Poll wrap: Labor’s Newspoll lead narrows federally and in Victoria



File 20180424 94112 1mzq5gh.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Coalition has narrowed the gap with Labor in the latest Newspoll, and Malcolm Turnbull has a 38-35 lead over Bill Shorten as better prime minister.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted April 19-22 from a larger-than-normal sample of 2,070, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (steady), 37% Labor (steady), 9% Greens (down one) and 7% One Nation (steady).

While this is Malcolm Turnbull’s 31st successive Newspoll loss as PM (one ahead of Tony Abbott), it is the Coalition’s best position in Newspoll since September 2016. In the last four weeks, the Coalition has gained two points after preferences.

The combined vote for Labor and the Greens was down a point to 46%, the lowest total left vote since July 2017. The left vote is now only one point ahead of the total vote for the Coalition and One Nation.

Since the November 2017 Queensland election, Newspoll has altered its preference flow assumptions for One Nation. Previously, it was assumed half of One Nation voters would preference the Coalition ahead of Labor, in line with the 2016 federal election. Newspoll appears to now be assuming over 60% of One Nation voters flow to the Coalition.

As shown by The Poll Bludger, even with the new assumptions for One Nation preferences, rounding probably helped the Coalition in this Newspoll.

36% were satisfied with Turnbull (up four), and 53% were dissatisfied (down four), for a net approval of -17, up eight points, Turnbull’s highest net approval since early February. Bill Shorten’s net approval was up five points to -20. Turnbull had a 38-35 lead over Shorten as better PM (38-36 last fortnight).

56% thought the current immigration target of 190,000 per year is too high, 28% thought it about right, and just 10% too low. By 57-28, voters thought South Africans should not be treated differently from other asylum seekers.

51% rated increasing health funding one of their top two priorities for the federal budget, followed by 41% for reducing debt and deficit, 30% for increasing infrastructure spending and 28% for both increasing school funding and cutting individual tax rates.

Turnbull and the Coalition have tended to do better when Parliament is not sitting. The Syrian airstrikes may also have boosted the Coalition, though to a lesser extent than the UK Conservatives, who advanced from a tie with Labour to being up by five points in a YouGov poll.

At this point, the Banking Royal Commission has not impacted on the Coalition. Voters do not appear to be blaming the Coalition for the banks’ behaviour. The Coalition could be damaged eventually by the argument that the banks’ behaviour is an example of unfettered capitalism, which it could be perceived as supporting.

After the first Newspoll of this year, I said wages growth was likely to determine the outcome of the next election. Labor and the unions have campaigned on persistently low wages growth. If wages growth improves before the next election, they will have a harder case to make.




Read more:
Turnbull and the Coalition begin the year on a positive polling note – but it’s still all about the economy


Essential: 53-47 to Labor

In contrast to Newspoll, Essential gave Labor a 53-47 lead, unchanged on last fortnight. Primary votes were 37% Coalition (down one), 36% Labor (down one), 11% Greens (up one) and 8% One Nation (up one). This poll was conducted April 19-22 (the same dates as Newspoll) from a sample of 1,026. I believe Essential is still using 2016 election preference flows.

51% said cost of living was one of their three top priorities for the federal government, with improving health care next on 36%. Business tax cuts were only rated a top priority by 6%, and income tax cuts by 15%.

54% thought Australia’s population growth rate is too fast, 31% about right, and just 4% thought it too slow. 64% (up 14 since October 2016) thought Australia’s immigration level over the last ten years is too high, 23% about right (down five) and just 5% too low (down seven).

Voters preferred fewer of all types of temporary visas, with most opposition to short-term working visas (47-12) and permanent refugees (46-19).

Although most sentiments on immigration were negative, voters agreed immigration had made a positive contribution to Australian society by 61-26. By 55-32 (55-33 three years ago), voters thought multiculturalism had enriched the social and economic lives of all Australians, rather than caused social division and dangerous extremism.

Victorian Newspoll: 51-49 to Labor

A Victorian Newspoll, conducted April 13-16 from a sample of 1,023, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since a February to early March Newspoll. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (up two), 38% Labor (up one), 11% Greens (steady) and 5% One Nation (down one). The Victorian election will be held on November 24.

In late March, the Victorian Ombudsman found that Labor had misused $338,000 of taxpayers money on its 2014 election campaign. On Good Friday (March 30), the Liberals broke pairing conventions in the upper house to defeat Labor’s proposed changes to fire services.

Both leaders’ ratings slumped. 43% were satisfied with Premier Daniel Andrews (down three), and 47% were dissatisfied (up six). Opposition Leader Matthew Guy’s net approval fell 12 points to -13. Andrews had a 41-34 lead over Guy as better Premier (41-30 previously).

Newspoll repeated three questions that were asked in its February to March poll, all with worse results for Labor. Labor led the Liberals by 42-40 on energy supply (44-34 previously). On law and order, the Liberals led Labor by 46-37 (42-37). By 69-23, voters thought Labor should be doing more to reduce gang violence (65-25).




Read more:
Newspoll round-up: Labor leading in Victoria and tied in New South Wales; populists dominate in Italy


South Australian final upper house result

Upper house results for the March 17 South Australian election were finalised Monday. The Liberals won four of the 11 seats up for election, Labor four, SA-BEST two and the Greens one. The Liberals now have nine of the 22 total seats, Labor eight, the Greens two, SA-BEST two and Advance SA (formerly SA-BEST) one.

Labor had 3.46 quotas on primary votes, and the Conservatives 0.42 quotas. Labor’s fourth candidate defeated the Conservatives after preferences by over 6,500 votes, or 0.57 quotas to 0.49. Optional preferential above the line voting meant that more than a quota of votes exhausted.

Conservative upper house member Dennis Hood, who was elected as a Family First member in 2014, defected to the Liberals in late March. With no Conservative elected in 2018, the party has lost its parliamentary representation. Members elected in 2014 will face election in 2022.

On legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens, the Liberals will need support from both SA-BEST and Advance SA.


The Conversation


Read more:
Liberals win South Australian election as Xenophon crushed, while Labor stuns the Greens in Batman


Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Advertisements

Clarrie Combo, Mrs Brown and Aboriginal soldiers in WW2



File 20180417 30570 1fksnvg.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Yorta Yorta women and girls at the Cummeragunja Reserve in NSW with their knitting for soldiers serving in the second world war.
Australian War Memorial: P01562.001

Kristyn Harman, University of Tasmania

During the second world war, a young Aboriginal soldier, Private Clarrie Combo from New South Wales, exchanged mail with Mrs F. C. Brown from Loxton, South Australia — a white woman whom he had never met.

Very few letters penned by Aboriginal soldiers who served in either of the two world wars survive, yet one of Clarrie’s letters has endured in what might seem a surprising context. Mrs Brown contacted the young soldier after seeing an advertisement calling for volunteers to “adopt” Aboriginal soldiers. His reply was printed in her local newspaper, and its survival provides us with a rare opportunity to learn about military service from an Aboriginal soldier’s perspective.

Private Clarence Combo.
NAA: B883, NX30580

Clarence Combo was born in Wardell, New South Wales, on 14 September 1919. Young Clarrie grew up in a harsh environment — Kinchela Aboriginal Boys’ Training Home near Kempsey. Consistent with government plans to assimilate Aboriginal people into white Australian society, children like Clarrie were forcibly removed from their families. At Kinchela, boys were called by their allocated numbers rather than names. Identities and cultures were stripped away.

In a country where discriminatory legislation and practices precluded Aboriginal people from earning a fair wage, voting, marrying non-Aboriginal partners, buying property or entering a public bar, it is not too difficult to imagine why some young Aboriginal men signed up for the military when war broke out. An estimated 1,000 Aboriginal soldiers served in the Australian Imperial Force as black diggers during the first world war. By the mid-20th century it was easier for Aboriginal men to sign up, so around 3,000 served Australia during WWII.

Comfort funds

Shortly after WWII began, the Melbourne-based Aborigines Uplift Society, founded by non-Aboriginal activist Arthur Burdeu, created a comforts auxiliary for Aboriginal soldiers. The idea was that women could “adopt” an Aboriginal soldier. They would correspond with him and arrange comfort parcels to be sent to him at the front.

In the Society’s August 1940 Uplift newsletter, Burdeu explained how “native women have not the resources to do as their white sisters, though they are already at work”. In Queensland, for example, children at the Purga Aboriginal Mission sewed underpants, toilet tidies, calico bags and hussifs (sewing kits), and knitted socks, mittens and balaclavas. Yorta Yorta women and children at the Cummeragunja Reserve (located in New South Wales) were also involved in knitting for the war effort.

Newspaper advertisements ran across Australia inviting women to contact Burdeu about “adopting” an Aboriginal soldier. With at least one son-in-law serving Australia, Mrs Brown may have felt compassion for those men whose families could not afford to send them parcels.

Corresponding with Mrs Brown

On September 25, 1941 the Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record published one of Clarrie’s letters to Mrs Brown under the headline “Aboriginal’s Appreciative Letter”. Clarrie opened his correspondence with Mrs Brown by thanking her for writing to him. He wrote: “it is very nice of you to write to someone you do not know”. At a practical level, Clarrie advised Mrs Brown that he wore size seven boots, as she had offered to knit socks for him.

Aboriginal’s Appreciative Letter extract.
https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/109261185

The young private’s letter provides a unique perspective on his experiences serving abroad. “I was in action for the first time in Greece,” he told his correspondent. He described Greece as “the nicest country that I have been in since leaving Australia”, then marvelled at having seen snow for the first time.

However the horrors of war included being “attacked practically every day by the German planes”. He told Mrs Brown how “a few of my pals were killed over there … There were German planes in the sky all day long and they were always bombing”.

What’s left out of correspondence can also be telling. In War Dance: A Story of the 2/3 Aust. Inf. Battalion A.I.F., Ken Clift provides an insight into racial attitudes amongst some of the men, telling of an altercation between two Australian soldiers, an Aboriginal one named Clarrie and an Indian or Afghan soldier, Tom. As the men argued heatedly, Tom allegedly called Clarrie: “You black bastard”. Clarrie was said to have retorted, “Well Tom, you’re no bloody glass of milk yourself.” Clarrie’s correspondence with Mrs Brown omits any mention of such tensions.

Welcome home

Over five years’ service, Clarrie’s tours of duty included Egypt, Libya, Greece, Crete, Syria, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and New Guinea. He suffered illness and injuries. In 1941 he caught sandfly fever, an ailment commonly suffered by soldiers fighting in North Africa. His “Proceedings for Discharge” notes that Clarrie received two war injuries, one to his right forearm and the other, a gunshot wound inflicted in New Guinea in June 1945, to his left forearm.

Clarrie’s war experiences included seeing some of his mates injured or killed. He would also have been expected to fire on enemy combatants. However, his correspondence with Mrs Brown, replete with anecdotes about foreign lands and peoples, highlights how being part of Australia’s war effort in the mid-20th century also gave him insights into other places and cultures.

The ConversationFortunately, Clarrie survived the war. He was one of five Aboriginal soldiers welcomed home to Wardell by the Cabbage Tree Island Women’s Guild just before Christmas 1945. By the mid-1960s Clarrie was chairing the Aboriginal Cooperative at Cabbage Tree Island and participating in national conferences advocating equal rights for Aboriginal people.

Kristyn Harman, Senior Lecturer in History; Graduate Research Coordinator, School of Humanities; Course Coordinator, Diploma of History, University of Tasmania

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Women have been neglected by the Anzac tradition, and it’s time that changed



File 20180418 163986 bo28v1.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Australian nurses and patients at the Auxiliary Hospital Unit in Antwerp during the first world war.
Australian War Memorial

Robyn Mayes, Queensland University of Technology

The Anzac legend remains firmly centred on the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign of 1915, and the sacrifice of “sons and fathers” in frontline combat. The place of women in this foundational story is also made clear – that of onlookers and supporters.

