The people NSW five-eighth Luke Keary trusts about concussion


As a Luke Keary fan I’m less concerned about the colour of jersey than his long-term health given his history of head knocks, his pocket-sized frame and the uncompromising way he plays.

He has flourished since joining the Roosters from South Sydney, with whom he won a premiership in 2014, but former Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire instilled in him something invaluable: toughness.

“Luke doesn’t manage the way he goes into contact, he doesn’t let his size influence the way he plays,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson says. “He runs into holes, he takes on the line. He has ‘Madge’ to thank for that.”

In other words, Keary doesn’t hide. Which also makes him perfect for the scorching furnace of Origin, does it not?

The problem with that is the series of concussions that robbed him of his debut last year when he suffered a head knock — his fifth in 18 months — while playing against the Knights just days before selection.

This season, broken ribs troubled him more than his brain as the Roosters fell just short of a third consecutive premiership.

“All I wanted to do was lay down for a couple of weeks when the season was over,” Keary says of the toll on his body and mind.

Some within the Blues set-up wondered if Souths five-eighth Cody Walker might have been a better option given his form and freshness.

Brad Fittler is a huge of Luke Keary’s composure.Credit:Getty

“The way Cody was playing, you couldn’t look away,” Fittler says. “But I never worried about Luke’s concussions because I trust the Roosters medical staff, some of whom are also on our Blues staff.”

This is the part of the interview when things get tense. The Roosters are tired of hearing they have been negligent in handling concussions suffered by Keary, Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend.

Keary himself bristles at the suggestion.

His concussion history has been discussed at length at board level while others at the club tell you he’s researched his own condition like he’s studying the opposition in grand final week.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of different people about my situation — because I’ve had to,” he says firmly. “I feel like I have a fair bit of knowledge about it. I know what’s going on. I know the people who are talking to me and looking after me and giving me advice. They’re all smart people in their field and I trust their opinion. They wouldn’t let me play if I was putting myself at risk.

“They’re all I’ve got. I’ve talked to these people over many years now. I can’t go with my own opinion. The club and coach don’t really have a say in it anyway. It’s the NRL that makes the call. Which is a good thing.”

Keary is also no fool. Sadly, it’s not hard to find a punch-drunk former player and he knows that’s not the life he wants for him and his young family.

“The experts I’m talking about have told me that if they think it’s affecting me, that’s the day I will have to seriously think about my future,” he says. “Because it would be a shit way to live.”

Origin has come late for Keary: he makes his debut at the age of 28. That makes him the 15th-oldest NSW player — and the 30th overall — to make his debut out of 489 players since 1980.

Luke Keary with Cooper Cronk after winning the 2019 Grand Final with the Roosters.

Luke Keary with Cooper Cronk after winning the 2019 Grand Final with the Roosters. Credit:Getty

For a player who has received the rare feat of winning three premierships at two clubs, won the Clive Churchill Medal and played for his country, it’s overdue.

Fittler in his first series as coach opted for James Maloney as five-eighth of the 2018 series, but still went out of his way to phone Keary to explain.

That’s telling respect for a player who hadn’t played Origin before.

“He is always in winning teams,” Fittler says. “After a while, you realise it’s not a coincidence. Very cool character.”

Keary brings a calmness to every team for which he plays. It would surprise if he blinked beneath the bright lights of Adelaide Oval.

“It’s all well and good to play in these jerseys but it’s what you do in them that defines you,” Keary says.

He’s flagged a different role for NSW to the one assumed at the Roosters this year. In the face of a crippling injury toll, and alongside halfback Kyle Flanagan, he became the dominant force out of necessity.

It was interesting to hear him say he’ll take a back seat to Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary in Origin I.

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“That’s Luke,” Robinson says. “He’s telling Nathan to play a traditional halfback’s game. To go out and own it.”

And who knows? Together they can make their own Origin moments to inspire a whole generation of young kids throughout NSW and maybe beyond.

