of forest management. This includes the requirements for threatened species, as specified in official action and management plans.</p> <p>The Federal Court has handed down a scathing ruling in Leadbeater's Possum vs <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VicForests?src=hash">#VicForests</a> today, saying VicForests has shirked responsibility for surveying forests and uses a flawed habitat mapping system, putting the threatened Greater Glider and Leadbeater's Possum at risk.</p> <p>In response to this ruling, Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum reformulated their claim.</p> <p>They argued logging operations in 66 coupes (small areas of forest harvested in one operation) didn’t meet these requirements for threatened species, and so the exemption from federal laws didn’t apply.</p> <p><strong>The court ruling</strong></p> <p>In her ruling last week, the judge found VicForests unlawfully logged 26 coupes home to the Leadbeater’s possum and greater glider, and that logging a scheduled 41 other sections would put them at risk.</p> <p>The court found the company breached a number of aspects of the <a href="https://www.forestsandreserves.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/29311/Code-of-Practice-for-Timber-Production-2014.pdf">Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014</a>. This code is part of the Victorian regulatory system accredited by the regional forest agreement.</p> <p>In particular, VicForests had not, as required, applied the “precautionary principle” in planning and conducting logging operations in coupes containing the greater glider.</p> <p>Nor had VicForests developed a comprehensive forest survey system, or engaged in a careful evaluation of management options to avoid dangers to these threatened species.</p> <p>These failures meant the logging operations were not covered by the exemption from federal laws. As such, the court found VicForests had breached federal environmental law, as the logging operation had, or were likely to have, a significant impact on the two threatened species.</p> <p><strong>What now?</strong></p> <p>This case will have clear implications for logging operations governed by regional forest agreements.</p> <p>In fact, the <a href="https://ausfpa.com.au/media-releases/state-and-federal-governments-must-resolve-rfa-uncertainty-following-federal-court-decision/">timber industry</a> has called for state and federal governments to urgently respond to the case, and clarify the future of regional forest agreements.</p> <p>Arguably, logging operations conducted under a regional forest agreement can no longer rely on the exemption from federal environmental laws if those operations don’t comply with the state regulatory frameworks accredited under the regional forest agreements, especially provisions that protect threatened species.</p> <p>And while making logging operations subject to federal environmental laws is a good thing, it’s not enough. Federal environmental laws are weak and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/31/australias-national-environment-laws-actually-allow-extinction-to-happen?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Gmail">don’t prevent species extinctions</a>.</p> <p>In any case, the result is the perfect opportunity for state and federal governments to rethink forest management. That means properly taking into account the ongoing threats to threatened species from climate change, wildfires and habitat loss.</p> <p><em>Written by Julie Dehm. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://theconversation.com/the-leadbeaters-possum-finally-had-its-day-in-court-it-may-change-the-future-of-logging-in-australia-139652"><em>The Conversation</em></a><span><em>.</em></span></p>

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How captive animals are coping with the sudden emptiness of the world’s zoos and aquariums

<p>More than 700 million people visit zoos and aquariums each year <a href="https://www.waza.org/">worldwide</a>, so human visitors are usually a constant presence for the animals that live there. But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced these places to close to the public, plunging resident animals into an empty silence.</p> <p>Instead, zoos have been opening virtually during the lockdown, allowing people to see behind the closed doors from the comfort of their living rooms. Chester Zoo in the UK hosted an online tour so popular that it “<a href="https://www.cheshire-live.co.uk/whats-on/family-kids-news/relive-chester-zoos-first-ever-18006186">broke the internet when it went viral</a>” according to one zookeeper, with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide flocking to the zoo’s Facebook page.