Parasite attacks Morisset kangaroos: poll  

MORE than 150 kangaroos are believed to have died in less than a month after an outbreak of a parasitic infection led to the discovery of up to 10 carcasses a day in the grounds of Morisset Hospital.
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Alarmed wildlife rescue carers called in the authorities after finding too many of the dead animals to dispose of, prompting a joint investigation involving the RSPCA, Department of Primary Industries, Taronga Zoo experts, the Office of Environment of Heritage and others.

Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

Native Animal Trust Fund president Audrey Koosmen said dead kangaroos were first reported to the organisation, which has cared for the animals at the site for some years, about three weeks ago.

Initially she thought it was the work of more “ratbags” who had run over or attacked the animals in the past.

But with large adult eastern grey kangaroos dying quickly, and more carcasses being discovered, the organisation realised “there’s something really wrong with these animals”.

“There’s a lot of little orphans left too,” she said.

“We had to bring the department in and say ‘we can’t cope with this any more’, when we had to dispose of [the carcasses].”

Initial findings show “no evidence of malicious poisoning” and that the kangaroos have been infected with a blood-borne parasite called Babesia, although the species has yet to be identified.

In livestock, it is referred to as “tick fever”, capable of swiftly killing large cattle and requiring quarantines for large outbreaks.

Samples of the kangaroos have been sent to Taronga Zoo this week for autopsy.

A Department of Primary Industries spokeswoman said other samples had been sent to its Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute.

“Babesia macropus has previously been found to infect kangaroos in Australia,” she said.

“This species is not known to have the potential to spread to humans.”

Hunter New England Health reminded staff and clients of the psychiatric hospital not to touch the animals.

Ground staff have also been asked to wear masks and protective equipment when disposing of the roos.

But animal rescuers are angry large numbers of tourists have ignored signs and fed the kangaroos bread, drawing large numbers of both humans and animals to what has become an unofficial visitor attraction.

“I have never seen so many animals in the one spot. I think they’re over-grazed, they may have contaminated their own area,” Ms Koosmen said.

“Now when you drive in the gates – honest to God, when I got down there, there was probably 150 of them waiting at the gate for the [tourist] buses.”

Ms Koosmen was stunned to witness foreign tourists recently pull a joey from its mother’s pouch for a photo.

“Then one of them was trying to cuddle this big buck who’s about six foot tall. I said ‘leave him alone, he’s a father, he’ll bite you, he’ll kick you’,” she said.

Hunter New England Health population health service director Dr David Durrheim said the number of people visiting the grounds was a concern, “and we request that tour operators and other visitor information websites remove any reference to the facility as a tourist attraction”.

Bland joins Dull and Boring

A COMBINATION of Dull, Boring and Bland is the cause of plenty of excitement with three ordinary-named locales coming together to form the League of Extraordinary communities.
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Last Tuesday, a quirky new tourism partnership was recognised by Bland Shire Council in which it will pair with US Pacific-northwest community Boring and the small village of Dull in the Scottish Highlands in an effort to boost visitors to the region.

Despite opposition, Bland Shire Council mayor Neil Pokoney welcomed the new links saying the partnership was “comedic and fun”, with him hoping the league will give the shire more notoriety to international tourists.

“A few people were worried it was disrespectful to the Bland Shire name,” Councillor Pokoney said, adding he had spoke on US radio as part of the partnership.

“But it’s meant to be light-hearted and a promotional tool for the entire shire, which has plenty to offer for travellers who might want to visit.”

Bland Shire has a population of 6000 people.

Boring has a population of 8000 while Dull is the smallest of the three, with about 80 residents.

Last September, a council employee read about the existing Dull and Boring partnership and thought it could be useful for Bland Shire to become a part of it.

“Boring was driving the initial partnership with Dull it is the biggest of us all,” Cr Pokoney said.

The partnership has already been reported on by the ABC, BBC and in UK, US and Canadian newspapers.

Bland Shire council deputy mayor Liz McGlynn said any publicity was good publicity for the shire and its towns.

“I hope it gets people talking and coming to the region,” Councillor McGlynn said.

Bland Shire has joined forces with Dull and Boring.

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Zohab Zee Khan’s performance poetry a slam dunk for reaching high school students

“It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was one of them, you know”: Zohab Zee Khan.Zohab Zee Khan has little in common with the dead white male poets students commonly meet at high school.
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Dressed in high-top sneakers and a flat-brimmed baseball cap, he delivers his lines with the rhythm and physicality of a rapper.

