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    ‘Gentler, flexible’: Women outnumber men in dentistry for first time

    2019 - 07.13

    SMH. 7th of September 2017. Portrait of dentist, Dr Melanie Patney for a story about females outnumbering male dentists for the first time. Photographed at Duneba Dental in West Gordon. Story: Anna Patty. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer The Age, News.Dr Susan Wise – periodontist. Story is about women outnumbering men as dentists for the first time. Melbourne case study.Pic Simon Schluter 7 September 2017
    Nanjing Night Net

    It was a toss-up between studying medicine or dentistry, but Sabrina Manickam and Susan Wise decided that work as a dentist would give them more freedom and flexible hours.

    They are among a growing number of women who have taken to the profession in recent decades.

    The latest figures for June show that women make up slightly more than half of all dental practitioners in Australia for the first time. Women now represent 50.2 per cent of dental practitioners, including dentists and other dental therapists.

    Dr Manickam, who is the Australian Dental Association NSW president, based in Orange, has been a dentist for 25 years since having a long conversation with her father about the hours involved in medicine. He warned her she would need to do an internship and work as a registrar.

    “I work 8.30am to 5pm, whereas if you are in a hospital situation as a medico, you may not have that luxury,” she said. “Quite often you have to work the night shift.

    Dentistry is very procedural. Patients walk in, get treated and walk out.

    “Dentistry is a very flexible career for women,” Dr Manickam said. “If you work in private practice, you can work part-time and still earn a reasonably good wage.

    “You can own a business as well as be a health-care professional.”

    When deciding to study dentistry, Dr Manickam also wanted a job that involved using her hands after helping her father, an engineer, in his workshop.

    “Dentistry is a great combination between health sciences and being able to help people but at the same time using your hands to fix and create things,” she said.

    Dr Susan Wise, a specialist periodontist in McKinnon, decided to become a dentist when she found out her Year 7 maths teacher had two daughters who were dentists.

    “I sat in the class and thought ‘wow, I’m going to be a dentist’. It was the first time I realised a girl could be a dentist,” Dr Wise said.

    “I had never seen a female dentist before.”

    When later deciding between dentistry, medicine and physiotherapy, her late father, a GP, talked her out of doing medicine.

    “He said ‘do dentistry, it’s a great job. You work with your hands, you talk to people, you’ve got good hours but you don’t do an intern year’,” Dr Wise said.

    “My uncle overseas is a dentist and I watched him work and I thought, I’d like to do that.

    “I’m someone who likes their eight hours’ sleep every night.”

    Dr Wise, who is the Australian Dental Association Victoria president, was one of 17 women and 34 men in her University of Melbourne graduating class in 1994. Her dentistry school was one of five. Now there are nine.

    Of 732 current student members of the Australian Dental Association Victorian branch 410 are female and 322 male, including students at the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University and overseas-trained dentists who have not passed their registration exams to practise. Dr Wise said of 127 Australian Dental Council student members, 90 were women and 37 men.

    “The number of female students has increased markedly since I graduated,” she said.

    “There is an oversupply of dentists now. The market is flooded.”

    Dr Juliette Scott, a specialist paediatric dentist based in Crows Nest, said dentistry had changed in recent decades.

    “It is far gentler now and with the rates of decay dropping, general dentistry is not just concerned with the drill-and-fill mentality of the past, or just extracting teeth,” she said.

    “The technology in dentistry now is amazing. Perhaps this has made it a more attractive profession for women – the ability to combine art and science and treating the whole person. Technology has also made it easier to enhance work/life balance.”

    Dr Scott’s mother was a dentist and one of about six women in a dentistry class of more than 100 in the 1970s. She took time off work to have five children.

    Her father was a lawyer, which meant he spent long hours at work.

    “I didn’t want that for my family,” she said.

    Dr Scott’s husband is a dentist.

    “For male or female, dentistry can offer a great work/life balance,” she said.

    Dr Melanie Patney, a general dentist in West Pymble, said women, like men, did dentistry because they enjoyed it and “it’s a great career”. She now enjoys the flexibility it offers her as the mother of an 18-month-old child.

    “I love working in a profession where you help improve someone’s health. Every day has new challenges and requires problem solving, emotional sensitivity and manual dexterity.”


    1901 – 20 women practising as dentists (first register of the Dental Board of NSW)

    1901 – two women in a class of 17 students when Australia’s first dental school opened at the University of Sydney

    1966 – 152 female dentists (6 per cent of the 2400 people listing their occupation as dentists in the 1966 Census)

    1979 – 741 female dentists (9.8 per cent of registered dentists nationally)

    1992 – 1,274 female dentists (16 per cent of 7,670 dentists)

    2000 – 2009 – the number of female dentists increased by 89.5 per cent. In 2009, 33 per cent of dentists were female (3,869 of 11,882).

