The big global space agencies rely on Australia – let’s turn that to our advantage



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The 35 m-diameter dish antenna of ESA’s deep-space tracking station at New Norcia, Western Australia.
europeanspaceagency/flickr , CC BY

Simon Driver, University of Western Australia

In the conversation around Australia’s space agency, the brand leaders – the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) – have had relatively little airplay.

Yet Australia is a critical host to both, and neither would be able to operate its fleet of deep space missions without ground-based support from Australian soil: Tidbinbilla (near Canberra) for NASA, and New Norcia (north of Perth) for ESA.

The launch of Australia’s space agency on July 1, 2018, provides the perfect opportunity for Australia to partner with ESA and NASA. We’re vital for the success of global space operations, and we can and should leverage this to Australia’s advantage.




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The Earth rotates, and Australia occupies a strategic geographic niche in the centre of the sparsely populated Indo-Pacific-Antarctic region. At any one time, Australia has domain over one third of the sky, and projecting outwards, one-third of space and one-third of the Universe. Ground-station support at Australian longitudes and latitudes is required for any remote mission, space station or colony wanting continuous communications.

Given our strategic importance, and NASA and ESA‘s collective investments in space assets, supported by A$1 billion in Australian-based ground-stations, it’s surprising that they have featured minimally in discussions thus far. The reason may stem from misconceptions that Australia cannot economically compete with NASA and/or ESA, or that deep space missions aren’t really relevant to Australia’s economy. There’s also the feeling that working with other nations in space may compromise Australia’s sovereignty.

I think these fears are misplaced, and we can easily address them to create advantages for Australia.

NASA and ESA have strong foundations in Australia.
Simon Driver, Author provided

Collaboration not competition

Almost every major space mission developed over the past few years by NASA and ESA has been collaborative, with multiple countries and agencies contributing components and subsystems.

Most famously, the Canadian Space Agency built the NASA shuttle’s robotic arm. UK and European companies have also provided instruments, sensors, and components to many NASA missions.

This mode of operation, based on collaboration not competition, is familiar to academia but less so to industry. It allows affordable engagement in massive projects, with the benefits that such engagement entails.

While it is true that Australia could never expect to build its own billion-dollar facility, there is every expectation that Australian industries can develop critical subsystems and become an active, collaborative participant in humanity’s expansion into space.




Read more:
As the details emerge on Australia’s new space agency, we (might) finally have lift-off


Space activities create spin-offs

Almost every deep space mission is in essence a technology demonstrator, leading to multiple and diverse returns.

ESA now operates 12 business incubation centres across Europe, geared at redistributing the intellectual property generated within ESA into the market via small-to-medium startups. Through this model ESA has helped to establish more than 500 new European companies, developing products from health to manufacturing and sport to agriculture.

Both NASA and ESA routinely claim a 5:1 return on investment – these claims are difficult to verify, but are echoed in OECD reports.

A partnership with ESA in particular could lead to the establishment of an ESA-sponsored business incubation centre in Australia, and similarly engagement with NASA spin-offs.

Sovereign engagement

There’s no getting away from the fact that space is tied to defence, with Australia already spending around A$1 billion per year on space-related defence activities.

With space being famously just an hour’s drive away, monitoring our skies and what drifts overhead is important. However, with this comes a culture that fosters a sovereign “inward” outlook that is not necessarily conducive to open international collaboration. Can both a defence and an engaging mindset flourish within the same environment?

This last point highlights one of the key issues confronting the new space agency: it has multiple conflicting roles. It needs to stimulate grassroots industry in a globally competitive, fast-moving commercial environment; it needs to connect collaboratively with brand leaders like NASA and ESA; and it needs to help secure the overhead border and participate in international legislation and governance that protects the national interest.

An inevitable solution may be to accept that these functions are disparate, and best served by multiple nodes, distributed as best befits the capabilities that each state or territory has to offer.




Read more:
What we’re looking for in Australia’s Space Agency: views from NSW and SA


The case for Western Australia

This week, WA Minister for Science Dave Kelly launched a bid to host the Australian Space Agency, along with a report on that state’s space capability.

Perth is one of the only places on the planet where both NASA and ESA are actively engaged.

For example, NASA works with the the Intelligence and Autonomous division of Perth-based Australian oil and gas company Woodside.

Mining and space operators are looking to robotics in their routine activites.

WA also hosts the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute at Curtin University.

ESA operates one of its three deep-space tracking stations and its primary launch tracking facility at New Norcia, WA. ESA has made it clear that it hopes to significantly expand its operations at New Norcia through the construction of a second 35-metre dish. During these discussions ESA has highlighted a desire to shift its relationship with Australia from a fairly minimal engagement model to a more formal partnership, starting with the opportunity to co-build the new antenna (a A$60 million investment into WA).

