ALP slams bushfire buyback exclusions

Jacinta Allan.THE state government’s bushfire land buyback scheme has been criticised for being ”too narrow” because it does not apply to some high-fire-risk areas such as Cockatoo and the Otways that were not hit by bushfires in 2009.
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More than 500 properties destroyed by the 2009 fires are expected to be eligible for the voluntary scheme, for which the government has made available $50 million.

But Labor frontbencher Jacinta Allan slammed the program, saying it exposed as ”a sham” the government’s commitment to implement all 67 recommendations from the Bushfires Royal Commission.

”This Baillieu government scheme is for people affected by the 2009 bushfires only,” she said. ”It has no regard for people who live in high-fire-risk areas in other parts of Victoria and the [ commission] recommendation was to implement this policy in high-fire-risk areas.”

The buyback plan excludes high-fire-risk areas such as Cockatoo, Mount Macedon, and the Otways, devastated in previous bushfires, she said.

Ms Allan said the scheme did not give any detail on what would happen to land acquired under the buyback. ”Who will manage it to keep the fire risk down? If DSE [Department of Sustainability and Environment] is to be responsible, what additional resources will they be given and when?”

Recommendation 46 of the Bushfires Royal Commission final report urged the state to ”implement a retreat and resettlement strategy for existing developments in areas of unacceptably high bushfire risk, including a scheme for non-compulsory acquisition by the state of land in these areas”.

In a discussion of ”high-risk areas” attached to the recommendation, the commission said the government should consider a range of factors including ”giving priority to acquiring land that is in an area of unacceptably high bushfire risk and on which dwellings were damaged or destroyed by the 2009 bushfires”.

When asked yesterday why the buyback did not apply to high-fire-risk areas that did not burn in 2009, Bushfire Response Minister Peter Ryan said: ”When you have regard to the provisions of recommendation 46, this scheme is appropriate.”

Mr Ryan said the rules of the buyback were ”not set in stone” and the $50 million would be increased if needed. He also denied the buyback rules were too stringent, adding that people whose houses were destroyed in 2009 and had since built in a different location could still qualify for the buyback on their burnt property.

Mr Ryan said if acquired land was left vacant it would have a ”minimal” impact on country communities. Acquired land left in public hands would have to be maintained by the DSE to an ”appropriate standard” to minimise bushfire risk, he said.

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More carbon support for dairy farmers: Fonterra

JOHN Doumani, managing director of Fonterra Australia New Zealand says that the unique electricity demands of dairy farmers need to be understood when it comes to carbon pricing and compensation.
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Speaking as the nation faces the introduction of a carbon tax and several related impacts on business, Mr Doumani said that his company is advocating for greater assistance for farmers to help them transition to low carbon technologies.

“The reality is that dairy farmers engage in energy intensive processing, so they should be eligible for funding to help them adapt.

“We have been talking to Government about the special needs of dairy farming and so far, they are very receptive of the message,” he said.

“The biggest likely impact of carbon pricing for dairy farmers will be electricity price increases. Electricity is a major input cost in dairy farming as energy intensive milk processing starts on the farm.

“We expect the Government’s carbon pricing will have a direct impact of about $3,000 per dairy farm per year on average in terms of increased electricity costs. Predicting this, we want to help our farmers identify ways to reduce electricity use on-farm today, in preparation for a carbon-priced tomorrow.”

Mr Doumani said that he and Fonterra as a company accept that a low carbon future is an inevitability – and a challenge that has to be faced.

“But it is also an opportunity to innovate, invest and drive for a more competitive future; with lower costs, improved market access and greater consumer confidence,” he said.

“We have initiated a series of programs to reduce our carbon emissions across our manufacturing operations, and now we are turning our attention to how we can help our farmer suppliers.”

Fonterra said that this week it had launched a guide to provide dairy farmers with practical advice on how to manage the electricity cost increases of carbon pricing.

It covers the key areas of on-farm electricity usage and invites farmers to do a self-assessment of their operations.

Mr Doumani said the guide is just the first piece in an overall program to help Fonterra’s dairy farmer suppliers in Australia prepare for a new low carbon economy.

“We have been engaging with our farmer suppliers here in Australia in conversations around sustainability. What they tell us is that they want to operate a sustainable business and they want to reduce their carbon emissions, especially in light of the additional costs that will be associated with the carbon pricing, but that they don’t know how to do it or fund it.

“What they want is independent advice from someone who really understands dairying to advise them on what technologies to employ. Farmers are telling us that they are wary of the “snake oil salesmen” knocking on their doors offering a whole range of dubious solutions. They are concerned about unproven technologies and capital costs necessary to implement change,” he said.

The guide includes a calculator to help farmers consider their likely electricity bill increases and a self-assessment tool so they can understand how their operation rates against best practice electricity usage.

In addition, practical energy saving advice is provided across seven key areas:

Hot water heating Milk cooling Vacuum pumps Water and effluent pumps Lighting Energy sourcing Cleaning systems Fonterra is also running information sessions for farmers and providing expertise to assist with on-farm assessments.

“We have listened to our farmers’ concerns and now we want to help them make informed decisions for their businesses,” concluded Mr Doumani.

Copies of the Fonterra guide; “What does a carbon price mean for you?” are available by calling the Fonterra Supplier Administration Centre on 1800 266 674.

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Resilient Merinos one step closer

Sheep CRC post-graduate student Gus Rose.BREEDING Merino sheep that can withstand harsh summers across southern Australia without losing weight is a step closer to reality.
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Such sheep could potentially reduce feed costs and the risks of running livestock in areas of high seasonal variability and boost ewe reproductive performance and lamb production.