    2014 – 39 per cent of employed dentists were women

    Source: Australian Dental Association NSW

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    Insurers need to focus on fairness ASIC tells MPs

    2019 - 07.13

    If there is any doubt the life insurance industry continues to have serious problems, take a look at what the Australian Securities and Investments Commission deputy chairman Peter Kell told politicians on Friday:
    Nanjing Night Net

    “This is a sector that needs to focus on the concept of fairness,” he said. But it needs be a “collective ownership of raising the bar” instead of the constant finger pointing between the various sub sectors of the industry, including the insurers and advisers, to deflect the blame.

    They are strong words, but they go to the nub of the problem: this is a sector that for years has got away with delaying and denying legitimate claims and selling policies that include outdated medical definitions. It has also paid advisers huge commissions to flog products, which has created conflicts of interest.

    It prompted the Queensland arm of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners chairman Dr Edwin Kruys to drop the bombshell revelation at the same hearing that some doctors were under reporting medical notes to protect their patients from insurers who request their entire medical records.

    “It has ramifications,” he said.

    Kell called for law reforms to the sector rattling off a series of problems, including insurers too often relying on technicalities to deny claims, a lack of transparency around outcomes and a myriad of problems in claims handling, particularly in total and permanent disability policies (TPD).

    He also rang alarm bells on advisers, revealing that a review of advisers using data from insurers had identified potentially large numbers who may be providing life insurance advice to clients which wasn’t in their best interests.

    “Similarly, in our other current and recent surveillances that look more broadly at advice, we are still seeing the high levels of poor life insurance that we have identified over the years,” he said.

    He said ASIC had selected 10 advisers from a broad population of advisers with lapse rates that indicate higher risk of poor advice, and conducted reviews of their clients files. “We are currently making a decision on these outcomes. We will also consider whether the licensees of these advisers should be subject to some regulatory action.

    He said ASIC was currently conducting a deep dive into TPD policies, which have the biggest decline rates of all policy types.

    Other inquiries included direct life insurers, particularly the sales practices and design features of direct life insurance policies and life insurance in super after finding “vulnerabilities for consumers in relation to insurance in super”.

    If that isn’t enough, ASIC is set to conduct a review into the use of surveillance practices in claims management.

    “While this review will have a particular focus on general insurance, we will also include life insurance matters, including around surveillance in cases involving mental illness claims,” he said.

    The unprecedented scrutiny of the $44 billion sector follows a media investigation into Commonwealth Bank’s life insurance division CommInsure which revealed misconduct, including delaying and denying legitimate claims based on outdated policy definitions.

    The scandal resulted in a regulatory investigation into CommInsure and the entire sector, which came up short. “Life insurance is falling short of community standards,” Kell told a parliamentary inquiry into life insurance.

    Kell said part of the problem is cultural; a recurring theme when it comes to banks behaving badly.

    This cultural problem has resulted in insurers gaming a system that has legislative deficiencies including an industry exemption from unfair contract provisions.

    It is why the law needs to be reformed; to make it easier to ping the wrongdoers when they do the wrong thing.

    It also highlighted the apparent disconnect between ASIC’s perception of the sector and that of senior executives at CBA’s CommInsure and wealth management division, who gave testimony to the panel at the start of the day.

    Long-winded answers to straight forward questions, questions ignored or partly answered, refusal to comment on individuals that have already given their permission to be discussed in the media and a lot of spin defined CommInsure’s performance.

    The politicians asking the questions did their best, but they aren’t experts in the field and they don’t have the time or training of a QC to be as forensic and they don’t have the powers to compel documents to combust the spin.

    CBA head of wealth Annabel Spring described the bank’s CommInsure inquiry as the most thorough ever conducted. She produced a series of statistics including how many documents and policies had been reviewed but failed to mention that not one consumer or victim was ever interviewed.

    Spring told parliament the investigations found no evidence of systemic misconduct. “We made some mistakes, we fixed them and we learned from them,” she said.

    Job done. Let’s move on. Nobody had their employment terminated, because nobody did anything wrong.

    Listening to the responses to questions, an observer would be forgiven for thinking the whole life insurance scandal was a storm in a teacup. Yet it isn’t.

    In the past year CommInsure has lost a number of clients including TWU Super, NSG Super, HESTA and CareSuper.

    The response to Labor senator Deborah O’Neill’s statement that the contract losses were due to a difference in cultural and governance alignments between the funds and CommInsure, where met with denial. According to CommInsure’s Helen Troup the culture of CommInsure had not been raised with her as a concern by these clients. Rather, the contract losses reflected a competitive environment.

    The parliamentary inquiry into life insurance has a lot to consider when it writes its recommendations. It is a sector that has a long way to go.

    It prompted Kell to pre-empt the question: “Are we moving fast enough?”

    It was a valid question given the industry’s lack of improvement – or slowness to move – despite the need to hurry.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    Japan: US prepared to take action against North Korea

    2019 - 07.13

    Japan: The United States of America has “a strong determination” to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis using military action if necessary, one of Japan’s most senior defence figures has said.
    Nanjing Night Net

    In saying so, former defence minister Satoshi Morimoto has brushed aside widespread expert views that the rogue regime will drift into becoming a full nuclear power because there is no plausible way to stop them. The remarks also reflect a powerful strain of thought in Japan that the situation cannot be allowed to limp along until Kim Jong-un gets what he wants.

