Would-be Canberra car salesman wins $46k after tribunal finds he was discriminated against over road rage offences


A Canberra man has successfully sued the ACT Government for more than $46,000 after he was refused a car sales licence because of two prior road rage convictions.

Last week the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) found the ACT Commissioner for Fair Trading had discriminated against the man when they rejected his application for a motor vehicles sales licence in 2018.

The would-be car salesman successfully argued two “irrelevant” criminal convictions were used as basis to reject his application, which he said led to financial and emotional distress.

Road rage incidents

ACAT heard the man had applied for the licence in 2018, but two separate criminal convictions for property damage and assault showed up during a police record check.

The tribunal heard first offence took place in 2016 when the man hurled a small sledgehammer through the front windscreen of another driver’s vehicle during a road rage incident.

The second conviction was from an incident two months later where the man spat in another driver’s face during a dispute, resulting in a good behaviour bond.

The man said he had been “blinded by ego” at the time of the road rage incidents.(Unsplash)

ACAT heard Access Canberra staff asked the man for a personal statement to explain the offending.

The man told government staff in an email that he suffered from a permanent back injury and had suffered a deterioration in his mental and physical health in the lead up to the incidents.

“As I reflect on the events and how I handled them, my only option at the time was to hang on to what I could as I embarked through this storm.”

‘Blinded by ego’

The man also claimed he had been “blinded by ego and pride” and had since addressed his behaviour.

“I am no longer the invincible young brave man I used to be,” he told Access Canberra staff.

“But the hardest battle for me has been to not allow the negative notions of the subsequent criminal records imposed on me to affect me mentally.

ACAT heard after discovering the man’s criminal record, the Commissioner for Fair Trading refused the man’s application due to the seriousness and “nature” of his previous offending.

Senior ACAT Member Heidi Robinson found that amounted to discrimination, and awarded the man $46,766 in damages.

“The intention of the amendments to the Discrimination Act are clear: a person’s criminal conviction should not ‘hound’ them for their whole life, keep them out of employment, or cause them to be subject to discrimination,” she wrote in her decision.

The government was also warned not to reject any of the man’s future applications based on his criminal convictions.

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Court finds house with 17 bedrooms and bathrooms not a family home and orders changes


The owner of a 17-bedroom waterfront mansion on the Sunshine Coast, which was operating as an illegal boarding house, has been ordered to make structural changes after failing to convince a judge that it was just another family home.

The three-storey building on Birtinya has en suites for every bedroom, kitchens on each floor, plus power and water meters for each room.

There are no bathrooms in shared areas, no master bedroom, and multiple laundries.

Rooms in the building were rented out for $220 a week for more than 12 months to March last year.

If fully occupied, it would amount to almost $15,000 a month in income.

Michael Ivan Gavin’s operation of the house breached the Sunshine Coast Regional Council’s planning rules and landed him in the Planning and Environment Court.

Judge Glen Cash ordered Mr Gavin to make changes to his property to make it harder to operate as accommodation in a residential area.

The required changes included the removal of certain doors, sinks and kitchen sites, but the ruling stopped short of demolishing parts of the house — a request put to the court by council.

A neighbour told the court there were about 15 people living in the building, causing parking havoc on the suburban street.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Owen Jacques)

Two plans, one house

In the ruling handed down in late December, Judge Cash found Mr Gavin was warned first by a private certifier, then by council officers, that the house must be used as a home, not paid accommodation.

Councillor Peter Cox said he was pleased with the decision and that the house “did not comply with the local area plan”.

Judge Cash described how Mr Gavin misled authorities with two different building plans — one reflected the true nature of the project, while the other was designed to deceive council officers.

Large house on edge of waterway with hospital in background
The Birtinya house has been listed online to rent, as a whole, for $1,250 a week.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Owen Jacques)

When building began in early 2018, it took just weeks for a council officer to raise concerns during an inspection, only to be told by Mr Gavin that it was a home and nothing more.

Mr Gavin moved into the house with his family for about two months in late 2018, before attempting to rent out the rooms individually as “private rooms” or “one-bedroom apartments”.

One neighbour told the court there were about 15 people living in the building, causing parking havoc on the suburban street.

‘Not an impressive witness’

Judge Cash said Mr Gavin “was not an impressive witness” when questioned by the court over the property.

“He was garrulous, unresponsive and, at times, mendacious,” Judge Cash wrote.

The Sunshine Coast Regional Council wanted the court to order the demolition of eight of the 17 bathrooms and for officers be able to inspect the site at any time with 24 hours’ notice.