</p> <p>Zoo workers have described how animals are greeting the isolation during COVID-19 closures. One zoo in India reported that animals were “<a href="https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/call-of-the-wild-quiet-brings-out-animal-instincts-at-zoo/articleshow/75665638.cms">loving the quiet spell</a>” – foxes were “frolicking around”, the hippopotamus was happily splashing in its pool and even the tigers were enjoying a dip. In other zoos, animals seem to be <a href="https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/local-news/animals-twycross-zoo-are-missing-4119435">missing people</a>. Twycross Zoo’s curator reported primates looking for zoo visitors, for instance.</p> <p>Some zoo animals are forgetting all about their previous lives, with garden eels at one Japanese aquarium hiding when staff members approached their enclosure. Workers have asked the public to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/01/japanese-aquarium-urges-public-to-video-chat-eels-who-are-forgetting-humans-exist">make video calls to their eels</a>, to try and prevent them from seeing visitors as a threat when the aquarium reopens. Meanwhile, some animals are enjoying the freedom of daily zoo walks, like the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVfTGFBJ8a8">penguins at the Shedd Aquarium</a> in Chicago, which were let out to wander the empty halls and look into the other enclosures.</p> <p>Is this reprieve from regular visitors healthy for zoo animals? And how will they respond to people suddenly flooding back once zoos reopen? Researchers and animal charities are worried that our pets will develop <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/dogs-trust-separation-anxiety-pets-coronavirus-lockdown-a9477541.html">separation anxiety once their owners return to work</a>. The opposite might happen among zoo animals. Will captive creatures be desperate for the public to return or have they adapted to a slower, quieter life?</p> <p><strong>When zoos reopen</strong></p> <p>As zoos that have closed for months <a href="https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/coronavirus-lockdown-europe-austria-pools-zoos-opened-a4426021.html">reopen their doors</a>, we have an opportunity to study how visitors influence the lives of zoo animals. While we can’t predict the future, previous research on how zoo animals have responded to changes in visitor schedules might give us some idea of what to expect.</p> <p>During the night, zoo animals are used to relative peace and quiet. For many, beyond the odd security warden, there are no visitors. But before COVID-19, some zoos did open their doors outside of normal opening hours, for <a href="https://www.colchester-zoo.com/event/starlight-safari-night-2/">late-night tours</a> and <a href="https://twycrosszoo.org/events/twycross-zoo-safari-sleepover-camping-experience/">overnight camps</a>.</p> <p>Typically, we study animal behaviours to understand how they may be feeling and try to make judgements about their experiences. From that, we can say that zoo animals have tended to show mixed responses to evening events. A <a href="http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/pdf_files/142/1422582743.pdf">study</a> at a zoo in Germany found that elephants sought comfort from others in their herd during an evening firework display, but they didn’t retreat into their indoor enclosures. <a href="https://www.hindawi.com/journals/vmi/2017/6585380/">Researchers</a> at London Zoo noticed no changes in the behaviour of lions during sunset safaris, on evenings when the zoo was open for visitors until 10pm, compared to their behaviour during normal opening hours.</p> <p>Across the board, changes in the usual routines of zoo animals affect different species in different ways. The quiet caused by vanished visitors might mean more animals performing attention-seeking behaviours to try and interact with visitors more than normal, as keepers have reported chimpanzees doing <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/US/life-covid-19-animals-zookeepers-maryland-zoo/story?id=70422788">during lockdown</a>, as they reach out towards workers who would usually feed them by hand. It may also cause them to be overly skittish to human visitors when they return, like the garden eels in Japan.</p> <p>This is the longest time many zoo animals will have gone without the public, and zoo staff will have to help them transition back to normal life. Most zoos are planning <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-52493750">phased reopenings</a> of animal houses to prevent the sudden changes in noise disturbing the animals.</p> <p>Some animals, especially those born during the COVID-19 lockdown, will never have experienced life in the public eye. Many up-close animal encounters <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-zoos-must-change-to-keep-great-apes-safe-from-coronavirus-134692">will have to change</a>, particularly as <a href="https://theconversation.com/transmission-of-diseases-from-humans-to-apes-why-extra-vigilance-is-now-needed-134083">humans can transmit coronaviruses to great apes</a> in captivity.