South Africa to consider legalising rhino horn trade

South Africa is considering a radical new tactic to save the rhinoceros from extinction, which involves calling for an end to a 40-year-old ban on buying and selling rhino horns.

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South Africa is home to the world’s largest rhino population, but it is struggling to combat poachers.

Last year, around 1,175 of its rhinos were illegally killed.  

Most were slain for their horn, which is highly prized in Asia where it is used in traditional medicine.

Rancher John Hume told Reuters he loses three or more rhinos a day.

“We have to change our tactics if we are going to expect to win the war,” he said.

Mr Hume supports a change of tactics to ensure the future of the critically endangered species.

He would like to see the global ban on trading in rhino horn, which was introduced in 1977, lifted and a carefully monitored, legal trade allowed.

RelatedFarming rhino horn

A rhino’s horn can regrow, leading to suggestions it could be harvested and legally sold.

Proponents claim legalising the trade of rhino horns would satisfy demand and reduce poaching, but The Australian Rhino Project opposes this idea.

“It is unproven and we are not convinced that is going to be effective at all,” Project CEO Ray Dearlove said.

The organisation is trying to ensure the survival of the rhino by establishing viable populations outside of South Africa. 

The group is working to bring six rhinos to Australia, from South Africa, later this year in case rhinos become extinct in the wild.

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Mr Dearlove doesn’t believe there is global backing for legalising the rhino horn trade.

“Mainly because of the uncertainty of whether it would have the desired affect of stopping the poaching and some how reducing the demand,” he said.

Conservation group, World Wildlife Fund Australia, fears legalising the trade could drive demand and encourage more poaching.

“Increasing demand for rhino horn will only lead to more and more animals being killed each year,” Fund national species manager Darren Grover said.

“While some people will buy legitimate product some people will also be attracted to illegally sourced rhino horn.”

Australia breeding success

Dubbo’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to three species of rhino, the greater one-horned rhino, the black rhino and the white rhino.

Last year the zoo was successful in breeding all three.

The CEO of Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Cameron Kerr, said it did not support legalising farming rhino.

“It will have significant issues for the management and care for rhinos if you go to an industrialised method of farming horn,” he said.

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Mr Kerr, who is also director of the International Rhino Foundation, believes demand for rhino horn would outstrip legal supply for a very long time.

“Because of population growth, and it is fashionable at the moment not just for medicinal purposes but for status,” he said.

“Once you remove the stigma of illegal trade then it broadens it to a much larger group of people.”

He said past experiences with the dealings of other animal species, indicated that wild horns would become more valuable than farmed horns.

“If you think of fish, in certain parts of the world the value of wild caught fish is higher than farmed fish.”

RelatedA cash windfall 

Legalising the trade would enable South Africa to sell off its valuable stockpile of rhino horns.

Dehorning rhinos, to make them less enticing to poachers, has created a horn stockpile of around 30 tonnes in South Africa. 

It is suggested that the stockpile could fetch around $2.6 billions.

Money that could be put back into conservation.

The South Africa government will decide later this month whether to table a proposal to lift the ban when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species meets in Johannesburg in September.

-With Reuters

Pyne targets Arrium over Whyalla steel woes

Federal industry minister Christopher Pyne says the management of troubled steelmaker Arrium is to blame for putting thousands of jobs at risk.

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Mr Pyne says it’s unfair to criticise the company’s lenders, including the big four banks, for Arrium’s financial woes after it rejected a recapitalisation plan involving private equity group GSO Capital Partners.

“If there is anybody that needs to look at themselves, it’s the Arrium management, not the banks,” he told reporters in Adelaide on Wednesday.

“Arrium has a $2 billion debt. That is a problem for Arrium, incurred by Arrium management. It is no fault of the workers of Whyalla and it’s no fault of the state or Commonwealth governments.”

Arrium has suspending trading in its shares on the Australian stock exchange, saying it will update the market on talks with its lenders within a week.

The banks have pushed Arrium to go into voluntary administration, with the administrator to be hand-picked by the lenders, the Australian Financial Review newspaper has reported.

Mr Pyne said that keeping the Whyalla steelworks operating would provide the surest way for the banks to get their money back in such a scenario.

“If (Arrium) goes into administration, obviously the banks will effectively be saying that they’re going to be running the company through intermediaries,” he told AAP.

“If they do that, that will give Whyalla a chance to help them trade out of their difficulties.”

A Senate committee investigating the future of Australia’s steel industry has meanwhile been told the industry requires urgent attention.

