Archive for March, 2019 | Monthly archive page

Great Barrier Reef: government fights World Heritage ‘in danger’ listing

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Greg Hunt said the reef was the best managed marine ecosystem in the world.Environment Minister Greg Hunt has stepped up the government’s campaign to stop the Great Barrier Reef being listed as “in danger”, declaring it the “best managed marine ecosystem in the world”.

In a submission to the United Nations World Heritage Committee, Mr Hunt said the government had heard the concerns of the committee about threats facing the reef and “we have acted with renewed vigour”.

The move comes as the Queensland election result casts fresh doubt on the future of mining projects in the Galilee Basin, with Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk pledging Labor will end taxpayer subsidies for Galilee coal and associated rail projects if it forms government.

The expansion of coal terminals at Abbot Point has been central to the World Heritage Committee’s concerns for the reef.

In his submission to fight against a formal “in danger” listing, Mr Hunt said the government had responded by moving to permanently ban the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Mr Hunt said the government was limiting significant development of port areas adjacent to the marine park and up to $2 billion would be spent in the next decade to “provide ongoing significant investment for the management and understanding of the reef”.

The Environment Minister even named the government’s belated $200 million contribution to the global Green Climate Fund, set up to help developing countries deal with climate change, as an example of the government’s actions to reduce the impact of domestic and international climate change.

The government’s recent Outlook Report on the health of the reef listed climate change as the most serious threat to the reef, which would have “far-reaching consequences in the decades to come”.

“In the light of the strength of this response and Australia’s acknowledged track record in responsibly managing this international icon in the interests of future global generations, Australia firmly believes that the property does not warrant inclusion on the list of World Heritage properties in danger,” Mr Hunt wrote in the submission.

But WWF Australia said the government’s response to the committee was “inaccurate and fails to acknowledge serious declines in the reef’s health”.

WWF-Australia chief executive Dermot O’Gorman said the report portrayed the reef as remaining in good condition despite evidence from the government’s own scientists that it was suffering a serious decline in its health.

“The State Party Report claims that Australian and Queensland government policies on the Great Barrier Reef are sufficient to avoid an ‘in-danger’ listing by the World Heritage Committee, but this claim is undermined by the clear picture provided by the science,” he said.

Mr O’Gorman said that since 1981 the reef’s health had deteriorated against 24 out of 41 measures used to assess its outstanding universal value.

“Of the 24 diminished attributes, 10 are currently assessed as being ‘poor’, including corals, seagrass, marine turtles, dugong and seabirds – all of which are fundamental aspects of the original World Heritage listing,” he said.

Mother charged with negligence after toddler dies of multiple injuries

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

A Berkeley toddler who died after his mother allegedly failed to get him medical treatment for serious head and stomach injuries had a history of being neglected, a Supreme Court jury has heard.

The boy, who along with his mother can’t be identified, was admitted to Wollongong Hospital around 4.30pm on August 3, 2012, suffering from bleeding on the brain and a perforated gut.

He died less than an hour later.

Police charged the woman with manslaughter by criminal negligence, claiming she failed to get her son any medical treatment in the days before his death.

In an opening address to the jury on Monday, Crown prosecutor Chris Maxwell, QC, said expert witnesses would give evidence in the trial about the boy’s deteriorating health in the lead up to his death, including “obvious” symptoms they say he would have been displaying as a result of his injuries.

“It’s the Crown case that it was during this time [in the days before his death] that his need for urgent medical attention would have become obvious to [his mother],” Mr Maxwell said.

He said a forensic pathologist who conducted the post-mortem on the boy’s body would tell the court that he died from “multiple injuries”, including a “severe and recent head injury” that caused bleeding on the surface of the brain, as well as a “blunt force injury to the abdomen” that caused peritonitis – the inflammation of the membrane covering the abdominal wall and organs.

Left untreated, the combined nature of the injuries ultimately caused death, Mr Maxwell said.

It will be alleged, however, that this wasn’t the first time the boy had been injured and failed to receive medical treatment.

Mr Maxwell said the forensic pathologist also detected several fractured bones in the boy’s body that had gone unmended.

Jurors are expected to hear evidence that fractures were detected in three of the boy’s ribs, his collar bone, left shoulder blade and one of his forearms, all of which allegedly occured between two and six weeks before his death.

Medical records show the boy never received treatment for the injuries, Mr Maxwell said.

“The Crown will say this is evidence of [the mother’s] tendency not to take appropriate medical action regarding the deceased,” he said.

“You will also hear from neighbours of the accused who I expect will give evidence about neglect by [the mother] of her son.”

However, defence barrister Winston Terracini, SC, urged jurors not to jump to conclusions until they’d heard all the evidence against the woman.

“She has not been charged with causing the injuries that were found on this baby’s body,” he said, noting that there were two other people – the woman’s current partner at the time and her ex-partner, the child’s biological father – who were also involved in his care.

“She was doing the best she could to try and look after the baby.

“The question for you to determine is whether this lady would have known how serious the problems were with the boy.”

The trial, before Justice Geoffrey Bellew, continues.

Forget the genome, Australian scientists crack the ‘methylome’ for an aggressive type of breast cancer

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Scientific breakthrough: Susan Clark from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and her team have for first the first time translated the methylome of breast cancer, finding distinct patterns associated with different types of breast cancer. Photo: Garvan InstituteDecoding the letters of the human genome revolutionised scientists’ understanding of the role of genetic mutations in many diseases, including about one in every five cancers.