</p> <p>On your next visit, <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-behave-at-a-zoo-according-to-science-73873">be cool, calm and collected</a>. Keepers and other zoo staff will be on hand to guide you, helping enforce social distancing and supporting you on how best to behave around the animals. Your local zoo will need visitors more than ever when they reopen. But remember, zoo animals will be experiencing their own post lockdown fuzz, and, just like you, they may need time to adjust.</p> <p><em>Written by Ellen Williams and Jessica Rendle. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-captive-animals-are-coping-with-the-sudden-emptiness-of-the-worlds-zoos-and-aquariums-138668">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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A trans-Tasman bubble is an opportunity for Australia and NZ to reduce dependence on China

<p>When it comes to our economic over-reliance on China, New Zealand consumers need look no further than their most popular big box chain, The Warehouse. The familiar “big red shed” sourced about 60% of its home brand stock from China in 2017 – and a further NZ$62 million in products directly through offices in China, India and Bangladesh in 2019.</p> <p>In Australia, many major chain stores as well as online retail giant <a href="https://www.afr.com/companies/retail/kogan-com-braces-for-coronavirus-threat-after-mixed-first-half-20200217-p541fu">kogan.com</a> are in a similar position. Reliant on China for much of what they sell, including exclusive home-brand items, they are part of what has been described as the world’s <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-02-26/coronavirus-impact-hits-australia-most-china-reliant-economy">most China-reliant economy</a>.</p> <p>The COVID-19 crisis has thrown Australian and New Zealand businesses’ dependence on China into stark relief. With countries reportedly competing with and undercutting each other to secure desperately needed medical supplies from China, many are now waking up to their economic exposure to a single manufacturing giant.</p> <p>Understandably, discussions about creating a <a href="https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/prime-ministers-jacinda-ardern-and-scott-morrison-announce-plans-trans-tasman-covid-safe">“trans-Tasman bubble”</a> between Australia and New Zealand have focused on kick-starting economic activity in the short term, particularly through tourism. But both countries also need to take a longer-term view of boosting economic activity – including through increased manufacturing and trade integration.</p> <p>The statistics support this. In 2018, 20% of global trade in the manufacturing of “intermediate” products (which need further processing before sale) <a href="https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/ditcinf2020d1.pdf">came from China</a>. Chinese manufacturing (including goods made from components made in China) also <a href="https://blog.euromonitor.com/coronavirus-impact-on-global-supply-chains/">accounted for</a>:</p> <ul> <li>35% of household goods</li> <li>46% of hi-tech goods</li> <li>54% of textiles and apparel</li> <li>38% of machinery, rubber and plastic</li> <li>20% of pharmaceuticals and medical goods</li> <li>42% of chemical products.</li> </ul> <p>Australia and New Zealand are no exception, with China the number one trading partner of both. Australia <a href="https://www.dfat.gov.au/">earned</a> 32.6% of its export income from China in 2019, mostly from natural resource products such as iron ores, coal and natural gas, as well as education and tourism.</p> <p>From New Zealand, 23% of <a href="https://www.stats.govt.nz/news/china-top-trade-partner-for-2019">exports</a> (worth NZ$20 billion) went to China in 2019, and much of the country’s manufacturing has moved to China over the past 20 years. The China factor in New Zealand supply chains is also <a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/119598635/coronavirus-delivery-delays-from-chinese-are-hurting-kiwi-businesses">crucial</a>, with a fifth of exports containing Chinese components.</p> <p><strong>Supply shortages from China</strong></p> <p>The world is now paying a price for this dependence on China. Since the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 there has been volatility in the supply of products ranging from cars and Apple phones to food ingredients and hand sanitiser packaging.</p> <p>More worryingly, availability of popular over-the-counter painkiller paracetamol was <a href="https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/411131/coronavirus-pharmac-to-limit-paracetamol-due-to-chinese-factory-closures">restricted</a> due to Chinese factory closures. This is part of a <a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/australia-dangerously-dependent-on-medical-imports-20200217-p541ej">bigger picture</a> that shows Australia now importing over 90% of medicines and New Zealand <a href="https://tradingeconomics.com/new-zealand/imports/pharmaceutical-products">importing</a> close to NZ$1.59 billion in pharmaceutical products in 2019. Overall, both countries are <a href="https://sldinfo.com/2020/03/australias-medicine-supply-chain-is-vulnerable/">extremely vulnerable</a> to major supply chain disruptions of medical products.