    The former defence minister told Fairfax Media the next few weeks will be a crucial period of high tension and brinkmanship on the peninsula.

    “North Korea strongly insists the US has to accept the North as a nuclear power. The US cannot do anything like that. So Washington has no intention, absolutely no intention, to open the dialogue with North Korea this time,” said Mr Morimoto, who now serves as a special adviser to current Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera and is influential and well-connected within the government of Shinzo Abe.

    He believed the US had a “very strong determination … to destroy the Kim [regime]” – though he later clarified this by saying the US had a “strong determination to find out the solution to the present [crisis]”.

    “They have no intention to extend the final decision into the future,” he said. “Something may happen. We have very high tension for the next one-and-a-half months.”

    Mr Morimoto, who is also president of Takushoku University, predicted North Korea needed less than a year to have functional intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads that could be fitted on them.

    His views reflect deep concern in Japan about the profound ramifications of a fully nuclear-armed North Korea, reflected in a series of high-level briefings provided to Fairfax Media in Japan this week. The latest crisis has exacerbated debate about Japan’s strengthening its defence posture, including even going nuclear, and intensified concerns – already present across Asia since Donald Trump’s election – about US commitment to the region.

    Mr Morimoto said the Kim regime would “never … abandon their nuclear and missile programs” and therefore “America has two options: possible military action and very strong pressure through the United Nations Security Council to stop all money flow.”

    But he added that most policy-makers in Japan were “very negative and very pessimistic” that China would agree to cut off energy supplies to North Korea – seen as a final ace the Security Council could pull if it wants to truly strangle North Korea.

    “Members of the Chinese Communist Party are very reluctant to accept America’s requirement for stopping that crude oil supply.”

    Asked whether he was predicting war, Mr Morimoto said: “I think Washington has not decided … The final decision-maker is [US Defence Secretary] Mr Mattis … Not the president.”

    He said with North Korea showing no inclination to stop its provocations – and with the region on high alert this weekend for another possible missile launch – the regime was “joining some kind of chicken game with the United States and the United States has no intention to open dialogue”.

    “What is the result of the collision course?” he asked.

    Mr Trump has been in close contact with Mr Abe in the recent period of crisis. He spoke to Mr Abe twice around the time of the latest tests and well before even South Korea’s leader Moon Jae-in.

    A senior Japanese defence official told Fairfax Media that Kim Jong-un’s objective was precisely to “break the ties between the United States and Japan and South Korea”.

    “If the US recognises North Korea as a nuclear power, then Japan and South Korea can no longer rely on the US for a nuclear deterrent. These two countries need to face the nuclear threat by the North Koreans on their own,” the official said, stressing he was giving a personal opinion but one that was widely shared by other people.

    Ken Jimbo, a respected defence scholar with Keio University, said that if North Korea could develop a stockpile of long-range missiles, the US would face the “classic question” of whether it was prepared to sacrifice Tokyo or Seoul for Los Angeles or San Francisco – a debate that would play out in US media and Congress.

    “Even now we have logical doubts about how much the United States will commit to our defence,” Professor Jimbo said. “With North Korea having ICBMs, these kinds of [alliance] decoupling concerns may inevitably arise in Tokyo and Seoul. And that will actually trigger the debate whether we should actually obtain our own nuclear capability … or at least stronger defence capability and conventional strike.”

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    Military IT technician breached classified networks

    2019 - 07.13

    An Australian military staffer breached two classified computer networks while he was deployed in the Middle East, prying into email and other private information.
    Nanjing Night Net

    The senior IT technician misused his access privileges to get into the email accounts of 10 members of his unit, as well as a personal drive.

    He also accessed the deployed Defence secret network and the Defence restricted network several times without authority.

    He faced a military trial but, due to a legal technicality, was acquitted of 14 charges. He was, however, convicted of nine acts of unauthorised access and two offences of prejudicial conduct, for which he was reprimanded.

    The Defence Department said the incident neither breached national security nor endangered Australian troops.

    “No information was lost or passed to outside sources and there were no breaches that threatened or damaged Australia’s national security or reputation,” it said in a statement.

    At trial, the allegations centred on whether “network roaming” was explicitly forbidden on the restricted networks that the technician had accessed.

    The judge advocate ruled that the policy documents that outlined the ban applied only to strategic networks, and not specifically to the deployed networks used in Middle East operations.

    Unlike civilian courts, courts martial do not publish the identity of military offenders.

    Defence also declined to provide more information about the punishments, citing privacy laws.

    “The [Australian Defence Force] cannot divulge any personal information regarding members, including information about disciplinary or administrative actions taken against ADF personnel.”

    The problem at the trial with the policy documents forced the military to abort three other prosecutions for similar alleged misconduct by deployed ADF members.

    Those three matters were instead referred to senior commanders to consider administrative action.

    The Director of Military Prosecutions, Jennifer Woodward, CSC, said in a report that her office had received an increase in the number of referrals involving misuse of IT systems.

    She said her office and other stakeholders were carrying out “significant work” in this area, “which may mean that the difficulties in future prosecutions are reduced”.

