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Miners burnt by market plunge

The focus this afternoon will be on the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), which is expected to cut interest rates again.

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At 1217 AEDT, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 101.6 points, or 2.76 per cent, at 3,579.6, while the broader All Ordinaries fell 99.7 points, or 2.67 per cent, to 3,519.3.

On the Sydney Futures Exchange, the December share price index contract was down 89 points at 3,592 on a volume of 19,375 contracts.

Burrell Stockbroking associate Peter Wright said the local market was performing poorly on the back of a weak performance from

Wall Street.

“I saw that figure (the Dow) this morning and I thought – Oh, no. Here we go again,” he said.

Mr Wright said the expected interest rate cut would do little to counter the falls on the local market.

“Markets do anticipate these things, and I think they\’ve priced in 75 basis points.

“If we get more there will probably be a sell off as people will interpret that as though we\’re in a lot more trouble than what we

thought.

“It is probably a lose-lose situation for the market in its current mindset.”

BHP Billiton shares fell $1.92, or 6.42 per cent, to $27.98, and Rio Tinto shares lost $2.70, or 6.32 per cent, to $40.00.

In the US on Monday, the panel at the National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed that the economy has been in recession since December 2007.

US stocks finished lower, with the Dow Jones industrial average settling down 679.95 points, or 7.7 per cent, at 8,149.09 points.

Mr Wright said the panel had essentially redefined what constituted a recession.

“At the end of the day you can debate the semantics of it but the traditional metric for defining a recession has not been achieved (two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction).

“I was a bit perplexed by the markets reaction to that but that\’s the times we live in – any kind of negative news is just seized upon.”

The banks were lower. Commonwealth Bank fell $1.02 to $31.98, National Australia Bank dropped 34 cents to $19.09, ANZ declined 24 cents to $14.14 and Westpac was down 37 cents at $16.57.

The major energy stocks also were in the red.

Australia\’s second biggest oil and gas producer, Woodside Petroleum, was down $2.27, or 6.27 per cent, at $33.93, Santos dropped 33 cents, or 2.29 per cent, to $14.06 and Oil Search sank 29 cents, or 6.24 per cent, to $4.36.

Fairfax Media fell 6.5 cents, or 4.56 per cent, to $1.36, News Corp lost 20 cents, or 1.65 per cent, to $11.90, while its non-voting scrip was down 34 cents at $11.41.

Grocery and liquor merchant Metcash has posted a 7.2 per cent fall in first half profit after recording a one-off cost related to the termination of a hedging position.

Metcash was steady at $4.00. Harvey Norman Holdings gained 10 cents to $2.25 after it reported that sales for the four weeks ended November 30 rose by 0.5 per cent, from the corresponding period last year.

Other major retailers were mixed. Woolworths lost 46 cents to $26.84, Wesfarmers fell 57 cents to $18.37, while upmarket retailer David Jones was up 13 cents at $2.70.

US economy plummeted as European unemployment mounted

The US economy suffered a massive 6.

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2 percent pace of decline at the end of 2008 and the eurozone shed 250,000 jobs in January, data showed Friday, as a fresh effort was launched to bail out Eastern Europe.

The US gross domestic product (GDP) fourth-quarter reading was far worse than the 5.4 percent rate expected by most analysts and underscored the challenges facing President Barack Obama\’s efforts to end the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression.

“While we now know that the US economy did indeed contract by a massive amount, early 2009 data suggests that the first quarter will also be quite grim,” said economist Dina Cover at TD Bank Financial Group.

“Durable goods orders sank like a stone in January, indicating that capital expenditure by businesses in the US has continued to shrink. This suggests that business confidence is still extremely low.”

Sharpest drop in 27 years

The drop was the sharpest since the first quarter of 1982, the Commerce Department data showed, and came as the world\’s largest economy was winding up a full year of recession.

The official Eurostat state reported meanwhile that the loss of 250,000 jobs in the 16 nations sharing the euro helped drive the eurozone unemployment rate to 8.2 percent, the highest in over two years.

“Persistent, and faster, rising unemployment will weigh down on eurozone consumer spending, especially as it will be liable to lead to slowing wage growth,” warned Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight.

Eastern European aid

With once-booming economies in Central and Eastern Europe particularly hard-hit by the crisis, three international lending bodies announced a massive aid package for the region\’s beleaguered banking sector.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank and the World Bank pledged to invest 24.5 billion euros (31billion dollars) in the region, the EBRD said.

“Eastern Europe is feeling the full blast of the global economic crisis,” said analysts from Dresdner Kleinwort in a note.

Some countries in the region could become “insolvent,” they warned.

Russia, another formerly vibrant economy, is also struggling as the global slowdown dampens demand for oil and gas, the country\’s principal exports.

And according to the powerful prime minister, the worst is yet to come.

“We are forced to conclude that the crisis is far from over — it has not yet even reached its peak,” Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in televised remarks.

Meanwhile Denmark and Finland reported falling into recession in the fourth quarter of 2008 and Sweden\’s economy shrank even further.

“We are in the midst of a long, cold and dark winter,” Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg told reporters in Stockholm.

Governments have mobilized trillions of dollars to counter the crisis, which has its roots in a brutal contraction in the US housing market and the subsequent collapse of bank-held mortgage-backed financial assets.

US to boost Citibank

Further underscoring those woes, the US government said it will boost its stake in Citigroup under a deal aimed at shoring up confidence in the troubled banking giant.