Does anything stand out for Keary from those Wednesday nights huddled around the TV in Ipswich, behind enemy lines and deep in Maroons territory while watching Origins of the past?

“Maybe Fletch’s hand grenade,” he laughs, referring to the infamous post-try celebration from NSW backrower Bryan Fletcher which still irritates Queenslanders.

Forget the eligibility rules. That sounds like a Blues player to me.

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Data trusts could secure our right to privacy


Data trusts could help to restore the balance between privacy and effective governance, writes Paul Budde.

I RECENTLY followed a webinar session organised by the University of Queensland on the factory of the future. Smart or not, the future will still need factories to make the stuff we humans use every day. One of the questions that were discussed included: “how will existing production models cope with the staggering and ongoing rate of digital disruption and advanced capabilities?”

Very rapidly, the discussion went into the necessity of good quality data to quickly react to the transformative changes needed in this the case regarding manufacturing. COVID-19 was mentioned as perhaps one of the most disruptive events ever happening in our lifetime. The term “pivoting” was used here.

What this means is the companies will have to be able to rapidly react to changes and pivot their organisations to new opportunities and to address the challenges they face. Modern robots and AI software provide the technologies that can make this happen. But that depends on access to good quality data.

Two weeks ago, I wrote of the enormous changes in telehealth, expressing the hope that the Government will use its leadership to build on the enormous success of these services during the pandemic. They will only be able to do this if they gather, analyse and use the right data. But as we see with the COVID-19 app, people are very wary of providing their data, out of a fear that the government might misuse it. 

We are increasingly facing a key problem for the transformations that our economies and societies need and the use of data is critical in these processes. People have increasingly become more sceptical of what the industry calls “big data”. We see both governments and the digital companies creating a surveillance state and people are resisting this.

At the same time, we see the massive increase in cyber warfare where foreign agents and criminals are providing fake or wrong data to influence politics, business and society with the aim to disrupt, create fear, uncertainty and doubt.

These bodies do get what they want as governments now go overboard with putting restrictions on the free flow of information that is needed to support a values-based, democratic society.

Data is caught in the middle of this. It has become the critical conduit to run our economies and societies, it is taking on the same role as oil and electricity, it is rapidly becoming a national utility.

The digital and sharing economy is unstoppable

To allow data to take up that role we do need to radically change the way data is gathered, analysed and used. This has led to the development of the concept of data trusts. This takes the concept of a legal trust and applies it to data.

As in a normal trust, the data trust holds something and the trustee makes decisions about its use. It is a legal structure that provides independent stewardship of data for the benefit of people, both in a social and in an economic sense. Data trusts are specifically very useful when sensitive data is involved.

It is important to see the incredibly fast-moving digital revolution that is unfolding before our eyes, not as a technology event but as an event in our human evolution. So, we do need both STEM and humanities involved in this process.

Ethics is increasingly becoming more and more important to guide the human face of this. For that reason, it is sad that the government has downgraded the role of humanities studies in our university system. Data trusts need to be seen in that context.

In the case for example of Covid-19, we could develop “data trusts for good”. This could be the most effective way to overcome the lack of sufficient data to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, without creating a surveillance state in the process.

TikTok furore exposes data privacy hypocrisy in Australia and the U.S.

Data trusts can inform COVID-19 recovery activities of all types and be used to train AI and algorithms in a way that ensures proprietary and personal data is protected and deleted after a certain point.

The Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center is one of the leading organisations working on policies and strategies aimed at balancing data privacy against utility within the bounds of the social contracts of liberal democracies. They acknowledge a need to establish a public trust that assists nations recovering from the pandemic.

They see COVID-19 as a key opportunity to launch such a concept. Developing a data trust that will assist nations recovering from the pandemic. If this framework could legislate accountability, be designed for privacy, and operate with transparency, it could provide the solutions needed to arrive at a “new normal”.

The concept of data trusts would also be ideal for smart cities. Cities are facing the same issues with their data collection and an independent data trust, overseen by parties that include citizen representation, could greatly address the reluctance of people providing personal data for the common good.