    Brigadier Woodward also said she would “carefully scrutinise” future decisions to prosecute IT-related offences.

    “The resource burden associated with gathering sufficient evidence to prove [IT] related offences to the criminal standard is often disproportionate to the likely outcome of any criminal proceedings,” she wrote.

    “Administrative processes, in some cases, may be a more efficient means of resolving alleged misconduct.”

    Her report also said a lack of technical IT investigative capability and ambiguous guidelines had inhibited prosecutions.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    High Court could surprise us with section 44 ruling

    2019 - 07.13

    There’s one thing you can expect from the High Court when it interprets the constitution: the unexpected. For example, it has permitted the same-sex plebiscite despite some of Australia’s best legal brains saying that that was unlikely.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Next month it is to hear the challenge against the eligibility of seven members of parliament on grounds that they breached the foreign-allegiance bar provided for in Section 44.

    In expecting to be surprised, I think the High Court might well say that all seven members of parliament under challenge were eligible to stand for election.

    This is why.

    Section 44 provides that “Any person who is … a subject or a citizen … of a foreign power … shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”

    It is fairly plain. If you are a citizen of another country you have had it, even if you are an Australian citizen as well. But what if, for example, a mischievous Vladimir Putin got the Russian Parliament to grant Russian citizenship to every member of the Australian Parliament?

    High Court judges have referred to that sort of hypothetical in several cases and said that Section 44 would not disqualify people who had irrevocable foreign citizenship foisted on them.

    That is the first reading down or reinterpretation of black and white words.

    In 1988 the court decided Robert Wood’s eligibility. At the time of election he was “a British citizen who had not received Australian citizenship”. The court held him ineligible.

    Then came the big case of Phil Cleary in 1992. Cleary had handsomely won the normally safe Labor seat of Wills as an independent when the Keating government was on the nose.

    His election was challenged because he was a teacher and therefore holding an office of profit under the Crown, which is also prohibited by Section 44.

    Cleary was held to be ineligible. The court ordered a new election, not a recount as the court has done in cases of a senator’s ineligibility.

    Interestingly, though, the challenger to Cleary came fourth in the election and needed to knock out the Liberal and Labor candidates as well.

    As it happened they were born in Switzerland and Greece. They had taken out Australian citizenship decades ago and were utterly Australian.

    What did the court do? Five of the seven judges concentrated on international law. They said that if a country’s citizenship laws bestowed citizenship upon a person and provided for a renunciation of it in a way recognisable in international law then the Australian parliamentary candidate had to renounce or retract citizenship of that country according to that country’s law or fall foul of Section 44.

    In short, eligibility for the Australian Parliament would be determined by the acceptability under international law of foreign citizenship law.

    Sure, all the judges accepted that a mischievous law foisting citizenship upon Australians unawares would not offend Section 44. But a majority said that if a foreign power’s law gave someone their citizenship in a way acceptable to international law, that person would need to take all reasonable steps to renounce that citizenship, especially if the country provided the means of doing so, or fall foul of Section 44.

    The majority held that the Swiss and the Greek had not taken all reasonable steps because Swiss and Greek law provided for a citizenship-renunciation process which they did not do. The majority held that the candidates of Greek and the Swiss origin were therefore ineligible.

    The two minority judges, Mary Gaudron and William Deane, however, put a different view. They looked at the purpose of Section 44. They took the sensible view that people who had taken out Australian citizenship decades ago and did not avail themselves of the foreign country’s passports, social security and the like should not fall foul of Section 44 even if they had not gone through the foreign county’s renunciation procedures.

    Gaudron was especially incisive. She pointed to the fact that at the time these two candidates took out citizenship the oath used the words: “renouncing all other allegiances”. It no longer does.

    But Gaudron and Deane were in a minority. However, they represented what has now matured into an independent Australian jurisprudence.

    Deane, in minority, in a related area said Australia could not deport people convicted of crimes who had lived in Australia for a long time since childhood even if they had not taken out citizenship. At that time the government was attempting to deport someone who had come with his parents from eastern Europe as a toddler and could only speak Aussie English after he was convicted of some medium range offence.

    My guess is that the court will shun all this external stuff about whether international law would recognise that a foreign country had conferred upon someone who is basically Australian their citizenship and whether that conferring was of an moment in Australian law.

    I think that they will come around to the Deane-Gaudron view that we decide who are Australians according to Australian laws, not foreign laws and international laws.

    It seems absurd that someone who has sworn at a citizenship ceremony that their allegiance is to Australia cannot stand for parliament without having to worry about the law of a foreign country and international law to see whether they have to take active steps to get rid of a foreign citizenship. The Australian swearing in should be enough.

    It seems absurd that someone born in Australia (or born of Australian parents while they were temporarily overseas) cannot stand for parliament without having to worry about the law of a foreign country and international law to see whether they have to take active steps to get rid of a foreign citizenship. The Australian birth should be enough.

    But how could the High Court rule in such a way, against the precedent of an earlier case?

    Well, they can do it quite easily because one thing has not been stressed about the Cleary case. Once the court had held that Cleary was ineligible and there should be a new election, all else was irrelevant. It was obiter dicta, as the lawyers say.