This collaborative engagement would be a clear win-win. For ESA – as it looks to expand its space-fleet and establish colonies on the Moon – it secures and cements its ground-operations into a nationally binding codependence, aligning ESA and Australia’s interests to ensure smooth operations into the indefinite future. On the Australian side, it opens the door to the creation of an Australian mission and operations control capacity, building on our strength in radio astronomy, and where we can start to realise the collaborative and commercial potential of our unique longitudinal monopoly. More shrewdly, any investment remains onshore, developing Australian-based infrastructure and creating real jobs and growth on the ground in rural WA.

In an ironic twist, the first customer wanting to use the new dish may be NASA, who, hitting capacity at Tidbinbilla, has reached out to Australia and ESA to support their next flagship mission (WFIRST). WFIRST is a deep wide-field near-infrared survey telescope, that will advance our understanding of dark energy, dark matter, and the search for habitable planets. It also has tremendous science synergy with the Square Kilometer Array, combing these data will massively amplify the science return from each alone.




Read more:
The science behind the Square Kilometre Array


Tri-agency agreement

It’s my belief that Australia should aim to create an off-the-bat tri-agency agreement between the newly formed Australian space agency, NASA, and ESA.

Currently around 3000 people are employed in NASA or ESA in ground-operations in the US or Europe. In due course – as the children born today populate not just the world but also potential colonies on the Moon, Mars and beyond – the international global community will be best served through comprehensive ground-station networks in North America, Europe, and Australasia leading to a comparable employment opportunity for Australians in Australia.

The ConversationAustralia, it would seem, has an important role to play. We have an opportunity to move from service provision to active partnership, and at the same time lean a little on the established leaders adept at industry engagement to kick-start our own aspirations and business start-ups. Engaging with NASA and ESA in a meaningful way has much to offer.

Simon Driver, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Western Australia

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

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No launch from Australia: something missing from our plans for the new space race



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Why no rocket launch plans from Australia?
Shutterstock/Gearstd

Melissa de Zwart, University of Adelaide

For the past 20 years, Australia has attempted to stake its claim in the lucrative commercial space industry.

In some aspects we have done quite well. There is no doubt that we have some of the most advanced ground systems in the world, and our open, relatively unpopulated geography makes the Australian continent ideal for operations such as the Square Kilometre Array.

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But despite our accomplishments on the ground, there has been very limited success for Australians wanting to get to space from our continent.




Read more:
As the details emerge on Australia’s new space agency, we (might) finally have lift-off


Early launch plans

The enactment of the Space Activities Act 1998 (Cth), one of the first examples of a domestic commercially focused space law, was prompted by the plans by Kistler Aerospace to establish a spaceport at Woomera.

That Act was focused on the operations that were taking place at the time. Australia was seeing significant interest from overseas entities who wanted to capitalise on our geography for launching rockets.

Fast forward to 2018, and no commercial launch operator has yet established themselves in Australia.

Rather, we have a burgeoning commercial interest in low-cost, high-volume cube sats for Internet of Things applications.

In 2015, the federal government announced a review of the Space Activities Act, recognising that regulation is just as significant a barrier for the space industry as the cost involved.

In early 2017, after a significant consultative period, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) recognised the need for reform, recommending that the Space Activities Act be replaced.

Rise of the space agency

In the intervening time, the government also announced the Space Capability Review and accepted its recommendation of the introduction of an Australian Space Agency.

That agency, to be headed by former CSIRO boss Megan Clark AC, will come into being on July 1, 2018. Many people consider the move to be a reaffirmation of Australia’s interest in the space domain.

More than a year after the legislative proposal paper was released by the DIIS, the Space Activities Amendment (Launches and Returns) Bill 2018 received its second reading in the House of Representatives on May 30, 2018, with little fanfare or coverage.

Despite the lengthy period of consultation and the initial statements that an entirely new Act would be drafted, this is a revision of the already existing legislation. It does little to inspire confidence in the government’s approach to an Australia commercial space industry.

Limited changes in legislation

This Bill purports to broaden regulatory frameworks, expand the scope of the Act, reduce costs to operators, and reduce barriers to entry.

In some ways, it will achieve these goals. There is a reduction of the insurance requirements for operators, from a world-leading A$750 million to a far more competitive A$100 million.

The bill facilitates the launch of space objects from aircraft, will recognise the prevalence of overseas markets for launch operations, and introduce the ability to launch rockets reaching an altitude less than 100km – Australia’s regulatory demarcation of outer space.




