Archive for October, 2019 | Monthly archive page

OPINION: Cannabisused to top up prescribedopioids

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

ONE in six people using prescribed opioids for chronic pain also use cannabis, a study of 1500 Australians led by researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW has found.
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The researchers also found that those who used cannabis in addition to opioids reported greater pain relief than those using opioids alone.

Use of cannabis among chronic-pain patients using opioids was common. Past-year cannabis use was more than three times higher than in the general population – 13per cent of the sample had used cannabis in the past year, compared with only 4.7per cent of the general population aged over 40 years. One in six had never used cannabis for pain relief (16per cent), and a quarter (23per cent) reported that they would use cannabis for pain if they had access to it.

The analysis of cannabis use among prescription opioid users was conducted as part of Australia’s largest study of chronic pain sufferers using pharmaceutical opioids. Called the POINT study, it is following more than 1500 Australians over two years.

Those in the cohort who had used cannabis for pain were younger than those who used prescription opioids only (average age of 49 compared with 59 for non-users), were more likely to report more severe pain, had been living with pain for longer and reported that their pain interfered with their lives to a great extent. They were also more likely to have a history of substance use disorders and mental health issues.

There is limited research evidence on the effectiveness of cannabis use for chronic pain, either on its own or in conjunction with opioids.

Yet despite this, and the fact that cannabis use is illegal in Australia, use of cannabis among this group was high.

Despite scientific uncertainty about the benefits of cannabis use for medical purposes there is a significant sub-population of people living with chronic pain who report that they experience real benefits in terms of pain relief.

Associate Professor Nicholas Lintzeris, an Addiction Medicine specialist from Sydney University has noted: ‘‘We need to know much more about the potential role of cannabinoids for chronic pain conditions.

‘‘We have documented that a small but significant population of chronic pain sufferers reported pain relief from their cannabis use. This group of individuals generally reported more complex and debilitating pain conditions than non-cannabis users, and less satisfactory symptom relief with conventional pain treatments such as opioid medication. It may be that cannabis use provides some additional therapeutic benefits for those not benefiting from usual treatment approaches.

‘‘However, there is often a complex relationship between pain and other health issues – such as mental health, sleep and substance use, and much more research is required to disentangle the effects of cannabis use in chronic pain sufferers,’’ he said.

This is a group of individuals with complex clinical histories. The potential risks of long-term cannabis use need to be considered and carefully managed.

The study has been published in the international journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Professor Louisa Degenhardt is the lead author

OPINION: Put vulnerable children first

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

CARE: Adoption can help provide a happy home to those who need one.‘‘I’M a happy and loved son, brother, father and adoptee. Living proof’’.
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This young man reminded me of why Adopt Change continues to believe in the enormous difference a permanent, safe, loving family can make.

Sadly, not every vulnerable child who cannot be cared for by their biological parents will get that experience.

Adoption is at an all-time low in Australia – over the past 25 years there has been a 76per cent decline in the adoption of children.

The latest figures published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that in 2013-14, 317 children were adopted; 36per cent of those children were adopted from overseas and the remainder were from within Australia.

Yet we know that there are more than 50,000 Australian children who were in foster care at some time last year and more than 11,000 babies were removed from neglectful and/or violent families.

Worldwide there are estimated to be 153million orphans – approximately 18million of these children have lost both parents and are living in orphanages or on the streets and lack the care and attention required for healthy development. These children are at risk for disease, malnutrition, and death.

We need a fundamental shift in how we help vulnerable children through adoption, both in Australia and overseas. In Australia, adoption has become a stigma, it brings up images of forced adoptions, where women and men were coerced into giving up their babies.

The profound pain caused by this system has echoed down the generations. We need to learn from these experiences and move towards an ethical, open and supported adoption system in Australia. Children who cannot be cared for by their biological parents should have the option of growing up in a safe, loving family. This is because it is the best thing for a child.

The research clearly shows that stable, long-term relationships help healthy brain, behaviour and emotional development. Adults and children are hard-wired to connect with each other – the day-to-day moments shared by young children and the adults who care for them affects the connections and the circuitry of the developing brain*.

When children don’t get this, it disrupts their development, and leads to an increased range of risk of emotional and behavioural disorders.

The consequence for children is that they are less likely to graduate from high school and to develop healthy relationships – setting them up for an increased risk of experiencing disadvantage and social isolation.

There are many barriers to adoption that we need to remove in order to help vulnerable children. Parents share with me stories of long wait times (around five years to adopt a child from overseas), different eligibility criteria across states and territories, the cost and an anti-adoption culture among some working in the area.

In Australia, we need a system that places the needs of the child in the centre and provides a timely response that enables them to grow up in a stable, loving, permanent family. We need support for all of those involved in adoption – if alive, the parents who cannot look after their children, the adoptive parents and the child.

Over the Australia Day weekend, the federal government announced a positive step forward for parents wanting to adopt from overseas. The Intercountry Adoption Support Service will be a ‘‘one-stop-shop’’ to provide prospective families with access to a dedicated 1800 help line and special website. Trained staff will advocate on their behalf, dealing with state authorities and partner countries. Families will be given direct referrals to the people they need to talk to.