Sheep Cooperative Research Centre (Sheep CRC) post-graduate student Gus Rose has found that Merino ewes can be bred to lose less weight during summer when there is poor feed and gain more weight during the spring flush.

“This is a step towards breeding sheep that are better adapted to Australian pasture conditions and that will be more tolerant of climate variations in the longer term,” he said.

Mr Rose’s four-year PhD project is investigating the genetic and economic value of sheep resilience to liveweight loss in summer and autumn. He is being supervised by a team of Sheep CRC researchers in Perth, WA, and Armidale, NSW.

The Sheep CRC is a collaboration of industry, government and the commercial sector and aims to increase the productivity and profitability of the industry via new technologies for adoption by both the meat and wool supply chains. It is supporting 31 doctorate and masters students as part of its postgraduate education and research program.

Mr Rose said the problem of sheep weight loss during summer affected most livestock enterprises in Mediterranean environments in Australia and overseas.

He said reducing weight loss without incurring high feed costs, especially for breeding ewes, would be a major plus for livestock producers right around the globe.

“It would also reduce the risks and costs of maintaining sheep in good condition during summer in more marginal areas with inconsistent rainfall,” he said.

“There may also be potential to run more sheep than normal in these areas and increase returns.”

Mr Rose is also working in collaboration with the Netherlands-based Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre at Wageningen University, where researchers are assessing the genetic robustness and fitness of cows.

“The Dutch have developed a good scientific knowledge about animal adaptation and it is a good fit for my research,” he said.

Mr Rose analysed five years of data from a sheep resource flock in Katanning, WA, to discover the heritability of variations in Merino weight loss and gain.

His findings were recently presented to the annual European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) convention, where he won the prestigious prize for best scientific poster in the genetics category from a field of 100 participants.

This convention targets young scientists from across the global animal science sector and his award earned him the right to chair a session at next year’s event.

Stage two of Mr Rose’s PhD project will investigate the genetic and economic links between sheep resilience to live weight changes and other important production traits, such as wool weight and reproductive performance.

He said this process would include surveying farmers across Australia to identify the main profit-driving traits for Merino enterprises in a wide range of geographic environments.

“Once we know that sheep can be genetically robust and resistant to summer weight loss during times of low feed availability, then we can start to work out the best breeding objectives to target other economically important traits in these flocks,” he said.

Mr Rose said including an economic analysis in his research was vital because it would allow farmers to scenario-plan their most profitable options.

“If we can identify the more resilient sheep to weight loss and gain, we need to know the potential advantages and trade-offs with other breeding traits and what impact these will have on farm business bottom lines,” he said.

“For example, if labour costs are included, resilience to summer weight loss might be highly valuable to farmers because it has potential to reduce labour requirements and potentially free-up more time for other enterprises, such as cropping. This allows the whole farm to operate more efficiently.”

Mr Rose said he hoped his research would help sheep breeders breed animals that better coped with the environment, allowing them to concentrate on other production traits to optimise profits.

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The price of leaving the Rebels: know nothing and owe nothing

Rebels member Darren Wallace, 32, was shot dead in Picton. Photo: Facebook Rebels bikie gang members. Photo: Pamela Mirghani
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If you owed nothing and knew little, your transition out of the club would be a lot easier.  It was when you held value that your path to “patch out” became risky.

That was the experience of a former Rebels bikie gang member who got out of the brotherhood and lived to tell the story.

Police believe his decision to leave the club is one now  also being taken by other Rebels members.

Among them is Rebels enforcer Ricky Ciano, who had his club tattoos removed and walked from the club.

Tevita Daunibau was also on the way out when he shot Rebels bikie member Darren Wallace in the chest outside a Picton petrol station on Wednesday.

As police then saturated the tiny town in the Macarthur region to hunt him down, Mr Daunibau calmly walked to a nearby creek and shot himself.

It was an unusual show of violence in a town content to co-exist with the Rebels presence.

“We know they are here but they don’t interfere,” one business owner said. “They just blend in.”

The former ADF soldier’s brazen display of violence is believed to be linked to his path out of the club.

Sources have told Fairfax Media Mr Wallace arranged to meet Mr Daunibau, potentially to talk about the terms under which Mr Daunibau would leave the Rebels.

It is believed Mr Daunibau was a member of the Macarthur chapter. The chapter’s conflict with the leadership had reached a point where it had split from the Rebels club entirely, sources said.

One former bikie who spoke to Fairfax Media on the condition of anonymity explained a member’s path out the door depended on knowledge, debts and any ill-will.

“I have seen a lot of people leave over the years but they knew nothing and owed nothing,” he said. “So there is no reason to waste your energy or your time on doing something you may get caught for. “

He said bikes given to incoming members, who were required to pay them off, were repossessed and colours handed in.

He also remembered one member being coughing up $10,000 to leave a chapter.

“He honoured the deal and was let go.”

However, hanging up the colours only to go on and wear the patch of another club would mean the former member would be targeted.

Sometimes the exits turned ugly. Last year eight Rebels – linked to the powerful Liverpool and Penrith chapters – were arrested after the alleged kidnapping and torture of a chapter leader. At the time police alleged the torture was part of a violent ritual for members who left the outlaw bikie club on bad terms.

The former Rebel said his time as a bikie – spanning years under Alex Vella’s rule – had “f–ked his life”.

Despite that, he could still remember the good aspects, including always having a fat wallet.

But the “downhill run” began when he looked at his colours hanging on his wardrobe one day and thought: “f–k, I’m not going to be here forever”.

Years later he was out.

He is not alone in believing the absence of Mr Vella’s leadership – “run a lot out of fear” – in the Rebels had crippled the club.

Police say the Rebels are now “less disciplined and less co-ordinated” as Mr Vella’s absence left a leadership vacuum.