As a 26-year-old living in the Illawarra, the world he rhymes about is familiar to the students at Dapto High School. ”It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was one of them, you know,” said Khan, a state poetry slam champion.

The ease with which the artist connects with the teenagers is what drives the Red Room Company’s education program.

”Where normally it’s poetry on the page, this becomes poetry in the air,” said Tamryn Bennett, the not-for-profit organisation’s education manager. ”And they’re themes that these students are encountering themselves.”

The workshop explored the genre of guerilla poetry, writing and performing poetry in unconventional ways.

Students scrawled their verses across windows, which did not look out of place in the creatively-minded school, which has deliberately coated its walls in murals, paintings and graffiti art.

”We have an inexcusable number of blank walls but we’re doing everything we can to make this place beautiful and interesting,” principal Andrew FitzSimons said. ”Engaged students learn better, they attend more regularly and they take more responsibility.”

Maddison Raisin, who says she has created poetry in private from a young age, wrote about ”a stray cat being tossed from home to home and how it feels”.

Phoebe Parkin was ”utterly blown away” by the energy Khan put into his performance. ”It’s not just words on a piece of paper,” the 17-year-old said. ”Older teachers have the knowledge that younger people don’t have but they don’t have the way to engage them. They can teach you about poetry but he shows you what poetry is.”

For Khan, too, poetry has been a form of therapy at times.

”It has got me through plenty of times of jubilation and plenty of times of sadness,” he said. ”If I can give them the skills to write and express themselves, I think that’s a job well done.”

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Mahmoud Hamzy shooting: police release CCTV footage

CCTV footage of hooded man in station Photo: NSW Police CCTV vision shows a car driving along Bardo Circuit in Revesby Heights about the time Mahmoud Hamzy was shot dead. Photo: Police Media
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Police have released CCTV vision detailing the moments before the shooting death of Mahmoud Hamzy in Sydney’s south-west last October and possible vision of one of the gunmen afterwards.

The vision from October 29 shows three people getting out of a white Nissan Tida on Bardo Circuit in Revesby Heights before they are seen creeping along the street in dark hooded jumpers and pants.

The three then run into a driveway and out of sight of the camera, which is installed in another home.

Police say that, at that point, a number of people were sitting in a garage at the end of the driveway, including Mr Hamzy, 25, and a 24-year-old man who was later treated for serious gunshot wounds to his leg and stomach.

“The three gunman have fired bullets at the people inside the garage; two of them have been hit,” a NSW Police pokesman said.

The vision shows a fourth person driving the car down Bardo Circuit before the three gunman jump back in.

“The three gunman then run out of the garage and have got into the car and the CCTV depicts what appears to be a gun being fired from the car, like a passing shot back towards the garage,” the spokesman said.

Emergency services were called about 12.30am.

Both injured men were taken to Liverpool Hospital where Mr Hamzy was pronounced dead.

Shortly before 1am, CCTV shows a person walking into a deserted Hurstville railway station wearing a dark hooded jumper and tracksuit pants, white shoes and carrying a small plastic bag.

NSW Police say they believe this person can help with inquiries and that “they may be one of the people involved in the shooting”.

Commander of the Homicide Squad, Detective Superintendent Mick Willing, said members of the public had already provided some important information to detectives from Strike Force Roxana, which was formed to investigate the case.

“We want to thank the community for the support they have provided on this case to date, and ask them to contact us again – either via the anonymous Operation Talon phone and SMS lines or through Crime Stoppers,” Detective Superintendent Willing said.

“The community play a crucial role in helping us investigate serious crimes and we need their continued assistance to ensure we track down the people responsible for this cold-blooded murder.”

The Nissan Tida was found burnt out in Jamison Park in Penrith a few hours after the shooting, and investigators have also have two firearms that have been forensically linked to the incident.

A third gun is yet to be recovered.

Police ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers (1800 333 000), the anonymous Operation Talon phone (1800 802 980) or SMS (0448 990 101).

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Pru Goward to head domestic violence taskforce

“Appropriate support”: Pru Goward will head the new taskforce. Photo: Wolter PeetersLaws may make victims reluctant to testifyMandatory sentencing watered downMore NSW news
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A new taskforce will look at sentencing for domestic violence offenders following the government’s introduction of mandatory sentencing for assault in public places.

Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said she would chair the new taskforce that would look at whether “current sentencing options for perpetrators of domestic violence are effective, reduce recidivism, reflect the seriousness of the crime, and reflect community expectations”.