Read more:
Small sats are vital to Australia’s space industry – and they won’t be space junk


As noted above, the changes to the Act are dwarfed by the content that is merely left in place. Operators previously complained of an Act that is vague, difficult to navigate, and with prohibitive compliance costs.

Most of the changes embodied within the bill are merely in name only. A “Space Licence” becomes a “Facility Licence” with the only substantive reduction in pre-licence compliance being that the licence is no longer restricted to corporations.

The “Overseas Launch Licence” is renamed the “Overseas Payload Permit”, but is not matched with any substantive changes. This would see an Australian who wishes to launch a rocket overseas need a payload permit to launch their rocket.

Further, and of significant concern to commercial operators considering whether they should base their operations in Australia or move offshore, is the requirement for all permits to “include a strategy for debris mitigation”.

It is not clear what form this should take or how stringently this must comply, for example, with standards such as Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Advances overseas

If we look overseas there has been an abundance of new domestic laws that focus on promoting commercial activity while more actively aiming to protect the domain that is so important to everyday life.

Recent domestic enactments such as the British Space Industry Act 2018, the New Zealand Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act 2017, and a plethora of US statutes recognise the need for on-orbit regulation.




Read more:
Lost in space: Australia dwindled from space leader to also-ran in 50 years


Under the United Nation’s Outer Space Treaty, a country is required to authorise and continually supervise non-government activities in outer space.

Australia’s existing Act, and this new Bill, fail to do this. Regulating activities while in space is the hallmark of modern domestic space law.

Finally, there is no reference to the new Australian Space Agency. It is anticipated that the agency will be the relevant regulatory body for the purposes of the Act and its role will be articulated in the yet to be developed rules.

A slight element of unease creeps into the space industry in the face of this disconnect. It is hoped that this does not reflect any ambivalence to the future role of such an Agency nor reflect a lack of commitment to Australia becoming a driving force in the space industry.

Another SpaceX launch from Florida – How long before crowds can watch a launch from Australia?
Flickr/Jill Bazeley, CC BY-NC

The ConversationJoel Lisk contributed to the research for this article.

Melissa de Zwart, Professor, Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide

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

Shorten promises to reverse budget cut to the ABC


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Bill Shorten has moved to make the ABC an election issue, promising to reverse the Turnbull government’s $83.7 million budget cut and to guarantee funding certainty over the broadcaster’s next budget cycle.

Ahead of appearing on the ABC’s Q&A program, Shorten and frontbench colleagues declared the Coalition had “launched the biggest attack on the ABC in a generation”.

In recent months Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has sent a stream of complaints to the ABC about stories, both online and on air, contesting facts and interpretations. The Prime Minister’s Office has also complained. Government frontbenchers and backbenchers frequently make cracks at or about the ABC, echoing a theme of many conservative commentators.

The ABC is also under constant attack from News Corp, driven by both ideology and commercial interests. The government has an inquiry underway into the ABC’s competitive neutrality, which was part of a deal with Pauline Hanson but also important in the context of News Corp’s argument about the government-funded ABC encroaching on financially strapped commercial media.

When the government made the $84 million budget cut – which took the form of a freeze to indexation – Treasurer Scott Morrison said “everyone has to live within their means”. Managing director Michelle Guthrie said that “the decision will make it very difficult for the ABC to meet its charter requirements and audience expectations.”

In a statement Shorten, communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland and regional communications spokesman Stephen Jones said Labor’s commitment would ensure the ABC could meet its charter requirements, safeguard jobs, adapt to the digital environment “and maintain content and services that Australians trust and rely on”.

They said the Coalition since 2014 had “overseen $282 million in cuts to the ABC that has seen 800 jobs lost and a drop in Australian content and services”.

“Labor will stand up for the ABC and fight against the conservatives’ ideological war against our public broadcaster,” the statement said.

The promised investment “demonstrates Labor’s commitment to the ABC’s independence and to maintain the ABC as our comprehensive national broadcaster.

“Now, more than ever, Australians need the ABC – our strong, trusted and independent public broadcaster.

The Conversation“At a time when too many Australians feel disengaged from their democracy and distrustful of their representatives, Labor wants to restore trust and faith in our institutions. Part of restoring trust is is supporting a healthy public interest media sector, and protecting that trusted institution – the ABC”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Turnbull government to give national apology to victims of child sexual abuse


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Malcolm Turnbull will give a formal national apology on October 22 to victims of child sexual abuse, as part of the federal response to the royal commission.

Outlining the government’s detailed response on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that Western Australia had now agreed to sign on to the redress scheme so there will be a fully national scheme from July 1.