Mr Vella was on holiday overseas last year when the federal government cancelled his Australian visa.

Not long after the Rebels long-standing sergeant-at-arms Simon Rasic died of a heart attack, adding to the club’s leadership woes.

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Strata contracts link Auburn’s mayor Le Lam to another councillor’s development

Le Lam … declined to comment. Photo: Andrew MearesThe mixed-up world of local politics and development in Auburn is even smaller than previously known.
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The Herald has learnt that the mayor of Auburn, Le Lam, is paid to manage the strata for a development built by her current council ally and former mayor Cr Ronney Oueik​.

That’s a link she has never disclosed, despite recently voting on a development proposal that would have financially benefited Cr Oueik.

The former mayor confirmed his company had awarded the contract to Combined Real Estate, a company directed jointly by Cr Lam and her brother-in-law Minh Hua.

“My manager gave the job to Minh,” he said. “But that was six years ago [when the project finished]”.

It is not known how much money the contract is worth to Cr Lam; she said she was not involved in the company’s strata management division. But the building’s strata levy is believed to run to $1600 a year. It has 40 apartments.

But Cr Oueik denied the mayor should have declared any potential conflict of interest.

“Let me tell you about the council and how it works,” he said. “All jobs over 20 million [in value go to a state government panel for approval, not council]. All of my jobs are nothing less than 20”.

But in September, Cr Lam voted with her colleagues to approve Mr Oueik’s bid to modify plans for a 100-apartment complex.

The new plans allowed him to convert one penthouse into four extra two-storey units.

Cr Oueik denied the development was financially significant and said he intended to live in one of the apartments himself.

He paid the council about $1 million as a development contribution in exchange for approval, a not uncommon practice.

Cr Oueik is not the only councillor whose developments have awarded the mayor’s company a potentially lucrative strata contract.

Earlier this week, a court heard Cr Lam’s Combined Real Estate was the party responsible for managing a development built by her controversial colleague Salim Mehajer.

A cleaner, Anping Yan, appeared in court on Wednesday to claim he was owed up to $25,000 by Cr Mehajer for a backlog of cleaning work on two projects on John Street in Lidcombe.

Cr Mehajer’s defence highlighted just how close business relationships are on the council. He told the cleaner to re-direct his suit to a company owned by Cr Lam, who managed contractors.

Developers can use a controlling stake in a strata executive committee to appoint a building’s property manager.

Mr Yan refused to drop the suit and said Cr Mehajer had regularly handed him cheques and acted as his boss. The matter returns to court in February.

At the last council meeting the mayor voted to bestow the honorary title of “emeritus mayor” upon Cr Oueik.

The mayor’s brother-in-law and business partner, Mr Hua, has also previously been in business with Cr Mehajer. The two jointly run a company that is currently in liquidation. Cr Lam has previously said she was unaware her brother-in-law and council colleague had a business relationship.

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The danger when porn becomes sex ed

Question: Is your teenage son or daughter watching pornography online? Answer: Yes, almost certainly.
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As new figures show 93 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls aged 13 to 16 are exposed to porn online, experts are raising the alarm over its impact on young people.

Young women, according to one Melbourne doctor, are being pressured into trying the sexual activities that both sexes are watching on their screens. And many young men are describing porn as “their sex ed”.

“What really worries me is I’m seeing a lot more young women having sexual pain due to unaroused sex and thinking there is something wrong with them because things like hard, aggressive sex, anal sex, do not appeal,” says Dr Anita Elias, a specialist in sexual medicine for around 20 years.

To her male patients she says: “It’s not real, it’s like a movie, like James Bond. You might like Bond movies but you wouldn’t jump out of a helicopter without a parachute”.

Researcher Maree Crabbe​, who has interviewed more than 70 teenagers as well as doctors, researchers and others in the field, says there is clear evidence of teenage boys demanding or expecting porn’s so-called signature practices including deep throating​ (pushing the penis far into the throat), anal sex and ejaculating onto faces and bodies.

With this forming the new reality for teenagers, the traditional sex education taught in schools seems archaic and irrelevant.

Alice, 17, said while she knew some boys watched porn, no one spoke openly about it. She said it should be included in sex ed but kids generally didn’t pay much attention to that.

“It’s (sex ed) pretty unrealistic and kids mainly don’t listen,” she said.

Brandon, 23, who watched online porn for the first time at about 15, says it was often the only reference point for people when they started having sex because school sex ed gave so little information about what to expect.

“I remember losing my virginity and there’s really no way to know that you’re doing the right thing. Especially for me, because sex ed only deals with straight men. It takes a while to work out that you don’t have to be aggressive, you don’t have to be a porn star.”

“But it’s not so much about porn, it’s about education. People are going to be watching porn, that’s how the internet works, and they’re going to be doing it at a younger age. But we need to educate young people about what they’re seeing.”

Jessica, now 24, clearly recalls the first time she saw online porn. The teacher had walked out of her year nine class and one of the boys opened up his laptop and started playing “some pretty harrowing stuff”.

“I was disgusted, I thought, ‘Oh my god that’s a woman’. I think most of the girls felt the same but nobody said anything. Some of the guys were laughing.”

Jessica says it is recognised in her circle that most of the men watch at least some porn online, but it’s not openly discussed. She​ has been in a relationship for some time and has never been pressured to do anything she is uncomfortable with, but she worries about this happening if she was dating again.

“It feels like (porn) would create this unrealistic idea of, ‘OK, this is sex and this is what women want from sex’.”

She was among many who spoke to Fairfax Media who said pornography should be discussed in schools.

The State Government last week announced that pornography and sexting​, including the impact of online porn on teenagers and young adults, would be included in new curriculum aimed at countering violence against women. The new subject will be introduced at a year 10 level.