“The taskforce will also study whether the current system provides appropriate support for those reporting and witnessing domestic and family violence, and also the link between alcohol and domestic violence,” she said.

“How alcohol contributes to the frequency and severity of domestic violence is a question we need to answer. Whether it is violence on the street, or violence in the home, a woman has the right to feel safe,” Ms Goward said.

Ms Goward said MPs Bryan Doyle and Natasha Maclaren-Jones would join experts, including Tracy Howe of Domestic Violence NSW and Karen Willis of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, in examining ways to drive down violence in NSW homes.

She said the new taskforce would consider:

* Current reporting, conviction and sentencing patterns for domestic violence offences;

* Experiences of other jurisdictions;

* The Joint Select Committee Inquiry on sentencing of child sexual offenders;

* Sentencing for alcohol-related violence; and

* Outcomes of consultation with stakeholders.

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Planning Assessment Commission decried as ‘rubber stamp’ after high approval rate

“Little more than a rubber stamp”: Greens planning spokesman David Shoebridge.The independent authority that assesses some of the state’s most controversial developments has been described as a ”rubber stamp” after a study found it agreed with the Planning Department in 96 per cent of cases.
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The Planning Assessment Commission has approved 222 of the 234 proposals it determined between April 18, 2011, and February 11 this year, according to research by the Greens.

These included the Cronulla Sharks Leagues Club redevelopment, the central coast’s Calga quarry expansion and the Ashton coalmine proposal in the Upper Hunter.

All 222 cases had been recommended for approval by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, the analysis found.

Only 12 applications were refused during the same period and only nine of these – or 4 per cent of all the PAC’s determinations – went against the department’s advice that they be approved.

Greens planning spokesman David Shoebridge said the PAC ”acted as little more than a rubber stamp” for the state government. The PAC’s approval rate shot up to 100 per cent when a matter was determined by a single-member panel, he said.

The criticism has been flatly rejected by Planning Minister Brad Hazzard and his department, which said the PAC often added consent conditions that differed from those it recommended.

Mr Hazzard said that, by the time proposals reached the PAC, they had undergone assessment by several government agencies and so ”have a reasonable chance of getting through the process”.

But veteran planner, lawyer and City of Sydney councillor John Mant said the members of the PAC were appointed by government and served at the mercy of their political masters. Cr Mant also criticised a separate ”pre-gateway review” process that uses the PAC or a joint regional planning panel to reconsider otherwise final council rezoning decisions.

The process allows developers to challenge unwanted outcomes if they can stump up the $5000 application fee and additional $15,000 if a review is granted.

Only one refusal has been upheld since the reviews were introduced by the O’Farrell government almost two years ago.

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Ambulance service says lack of stations risking lives

Sydney’s ambulance stations are lagging far behind the city’s growing and ageing population, and the government’s failure to have built more could cost lives, according to the Ambulance Service of NSW’s own confidential analysis.
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Analysis commissioned by the Ambulance Service to convince senior government figures of the need for more funding in the 2011-12 budget reveals Sydney’s stations have been stretched beyond capacity for years.

”Significantly more people are likely to die or experience poorer quality of life … unless immediate action is taken,” the document says. ”It is a question of whether the NSW government and community are willing to let emergency response times climb towards 20 minutes and over.”

The document, compiled in the dying months of the last government, says $130 million is needed for 20 new stations for Sydney by 2020. Six were recommended to have already been built or started construction, with three more to begin construction by June.

Yet, three years since this pitch was made to the top levels of government, Fairfax Media understands no construction has started.

The Ambulance Service says it has received $22 million in funding from the O’Farrell government for the program, which it has used to buy land for five new stations. It would not comment on how far advanced plans were at each.

The document outlines the consequences of failing to build new stations in time to cater for Sydney’s growing and ageing population and congested streets.

”Adding further vehicles and staff to existing stations is not an option,” the report says.

It says that, without new stations, emergency response times in Sydney will begin to climb significantly from June and continue on a trajectory towards 20 minutes by the end of the decade.

If projections hold, 340 heart attack patients would be reached by an ambulance within the service’s benchmark of eight minutes next year, compared with more than 1000 in 2008.

In 2012-13, response times for the top-priority cases in Sydney reached 11 minutes, up from 10 minutes three years ago and in line with projections.

The time taken to reach 90 per cent of all ambulance patients in Sydney has shot up even further, rising by 2.3 minutes to 20.6 minutes.