The government\’s stake will be raised to 36 percent from the current eight percent under the plan to convert 25 billion dollars of public capital injected in the form of preferred stock in the bank to ordinary shares, officials said.

The conversion does not call for more government funds but helps shore up the capital position of Citi, once the world\’s biggest financial services firm which has received 45 billion dollars in bailout funds from the government.

The move aims to avoid a feared nationalization of Citi, once the world\’s biggest financial firms, but analysts said the conversion gives the government effective control as the bank\’s largest shareholder.

Stimulus cash payments to be mailed out

The government\’s $42 billion economic stimulus package, which is aimed at staving off a recession, was passed by parliament on Friday.

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Mr Swan said the first one-off bonuses, including the $900 single-income family bonus for families with one main earner, would be delivered by Centrelink from March 11.

The $950 back-to-school bonus, aimed at helping families with school age children with the costs of starting the 2009 school year, would also be mailed then.

Mr Swan said tax bonuses, of up to $900, for working Australians would be delivered from April 6, and people wanting to insulate their home could do so from July 1 by phoning 1800 808 751.

The National Building School Modernisation Program applications would be assessed by the states before April, he said.

Mr Swan said overnight figures from the European and US economies proved the urgent need for the government to provide “vital support” to Australia\’s economy.

Urgent action warranted

“What is going on internationally does demand urgent action from the Australian government,” Mr Swan told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.

“Overnight we\’ve seen figures from the European community where the eurozone has shrunk in the December quarter by 1.5 per cent, that comes on figures last week where the shrinkage in the US economy in the December quarter was 1.0 per cent.

“What that means is that we\’ve got to get on with the job of implementing our national building plans and supporting households and businesses.

“What we\’ve got to do now is to roll up our sleeves, get on with the job of supporting

Climate talks end in failure

International talks which aim to break the deadlock on climate change have largely failed.

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Two weeks of UN-sponsored climate talks in Bangkok will wrap up tonight, without the breakthrough negotiators were seeking.

The talks aimed to make progress ahead of the crucial UN summit in Copenhagen in December, at which a new climate pact is due to be signed.

Will McGoldrick, who works for the Australian-based Climate Institute and has been at the Bangkok talks, said only “baby steps” had been made.

The two big sticking points are the targets nations will adopt to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and how rich countries will fund poor ones to tackle climate change.

“Bangkok has made cautious progress on some of the elements, but nowhere near enough progress on those two core issues,” Mr McGoldrick told AAP from the Thai capital.

Some progress has been made on technological cooperation and forests.

Financing for poor nations needed

But it was now clear that little progress on reduction targets would be made until rich nations such as Australia made commitments about financing poor countries, Mr McGoldrick said.

“It does turn the spotlight onto countries like Australia who have yet to really make a credible contribution on finance.”

Tony Mohr, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, who has been at the talks, said Australia had been active on some issues, pushing for a deal on cutting emissions from international aviation and shipping.

Australia was also negotiating over its proposal to allow developing nations to make discrete pledges in relation to renewable energy or forests, instead of economy-wide emissions targets.

But Australia had to make a commitment on financing to boost negotiations, Mr Mohr said.

Fresh mandate

A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said negotiators would need fresh mandates and political leadership as Copenhagen approached.

“We are a long way from where we need to be and we don’t have much time,” she said.

There is one more session of UN talks before Copenhagen, at Barcelona, in November.

Attention will now turn to other forums – the Major Economies Forums and the G20 – for a breakthrough.

Observers say it will take intervention from world leaders to fire up the stalled negotiations.

Climate change dividing coal communities

Climate change is presenting a unique challenge to Australia’s coal sector.

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SBS’ reporter Keith Breene looks at how this issue is dividing communities across the country.

Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley is, by any definition, a coal town. There are very few people there who aren’t directly or indirectly associated with the industry.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that when it comes to the issue of climate change the community is sharply divided.

Jeff Drayton, a miner and a life long resident of Muswellbrook, is also the town’s deputy mayor. He doesn’t think getting rid of coal is an option.

“I’m not sure phasing coal out is the answer – not only does it underwrite our community in the Hunter Valley but it probably has – certainly recently – underwritten the whole country’s economy,” Mr Drayton said.

“I don’t think probably in my lifetime we’re going to see a life without coal. Absolutely I think there has be a life with cleaner coal – better technologies. But not a life without cleaner coal, no.”

Pete Kennedy is a miner too, like four generations of his family before him. He is one of a small, but growing, number of people willing to criticise the way the industry is dealing with climate change.

“They talk about it. They’ve employed the world best spin doctors as far as that’s concerned but I don’t believe what they’re saying,” Mr Kennedy said.

“They say yes we’re worried about climate change and all this but the way that the mining industry is expanding I don’t think they give two hoots about it.”

He is so disillusioned he has told his children not to follow him into the industry.

“I believe I’m one of a small bunch of people that are slowly coming around to realising that climate change is here and now and there is evidence that if we don’t do something about the burning of fossil fuels which is directly linked to this climate chaos we’re seeing the situation is going to get slowly worse and we’re heading for a worldwide disaster.”

Given the how much people depend on mining in Muswellbrook, Pete Kennedy’s is still the minority view.

“With three in four people earning a living out of the coal mines you’re probably not going to walk down the street of Muswellbrook or Singleton and some of those places and not get the answer that I’d probably give you which is that obviously people still do support he coal mines predominantly because that’s where we earn our living – that’s why I live where I do here”.

“It is how I support my family as do 70 or 80 percent of the local population”.