Dr Megan Lim, Head of Sexual Health and Young People Research at the Burnet Institute, sounds a note of caution: young people urgently needed to know about the potential impact of pornography on them and their peers, but tackling this in sex education would be very challenging.

“We need to be educating young people about the things in porn that are fake and [to let them know] that porn is not a teaching tool.”

Lim recently interviewed 1000 young people (aged 15 to 29) about pornography and found that those who watch porn at a young age are more likely to be sexually active at a younger age. People who watch porn more often are also more likely to engage in some riskier sexual practices such as having casual sexual partners and anal sex.

The study found that the average age of first seeing porn was 13 years old for men and 16 years old for women.

Crabbe​ says with porn now “the most prominent form of sex education for many teenagers” it was wrong and naive​ to confuse the kind of porn that most teenagers are viewing online with milder examples of erotica.

“They’re learning things about bodies, about sexual health, about pleasure, about consent, or the absence of it. Porn is shaping young people’s sexual understanding.”

Crabbe says the teenage boys she has interviewed frequently talk about having initiated some of the things they have seen in porn, and many teenage girls “talked again and again about really struggling” with this pressure.

Particularly disturbing was the amount of aggression and violence in porn, with over 80 per cent including aggression directed at women. Ms Crabbe​ said this gave young men and women very confusing messages.

“In porn, almost every incident of aggression is met with a pleasured response. The message to the viewer is that girls and women like it when men gag them, choke them, slap them. It doesn’t necessarily look like aggression when you see a woman smiling when she’s being gagged and penetrated aggressively by multiple men.”

Researchers also raised concerns about young people who watched porn online becoming desensitised to what they saw and watching more and more extreme material.

In a recent study at the University of Sydney, researcher Dr Gomathi​ Sitharthan​, found that over time some people’s viewing habits escalated to involve more extreme and even illegal material.

Sitharthan’s​ work also found that for young people who watchporn excessively the consequences included skipping school, grades going down, not engaging in social and sporting activities, secretive behaviour and moodiness, and forming unrealistic expectations when interacting with the opposite sex.

“We have seen some young adults who seem to think it’s OK to approach a girl and expect she will have sex with them immediately, says Dr Sitharthan​. “This is what happens in porn movies where there is limited ‘meaningful dialogue’ and all action starts as soon as people meet for the first time.”

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Choice reveals the popular sunscreens that failed to deliver on SPF 50+ claim

Choice found only two out of six tested sunscreen lived up to their SPF claims. Photo: Choice Choice tested six SPF 50+ sunscreens and found four failed to meet their SPF claims. Photo: Choice
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Australians are urged to protect themselves from strong and damaging UV rays.

The weather is hot, the beach is beckoning, and thoughts are turning to sun protection. But tests have found popular sunscreens are failing to live up to their SPF claims.

Consumer advocacy group Choice tested six SPF 50+ sunscreens and found four failed to deliver on their UV protection claims, with worst performer Ego Sunsense Sport 50+ only providing an SPF 29.

“Australians have one the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, making sunscreens an essential part of outdoor life. So it is deeply concerning these products are not providing their stated level of protection,” said Choice’s Tom Godfrey.

The four products that failed tests were Banana Boat Baby Finger Spray and Banana Boat Sport tube, both of which only offered SPF 42, Ombra Kids roll-on, which actually offered SPF 36, and the Ego Sunsense Sport.

The two products that matched its sun protection claims were the Cancer Council’s Classic Zinc and Nivea Sun Kids Caring roll-on.

“If these products don’t meet their stated SPF claims, you are at risk of burning quicker than you would with a true SPF 50+ product,” said Mr Godfrey.

“Given that most people don’t use enough sunscreen, applying a true SPF50+ product will better allow for some user error.”

Ego Pharmaceuticals’ scientific affairs manager Dr Kerryn Greive​ defended the company’s Sunsense Sport sunscreen, saying it had official certification to support its SPF claim and to register it with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Sunscreens sold in Australia must be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration. In order to be listed, manufacturers must test the product according to the Australian standard.

“Our consumers have no reason to be concerned by these abnormal results. Every SunSense product is tested for quality at our laboratories and SunSense sunscreens are subject to regular and on-going stability testing to ensure quality and consistency,” she said.

“Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world and it’s important that Australians aren’t discouraged from using sunscreen to protect against UV damage.”

Dr Greive said all SunSense products were made and tested according to TGA requirements.

“Our manufacturing facility in Australia is licensed by the TGA, with all of our sunscreen manufacturing methods fully validated in compliance with the requirements of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). This ensures the quality and reproducibility of our processes,” she said.

A TGA spokesman said the regulator would consider Choice’s findings before determining what appropriate action may be required.

The TGA capped the maximum rating of SPF 50+ in November, 2012.

“If a breach of the legislative requirements is identified, compliance actions can include a proposal to cancel the product from the ARTG, which would mean the product could not be sold in Australia,” he said.

“If concerns relating to the quality, efficacy or safety of a therapeutic product arise, the TGA can require that the product is removed from supply on the Australian market.”

The Cancer Council’s Craig Sinclair said both SPF30+ and SPF50+ sunscreens offered high levels of protection, with the former filtering out 96.7 per cent of UV radiation and SPF 50+ filtering out 98 per cent.

While accurate labelling was important, he said the bigger issue was Australians were not applying an adequate amount.

He also said consumers could generally be confident in SPF claims because in Australia sunscreens were treated as therapeutic goods, that is, in the same category as medicines.

“Current testing guidelines include human subjects, which can result in some variability. The standard involves testing how long it takes for human skin to burn when the sunscreen is applied,” he said.