</p> <p>For all these reasons, a cooperative trans-Tasman manufacturing strategy should be on the table right now and in any future bilateral trade policy conversations.</p> <p><strong>Opportunities for Australia and NZ</strong></p> <p>Rather than each country focusing on product specialisation or setting industrial priorities in isolation, the two economies need to discuss how best to pool resources, add value and enhance the competitive advantage of strategic industries in the region as a whole.</p> <p>Currently, trans-Tasman trade primarily involves natural resources and foodstuffs flowing from New Zealand to Australia, with motor vehicles, machinery and mechanical equipment flowing the other way. Manufacturing is skewed towards Australia, but closer regional integration would mean increased flows of capital, components and finished products between the countries. We have seen this already in the primary and service sectors but not much in the manufacturing sector, especially from New Zealand to Australia.</p> <p>Medical technologies and telecommunications equipment manufacturing (both critical during the pandemic) stand out as potential new areas of economic integration. In that sense, it was heartening to see major medical tech companies such as <a href="https://www.resmed.com.au/about-us/the-resmed-story">Res-Med Australia</a> and <a href="https://www.fphcare.com/nz/our-company/">Fisher &amp; Paykel Healthcare</a> in New Zealand rapidly <a href="https://www.fairfieldchampion.com.au/story/6705551/private-hospitals-join-coronavirus-fight/?cs=9397">scale up</a> their production capacities to build respiratory devices, ventilators, and other personal protective equipment products.</p> <p>These brands enjoy a global technology edge, smart niche positioning and reputations for innovation. We need more of these inside a trans-Tasman trade and manufacturing bubble.</p> <p><strong>China still vital but balance is crucial</strong></p> <p>Key to successful regional integration will be the pooling of research and development (R&amp;D) resources, mutual direct investment, subsidising R&amp;D and manufacturing in emerging markets with profits from another (such as China), and value-adding specialisation in the supply chain. For example, Tait Communication in New Zealand recently <a href="https://www.taitradio.com/about-us/news/2011/tait-strengthens-customer-support-in-australia-with-new-facility">invested</a> in a new facility based in one of Australia’s largest science, technology and research centres.</p> <p>Together, we can make a bigger pie.</p> <p>None of this means cutting ties with China, which will remain the main importer of primary produce and food products from Australasia for the foreseeable future. And Chinese exports will still be vital. Fisher &amp; Paykel Healthcare sells its products in about 120 countries, for example, but some of its key raw materials suppliers are Chinese.</p> <p>Getting this dynamic balancing right will be key to Australia and New Zealand prospering in the inevitably uncertain – even divided – post-pandemic global business environment. And you never know, maybe one day we’ll see a “made in Australia and New Zealand” label in the aisles of The Warehouse and Bunnings.</p> <p><em>Written by Hongzhi Gao and Monica Ren. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/beyond-travel-a-trans-tasman-bubble-is-an-opportunity-for-australia-and-nz-to-reduce-dependence-on-china-137062">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

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6 countries with 6 curves: How nations that moved fast against COVID-19 avoided disaster

<p>To understand the spread of COVID-19, the pandemic is more usefully viewed as a series of distinct local epidemics. The way the virus has spread in different countries, and even in particular states or regions within them, has been quite varied.</p> <p>A New Zealand <a href="https://www.tepunahamatatini.ac.nz/2020/04/22/effect-of-alert-level-4-measures-on-covid-19-transmission/">study</a> has mapped the coronavirus epidemic curve for 25 countries and modelled how the spread of the virus has changed in response to the various lockdown measures.</p> <p>The research, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, classifies each country’s public health response using New Zealand’s <a href="https://covid19.govt.nz/alert-system/covid-19-alert-system/">four-level alert system</a>. Levels 1 and 2 represent relatively relaxed controls, whereas levels 3 and 4 are stricter.