The industry is a powerful economic force on which many livelihoods depend. But concern over climate change does appear to be growing – even in communities that depend on coal.

Anger over treatment of swine flu patient

A man diagnosed with swine flu after he died had waited up to three hours for an intensive care hospital bed the day of his death because none were available in Victoria, his parents say.

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Victorian health authorities say the man, 35-year-old Anthony Splatt of the western district town of Colac, tested positive to the influenza A(H1N1) virus but will not say whether it caused his death.

Anthony Splatt went to Colac Hospital with flu-like symptoms on Friday and was transferred to Maroondah Hospital in Melbourne’s outer east, where he died on Saturday.

Test results released on Tuesday show he had tested positive for swine flu after swabs were taken following his death.

His parents, Brian and Judith Splatt, say their critically ill son waited at the Colac Hospital for three hours for an intensive care bed, which was eventually found at Maroondah Hospital.

“His poor GP was pacing the floor in Colac because he was getting sicker and sicker,” Ms Splatt, a nurse, told the Herald Sun newspaper.

Mr Splatt said: “There were no beds in Victoria. It seemed like forever (before a bed was found). We hope in a way his death makes more intensive care beds available.”

Victoria’s acting chief health officer Rosemary Lester said Anthony Splatt had a range of underlying medical conditions.

She would not confirm whether his death was a direct result of swine flu or one of the other medical conditions.

“I’m obviously not the clinician – that’s for the clinicians to decide what he’s died from,” Dr Lester said.

“My information is that it is respiratory failure but other than that I can’t make any comment.”

Dr Lester said the man received treatment consistent with the symptoms of his severe illness.

“He wouldn’t have been treated any differently if we’d known that he had swine flu from the outset.

“He arrived with an influenza-like illness and then, I believe, he rapidly deteriorated. “His respiratory function deteriorated and he went into shock quite quickly.”

The Splatts said Anthony seemed to be suffering from a common cold before he collapsed at home two days before he died.

By Friday, they were told he had only a 20 per cent chance of surviving as his respiratory system began to fail.

The death comes amid fears that indigenous Australians in remote communities may be particularly vulnerable to the disease.

A 26-year-old man from Kiwirrkurra in Western Australia last week became the first person with swine flu to die in Australia.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said people in remote indigenous communities may be hit harder by swine flu than those elsewhere. She said federal and state governments were taking steps to ensure they received adequate supplies of Tamiflu, the antiviral drug used to treat the illness.

US House passes historic climate change bill

By a 219-212 margin, lawmakers voted for the first time in US history to limit heat-trapping carbon emissions and shift the US economy to cleaner energy in a move backers said will create jobs and restore Washington’s shaky leadership on climate change ahead of global talks set for December.

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The pitched political battle over a central plank of Obama’s platform now shifts to the US Senate, where the prospects for action this year are uncertain and where outspoken foes of the House approach wield considerable clout. In his weekly radio address Saturday, Obama urged senators to pass the clean energy bill, calling it “a historic piece of legislation that will open the door to a clean energy economy and a better future for America.” The president asked the senators not to be afraid of the future or be prisoners of the past. “Don’t believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth,” he argued. “It’s just not true.” The “American Clean Energy and Security Act” aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by 2050, create “green” jobs, and wean the US economy from oil imports. Day-long debate The bitter, day-long debate pitted supporters who argued the bill would put a shine back on the battered US economy and foes who described the measure’s more than 1,200 pages as a grim recipe for long unemployment lines. “Just remember these four words for what this legislation means — jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Let’s vote for jobs,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi exhorted her colleagues minutes before the vote. Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner warned the measure would send energy costs skyrocketing and denounced it as “the biggest job-killing bill that has ever been on the floor of the House.” Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed the House’s “courageous step” but warned “the bill is not perfect” while vowing to “pass bipartisan and comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall.” Environmentalists were elated. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, the biggest US environmental group, said that Congress had now taken the first step toward “unleashing a true clean energy revolution.” ‘Cap and trade’ system The bill, the fruit of months of tough negotiations, would create a “cap-and-trade” system limiting overall pollution from large industrial sources and then allocating and selling pollution permits. The Democratic-crafted bill would require utilities, by 2020, to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources – solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass – and show annual energy savings of five percent from efficiency measures. The European Union plan calls for getting 20 percent of all electricity from renewable resources by 2020. Obama, who spent part of the day courting wavering lawmakers, said as he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel hours before the vote that he hoped the United States was reasserting its role after letting Europe lead for years. “The United States, over the last several years, has not been where we need to be. We’re not going to get there all in one fell swoop, but I’m very proud of the progress that’s being made,” he told Merkel at the White House. Vow to working with rising economies Obama also vowed to work with rising economies that are also major polluters, like China and India, amid worries that the bill may hamstring the US economy and send jobs fleeing to countries that lack similar restrictions. “India and China will not shatter their own economies with this sort of scheme, and its nonsensical for America to impose a job killer like this on ourselves,” said the number two House Republican, Representative Eric Cantor. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that implementing the legislation would cost 80-111 dollars per US household per year, while the Congressional Budget Office says it would run about 175 dollars.

Third Aussie in London may have swine flu

An Australian journalist living in London has been told she ‘probably’ has swine flu but is awaiting tests to confirm.

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Kate Corbett says tests have shown she has Influenza A and but she is still waiting to find out if it is the H1N1 variant, after she travelled overseas with a friend who has been confirmed as having swine flu.