The plan includes funding for family support services to provide much needed help to parents and families involved in inter-country adoption.

With this focus and support, the government hopes to reduce the time it takes for parents to adopt from overseas and for a child to be placed with a family. The Commonwealth government will also pursue new inter-country adoption programmes with the USA, Poland and Vietnam, with discussions progressing with four other countries. We strongly encourage the federal government to keep working on opening up relationships with more countries overseas.

There is much to do within Australia and overseas to ensure ethical adoption is an option. Our number one priority should be to ensure children can grow up in a loving, caring family because it will set them up for the best possible chance in life.

And for all those who have adopted or are considering adopting a child, David Howe, puts it beautifully: it is ‘‘an uplifting tale of love which is unconditional, care which is warm, and commitment which is life-long’’.

Every child deserves that.

*InBrief – The Science of Neglect, Harvard University, 2014

Jane Hunt is the CEO at Adopt Change.

City: Brum, brum – Birmingham revs up

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

According to Britain’s  Office for National Statistics, in the year to June 2013 almost 60,000 thirtysomethings left London looking for a better work/life balance – and the majority of those went to Birmingham.
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The word’s out beyond the UK, too: the Rough Guides’ annual list of the top 10 places to visit this year includes New Orleans, Hamburg, Yangon and … Birmingham.

In Birmingham, it said “creative hotspots are beginning to emerge in the urban sprawl … like the old industrial district of Digbeth, where vintage shops and street food stalls have begun to appear in and around the old Victorian buildings. Head to the old Bird’s Custard Factory for vintage kilo sales and live music performances”.

You’ve only to walk around the city to catch the buzz, the feeling that, finally, Birmingham is about to take its place, if not in the sun (this is England, you fool) then in the limelight.

This is, after all, the city with the biggest, sexiest new library in Europe – the £188 million  gold and blue-steel cubular belle in Centenary Square. It is quite simply a pleasure to take the escalators up through the magnificent, beautifully lit space-age spiral of the central atrium to the top-floor balconies for the view across the city and the extraordinary Elizabethan-style Shakespeare Memorial Room (see libraryofbirmingham上海龙凤419m).

For more classical fare there’s the Museum and Art Gallery nearby, looming imperiously over Chamberlain Square and home both to one of the largest collections of pre-Raphaelite art in the world and the amazing Staffordshire Hoard, the biggest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found in Britain and  described by one expert as “the metalwork equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells” (see birminghammuseums上海龙凤

Back over the other side of Centenary Square, past the Walkabout bar (where Australian cricketer David Warner punched England’s Joe Root in 2013 and where Thursday night is Kylie’s Beach Night) a left-hand turn will bring you to (a) the Tap and Spile pub, and (b) Gas Street Basin where a flotilla of narrow boats cuddles together and awaits hire.

Birmingham is the hub of the country’s canal network and historic Gas Street Basin is slap-bang in the middle of that. From here you could take a narrow boat all the way to London – but most people make do with day trips, dinner cruises and longer  three, four and seven-day journeys floating serenely into the heart of the English countryside. Gill Smith, owner of the Away Group canal boat company, says short B&B stays on the boats are also becoming popular with the conference crowd (see away2canal上海龙凤

And then there’s the Jewellery Quarter, a Georgian-era conservation area at the heart of the city full of listed buildings, jewellery businesses, funky shops, quirky bars and a residential property market that, compared to London, is magnetisingly cheap (see jewelleryquarter上海龙凤419).

The annual Christmas market in Birmingham spreads across Victoria Square, New Street and Chamberlain Square – a sprawling, sparkling bauble of more than 180 stalls festooned with festive lights and selling everything from handmade wooden toys to bratwurst, beer and gluhwein.

Each year the streets around the town hall and the art gallery are busy with locals and tourists alike. It’s even started to spill over into Centenary Square on the other side of Paradise Forum, where oddly inappropriate reindeer burgers can be found among the tinsel and fairylights.

And it’s a throng that’s only going to get bigger as more young people relocate from London to the UK’s long-derided and much-neglected second city.





British Airways, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Cathay Pacific operate frequent flights between  Sydney and Melbourne and London. Birmingham Airport is serviced by many  low-cost carriers.

Birmingham’s New Street Station has frequent rail services to London’s Euston station and National Express coaches connect the city (at Digbeth Coach Station, just a few minutes from the city centre) to London Victoria station, with links to Heathrow, Gatwick, East Midlands, Stansted and Luton. See.visitbirmingham上海龙凤419m/travel.


The Hyatt Regency, 2 Bridge Street, Birmingham, is right in the middle of the city, with fabulous views over the canals and the city and is within walking distance of most major attractions. Rooms start at about $180 for two,  twin share. See birmingham.regency.hyatt上海龙凤419m.

The writer was a guest of VisitEngland and British Airways.