”The change in response performance is primarily due to higher demand,” an Ambulance Service spokeswoman said.

Between 2010-11 and 2012-13, the number of patients treated by the service each year increased by 50,000 to 958,000, according to the Productivity Commission.

”Ambulance response time continues to go up and demand continues to go up,” opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald said. ”The Ambulance Service is not keeping up with what they said was vital four years ago.”

Fairfax Media recently exposed severe delays in Ambulance Service call centres, where callers were on hold for up to 20 minutes.

The Health Minister described these reports as ”concerning”. Mrs Skinner declined to say whether she had read the document, why its recommendation for new Sydney stations had been ignored and whether this would result in worse patient care.

She said the state government had increased funding for the Ambulance Service by 5 per cent.

”I’m confident our record funding for NSW Ambulance is ensuring it continues to deliver,” she said.

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Tony Abbott approved decision to release cabinet papers to the royal commission into Labor’s botched home insulation scheme

Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Approved a decision to make cabinet documents available to the royal commission. Fears of endangering the convention of cabinet confidentiality: Former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser.
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott personally approved a decision to make cabinet documents available to the royal commission into the Rudd government’s botched home insulation scheme.

Former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser have expressed alarm at the decision to hand over cabinet documents, revealed by Fairfax Media on Saturday, because they fear it will endanger the convention of cabinet confidentiality.

The deputy secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Elizabeth Kelly, told Senate estimates hearings on Monday that 4500 government documents, including cabinet documents, had been handed to the royal commission since January. The department provided cabinet documents to the commission as recently as February 11, Ms Kelly said.

She said the decision to comply with a summons for documents from the royal commission was approved by Mr Abbott. She said neither he nor anyone from his office had seen the documents, which were passed to the Attorney-General’s Department to send to the royal commission.

The cabinet documents were given to the royal commission on the condition they be viewed privately. If the royal commission wants to make any cabinet documents public, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has requested it be warned in advance so it can apply for a ”public interest immunity” waiver to block publication.

Ms Kelly said cabinet documents had previously been provided to the royal commission into the Centenary House scandal and the Clarke inquiry into the Mohammed Haneef affair.

Ms Kelly’s explanation came only hours after Attorney-General George Brandis and his department secretary, Roger Wilkins, told a separate Senate estimates committee they were not aware of any requests from the royal commission for cabinet documents.

Mr Wilkins later issued a clarification, saying he did not ”want to mislead the Senate”.

”The [Attorney-General’s] department will act as an agent … as a go-between in terms of the various departments and the royal commission in terms of the answering of summonses and subpoenas,” he said.

Labor senator John Faulkner claimed the case was an ”open and shut” breach of 113 years of cabinet confidentiality.

According to the Australian government’s Cabinet Handbook: ”The convention is that cabinet documents are confidential to the government which created them and not the property of the sponsoring minister or department. Access to them by succeeding governments is not granted without the approval of the current parliamentary leader of the appropriate political party.”

Government Senate leader Eric Abetz said it would have been absurd for the Prime Minister’s Department not to comply with a summons from the royal commission given this constitutes a criminal offence: ”The royal commission has greater power and authority than what may or may not be in a cabinet handbook,” he said.

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Researchers risk missing a berth in race for bionic brain

Keen for commercial exploitation: Bob Williamson, former secretary for science policy at the Australian Academy of Science.Australia must join the international race to build a bionic brain in order to share the health and economic benefits that will flow from such a prestigious global project.
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However, joining means committing, within the coming year, to the funding of long-term brain research projects, according to the Australian Academy of Science.

Without this, the nation will miss its chance to be at the forefront of work that has the potential to deliver results for some of the most common neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Launched on Tuesday, the Inspiring Smarter Brain Research in Australia report by the academy recommends the federal government take a long-term view and invest $250 million over 10 years to establish a co-ordinated research unit called AusBrain.

Using the skills from researchers across the country, AusBrain would allow collaboration between scientists not used to working together, including neuroscientists, geneticists and computer scientists. At the heart of their work will be the challenge of building a bionic brain.

It is a task that has fuelled the European Union’s decision to allocate more than €1 billion to a human brain project. Last year, the US joined the race when Barack Obama dedicated $US1 billion to a decade-long brain research project. China and Norway also have brain research projects.

”If we’re not there [in] the research, we’re not going to be there in the development and we’re not going to be there in the commercial exploitation,” said Bob Williamson, former secretary for science policy at the Australian Academy of Science.