    Everything the judges said about the challenge to the other two candidates on the ground of their dual citizenship was legally irrelevant. Interesting, but non-binding.

    In the case of Heather Hill in 1999 the court concentrated on whether Britain was somehow not a “foreign power”. The court held Britain was a foreign power. Hill was born in Britain, but critically had used her British passport after taking out Australian citizenship, unlike the Swiss-born and Greek-born in Cleary’s case. So this case would not prevent a rethink of Cleary’s case even though Hill was held to be ineligible.

    I expect the unexpected.

    The High Court will err on the side of not applying foreign and international law to whether someone can stand for the Australian Parliament. Birth or citizenship ceremony should be enough unless you have actively used your foreign citizenship to get a passport or social security, for example.

    Whatever their politics, you cannot deny the essential Australianness of the Gang of Seven. And I think the High Court will see that.


    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    HPG calls for architects for $600m-plus One Sydney Park

    2019 - 06.13

    HPG Australia’s $600 million-plus One Sydney Park development in Sydney’s inner west Alexandria has moved a step closer to the starting line with a call to architect and landscape designers to compete in a design competition.
    Nanjing Night Net

    With its Stage 1 Masterplan now DA approved, One Sydney Park is set within Sydney Park and comprises a 44-hectare park and wetlands.

    The property at 205-225 Euston Road, which houses a 7000-square-metre empty warehouse, was purchased from Goodman Group in 2015.

    Under the scheme, HPG will develop 1300 sq m of mixed-use retail and it will comprise about 400 apartments across eight six-storey buildings as well as 8800 sq m of public space. There will also be $1.5 million allocated to public art.

    Architecture teams confirmed as taking part are Architectus in collaboration with Turf Design Studio for landscape design; Make Architects from London in collaboration with ASPECT Studios for landscape design; Woods Bagot in collaboration with McGregor Coxall for landscape design and MHNDUnion + Silvester Fuller in collaboration with Sue Barnsley Design for landscape design.

    HPG’s managing director Dr Adrian Liu said a winner will be announced early next month and it is expected the first-stage sales will be launched soon with construction set to start in early 2018. Rouse Hill

    IPartners’ first investment opportunity,a 48-lot residential development on two hectares in Sydney’s Rouse Hill, has closed within two weeks with a $3.3 million equity raising in a special purpose trust to acquire a 49 per cent equity stake in the development.

    The pre-tax, projected rate of return, based on the project’s feasibility study by the experienced developer, and 51 per cent project stakeholder, Clearstate, is expected to be 45 per cent over the next two years.

    IPartner’s managing directors??? Rob Nankivell and Travis Miller expect their investment platform, featuring 13 other shareholders including David Baxby and Craig Hutchison, will raise up to $75 million in the short term from sophisticated and wholesale investors seeking strong rates of return through investing in property developments and other asset classes.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    Rocket fuel: Sydney solids the country’s golden manure

    2019 - 06.13

    Stuart Kelly (right) and agronomist with Australian Native Landscapes Roger Crisp (left) check the soil in Stuarts paddock where biosolids have been used on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty Agronomist with Australian Native Landscapes Roger Crisp checks the soil in the Kelly’s paddock where biosolids have been used on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty
    Nanjing Night Net

    Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids have been used on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

    Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids have been used on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

    Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids are being spread on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

    Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids are being spread on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

    Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids are being spread on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

    Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids are being spread on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

    A frontend loader moves biosolids towards a spreader in a paddock where its being spread on the property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

    Stuart Kelly (right) and agronomist with Australian Native Landscapes Roger Crisp (left) check the soil in Stuarts paddock where biosolids have been used on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

    Sheep farmer Stuart Kelly is grateful to the people of Sydney for their “continual output of fertiliser”.

    He calls it “rocket fuel”. Others may be cruder.

    Braving freezing winds to survey a paddock filled with lambs grazing on young green oats, Mr Kelly said it could now support four times as many sheep than before it was fertilised a few months ago with biosolids. Biosolids are treated and sanitised human waste with 20 per cent of the water removed.

    “Without doubt, these sheep are 20 per cent larger, better grown, mature quicker and have more wool than if they hadn’t had access to this paddock,” said Mr Kelly. His family, including father Cliff and brother Andrew, run 10,000 sheep on the property Ferndale at Ferndale, about 30 minutes drive from Bathurst.

    The roots of the oats were also deeper, the grain bigger and the quality better, he said.

    Biosolids are rich in phosphorous and nitrogen. They add carbon to the soil and break down more slowly than synthetic fertilisers, conditioning the soil and making it more drought resistant.

    More than 20 years ago, most sludge – what remains after sand, grit and water is removed from the waste flushed down Sydney’s toilets and sinks – was shipped to sea.

    Now nearly every scrap is being turned into 180,000 tonnes of organic fertiliser a year by Sydney Water. These biosolids are being reused as compost and to rehabilitate mines, but about 70 per cent is being used as organic fertiliser on farms in NSW’s west.