Addressing the committee in Canberra, Arrium executive Naomi James said it would require a concerted effort from government, workers and contractors to keep the Whyalla steelworks operating.

“In the present circumstances, there is nothing that the company isn’t considering in terms of finding a way through,” Ms James said.

Business SA chief executive Nigel McBride said he was saddened some of Arrium’s mine workers had voted not to take a pay cut to help the embattled company

“I know it’s hard to take a cut in pay but it’s also harder to find a job in the Upper Spencer Gulf and Whyalla region when that fails,” he told AAP.

South Australian treasurer Tom Koutsantonis called for calm, saying there was plenty of time for stakeholders to find a solution.

Senate committee member Sean Edwards said it appeared that while Arrium’s fundamental business of mining ore and making steel remained sound, the company had been unable to manage its accrued debt.

“Added to this are difficult trading conditions, challenging commodity prices and the ongoing challenge for Australia to protect against steel dumped on the market with which Arrium has to compete,” Senator Edwards said.

Research suggests racism costs Australia $45 billion a year

A new report claims racial discrimination is costing Australia almost $45 billion a year, which would make it a bigger health cost than smoking.

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The research by the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation in Melbourne found racial discrimination costs 3.6 per cent of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product each year.

The study, partly funded by the Australian Human Rights Commission and VicHealth, attempted to calculate the public health costs associated with racism.

That included mental illnesses and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The research by Yin Paradies and Amanuel Elias found one in five Australians experience racism.

It calculated that racism cost a total of more than 285,000 years from healthy lives, compared to the almost 205,000 lost as a result of smoking.

Professor Paradies says racism can cost Australia’s health system as much as $44.9 billion a year.

“We focus on a few specific health outcomes, mental-health outcomes — depression, anxiety and psychological disorders. Obviously, there would be other impacts of racism, but that’s the cost for those particular disorders, from our study. So, basically, racism is a form of stress. It contributes to poor health. That’s been known for some years. What we add to that is exactly what and how much that contribution is, so the extent to which people’s lives are reduced, in terms of what they can achieve because of the fact that they have depression, and to what extent racism and the form of stress contributes to that depression tells us the cost. What we did is form that link between racism, as a form of stress, and those health outcomes.”

Professor Paradies says the research shows the growing cost of mental health issues on Australia’s health system.

“It really is a part of the broader pattern across the world of the increasing importance of mental health at a global scale. We know that, within 10 or 15 years, depression will be the largest cause of burden of disease in the world. So it’s really drawing in that notion of mental health as the emerging factor of interest towards the middle of the century. And we also know that, for things like smoking, they are being reduced over time. There have been effective public health campaigns, so that will increasingly become a smaller contributor to the overall burden of disease as time goes by. What we haven’t done enough of is trying to address things like racism and other forms of stress which do create this growing burden of mental health.”

However, the research has drawn some criticism in the wake of its release.

The director of policy at the Institute of Public Affairs, Simon Breheny, says the research has too much of a political agenda.

“Discriminating against a person because of their race, on the basis of their skin colour or their ethnicity, is clearly immoral. I think most Australians would accept that. And I don’t think we need research into the effects of discrimination to know that it is wrong. So I think this is really a case of a political agenda infusing science, and that’s something that should always be avoided.”

Mr Breheny suggests the research could be presenting racism as a greater health problem than it actually is.

“The significant risks that come out of this are that we’re misled about the seriousness of racial discrimination in Australia. The reality is that we are a very open, very tolerant, country. If you go to a lot of places around the world, they’re nowhere near as open and as tolerant as we are here. And so I think this gives a misleading picture of where Australia is at the moment, socially. I think that’s the greatest risk from this research.”

Dr Paradies rejects that criticism.

“We studied the topic closely for three years. This is figure we’ve come up with. There are limitations to the study. Certainly, more work could be done looking at what other forms of stress contribute to these health outcomes, and so, therefore, perhaps racism’s role will be reduced, or it may be increased, we don’t know. There are other factors at play, and not all of those have been accounted for, but it’s not clear what direction that will have, in terms of reducing or increasing the dollar figure. To me, when people say the figure sounds too large, it’s not really a criticism, it’s too vague. It doesn’t tell us what we’ve done wrong in our methods, which we’ve very vigorously applied.”

University of Queensland health economics professor Paul Frijters says the numbers in the study could be larger than they are in actuality.

However, he says it is possible the costs of racism could still be high when other factors and impacts are considered.