Once we have some of these data trusts up and running we can learn from them and if successful we can use them to build up trust again with those government and commercial organisations who will put their data in such a trust.

As we are facing increasingly more complex problems there is no question about the fact that we need data, AI, machine learning and algorithms as tools to manage our cities, companies, countries and indeed our world. Rather than procrastinating and resisting the economic and social transformations that are needed, governments should take a leadership role and start working on solutions.

Paul Budde is an Independent Australia columnist and managing director of Paul Budde Consulting, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde.

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Community land trusts could help heal segregated cities



Some cities’ work can be symbolically important, such as removing public monuments that honor oppression. But as professors of urban sustainability and community development at Arizona State University, we see that cities can do much more to address inequality, starting with an area that was key to past discrimination: how land is used.

Zoning rules, including requirements that prohibit duplexes or anything other than single-family homes on residential lots, have helped maintain class and racial segregation. Lending practices such as redlining that discriminate mostly against people of color in specific urban neighborhoods have entrenched poverty and inequality in U.S. cities.

One result is that the average Black family with children in the U.S. has just one cent of wealth for every dollar held by the average white family with children.

Some calls to resolve these inequalities have raised an idea with century-old roots: community land trusts to assemble land for the benefit of Black Americans.

Cities consider compensation

Some cities are already looking at ways to promote racial equality. In July, the Asheville, North Carolina, city council unanimously passed a resolution directing the city manager “to boost economic mobility and opportunity in the Black community.”

Also in July, the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, issued an executive order “committing the City to a process of truth, reconciliation and municipal reparations for Black, Indigenous (Indian) People, and People of Color in Providence.”

To carry out these lofty goals, they could take a page from history.

A new kind of land ownership

In the 1960s, civil rights organizers recognized that denying property rights was a key method of reinforcing white supremacy in the U.S., blocking people from putting down roots in a community, limiting their political power as well as wealth.

They devised a system called a “community land trust” as a way for African American farmers to work rural land for their own benefit. This was in stark contrast to the sharecropping system prevalent after the Civil War, where Black families would rent small plots of land, or shares, to work themselves and in return give a portion of their crop to the landowner at the end of the year.

The first community land trust in rural Georgia in 1970 was established on land purchased by a small group of individuals with some federal grant assistance and became the largest single piece of land in the country owned by African Americans, who got to keep all the proceeds from their labor. Although the trust, New Communities Inc., was beset by drought and discrimination from the start and was forced to close by the late 1980s, it helped inspire people to create similar organizations across the country.

Community land trusts today are more often focused on housing. They are community-run, nonprofit landholding organizations that aim to help low-income buyers obtain homes. Trust land can be purchased or donated. The model allows community ownership of the land with individual ownership of houses.

With this model, a buyer can get into a home for less money than elsewhere in the local market, because they aren’t paying for the land—just the building. This makes homes more affordable, especially for low-income families who often can get down-payment assistance and low-interest mortgages from the trust as well.

The residents, who become members of the trust, elect board members to govern the organization and guide its development and investments to meet community needs and priorities.

Community land trusts are a form of permanently affordable housing based on shared equity. The trust retains ownership of the land and maintains it for the benefit of homeowners present and future and the community as a whole. The homeowner leases the land but owns the building and pays for improvements.

The land lease sets out terms for any future sale of the property, letting the homeowner build equity through appreciation in value while ensuring the home remains affordable for future limited-income buyers. This sort of shared-equity model may not appeal to people who can afford open-market housing. But for those otherwise priced out of the housing market, it is an opportunity to build equity and wealth and establish credit and financial stability.

These trusts also serve renters by providing long-term leases with limits on rent prices, as well as by investing in housing in communities where others won’t. They also can give a more formal voice to tenants, who otherwise are often ignored by local officials.

There are now between 225 and 280 community land trusts in the U.S., which together have around 15,000 homeownership units and 20,000 rental units.