The academy argues that funding a strategic brain research program would ensure Australia did not end up playing ”catch-up”, as was the case with Australia’s lack of participation in the human genome project.

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Customs may cut hundreds of jobs after minister says no to deficit

Federal politics: full coverage
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Hundreds of Australian Customs officers are facing the sack after the Abbott government refused to give the department permission to run a $30 million budget deficit.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has told Customs and Border Protection chief Mike Pezzullo to save the money from his staffing budget rather than allow his agency to slip into the red.

The decision could cost the jobs of more than 350 mid-ranking officers around the nation or more than 450 junior customs workers.

Fairfax Media understands that Mr Pezzullo wrote to the minister in January, in accordance with protocols for public service bosses, asking for consent to run the budget deficit this financial year.

In a statement, Senator Cormann said he wanted departments to live within their means.

Customs refused to comment on the minister’s decision.

According to recent modelling by federal workplace authority the Public Service Commission, $30 million a year is the equivalent of about 350 mid-ranking officers or more than 450 junior officers.

Mr Pezzullo said late last year that federal government budget cuts had seen more than half a billion dollars and 740 staff cut from the service over the past five years. He told a conference in Melbourne there was no more fat to cut in his department and that he would soon ”be going through bone” if asked to reduce spending further.

But Senator Cormann was unmoved by Customs’ plea to run a deficit in 2013-14.

In response to questions from Fairfax Media about his decision, the minister said Customs already got more than $1 billion of taxpayers’ money and was expected to manage with that amount.

”All government departments are expected to manage within their budget allocations,” Senator Cormann said.

”Customs has a yearly budget allocation of more than $1 billion. Naturally, our preference is for Customs to manage within their budget allocation as we expect all other agencies to do,” Senator Cormann said.

”Contrary to the situation under the previous government, they now can access funding to pay for the voluntary redundancies caused by decisions made by the previous government.

”If despite their best efforts, as a result of the cuts imposed by Labor they can’t, we will address that in the budget in the normal way and not through a premature decision immediately after the release of the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook.”

The minister said the budget difficulties of federal departments and resulting job losses were the fault of the previous Labor government.

A Customs spokesman refused to comment.

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Australian wartime sex slave Jan Ruff-O’Hearne hits out at ‘hideous’ Japanese denials

Jan Ruff-O’Herne at her Adelaide home. Photo: David Mariuz Jan Ruff-O’Herne and the Korean comfort women visiting Japan circa 1993. Photo: David Mariuz
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When she was a 21-year-old young woman, Japanese soldiers raped and beat Jan Ruff-O’Herne so many times she lost count.

Along with thousands of other women across Asia she was forced to be a sex slave of the imperial army during World War II.

Now the conservative Japanese government has questioned the testimony of the ”comfort women” that led to the landmark apology won from Tokyo in 1993.

The move has placed a further pall over Japan’s already tense relationship with China as well as South Korea, countries the Japanese occupied and home to most of the estimated 200,000 sex slaves.

”It’s just hideous to not acknowledge it, there are so many witnesses who have spoken out about this,” Mrs Ruff-O’Herne said from her home in Adelaide.

Supporters of the abused women fear an attempt to airbrush history after Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga last week indicated the government wanted to verify the authenticity of testimony from 16 South Korean women recorded in the lead-up to the 1993 apology.

No inquiry has been launched but ultra-conservatives in Japan’s parliament dismiss the stories and say there are no documents to prove Japanese soldiers forced women into sexual servitude.

But Mrs Ruff-O’Herne, now 91, said Japanese leaders must come to terms with the country’s history of war crimes. She was captured as a teenager with her Dutch parents on Java, Indonesia, and later forced into a brothel. She migrated to Australia in the 1960s.

For 50 years, she kept secret her abuse at the hands of Japanese soldiers, even from her family until speaking out in the early 1990s in support of Korean women seeking an apology from Japan.

”First it was only the Korean women, and nobody took any notice because ‘they were only Asian women’. But then when a European woman spoke out the world suddenly took notice,” Mrs Ruff-O’Herne said.

The pressure led to the Japanese government issuing a remarkable statement of ”apologies and remorse” for abused women, with a promise to teach people about what had taken place.

Tessa Morris-Suzuki, an expert on modern Japanese history at the Australian National University, said the ”comfort women” had become symbolic in the revisionist drive trying to argue Japan was as much a victim as the aggressor.