“Even though it’s a very high number, what the authors have done is to focus only on the health costs of racism, and they do this essentially by looking at people who say they felt instances of being discriminated (against) and see whether those are also the people who are slightly less healthy. The methodology is not at the frontier, but, on the other hand, they don’t talk about the cost to education, or they don’t talk about the cost to self-esteem in the next generation, which can potentially also be very large. And so there are also areas where discrimination and racism are known in other countries to have quite a big effect, because we know, if people feel down because they feel racially discriminated (against), their brains actually operate less efficiently. And so there are also potential avenues that would increase the number. And so, even though I think that the number is much too high, if you walk through all the various paths via which racism will have an effect, we could nevertheless come up with a reasonably high number anyway.”

 

 

Share market investors face tough year

The Australian share market faces a choppy year, with gains likely to come from select companies as the heavyweight bank and resource sectors come under pressure.

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With central banks and their policies driving financial markets, coupled with slow underlying global growth, Wilson Asset Management portfolio manager Matthew Haupt expects local market conditions to remain challenging, and earnings growth to be limited.

“The next few months will be quite tough, and then maybe towards the end of the calendar year we might see some sort of recovery as we come out of the official bear market that the Australian market is in,” Mr Haupt told AAP.

“It’s really going to be a stock pickers’ environment.”

Within the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, Mr Haupt favours telcos TPG Telecom and Vocus Communications, plus pharmaceuticals group Mayne Pharma, because of their strong growth opportunities.

He thinks the market is underestimating TPG’s $1 billion network deal with mobile operator Vodafone Hutchison Australia in 2015, and synergies from its $1.56 billion takeover of iiNet.

“I think there’s enough tailwinds there for this company as they transition to NBN for most of their clients,” Mr Haupt said.

Vocus Communications recently merged with rival M2 Group, creating Australia’s fourth biggest telco, and he expects a lot of financial benefits from the deal.

Mayne Pharma may also have a bright future, given potential acquisitions in their branded drug portfolio. The group is also awaiting approval for a string of generic drugs from the Food and Drug Administration in the US, Mr Haupt said.

He expects banks and resource companies to come under further pressure, with the former facing rising bad debt provisions, which could led to dividend cuts, plus regulatory uncertainty.

Three of the nation’s four big banks, Westpac, ANZ and National Australia Bank, will report their half year results in early May.

Miners, including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, will also face further pain.

“I think the underlying growth is still very low, and I think China will continue to slow down so I think there’s still room to fall in resources,” Mr Haupt said.

Mr Haupt is to be the lead portfolio manager at WAM’s latest listed investment company, WAM Leaders.

WAM – which has more than $1.2 billion in funds under management – is looking to raise up to $330 million from selling shares in WAM Leader, which is set for a market debut on May 30.

NT health minister defends Gurrumul’s hospital treatment

The Northern Territory’s health minister has accused Gurrumul’s music label of using his recent health crisis as publicity for a new album.

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John Elferink said the Aboriginal singer received the finest care when he was admitted to Royal Darwin Hospital over Easter with internal bleeding relating to his ongoing liver and kidney problems, but Gurrumul’s doctor and manager have accused staff of leaving him to bleed for more than eight hours, and of racially profiling him as a drinker.

“Frankly to extrapolate that racism and racial profiling is pervasive in the NT health system because a doctor makes a notation about previous alcohol abuse is nothing shy of lunacy,” Mr Elferink told ABC local radio.

“The Skinnyfish organisation continues to orate issues of racial abuse at about the time when their talent is about to release albums or is on the touring circuit.”

Gurrumul’s specialist Dr Paul Lawton said doctors at the hospital noted that the singer had an issue with alcohol, although he has been abstinent for some time, and asked Mr Elferink to explain why they would make that assumption unless it was racial profiling.

Mr Elferink said that allegation was unfounded.

“I am extremely cross that 7000 health professionals have been vilified by Skinnyfish as an organisation and I’m starting to doubt the legitimacy of what Skinnyfish is doing,” he said, adding that Gurrumul was given “the finest possible care and treatment”.

According to hospital protocols, Gurrumul should have been treated within six to 12 hours for his condition, but didn’t receive treatment for almost 15 hours, Dr Lawton said.

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“He was overseen and assessed throughout the whole process,” Mr Elferink said.

“The surgical team spoke to him twice within an hour of him arrival at hospital to determine his stability. He was stable … the treatment was appropriate.”

When asked if he was satisfied with the hospital’s approach and that no further review was required, Mr Elferink said: “I have never been more satisfied in my life.”

Hospital spokesman Professor Dinesh Arya said he was disappointed Gurrumul’s private medical details were still being publicly discussed.