The council said it wanted to ensure such a misuse of the property was not allowed to happen again.

The court rejected both requests.

However, Judge Cash warned any attempt to undo or disobey the changes could cost the owner — whether Mr Gavin or a future buyer — more than $600,000 in fines or two years’ prison.

The ABC has tried contacting the homeowner for a response to the ruling.

The Birtinya house, now with 16 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms, has been listed online to rent, as a whole, for $1,250 a week.

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Transgender teenager Olivia finds happiness in coming out


Her mother Lyndsay Brown describes an overwhelming sense of relief when Olivia finally confided in her. “I was very, very worried about her – she was incredibly depressed and anxious,” she says.

The notion of Olivia being trans had not been on her radar but “it absolutely rang true”. “It was a shock and a surprise but I never doubted it and the more medics we went to see the more it was confirmed,” Brown says.

Further confirmation came from the “remarkable shift” in Olivia’s happiness when she started living as a girl – changing her name and her pronouns and going shopping with her mother for women’s clothing.

“She wasn’t happy all the time because she was still struggling with lots of things but she personally was in a much, much better place,” Brown says. “As a mother, you can just feel that and know that and it was such a relief. I just knew the truth.”

Olivia’s father Angus and fraternal twin brother Stirling were also supportive – her brother made a point of introducing house guests to Olivia using the phrase “my sister” to ensure people would not misgender her.

Meanwhile, the family moved from Manly to Balmain to be closer to specialist healthcare and because Brown believed the inner west would offer Olivia a better sense of belonging.

Olivia also began an at-times frustrating journey through the medical system, which has been the subject of significant debate over what treatments should be made available to children and teens and when.

Olivia with her dog Serena.Credit:Louie Douvis

Community support

The Australian community overwhelmingly supports transgender people, according to a national survey of more than 1000 people commissioned by Equality Australia and conducted by YouGov.

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Only 3 per cent of Australians identify as transgender and fewer than one in 10 people say they know a transgender person well, the survey found. Yet 78 per cent of Australians – including 75 per cent of religious people – agreed that transgender people deserved the same rights and protections as other Australians.

Among those who know someone who is transgender, support rises to 93 per cent. Equality Australia chief executive Anna Brown (no relation to Lyndsay) says this does not surprise her.

“Another lesson from the marriage equality campaign was that you don’t vote or support a cause because of a ‘what’ – usually, it’s because of a ‘who’,” Anna Brown says. “It’s very much about your emotional connection with people you know and people you at least can relate to.”

Ryan Phillips, 41, a trans man and Equality Australia board member, says community attitudes have changed “a heck of a lot” since his childhood in regional Western Australia and since he transitioned in Melbourne in his late 20s.

Phillips says he has built new, more positive relationships with his family now but at the time, some of them found it very difficult.

“There was no awareness of it, and being trans was considered to be very shameful,” he says. “I know that there is now support available for families with trans young people and children – this should make it an easier path for families to tread.”

Health care hurdles

While Olivia enjoyed her family’s support, she faced struggles with health care and schooling.

An anonymous mother recently wrote a controversial opinion column for The Sun-Herald about her struggle to accept her child as a trans boy and her belief that some teenagers were expressing interest in transitioning because it had become “fashionable”.

Olivia finds that idea ludicrous, arguing there are no advantages to being trans and that health care treatment for trans children and teenagers was heavily dependent on their age. If anything she believes health professionals are too cautious because of their fear of being sued. “There should be more of an openness to actually believe people,” she says.

Olivia had to see a psychiatrist, psychologist and an endocrinologist (a specialist in hormones). With her parents’ permission, she was able to access puberty blockers at 13, delaying the onset of puberty and the development of male secondary sex characteristics.

The family had to fight to get Olivia access to hormone replacement therapy but about two years later she was put on oestrogen, and is really happy with its effects. Gender reassignment surgery is not available for minors but she plans to have it when she turns 18.

Olivia has enjoyed the full support of her family, but obtaining medical treatment was sometimes difficult.

Olivia has enjoyed the full support of her family, but obtaining medical treatment was sometimes difficult.Credit:Louie Douvis

Equality Australia found three out of four Australians believe that health services that treat and support transgender patients should be available for everyone who needs them. But only about half believe the cost should be covered by Medicare.

NSW Health said there were two public specialist services for transgender and gender diverse patients in NSW; one for children and adolescents at the Children’s Hospital Westmead and one at John Hunter Children’s Hospital in Newcastle, which also treats adults. Non-government organisations including ACON and The Gender Centre also provide information, resources and support for trans and gender diverse people.

