Australia New Zealand Pacific Asia

NSW Flood Inquiry open for submissions

6th April.2022

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A six-month independent inquiry into the preparation for, causes of, response to and recovery from the 2022 floods will be led by Professor Mary O’Kane AC and Michael Fuller APM and is now open for submissions.  Premier Dominic Perrottet said that the inquiry would play a critical role in hearing community voices and ensuring more adequate preparation for similar events in the future. 

More information how public submissions can be made can be found on the NSW Government website. 

Bush Bank will see 200,000 hectares of Victoria  rewilded 

4th April 2022

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Victoria's energy, environment, and climate change minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, has announced a commitment to revegetate parcels of private land to create habitat for endangered wildlife and to assist in carbon capture.  The scheme, known as Bush Bank, will offer private landowners payment to allow conservation groups such as Greening Australia and Bush Heritage to restore habitat on their land.  Expressions of interest are being sought for the first 20,000 hectares.

“This money is about putting trees and vegetation in the ground and projects that connect up pockets of biodiversity to create biodiversity corridors,” said Ms D'Anbrosio.  The project will also help with the state government's 50% emissions reduction target by 2050. 

Loop Recycling addresses Australia's textile waste 

Loop Upcycling was founded in 2017 by Perth based Dwayne Rowland after a discussion with Virgin Australia head of community about discarded uniforms. 

Happy to provide a solution to the incredible scale of waste from the airline's used uniforms Mr Rowaland founded his company.  Loop Upcycling helps businesses design and produce accessories and other items from discarded textiles such as hats and bags. 

The aim of the company is to reduce environmental waste and create a circular economy that allows companies to reuse products and materials instead of just discarding them. 

This helps their bottom line as well as preventing the continuous purchase of new clothing items. 

Many mining and construction companies provide brand new uniforms for all employees, creating untold waste at landfills, and items that ultimately put plastic into waterways, food and our bodies. 

Working with Clough Engineering the company designed a range of products that return to the supply chain from old uniforms. 

Pakistan's vote of no confidence motion blocked by National Assembly - election called by Imran Khan. 

The vote of no-confidence motion put forward by Pakistan's opposition has been stymied after the Deputy Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, Qasim Khan Suri, abruptly rejected it in the Pakistan Assembly. Subsequent court proceedings in the Supreme Court spearheaded by the disgruntled opposition have been met with contempt by  Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Minister Fawad Chaudhry who said

"We will present our side in court tomorrow. We will base our argument on Article 69, that court cannot decide on Parliament proceedings. I want to ask one thing to our political rivals - Why are you people not being tigers now? They are crying and upset. Have you ever seen any government which is going 'out of power' smiling and celebrating? This government is fighting bravely on the battlefield. Opposition is trying to get 'technical justice'."

The Prime Minister Imran Khan has put forward the belief that foreign influences are trying to remove the legally elected government.

1st April, 2022

Defying ban, NSW nurses strike once more for better pay and patient/nurse ratios.

Nurses are set to strike on Thursday, following last month's day of demonstrations at 150 public hospitals, the second industrial action in 10 years.  The nurses are asking for a patient/nurse ratio of four-to-one in hospital wards and three-to-one on maternity wards.  A 4.75% pay rise is also being demanded in contrast to the 2.5% being offered by the NSW government.   Queensland and Victoria have already brought in nurse to patient ratios. 

Nurses from 170 hospitals across the state will take part.  Health spokesperson for the Greens, Cate Faehrmann said that nurses and midwives were at breaking point. 

“It’s time for the government to listen to their calls for safe nurse-to-patient ratios so that patients get a safe level of care.”

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Mar 27th, 2022

Recreational boats back on Brisbane River 

Saturday saw the Brisbane River reopen to all recreational boating, after the flooding earlier in the month.  Transport and Main Roads Minister, Mark Bailey, said that following extensive safety inspections, strict conditions would be in place including daylight boating only, lifejackets for all passengers.  Even though the clean-up job had been ‘phenomenal’ Mr. Bailey said that there were still patches of floating debris and unusual currents.  Clean up operations were still being conducted by Maritime Safety Queensland contractors.  Boaties are asked to keep clear of the clean-up craft.

