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Australian Govt. sets up $5b drought-proof fund



Australia’s conservative government says it is setting up a five billion-dollar ($3.5 billion) Future Drought Fund to help prepare and respond to future dry spells as the country experiences record heat and drought conditions.

The Australian parliament passed the government Bill for the fund on Thursday.

It came on top of the two billion dollars in previously announced other drought initiatives.

“Drought is a fact of life in this country, said a statement by the government signed by five ministers, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Drought Minister, David Littleproud.

“Farmers, rural and regional communities, which have been suffering years of unrelenting drought will now have access to the tools they need to prepare for, manage and sustain their businesses.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said large parts of the country had been experiencing the most severe on-record drought conditions since April 2017, with record-high daily temperatures and below-average rainfalls, intensifying water stress in many regions.

“The devastating drought in the east had reached uncharted territory, with one of the most significant agricultural areas.

“The Murray Darling Basin experiencing the worst ever rainfall recorded in the past 120 years,’ Bureau’s Climatologist, David Jones said last week.

“The bureau said this week it will be a drier than average, in 2019.

“The newly established fund will support drought resilience by investing in research, innovation and new technology, improving environment management and developing water-saving infrastructure.


Feature: Thousands march in Australian cities over treatment of Indigenous Peoples




Huge crowds marched Saturday in Black Lives Matter demonstrations across Australia, including in Sydney where a Supreme Court decision banning the protest was overturned at the last minute.

The rallies were held to draw attention to Aboriginal deaths in police custody and in solidarity with widespread demonstrations in the United States.

Thousands of people turned out in Brisbane and Adelaide, with even larger crowds in the more populous cities of Melbourne and Sydney, after the New South Wales (NSW) State Court of Appeal ruled in favour of authorising the Sydney protest.

On Friday organizers in Sydney were told the event could not go ahead due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, however a large number of people made their intention to attend the demonstration, despite risking arrest if they did.

Minutes before the demonstration was scheduled to begin, and after a large crowd had already gathered, the news came through that the protest would be considered lawful, with police aiming to accommodate the demonstrators while maintaining peace.

Most of the protesters wore masks and volunteers distributed hand sanitiser throughout the crowds, however with such large numbers of people, recommended social distancing was difficult to maintain.

While the death of George Floyd and occurrences in the United States were the clear catalyst for the demonstrations, the focus was largely on the treatment of Australia’s First Nations Peoples, mainly police brutality and an inflated number of deaths in custody.

Since 1991, 432 First Nations Peoples have died while in the custody of police, according to data from the Guardian. One of them, 26-year-old Dunghutti man David Dungay, passed away in 2015 while being restrained by five officers despite repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.”

Members of Dungay’s family who were in attendance in Sydney, expressed their shock and grief at the similarities between his death and that of George Floyd in the United States, but said they were heartened by the significant amount of support on display.

“I look around and see so many signs and so many faces — it’s overwhelming,” Dungay’s nephew told the crowd.

One of the protesters in Sydney, Alyssia Gibbs told Xinhua that she had been to similar demonstrations in the past and would continue to do so as long as it took to achieve justice for Indigenous Australians.

“No one’s going to listen to you if you’re just posting on social media. If you get thousands of people in the same place chanting the same thing with the same message, people will listen,” Gibbs said.

While the demonstrations were largely peaceful, tensions briefly flared on the steps of Sydney’s Town Hall after a counter-protester took to the stage wielding a sign reading All Lives Matter, drawing the anger of the crowd before he was arrested by police.

At 4:32 p.m. local time, thousands of demonstrators in Sydney knelt and observed a minute of silence in recognition of the 432 Aboriginal deaths in police custody, and the international Black Lives Matter movement.


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Australians hit streets for protests, chanting ‘Aboriginal lives matter’



Protesters gathered in the Australian capital Canberra on Friday in support of the global Black Lives Matter movement, and to protest high levels of Aboriginal incarceration and death in custody.

Protesters gathered at Garema Place to show solidarity with demonstrations across the United States sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man, who died at the hands of police officers.

Demonstrators called for police around the world to stop targeting minorities, chanted slogans, and held up banners and placards, with text reading “Silence is deadly” and “Aboriginal Lives Matter”.

Aboriginal elder Matilda House asked the crowd to “send a message to the government” about Aboriginal deaths in custody, incarceration, and racism in Australia.

“Aboriginal men and women have been taken from our lives and not once has it ever been explained, and they and all of us still can’t breathe.