In concluding her 2017 dawn service address at Gallipoli, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told a story about Len Hall, one of the original “diggers” who fought at Gallipoli. He is said to have noticed a girl in the crowd who had gathered to farewell departing soldiers, and given her an emu feather that he plucked from his slouch hat. When he returned to Australia at the close of the war, this girl — who later became his wife — was waiting in the crowd to return the feather.

This is a story of hope, and of an ongoing fascination with and idealisation of the “digger”. It is also a story about the passive role of women as waiting mothers, wives and sisters. But women’s contributions are more complicated, varied and controversial than these stories allow.




Read more:
Why China will be watching how we commemorate Anzac Day


Undervalued women’s work

Women were entirely absent from the Gallipoli landings; the only women in the vicinity were nurses serving on hospital ships and in the field hospital in Lemnos. These crucial and dangerous roles as nurses and ambulance drivers were publicly acknowledged in the early Anzac commemorations.

However, as Anzac Day rituals evolved into the current dawn service, veterans’ march, and afternoon celebrations and sporting events, public recognition of this service declined.

Ex-service women are often involved in the Anzac Day March.
Shutterstock

For many years, ex-service women attended Anzac Day marches as spectators or walked in marches without service identification and without mention in the official program. While some were satisfied with this, others were not.

In a 1963 newspaper article the President of the Australian Women’s Army Service shared the group’s experience of “being ignored”. She pointed out they had until then received “less recognition than the boy scouts” (who were officially included in the march).

The Australian Women’s Army Service was actually formed in 1941 to free up men for combat roles. Women performed a wide range of (largely uncelebrated) work, ranging from intelligence analysis to operating fixed gun emplacements in Australia, to working as canteen staff.

In 2002, Annie Leach headed the Perth Anzac Day march on the 100th anniversary of the army’s nursing corps, noting that WA nurses returning from the second world war were largely “a forgotten race”.




Read more:
Mary Beard and the long tradition of women being told to shut up


Challenging core Anzac beliefs

Women have not only had to fight to be recognised for their noncombatant war service, but are also credited with presenting the most serious of all challenges to Anzac core beliefs and rituals. This took the form of non-violent Anzac Day protests seeking to draw public attention to the issue of rape in war, and to oppose the system supporting wars and rape.

In the 1970s and 80s, groups such as the Women Against Rape in War collective bravely staged several such protests around Australia. These protests included the attempted laying of “rape wreaths” during dawn services as a way to mourn women raped in war. This stands in stark contrast to the comforting notion of wartime women waiting safely at home.

Such activity was vilified and indeed punished. In Sydney, 160 women protesters were charged with participating in the Anzac Day march without permission, which they had sought and been refused. As sociologist Catriona Elder has documented in her 2007 book Being Australian: Narratives of National Identity three women were jailed for one month for failing to keep a minimum distance of 400 metres from the end of the Anzac Day parade.

Keepers of the tradition

ABC coverage of the 2017 Gallipoli dawn service reported many people were moved to tears, as evidenced by inclusion of a photograph of a young woman wearing an “Anzac Day” beanie wiping her tears away. Other coverage of Anzac Day 2017 features an image of a woman “watching as people sleep overnight”.

An examination of media coverage of Anzac Day in Perth since the 1980s shows a growing expectation around women’s emotional engagement with, and support for, Anzac Day rituals. It also shows the emergence of an explicit contemporary role for women as guardians of the ongoing relevance and importance of the Day. This includes making sure that the family attends Anzac Day marches.




Read more:
Flies, filth and bully beef: life at Gallipoli in 1915


The ‘modern’ digger

In a contentious move, since the first of January 2013 women currently serving in the ADF have been entitled to take up front line and combat roles while direct entry to these roles has been permitted from January 2016. In 2015, women constituted close to 15% of the deployed force. In 2017 the official definition of “veteran” was revised so that many older service-women will for the first time be officially recognised on Anzac Day 2018 as veterans.

Word is that in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne this year the march will be led by service women.

Even though it is mooted as a “one-off” occurrence, is this a turning point after which women will be more equally recognised for their military service to the nation? Will women veterans be accorded the revered title of “digger”?

The ConversationThe role of women in the Anzac tradition is not just about the “one day” and fair recognition of women’s sacrifice and service; it’s also about how we understand quintessential “Australian” characteristics and the formation of the nation as the preserve of not just men but also women, and not just those who support but also those who challenge.

Robyn Mayes, Senior Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Gallipoli commemorations of Turkish youth tell us much about politics in Turkey



File 20180423 75100 lf659o.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Turkish soldiers in a trench at Gallipoli. The way Turkish youth commemorate the battle tells us much about the country’s politics.
Ausstralian Dept of Veterans Affairs

Brad West, University of South Australia and Ayhan Aktar, Istanbul Bilgi University

With ongoing political instability and security concerns in Turkey, we are again likely to see a smaller turnout of Australians and New Zealanders for Anzac Day ceremonies at Gallipoli this year.

But thousands of Turkish youth will be on the battlefields at dawn. They will be re-enacting the march by the 57th Regiment to the highlands, where Ottoman troops halted the Anzac advance in 1915.




Read more:
How a more divided Turkey could change the way we think about Gallipoli


We undertook fieldwork last Anzac Day on this ritual as part of a proposed larger research project examining how the memory of Gallipoli has become central to tension between Turkish republicans and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The republicans want to protect and restore the secular pro-Western origins of the republic, while the AKP wants to integrate Islam into the nation’s civil institutions and national imagination.

Nowhere is this memory politics more significant than in this re-enactment ritual, which under AKP rule has been renamed the Loyalty March for the 57th Regiment.

While Islamic influence on remembrance rites at Gallipoli has been growing for more than a decade, its political significance has increased dramatically since the July 2016 attempted coup. This has proved to be a transformative event for Turkish politics and society.