“The hospital maintains its position that this patient was not racially profiled and received timely and appropriate care and treatment during his time at RDH, all staff are well trained in providing culturally appropriate care,” he said in a statement.

“The hospital continues to review the medical records following concerns raised as it does when any concerns are raised about a patients treatment.”

Duncan on the mend after Mumford clash

Geelong midfielder Mitch Duncan is recovering well after being knocked out in the Cats’ surprise loss to Greater Western Sydney and should be fit to play Brisbane this weekend.

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Duncan left the field dazed in the third quarter at Manuka Oval in Canberra after coming off second best in a bone-jarring collision with Giants ruckman Shane Mumford.

“He’s really good, he obviously wasn’t good enough to keep going which did speak to a bit of an issue there, but he’s recovered really well,” coach Chris Scott said on Wednesday.

“We’re a long way away from finalising our team but the indications are positive at the moment.”

Duncan, Daniel Menzel, Nakia Cockatoo – who has served a two-match suspension – and upgraded rookie defender Tom Ruggles are all in the selection mix for Sunday’s clash against the Lions at Simonds Stadium.

Scott said the Cats aren’t spooked after Sunday’s defeat but admits there were some startling figures to come out of the match.

A week after superstar recruit Patrick Dangerfield led the Cats to an eye-catching win over reigning premiers Hawthorn, Scott’s side came back to earth with a thud against the Giants in Canberra.

The final stats sheet made for grim reading for Scott, whose side were outpointed in a host of critical categories including clearances, contested possession, inside 50s and tackles.

“Six days prior (against the Hawks) it wasn’t (an issue) so we’re not jumping at shadows,” Scott said.

“The contested ball numbers were a bit inflated by the free kicks against … so it looks a bit different if you strip those out.

“But there are some clear things that we need to improve on.

“One week is not necessarily a pattern.”

Geelong were on the wrong side of a 23-10 free kick count against GWS but Scott said that it was up to his players to address some technical deficiencies to improve in that area.

Lucy Turnbull targeted for Salvos support

Lucy Turnbull has come under fire for launching the Salvation Army’s $74 million fundraising drive while abuse victims from the charity’s children’s homes await compensation.

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The prominent businesswoman and prime minister’s wife launched the charity’s annual Red Shield Appeal in front of about 500 supporters, including former NSW governor Professor Dame Marie Bashir, in Sydney on Wednesday.

She pledged $50,000 to the appeal on behalf of her family’s charitable trust, the Turnbull Foundation.

But survivors of abuse at Salvation Army children’s homes criticised Mrs Turnbull’s involvement with the charity, which they say refuses to fully back a national redress scheme for abuse victims.

Thirteen members of the support group Care Leavers Australia Network protested outside the Westin hotel in Sydney’s CBD as Mrs Turnbull addressed the Red Shield Appeal launch.

“We have no national redress and here she is supporting the Red Shield Appeal,” CLAN chief executive Leonie Sheedy told AAP.

“Will the prime minister’s wife do a fundraiser for the Christian Brothers next?”

Mrs Turnbull, a former chair of the Red Shield Appeal, said governments, charities and churches were taking positive steps towards redress for survivors.

“Importantly the focus of redress is about providing recognition for the survivor, not protecting the institution’s interests,” she told the Red Shield Appeal launch.

“The Salvation Army has acknowledged that many children entrusted to its care in decades past suffered horrific abuse and that this abuse is the greatest failure in its history and I congratulate the Salvation Army for confronting this.”

Mrs Turnbull reminded the audience of how when her husband Malcolm Turnbull was opposition leader in 2009 he joined the then prime minister Kevin Rudd in apologising to abuse victims.

But she said while Australia must respond to “what has been hidden in the shadows”, it was important not to forget how the Salvos support more than one million people a year.

Ms Sheedy says that while the Salvos have publicly supported a national compensation scheme, the charity has indicated it wants control over the process and money.

“When you see the money spent here today at this launch, it’s obscene,” she said.

The Salvation Army has been the subject of three royal commission hearings into abuse at homes run by the charity in NSW, Queensland and South Australia, as well as its handling of compensation for survivors.

The federal government has previously rejected the notion of a national redress scheme, saying it would be too complex.

It is working on a national approach for state and territory schemes.

The Red Shield Appeal doorknock is on May 28 and 29.

Deregulation to hike uni loan debt bill

The taxpayer bill to put students through higher education is set to balloon if universities are allowed to set their own fees.

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New analysis shows the cost of student debt owed to the taxpayer is predicted to soar from $1.7 billion to $11 billion within a decade.

Total exposure will increase more than fivefold to $185 billion by 2025-26.