</p> <p>By mapping the change in the <strong>effective reproduction number</strong> (R<sub>eff</sub>, an indicator of the actual spread of the virus in the community) against response measures, the research shows countries that implemented level 3 and 4 restrictions sooner had greater success in pushing R<sub>eff</sub> to below 1.</p> <p>An R<sub>eff</sub> of less than 1 means each infected person spreads the virus to less than one other person, on average. By keeping R<sub>eff</sub> below 1, the number of new infections will fall and the virus will ultimately disappear from the community.</p> <p><strong>Italy</strong></p> <p>Italy was relatively slow to respond to the epidemic, and experienced a high R<sub>eff</sub> for many weeks. This led to an explosion of cases which overwhelmed the health system, particularly in the country’s north. This was followed by some of the strictest public health control measures in Europe, which has finally seen the R<sub>eff</sub> fall to below 1.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the time lag has cost many lives. Italy’s death toll of over 27,000 serves as a warning of what can happen if the virus is allowed to spread unchecked, even if strict measures are brought in later.</p> <p><strong>United Kingdom</strong></p> <p>The UK’s initial response to COVID-19 was characterised by a series of missteps. The government prevaricated while it considered pursuing a controversial “herd immunity” strategy, before finally ordering an Italy-style lockdown to regain control over the virus’s transmission.</p> <p>As in Italy, the result was an initial surge in case numbers, a belatedly successful effort to bring R<sub>eff</sub> below 1, and a huge death toll of over 20,000 to date.</p> <p><strong>New York, USA</strong></p> <p>New York City, with its field hospital in Central Park resembling a scene from a disaster movie, is another testament to the power of uncontrolled virus spread to overwhelm the health system.</p> <p>Its R<sub>eff</sub> peaked at a staggeringly high value of 8, before the city slammed on the brakes and went into complete lockdown. It took a protracted battle to finally bring the R<sub>eff</sub> below 1. Perhaps more than any other city, New York will feel the economic shock of this epidemic for many years to come.</p> <p><strong>Sweden</strong></p> <p>Sweden has taken a markedly relaxed approach to its public health response. Barring a few minor restrictions, the country remains more or less open as usual, and the focus has been on individuals to take personal responsibility for controlling the virus through social distancing.</p> <p>This is understandably contentious, and the number of cases and deaths in Sweden are far higher than its neighbouring countries. But R<sub>eff</sub> indicates that the curve is flattening.</p> <p><strong>Singapore</strong></p> <p>Singapore is a lesson on why you can’t ever relax when it comes to coronavirus. It was hailed as an early success story in bringing the virus to heel, through extensive testing, effective contact tracing and strict quarantining, with no need for a full lockdown.</p> <p>But the virus has bounced back. Infection clusters originating among migrant workers has prompted tighter restrictions. The R<sub>eff</sub> currently sits at around 2, and Singapore still has a lot of work to do to bring it down.</p> <p>Individually, these graphs each tell their own story. Together, they have one clear message: places that moved quickly to implement strict interventions brought the coronavirus under control much more effectively, with less death and disease.</p> <p>And our final example, Singapore, adds an important coda: the situation can change rapidly, and there is no room for complacency.</p> <p><em>Written by Hassan Vally. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/6-countries-6-curves-how-nations-that-moved-fast-against-covid-19-avoided-disaster-137333">The Conversation.</a> </em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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We just spent two weeks surveying the Great Barrier Reef – What we saw was an utter tragedy

<p>The Australian summer just gone will be remembered as the moment when human-caused climate change struck hard. First came drought, then deadly bushfires, and now a bout of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef – the third in just five years. Tragically, the 2020 bleaching is severe and the most widespread we have ever recorded.</p> <p>Coral bleaching at regional scales is caused by spikes in sea temperatures during unusually hot summers. The first recorded mass bleaching event along Great Barrier Reef occurred in 1998, then the <a href="http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/archive/media99.shtml">hottest year on record</a>.</p> <p>Since then we’ve seen four more mass bleaching events – and more temperature records broken – in 2002, 2016, 2017, and again in 2020.