Ms Corbett said she had travelled in Mexico with a friend for a wedding. He had now been diagnosed as having the potentially deadly virus, she told ABC Radio.

However, her friend\’s girlfriend, who\’d also gone to Mexico with him, had tested negative.

Ms Corbett said she returned to England showing flu symptoms, but was not actually tested because she didn\’t have a fever or know her friend was sick.

Precautionary measures

However, she has now tested positive for influenza A and British medical authorities say she is in the probable category for a swine flu diagnoses.

“I only found out on Thursday about my friend and as a result of him being ill, I have been put onto the next precaution up.”

As a consequence Ms Corbett was tested for H1N1 on Friday.

“My doctor came over all suited up with a face mask and an apron and he tested me taking swabs from the back of my nose and back of my throat – quite uncomfortable.

“But one of those tests has come back and that\’s Influenza A, and that was positive and now I just have to wait to see if I test positive for the H1N1 and that takes a bit longer.

Waiting but not concerned

“I\’ll just have to wait. They can\’t give me any time frame.

“They have put me in the probable category which, I think, is just a step down from, I don\’t know what they call it – the definite category.”

However, she said she didn\’t feel ill and was not concerned.

“I\’m not really concerned for my own health because I feel completely healthy and I\’m over the worst of it.

“The only thing is, I\’m thinking of this whole domino effect and all of the people I have been in contact with, even if it\’s just sitting next to them on a bus.”

Two Aussies confirmed cases

Two Australians in the UK have been confirmed as having swine flu.

A 29-year-old Sydney builder, who moved to the UK from Australia less than a month ago and doesn\’t want to be named, has been told to stay home and avoid contact with others, ABC reports.

He had been in Mexico for a wedding and arrived back in the UK last Sunday.

Earlier, fellow Sydney man Mark Robertson, who is also living in London, was told he had the virus.

The 23-year-old marketing manager from Coogee has spent the past five days behind closed doors in a second-floor flat in Islington, in North London, with two friends who are not infected but have also been quarantined as a precaution, Fairfax reports.

He\’d spent four months trekking through the jungles of Central and South America and two weeks “chilling on the beach” at Puerto Escondido on Mexico\’s west coast.

He\’s been told by doctors it could be six more days before he\’s allowed contact with anyone other than his housemates.

Both men are taking the anti-viral medication Tamiflu and are said to be feeling better.

The results mean two of the three cases diagnosed in London are Australian.

FactCheck: Can children under seven be sent to Manus Island?

By John McBride, James Cook University and Trevor Duke, University of Melbourne

“You cannot send children aged under seven to Manus Island because of the issues of inoculation – you can’t do it.

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” – Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, press conference, 21 July.

Scott Morrison has led the criticism of the lack of practical detail in the two-page asylum seeker agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea, questioning how the Rudd government plans to safely process potentially thousands of people, including children, on Manus Island and other yet-to-be determined sites.

Morrison has repeatedly raised concerns about protecting young children’s health, asking on ABC Radio if the Rudd government was “going to ignore the medical advice that says you can’t send children to a place under age seven who need to be inoculated against tropical diseases”.

Election FactCheck contacted Morrison’s office about the source for the claim. “This was information conveyed to Mr Morrison by officials during his visit to Manus Island earlier this year,” a spokesman said.

Health checks for asylum seekers

Asylum seekers are vaccinated under the Australian schedule before being sent to offshore processing centres. The Immigration Department told Election FactCheck that all asylum seekers receive a physical and mental check-up and a chest x-ray. A blood sample is also collected, but which tests were done was not specified.

Asylum seekers receive the following vaccinations, and further boosters once on Manus Island if necessary: Hepatitis B; Diptheria; Tetanus; Pertussis (whooping cough); Polio; Meningococcal C; Measles; Mumps; Rubella and Influenza. If an X-ray detects tuberculosis, it is treated in Australia.

Asylum seekers also receive Malarone, a tablet treatment to prevent malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease which is prevalent in parts of Papua New Guinea, including Manus Island.

Malaria

Without more information from Morrison’s office, it is difficult to say exactly what he means by his statement, but he may be referring to the practice of the Immigration Department under the Labor government not to send children under seven to Manus Island due to concerns about malaria, for which there is no vaccine.

The national communications manager for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Sandi Logan, told Election FactCheck that until now, the government has sent no children under seven to Manus Island because of a “conservative” approach to malaria health risks.

The World Health Organisation recommends that no child weighing less than five kilograms should receive Malorone. Babies generally weigh less than five kilograms and a seven-year-old child is normally around twenty kilograms. But Labor’s conservative approach has meant that no babies and no child under seven have been sent.

WHO also recommends that pregnant women should not receive Malorone until the second trimester of pregnancy, but it is understood that, so far, no pregnant woman has been sent to Manus Island.

Unless there are exemptions – and the government to date has said that all asylum seekers who arrive by boat would be sent to PNG and had “no chance” of settlement in Australia – it will mean a significant shift in policy, with children under seven being sent to Manus Island for the first time.

Children over seven were sent prior to the PNG deal being announced on July 19, but recently have been removed to Christmas Island, and the government has indicated that family groups won’t be sent until a suitable facility has been built.

Morrison is correct in raising health risks in children as a concern, but may have confused the issue by using the word “inoculation” – which is generally understood to mean vaccination. Treatment for malaria is not through inoculation.

It is possible to successfully vaccinate and otherwise protect young children against common tropical diseases with relatively modest resources. Despite the enormous challenges of vaccine delivery in a country where nearly 90% of the population live in rural and remote areas, the country has achieved high vaccine coverage rates.