Victims will be entitled to up to A$150,000, with average payments of $76,000. The maximum is lower than the $200,000 recommended by the commission, but the average will be higher. There will be a low evidentiary standard.

The government will set up a new National Office for Child Safety within the Social Services department, which it says will “work across government and sectors to develop and implement policies and strategies to enhance children’s safety and prevent future harm”.

But Turnbull was unspecific when questioned at a news conference about how to deal with one current big issue of child safety – protecting at risk children in some Indigenous communities. There has been recent controversy about whether too many or too few children are being removed from families. The issue has been highlighted by some high profile alleged rapes.

Turnbull said he had discussed the problem with the Northern Territory chief minister.

Asked about the level of removal of children he said: “the safety of children has to be paramount. It’s difficult to generalise about this because every case is different.” He pointed to the duty of parents and neighbours to ensure children’s safety. “If you … believe a child is being abused, don’t turn a blind eye.”

The government has opened consultations on the content of the national apology and the form of the ceremony.

The commission made 409 recommendations. Of these 84 relate to redress matters. Of the remaining 325, 122 are directed wholly or partly to the federal government, which has accepted 104 of them. It has noted the other 18, which mostly overlap other jurisdictions and will need more consideration. It has not rejected any recommendation.

The government said in a statement it expected non-government institutions would indicate what action they would take on recommendations of the commission and report annually in December, along with all governments. The government will report its progress annually for five years with a comprehensive review after a decade.

“Where institutions decide not to accept the royal commission’s recommendations they should state so and why”.

Speaking at his news conference Turnbull said: “The survivors that I’ve met and the personal stories that have been told to me have given me but a small insight into the betrayal you experienced at the hands of the people and institutions who were supposed to protect and care for you.”

“Now that we’ve uncovered the shocking truth, we must do everything in our power to honour the bravery of the thousands of people who came forward.”

The Conversation“The royal commission has made very clear that we all have a role to play to keep our children safe – governments, schools, sporting clubs, churches, charitable institutions and, of course, all of us.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Government response to child abuse royal commission is positive, but will need to go beyond an apology



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Attorney-General Christian Porter, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Australian Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan announce the government’s response to the child abuse royal commission.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Timothy W. Jones, La Trobe University

The federal government has announced it will establish a National Office for Child Safety and issue a formal apology as part of its response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

In addition, every state and territory has committed to join the National Redress Scheme. Australia’s major churches and youth organisations have also joined the scheme.

The timing of the announcement meets a commitment of the Council of Australian Governments to respond to the recommendations of the Royal Commission’s final report by June 2018. However, the apology, the lead item of this announcement, will not be issued until October 22, 2018, to coincide with national children’s week.

The Royal Commission made 409 recommendations in total. Of these, 84 deal with redress, which the government is addressing in the National Redress Scheme, due to commence next month. Of the remaining 122 recommendations directed at the Australian government, 104 have been accepted and 18 remain under review. None has so far been rejected.




Read more:
Royal commission recommends sweeping reforms for Catholic Church to end child abuse


Survivors of abuse consistently state that they want recognition and redress for the past harms and injustices that were done to them.

Recognition

One of the most disturbing elements in the history of child sexual abuse is our capacity, as a society, to be in denial. As I have written elsewhere, we have myriad techniques of keeping disturbing knowledge at bay: there are many ways of not knowing.

We can deny that something happened, we can deny that we understood what happened, and we can deny the legal and moral implications that follow an event. All of these forms of denial are seen in the history of child sexual abuse.

Thankfully, all of these forms of denial were combated by the Royal Commission. You could say it was a momentous exercise in recognition: it brought horrific abuses into public consciousness; it treated survivors of abuse with great dignity and respect; and, it made a comprehensive series of recommendations to deal with the legal and moral implications of the public recognition of this history of abuse.

Through its 57 public case studies, 8,013 private sessions, and over 68,000 calls, letters and emails received, the commission established beyond any doubt the reality and the gravity of Australia’s history of institutional abuse.

Redress

Recognising this history brings legal and moral implications for its redress. So far, the government has responded with uncharacteristic alacrity in accepting and implementing the key recommendations of the Royal Commission.

But justice for historic offences is not simple, and I await with interest the responses of child sex abuse survivor groups to the government’s announcement.

For most people, justice looks like punishment for the guilty. The Royal Commission has referred over 2,500 matters to police for investigation. In recent times, we have seen some prominent cases go to trial, including the most senior Roman Catholic yet to face charges of child sex crimes, Cardinal George Pell.