Disrupted schooling

Meanwhile, Olivia was also facing problems at school. She moved schools four times during year 7 and 8 and she still has nightmares about changing schools.

Her first high school was a selective boys’ school – she knew she did not belong but was yet to come out. Next came a co-ed private Anglican school but once she came out as trans, the school made it clear they wanted her to leave, telling the family they did not have the “right” toilets and would feel obliged to write to all families and inform them a trans student was at the school, which could cause bullying.

Olivia says she has found a new normal in her life.

Olivia says she has found a new normal in her life. Credit: Louie Douvis

Olivia started year 8 at a co-ed public high school in the inner west where the staff were supportive but unable to stop awful bullying by boys. Later that year she finally landed at her current school, a co-ed secular private school with supportive teachers, where she has made good friends.

Olivia said it made a big difference that the school explicitly taught students about LGBTIQ+ issues and she would like to see that become more widespread.

Equality Australia found two out of three Australians believe that religious schools should not be able to fire a staff member or expel a student for being transgender. Women are more likely to believe this than men, at 71 per cent versus 60 per cent.

Even among those who identify as very or somewhat religious, 60 per cent believe religious schools should not be able to fire someone or expel a student for being transgender. For those who are not at all religious, this rose to 74 per cent.

Feminist debates

Some feminists – who call themselves “gender critical” and are labelled by others as “trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs)” – argue women and girls are discriminated against because of their biological sex rather than their gender identity and therefore need rights, protections and services – such as women’s refuges and group therapy for rape survivors – on this basis.

Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling sparked a furore last year when she argued along these lines.

They argue gender itself is not real but merely a “social construct” and criticise the trans movement for reinforcing gender conformity by supposedly promoting the idea that a boy who likes feminine things is really a girl, and vice versa.

Lyndsay Brown, Olivia’s mother, rejects these arguments as discriminatory and also overblown, given transgender people represent just 1-3 per cent of the population.

“I used to believe gender was a social construct but as I’ve grown older and especially with a trans daughter, I’ve come to see that it’s just really not that simple,” she says.

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Olivia’s view is that gender stereotypes come from wider society rather than transgender people and points out gender identity is not the same thing as gender expression. For example, her interests in carpentry and video games are stereotypically masculine and most of her friends are male.

“Ultimately, that doesn’t matter because that’s not what gender really is,” Olivia says. “I don’t have to do stereotypical feminine things to be a woman and the same goes for cis women as well.” (“Cis” describes the opposite of being trans, where your gender identity matches your biological sex or the gender assigned at birth).

Nor does she think surgery should be the deciding factor, such as the stance of McIver Ladies Baths in Coogee that only transgender women who have undergone surgery are allowed in. Olivia finds this “a sexist idea because it boils men and women down to their genitals”.

Lyndsay Brown says parents are sometimes worried that offering support or affirmation for a trans or gender-questioning child could reinforce a false belief. She believes the opposite is true – that giving a child a safe space to explore their gender identity will help them figure out the truth, as well as boost the child’s mental health and wellbeing.

Olivia says her family has been supportive in her journey.

Olivia says her family has been supportive in her journey. Credit:Louie Douvis

She also wants parents to know that there is a “new normal” waiting for them.

“When your child initially comes out, it feels so intense and so challenging but over time that passes and life becomes normal again in a different kind of way,” Lyndsay Brown says.

For Olivia, coming out was “removing the first barricade to helping myself become happier and get to a better place”.

One of her best moments recently was when her twin told her that it feels like she has always been his sister.

“I’m still the same person inside and my brother told me that he doesn’t see me as anything but the sister he loves now,” Olivia says.

“That was the best thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

QLife 1800 184 527 qlife.org.au; Lifeline 13 11 14 lifeline.org.au; Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800 kidshelpline.com.au

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MRI frequently underestimates the size of prostate tumors, finds study



Findings

A study led by researchers at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has found that magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, frequently underestimates the size of prostate tumors, potentially leading to undertreatment.

The study authors found that such underestimation occurs most often when the MRI-measured tumor size is small and the PI-RADS score, which is used to classify lesions in prostate MRI analysis, is low.

For prostate tumor treatments to be successful, both the MRI size measurement and PI-RADS score must be accurate because they allow physicians to determine precisely where tumors end and where the normal, healthy tissue surrounding them begins.