The 57th Regiment re-enactment

In the last two decades, Turkish interest in the history of the Gallipoli campaign has grown significantly. It was here that the 57th Regiment came to prominence in Turkish collective memory as the military unit led by Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal, later Atatürk.

As founding father of modern Turkey and hero of the war of independence, Mustafa Kemal pushed the 57th Regiment to the highlands, preventing defeat in the campaign.

The origins of the re-enactment are closely tied to this mythology – it was originally known as the 57th Regiment March in the Track of Atatürk. Local university students first organised the commemoration in 2006, partly in response to the increasing number of Australian and New Zealand youth on the battlefields for Anzac Day. For the 90th anniversary the year before, the Anzac Day pilgrimage reached its zenith, with about 17,000 participants.




Read more:
Turkish view remains neglected in our understanding of Gallipoli


The structure adopted for the first 57th Regiment re-enactment largely remains today. It involves an eight-kilometre hike from the regiment’s original base at Bigali village to the highlands of the battlefield. The ritual grew rapidly, with 6,000 participants three years after the first march.

Unsurprisingly, given the march’s popularity, the AKP assumed some control of the re-enactment through the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The government began funding the cost of travel and living expenses for young participants. It also oversees official registration and program co-ordination to cap attendance.

Such oversight allowed for representation of youth from around the country, including a greater percentage of participants from AKP stronghold areas who would otherwise struggle to fund the travel. It is this “pious generation” that the AKP and its leader, Recep Erdoğan, have emphasised as central to AKP’s vision of a new Turkey.

Turkish youth march in a Gallipoli re-enactment.
Ayhan Aktar

Cultural contradictions

Historical re-enactment is about comprehending and experiencing the past as it relates to the ordinary citizen. This commemorative form has proved particularly significant for AKP memory politics by allowing a focus on the martyrdom of 57th Regiment, which suffered heavy casualties.

By providing competition to the traditional heroic saviour narrative of Atatürk at Gallipoli, the AKP has been able to counter the secular pro-Western principles around which he founded the republic. Mandatory prayer sessions have been added at the beginning and end of the march. This has been justified as simulating the actions of the ordinary men who constituted the unit.

This more egalitarian historical focus, which cultural scholars refer to as memory “from below”, gives religion a place in commemorations of Gallipoli. This can also be seen in the increased recognition of individual martyrs through a focus on firsthand accounts of the religious zeal of Turkish soldiers against an infidel invader of their homeland.




Read more:
Turkey, the Armenian genocide and the politics of memory


Changes to the memorial landscape on the battlefields have aided this way of telling history while also promoting religious observance at the site. Fallen Turkish soldiers remained in mass graves after the war, a reflection of the stigma of Ottoman history in republican Turkey.

But, since 2005, Turkish authorities have built 11 cemeteries for the fallen soldiers. These have become popular sites for prayer by the 1 million-plus Turkish visitors to the battlefields per year, in large part funded as social tourism by municipalities. Another 15 cemeteries are proposed, with plans for accompanying outdoor mosques.

The AKP has a vested interest in advancing re-enactment as a commemorative form at Gallipoli, as it provides an opportunity for increased religious references and contexts. To ensure the re-enactment remains popular, though, the AKP has retained much of its original carnival-like character. Participants still take “selfies” and engage in jokes, laughter and joyful conversations while walking.

Political opposition

The recreational character of the re-enactment means participants have a range of motivations for their involvement.

Political chants and song, for example, are often recited by small groups. Some of the most common are the songs of the AKP’s political opponents, the Nationalistic Movement Party.

Other participants engage in religious chants such as Allahu akbar (Allah is the greatest) and Tek yol İslam, tek yol şehadet (Only path is Islam, only path is martyrdom).

Arguably the populist nature of the re-enactment legitimises other tourist and unofficial remembrance forms at Gallipoli that work to cap the state’s control over historical interpretation.

The 57th Regiment re-enactment is becoming a popular pilgrimage activity throughout the year. The Republican People’s Party (CHP), for example, had a re-enactment as part of its four-day Justice Congress at Gallipoli in August 2017. The congress was held to highlight violations of the justice system by Erdoğan following the attempted coup.

Like the main April 25 re-enactment, the success and political outcomes of such ritual displays are highly contingent. In the case of the CHP congress, its ability to challenge the AKP’s symbolic alignment with Gallipoli was hampered by photos appearing on social media of congress members drinking alcohol on the battlefields. The images caused a public scandal. A CHP spokesperson admitted:

Such impertinent behavior is completely against the glorious memory of our Gallipoli martyrs.

The ConversationWhether Australians and New Zealanders will return to Gallipoli en masse for future Anzac Days, and how they will be received if they do, is uncertain. But ritual performances on the battlefields on April 25 are almost certain to remain politically significant in Turkey.

Brad West, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, School of Creative Industries, University of South Australia and Ayhan Aktar, Chair Professor, Istanbul Bilgi University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

NASA’s planet-hunting spacecraft TESS is now on its mission to search for new worlds



File 20180419 163971 16jb1ut.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9.
NASA Television

Jonti Horner, University of Southern Queensland

The latest of NASA‘s incredible planet-hunting space telescopes was launched today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Known as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (or TESS to its friends), this exciting new mission promises to provide the next great leap forward in our understanding of our place in the universe.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Over the next two years, TESS is likely to find thousands of new exoplanets – planets orbiting distant stars – and will help to reveal the degree to which our Solar system is unique in the cosmos.




Read more:
Google’s artificial intelligence finds two new exoplanets missed by human eyes


In doing so, it will build on the fascinating results of the past few decades, cementing our place in the “Exoplanet Era”.

Illustration of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The Kepler revolution

At the end of 2008, the year before NASA’s earlier planet-hunting telescope Kepler launched, about 300 exoplanets had been discovered. Today, the number is an order of magnitude larger: more than 3,700.