“Different individuals can burn at different rates, resulting in different results in small sample sizes. In the future hopefully, we will have better ways of testing sunscreen that won’t involve variable human factors.”

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Guinea pig nuclear scientist reveals stone age

Nuclear scientist Vladimir Levchenko has carbon-dated kidney stones for the first time and has discovered they form much earlier than once thought. Photo: Penny Stephens Vladimir Levchenko with one of the Dutch kidney stones he carbon-dated. Photo: Penny Stephens
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Nuclear physicist Vladimir Levchenko arrived at hospital by ambulance with debilitating back pain. He suspected the agony was caused by a volleyball injury rather than the true culprit: a peppercorn-sized kidney stone.

Ever the scientist, Dr Levchenko had more questions than time to ask as he was being wheeled into theatre. Before the anaesthetic took hold he managed to quiz the surgeon on what caused kidney stones, how they formed and how long they took to grow.

The revelation that medical science had no idea prompted him to make one last request before going under – please could his kidney stone be saved so he could study it?

“I was curious, I wanted to know if I could do it,” Dr Levchenko said. “The scientist is a scientist even on the operating table.”

Back at work at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation at Lucas Heights outside Sydney, Dr Levchenko set about carbon-dating his kidney stone.

It turned out to be the first time the experiment had been done anywhere in the world. The results were so revelatory, they attracted international attention and have set up new research projects and collaborations.

The results showed Dr Levchenko’s stone, small and slow-growing as it was, had started forming almost 18 years ago.

After failing to find Australian researchers working in the field and only a handful internationally, he contacted a Dutch research group led by urologist Dik Kok at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam.

An enthusiastic Professor Kok sent Dr Levchenko two kidney stones, each the size of a $2 coin, from Dutch patients to be carbon-dated.

Though similar in size, the results painted a different picture of how the Dutch stones came to be, shedding new light on the growth cycle and longevity of kidney stones. One stone was dated at seven years old, while the other was 24 years old.

“After I passed the results onto my Dutch colleague, he became extremely excited,” Dr Levchenko said.

The fast-growing, younger stone turned out to be about 40 per cent phosphate. Interestingly, it belonged to a patient who regularly drank soft drinks – which contain phosphoric acid.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old stone belonged to a patient who had a suffered a lower-back injury near the kidneys – intriguingly in a skiing accident which occurred 24 years ago.

“It is the first time that there has been a connection made between injury and the formation of a kidney stone,” Dr Levchenko said. “He was very excited because before that we didn’t know what triggered a kidney stone.”

The slow-growing stone also belonged to a patient who was more active, drank less alcohol and soft drink and ate less fast food.

The findings will be published in the journal, Radiocarbon, this month.

One of the most common medical conditions, kidney stones affect about one in 10 Australian men and one in 35 women.

 

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Cricket’s new test – the boom from the bottom up

Edinburgh Cricket Club juniors Isabel Smith, Ted Smith and Freddie Cole for a photo at Brunswick Street Oval in Melbourne. Photo: Wayne TaylorFour years ago Edinburgh Cricket club in Fitzroy had 17 senior and junior teams, this year they have 27. They have always had a senior women’s team but for the first time this season they have a girls team in the juniors and expect to have the numbers to field a second one after Christmas.
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Last season Elsternwick Cricket Club scratched together three under-12s teams – this year they comfortably have five and almost have enough for a sixth. Brighton is in a similar position.

At Gisborne Cricket Club they can’t find enough ovals for teams to play on and nets to train in.

The Sanctuary Lakes Cricket Club formed in 2012 with two under-11 cubs teams (the modified rules competition for rookies). The club now has 100 junior players, 14 seniors, 90 kids in Milo and another 60 in T20Blast.

They have nine T20 teams making them the biggest Twenty 20 club in Melbourne’s west.

Twenty20 cricket might have killed West Indies cricket – or expedited its demise – and made for a flat summer of Test cricket, but the short game has not killed cricket.

While cricket is suffering at the top level it is booming at the bottom. This is a bottom-up resurgence.

Across Victoria the number of kids registered in MiloT20 Blast is up 73 per cent. In part, this is because it is a new event and the increase comes off a lower base than the more entrenched Milo cricket (the Auskick of cricket) but Milo cricket to is up 13 per cent too.

It is not just an urban quirk, the West Gippsland Cricket Association will also field a third more junior teams this year than last.

The success of the Australian women’s team is also having a big impact. Ellyse Perry might be as important to the resurgence of cricket as David Warner.

“We were a bit surprised when Isabel said she wanted to play but we thought it was good,” says Andy Vance of her 10-year-old daughter Isabel’s decision to join Edinburgh CC.

“She didn’t see it as a boys’ sport, she just saw it as sport, which I thought was interesting.

“That is how they approach it at the club too, which is good.”

The Eastern Cricket Association has formed the Anna Lanning Shield female competition (a bit weird, having a shield named after a 21-year-old current player) but it now has 15 teams up from five in its inaugural season last year.

Female participation across the state is up 9 per cent, and as a consequence the Victorian government has committed $10 million to help upgrade sports pavilions to make them more female friendly.

Isabel’s younger brother, Ted, was drawn to the game through Milo cricket and enjoying Twenty20 and test cricket. His teammate, Freddie Cole, is also just seven but he dons the big pads, sloppy helmet and gloves and has a hit. He is also reading Kaboom Kid, co-authored by David Warner.

Brad Shadbolt, vice-president at Edinburgh CC and a former district player, said the club had for a long time under-resourced Milo cricket.

“Since we have put time and effort into it, the growth in numbers has been staggering,” he said.