”From the point of view of people like Mr Abe and others in his government, it is something that makes Japan look very bad … they want to say this didn’t happen, or it didn’t happen the way people think it did – or if it did happen, everybody else did it as well,” she said.

A spokesman for the Japanese embassy said his government stood by past statements yet believed in more discussions from ”an academic stand point” on issues surrounding comfort women.

Mrs Ruff-O’Herne said the apology must stand. ”When such a terrible thing happens, you expect an apology. It was important for my healing process. It takes a lifetime to get over a thing like that.”

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Choice reveals snack ratings in website pulled by Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash

It’s a glimpse at the ratings the federal government didn’t want you to see.
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Consumer group Choice has used a new healthy food star-rating system – controversially pulled from a federal website by Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash – to uncover surprisingly large differences in the nutritional content of seemingly similar snack foods.

Choice Campaigns Manager Angela Cartwright said consumers would be shocked by the results, with a full 2½ stars out of five difference between similar products.

”It often comes down to whether they are cutting corners and using more saturated fat and sodium,” she said. ”These are products that kids are eating in playgrounds around Australia every day, and people have a right to know.”

Choice compared three products from food giant Mondelez with similar products, after Mondelez called the system ”ill-founded, unscientific and confusing”.

Choice found its Kraft Strip Cheese received only two out of five stars, compared with Bega’s Stringers, which got 4½ stars. Its Ritz Crackers got half a star, compared with Arnott’s Jatz Original, which got two stars.

Mondelez has been drawn into the controversy surrounding Senator Nash’s closure of the food star-rating website, after it was revealed her chief of staff was involved and was also a co-owner of a lobbying firm that worked for the brand.

Ms Cartwright said her group wanted to see what impact the rating would have on companies that had been critical of it. ”The health stars shot down the Mondelez product each time,” she said.

Senator Nash has said she intervened in the state and territory-controlled website because it would be confusing for consumers when the stars were still being rolled out. But she said she still plans for the system to begin in the middle of the year.

A spokeswoman for Mondelez International said the system would mislead consumers and make labels more confusing.

”Given the health star-rating shows that Philadelphia Cream Cheese is healthier than an apple, we believe that more work needs to be done,” she said.

”The algorithm which determines the number of stars on a product has changed numerous times and is expected to change again, so the results of this Choice test should be used with caution.”

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Shorten’s question and whimper time sees Libs pull out all the jocks

Federal politics: full coverageMorrison knew he was wrong on brawl death
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As Opposition leader, Prime Minister Tony Abbott famously reduced the complexities of the Syrian civil war to a contest between goodies and baddies.

Not content with the Batman-ification of foreign policy, our muscular Prime Minister has introduced a wimps-versus-jocks narrative to border protection.

It is a narrative reminiscent of an ’80s college frat house movie – a genre of film much neglected by critics, and one in which someone generally ends up with a wedgie.

”You don’t want a wimp running border protection,” Mr Abbott told reporters on Sunday, following an admission from Immigration Minister Scott Morrison that he had been mistaken on a crucial detail of earlier media briefings.

Morrison had led the public to believe that a 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker had been killed outside the Manus Island detention centre, and therefore not on his watch. Turns out the man was killed inside the centre, when he was very much under the care of the Australian government.

No matter. A real man faces up to his mistakes. Okay, so he might face up to them via press release, issued late on a Saturday night when most journalists have retired to bed or to the pub. But no one can say Morrison did not man up! He just manned up really late when scrutiny was at its lowest ebb.

Following the Immigration Minister’s witching-hour confession, the Greens, who have something of a reputation for political milk-soppery, came over surprisingly macho. They demanded Morrison’s resignation.

Eyes swivelled to the Opposition leader Bill Shorten in question time yesterday. A minister with a dead man on his watch, a minister who seemed to have misled the public over the circumstances of that man’s death – it was just a matter of lining up the skittles and bowling a strong ball. What use would Shorten make of this great political gotcha? What mighty evisceration were we to witness? Would it be a knock-out punch or more of a frog-in-saucepan broil?

But when Shorten rose, his spine seemed not to come with him. The Opposition leader’s first question was on jobs, as was his second.

He left the handling of Morrison’s mistake to the mild-mannered shadow Immigration Minister Richard Marles. Morrison responded with a tsunami of verbiage, which revealed precisely no detail on what had happened, but reminded us all that his government was simply discharging a Manus Island security contract that had been signed by the previous, Labor one.

To say that Labor is on weak ground on this issue would be to put it far too wimpishly.

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