There is no reason to believe that in a controlled environment of a refugee camp there would be anything other than total vaccination coverage. Other effective preventative measures which should be provided include insecticide-treated bed-nets, protective clothing, and mosquito control measures around camps.

Tuberculosis

Malaria is not the only health risk throughout PNG, particularly in low-lying regions.

Tuberculosis rates in Papua New Guinea are high. Effective diagnosis, treatment and contact tracing is a pre-requisite to control the spread of this disease.

A young child sent to a crowded detention centre is at risk of contracting TB, unless housed amongst adults who have been fully screened and treated. If the PNG Solution goes ahead, many refugees and their families may be resettled in communities in PNG, and they will then be exposed to a population where TB rates are high. BCG vaccination prevents some of the complications of TB and is part of the PNG vaccine schedule. It should be given before they go to PNG.

Verdict

A child sent to Papua New Guinea faces greater risks of disease than in Australia. However, it is possible to successfully vaccinate and otherwise protect young children against common tropical diseases with relatively modest resources, especially in the controlled environment of a refugee camp.

The government has indicated that prior to the PNG deal, no child under seven was sent to Manus Island for health reasons and the public should be assured that camps are safe before this happens. This does not only include vaccination programs (which should be achievable and do not represent an impediment to the policy) but more comprehensive public health measures to prevent the spread of diseases against which there are no vaccinations. We should not forget that there are around a million children in this age group who already live in PNG.

Scott Morrison’s concerns are well founded, but not for the reasons of “issues of inoculation”.


Review

PNG has among the highest rates of morbidity and mortality from malaria outside the African continent. Despite considerable reductions in malaria prevalence in the last decade in PNG, malaria is still in the top three causes of hospital admission amongst children.

Young children are particularly susceptible to malaria; infants are more prone to severe complications of malaria, including severe anaemia, seizures, coma and death. The risk is highest among children who have no immunity to malaria, particularly those who come from countries where malaria is not endemic.

As the author notes, it is possible to successfully vaccinate or otherwise protect young children against some common tropical diseases with relatively modest resources, but refugee children sent to PNG will be at risk of other diseases for which there are no effective or widely available vaccinations, and for which illness among young children can be severe or fatal, such as malaria.

Morrison’s statement that children under seven could not be sent to Manus Island due to “issues of inoculation” is partly correct if one interprets this as meaning not all diseases that children may be exposed to in Manus Island are prevented by vaccines.

Potential health risks for children in Manus Island for which no vaccines are widely available or effective include malaria, dengue fever, dysentery and, in some parts of PNG, cholera. These are health risks faced to a greater or lesser extent by PNG’s children in many area of the country. Most of these infections are preventable by good public health measures, vaccines, adequate nutrition, insecticide-treated bed-nets, and having a healthy environment for children to grow up in.

I would also note that the health risks for refugee children are broader than infectious diseases and include serious psychological problems, impaired development, or physical or sexual abuse if the environment of a detention centre is volatile, violent or lacking hope.

The policy of the Immigration Department not to detain babies and young children under seven on Manus Island is a good, cautious policy, because such infants and children who arrive from a country where there is no prevelance of malaria are particularly susceptible to a severe case of the disease if it is contracted. It is a cavalier attitude to change this policy on many levels, not just for malaria. It is potentially putting a child’s health at risk. – Trevor Duke

The Conversation is fact checking political statements in the lead-up to this year’s federal election. Statements are checked by an academic with expertise in the area. A second academic expert reviews an anonymous copy of the article.

Request a check at [email protected] Please include the statement you would like us to check, the date it was made, and a link if possible.

The Centre for International Child Health at the University of Melbourne has received funds from AusAID through the Knowledge Hubs for Health Initiative and is a recipient of a grant from the RE Ross Trust Victoria for support to child health in Papua New Guinea. Trevor Duke is a member of the Child Health Advisory Committee for the National Department of Health in Papua New Guinea, and Adjuct Professor of Child Health in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of PNG.

John McBride does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Timeline: The space race

1957

October 4: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1 into space.

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It’s the first man made satellite to pass overhead making one revolution every 90 minutes.

November 3: Sputnik 2 is launched however this time with a female dog named Laika. The satellite was in orbit for 162 days but unfortunately Laika died soon after lift off. The American press rename the satellite “Muttnik”.

1958

January 31: The United States sends Explorer 1 into orbit around the Earth. Later in the year Dwight Eisenhower signs the National Aeronautics and Sapce act of 1958 into law, establishing NASA.

December 6: America’s Pioneer 3 fails to reach the moon.

1959

January: The Soviet Union launched Luna 1 on a Moon mission, but fails to land.

March 3: America sends an unmanned ship, Pioneer 4, to the moon in the first US lunar flyby.

April 9: John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra and Donald “Deke” Slayton are named America’s first astronauts.

May 28: NASA launches two monkeys from Cape Canaveral and successfully recovers them in the Atlantic Ocean.

September: The Soviet Union launch Luna 2 which crash lands on the moon, making it the first man made object to reach another planetary body.

October: Not wasting any time the Soviets’ launch Luna 3, which successfully takes photos of the far side of the moon.

1961

January 31: America launches Ham, a chimpanzee, into sub orbital flight on Mercury 2.

April 12: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man into space onboard the Soviets’ Vostok 1.

May 2: Alan Shepard becomes the first American into space onboard Freedom 7.