The National Redress Scheme is the flagship instrument of redress emerging in the wake of the Royal Commission. Legislation has passed the lower house and is now before the Senate. It proposes average payments to victims of $76,000, with maximum payments of $150,000.

These amounts are lower than amounts typically awarded in civil courts in Australia, and significantly lower than settlements awarded in some international jurisdictions.




Read more:
The royal commission’s final report has landed – now to make sure there is an adequate redress scheme


However, the lower standards of evidence required to be awarded a settlement through the redress scheme, relative to standards in criminal or civil law, and being able to avoid cross-examination in court, may make this option more attractive for many survivors. The redress scheme provides access to counselling and psychological services, and provides an option for survivors to receive a direct personal response from the responsible institution.

Australian jurisdictions are also reforming laws to make it easier to sue churches and other institutions.

The establishment of a National Office for Child Safety, along with a raft of national standards and safety frameworks, is heartening.

Apology

The fact is, though, that most of the institutions in which the majority of the historic abuse unearthed by the Royal Commission occurred no longer exist. The institutions of “care” run by churches and the states – orphanages, missions, boarding schools – have largely been disbanded.

Ironically, most current child removal and child trauma can be found at a site for which we have already had an apology, but for which redress has been woefully inadequate. The 1997 Bringing Them Home report into the Stolen Generations opened up public inquiry into child abuse in Australia.

The comprehensiveness of the Child Abuse Royal Commission, and the government’s promised response, is heartening. But as the Stolen Generations apology painfully illustrates, apologies without action become empty, bitter words.

The ConversationLet’s hope that the apology to victims of institutional abuse, to be delivered in October, is well crafted, and sincerely delivered. And that substantial redress is delivered.

Timothy W. Jones, Senior Lecturer in History, La Trobe University

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

Most people don’t benefit from vaccination, but we still need it to prevent infections



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Everyone has to be vaccinated for immunisation programs to work.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

Allen Cheng, Monash University

A recent article in The Conversation questioned whether we should all get flu vaccinations, given 99 people would have to go through vaccination for one case of flu to be prevented.

But this position ignores the purpose of immunisation programs: whole populations of people need to take part for just a small number to benefit. So how do we decide what’s worth it and what’s not?




Read more:
The flu vaccine is being oversold – it’s not that effective


Decision-making in public health

When we consider a treatment for a patient, such as antibiotics for an infection, we first consider the evidence on the benefits and potential harms of treatment. Ideally, this is based on clinical trials, where we assume the proportion of people in the trial who respond represents the chance an individual patient will respond to treatment.

This evidence is then weighed up with the individual patient. What are the treatment options? What do they prefer? Are there factors that might make this patient more likely to respond or have side effects? Is there a treatment alternative they would be more likely to take?

In public health, the framework is the same but the “patient” is different – we are delivering an intervention for a whole population or group rather than a single individual.

We first consider the efficacy of the intervention as demonstrated in clinical trials or other types of studies. We then look at which groups in the population might benefit the most (such as the zoster vaccine, given routinely to adults over 70 years as this group has a high rate of shingles), and for whom the harms will be the least (such as the rotavirus vaccine, which is given before the age of six months to reduce the risk of intussusception, a serious bowel complication).

Compared to many other public health programs, immunisation is a targeted intervention and clinical trials tell us they work. But programs still need to target broad groups, defined by age or other broad risk factors, such as chronic medical conditions or pregnancy.




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Explainer: what is herd immunity?


Risks and benefits of interventions

When considering vaccination programs, safety is very important, as a vaccine is being given to a generally healthy population to prevent a disease that may be uncommon, even if serious.

For example, the lifetime risk of cervical cancer is one in 166 women, meaning one woman in 166 is diagnosed with this cancer. So even if the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was completely effective at preventing cancer, 165 of 166 women vaccinated would not benefit. Clearly, if we could work out who that one woman was who would get cancer, we could just vaccinate her, but unfortunately we can’t.

It’s only acceptable to vaccinate large groups if clinically important side effects are low. For the HPV vaccine, anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction) has been reported, but occurs at a rate of approximately one in 380,000 doses.

An even more extreme case is meningococcal vaccination. Before vaccination, the incidence of meningococcal serogroup C (a particular type of this bacterium) infection in children aged one to four years old was around 2.5 per 100,000 children, or 7.5 cases for 100,000 children over three years.

Vaccination has almost eliminated infection with this strain (although other serotypes still cause meningococcal disease). But this means 13,332 of 13,333 children didn’t benefit from vaccination. Again, this is only acceptable if the rate of important side effects is low. Studies in the US have not found any significant side effects following routine use of meningococcal vaccines.