Background

MRI is frequently used to diagnose and manage prostate cancer. It is also increasingly used as a means to map and guide delivery of new, highly focused therapies that use freezing (cryotherapy), ultrasound (HIFU) and heat (laser ablation) to destroy cancerous tissue in the prostate gland while sparing healthy tissue.

Method

Researchers compared MRI-measured tumor size with actual tumor size after prostate removal in 441 men treated for prostate cancer.

Impact

Improving the ability to better predict ablation margins will allow for more successful treatments for men with prostate cancer and can help reduce the morbidity of prostate cancer treatment.

Source:

University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences

Journal reference:

Pooli, A., et al. (2021) Predicting Pathological Tumor Size in Prostate Cancer Based on Multiparametric Prostate Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Preoperative Findings. Journal of Urology. doi.org/10.1097/JU.0000000000001389.

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Earth to reach temperature tipping point in next 20 to 30 years, new study finds — ScienceDaily


Earth’s ability to absorb nearly a third of human-caused carbon emissions through plants could be halved within the next two decades at the current rate of warming, according to a new study in Science Advances by researchers at Northern Arizona University, the Woodwell Climate Research Center and the University of Waikato, New Zealand. Using more than two decades of data from measurement towers in every major biome across the globe, the team identified a critical temperature tipping point beyond which plants’ ability to capture and store atmospheric carbon — a cumulative effect referred to as the “land carbon sink” — decreases as temperatures continue to rise.

The terrestrial biosphere — the activity of land plants and soil microbes — does much of Earth’s “breathing,” exchanging carbon dioxide and oxygen. Ecosystems across the globe pull in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and release it back to the atmosphere via the respiration of microbes and plants. Over the past few decades, the biosphere has generally taken in more carbon than it has released, mitigating climate change.

But as record-breaking temperatures continue to spread across the globe, this may not continue; the NAU, Woodwell Climate and Waikato researchers have detected a temperature threshold beyond which plant carbon uptake slows and carbon release accelerates.

Lead author Katharyn Duffy, a postdoctoral researcher at NAU, noticed sharp declines in photosynthesis above this temperature threshold in nearly every biome across the globe, even after removing other effects such as water and sunlight.

“The Earth has a steadily growing fever, and much like the human body, we know every biological process has a range of temperatures at which it performs optimally, and ones above which function deteriorates,” Duffy said. “So, we wanted to ask, how much can plants withstand?”

This study is the first to detect a temperature threshold for photosynthesis from observational data at a global scale. While temperature thresholds for photosynthesis and respiration have been studied in the lab, the Fluxnet data provide a window into what ecosystems across Earth are actually experiencing and how they are responding.

“We know that the temperature optima for humans lie around 37 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit), but we in the scientific community didn’t know what those optima were for the terrestrial biosphere,” Duffy said.

She teamed up with researchers at Woodwell Climate and the University of Waikato who recently developed a new approach to answer that question: MacroMolecular Rate Theory (MMRT). With its basis in the principles of thermodynamics, MMRT allowed the researchers to generate temperature curves for every major biome and the globe.

The results were alarming.

The researchers found that temperature “peaks” for carbon uptake — 18 degrees C for the more widespread C3 plants and 28 degrees C for C4 plants — are already being exceeded in nature, but saw no temperature check on respiration. This means that in many biomes, continued warming will cause photosynthesis to decline while respiration rates rise exponentially, tipping the balance of ecosystems from carbon sink to carbon source and accelerating climate change.

“Different types of plants vary in the details of their temperature responses, but all show declines in photosynthesis when it gets too warm,” said NAU co-author George Koch.

Right now, less than 10 percent of the terrestrial biosphere experiences temperatures beyond this photosynthetic maximum. But at the current rate of emissions, up to half the terrestrial biosphere could experience temperatures beyond that productivity threshold by mid-century — and some of the most carbon-rich biomes in the world, including tropical rainforests in the Amazon and Southeast Asia and the Taiga in Russia and Canada, will be among the first to hit that tipping point.

“The most striking thing our analysis showed is that the temperature optima for photosynthesis in all ecosystems were so low,” said Vic Arcus, a biologist at the University of Waikato and co-author of the study. “Combined with the increased rate of ecosystem respiration across the temperatures we observed, our findings suggest that any temperature increase above 18 degrees C is potentially detrimental to the terrestrial carbon sink. Without curbing warming to remain at or below the levels established in the Paris Climate Accord, the land carbon sink will not continue to offset our emissions and buy us time.”