    You would think Sydneysiders would be full of it, but demand for the biosolids??? exceeds supply, said agronomist Roger Crisp from Australian Native Landscapes, one of three contractors selling biosolids??? produced by Sydney Water.

    The big issue with biosolids was the volume available: “If we go around saying how great it is people will be saying why isn’t everyone using it? There’s not enough.”

    Sydney Water’s innovative program was great, said NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities Don Harwin after visiting the Cronulla waste water treatment plant on Thursday as a truck left with another load.

    “There’s nothing better than the idea that the waste of the cities is, in fact, generating prosperity and income for the bush,” he said.

    Crop yields have improved by 20 to 30 per cent, he said, while Sydney Water was also saving money by generating 21 per cent of its own power [from the clean gas generated during its production],” he said.

    The Kellys first used biosolids in 2012 on their worst field. They were looking for a healthier and more cost-effective way to fertilise than synthetic fertilisers.

    “It was expensive upfront, but when you get a payout from it five years later, it was cheap in the long run,” said Stuart Kelly.

    His brother Andrew said some friends are “quite surprised we are spreading biosolids, human waste”.

    “It has been through a biological process,” he said. “The nutrients in the ground are also breaking it down, and then the sheep are eating [pasture fertilised with] it, and breaking it down it even further into protein and wool. It is that far removed, I am quite satisfied eating meat that is grazed on this. We are doing the environment a favour,” he said.

    Before farmers can apply biosolids, they need an environmental assessment. Councils and neighbours are notified. The soil has to be tested, governing where, when and how they will use it.

    It can’t be applied near a hill or near water. Farmers may not graze stock on paddocks treated with biosolids for at least 30 days although usually this doesn’t occur until later when the crop is ready, and 90 days, for lactating animals. They can’t use it for ground-growing crops such as potatoes, spinach or lettuce.

    To remove toxins and bacteria, Sydney Water screens and settles the sludge, which is then baked in digesters at high heat for two periods of 20 days or more.

    Over the years it has become better at removing water, making the product more concentrated and cheaper to transport. At the Cronulla plant every litre of waste coming in contains about 180 milligrams of solids, and after biosolids are removed less than one milligram of solids goes to waste.

    Like most children’s fascination with scatology, everyone in the industry puns and jokes although it is tough to find a new angle.

    Humour was a distraction from the smell emanating from the newly arrived black fertiliser – equivalent to about .05 per cent of Sydney’s output – that had just arrived at Ferndale last week.

    Someone said it looks like the truck spreading the solids has left skidmarks on the otherwise golden paddock.

    Later that day, a plough worked the biosolids into the soil, a process Mr Kelly describes as pushing s— uphill.

    Environmental engineer Jacqueline Thomas from the University of Sydney said Australian biosolids guidelines – such as the level of heavy metals, its use and its application – were stricter and more detailed than overseas. As well, the Australian population was very healthy so the risks were reduced. She said Australia’s use of biosolids was regarded as a model for other countries.

    NSW Health says there’s no evidence of an outbreak of illness caused by biosolids.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    Birkenstock’s sustainable shoe boxes

    2019 - 06.13

    The headquarters for German shoe company Birkenstock “ticks all the boxes” in terms of sustainability.
    Nanjing Night Net

    There’s a substantial amount of recycling and green principles are adopted throughout.

    Materials such as timber were sourced from local plantations.

    “We see our practice as both contemporary and sustainable. We couldn’t provide one of these without the other,” says architect Marc Bernstein, director of Melbourne Design Studio (MDS).

    The design won an architecture award in the category of sustainable architecture from the Australian Institute of Architects (Victorian Chapter).

    From the street, the Birkenstock Headquarters in Queens Parade Clifton Hill appears not dissimilar to other large stores selling shoes, with front-of-house simply decked out with trestle-style tables of shoes.

    However, great design isn’t always obvious at first glance. Let’s start with the front fa??ade.

    The previous shop front, added in the 1950s, has been replaced by two sets of glazing on either side of the front door.

    Rather than the usual single glassed fa??ade, MDS created two wind-locked chambers that can respond to the season.

    Hermetically sealed during the colder months of the year, this glazing system that contains the shop’s front window displays can be opened almost like a veranda.

    One of these double-sided systems even includes a patch of grass, almost suburban with the weeds proudly displayed.

    “Our ideas were partially informed by our approach to sustainability, but they also reflect Birkenstock’s philosophy, with our clients using the words ‘craftsmanship’, ‘quality’, ‘health’ and ‘slow fashion’ from the outset,” says Bernstein.

    As well as exposing the building’s past and revealing the original brick walls, MDS inserted a fascinating glass-topped channel in the timber floors.

    Old bottles discovered during the renovation are beautifully arranged, as are children’s lasts, tape measures, ticks and tacks.

    There’s also a range of shoes from Birkenstock, forming almost a “timeline” of the company’s designs.

    One of the criteria initially given to the architects was to create a domestic feel to the store.

    As well as the patch of lawn as part of the shop front, there’s an open fireplace and a galley-style kitchen where clients are served tea.