</p> <p>This year, February had the<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-15/cyclone-great-barrier-reef-bleaching-record-seas-temperatures/12050102"> highest monthly sea surface temperatures</a> ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef since the Bureau of Meteorology’s records began in 1900.</p> <p><strong>Not a pretty picture</strong></p> <p>We surveyed 1,036 reefs from the air during the last two weeks in March, to measure the extent and severity of coral bleaching throughout the Great Barrier Reef region. Two observers, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, scored each reef visually, repeating the same procedures developed during early bleaching events.</p> <p>The accuracy of the aerial scores <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature21707?dom=icopyright&amp;src=">is verified</a> by underwater surveys on reefs that are lightly and heavily bleached. While underwater, we also measure how bleaching changes between shallow and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-05741-0">deeper reefs</a>.</p> <p>Of the reefs we surveyed from the air, 39.8% had little or no bleaching (the green reefs in the map). However, 25.1% of reefs were severely affected (red reefs) – that is, on each reef more than 60% of corals were bleached. A further 35% had more modest levels of bleaching.</p> <p>Bleaching isn’t necessarily fatal for coral, and it affects <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-much-coral-has-died-in-the-great-barrier-reefs-worst-bleaching-event-69494">some species more than others</a>. A pale or lightly bleached coral typically regains its colour within a few weeks or months and survives.</p> <p>But when bleaching is severe, many corals die. In 2016, half of the shallow water corals died on the northern region of the Great Barrier Reef <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0041-2">between March and November</a>. Later this year, we’ll go underwater to assess the losses of corals during this most recent event.</p> <p>Compared to the four previous bleaching events, there are fewer unbleached or lightly bleached reefs in 2020 than in 1998, 2002 and 2017, but more than in 2016. Similarly, the proportion of severely bleached reefs in 2020 is exceeded only by 2016. By both of these metrics, 2020 is the second-worst mass bleaching event of the five experienced by the Great Barrier Reef since 1998.</p> <p>The unbleached and lightly bleached (green) reefs in 2020 are predominantly offshore, mostly close to the edge of the continental shelf in the northern and southern Great Barrier Reef. However, offshore reefs in the central region were severely bleached again. Coastal reefs are also badly bleached at almost all locations, stretching from the Torres Strait in the north to the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.</p> <p>For the first time, severe bleaching has struck all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef – the northern, central and now large parts of the southern sectors. The north was the worst affected region in 2016, followed by the centre in 2017.</p> <p>In 2020, the cumulative footprint of bleaching has expanded further, to include the south. The distinctive footprint of each bleaching event closely matches the location of <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature21707?dom=icopyright&amp;src=">hotter and cooler conditions in different years</a>.</p> <p><strong>Poor prognosis</strong></p> <p>Of the five mass bleaching events we’ve seen so far, only 1998 and 2016 occurred during <a href="http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/updates/articles/a008-el-nino-and-australia.shtml">an El Niño</a> – a weather pattern that spurs warmer air temperatures in Australia.</p> <p>But as summers grow hotter under climate change, we no longer need an El Niño to trigger mass bleaching at the scale of the Great Barrier Reef. We’ve already seen the first example of back-to-back bleaching, in the consecutive summers of 2016 and 2017. The gap between recurrent bleaching events is shrinking, hindering a full recovery.</p> <p>After five bleaching events, the number of reefs that have escaped severe bleaching continues to dwindle. Those reefs are located offshore, in the far north and in remote parts of the south.</p> <p>The Great Barrier Reef will continue to lose corals from heat stress, until global emissions of greenhouse gasses are reduced to net zero, and sea temperatures stabilise. Without urgent action to achieve this outcome, it’s clear our coral reefs will not survive business-as-usual emissions.</p> <p><em>Written by Terry Hughes and Morgan Pratchett. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-just-spent-two-weeks-surveying-the-great-barrier-reef-what-we-saw-was-an-utter-tragedy-135197">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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