“The interest among girls is a big reason for the increase in numbers too. We added a junior girls team this year and with social media and word of mouth more girls have come down ,so we expect after Christmas to have a second junior female team.

“Hopefully next year we will have three or four junior female teams,” Shadbolt said.

Better-managed clubs, investment in Milo cricket and the growth in females playing have all been significant, says Cricket Victoria chief executive Tony Dodemaide.

To illustrate a point about Twenty20, he says avid readers do not start out by reading novels, an appropriate analogy for those who consider Twenty20 cricket cartoonish cricket, but he makes a valid point.

The introduction of rookies or cubs competitions as a bridge between plastic ball cricket and proper cricket has been an important change.

In these introductory competitions they use all the regular protective gear and a hard ball but they shorten the pitch if necessary, every player bowls for a couple of overs and batting in pairs batsmen face a few overs and don’t go out – the other side just gets five runs for a wicket. Scores are normally not kept (even if every kid remembers how many runs they made and wickets they took).

Andrew Headberry at Gisborne says while they are a growth area, like Sanctuary Lakes, the increase in numbers far exceeds just population growth.

“Our biggest growth has been in our juniors. It’s been big for five years but over the last two years it’s been massive. It’s reached the point we can’t find enough grounds to play on and nets to train in – but it’s a good problem to have,” he said.

At Sanctuary Lakes, according to Paul Pritchard, they have also been mindful of tailoring the culture of the game and not just the rules to the community

“The Point Cook area has a strong migrant population from east and south-east Asia, with people from India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan joining the club.

“We are influenced by the Muslim culture of some of our players and we understand we have to cater to all of our players, so where in the past you might throw some sausages on the barbie now we are also providing halal meat and chicken.

“It’s just common sense.”

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The moment that changed terror suspect Sulayman Khalid

Imprisoned: Sulayman Khalid, charged with further terrorism offences. Photo: YouTube
Nanjing Night Net

Two charged after counter-terrorism raids

15-year-old terrorism suspect denied bail

The family of a western Sydney man allegedly at the centre of a disrupted terror plot have given an insight into the moment he allegedly turned his back on dreams of becoming a policeman and became disaffected.

Sulayman Khalid, 21, has been in SuperMax prison since his Regents Park home was raided in December, 2014, and several pages of handwritten notes were seized, allegedly containing loose, partially-formed plans to attack an Australian Federal Police building in Sydney.

On Thursday, after 12 months of physical and electronic surveillance and analysis of the notes, police charged Khalid and four others, including a 15-year-old boy, with further terrorism offences relating to the alleged plot.

Khalid’s older sister has set up a Facebook fan page to write post protesting her brother’s innocence, questioning his harsh treatment in SuperMax while awaiting trial, and detailing his upbringing.

She says her younger brother, born in Australia to Iraqi and Italian parents, wanted to be a policeman or a chef until the moment his passport was confiscated in 2013, when he was 18.

In a public post, she said Khalid left to study under a sheikh in Egypt when he was 17 but had to return to Australia temporarily because he fell ill. On his return, ASIO cancelled his passport and provided no explanation or avenue for appeal, thereby “crushing his dream” to return to Egypt.

“He didn’t want to be a cop anymore nor a chef, he just wanted to speak up against injustice [and] move towards media and communications,” she posted. ​

“This is how you isolate and make a young man who had just turned 18 feel confused, hurt, secluded and threatened. Just a letter with minimal information and no regard for his feelings, aims, hopes and dreams.”

The sister said, from that point on, her brother was frustrated and felt he was continuously being “ignored and watched”.

Khalid was outspoken about his passport cancellation, speaking to Fairfax Media and appearing on SBS’s Insight, where he walked off set after being grilled on extremism.

He would also preach in the main streets and parks of Greenacre and had set up his own YouTube channel for sermons.

His sister said he was a peaceful and misunderstood man, whose imprisonment in SuperMax would make the situation only worse.

“His wisdom is yet to grow … if they just let him out and give him a chance, if they sit with him and discuss his hurt [and] anguish and give him a chance to be understood they would all realise he is no terrorist. He just needed someone to approach him, put him in the picture, not strip his passport from him.”

Khalid has passed his family two hand-written notes from custody, one saying “I am INNOCENT!!!” and another with a hand pointing to God, covered in writings relating to “tawheed” – the Islamic concept of oneness of God.

The family have also been selling T-shirts with the slogan “suspicion is not good enough” for $25 to help fund his “expenses in prison”.

On the Facebook page, his sister has asked for friends and supporters to write to him and visit him in prison.

Police will allege Khalid and four others charged on Thursday were part of a close-knit cell planning to attack government buildings, specifically the AFP.

Khalid’s legal team have previously argued he didn’t author the notes, which his sister claims were verses from the Koran and “tawheed papers”.

On Thursday, police told a court that fingerprints were lifted from the documents, connecting a 15-year-old Georges Hall boy, who was 14 at the time, to their creation.

He was denied bail in Parramatta Children’s Court on Friday, with a magistrate saying there was evidence he was inspired by Islamic State ideology.

The boy’s phone allegedly contained pictures of a beheading, IS propaganda, photos of himself holding a rifle and a text message saying he wanted to get to “paradise” through “banana” – believed to be a code word for guns.

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The statements murdered grandmother Helen Dawson Key’s family will never get to read

Helen Dawson Key, 75, was shot at her front door in Paris Place just before 6pm on Wednesday 19 November. Her body was located the following morning. Photos: NSW Police Photo: Daniel AdamsIf the family members of Helen Dawson Key had their chance, they would have faced her killer and told of their pain.
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It was a moment some of the 75-year-old grandmother’s relatives had prepared for, taking notes to form parts of their victim impact statements.