    “It was also important to create connections to the various ‘arms’ within the headquarters,” says Bernstein, pointing out the workshop at the rear of the building, beyond the courtyard (an entirely new building), as well as the warehouse and showroom for retail clients.

    “All staff walk through the front door but head off along the different paths,” he adds. As Birkenstock has a philosophy of repairing customers’ shoes, having an accessible and visible workshop in sight was paramount.

    The workshop has a slightly Japanese-feel, with recycled sugar gum timber battens forming a sliding screen on the outside.

    “The screen can be pulled back on warmer days or ‘closed down’ during more inclement weather,” says Bernstein.

    One of the magical design features is the black steel spiral staircase that leads to the main open plan office space on the top level.

    Simply juxtaposed to the raw red brick rear fa??ade and new steel-framed windows, it’s been “pierced” with the word “Birkenstock”.

    “Everything that’s new has been crafted in black steel so there’s a clear delineation between the past and the present,” says Bernstein.

    The office at the top of the building comes with its own terrace, offering impressive views of Melbourne’s skyline.

    The staff kitchen, leading the terrace has been as thoughtfully considered, with recycled bamboo used for the kitchen joinery and plywood.

    The kitchen’s splashback, a scene taken from the village in Germany where Birkenstock began its global journey, adds a quirky touch.

    Birkenstock Headquarters doesn’t scream for attention from the street. However, even if you don’t come to get your Birkenstocks mended in the workshop, take the time to traverse the courtyard!

    It’s certainly worth each of the handmade stiches!

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    Sydney buyers look south

    2019 - 06.13

    A wave of Sydney investors in the Melbourne apartment market is tipped to strengthen in the next few months.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Lower prices and higher immigration levels are the lures for Sydney buyers put off by the harbour city’s more expensive entry points.

    Conversely Melbourne investors are increasingly discouraged by new stamp duty regulations which remove discounts for non-home buyers.

    The shift comes as Urbis’ apartment report showed a 40 per cent decrease in apartment sales across Australia in the June 2017 quarter.

    The weighted average cost of an apartment in Sydney rose significantly to $1.15 million – up 13 per cent or $151,000 – whereas prices for inner Melbourne fell by $51,000 to $655,686 thanks to a surge in sales of one-bedroom flats.

    Urbis national director of property economics and research Clinton Ostwald said the price of a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment rose by $200,000.

    “Obviously the Sydney market is extremely competitive, and that translates to the apartment market,” Mr Ostwald said.

    Gurner managing director Tim Gurner said buyers from Sydney “are definitely coming and I think they are coming in great numbers”.

    They make up between 25 and 30 per cent of the investor pool he’s dealing with, Mr Gurner said.

    “I don’t think it’s as much as it could be, given Melbourne is so affordable,” he said.

    “Melbourne investors are slowing down because of the stamp duty changes but it’s not putting off Sydney buyers because they are already used to higher prices.”

    Evolve Development managing director Ashley Williams said: “We’ve been seeing it for the past 12 to 18 months.

    “The Sydney market has really taken off and prices have jumped quite significantly. People are looking for more affordable product and they like what Melbourne has to offer.

    “We’re seeing enquiry for Melbourne projects especially from investors who like the price point in Melbourne,” he said.

    “And also in the house and land market. You can get into a Melbourne project for under $500,000 where the same property in Sydney will set you back $700,00-$800,000,” he said.

    Investors are attracted to Victoria’s buoyant economy and population growth. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows Victoria accounted for 33 per cent of new jobs compared with 20 per cent in Sydney; interstate migration is strong and Victoria’s residential vacancy rate is just 1.7 per cent.

    “We’re seeing an investment migration. There’s an opportunity to buy apartments and houses in Melbourne for significantly less than what one would expect to pay in Sydney,” he said.

    Evolve is now pitching its new Botanic project in Coventry Street, South Melbourne to Sydney investors. One-bedroom apartment prices start at around $425,000 and two-bedders at $655,000.

    Colliers residential sales agent Tim Storey said there are two key drivers behind the shift to Melbourne.

    “Sydneysiders look to Melbourne because of two things. Firstly, the position. Sydney buyers would be paying at least 2.5 times minimum for a comparative product,” Mr Storey said.

    “Secondly, we are finding the typical return for a one bedroom in Sydney is very similar in price per week rent but 2.5 times the price paid. Yields are drastically lower in Sydney,” he said.

    Growland chief executive Ronald Chan said regulatory changes have also put off foreign buyers and his group is starting to focus on the owner-occupier market.

    “Interest from foreign buyers is slowing due to regulatory changes, so the market has adapted to meet the preferences of the local owner-occupier market which is quickly gaining in strength,” Mr Chan said.

    Growland has brought forward the launch of its second building at the $600 million, six-tower Victoria Square project in Footscray in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

    About 90 per cent of the first tower has sold in four months.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

    The battle over same-sex marriage in Australia hits the streets

    2019 - 06.13

    Late on Wednesday night, while the High Court mulled over the marriage postal survey, Canberra hacks imbibed at their usual haunt in Manuka. Buoyed by liquor, the verdict was already in: not a single Labor staffer believed the challenge would succeed, and almost every Liberal (they were all moderates) hoped it would.
    Nanjing Night Net

    The plan B that no one really wanted has now come to fruition. And its outcome is impossible to predict, in large part because this survey is voluntary, and will present campaigners with a question unprecedented in Australian political history: how do you get out the vote?

