July, 2019

Labor unfazed by Turnbull poll lead

A Labor strategist says there’s no prospect of a leader change before the election, despite Malcolm Turnbull’s dominance in the polls.


An analysis of the most recent major polls puts the Liberal-National coalition on 52.8 per cent of the two-party vote.

The latest Newspoll published on Tuesday gave Mr Turnbull a 63 per cent preferred prime minister rating, with Bill Shorten slumping to 17 per cent.

It is Mr Shorten’s worst result since taking on the Labor leadership after the 2013 election.

Labor strategist Bruce Hawker told AAP Mr Turnbull was still enjoying a poll honeymoon.

“It’s not in prospect at all,” he said of a leadership change.

“Given the honeymoon that Malcolm Turnbull has enjoyed, 52-48 isn’t the worst possible result.”

Mr Hawker puts the result down to Mr Turnbull steering his party to the political centre and appearing to embrace some of Labor’s policies and themes.

He says a March 2016 double-dissolution election – about six months before a poll is due – is a distinct possibility.

However, Mr Turnbull will need to keep his own party onside.

“Some of the inherent tensions in his prime ministership are going to have to be resolved,” Mr Hawker says.

“There are tensions in his own party over his social reforming agenda and tensions with the public over his fiscal conservatism.”

Mr Turnbull on Tuesday declined to comment on the polls, joking that his lift was due to an announcement about a new chief scientist.

Liberal frontbencher Scott Ryan told Sky News he senses the community wants to hear solutions, not bickering.

“They’re sick of partisan bickering,” he said.

Opposition frontbencher Brendan O’Connor said Labor was focused on delivering policies and keeping the government accountable.

“We’ll continue to focus on policies … and we’ll have further announcements to make as we present our case to the Australian people as to why we’re a better alternative than the government,” he said.

On Tuesday, Labor announced it would fund a redress scheme for victims of institutional abuse.

Migrant surge continues amid EU slowdown

With freezing weather setting in, tens of thousands of migrants surging across Europe could face even more hurdles after European Union leaders pledged to stem their flow by introducing tighter border controls.


EU leaders committed at a weekend summit to helping the Balkans handle the flow of people making their way through the region en route to more prosperous countries.

But with record numbers arriving from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, the moves will likely make their journeys more difficult.

On Monday, thousands of people, including many women, children and elderly, waited in long lines at the Croatian and Slovenia borders as the flow of humanity continued unabated.

“It is not difficult for me, but for people with families and children, it is so hard,” said a 19-year-old Afghan, Habibi Loh.

Humanitarian officials warned of plummeting winter temperatures.

“In the short term, the situation is manageable,” said Antonija Zaniuk of the Slovenian Red Cross.

“We have a lot of winter clothing, blankets. We are distributing cups of tea, food. But, in the long term, who knows.”

In a statement seeking to paper over deep divisions about how to handle the crisis, the EU and Balkan leaders meeting in Brussels committed to bolster the borders of Greece as it struggles to cope with the wave of refugees who cross over through Turkey.

They also pledged to boost the capacities of reception centres in Greece and along the Balkans route to shelter 100,000 more people as winter looms and additional EU border watchdog agency officials are deployed to monitor the flow.

“This is a step in the right direction and now it is crucial to respect the commitments,” said Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar, whose tiny Alpine nation has been overwhelmed since Hungary put up a fence on the border with Serbia and Croatia, diverting the flow to Slovenia.

Slovenia has hinted that it will build a fence on the border with Croatia if the migrant surge becomes too difficult to handle.

“OK, place a fence, but if you are not ready to shoot at the people, it will not stop anyone,” Croatian Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said amid a spat between the two neighbours over how to handle the crisis.

Croatian police said that as of early Monday, more than 13,000 migrants had arrived from Serbia over the previous 24 hours, while Slovenian police reported nearly 10,000 arrivals from Croatia in the same period.

Further west, in Austria, some 3,500 people had to sleep outside in the cold autumn weather, while Germany said it had seen 15,000 arrivals over the weekend.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic warned that addressing the crisis will take time.

“We will all be able to achieve some results in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

“But, it is clear that this crisis cannot be solved in a few weeks or months, but will improve step by step.”

Sunday’s meeting was called in response to a string of chaotic actions taken by countries along the route.

With no real ability to control Greece’s porous island border or stop people leaving Turkey for sanctuary or jobs in Europe, the EU wants to restore some order and apply the brakes on those passing through.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday she remained confident Germany can integrate the large number of refugees who are arriving, and noted that many won’t stay forever.

Q&A: Should we all become vegetarians?

Here’s what experts have to say about what this new warning means for your diet:

Q: What meats are they talking about exactly?

A: The International Agency for Research on Cancer’s definitions of processed meat and red meat are very wide.


Processed meats encompass any meats that have been “transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.” This would include sausages, corned beef, hot dogs, beef jerky, canned meat, meat-based preparations and sauces, turkey and chicken cold cuts, as well as bacon.