To encourage more of this type of development, New York City passed a bill in 2017 exempting community land trusts from certain taxes. Houston in 2019 announced a plan to use a community land trust to develop 1,000 affordable units.





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Values diverge for Australia’s property trusts


After a recent rally which followed shopping centre malls reopening and strong sales as shoppers flocked back, retail trusts have faded again on the ASX.

Preliminary valuations for one of the country’s largest retail landlords Vicinity Centres indicate a hit to book values of between 11 to 13 per cent, or $1.8 billion to $2.1 billion.

COVID-19 just accelerates the structural de-rating of malls and rents to more sustainable levels.

Jefferies head of real estate, Sholto Maconochie

Vicinity chief executive Grant Kelley reacted to the uncertainty earlier this month by taking “decisive action,” launching a $1.4 billion capital raising to preserve the group’s balance sheet.

By contrast Dexus’ concentration on office and industrial property has shielded it from the worst effects.

On Wednesday it reported an estimated fall of 1.2 per cent or $195 million in the book values of its 118 assets. In the six months to December last year, values in its portfolio rose $656 million.

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“Our high-quality property portfolios were in a strong position as we entered into a period of uncertainty driven by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” chief executive Darren Steinberg said.

While the outlook remains uncertain, Mr Steinberg expects office and industrial values to “remain resilient with pricing supported by an attractive yield spread over bonds and [the] lower for longer interest rate environment, with some impact from a softer outlook for rental growth, downtime and incentives.”

While retail REITs face 18 months of weak demand from the disruption, property values would need to fall 34 per cent to breach the top end of rated REITs debt to asset ranges and fall a whopping 55 per cent to breach covenant thresholds, Moody’s Investors Service says.

“Without debt reduction, Scentre Group’s gearing will breach its rating tolerance levels if property values fall more than 27 per cent. But Scentre’s gearing will remain well within its covenant thresholds,” it said.

Moody’s expects office property values to decline only moderately over the next 18 months and does not see significant risks to their debt levels.

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Unlike retail and office, industrial asset values will be flat to up slightly over the same period as the pandemic accelerates e-commerce penetration and focuses the attention of businesses on their supply chains.

Goodman Group and Charter Hall are both benefiting from the shift.

“COVID-19 just accelerates the structural de-rating of malls and rents to more sustainable levels and we expect industrial to be a net beneficiary from increased online sales penetration,” Mr Maconochie said.

Prime office towers are also likely to prove more resilient with tenants staying put and new social distancing norms making firms more reluctant to give back space or put it on the sub-lease market, he said.

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‘NHS trusts were not consulted’ on Government face mask plan



A group of leading medics and scientists has called on the Government to hold an urgent inquiry to prepare Britain for a potential second wave of coronavirus in winter.

In a letter to The Guardian, 27 medical and scientific experts have warned that many more Britons may die if a second wave hits at the end of the year and the Government is without “quick, practical solutions to some of the structural problems that have made implementing an effective [coronavirus] response so difficult”.

Signatories to the letter say issues such as “the fragmentation … of the NHS, public health and social care … the channels by which scientific evidence feeds into policy and an inability to plan for necessary goods and services” threaten to undermine the Government’s response to a potential future spike.

They write: “Despite strenuous efforts by health professionals and scientists inside and outside government, the UK has experienced one of the highest death rates from Covid-19 in the world, with the poor and certain minority ethnic groups affected especially badly.

“If, as seems probable, there is a second wave this winter, many more will die unless we find quick, practical solutions to some of (these) structural problems,” adds the letter signed by former World Health Organisation director Professor Anthony Costello and former Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) member Professor Deenan Pillay,

“We call on all political parties to commit to a rapid, transparent, expert inquiry to address these issues. This must avoid diverting the efforts of those responding to the crisis or apportioning blame, but should propose feasible ways to overcome the obstacles faced by those on the frontline of the response and help them to save lives.”





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