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President of Pakistan, Imran Khan, faces a vote of no-confidence on Monday

Following a seven-day debate, a no-confidence bill will be tabled on Monday by a unified Opposition in Pakistan by the 342-member National Assembly.  The ruling party Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is facing a major economic crisis, rampant inflation, and is accused of financial fraud and corruption. Khan has held power since 2013, however, he is losing his support rapidly.  The powerful military that stood behind Khan has announced that they will remain neutral, letting the political parties vote. 

The economy is facing a review of an International Monetary Fund loan of $6 billion. 

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Pakistan secretariat

The office of Angus Taylor, Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction spent billions on fake carbon projects 

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New analysis reveals that the Emissions Reduction Fund, set up by the Morrison/Joyce government, has wasted over a billion dollars of taxpayer funds on projects that do not reduce emissions.

The report came out of the Australian National University law school, and showed that lucrative carbon credits were being handed out unchecked. 

Professor Andrew Macintosh, said that the Australia’s carbon market is a “sham”.

“People are … getting credits for growing trees that are already there,” he says. “They are getting credits for growing forests in places that will never sustain permanent forests. And they are getting credits for operating electricity generators at large landfills that would have operated anyway.”

The analysis has revealed that the minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, has been once again been caught using taxpayer for anything but the public good, handing out money for fake schemes which are bought by big carbon polluters, and claimed as emission offsets.

Many members of the Australian public are simply waiting for the May election., when this government "can finally be held to account."

Legal Action launched over Barossa gas by NT traditional owners 

A joint venture between Santos and SK E&S to construct a 300km gas pipeline bringing gas from the Timor Sea to the Darwin LNF facility is facing a legal challenge from the traditional owners of the region.  The Tiwi Islander and Larrakai people say that have not given consent and that the project will cause damage to the country and harm sea life, especially the turtles which are central to Tiwi culture. Francisco Babui, a senior Tiwi islander, said on behalf of the Stop Barossa Gas campaign, that the pipeline was too close to the habitat of turtles and dugong and would disrupt their breeding, as well as traditional activities on the island. 

The international legal action, filed in Seoul central district court seeks to block South Korean investment in the project.

Mar 25th, 2022

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Only 3% of Aged Care workers have received promised bonus - industrial action on the way

The much hyped promise of an $800 bonus to aged care workers announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison has gone the way of most announcements by the federal government - unpaid. 

A survey by the United Workers Union (UWU) showed that 97% of staff had not received the bonus and over 75% had not received any information about it. 

Aged care providors were expected to apply from March 1st for the money and pay all eligible workers the amount prior to receiving it. Workers themselves are unable to apply for the bonus directly. 

Applications toward taking industrial action will be lodged this week for over 10000 facilities in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. 

UWU National Aged Care Director, Carolyn Smith, said that aged care workers had been pushed to breaking point.

“The terrible fact is that almost 12 months on from the Royal Commission report, older Australians still do not have access to the level of care required to ensure they can live with safety and dignity,”  she said. 

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Flood plains and housing don't mix - preparing for the wrath of nature

Mar 6th, 2022

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Flood plain dwelling is being re-examined as heavy flooding leaves thousands homeless in many parts of Australia. The long predicted effects of climate change, combined with approvals to build on known flood plains, has led to the entirely forseen result of houses being covered in water during heavy rains.

A mitigation treatment in Grantham in Queensland saw houses relocated to higher ground, resulting in far less damage than in 2011. In the US large scale schemes are removing all dwellings from flood plains so they can perform their natural function. In Liverpool, Sydney, a voluntary scheme has purchased 30% of property to return the land to open floodplains.

Shane Stone, head of the federal governments disaster recovery agency, called for an end to flood plain development, and for homes currently affected by floods not to be rebuilt.

“Australians need to have an honest conversation about where and how people build homes. The taxpayer and the ratepayer cannot continue to pick up the bill for these huge, catastrophic damage events,” Mr Stone said, emphasising that insurance premiums would no longer cover homes in disaster prone areas in the future.

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Sony and Honda form electric vehicle partnership

Sony and Honda will form a joint venture to develop and sell battery powered electric vehicles, with the first models to be rolled out in 2025.

"In the joint venture, we would like to lead the mobility evolution by combining our technology and experience with Honda's long experience in mobility development and vehicle body manufacturing technologies," said Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida.