“We still can’t breathe,” she said.

Tove Chepkorir, 22, a Kenyan-Danish tourist stuck in Australia due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, said authorities worldwide need to “change the way they look at people of colour.”

“I was just tired. I spoke in this rally because how many times are we supposed to look at videos of black bodies dropping due to police violence?” Chepkorir told dpa after addressing the crowd.

“Enough is enough. It’s not OK.”

Tamara Ryan, one of the organizers, estimated more than 2,000 people participated in the rally. After the speeches, the crowd walked some four kilometres to protest in front of Parliament House.

Floyd’s death in Minneapolis has sparked 10 days of unrest across the United States, as protesters demand an end to police brutality against African-Americans, revealing pent up anger over racism and heavy-handed law enforcement.

Bigger protests and rallies are planned in all major cities across Australia for Saturday. However, the police, local authorities, and politicians have asked Australians not to participate over fears of spreading coronavirus.

“I say to them: ‘Don’t go. It’s not a good idea to go’.

“It is important for people to have their right to protest … but with those liberties come great responsibility,” he said.

“People need to express their peaceful thoughts, their deeply held thoughts and concerns, online,” Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told reporters in Canberra.

The government of New South Wales, the state of which Sydney is the capital, has moved to quash the rally in court, with police putting limits on how many people are allowed to attend.

If the Supreme Court rules on Friday in favour of the protest it can go ahead with 500 attendees. Otherwise, it will be limited to 10.

“I’m asking, appealing and pleading with those thousands of people who’ve indicated they’re turning up to a protest – please, do not do it. Stay at home.

“Express yourself in a different way,” state premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

State police commissioner Mick Fuller said police can give people a direction to leave if the allowed number is exceeded.

“If they refuse, we can arrest them, or arrest them and give them a caution or a court attendance notice, or a $1,000 fine… If we are put in the corner tomorrow, we will make arrests,” he said.

Adelaide city will hold a protest after the South Australian government granted an exemption on limits on groups for the weekend rally.

Perth in Western Australia, Hobart in Tasmania, Melbourne in Victoria and Brisbane in Queensland will also hold rallies, even though the respective state governments have warned about social distancing restrictions.

In Australia, Indigenous youth remain massively over-represented in the justice system and were 22 times more likely to be in detention or justice supervision, according to a government report last month.

Also, Indigenous Australians make up 27 per cent of the prison population even though they are just 3 per cent of the country’s total population.

According to a 2018 government health report, about 20 per cent of people, who died in custody were Indigenous Australians.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Australian drug to be tested for COVID-19 treatment




A pioneering drug developed by the University of Western Australia‘s spin-off company Dimerix will be included in a global trial to treat patients suffering Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) with COVID-19, the university announced on Thursday.

The drug, named as DMX-200, was selected as part of the Randomised, Embedded, Multifactorial Adaptive Platform trial for Community-Acquired Pneumonia (REMAP-CAP) program, to treat people hospitalised with proven or suspected COVID-19. Such patients typically suffer acute lung dysfunction caused by the immune response to the virus.

While the long-term effects of COVID-19 remain unknown, some people worry it may result in acute injury, such as chronic lung fibrosis, similar to SARS and MERS infections.

DMX-200, which is being developed as a renal therapy to reduce damage from inflammatory cells by blocking their signalling and limiting subsequent onset of fibrosis, could also benefit ARDS patients with COVID-19 in a similar way.

Dimerix’s chief scientific advisor Professor Kevin Pfleger welcomed the decision.

“It has taken years of research and development to get DMX-200 to this point, and it will be worth every second if it can contribute to fighting the devastating effects of this virus,” Pfleger said.

Dimerix CEO Dr Nina Webster said the company was pleased to support a global initiative investigating possible treatments to COVID-19.

“Dimerix is uniquely positioned to support the global effort in identifying COVID-19 treatments, as well as having two Phase 2 renal clinical studies completing mid-2020,” Webster said.

REMAP-CAP is an international platform trial run by a network of experts, institutions and research groups, and plans to include over 7,000 patients from more than 200 sites across Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America.


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PM urges Australians not to “import” United States racial tensions




Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called on Australians joining Black Lives Matter protests not to “import” racial tensions from the United States.

Thousands of people have marched in Australian cities to protest Aboriginal deaths in custody and wider abuse of indigenous Australians, according to The Australian report, after the anti-racism protests in the United States.