Red meat refers to “all types of mammalian muscle meat,” such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse – even goat.

Q: What kind of cancers did the scientists look at?

A: For processed meat, the carcinogen label was given based on studies about colorectal cancer. They also found an association between processed meat and stomach cancer. For red meat, the data pointed to associations with colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers.

Q: Why do they think these are dangerous to our health?

A: Scientists think that something bad happens to meat during the process of salting, curing or other treatment that causes the build up of carcinogenic chemicals such as N-nitroso-compounds (NOC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in the food. In red meat, cooking can also produce suspected carcinogens – in this case heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) and PAH. The IARC’s report, published in Lancet Oncology, notes that “high-temperature cooking by pan-frying, grilling or barbecuing generally produces the highest amounts of these chemicals.”

Q: What’s the distinction between the classification that the IARC gave to processed meat vs. red meat?

A: The group put processed meat products into its highest risk category meaning that they believe there’s pretty strong evidence to back up this link. It’s the same designation that has been given to really serious cancer-causing agents, such as air pollution and different types of radiation.

Red meat was put into the second highest category of being a “probable” carcinogen meaning that there’s limited evidence of the link in humans but a lot of evidence in experimental animals.

Q: Oh-oh. I eat a lot of meat. What do I do now?

A: The IARC’s director, Christopher Wild, said that the group’s findings support recommendations to “limit” intake of meat. But Wild also hedged a bit saying that red meat has “nutritional value.”

The American Cancer Society’s Susan Gapsur recommends that people who do eat meat begin to cut back on the amount of red meat they consume and “really limit” their intake of processed meat. Gapsur, a vice president for epidemiology, said people should be moving toward a more plant-based diet and choose fruits, vegetables, and beans as alternatives to meat.

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, said her recommendation on processed meat and red meat the same: Eat less. But Nestle stops short of recommending everyone should become a vegetarian.

“Some people are interpreting it as don’t eat meat at all. I don’t know if that’s reasonable,” she said. “The evidence against processed meat is very strong, but it’s very hard to consider giving up. A BLT is really a wonderful thing.”

She said that a number of the studies that link meat to risk of cancers involve individuals who eat meat multiple times a week, if not at every meal, rather than occasional consumers of meat. These people may have other unhealthy habits like exercising less that elevate their risk of cancer. Nestle emphasized that “you don’t need a special diet for cancer.”

“The same healthy diet that is good for heart disease is also good for cancer: a largely-but not necessarily exclusively-plant-based diet,” she said.

Q: That’s helpful, but what I really need to know is the bottom line. What’s a safe level of meat consumption? Is it okay for me to eat a hamburger with bacon twice a week? Once a week? Once a month?

A: While scientists have come up with those sorts of general recommendation for alcohol consumption (one drink a day), none exists for meat. A person’s individual biology is complex and a safe level for one person may not be safe for another. It depends on what the rest of your diet looks like, how often you exercise, your genes and a whole slew of other factors.

US dietary guidelines recommend that Americans eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, legumes and dairy and stay away from red meat but they don’t offer any specific numbers. The World Cancer Research Fund International comes the closest – suggesting that people who eat red meat consume less than 500 grams (18 oz) a week and very little if any processed meat.

But American Cancer Society’s Gapsur emphasized in an interview that “we don’t know if there is any perfectly safe level.”

“The risk increases with the amount consumed,” she said. “The best we can recommend is decreasing your consumption.”

The IARC’s report that came out this week says that if you eat 50 grams of processed meat (the equivalent of a few slices of bacon) every day – or a total of 350 grams a week – your risk of colon cancer goes up by 18 percent. That’s a lot. But keep in mind that this is a relative increase in risk and for some cancers your risk of developing the disease is not very high to begin with depending on your age, gender and other factors.

Voting irregularities in Myanmar election reach Australia

It is less than three weeks until parliamentary elections in Myanmar, seen as a key test of the country’s moves towards democratic reforms.


But, already, questions of polling legitimacy have arisen, with would-be voters overseas — including in Australia — saying they have been turned away from the ballot box.

“That’s a nice photo of Aung San Suu Kyi, our leader, doing the electioneering in her campaign.”

Scanning news reports at her Sydney home, Hnin Sandar Htay recalls applying months ago to cast an early ballot for Myanmar’s parliamentary polls.

Then the young doctor received bad news a short time ago.

“Two to three days before the actual voting process, and then the early voter list came out. I was not on that list. And I was shocked, because I already prepared to go to give a vote in Canberra.”

A quarter of a century ago, in the 1990 elections, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won an 80 per cent majority.

But the military nullified the result, returning Myanmar to military rule.

This time, the National League for Democracy is predicted to possibly do well enough to lead a coalition of smaller parties.

Many of Ms Suu Kyi’s supporters are within the millions-strong diaspora, including in Australia.