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Bull ant venom offers hope for long term pain sufferers

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Molecular Bioscience researchers, Dr Sam Robinson and David Eagles, have identified a component from bull ant venom that could to treat long term pain in humans. The venon is believed to have evolved as a defence against echidnas attacking the ants' nests. The molecule matches the sequence of mammalian hormones related to Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF).

“We tested the venom molecule on mammalian EGF receptors and it was very potent – this convinced us that the venom molecule was there to defend against mammals,” Dr Robinson said. EFG inhibitors used in cancer treatment have been shown to reduce long term pain, and this new molecule has exciting implications for further use in pain treatment.

Early Chinese ochre processing changes view of evolution.

Evidence of hominid activity in China has unique cultural characteristics according to Professor Michael Petraglia of Griffith University. The discoveries of ochre use and expedient bone tools from between 39,000 and 41,000 years ago, but lack of formal bone tools and ornaments, suggests early colonisation by homosapiens, possibly interbreeding with Denisovan hominids.

Ir reinforces the view that traditional ideas about evolution are too simplistic. The discoveries show that human movement was complex and 'involved repeated but differential episodes of genetic and cultural exchange over large geographic areas.'

The authors of the study also believe that a mosaic pattern of the spread of innovation, the persistence of local traditions and the adoption of local innovations will emerge.

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Vanuatu lauch inquiry into Australian seasonal worker scheme

Fruit pickers employed under Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) have come under official scrutiny by the Vanuatu Government after allegations of exploitation by workers.

The workers claim they were subjected to inadequate housing, bullying and poor pay. One claimed he had received $100 for a full week's work, and then had a further $30 deducted without explanation.

Since the pandemic restricted access to backpackers and visa holders, agricultural companies have been exposed for their exploitative working practices including pay per piece agreements. This practice was abolished in November 2021 after Fair Work found the provisions 'not fit for purpose".

Bramwell Station in QLD to return to traditional owners for conservation.

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Bramwellstationcapeyork.com.au

Feb 23 2022

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Clive Palmer hospitalised after experiencing symptoms of Covid-19

Unvaccinated mining magnate, man who tried to bankrupt WA, and large spender on yellow and black advertising, Clive Palmer, has been hospitalised this morning after experiencing "Covid-like symptoms".

On Wednesdy he cancelled his planned address at the National Press Club due to illness.

Spokesman for Mr Palmer have said variously that he has not been tested and that he tested negative for Covid.

The defamation case between Palmer and WA Premier Mark McGowan will continue with Mr McGowan due to testify from March 7th.

Tonga Internet cabel reconnected

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The undersea fibre-optic cable connecting Tonga with the world has been restored after damage caused by the January Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano eruption. Families that were separated, even those living on other Tongan islands, had limited means of communication without the cable. About 90km of the cable had to be repaired.

Woolworths shares tumble on lower results

Australian supermarket chain Woolworths reported lower first-half operating income, resulting in shares dropping 10.6% to reach their lowest level in six months.

Difficulties with supply chains, and staff isolation due to Covid infections combined with a return to normalised shopping instead of pandemic induced stockpiling to bring down earnings.

Group Chief Executive Brad Banducci said that in spite of the challenging first half of 2022, the company had good sales momentum and an improved performance is expected going forward.

The half-year financial results also revealed another $144 million in unpaid wages, on top of the $427 million already revealed last year. Dividends have been cut for this half, due mainly to the spin off of the Endeavour drinks division.

Australia acting against global anti-corruption alliance - warning

Australia's signature on the Open Government Partnership, a 2015 seventy eight country initiative was designed to fight corruption in policy making, is in doubt.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has received a warning from the organisation's chief executive that membership would be reviewed after his failure to act on promises and to meet deadlines.

Committments were made to improve donations transparency, a hot issue currently in Australia, and bolster anti-corruption framework neither of which has occurred. The governments election promise to introduce a federal anti-corruption body has been reneged on with no plans to bring a bill forward this term.

A 2021-2023 Action Plan has not been received for two consecutive cycles.

Feb 23 2022

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Food and Grocery suppliers pushing for higher prices

Australian supermarket suppliers have been agitating for higher prices from retailers to offset rising freight costs.