Kepler discovered more than 2,300 exoplanets, with a further 2,200 or so “candidate” planets still awaiting followup. This incredible haul is the result of the spacecraft staring, unblinking, at the night sky, watching for the tiny flickers that reveal planets passing between us and their host stars.

An illustration of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft that carried out the first great census of the Exoplanet Era.
NASA Ames/ W Stenzel

In essence, Kepler carried out the first great census of the Exoplanet Era. It taught us that planets are ubiquitous – a standard and natural byproduct of the formation of stars.

But the vast majority of the stars around which Kepler found planets were very faint and very distant. This makes it a great challenge for observers on the ground to follow up on those discoveries and learn more about the planets the spacecraft revealed.

Along comes TESS

Whereas Kepler focused for four years on just one small patch of the northern sky, TESS will target stars across almost the whole night sky. In doing so, it will survey some of the brightest stars in the sky – making the task of following up on its myriad discoveries far easier.

TESS consists of four cameras, configured to give it an observation sector that covers an area slightly larger than a 90° arc on the sky.

Image showing how TESS’ four cameras will be used to survey the night sky, sector by sector.
NASA

TESS will watch that observation sector continually for just over 27 days, never blinking. The spacecraft will then pivot around, swinging to target its next sector.

In this manner, over the course of a year, the spacecraft will target almost the entirety of one hemisphere of the sky. After that, it will flip over, and spend the next year watching the other hemisphere.

TESS will cover much more than Kepler in its hunt for exoplanets.

For the first year TESS will be gazing to the south, scouring skies that are best seen from the southern hemisphere, finding planets orbiting the very stars you see when you step outside and look up at the night sky, right here in Australia.

Many stars, many planets?

TESS’s main mission will involve it observing a total of 200,000 stars, measuring their brightness every single minute that they fall within its field of view. To do this, it will process images before sending them back to Earth, extracting just the data on those stars to send back to the Earth.

TESS will also provide full-frame images (a picture of the spacecraft’s full field of view) every half an hour, yielding a trove of tens of millions of objects observed.

TESS will process data on board the spacecraft, to make the amount sent back to Earth manageable.
NASA

Put all that together, and the expected planet yield should be enormous. Based on the statistics of planet discoveries to date, it is likely that TESS will find at least a couple of thousand potential planets around its main target stars, while those in the full-frame images might yield tens of thousands of additional candidates.

These numbers are incredible, and TESS will revolutionise our understanding of our place in the universe. But such amazing results bring with them a unique problem – and one that we, in Australia, are ideally placed to help solve.

Too many planets, too little time

The reason that only half of the Kepler mission’s candidate planets have been confirmed is that doing so requires extensive follow-up work from the ground.

Astronomers have to rule out other effects that could cause the behaviour seen in the potential planet’s host star before we can be certain that we’re really seeing evidence of a new planet.

Most of the stars observed by Kepler are simply too faint for that kind of work to be carried out from the ground – except, perhaps, with the largest telescopes on the planet. Getting time on those telescopes is challenging – all of the world’s other astronomers covet that time too, for their own projects.

Quite simply, it is a case of too many planets, too little time.

Too many potential exoplanets, too little time.
NASA, ESA, and M. Kornmesser (ESO)

The problem is only going to get worse with TESS. When the first few planets were found, in the late 20th century, the discoveries came in a trickle. Those discoveries were easy for scientists to drink in and follow up, and all was good.

With Kepler, the discovery rate went through the roof. From a trickle, it was like someone had turned on a tap – a continual stream of new potential planets to study.

If Kepler was a tap, then TESS will be a fire hose, and there are simply too few telescopes available for us to use to study all of the planets TESS finds at once.

That is where the Australian connection comes to the fore – in the form of a dedicated new facility being built on the Darling Downs, in southeast Queensland.

The Australian connection – MINERVA-Australis

At the University of Southern Queensland, we are constructing MINERVA-Australis – a collection of six telescopes dedicated to nothing but the search for and characterisation of planets around other stars.

When TESS turns on the fire hose, finding thousands of planets in the southern sky, we stand ready. Every clear night, we will be observing those stars that TESS suggests could host planets, doing our utmost to confirm whether those planets really exist.




Read more:
We’ve found an exo-planet with an extraordinarily eccentric orbit


Once we confirm TESS’s new discoveries, we will be able to use our facility to study the newly found worlds in more detail. By observing the planet’s transits, we can measure its physical size, by seeing how much of the light from its host the planet blocks.

In addition, we will be examining the light we receive from the star, measuring the telltale wobbles caused by the planet as it orbits its host. With those measurements, we will be able to calculate the planet’s mass.

Put the mass and the size together, and we can really begin to work out the planet’s true nature. Is it rocky (like the Earth), or gaseous, like Jupiter and Saturn?

Over the coming years, TESS will push the Exoplanet Era through its next great revolution – finding thousands or tens of thousands of new exoplanets. Here in southeast Queensland, we will be at the forefront of that journey of discovery, helping to reveal the true nature of those alien worlds.

The ConversationI don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what we’ll learn next!

Jonti Horner, Professor (Astrophysics), University of Southern Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

With health assuming its rightful place in planning, here are 3 key lessons from NSW



File 20180412 549 1xplikd.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Health objectives are at last being integrated into all levels of planning in New South Wales, from cities and towns to local places and buildings.
pisaphotography/Shutterstock

Patrick Harris, University of Sydney; Elizabeth Harris, UNSW; Emily Riley, University of Sydney; Jennifer Kent, University of Sydney, and Peter Sainsbury, South Western Sydney Local Health District

The way cities are designed and managed has big impacts on our health. While Australia is considered a world leader in research on health and cities, nationally our planning policies remain underdeveloped relative to our knowledge base. To remedy this, healthy planning advocates need to better understand how urban planning systems can be influenced.

Several recent, mostly positive, experiences in the New South Wales (NSW) planning system provide insights into this process. Each represents a milestone for land-use planning in this state given extensive reforms have been on and off the table for the past decade.