1963

June 6: Russia’s Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman to go to space.

1965

March 18: Voskhod 2 carries Pavel Belyayev and Alexei Leonov into orbit. Leonov becomes the first man to conduct a “spacewalk”.

June 3: Edward White II is the first American to conduct a spacewalk.

1966

March 31: Luna 10 launches from the Soviet Union and successfully achieves lunar orbit while sending information back to Earth.

May 30: America launches Surveyor 1 which lands on the Moon and transmits data back to Earth.

November 15: Jim Lovell and Edwin Buzz Aldrin conduct three spacewalks.

1967

January 27: Three US astronauts – Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee – are killed during a routine testing of the Apollo.

April 23: Commander of Soyuz 1 Vladimir Komarov becomes the first man to be killed during a space flight.

1969

March 3: America tests the Lunar Module on the Apollo 9 mission.

May 18: Astronauts Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan onboard Apollo 10 descends within 50,000 feet of the surface of the Moon.

July 16: Apollo 11 begins its mission.

July 20: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men to walk on the surface of the Moon.

July 24: Apollo 11 returns home.

November 14-24: The US sends Apollo 12 which successfully lands on the Moon. Astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean collect samples.

Explainer: What are the caretaker government conventions?

By Anne Twomey

The Coalition has raised concerns that the Memorandum of Understanding with Papua New Guinea over the Manus Island asylum seeker processing deal was entered into after the caretaker conventions commenced.

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But what are these conventions and what are the consequences of breaching them?

What are the caretaker conventions?

The caretaker conventions have been adhered to by all political parties in Australia for decades. They set the ground rules for how governments are to behave in the lead-up to the election and in the post-election period until the election result is clear and a new government (if there is a change of government) is appointed. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet issues formal Guidance on Caretaker Conventions before each election.

The caretaker conventions started applying to the Commonwealth government at 5:30pm on August 5, 2013, upon the dissolution of parliament.

Why do the caretaker conventions exist?

There are two rationales for the operation of the caretaker conventions. The first is that once parliament is dissolved, ministers are no longer “accountable” to parliament for their actions and should therefore be constrained in the way they behave.

The second rationale is that it is unfair if a (potentially) outgoing government can bind a future government just before it comes into office. If it could do so, a losing government could leave all kinds of booby-traps or impose enormous financial commitments upon its successor.

The caretaker conventions are intended to avoid unfairness and to constrain potentially inappropriate actions while parliament is dissolved and until the newly elected government takes office.

What limits apply to government actions during the caretaker period?

During the caretaker period, the ordinary administration of government must continue. It is only in relation to particular high level matters that there are any constraints. The conventions therefore provide that during the caretaker period the government should not: take major policy decisions that are likely to commit an incoming government; make significant appointments; or enter into significant contracts or undertakings.

Deciding whether a policy is major or an appointment or contract is significant is a matter of judgement. There are no hard and fast rules. Factors include whether or not it is a routine or contentious matter, whether it commits government resources, whether it involves large amounts of money, the length of any commitment and whether or not it can easily be reversed.

If circumstances arise where a major decision has to be made during the caretaker period (for example about whether to commit Australian troops to military action or whether to provide emergency relief to deal with a natural disaster), it is customary for the government to consult the Opposition to try to find a mutually agreed position.

What are the consequences of a breach of the caretaker conventions?

The caretaker conventions are just conventions. They are not law and are therefore not legally binding limits on the powers of the government. Ministers still have the formal power to enter into contracts and make decisions as long as they continue to hold office. There are therefore no legal grounds to challenge the validity of contracts or appointments simply because they are made during the caretaker period.

There is a possibility (albeit a remote one) that the governor-general could refuse to act upon advice (for instance, to make an appointment) during the caretaker period, or defer any action until after the caretaker period was over, if that advice involved a serious breach of the caretaker conventions. In constitutional terms, this would be because ministers are not responsible to parliament during the caretaker period, and therefore are not the “responsible advisers” of the governor-general.

For example, in Canada in 1896, after the Tupper government had lost the election but before a new government was sworn-in, prime minister Charles Tupper advised the governor-general to appoint a number of senators and judges. The governor-general refused and left it to the new government to advise upon filling the places. Equally, South Australian premier Don Dunstan sought the appointment of a new governor days before the election in 1968. However, the appointment was deferred until after the election, and the incoming government decided to appoint someone else.

What about Manus Island?

The Memorandum of Understanding with PNG is a borderline caretaker convention issue. It was reportedly entered into by Australia’s representative before 5:30pm on August 5 when parliament was dissolved, but was not executed by the PNG government until afterwards.

Given that the issue is when the decision of the Commonwealth government was actually made – rather than the decision of the PNG government – it would appear to have been made and formally executed before the caretaker period commenced. Hence it would appear not to be a breach of the conventions, even though it came very close to the line. Even if it had crossed the line, this would not be grounds for a legal challenge as it would only have breached a convention – not the law. Any consequences would be political.

Anne Twomey receives funding from the ARC and occasionally does consultancy work for governments and inter-governmental organisations.

Tamiflu ‘wasted on mild strain of swine flu’

Health authorities are wasting antiviral drugs on a “mild” form of swine flu that may be needed if the strain becomes more aggressive next year, experts say.

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The director of the Austin Hospital’s infectious diseases department, Lindsay Grayson, and his deputy Paul Johnson said if the current strain of swine flu developed resistance to Tamiflu because of its early, widespread use, it would be a “nightmare scenario” that would leave medicos with “few treatment options”.