But Rodney Boatswain, the 63-year-old man accused of shooting dead Ms Dawson Key in her home over a bitter will dispute, died last week before reaching his trial.

“I thought that after he died I would stop thinking about what I wanted to say to him,” Ms Dawson Kay’s daughter, Kathy, said.

“But every night lying in bed still, as I have done for the past 10 months, I think of what I want to say and ask him.”

Boatswain was already diagnosed with terminal liver cancer by the time police came knocking on his door in February.

He was charged with murdering Ms Dawson Key as she made dinner in her Toongabbie home on November, 19, 2014. Her three beloved dogs were with her lifeless body when a friend came looking for her the next day.

At the time of Boatswain’s arrest, a bizarre question had already surfaced on a Magic Eight Ball website.

Did Rodney Boatswain kill Helen Dawson Keys?

Police say they investigated the strange post but it did not “yield any significant evidentiary leads”.

Detectives alleged Boatswain, a frail and ill man, killed Ms Dawson Key because he believed she convinced his mother to change her will unfavourably to him.

Ms Dawson Key was close friend’s with Boatswain’s mother, Reita. The pair often attended barbecues with Ms Dawson Key’s close knit family.

Mr Boatswain admitted in a police interview that he held a grudge against Ms Dawson key but denied killing her.

However, Ms Dawson Key’s family will never get to see the case against him played out through the justice system. Boatswain died with family by his side last Friday in hospital.

He died hours before he was due to be arraigned for Ms Dawson Key’s murder in the NSW Supreme Court.

“He will never have to face the courts, he will never have to face us,” Kathy said.

“We will never be able to say to him all the things we have been asking for the last year. We may never find out my mother’s last moments.”

The family are approaching Christmas with sadness. It is usually a joyous affair where more than 50 relatives come together and “Aunt Helen” gets to see her precious relatives.

In the absence of a court to read them in now, Ms Dawson Key’s family have shared parts of their victim impact statements with Fairfax Media.

Her niece, Jenny Hitchcock, was dismayed by the fact Boatswain was able to spend his final moments with his family.

“We didn’t get to have these moments of last goodbyes to a very special member of our family,” Ms Hitchcock wrote.

“To say we are so very sad is an understatement.

“Another Christmas approaching us where we won’t have Aunty Helen at our Christmas lunch and dinner table.

“Then her 77th birthday in January nearing another milestone that we won’t get to celebrate with her.”

She said no justice had been served on Boatswain but thanked the homicide detectives and DPP who had worked tirelessly on the case.

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Screen grabs: Amy Schumer is gloriously shocking and Sean Penn’s still got it

Mostly Sex Stuff: Amy Schumer. Sean Penn in The Gunman.
Nanjing Night Net

Old film, new release: Bartleby.

DVD: Avanti!

GAMES

HITS AND MISSES All platforms Time, now, to take stock. What was great … and what flopped? First, the hits… 1. Fallout 4 (post-apocalyptic with a sense of humour). An obvious one, but somehow even better for all the pre-release hype since it actually delivered. 2. Until Dawn (twist on teen horror genre). A compelling attempt at an “interactive movie”, where you spend more time directing outcomes than “playing” in a traditional way.   3. Grand Theft Auto 5 (crime spree in fictional Los Angeles). An amazing, sprawling, detailed city that invites you to kill innocents … or go mountain biking instead.  4. Agar.Io (blobs eat other blobs, get bigger). The mobile addictive hit of the year. Try it for free. 5. Fantasy Life (free-roam community). A highlight in a thin year for Nintendo’s 3DS, it had echoes of Animal Crossing but brought some original flavour too.And three that disappointed… 1. Battlefield: Hardline (cops-and-robbers variant of long-running series). They took our favourite open-world army game and made it into a poor parody of Grand Theft Auto. Boo. 2. Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley (farming simulator). Nintendo made farming too realistic for its latest 3DS installment in the series: all busywork and no fun. 3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (shooter). Like an over-sequeled action movie: lots of explosions, noise and woeful acting. Yawn. AH

DVD

BARTLEBY  Wellspring, unrated

Herman Melville’s brief but endlessly suggestive 1856 masterpiece Bartleby, the Scrivener concerns a Wall Street clerk who suddenly stops working, meeting all requests with the polite but firm statement, “I would prefer not to”. It’s a role that seems tailor-made for an eccentric like Crispin Glover, and as the star of Jonathan Parker’s updated 2001 adaptation he doesn’t disappoint: he’s a pale, intent, disturbingly comic presence, frozen like a waxwork in his undertaker’s suit, or squirming in panic as if fearing the loss of some private treasure. Parker retains much of Melville’s dialogue while relocating the action to a modern open-plan office, filmed in the kooky expressionist style of Tim Burton or David Lynch: the cartoonish colour scheme makes jarring use of lime green and burnt orange, while everyday objects such as a photocopier or a ceiling vent take on uncanny menace in close-up. Like the original story, the film can be understood as both a surreal allegory and a literal account of the soul-destroying nature of office work – a theme that has lost none of its relevance since Melville’s day. JW

FREE-TO-AIR

AMY SCHUMER: MOSTLY SEX STUFF December 13, ABC1, 9.30pm

If you’re not familiar with US comedian Amy Schumer (who has had a meteoric rise to fame in just the past few years), this stand-up special, filmed in front of a live audience in San Francisco in 2012, is a great primer: you’ll either love her or you’ll be appalled. She opens with the announcement that she “finally slept with my high-school crush! But now he expects me to go to his graduation. Like I know where I’m going to be in three years …”. Before apologising for a “kid-f—ing” joke and moving on to another gag that opens with the line, “So my mom’s a c—. No, hear me out!” If that’s not your thing you definitely won’t enjoy the rest of her routine which, as the title promises, is mostly about sex, ranging from jokes about Asian chicks and their vaginas, pubic hair maintenance, “slutty”  friends, knowing her body type (“sturdy”) and going to a yoga class just after taking the morning-after pill. It’s lewd, edgy and out there – everything that makes Schumer one of the best female comedians today. KN