Morrison on Thursday acknowledged Australians’ right to protest but said that progress was being made.

“We shouldn’t be importing the things that are happening overseas to Australia,” he told Nine Entertainment radio.

“I’m not saying we don’t have issues in this space that we need to deal with. But the thing is, we are dealing with it.”

“We don’t need to draw equivalence here. We should just Australians about this and deal with it our way and we are,” he said.

The protests are taking place despite coronavirus restrictions limiting gatherings to a maximum of 20 people under the 3-step framework in Australia.

Morrison urged protestors to adhere to physical distancing requirements in order to prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“It’s surely not beyond their wit to do this, observing social distancing requirements and all the rest of it,” he said.


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2 United States police officers suspended after attacking Australian journalists during protests



Two police officers have been suspended after attacking two Australian journalists, who were covering the George Floyd protests in Washington D.C., the United States Park Police (USPP) said on Thursday.

On Monday, 7NEWS United States correspondent Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers

were attacked by police officers during their coverage of riots near the White House in Washington.

The next day, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called on the country’s embassy in Washington to investigate the violent actions of United States police officers toward the Australian journalists.


is consistent with our established practices and procedures, two United States Park Police officers have been assigned to administrative duties, while an investigation takes place regarding the incident with the Australian Press,” the USPP wrote on Twitter.

Several similar incidents involving police violence against journalists covering the ongoing United States riots have been reported over the week.

Mikhail Turgiyev, a journalist with RIA Novosti, a branch of the Rossiya Segodnya Agency that also includes Sputnik, was pepper-sprayed in the face by police on Sunday, even after he had presented his press card.

Mass protests across the United States erupted against police brutality and racism on May 25, after Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old African American man, died in police custody in the United States city of Minneapolis.

Some protests have turned into violent riots that include arson and widespread looting.

The protests broke out after a video surfaced showing white police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes before the detainee became unresponsive.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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Australian science agency announces research of 3D print stents in world-first




Australia’s national science agency said researchers have made it possible to 3D print tailor-made stents for blocked or narrow arteries in a world-first.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) announced the breakthrough on Thursday, describing it as a “paradigm shift” for the 16-billion-Australian-dollar (11 billion U.S. dollars) global stent manufacturing industry.

The team of scientists at CSIRO’s Lab22 made the breakthrough using Selective Laser Melting, a 3D printing process that allowed them to create complex products with high geometric accuracy that are patient specific.

It means that nitinol stents, which are used to keep arteries open, could be made on-site under the direction of a surgeon to suit an individual patient’s requirements.

Until now surgeons have been restricted to “off-the-shelf” stents for operations.

The ability to 3D print stents is expected to improve sizing options, preserve essential anatomy, and enable diameters and shapes to suit individual patient requirements, according to CSIRO.

“Nitinol is a shape-memory alloy with superelastic properties,” CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Sri Lathabai said in a media release.

“It’s a tricky alloy to work with in 3D printing conditions, due to its sensitivity to stress and heat.

“We had to select the right 3D-printing parameters to get the ultra-fine mesh structure needed for an endovascular stent, as well as carefully manage heat treatments so the finished product can expand as needed, once inside the body.”

A new company has been established to oversee commercialization of the technology.


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Australian opposition leader blasts “failed” bushfire recovery fund




The Australian government’s bushfire recovery fund has been lashed as ineffective, said the Australian opposition leader.

Anthony Albanese, the leader of the Oppositon Labor Party, on Thursday described the 2-billion-Australian dollar (1.3 billion United States dollar) National Bushfire Recovery Fund as “poorly targeted” after it was learned that only 4 percent of the residents in areas hit by the fires have received recovery payments.

The fund, welcomed by Albanese at the time, was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in January to help rebuild communities and livelihoods in the wake of fires that devastated much of the country.

Andrew Hocking, the deputy coordinator of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, told a Senate inquiry into the bushfires on Tuesday that only 291,000 of the 7.1 million people living in affected areas have received disaster recovery payments.

It comes after a separate inquiry heard in May that 21,405 out of 640,000 businesses in those areas have received a grant or loan from the government.

“The rhetoric hasn’t matched up with the reality on the ground,” Albanese told Nine Entertainment newspapers on Thursday.

“Scott Morrison said when he made announcements of funding way back in January, that the funding would flow immediately and we know that isn’t the case,” he said.

When I‘ve been on the ground, individuals will tell you and businesses will tell you they simply haven’t been able to navigate the bureaucracy and the government has failed to have people there directly coordinating the process.”