Now a team of Australian scientists have gone a step further, inventing a way to decipher another layer of information that garnishes genes, called methyl groups, which may explain the cause of many more cancers.

Methyl groups hang off sections of DNA like Christmas lights and act like a switch, affecting how genes are expressed in different cell types. Collectively called the methylome, they can also switch off tumour suppressor genes and switch on cancer promoting genes.

Susan Clark from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and her team have for first the first time translated the methylome of breast cancer, finding distinct patterns associated with different types of breast cancer.

They have also found a way to classify women with the worst type of breast cancer, triple-negative, into two groups; those with a highly aggressive form and those with a lower-risk variety with a longer survival time. At present there is no reliable way to divide triple-negative cancers, which do not respond to targeted treatment, into these sub-groups.

With further testing, methylation signatures may be used as predictive biomarkers that doctors use to prescribe more appropriate treatments for women diagnosed with breast cancer in the future.

Professor Clark’s team are the first in the world to sequence large chunks of the methylome from samples of cancer tissue that had been archived for up to two decades.

Using historical samples meant they could trace which methylation patterns were linked to patient survival times.

Cancer specialist Paul Mainwaring, who was not involved in the research, said Professor Clark’s new technique to decode the entire methylome will have significant implications for cancer research in general.

“The power of this technology is that it’s allowing us to get a much sharper view on how cancer starts, progresses, metastasizes, behaves and a new avenue of treatment,” said Dr Mainwaring from ICON Cancer Care in Brisbane.

“We’ll still be talking about this paper in 20 years,” he said.

While specific faults in a person’s DNA sequence have been shown to increase their risk of certain cancers – the BRCA 2 mutation which significantly increases a woman’s chance of developing breast tumours – in about two-thirds of cancers there are no changes to the DNA code.

In many of these cases scientists are finding changes to the genome that do not affect the underlying code, principally through DNA methylation.

“Every cancer has some sort of mutational profile, but there are multiple layers of where those abnormalities can occur. This is a giving us the ability to read one of those layers,” he said.

Dr Mainwaring said the exciting part about identifying methylation patterns was that they are potentially reversible.

“It’s the bit of the genome we may be able to influence most, certain regions can be changed either by diet, exercise or drugs,” he said.

Professor Clark and team’s research was funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation and has been published in the leading scientific journal Nature Communications.

New Jets signing backs Stubbins

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Jets training at Ray Watt Oval Callaghan on Tuesday. Korean Ki-Je Lee in the background and new signing Daniel Mullen with the ball. Picture Peter Stoop NEW Newcastle Jets defender Daniel Mullen said coach Phil Stubbins was a major factor in his decision to join the turmoil-plagued A-League club for the rest of the season.

Three Jets players made it clear during a crisis meeting last Thursday that they had no confidence in Stubbins’ coaching, but Mullen has no such reservations.

‘‘Obviously I’ve worked with Stubbsy before at Adelaide United and he was a big part of why I came here,’’ Mullen said. ‘‘I’ve played against the Jets and I’ve seen the facilities and the fans and they’ve impressed me.’’

Mullen signed a four-month contract with the Jets on Saturday after a frustrating season at the cellar-dwelling Western Sydney Wanderers, where he played just four A-League games.


The former Adelaide and Melbourne Victory centre back has arrived in Newcastle following the most toxic week in the club’s history.

Since the 7-0 shellacking in Adelaide 10 days ago, the club has been consumed with controversy. A player-led coup against Stubbins failed and subsequently led to the dismissal of senior players Joel Griffiths, Kew Jaliens, Adrian Madaschi, David Carney and Billy Celeski, and coaching staff Clayton Zane, Neil Young and Andrew Packer last Wednesday.

Assistant coach Michael Bridges resigned on Friday over the club’s handling of the situation.

If Mullen, 25, can defend the Jets’ goal half as good as he deflected away media questions on Monday regarding the club’s off-field dramas, he may be an astute signing.

‘‘I see this as a great opportunity,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve come here with a bit of experience, and with the boys here, we have some great players.

‘‘So far it’s been positive. We have our first game since I’ve been here against Brisbane Roar and we want to turn things around.

‘‘We’ve had a couple of good sessions already, so we want to hit the ground running.’’

Asked if he was surprised by the breakdown between Stubbins and the players, Mullen said: ‘‘Whatever has happened is in the past. I’ve come here with a clean slate.’’

Fellow Wanderers discard Kwabena Appiah is also hopeful of joining the Jets.

The 22-year-old winger began trialling with the Jets on Monday, along with Korean left back Ki-Je Lee.

Appiah played 23 games mostly off the bench for the Wanderers in their first two seasons in the A-League, but received just two opportunities during their latest win-less campaign.

Meanwhile, former Jets defender Josh Mitchell is set to rejoin Chinese club Liaoning Hongyun.

AAP reports: Nebojsa Marinkovic has set his sights on leading Perth Glory to championship success after re-signing with the club for a further two seasons.

Marinkovic, who joined Perth last January before becoming the club’s international marquee this season, has scored eight goals combined in the FFA Cup and A-League.