    At 91 per cent, turnout at last year’s federal election was the lowest since compulsory voting was introduced in 1925. That reflects a worldwide trend, according to the Australian Election Commission, and it’s particularly pronounced among voters under 40.

    For decades, researchers at the Australian National University have asked Australians about this matter. In 2016, 80 per cent said they would still vote if it were voluntary – down from 88 per cent in 2007 – and only about three quarters of those would “definitely” vote, while a quarter would “probably”.

    That’s in a federal election. No one can say how many people will bother to participate in an optional, mail-in survey on an issue that enjoys broad but not deep support. But there is at least one precedent. In 1997, Australians were asked to elect representatives to a “constitutional convention” on a possible future republic. The participation rate was 46.9 per cent – and only a third of 18- to 25-year-olds voted. The turnout peaked at about 60 per cent for those 55 and over.

    “The standard thing around the world with voluntary voting is young people are least likely to vote,” says ABC election analyst Antony Green, who blogged about the figures last month.

    That’s a dark background for the “yes” campaign, which is counting on the massive support for same-sex marriage among the young. This is no longer a campaign for hearts and minds – after years of agonising debate inside Parliament and out, most Australians have made up their minds.

    As such, the “yes” side has switched gears into a full-blown, US-style “get out the vote” effort. But political hard-heads are openly worried about turnout and apathy. Senior Liberal operative Andrew Bragg, director of the “Libs and Nats for Yes” campaign, says voters need to plan their vote, down to the nitty gritty of what post box they will use.

    “Complacency is a major concern,” he says. “A majority for ‘yes’ is no certainty at all, partly because of the manual postal method. Australia is not accustom to ‘get out the vote’ campaigns, and a detailed, tangible voting plan is our best bet.”

    Hence the workmanlike television advertisement launched by the Equality Campaign this week, featuring a motley crew of neighbours striding purposefully towards their local post box. Strategists will ask people to turn voting into a shared activity with friends, family and colleagues. And in the City of Sydney, information kiosks will be set up near post boxes to help get ballots in the bag.

    “If they don’t, we may not win,” says campaign co-chair Alex Greenwich. “This is certainly an uphill battle for us … this is completely uncharted territory. We will have a lot of work to do in terms of raising awareness.”

    Though the campaign will drag on until the November 7 deadline, strategists know most of the action will be early on. They have learnt from the experience of unions, who regularly hold voluntary mail-in ballots, that huge numbers are returned in the first few days. Greenwich expects efforts to crescendo around the weekend of September 23 and 24, by which time most people will have received their forms.

    Same-sex marriage opponents have a somewhat different task. On all polling, they start behind, which they have tried to fashion into underdog status. The slogan “it’s OK to say no” is a callout to the alleged silent majority inclined to oppose same-sex marriage but cowed into submission by the elites and polite society.

    It is a slogan that appeals to any lingering uneasiness – or queasiness, perhaps – about changing the definition of marriage, and about gay relationships in general. And it has a collateral implication: if it’s OK to say “no”, it’s perfectly fine to abstain and not say “yes”. Minimising the turnout is not a stated goal of opponents, but it would not hurt. They won’t say it publicly, but they know they’re better off in a voluntary postal survey than a compulsory plebiscite.

    The “no” campaign is a murkier beast, too. While Australian Christian Lobby director Lyle Shelton appears regularly on TV and radio, campaign HQ would not grant Fairfax Media a phone interview with any spokesperson on Friday. An unnamed operative requested questions be sent by email, which Fairfax Media refused, and then supplied a written response to questions that weren’t asked.

    Several big players on the “no” side are current or former Liberal figures. One man who is back in the fray is Tio Faulker, former president of the ACT Liberal Party and ex-aide to senator Zed Seselja. Just weeks ago, Faulkner told Fairfax Media he had been living overseas for seven months and was “no longer employed in the campaign”. On Friday, his name appeared on a Coalition for Marriage mass mailout.

    Faulker’s official title is National Director, Field Campaign Operations and Logistics. He said his campaign strategy “is not secret”, but also refused a phone interview. He is joined by Sophie York, a Liberal Party member and failed preselection candidate, and occasional spokeswoman Monica Doumit, a lawyer who runs the Catholic Talk lobby group.

    It was Doumit whose words the Coalition for Marriage emailed to Fairfax Media on Friday, with a message strikingly similar to the “yes” campaign. They too said they had been inundated with support this week. They too encouraged all Australians to discuss the issue with family, friends and neighbours. And they too will hold rallies in major cities, like the “yes” rally taking place in Sydney on Sunday.

    For many, including most government MPs, the end of this protracted, unorthodox process can’t come soon enough. And the kicker? Come November 15, the result will be announced by the star of the 2016 census debacle, chief statistician David Kalisch.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.