Kevin Rudd’s second coming as PM spurred surge in donations from Chinese

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Kevin Rudd proved popular with the Chinese community. Photo: Ben RushtonKevin Rudd scandalised Beijing when he used his first official trip to China as prime minister to highlight the country’s human rights abuses. Then came his famous declaration during the Copenhagen climate change talks: “Those Chinese f—ers are trying to rat-f— us.”
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Yet the latest political donations returns, released on Monday, show the fluent Mandarin speaker’s return to office in 2013 was greeted with a surge in donations from the Middle Kingdom and the local Chinese community.

The most stunning donation was $850,000 from an unheard donor named Zi Chun Wang – the biggest donation from an individual to any party in 2013/14.

Wang’s identity had political operatives flummoxed; Google and news archive searches do not produce results for that name.

It has since emerged that the donation was from a Chinese property developer, based in Hebei province, spurred to make the donation by Mr Rudd’s return to the Lodge. The donation is understood to be linked China Ever Bright, a financial conglomerate with interests in construction and property development in Australia. The donation was made at the start of August, days after Mr Rudd called the election date.

On top of that, Chinese-Australian property developer and newspaper tycoon Chau Chak Wing donated $635,000 to the ALP through his company Kingold following Mr Rudd’s return. He also donated a more meagre $200,000 to the Liberal Party. The prolific donor, who has poured over $2 million into the coffers of both major parties, is best known for donating $20 million to build the University of Technology, Sydney’s new Frank Gehry-designed “paper bag” building.

The Australian Chinese Business Elite Awards, held in Melbourne, also gave $260,000 to the ALP in July, a month after Rudd’s return.

A Wencheng Guo, whose address is listed as Mosman in Sydney, gave $100,000 to the ALP last August.

Most mysterious of all is a $400,000 donation to the ALP from Jingui Xu, whose address is listed as South Hurstville. The donation to Labor’s NSW branch was made in late September, weeks after Rudd’s election defeat.

Liberal Party branches also received $525,000 in donations from Chine property development company the YuHu Group and the Coalition received $440,000 from Chau Chak Wing’s HK Kingson Investments.

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Tony Abbott’s leadership crisis deepens as leaked letter reveals plea for unity

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Prime Minister Tony Abbott returns to Canberra to attend a cabinet meeting at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew MearesRead Mr Nikolic’s letter to colleaguesTony Abbott’s TV exchange with David Koch’Back To Work Tuesday’: PM’s days of the week
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One of Tony Abbott’s most vocal parliamentary interjectors has risked escalating the leadership crisis threatening his boss by pleading with Liberals not to become “the rabble” his party replaced in 2013.

Tasmanian Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic has written to his colleagues urging calm and increased loyalty to the Prime Minister even as the momentum appears to be building towards some kind of partyroom showdown.

“What’s going on?” he wrote.

“I’m struggling to understand how that has happened in the proud team I thought I’d joined.”

He told colleagues that changing leaders was a sign of failure because “only weak parties lose their composure and unity of purpose when challenged”.

“We are not that party,” Mr Nikolic continued.

“The branches and sequels of the disunity I am reading about in the paper each day can go in a number of different ways. My hope, my plea is that we knuckle down, refocus on what’s important and not become the rabble we defeated.”

His arguments came as several senior ministers including Treasurer Joe Hockey, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane rallied behind the Prime Minister.

Mr Macfarlane went as far as to call on deputy Liberal leader and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to “publicly” declare she would not challenge for the leadership.

But as with previous leadership tussles, backbench attempts to buttress flagging support for the leader can also have the effect of reinforcing the existence of a crisis, and risk deepening it.

Mr Abbott has pointedly refused to dismiss claims that Ms Bishop confronted him in one-on-one talks on Sunday, with the news that he was losing the confidence of his party colleagues.

It has been reported that she declined to offer him an assurance of her continued loyalty.

Speculation continues to swirl around a possible alternative leadership ticket involving Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Ms Bishop.

Some backbenchers have approached the two ministers to put themselves formally forward as leadership options.

Others have prevailed upon Ms Bishop to use her deputy role to inform Mr Abbott that he should resign.

“This is ‘backs to the wall’ stuff and I for one want teammates looking that challenge in the eye – not repeating the mistakes of those who created the challenge in the first place,” Mr Nikolic wrote. 

But the entreaty may fall on deaf ears with Liberals increasingly looking for a circuit-breaker for their troubles.

Mr Abbott and his colleagues were on Tuesday afternoon locked in a cabinet meeting scheduled to also run on Wednesday.

Mr Hockey emerged from cabinet to address the cut in interest rates and told reporters Ms Bishop is “100 per cent” behind Mr Abbott.

“I have no doubt, no doubt at all that Julie Bishop is absolutely 100 per cent supportive of the Prime Minister as we all are,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described the government’s two-day cabinet meeting as “group therapy” and a “circular firing squad”.

“We don’t even know who the prime minister is going to be next week, we know that their budget’s in disarray and it’s unfair,” he said.

“This government are [sic] chaotic and dysfunctional, they’re more interested in talking about themselves, they’ve got leaks, they’ve got attacks on each other,” he said.

with Latika Bourke

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