This is not to say there are no side effects from vaccines, but that the potential side effects of vaccines need to be weighed up against the benefit.

For example, Guillain Barre syndrome is a serious neurological complication of influenza vaccination as well as a number of different infections.

But studies have estimated the risk of this complication as being around one per million vaccination doses, which is much smaller than the risk of Guillain Barre syndrome following influenza infection (roughly one in 60,000 infections). And that’s before taking into account the benefit of preventing other complications of influenza.




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Is the end of Zika nigh? How populations develop immunity


High schools are bigger, so immunisation is easier than at primary schools.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

What other factors need to be considered?

We also need to consider access, uptake and how a health intervention will be delivered, whether through general practices, council programs, pharmacies or school-based programs.

Equity issues must also be kept in mind: will this close the gap in Indigenous health or other disadvantaged populations? Will immunisation benefit more than the individual? What is the likely future incidence (the “epidemic curve”) of the infection in the absence of vaccination?

A current example is meningococcal W disease, which is a new strain of this bacteria in Australia. Although this currently affects individuals in all age groups, many state governments have implemented vaccination programs in adolescents.

This is because young adults in their late teens and early 20s carry the bacteria more than any other group, so vaccinating them will reduce transmission of this strain more generally.

But it’s difficult to get large cohorts of this age group together to deliver the vaccine. It’s much easier if the program targets slightly younger children who are still at school (who, of course, will soon enter the higher risk age group).

In rolling out this vaccine program, even factors such as the size of schools (it is easier to vaccinate children at high schools rather than primary schools, as they are larger), the timing of exams, holidays and religious considerations (such as Ramadan) are also taken into account.




Read more:
What is meningococcal disease and what are the options for vaccination?


For government, cost effectiveness is an important consideration when making decisions on the use of taxpayer dollars. This has been an issue when considering meningococcal B vaccine. As this is a relatively expensive vaccine, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has found this not to be cost effective.

This is not to say that meningococcal B disease isn’t serious, or that the vaccine isn’t effective. It’s simply that the cost of the vaccine is so high, it’s felt there are better uses for the funding that could save lives elsewhere.

While this might seem to be a rather hard-headed decision, this approach frees up funding for other interventions such as expensive cancer treatments, primary care programs or other public health interventions.

Why is this important?

When we treat a disease, we expect most people will benefit from the treatment. As an example, without antibiotics, the death rate of pneumonia was more than 80%; with antibiotics, less than 20%.

The ConversationHowever, vaccination programs aim to prevent disease in whole populations. So even if it seems as though many people are having to take part to prevent disease in a small proportion, this small proportion may represent hundreds or thousands of cases of disease in the community.

Allen Cheng, Professor in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, Monash University

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

Criminal charges against banking ‘cartels’ show Australia is getting tough on competition law


Barbora Jedlickova, The University of Queensland

A two-year probe by Australia’s consumer watchdog has resulted in criminal charges against ANZ, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank, as well as six of their senior executives, over alleged “cartel-like” behaviour.

The case, brought by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) after an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), is the second prosecution of its kind to be brought in Australia since competition laws were tightened almost a decade ago.




Read more:
Cartel case shows not all corporate misbehaviour goes unpunished


The banks and six investment bankers are charged with cartel conduct related to the sale of A$2.5 billion worth of unsold ANZ shares to investors in August 2015. The ACCC alleges that senior executives from the three banks colluded in the way they dealt with these shares.

The exact details of the alleged criminal conduct will only become clear at a Sydney court hearing on July 3, 2018.

What is cartel behaviour?

Cartels are forms of anti-competitive conduct where cartel participants decide to stop competing and start colluding. Australian civil law has banned cartels for decades. But the practice only became a criminal offence in 2010. Only its serious forms are subject to criminal law; civil law still governs the rest.

Cartels can take different forms. In the most common instance, participants collude by setting their prices. Other forms include: output restrictions; dividing markets among cartel participants on mutually agreed terms; and bid-rigging, in which a commercial contract is decided in advance but other operators put in sham bids to give the appearance of competition.

There is one primary reason why businesses or executives would stop competing and start colluding: profit. In short, cartel participants cheat to get more money, creating higher prices and lower output in the process. This disadvantages consumers, the economy and society at large.

But proving criminal collusion in a court is harder than it might seem.

Beyond reasonable doubt

Although we need to wait for the case to unfold to find out more, what we can tell at this stage is that the ACCC and the CDPP perceive the alleged conduct as serious enough for it to constitute a criminal case. Criminal cases are harder to prove than civil cases. Cartel collusion must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, and the evidence has to show that the individuals involved knew (or believed) that they were colluding.