Funding for this research was provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (grant NNX12AK12G), National Science Foundation (NSF) East-Asia Pacific Summer Institute Fellowship (1614404), the Royal Society of New Zealand Foreign Partnership Programme (EAP- UOW1601) and the New Zealand Marsden Fund (grant 16-UOW-027). This work used eddy covariance data acquired and shared by the FLUXNET community, including AmeriFlux, AfriFlux, AsiaFlux, CarboAfrica, CarboEuropeIP, CarboItaly, CarboMont, ChinaFlux, Fluxnet-Canada, GreenGrass, ICOS, KoFlux, LBA, NECC, OzFlux-TERN, TCOS-Siberia and USCCC networks.

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NSW Government supports more culls after survey finds 14,000 wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park


The first aerial survey since the catastrophic 2019 bushfires has found that the number of wild horses in the Kosciuszko National Park has fallen by more than a quarter. 

The survey found there are now an estimated 14,000 horses — 5,000 fewer than the previous year.

The NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said while there had been some reduction in numbers, the population remained too large to be environmentally sustainable.

“We will always have wild horses in Kosciuszko but 14,000 is still too many,” he said.

“If we want to preserve this precious place and the plants and animals that call it home, we need to manage horse numbers responsibly.”

Surveys conducted between 2014 and 2019 showed that the horse population was increasing by more than 20 per cent each year.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has long voiced concerned that the damage caused by the horses’ hooves threatens sensitive alpine ecosystems and destroys key habitat for several threatened native species.

The latest survey was commissioned by the NSW Government and carried out by helicopter surveillance over four days in October and November 2020.

Mr Kean welcomed the new data, which he said reinforced the need to manage the wild horse population.

“We can now be confident that we have the most up-to-date data as we get the balance right, protecting the Snowies and retaining the heritage value of these wild horses.”

He said several factors had contributed to the fall in numbers, including the drought, the bushfires and the fact that the 2019 survey covered the entire NSW and Victorian Alps region while this survey only looked at wild horses within Kosciuszko National Park.

Mr Kean said that more than 340 horses were removed from the park in 2020 by passive trapping and re-homing.

He said this interim program would continue, pending the finalisation of a new management plan.

The wild horses have been competing with the native wildlife for food after the fires.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Deputy Premier John Barilaro, whose Monaro electorate covers part of the Kosciuszko National Park, had campaigned for a new survey, saying he believed the summer bushfires had significantly reduced the brumby population.

“The results of this survey show we were justified in our push for an urgent recount of the wild horses in the park,” Mr Barilaro said.

While he has previously opposed a cull of wild horses, he said he was now ready to support a plan to reduce numbers.

“I accept that the figure of just over 14,000 wild horses in the park is still too high and that active management of their impact on the park’s alpine environment must continue,” he said.

Jamie Pittock from the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University said the survey demonstrated that there has been no real change in the number of wild horses.

“The numbers in the 2020 survey, scientifically they are not statistically significantly different from the 2019 pre-fire survey,” he said.

“It’s really hard to count any large animals in a large area of bushland so statistically the numbers fall within the error range of the surveys of 2019 and 2020.”

He said the only significant change was that no horse population was found around Cabramurra, which was severely burnt in the bushfires.

Whereas, there was no reduction in numbers in the northern part of the National Park.

“In that area, the density of horses has not changed and that’s really significant because of the key habitat for threatened animals impacted by horses is in that area,” Dr Pittock said.

Calls for more aerial culling

The National Parks Association said horse numbers must be urgently controlled as alpine habitats are incredibly rare in Australia.

“All of the science says the number of horses that should be in the park is a number in the hundreds not a number in the thousands,” executive officer Gary Dunnett said.

There is a whole range of plants and animal species that cannot survive anywhere else than in those Alpine habitats, such as the stocky Galaxias, the Corrobboree Frog and the Mountain Pygmy Possum.

A creek with erosion on either side
Horse-induced erosion on Little Peppercorn Creek in Kosciuszko national park.(Supplied: NSW Government)

Mr Dunnett also does not think that rehoming the horses is the answer.

“It is really stretching credibility to think that there are enough people out there to take these animals and to make a real difference to the high level of horse numbers we have at the moment.

“There are a whole range of techniques that could reduce numbers, aerially culling is a well established technique for controlling animal numbers from an animal welfare and human safety aspect, corralling horses is also effective and so is ground shooting.”

He said when horse counting began in the early 2000s there was estimated to be about 2,000 brumbies in the national park.

The Government said the results of the survey would be used to draw up a new draft wild horse management plan, setting out how it intended to reduce the horse population to a sustainable level.