That’s down to a range of past and future government policies including uncapping university places and opening up loans to vocational education.

A Parliamentary Budget Office report also takes into account Turnbull government plans to deregulate university course fees, which it says will be the main driver of the growing loan portfolio.

It predicts student fees will soar by 40 per cent as universities recover costs following a planned 20 per cent government funding cut.

In addition, the PBO projects student fees will increase by two per cent every year.

The debt will be driven by those who are unlikely to repay their loans because they earn below the taxable income threshold.

Those “doubtful debts” will double in a decade to $4 billion.

Concessional loans will more than double in a decade from $1 billion to $2.4 billion by 2025.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham blames the Gillard government for including the “irresponsible and recklessly-arranged” VET fee help program and demand-driven university places for the debt blowout.

“There is no point believing that just by racking up ever-increasing debts today, that somehow Australians down the track will miraculously be able to pay for them,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Senator Birmingham said the government would outline its planned changes for higher education in the May 3 budget.

It has already put off until 2017 a planned 20 per cent cut in federal funding and allowing universities to deregulate course fees.

That plan has twice been rejected by the Senate.

Policies dumped as July poll chances rise

The Turnbull government has begun shelving policies and looking to fast-track decisions as a July 2 election becomes more likely.

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Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the government won’t get its planned crackdown on paid parental leave “double-dipping” through before the election.

From July 1, mums and dads would no longer be allowed to access both taxpayer and employer schemes, but the laws are stalled in parliament.

“The reality is the legislative change that we wished to make … is not going to be successful in this term of parliament,” Mr Porter told ABC radio on Wednesday.

However that did not mean the government would abandon making its case for change if it was re-elected.

The government is also weighing up whether to make a statement on a major defence project – the replacement of the Collins class submarines – before a formal “competitive evaluation process” involving Japan, Germany and France is completed.

Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, who represents a seat in the shipbuilding state of South Australia, said an election in September would have given time for the process to run its course.

A July 2 election would make this more difficult, however he expected a decision of some kind “as soon as possible”.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the process was “extremely thorough” and on track.

“When the government makes the decision it will be a very fully-informed decision,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Senate crossbenchers hold the key to whether Mr Turnbull gets his double-dissolution trigger – the failure of the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill to pass.

Independent senator Glenn Lazarus said the double-dissolution election would happen because Mr Turnbull was “panicking” and needed an election soon to stem the drop in support for the coalition.

Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm said Mr Turnbull had for some weeks been “looking forward to a double-dissolution election with industrial relations front and centre”.

However, another crossbencher Nick Xenophon said the government was negotiating in good faith to get the ABCC bill passed and a July election was not inevitable.

Coalition backbenchers are expressing concern about the direction of the government.

“I think it’s coming across to the public that we are a bit wishy-washy,” Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said.

Mr Turnbull said he would encourage all coalition MPs to “be more upbeat”.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who campaigned in Sydney on Wednesday, said the government’s flagging support showed Mr Turnbull was “out of touch”.

But a collection of opinion polls and betting markets points to a comfortable coalition win at the federal election, likely in July.

MetaPoll, which has aggregated the responses of 18,000 voters in public opinion polls over the past four weeks, has the coalition leading Labor 51.8-48.2 per cent after preferences.

Research shows reverse evolution possible

The idea of humans growing tails, chicken growing teeth and snakes growing legs may not be as far fetched as we think.

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New research led by Flinders University has found that reverse evolution – where organs or features lost millions years ago are redeveloped – is possible under certain conditions.

It pointed to how some of Australia’s largest kangaroos have changed the structure of their teeth to resemble those of their ancestors in response to their changing diet.

As forests retreated towards the coastline over millions of years, kangaroos were forced to eat more grass, with their teeth needing to cut rather than chomp away at their food, the researchers say.

That led to the shape of their molars changing to more closely resemble those of their more distant ancestors.

“We show that small changes to a ‘rule’ that determines how teeth form in the embryo have allowed some kangaroos to partly turn back the clock on evolution,” PhD candidate Aidan Couzens said.

“Using these rules, we can start to predict the pathways evolution can take.”

“We found that features lost in evolution can re-evolve when evolution tinkers with the way features are assembled in the embryo.”

The research, published in the journal Evolution, casts some doubt on the widely held view that once a structure or organ is lost during the course of evolution, it can’t be recovered.

Co-author Gavin Prideaux said biologists had often discounted the potential for evolution to shift into reverse.

But he said the latest research argued that reanimating genetically mothballed features might be allowed by evolution under certain circumstances.