Swine flu’s spread could have been slowed with better testing guidelines and more efficient use of laboratory facilities, the pair said in an article in the online version of the Medical Journal of Australia, Fairfax newspapers reported on Thursday .

Victorian guidelines that asked doctors to test only people who had returned from overseas or had had close contact with a proven case were the “opposite of what should have occurred”, they said.

The move to send all samples to a single lab for testing created delays up to five days for patients, many of whom were not in quarantine or not receiving antiviral treatment, they said.

“If all hospitals had testing capacity and the rules for testing were not based on preconceived assumptions, the current influenza situation might have been different,” they said. Authorities were “extremely slow, to distribute masks and drugs, especially to GPs in the front line, they said.

The harsh criticism comes as Australia swings into a new pandemic “protect” phase, with the number of swine flu cases soars past 2,000.

The new phase will focus antiviral drugs and medical attention on those deemed most at risk, including pregnant women, the morbidly obese and those with respiratory conditions such as asthma.

People who live with or have come into contact with swine flu patients will no longer be quarantined.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the states and territories would reopen schools closed because of swine flu and students who had returned from areas affected by the disease would return to school.

Only people with moderate or severe symptoms, or those in vulnerable groups, will have access to the national and state stockpiles of Tamiflu.

As it happened: Federal budget 2013

10.

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00pm. Thank you for following our live blog tonight. You can find more on the budget on our budget minisite, and a wrap of today’s event here: Welfare cuts, taxes fund big Labor pledges.

Also, don’t forget that you can get your head around the changes announced tonight using our interactive graphic.

21.59pm. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey slammed the budget, saying it delivered more “debt, chaos and spin”.

Govt says #Budget is about “jobs and growth”, yet it delivers higher unemployment and lower growth.

— Joe Hockey (@JoeHockey) May 14, 2013

He spoke to SBS Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton.

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21:55pm. Australia’s AAA rating remains unchanged despite the federal government handing down an $18 billion deficit.

21.45pm. As the post-budget storm rages on, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott tweets about something totally different.

I’ve just signed the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism. twitter.com/TonyAbbottMHR/…

— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) May 14, 2013

21.41pm. West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has welcomed the significant federal budget commitment to building road and rail in the state, including $500 million towards key election rail commitments.

21.31pm. SBS Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton brings you an analysis of the budget.

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21.23pm. NITV correspondent Jeremy Geia takes a look at how the federal budget announcements might affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

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21.21pm. Do you want to know what academics think of the budget? You can check our article : Federal budget 2013: expert reaction, featuring Ben Spies-Butcher; Cameron Gordon, University of Canberra; John Quiggin; Lin Crase, La Trobe University; Simon Marginson, University of Melbourne, and Zareh Ghazarian, Monash University.

21.10pm. The federal budget has missed the opportunity to take the pressure off business, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) says.

ACCI Budget Response: “Budget Ignores Small Business and Hard Savings Choices”Media release: tinyurl.com/cyf8u4p

— ACCI Comms (@ACCIBizVoice) May 14, 2013

“It’s a budget of band-aids when the patient required targeted surgery to spending and the oxygen of cost relief to boost confidence,” ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson said in a

statement.

21.07pm. The Australian Labor Party posted this video, tweeting : “The Federal Budget. Why it matters, and what it’s all about in 3 minutes”.

21.05pm. Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said for the first time in Australian history, disability was at the centre of the federal budget.

“The national disability insurance scheme (NDIS) is a huge reform and it’s very pleasing that it’s supported by all political parties.

21.01pm. The Australian National Retailer’s Association, the body representing Australia’s largest national retailers, said there was little in Mr Swan’s speech to support the retail sector and cuts to welfare payments would hurt the sector, which employs 1.2 million Australians.

20:55pm. SBS Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton brings you a summary of what announced tonight:

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20.44pm. John Freebairn from the University of Melbourne says “an increasing structural deficit is unsustainable; and it threatens the ability of governments to assist the economy to recover from inevitable future international and domestic shocks”. Treasurer Wayne Swan has delivered a budget with a $19.4 billion deficit this financial year.

Federal Budget 2013: Why our unsustainable structural deficit must be tackled, by John Freebairn: bit.ly/ZWjjrm

— The Conversation (@ConversationEDU) April 28, 2013

And if you’d like another expert’s view on the budget, read Michelle Grattan’s piece.

20.33pm: As Rhiannon Elston reports from Canberra, the federal government has set aside $500,000 to fund programs to raise awareness over the practice of female genital mutilation.

It’s hoped the plan will help support change within Australian communities where the practice still occurs. The government will also undertake research and examine Australia’s legal framework to determine whether laws around the issue are adequate.

20.22pm: Would you like to find out who are the winners and losers in this year’s federal budget? Here is a quick list: Factbox: Winners and losers in the federal budget.

20:20pm. SBS has welcomed an additional $20 million in new funding over the next triennium.

The federal government will provide the funding over three years, on top of last year’s $95.2 million investment. A further $10 million has been allocated for local content.

SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid tweeted:

Really pleased that @sbs was a budget winner again tonight with additional funding for even better content. tinyurl.com/d3b3ja4

— Michael Ebeid (@michaelebeid) May 14, 2013

“SBS is a lean and agile hybrid broadcaster which punches above its weight with distinctive and innovative content, despite operating on one fifth of the average budget of all the other broadcasters,” Mr Ebeid said.