What these charges also show is that the ACCC and the CDPP are prepared to go after the most powerful corporations and their executives for alleged cartel-like conduct. This is an enormously important step for deterrence, because criminal charges are naturally more attention-grabbing than civil lawsuits.

Charging high-ranking bank executives will potentially make the deterrent more effective still, because high-ranking executives set the cultural tone for their organisations.

Research has shown that significant prison time – or the threat of it – for individuals is a more effective deterrent than civil penalties; especially if the penalties are not high enough, as was argued in the recent OECD report on corporate penalties for cartels in Australia. The report showed that the penalties applied in Australia were low in comparison with competition law regimes in the European Union and the United States.

Just the beginning?

This is the second Australian criminal case of cartel conduct – the first involved a Japanese company shipping cars to Australia. We can reasonably expect more of these kinds of charges in the future, given that the laws are only eight years old and investigations of this type typically take years to reach fruition. (The alleged cartel conduct in the latest case took place in August 2015, almost three years ago.)

There are differences in investigation procedures between criminal and civil cases, to ensure that collected pieces of evidence are admissible in a criminal proceeding. It is ultimately the CDPP’s (and not the ACCC’s) decision whether or not to prosecute.




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The final step is for criminal proceedings to be prosecuted. The first cartel criminal case, which concerned the shipping industry, can be perceived as successful, with two global shipping companies pleading guilty.

It is still early days for Australia in terms of tracking down and punishing examples of cartel behaviour via criminal prosecutions. But the latest developments suggest that Australia is prepared to follow the example of the world leader in successful cartel-related criminal prosecutions: the United States.

The US criminal regime is one of the oldest in the world, having existed since 1890. The US boom of cartel-related criminal cases began in the late 1990s with the lysine cartel and the vitamin cartel and with the first foreign national being sentenced to imprisonment in July 1999. One of the first criminal cartel investigations inspired the production of the 2009 movie The Informant!.

The ConversationThe numbers further illustrate the success of the US criminal prosecutions. For instance, 27 corporations and 82 individuals were charged in the fiscal year 2011. Australia has a long way to go before it can match those numbers.

Barbora Jedlickova, Lecturer, School of Law, The University of Queensland

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

Commonwealth Bank’s $700 million fine will end up punishing its customers


Sandeep Gopalan, Deakin University

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) this week agreed to pay a record penalty to settle its violations of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. The A$700 million fine plus legal costs will become final upon the approval of the Federal Court.

The deal was met with market approval, and has allowed regulators to claim victory. Given the public’s current hostility to banks in the wake of revelations from the Banking Royal Commission, politicians also joined the bandwagon and applauded CBA’s loss.

What if the penalty is a sign of mob justice, rather than just deserts? And given the scale of the payout, will the fine also end up further punishing customers and shareholders?




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Answering these questions requires a close look at the case. CBA was alleged to have violated the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006, in several specific ways.

First, it introduced Intelligent Deposit Machines (IDMs) without conducting an independent risk assessment and/or instituting mitigation procedures to tackle money-laundering. Unlike older ATMs, IDMs process cash deposits and make the funds available for transfer immediately. Clearly, criminals could use these features to launder cash gained through crime. CBA wrongly believed that its existing ATM monitoring processes covered these risks.

Second, it was warned about these risks and could have minimised money laundering by imposing daily limits on accounts. CBA refused.

Third, CBA failed to provide transaction reports within 10 business days for cash deposits greater than A$10,000. This violation referred to 53,506 transactions totalling about A$625 million. The failure was due to a coding error – the software was not updated to pick up a new code created for IDM deposits.

Fourth, CBA failed to report transactions with a pattern of money-laundering – apparently misunderstanding its legal obligations.

Fifth, CBA failed to report suspicions about identity fraud – for example, in relation to eight money-laundering syndicates. Therefore, AUSTRAC and law enforcement were unaware of “several million dollars of proceeds of crime mostly connected with drug importation and distribution” that passed into accounts held by CBA.

Sixth, CBA was deficient in monitoring accounts despite warnings from law enforcement – 778,370 accounts were not monitored. CBA was slow to act even after suspicious accounts were terminated, facilitating money-laundering.

Clearly these are significant violations. However, the statement of facts agreed by AUSTRAC and CBA state that the bank did not deliberately or intentionally violate its legal obligations under the relevant laws.

Considering that CBA’s violations were inadvertent, due to technical glitches, and attributable to a mistaken belief about existing systems satisfying legal obligations, the A$700 million fine might be excessive.

International comparisons

By international standards, the fine seems to be very high. This week the UK Financial Conduct Authority fined the British division of India’s Canara Bank £896,100 (A$1.58 million) for “consistent failure” in its money-laundering controls, and for failings “affecting almost all aspects of its business”.