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Study finds AFL players with concussion likely returning to play with damaged brain cells


A five-year study has found AFL players are likely returning to play from concussion with high levels of damaged brain cells, putting them at risk of long-term harm, even though they might feel fine.

The Monash University study of concussed Aussie Rules players found on average they showed no ill symptoms after a week.

However, analysis of their blood showed their brains had released elevated levels of the protein Neurofilament light (NfL), which is evidence of damaged brain cells.

Even more worrying was that the levels of NfL had doubled a week after the concussion and tripled after two weeks, all while players’ symptoms had subsided.

Study author Stuart McDonald warned players were at risk when they played again in that state.

Jack Frost continues to suffer ongoing effects from the concussions he received while playing in the AFL.(AAP: David Crosling)

Former Collingwood and Brisbane player Jack Frost suffered 14 concussions in his AFL career and is painfully aware of the impacts, he suffers from memory loss and has forgotten key moments in his life.

“My partner asked me a while ago, ‘Can you remember our first date?’ and I just couldn’t recollect it,” Frost said.

The 28-year-old is sensitive to noise, finds cafes problematic, has mood swings and can’t handle any physical activity more strenuous than a light walk.

“I struggle to go to sleep, stay asleep, I wake up all the time so therefore in the mornings I wake up and feel super lethargic.”

A group of young mean on a football team wearing black and purple uniforms.
Between 100 and 200 Melbourne University Blacks footballers took part in the concussion study each year.(Supplied: Tony Evans)

Frost welcomed the findings of the study and said he wished he had access to the information during his 56-game career.

“It doesn’t surprise me one bit and I’ve sort of always thought it doesn’t matter how bad your head knock is, you should at least give four weeks rest because it’s just not worth it in the end,” he said.

New test could aid safer return to play

The Monash study, published in the journal Biomarker Research, carried out baseline blood testing on between 100 and 200 Melbourne University Blacks players in pre-season each year from 2017 to 2019.

The researchers then followed up with further blood tests and MRI scans for the 28 that suffered a concussion.

It found on average NfL levels were double the player’s baseline figures after one week. After a fortnight, they had increased three-fold. Players were not tested after that time.

Dr McDonald said Monash research into other sports showed elevated levels of NfL are still prevalent one month after a concussion.

“Repeated concussions can have cumulative effects and these can result in worsened and potentially long term outcomes for players who sustain repeated concussions.”

A man in a laboratory wearing blue medical scrubs.
Monash University researcher Dr Stuart McDonald says concussed players could be tested for the NfL protein.(Supplied)

In the AFL, players who have suffered a concussion generally return to play one to two weeks after the incident.

The presence of NfL has raised concerns players are returning to play too quickly, but researchers also believe it can provide a breakthrough.

“This protein in the blood (NfL) may be able to actually indicate when the brain has recovered and therefore may be used as an objective tool to guide when it is safe to return to play.”

‘I think that it needs to be taken out of even the AFL’s hands’

Three images of a brain scanned by an MRI.
Advanced brain imaging of the concussed players supported the findings that came from their blood tests.(Supplied.)

After spending six years in the AFL system, Jack Frost believes decisions about whether a player is fit to return to play after a concussion shouldn’t rest with the player, the club or even the AFL.

“I think that it needs to be taken out of even the AFL’s hands. It needs to be passed on to some sort of governing body that has specialists and can treat everyone with the same tests, make them run through the same tests and make sure that they actually are OK,” he said.

“If you do that it gets rid of so much grey area from the club’s perspective, from a player’s perspective, from peer pressure, from family pressure and there’s no excuses then and there’s no hiding from it, there’s no fluffing of results.

“I think the measures that are in place to treat and manage concussion [in the AFL] aren’t where they need to be.

“They need to treat it as someone’s life, not just another injury.”



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Mum finds daughter, 9, collapsed after stranger offered her a ‘red pill’


Anja experienced every mother’s worst nightmare when she found her little girl collapsed in the hallway, after a stranger forced her to eat a “red pill”.

A girl fainted after being forced to eat a “red tablet” as an evil stranger threatened to harm her mum, according to reports.

Nine-year-old Melina, of Aschersleben, Germany, said the suspect approached her from behind as she was building a snowman in her front garden on Monday afternoon, according to reports by The Sun.

Cops said the stranger had forced Melina to eat the pill by threatening her mum if she refused.

The nine-year-old pretended to chew the tablet, which looked like a sugary sweet, but immediately fell ill, according to reports.

“I went to the bush, spat it out. Then I got a little dizzy,” she told RTL.

Melina collapsed in the hallway as she entered her parents house.