20:15pm. What’s in the budget for universities?

* $1.2 billion cut by converting student start up scholarships to income contingent loans for new youth allowance, Austudy and Abstudy recipients from January 1, 2014

* $902.7 million cut via efficiency dividend applied to niversity funding (2 per cent in 2014 and 1.25 per cent in 2015)

* $236.6 million cut from ending discounters for up-front and voluntary repayments of HECS-HELP debts

* $520 million cut from capping work-related education expenses

* $135.3 million (over five years) to continue Australian Research Council future fellowships

* $97 million to 2017 for new university places, targeted at areas of need like teaching and language studies

* $185.9 for running cooperative research infrastructure

* $51 billion expected higher education investment over five years

20.08pm. As Rhiannon Elston reports from Canberra, services for Indigenous Australians will be boosted by $1.6 billion formally handed down in today’s budget, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says.

The bulk of the money will go towards health, education and early childhood programs. An investment of $659 million will be made to extend targeted education programs for Indigenous students, on top of a previously announced $44 million in scholarships.

The total figure also includes $777 million over three years for a commitment to renew the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) for Indigenous Health Outcomes, a figure expected to grow once states and territories announce their joint contribution.

New Indigenous funding announcements made today:

– $127.5 million to extend employment programs

– $12 million for additional support for specialised Indigenous legal services – $15 million over three years to continue funding for the National Congress, starting in 2014

– $6.2 million for upgrades to nine hostels in Queensland and the Northern Territory

– $1.3 million over two years for a developmental study of Indigenous children

20.00pm. As AAP reports here is where the new savings are:

FOR SCHOOL FUNDING

* $16.3 billion from education reform including cuts to universities, making student scholarships into loans, cap on self-education expenses and redirection of National Partnership schools funding

* $10.6 billion from family payments changes including replacing the baby bonus; freezing means testing on family tax benefits and freezing the child care rebate cap

* $14.3 billion from closing corporate tax loopholes

* $3.1 billion from changes to visa application charges and public sector efficiencies

FOR DISABILITYCARE AUSTRALIA

* $33 billion from increasing Medicare levy

* $6 billion from changes to superannuation tax exemptions and concessions

* $6.5 billion from changing indexation on government contributions to the private health insurance rebate and the lifetime cover penalty

* $20.6 billion from changing tax concessions for fringe benefits and net medical benefits, indexation of tobacco excise, increasing import processing charges and other changes.

19.50pm. You can read Wayne Swan’s full speech here:

The full text of Wayne Swan’s #budget2013 speech: ow.ly/l0s9k

— smh.com.au (@smh) May 14, 2013

19.46pm: The baby bonus will be abolished from March 1, 2014.

Under the benefit change, eligible Eligible Family Tax Benefit A recipients will receive a $2000 boost for their first-born child and $1000 for subsequent children, to be paid in instalments, as long as they aren’t accessing thegovernment’s paid parental

leave scheme.

19.45pm: Would like to quickly find out how the budget will affect you? Check out this interactive graphic.

19.43pm: The government will address loopholes in the corporate tax system to save over $100 million in 2013/14 and $4.2 billion over four years.

19.40pm Treasurer Wayne Swan announces $9.8 billion in new school funding.

19.39pm: You can watch the Treasurer’s speech live here.

19: 37pm: Treasurer Wayne Swan says there will be $24 billion invested in both urban road and rail infrastructure.

“These investments will boost productivity, build capacity, improve safety and relieve congestion as well as improving the quality of life in our communities across the nation,” he told parliament.

19:30pm. Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan says Canberra projects a higher-than-expected deficit of $19.4 billion for this financial year, followed by a shortfall of $18 billion in 2013/14.

18:45pm. As SBS’s Political Correspondent Richard Davis revealed, the budget will unveil a $24 billion infrastructure fund. The federal government will also scrap the baby bonus, as it tries to cut spending and find a way back to surplus.

The scrapping of the baby bonus was widespread news also on other media outlets.

The baby bonus will be scrapped in tonight’s #budget2013 and replaced by a lower payment, according to reports ow.ly/l0gqC

— smh.com.au (@smh) May 14, 2013

18: 15pm Canberra is promising a surplus, but not for another four years. In other breaking news this afternoon, it emerged that Canberra plans a return to surplus in 2016-2017.

Budget leaks suggest forecast of a return to surplus in 2016-17, baby bonus to be abolished #budget2013 afr.com/p/national/bud…

— Financial Review (@FinancialReview) May 14, 2013

17.10pm World Vision has already expressed disappointment over delays to the aid budget announced by Foreign Minister Carr yesterday.

World Vision Head of Policy Nancy Waites shares her #budget thoughts over at @womensweeklymag: wva.me/13Xn1oH #dontcutaid

— World Vision AUS (@WorldVisionAus) May 14, 2013

“Each day 19,000 children and 800 pregnant women in the developing world die and many more suffer domestic violence and other forms of gender discrimination,” World Vision Head of Policy Nancy Waites said.

“That’s why it’s extremely concerning that Foreign Minister, Senator Carr, indicated yesterday that the Australian Government will delay its promise to increase aid to reach the UN target of 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI)”.

17: 00pm Politicians and reporters have been in the budget lock-up since 1.30pm today, but earlier today Tresurer Swan found some time to have this picture taken:

The Treasurer takes a short break from #Budget preparation to spend some time with his family– TeamSwanny twitter.com/SwannyDPM/stat…

— Wayne Swan (@SwannyDPM) May 14, 2013

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