Read more:
The mysterious disappearance of health from New South Wales planning laws


The connections between city planning and health are many and varied. Key aspects include environmental sustainability, pollution risks and liveable places. Being liveable means having access to healthy food, nearby employment and services, and opportunities for active lifestyles.

These issues are increasingly important given projected population growth pressures on urban infrastructure. Other areas facing similar pressures, in Australia and overseas, might wish to take note of what has happened in NSW.

Since 2014 we have used political science to investigate attempts in NSW to include health in legislative reform, strategic city planning and major urban infrastructure assessments. As well as scrutinising relevant policies and associated documentation, we have interviewed more than 50 stakeholders. This has provided insights into how and why recent developments came about.

How has NSW brought health into planning?

Healthy planning has always had champions in NSW, but really hit its stride during a major legislative reform exercise that began in 2011. This came to a head in November 2017, when the state parliament passed amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

This legislation now lists two objects of direct importance for health:

  • protection of the health and safety of occupants of buildings
  • promotion of good design and amenity of the built environment.

Also in 2017, the NSW Office of the Government Architect produced a policy of “design-led planning”. Known as “Better Placed”, this policy positions health as a top priority. It embeds health within design processes, methods and outcomes for different levels of planning from cities and towns to places and buildings.

In our view, Better Placed is an exemplary policy in demonstrating the importance of urban planning for health.

In another positive development, the Greater Sydney Commission recently released Metropolitan and District Plans that position health as a core objective (number 7). The plans consistently refer to health across the central themes of liveability, productivity and sustainability.

To their credit, the NSW government and the commission have developed plans concurrently with transport and infrastructure and released them together. The evidence suggests this integration should have public health benefits. The emphasis across the commission, transport and infrastructure plans on creating a liveable and accessible city increases our confidence in this outcome.




Read more:
A healthy approach: how to turn what we know about liveable cities into public policy


Three key factors in making health a priority

Our research suggests three crucial factors in elevating the status of health in planning.

1. A core group of non-government, government and academic representatives has led health advocacy for over a decade. The group’s messages and activities intentionally focused on collaboration across agencies in the public interest.

This advocacy has grown in sophistication since the early days of making submissions about “health” issues that risked being treated as peripheral to the main game of planning (infrastructure, for instance).

Within government, NSW Health (both state and local departments) has developed an increasingly effective response to urban planning opportunities for promoting and protecting health.

2. The previous minister for planning (Rob Stokes), the Office of the Government Architect and the Greater Sydney Commission have each provided vital policy mechanisms for including health. This illustrates the importance of particular agents in the right place at the right time.

The minister was essential in establishing the commission. This effectively created a respectful distance between strategic planning and the “economics trumps all” planning agenda seen in some policy environments.

The “design-led planning” emphasis came about when Stokes was planning minister. The starring role given to health in Better Placed gives healthy planning advocates, for the time being, unprecedented opportunity to influence strategies and plans.

3. Delivery now requires close attention, as these positive shifts alone have limited power. For instance, the commission’s plans emphasise collaborative infrastructure delivery to create an equitable city. Infrastructure has profound health impacts, costs and benefits.




Read more:
Transport access is good for new housing, but beware the pollution


Shifting infrastructure funding to benefit the city’s West will be the core fault line for delivering on promises of equitable infrastructure provision. However, infrastructure project funding and appraisal are crying out for reform. Better indicators, transparent analyses to inform options, improved governance arrangements and greater accountability have all been identified as required reforms.

The ConversationThe NSW planning system has begun to recognise the importance of urban planning for health. These developments present a tremendous opportunity to influence how healthy public policy can be delivered for the benefit of the whole city.

Patrick Harris, Senior Research Fellow, Menzies Centre for Health Policy, University of Sydney; Elizabeth Harris, Senior Research Fellow, UNSW; Emily Riley, Research Assistant, University of Sydney; Jennifer Kent, Research Fellow, University of Sydney, and Peter Sainsbury, Adjunct Associate Professor, South Western Sydney Local Health District

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australian governments don’t work with each other and it’s holding back regional economies in trouble


Andrew Beer, University of South Australia

Even though Australia has enjoyed 25 years of economic growth, many regional communities have either struggled to recover or never recovered from factory closures, declining commodity prices, or a drop in tourists.

My research, with colleagues from Europe and North America, shows Australian development agencies are reluctant, or do not know how, to reach out and work with other government bodies. They are also less inclined than those in Italy, Germany and Finland to build bridges between government departments or tiers of government. Instead, their solutions are constrained by their own resources.

And unlike in the United States, Australia does not have a well-funded economic development agency able to mobilise significant resources in a practised manner. In the United States, local developers often command multi-million-dollar budgets that come from dedicated sales and other taxes, giving them the capacity to bring about change.

Australia’s local development agencies are starved of funding and too often can offer only limited responses to very complex challenges.




Read more:
A housing affordability crisis in regional Australia? Yes, and here’s why


The Productivity Commission says leadership is key to forging a new economic future for these regional communities. But my research shows local leadership, including from business executives, state government and other government agencies, is relatively weak compared with the other countries.

The local leadership gap means Australian regional communities are less able to develop coherent strategies to deal with events like a major plant closure. Even good news, such as the arrival of a new firm, is not guaranteed an appropriate reaction.




Read more:
Here’s 49 small communities innovating as well as the big cities


Part of the challenge lies in the absence of clearly identifiable leaders with the authority to act. Compared with other countries in my study, it is harder to find who in Australia takes ownership of responding to regional economic shocks.

In Australia, mayors often play a role, but have few powers to bring about change. State policitians can be reluctant to associate with adverse news. Few politicians, for example, saw photo opportunities in the closure of Australian car makers.

In Italy, on the other hand, mayors are pivotal in responding to crises like the closure of a car factory. Our research found Italian mayors reach out to the civil sector in times of crisis – the church, non-governmental organisations, unions and even the media. This is done to influence public opinion, build confidence and mobilise private, public and community resources to ensure the well-being of the community.