Hnin Sandar Htay says the importance of the moment makes her disappointment worse.

“Yeah, so disappointed, because this is the moment, the biggest moment and most important in so many decades for our country to have this opportunity to change our country. Our leader, Daw Suu, is in her retiring age, you know, 70 years old, so, if we can’t grab this opportunity, we never know what can happen, you know?”

Political observers agree it is a critical juncture for the once pariah state.

In Melbourne, Deakin University professor Damien Kingsbury is set to lead one of several Australian monitoring teams to Myanmar.

“It may result in a partial democracy. That is, that perhaps 75 per cent of the seats in parliament will be elected. And that’s a very good step. It’s certainly better than what Myanmar’s had in the past, where you didn’t have elections. So it’s a step in a democratic direction. It won’t amount to a full democracy just yet, and it may never amount to a full democracy.”

But at embassies and voting centres in Singapore, Thailand and elsewhere, many citizens say they have been denied.

Myanmar’s government says, of more than 2 million registered workers abroad, just 34,000 registered to vote in time.

In Australia, Hnin Sandar Htay and other Myanmarese nationals say their names just were not on electoral lists.

Others say they were registered with Myanmar’s Union Election Commission but not with the embassy in Canberra.

And still others say they could only vote in one of the three parliamentary categories involved.

Damien Kingsbury says he is not sure the problems are intentional.

“There are some logistical problems. I don’t think it’s the government trying to derail the process. Rather, I think it’s just the sheer complexity and the fact they haven’t done this for a very long time.”

But a National League for Democracy supporter from the Sydney-based Burma Office, Dr Myint Cho, thinks differently.

“I don’t think it’s a mistake. They deliberately take that kind of action to make many eligible voters to become ineligible for voting. Friends of mine told me they got information from the embassy, let’s say, (on the) 16th of October. So, (the) 17th is voting date. How can they fly in from other parts of Australia to go to Canberra to vote?”

The Union Election Commission has rejected accusations of bias at overseas advance-voting sites.

But Myint Cho says, in Myanmar itself, voter lists are strewn with errors.

He says the Election Commission, led by a retired general, cannot be impartial.

“The Election Commission disqualified nearly a hundred candidates of the opposition parties, particularly the Democracy and Human Rights Party formed by Muslim politicians. And another thing is, the commission cancelled the votes of 33 townships, based on the reason of ‘security’.”

President Thein Sein’s ruling United Solidarity and Development Party has also stripped Myanmar’s million-strong Rohingya Muslim minority of voting rights.

Australian business leaders in Myanmar say they want stability and transparency from the polls.

Then, afterwards, they hope for movement on stalled mining laws to make oil and gas exploration leases longer.

Ben Parker is from the Australian Myanmar Chamber of Commerce.

“I think it’s really important for any new, incoming government to progress those laws, to encourage foreign investment and to encourage the extractive industries in a transparent manner.”

One analyst suggests the National League for Democracy would be better for foreign business.

He says Aung San Suu Kyi’s party may well prove stricter on environmental protections but it is strongly committed to the rule of law.



Breast cancer hitting younger women harder, report finds

Younger women have a harder battle to beat breast cancer – so says a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.


It finds cancer causes one death a week in women aged between 20 and 39 years.

The new report is the first to look closely at the situation facing young women with the disease. Emma Hannigan reports.

Sunaina Kalra’s breast cancer may be gone, but she is now left with infertility, early menopause and the psychological effects.

She was 35 years old with two small children when she discovered that she had cancer.

“I went through this thing, ‘Are you still a woman when you have your ovaries, your breasts, your uterus removed?’ I don’t think the gravity of what was happening impacted me until much later when all the hormone stuff started and you are menopausal at 35, instantly.”

Young women are expected to account for five per cent of new breast cancer cases in Australia in 2015.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report has found 795 women aged between 20 and 39 years are likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

65 of them will die from the disease – that’s an average of two diagnoses a day, and one death a week.

Institute spokesman Justin Harvey says the survival rate for women under 40 is lower than it is among older women.

“More women who were aged 20 to 30 were diagnosed with very large cancers of fifty millimetres or more, and also the cancers diagnosed for young women tend to be more aggressive.”

Cassandra Boyle was 34 when she was diagnosed.

A double mastectomy and a hysterectomy followed.

“I see a pregnant woman and I think, ‘That would have been really good and that is really sad’. What I have learnt now is that it is okay to say ‘you know, that is really sad’ and it is okay to talk about this rather than focusing on ‘But you are alive, you made it, it is behind you.’ But you know what, this stuff isn’t, this stuff is still with me today.”

Professor Helen Zorbas, Cancer Australia CEO, says many women under 40 think that they are too young to have cancer.

“We know that mammography is not an effective screening test in women under 40 so it is especially important that women know the normal look and feel of their breasts. That is how most breast cancers in young women are found.”

However the report has also found women have a better chance of beating the disease now than they did 20 years ago.