Albanese said he has toured areas hit hardest by the bushfires where he heard the frustrations of residents and business owners with the recovery fund process.

“The chicken farm we went to last week in Quaama told us that they had engaged someone outside to try to get their support and that shouldn’t be necessarily. There should be a government contact who is able to coordinate all of that activity for individuals and for businesses,” he said.


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Australian airport workers hold demonstrations over COVID-19 recovery plan




Australian aviation workers held demonstrations across all of the country’s major airports on Thursday, demanding access to COVID-19 welfare payments as well as a national recovery plan to help revive their devastated industry.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) called for more action from the government, including to support the bankrupted Virgin Australia airline and reverse a decision to exclude workers at foreign-owned companies from the “JobKeeper” subsidy.

According to a recent survey of over 1,000 aviation workers in Australia, almost 40 percent said they have no income at all since being temporarily stood down from their job, and 70 percent said they were worried about losing their position permanently.

On top of that, 30 percent had been forced to use their superannuation to cover living expenses and 20 percent worried they may lose their house.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the survey served as a reminder for the federal government to take action on behalf of aviation workers, some of whom have had no income for months since the COVID-19 crisis began.

“Workers are protesting at airports and at the offices of federal government ministers to highlight the struggles they face. They want the government to hear their stories and to act to save their jobs and their industry,” Kaine said.

“Governments around the world are stepping in and supporting their aviation sectors. Air travel is of particular importance in Australia yet the government is utterly directionless, with no plan and no policy.”


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Australian universities warn of research “disaster” without government support amid virus outbreak



Australia’s universities have warned that the nation’s research capacity will be devastated by the coronavirus crisis without government support.

Universities Australia, on Wednesday, released modelling that found the sector could lose 16 billion Australian dollars ($11 billion) in revenue between 2020 and 2023 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The figures were released ahead of a meeting between the peak body and Education Minister, Dan Tehan, on Wednesday.

Tehan has dismissed calls from universities for government assistance, instead urging them to adjust their business models.

The government has guaranteed 18 billion AUD ($12.4 billion) in funding, previously committed to the sector, but has ruled out support for universities under its JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

Catriona Jackson, the Chief Executive of Universities Australia, said that the projected shortfall would have a long-lasting impact on university finances.

“We can’t pretend that won’t have a big impact.

“Not only does that revenue support the staff and facilities to educate the next generation of skilled workers, it also pays for much of the research and innovation that keeps Australia internationally competitive,’’ she said in a media release.

“If there’s less research on campus we will be less equipped to deal with crises like COVID-19 and bushfires in future.’’

“You can’t have an economic recovery without investing in research and development,’’ she added.

Universities accounted for 34 per cent of Australia’s investment in research and development in financial year 2017-18, up from 24 per cent a decade earlier.

Brian Schmidt, the Vice-Chancellor of Australian National University (ANU), told News Corp Australia that ANU has resorted to using international student fees to fund its research amid the pandemic.

“That money is going to go and the question is: what is Australia going to do about it?

“All the evidence is that when you invest in research in universities, you get large economic spill-overs,’’ he said.

“This is an impending disaster, which needs to be sorted out in the next few months.

“Universities like my own will have to make decisions about what activities we can afford to do and what we can’t.

“We’re to lose a potential early-career researcher generation.’’

The Group of Eight (Go8), a coalition of Australia’s top universities, said that prior to the pandemic, research from its members “pumped almost 25 billion AUD ($17.3 billion) into the economy each year’’.

“Life, as we know it, has changed dramatically and more than ever we need a research-led economic recovery – unashamedly focused on job creation, retraining, improved productivity processes and new industries supported by AI and hi-tech manufacturing,’’ Go8 Chief Executive, Vicki Thomson, said.

COVID-19 has shone an uncomfortable light on what we have known all along – our funding system is broken, with an over-reliance on international fee income to prop up our university research – 70 per cent of which is undertaken in Go8 universities.’’

The warnings come as La Trobe University, which has more than 25,000 students across Australia, faces bankruptcy.

Nine Entertainment newspapers reported that La Trobe will be broke within weeks unless it can secure bank loans and an agreement with all staff on a 10 per cent pay cut.

In a briefing, sent to staff on Tuesday, Vice-Chancellor, John Dewar said that there was “no money tucked down the back of the sofa’’, warning that unless staff agreed to a pay cut, there would be 450 redundancies.


Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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