Transition towns

The American city of Pittsburgh has transformed from a rapidly declining steel town in the 1970s to a prosperous city with an economy built on medical research and services.

Tampere in Finland shifted from being a 19th-century manufacturing base to producing software for Nokia in the 1990s. After 2010 it shifted again to information technology as Nokia itself transformed. The city has also become a hotbed of tech startups.

There are a few reasons these two communities successfully rejuvenated themselves while many Australian communities have spiralled downwards.

In the United States, local development practitioners are important local leaders because they mobilise the support of political leaders at the state and local level. They also provide the intellectual and financial capital needed to shape a new future.

In Finland, local leadership comes from a network of professionals working across departmental lines. In Tampere, for example, they helped to deploy the technical skills of workers. In other places they have moved workers into new technologies and promising new businesses.

Within a few years Chinchilla in Queensland cycled between a gas exploration and development boom, which pushed up prices, to an equally sharp bust as construction crews moved away, leaving excess housing.

Communities in northern Adelaide have been confronted by the need to map out a new future as the car industry closes. What that looks like and how many workers will be able to transition into the defence sector remains very uncertain.

These are not problems limited to a few isolated economies. The southeastern states struggled economically when the nation was in the grip of a mining boom. Communities in Western Australia joined them as real estate prices and labour force growth lagged in the absence of new mine development.




Read more:
Why big projects like the Adani coal mine won’t transform regional Queensland


There are significant leadership deficits within Australia’s regions, towns and communities. These contribute to our failure to promote the vibrancy and resilience of all parts of the nation.

The decision-makers in Australia – largely state and federal politicians – as well as the resources they command, are just too far away from regional centres. Their absence creates a significant gap at the local level.

But all this doesn’t mean that better solutions can’t be found for Australian communities experiencing economic change.

The ConversationWe can give more responsibility to local governments. We can empower communities through the sharing of information and knowledge. And we should give them the resources needed to bring about the changes they see as the bedrock of their future.

Andrew Beer, Dean, Research and Innovation, University of South Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Abbott suggests sacking bank regulators as ASIC feels the heat


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has strongly condemned the performance of financial sector regulators, suggesting they should be sacked and replaced by “less complacent” people.

With increasing attention on the apparently inadequate performance of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Abbott raised the question of what the regulators had been doing as the scandals had gone on.

“We all know there are greedy people everywhere, including in the banks,” he told 2GB on Monday. “But banking is probably the most regulated sector of our economy. What were the regulators doing to allow all this to be happening?”

Abbott said his fear was “that at the end of this royal commission we will have yet another level of regulation imposed upon the banks when frankly what should happen is, I suspect, all the existing regulators should be sacked and people who are much more vigilant and much less complacent go in in their place.”

He said the analogy was, “yes, punish the criminals but if the police are turning a blind eye to the criminals, you’ve got to get rid of the police and get decent people in there”.

Meanwhile Malcolm Turnbull, speaking to reporters in Berlin, defended refusing for so long to set up a royal commission, although he said commentators were correct in saying that “politically we would have been better off setting one up earlier”.

Turnbull said that by taking the course it had the government “put consumers first”.

“The reason I didn’t proceed with a royal commission is this – I wanted to make sure that we took the steps to reform immediately and got on with the job.

“My concern was that a royal commission would go on for several years – that’s generally been the experience – and people would then say, ‘Oh you can’t reform, you can’t legislate, you’ve got to wait for the royal commissioner’s report.’

“So if we’d started a royal commission two years ago, maybe it would be finishing now and then we’d be considering the recommendations … With the benefit of hindsight and recognising you can’t live your life backwards, isn’t it better that we’ve got on with all of those reforms?”

Turnbull dismissed Bill Shorten’s call for the government to consider a compensation scheme for victims by saying this matter was already in the commission’s terms of reference.

Among the reforms it has made, the government highlights giving ASIC more power, resources and a new chair.

But Nationals backbencher senator John Williams, who has been at the forefront of calls for tougher action against wrongdoing in the financial sector, told the ABC that ASIC has got to be “quicker, they’ve got to be stronger, they’ve got to be seen as a feared regulator.

“That is not the situation at the moment,” he said.

He had sent a text message to Peter Kell, ASIC deputy chair, a couple of nights ago “and I said, mate, Australia is waiting for you to act”.

Asked how the culture within ASIC could be changed, Williams said, “I suppose you keep asking them questions at Senate estimates, keep the pressure on them, keep the message going on with the management of ASIC regularly.

“As I have said to the new boss [chair James Shipton], you’ve got to act quickly, you’ve got to be severe, you’ve got to be feared. If you’re not a feared regulator, people are going to continue to abuse the system, do the wrong thing without fear of the punishment”.

He welcomed the increased penalties announced by the government last week.

The chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Rod Sims, while declining to comment on ASIC, said he agreed with Williams “that you really do have to be feared. And frankly I’d like to think the ACCC is.

“I won’t comment on others but you want people to be really watching out – watch out for the ACCC, watch out that you don’t get caught because if they catch us it’s going to be really dire consequences. And I think we’ve got that mentality,” he told the ABC.

Updated at 4:30pm

The ConversationIn an interview on Sky late Monday, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann admitted, “With the benefit of hindsight, we should have gone earlier with this inquiry.” This was in stark contrast with his colleague, Minister for Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer, refusing to make the concession when she was repeatedly pressed in an interview on Sunday.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Shorten puts heat on government over bank victim compensation, as Coalition gets better poll news


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to have a lie-in on Sunday morning. Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer might wish she’d done so at the weekend.

O’Dwyer should not have gone out – or been put out – on the ABC’s Insiders program with the lines she had on the banking royal commission. The interview was agony to watch, and counter-productive for the government, as she steadfastly refused to admit the Coalition had been wrong in not agreeing earlier to the inquiry, which has produced such devastating disclosures.