The FCA said the bank’s failings “potentially undermine the integrity of the UK financial system by significantly increasing the risk that Canara could be used for the purposes of domestic and international money laundering, terrorist financing and those seeking to evade taxation or the implementation of sanction requirements”.

In the United States, the Justice Department fined US Bancorp US$528 million (A$694 million) for criminal violations of money-laundering laws and for concealing its behaviour from regulators.

CBA’s fine is far higher than Canara’s punishment for similar violations, and roughly on a par with the sanction meted out to US Bancorp – albeit the latter was for more serious criminal wrongdoing. It is also comparable to the US$665 million (A$874 million) penalty imposed on HSBC (plus US$1.26 billion in sacrificed profits). Unlike CBA, HSBC was punished for “willfully failing” to maintain proper money-laundering controls.

Yet the proceeds from HSBC’s violations stretching back to the 1990s were staggering: at least US$881 million in laundered drug money; a failure to monitor more than US$670 billion in wire transfers and over US$9.4 billion in purchases of physical US dollars from HSBC Mexico; some US$660 million in sanctions-prohibited transactions; and evidence of deliberate sanctions violations by processing transactions to parties in Iran, Cuba, Burma, Sudan, and Libya.

A fair punishment?

The size of CBA’s penalty seems to be more in line with banks that have deliberately flouted money-laundering laws, rather than the smaller punishments handed to banks that did so unintentionally. It is tempting to conclude that this is influenced by the current prevailing mood to “send a message” to financial institutions.

What’s more, we cannot necessarily assume that the fine will act as a deterrent. The penalty is not paid by the CBA staff who acted wrongly; it is paid by the bank, ultimately by the shareholders.

Similarly, the cost of managing enhanced scrutiny and investing in additional compliance machinery will be passed on to customers in the form of higher charges and fees. Likewise, if banks become excessively cautious because of apprehensions about overenforcement, that will impact services and reduce profitability – again harming innocent people.




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The punishment must always fit the crime. Excessive punishment is counterproductive and creates additional victims.

If the purpose was really to tackle wrongdoing, the CBA staff who were responsible for the violations should have been identified and penalised.

The ConversationThe A$700 million fine is good for political posturing but will hurt customers and shareholders the most. Bank-bashing has a cost, and it is paid by ordinary people, not politicians.

Sandeep Gopalan, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Innovation) & Professor of Law, Deakin University

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

Liberals’ Georgina Downer trailing in early Mayo poll


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie, who quit parliament in the citizenship crisis, has an early lead in her fight to win back her South Australian seat of Mayo, according to a ReachTEL poll.

Sharkie is ahead of her opponent, the high-profile Liberal Georgina Downer, 58% to 42% on a two-party basis.

The poll was commissioned by the Australia Institute, a progressive think tank.

The Liberals have been hopeful of capturing Mayo, thus increasing their parliamentary majority. They held the seat until Sharkie, as part of the Nick Xenophon Team (since renamed the Centre Alliance) won it in 2016 from Jamie Briggs, who earlier had to resign from the ministry over a personal indiscretion.

Georgina Downer is the daughter of Alexander Downer, a former occupant of the seat who was foreign minister in the Howard government.

The vote is on July 28, when five byelections will be held in a Super Saturday across the country. The Liberals believe the long campaign will favour them in Mayo because Sharkie has much less in terms of resources. She is, however, well known in the electorate.

The poll has her on a 40.1% primary vote, with Downer on 34.4%. Labor is polling 7.7%; the Greens 10.7%. The vote for “other/independent” is 3.5%, with 3.6% undecided. The sample was 1031 with polling on the night of June 5.

The poll also asked whether company tax for large companies like banks, mining companies and supermarkets should be increased, kept the same or decreased. The results were: increased, 25.4%; kept the same, 44.9%; decreased, 24.8%.

People were overwhelmingly opposed to the banks receiving a company tax cut (69.1% against).

Asked how they would prefer to spend the $80 billion proposed to be spent on company tax cuts, 51.4% chose “infrastructure and government services like health and education”, 6.5% said personal income tax cuts, 29.1% said decreasing the deficit and repaying debt, and 8.7% said proceeding with the company tax cuts.

The ConversationAsked how the Senate should vote on the third stage of the budget’s income tax policy, which “removes the 37-cent income tax bracket altogether, meaning someone earning $41.000 would pay the same marginal tax rate as someone earning $200,000”, about two thirds (65.3%) said the Senate should oppose it, while 25.2% said it should vote in support.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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