Her mum Anja found the girl lying next to a pool of vomit, according to local media reports.

Melina was very pale and her mum couldn’t pick her up so a doctor was called and the nine-year-old was rushed to hospital.

Melina started to feel better during the journey but tests were carried out at the hospital to try and identify what the substance was.

Relieved mum Anja is thankful that Melina spat out the tablet as she feared for her daughter’s life.

“She took this tablet because she was afraid for me,” Anja said.

Forensic experts are working at the scene to try and identify the suspect.

Cops are working with the nine-year-old to try and create an image of the suspect which will be shared with residents in the town.

A police spokesperson said: “The fainting could be a symptom of poisoning. The results of the investigations are still pending. The traces secured at the crime scene are currently being evaluated.”

Cops are investigating suspicions of coercion and serious bodily harm.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission

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ACCC finds northern Australian insurance costs soaring, recommends industry regulation


Like many northern Australians, Sue Shearer has watched the cost of her home and contents insurance soar with dismay.

“It just keeps going up and up. It’s exorbitant actually,” she said.

Yearly building insurance price hikes have also pushed up her body corporate fees, in a unit complex where many of the residents are pensioners or self-funded retirees.

Ms Shearer — who is the CEO of the Council on the Ageing NT — also regularly fields calls from seniors saying rising premiums are forcing them to make distressing decisions.

“It really is causing havoc,” she said.

“It really is a big decision whether to insure your home or keep your health insurance.

“We have been lucky with cyclones for a number of years, but we will get one and then those people with no insurance will be homeless, so it’s time to look at measures now to ensure people can insure their home.”

Darwin resident Jodie Went is one of those who has had to go without insurance and, living in a cyclone-prone area, that makes her worry.

“I don’t have insurance at all because I can’t afford it, and being a low-income earner, everything I own means something to me,” she said.

Darwin resident Jodie Went doesn’t have insurance because she can’t afford it.(ABC News: Jane Bardon)

Some Australians pay double — but it isn’t price gouging

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found the rising cost of insurance is forcing 20 per cent of people in Northern Australia to live without it — compared to 11 per cent in the rest of the country.

The rate of non-insurance is highest in northern WA at 40 per cent, followed by 26 per cent in the NT and 17 per cent in Queensland.

The commission’s three-year Northern Australian Insurance Inquiry, published last week, also found:

  • Since 2011, non-insurance rates have increased in Northern Australia by between 7 and 9 per cent — and that figure could rise as climate change causes more severe weather events
  • Northern Australians are being slugged almost double for home and contents insurance (an average premium of $2,500 in 2019) compared to the rest of Australia ($1,400)
  • Over the last decade, average home insurance premiums in Northern Australia rose by 178 per cent compared to 52 per cent elsewhere

But ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said the inquiry also found the price rises were due to industry losses rather than price gouging.

A car crushed by a tree in Darwin's CBD.
The ACCC warns non-insurance could rise if severe weather events become more common.(ABC News: Terry McDonald)

“Over the last 12 years, insurers have lost over $850 million providing house and contents insurance in northern Australia,” she said.

The ACCC is now calling for a lot more pricing and product transparency to allow customers to compare like with like.

Moves to demystify the insurance industry

It has recommended the Federal Government legislate industry changes including mandating standard cover, providing simple key fact sheets, and standardising the descriptions of what is and is not covered.

“We want to make it easier for people to shop around,” Ms Rickard said.

“For example, in Townsville when comparing prices offered by two different insurers, we found a $2,000 difference in the quotes.”

The ACCC also recommended the Federal Government establish a price comparison website that includes every insurer.

Ms Rickard expected the recommendation to prompt “a lot of resistance” from the industry.

“But that, if it’s done well, will make a real difference in terms of finding the best deal in your area,” she said.

Calls to abolish stamp duty

State governments have long resisted another of the ACCC’s key recommendations: abolishing stamp duty on home insurance.

The inquiry found that in 2019, Northern Australians paid $5.5 million in insurance stamp duty to WA, $9 million to the NT and $65 million to Queensland.

“Stamp duty adds 9 to 10 per cent to the cost of a policy in northern Australia,” Ms Rickard said.

“If governments don’t accept that recommendation, we’re recommending stamp duty be based on the value of the property insured — rather than on the value of the premium — so you’re not penalised because you’re in a high-risk area.”

The ACCC also wants some stamp duty earnings to be spent on subsidies for people struggling to afford insurance.

Ms Shearer is urging state and territory governments to implement the stronger recommendation and abolish stamp duty.