So often the government seems to take the public for fools. Scott Morrison’s attempts to turn everything to a discussion of Bill Shorten are ludicrous. O’Dwyer’s effort to avoid any confession of error just drew more attention to the bad call.

Remember O’Dwyer is well-versed in the financial services area. Look at her CV. She was a senior advisor to then-treasurer Peter Costello. Later she worked at the National Australia Bank. She has seen the banking system from inside as well as from her ministerial and advisory roles.

And yet, because of the government’s “admit nothing” strategy, she visibly struggled at every turn in Sunday’s interview.

Asked about her 2016 claim that “for the Labor party to propose a royal commission into banks is reckless and ill-conceived”, she could only fall back to the weak defence that “you can obsess and Labor can obsess about these issues. I’m actually obsessed about fixing the problems”. In other words, the government can be political when convenient but if brought to book, that’s just others “obsessing”.

Labor’s idea of a royal commission had been “a stunt”, she said, but then “there is no question we got it right in establishing the royal commission”. The difference is that the government did it soberly and deliberately, according to O’Dwyer. Grudgingly and belatedly would be a better description.

The alternative strategy would have been for the government to say, “Yes, in retrospect we did not move quickly enough. We were concerned about shaking confidence in the banking system. We did not appreciate how systemic the problems were. We thought we were doing enough but we weren’t”.

Everyone knows the government’s hand was forced in the end by rebel Nationals. Conceding it had been wrong would have been humiliating. But by doing so the government would have gone some way to clearing its own decks. That might have given it a fighting chance of being seen as part of the solution rather than having the attention so sharply focused on its abysmal failure.

Morrison in an interview in AFR Weekend also tried a convoluted avoidance game, as he sought to reconcile being surprised by the royal commission’s revelations with earlier arguing it wouldn’t find issues government didn’t know.

“When I say they were known to government, they were known to government agencies”, he told the newspaper.

“There is a difference between individual ministers being aware of particular things and the regulatory agencies being aware of them.”

Morrison likened his position to that of a police minister not knowing every criminal investigation underway. “I am not aware of every court case and every decision and every practice of every bank in the country any more than anyone else is – indeed than the executives in the banks and they run the things,” he said.

But the issue was not one of knowing “every practice of every bank”. It was a case of being aware of broad malfeasance – and there was plenty of evidence of that, through parliamentary inquiries and what was being said by victims, financial journalists and government backbenchers such as senator John Williams.

When politicians are unwilling to take responsibility, that just adds to the distrust and anger voters feel towards them. It’s a sign they are treating the people with disrespect, so is it any wonder they don’t get respect in return?

This bald-faced refusal to acknowledge their own inconvenient history in part comes from the politicians’ belief that if you just burnish the “spin”, you can get away with saying anything. The idea is that you brainstorm some “lines”, repeat them shamelessly, and hope they will be accepted – regardless of their disconnect from reality.

It might work for an occasional glitch when life generally is going well for a government and the public are in a good mood. These days, neither condition is present.

Meanwhile, as the government implausibly denies being out-manoeuvred over the commission, Shorten is pushing ahead again in the banking debate.

He has released a letter to Turnbull in which he says: “Given the shocking evidence that has been revealed so far, it is time the government gave serious consideration to a compensation scheme for the victims of proven wrongdoing. It’s unacceptable for people to suffer because of the misconduct of others, with no dependable access to justice.”

It will be a popular pitch out in the electorate, just as Labor’s call for a royal commission was.

POSTSCRIPT

The ConversationThe government has received some good news in Monday’s Newspoll in The Australian, with Labor now leading only by a narrow 51-49% in two-party terms. This compares with a 52-48% ALP lead in the poll a fortnight ago, when the Turnbull government passed the 30th consecutive loss landmark. The current poll is the Coalition’s best two-party preferred result since September 2016.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Federal government sets sights on August approval for National Energy Guarantee



File 20180420 163995 ieadn4.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Josh Frydenberg met with state energy ministers in Melbourne the latest round of discussions over the National Energy Guarantee.
AAP Image/Luis Ascui

Michael Hopkin, The Conversation

Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg says he is confident of securing state governments’ support for the National Energy Guarantee, with a final decision now timetabled for August.

At a meeting today, state energy ministers agreed to progress towards a final version of the policy, which aims to ensure a reliable electricity supply while also cutting the sector’s greenhouse emissions by 26% by 2030.

Details of the policy were first unveiled in October 2017, after the federal government opted against Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s recommended Clean Energy Target. It features two components: a “reliability guarantee” and an “emissions guarantee”.



The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Under the latest iteration of the policy, developed by the Energy Security Board, electricity retailers would be required to ensure they do not exceed a certain level of greenhouse emissions per unit of electricity sold. They would also be expected to invest in extra generation capacity in advance of any forecast shortfall, so as to ensure reliability.

Grattan Institute energy analyst David Blowers wrote this week that although the 26% emissions target is far too modest, the policy could deliver much-needed bipartisan political support. It would create investment certainty and then could be ramped up later.

But RMIT’s Alan Pears previously wrote that the government’s slow and modest policy ambition has been overtaken by the breakneck pace of change in renewables and energy efficiency.

Economic analysts have voiced fears that the policy’s “technology-neutral” approach is a stalking-horse for coal and may put the brakes on renewable energy investment in Australia.

Frydenberg today confirmed that the policy will not prevent states from pursuing their own more ambitious renewable energy targets. But he said the overall emissions reduction target for the electricity sector will not be increased beyond 26% by 2030.

“States can knock their socks off with their own renewable energy schemes, as long as they meet their reliability obligations under the National Energy Guarantee,” he said.

The ConversationAsked about the views of the Monash Forum, a grouping of Coalition MPs that has agitated for new government-funded coal-fired power stations, Frydenberg said he did not expect any new coal stations to be built. But he said it was likely that Australia’s 20 existing coal power stations would continue to attract private investment.

Michael Hopkin, Section Editor: Energy + Environment, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.