Prices are expected to rise 6.8 per cent on average this year, covering grocery, frozen and fresh food goods. Delivery and warehousing prices have continued to rise, with fresh food prices increasing higher than wages which remain flat.

Nepalese reject US funded infrastructure over sovereignty concerns.

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Funding toward a 300km electricity line and road upgrade by a US government aid agency has met with opposition among concerns about loss of sovereignty, undermining of Nepalese laws and oversight. Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki said in parliament that it would be an important tool for the country's development however parliament is undecided over whether to accept the grant.

Large crowds of protestors who gathered on Feb 20th to express their oppostition were dispersed by tear gas and water cannons by the Kathmandu police.

Commuter Chaos in Sydney continues

Feb 22nd 2022

A union and government negotiation breakdown inspired the Perottet government to shut the entire NSW rail network on Monday, with more of the same continuing today. A skeleton crew will run trains for essential workers, as the government continues to hold out against requests for rostering changes.

In spite of a strike not being called, Transport Minister David Elliot apparently made the call to shut down the entire network over the breakdown in talks.

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Sri Lanka returns UK waste

Sri Lanka is one of several Asian countries returning illegally imported waste to its country of origin, with the last of the containers being shipped out to the UK this week. The two hundred and sixty tonnes of rubbish began arriving in the country five years ago, labelled as used mattresses and flooring, however they also contained hospital waste including body parts. The same importer is being investigated over shipping illegal hazardous waste to India and Dubai around the same period

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Covid Protest update

The NZ anti-mandate protest is now into its fifteenth day, with tensions rapidy rising. Police were sprayed with a liquid substance that required them to receive medical treatment and a car was driven into a group of police officers leading to an arrest of the driver. Riot police have been moving concrete partitions forward to decrease the size of the occupation site. The de-escalation strategy appears to have angered citizens who have been abused and cut off from work and studies by the protesters. Local businesses are unable to trade and the relationship between the police and government is being questioned as the Police Commissioner Andrew Coster faces calls to resign.

The three week protest in Ottawa, Canada, was ended only after police used stun guns and pepper spray against the protesters, made hundreds of arrests and removed trucks and vehicles.

Historic Duntroon in New Zealand's South Island reveals archeological wonders

The small NZ town in the far South is a gateway to another time. The local museum has displays of a shark toothed dolphin fossil, and an amphibious four-legged whale (Peregocetus pacificus) from forty million years ago. Local trails follow ancient whale bones, evidence of the land being lifted from the sea floor during a volcanic upheaval

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21st Feb 2022

Electric Vehicles to power your house

Aussie snakes not so scary

ABC Australia have reported reversible electric vehicle batteries are on their way to Australia.

These batteries allow you to use the charge from the car to power your house! Apparently people rarely use the complete charge in their car battery, so it makes sense to replete it indoors.

EV chargers for V2G and V2H to arrive in Australia within weeks, after long delays.

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Christina N. Zdenek from the Venom Evolution Lab at UQ has good news for us about Australian Snakes.

Despite the fact that Australia is home to over 150 venomous snakes including 25 of the world's most venomous, our snakes don't like to attack humans.

Most Aussie snakes will slither away when they hear someone approach unlike such scary beasts as pit vipers or rattlesnakes. If you are one of the few people that do get bitten by a snake, it will most likely be the brown snake but thanks to its short fangs, the poisonous does not work locally at the bite site, and so amputations are rare.

Australia's antivenom is highly effective, easily accessible and covered by Medicare saving the need to fork out the $6000 cost. Pressure immoblisation is also effective until you can get to a hospital. Australia is the only country in the world with portable snake venom detection kits so if you do get bitten, you can quickly find out which type of antivenom you need to save your life.

Deaths from snakebite in Australia is 2-3 a year, compared to 476 annually in South Africa.

Aussie snake venom is also used for therapeutic drugs, with six in production and two currently on their way.

18th Feb 2022

Coal out, batteries in

The closure of NSW coal powered power station brings forward NSW’s plans to move into renewable energy, with the installation of a 700-megawatt battery as a replacement.

NSW Minister of Energy And Treasurer, Mr Matt Kean, said that the battery would be the biggest in the southern hemisphere. The battery will be installed by the private sector, yet to be disclosed.