Sue Shearer stands in the living room of her Darwin home.
Sue Shearer says elderly Territorians are making tough decisions about their insurance.(ABC News: Jane Bardon)

“If you’re on a pension — $900 a fortnight — and you’re in a $500,000 house, the stamp duty on your home insurance can be $200 to $400 a year,” she said.

“That’s a holiday, or petrol in your car.

“People try and budget, but every year all these unforeseen costs just go up and up.”

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Casual and part-time jobs at record levels after Australia’s Covid recession, analysis finds | Australian economy


Australia has experienced the biggest expansion of casual employment in the country’s history, according to new analysis that suggests the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been “starkly unequal”.

And the Australia Institute, which carried out the analysis, has argued the government’s planned industrial relations changes will only “reinforce the growing dominance of insecure work in the labour market”.

On Wednesday the progressive thinktank also released the results of new polling suggesting “unprecedented” was the single most popular choice among surveyed Australians for a word to describe 2020.

A third of those surveyed in the nationally representative sample of 1,018 Australians on 17 and 18 December nominated working from home as a change they wanted to keep next year.

The analysis by the institute’s Centre for Future Work says the labour market experienced unprecedented volatility in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and Australia’s first recession in nearly three decades.

The early months of the pandemic “highlighted stark fissures in Australia’s labour market”, with casual workers losing employment eight times faster than those in permanent jobs.

The report points to an “encouraging” rebound in employment after May – replacing over 80% of the jobs lost in the initial downturn – but it says this turnaround has been dominated by insecure positions.

It says casual jobs accounted for 60% of all waged jobs created since May, while part-time work accounted for nearly three-quarters of all new jobs.

Meanwhile “very insecure positions” – including in the gig economy – were responsible for the rebound in self-employment.

“Casual employment grew by over 400,000 positions between May and November – an average of 2,200 new casual jobs per day,” the report says.

“That is by far the biggest expansion of casual employment in Australia’s history. Claims that new hiring is being held back by legal ‘uncertainty’ related to recent casual work court decisions are not credible.”

The report also notes young people “suffered much worse job losses in the initial months of the pandemic”.

While pre-pandemic employment levels have recovered for workers over 35, younger workers are still suffering significant job losses – a phenomenon that explains why the government introduced a new youth wage subsidy in the October budget.

The report says women suffered disproportionate job losses when the pandemic arrived, and that gender gap had yet to be closed.

“Women’s employment, unemployment, underemployment and participation all remain significantly weaker than for men.”

Another fault line during the pandemic was whether people worked in offices. Professional, managerial and clerical staff were largely able to switch to working from home and suffered lower levels of job losses.

According to the Centre for Future Work, employment remains lower than before the pandemic in some other occupations, including community and personal services, sales workers and labourers.

“These uneven occupational effects have exacerbated inequality: those who lost work, on average, earned less and experienced greater job insecurity before the pandemic,” it says.

“Some industries are still experiencing lower employment than before the pandemic hit, including hospitality, information and communications, and arts and recreation.

“Job losses in manufacturing continue to worsen, despite the recovery in the rest of the economy after May – belying the government’s pledge to strengthen domestic manufacturing after the pandemic.”

The government introduced an industrial relations bill to parliament just before the Christmas break that would, among other things, create a right for casual employees to request to become permanent after 12 months.

But the bill states that if a casual employee is misclassified and a court finds they are owed entitlements because they perform regular, permanent work, the casual loading already paid is subtracted from the employer’s liability. This retrospective change could wipe out claims worth up to $39bn.

The Centre for Future Work says the government’s bill would liberalise casual work and allow permanent part-time workers to be treated like casuals.

“These measures will accelerate the surge of insecure work – and ensure that the next economic shock will have even more unequal effects than this one did,” the report says.

The separate polling commissioned by the Australia Institute provides an insight into people’s perceptions of 2020.

The 1,018 respondents were presented with 11 words or phrases and asked which best described the year just gone. The most popular choice (19%) was “unprecedented”, followed by “terrible” (14%), “tragic” (12%) and “exhausting” (12%).

The respondents were also presented with a range of option of changes that they would keep from 2020 if possible.

The most popular choices included less work travel (35%), increased funding for mental health and family violence services (33%) and working from home arrangements (32%).

The executive director of the Australia Institute, Ben Oquist, said: “Tellingly, last on Australians’ wish-list for the new year is the government’s much-vaunted ‘gas-led recovery’ which only 6% of Australians selected as something they’d like to keep from 2020.”



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