DVD

THE GUNMAN Universal Sony, R

Sean Penn has still got it. At 54, he can still play the action man and be completely convincing. Based on the French novel The Prone Gunman, the film plot has Penn acting as an undercover hitman in the Congo, working for a third party contracted to multinational mining companies which did not want the government to nationalise their assets. Penn kills the country’s interior secretary and flees undetected. He also leaves behind his lover, a doctor, Annie (Jasmine Trinca), without explanation. Seven years later he comes looking for answers. He’s made his way back to the Congo, but somebody wants him dead. Again, he flees, seeking answers from his original security contractor in London. That leads him to Barcelona, where his former contract mate, Javier Bardem, is now married to Penn’s former lover. Guns, chases, threats, sex, it’s all there, pushing the plot to its predictable conclusion. Warning: the body count is high. JK

DVD

AVANTI!  MGM, M

An oblique response to changing times, Billy Wilder’s sweet-and-sour 1972 romantic comedy is crammed with topical allusions despite centring on two extremely unhip characters: Wendell Armbruster jnr (Jack Lemmon), a prudish American businessman who comes to Italy to claim the body of his father, and Pamela Piggott (Juliet Mills), a British shop assistant with an apparent eating disorder whose mother died in the same accident. Shot on location around the Gulf of Naples, the film has a leisurely, scenic quality unusual for Wilder, yet the script is one of his most densely woven, paradoxically intertwining idealism and cynicism, romance and bureaucracy, sex and death. Though the jokes about Italian inefficiency and corruption are gentle for the most part, there are multiple snakes in this Eden, including a blackmailer (Gianfranco Barra) with Mafia connections and a taxi driver who gives a fascist salute. American boorishness is mocked more relentlessly, especially when Armbruster’s State Department pal J.J. Blodgett (Edward Andrews) comes on the scene – leading to a prescient exchange about the Middle East, as well as some not-so-subliminal reminders of the Vietnam War. JW

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Star Wars by the numbers: Why Disney has scored the deal of the century

Tomorrow the world: The Force Awakens is destined to set a swag of new records. Photo: Disney/Lucasfilm Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd
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More on Star Wars: The Force AwakensMovie session timesFull movies coverage

When Disney bought Lucasfilm for $US4.1 billion in October 2012, it got the deal of the century.

To the outside world it didn’t seem such a bargain at the time – there hadn’t been a new Star Wars film in seven years and the saga was apparently over – but George Lucas was already developing a new sequel trilogy when Disney came knocking.

JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens, which opens on Wednesday, may or may not bear much resemblance to the story Lucas had in mind, but it is just the first flowering of what promises to be an enormously bountiful crop for the House of the Mouse in years to come.

Disney’s plans for the series include not just the new trilogy – episodes VII, VIII and IX, to be released in 2015, 2017 and 2019 – but three other spin-off movies, to be released in 2016, 2018 and 2020 (the year the studio regains full rights to all but the first film, which is set to remain with Fox forever).

There are also major theme-park attractions planned, plus computer games, television series, books, comics, and – the jewel in the crown – official licensed merchandise.

To get a sense of how valuable merchandise might be, consider this: The six movies so far released have taken about $US4.4 billion ($6.1 billion) globally at the cinema. But, according to Chris Taylor, author of How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, about $US32 billion ($44.34 billion) worth of Star Wars merchandise has so far been sold.

In August, Macquarie Securities analyst Tim Nollen​ predicted merchandise linked to The Force Awakens could top sales of $5 billion in the first year alone. About $500 million of that will go to Disney in license fees.

Disney has put a “productive lifespan” of 40 years on the franchise. By the time it has eked the last dollar out of it, Star Wars will be almost 80 – older even than Harrison Ford, the 73-year-old returning as Han Solo after 30 years away from the series.

The Force Awakens is almost guaranteed to set records in Australia. The widest release to date here is Avengers: Age of Ultron, which opened earlier this year on 754 screens. Disney won’t say exactly how many screens Star Wars: The Force Awakens will open on, but industry sources suggest it is likely to be more than 900 – almost one in two of the country’s 2080 screens.

It will set a record for pre-sales, too: again, Disney is coy, but estimates have the figure north of $10 million.

The Force Awakens will almost certainly set a new record for opening weekend box office, too. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 holds that record, with $18.36 million in July 2011. (Incidentally, that’s almost as much as Star Wars made in its entire first run, which lasted more than a year as those limited prints slowly made their way around the country.)

When Disney bought Lucasfilm, it wasn’t simply buying a catalogue of movies. It was buying the rights to 17,000 characters, many of them so amenable to being moulded in plastic and sold to young children that the merchandise industry has a word for them: “toyetic”.

Disney was also buying the rights to an Expanded Universe that includes, writes Chris Taylor, “some 260 novels, dozens of short stories, 180 video games, more than 120 comic books”.

That universe will soon expand a little further, with at least two Star Wars Lands planned, at Disney’s theme parks in Anaheim California and Orlando Florida. Each promises to be a 14-acre “immersive environment” based on the worlds conjured in the new films. Visitors will meet bizarre creatures as they explore a hitherto unknown planet, do battle with Stormtroopers and “fly” the Millennium Falcon.

It is likely to be at least five years before those theme parks open. Until then, fans will have to keep dreaming, while Disney keeps counting the cash.

Karl Quinn is on Facebook and on twitter @karlkwin

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