A team of researchers from Queensland’s James Cook University is undertaking research to determine if venom from funnel web spiders and tarantulas can be used to kill breast cancer cells.
State Science Minister Ros Bates admitted that while the research was unorthodox, it could yield impressive results for suffers of a variety of cancers.
“Spiders are often treated with fear; they have a complex mix of venom molecules that kill prey and predators. Researchers have found that their venom may offer an untapped suite of natural molecules to fight breast cancer cells,” Ms Bates said.
“With more than 40,000 species of spiders it’s estimated there are more than four million different toxins in spider venom. Those toxins will now be screened, to look at their potential to treat cancer in humans.”
JCU’s Professor Norelle Daly said the team was also investigating the potential anti-carcinogenic properties of the little known Gac fruit.
“The Gac fruit has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1,200 years. Clinical research at the University of Hanoi in Vietnam found oil from the pulp and seeds were effective in the treatment of liver cancer,” Professor Daly said.
“Our research team set about investigating what it was about the fruit that seemed to give it anti-cancer properties.
“We found Gac had the ability to block a particular enzyme associated with the development of cancer. Scientists were able to isolate the fruit’s anti-cancer properties, which had the potential to inhibit the growth of cancer cells- in the lab at least.”
The next stage of the research is to design a more targeted drug to help treat breast, skin and prostate cancers.
WorkSafe Victoria has announced a team of inspectors will be visiting housing construction sites across the state as part of the 12-month Operation SafeSite campaign.
State Assistant treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips said the campaign was launched after data showed that accidents on housing construction sites cost the industry $17 million in medical costs, lost wages and other expenses.
“Site visits will focus on basic safety planning, site supervision, prevention of falls from heights, electrical safety, site housekeeping and onsite worker facilities,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.
“Safety on a fast-paced construction site doesn’t just happen. It requires good planning, effective supervision and constant attention by everyone on the site.
“WorkCover is there to help, but ultimately a safe site is the responsibility of the people who work there,” Mr Rich-Phillips said.
The campaign will start in Melbourne’s south-east with estates in the region around the City of Casey the first to be visited in late August.
WorkSafe Victoria inspectors are increasingly finding high risk construction work being performed on sites without a suitable safety plan.
Inspectors have found an average of 20 sites per week completing high risk work without a plan, most of which are being done unsafely.
WorkSafe Victoria recently conducted a three month review of construction site inspections, finding that 226 sites where work had to stop because requisite plans were absent, inadequate or not being followed.
In response to the findings, WorkSafe has launched a state-wide ‘Back to Basics’ campaign focusing on safety planning for high risk construction sites.
”We will impress on builders and their sub-contractors that high risk construction work – like working at height, use of mobile plant and working near electrical installations - requires good planning and effective supervision,” WorkSafe’s Construction Manage Alan Beacom said.
“Safe Work Methods (SWMS) were introduced in 2007 and became a legal requirement a year later. If they’re not in place or being followed builders and sub-contractors should not permit work to start or continue.
“Unfortunately, even after five years some builders and sub-contractors have not fully implemented SWMS into their businesses. It’s putting their workers and businesses at risk.”
Information on a range of construction industry health and safety issues including high risk construction work, SWMS and a detailed ‘Back to basics’ checklist can be found at www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/construction.
Steel giant BlueScope Steel is remaining positive despite announcing a $1 billion loss after tax this financial year.
While the company announced there would be no final dividend for the financial year, Managing Director and CEO, Paul O’Malley, said that the company had reached a transformational point and was now well poised for strong growth.
“FY2012 was a transforming year, we delivered what we promised. Net debt is lower than forecast. Our Australian businesses are expected to be EBITDA positive in FY2013, and globally we are now well positioned for growth,” Mr O’Malley said.
Mr O’Malley said that the substantial restructuring of the company into four main businesses would allow for a strong diversification and to make inroads into new market areas.
“Our Global Building Solutions business is well placed to capture opportunities in the world’s largest and fastest growing non-residential construction markets with the potential to double current revenue of $1.45 billion within three years,” the company said in an announcement.
The Federal Government has welcomed the release of the long awaited Manufacturing Taskforce Report, which has found that the sector can continue to prosper and grow if it takes advantage of key emerging opportunities in the Asian region.
The Smart Manufacturing for a Smart Australia report, released by the Prime Minister’s Manufacturing Taskforce, concluded that the sector is a crucial part of the broader economy with significant links to other key industries, including construction, agriculture, utilities and services.
Despite its key importance, the report concluded the sector faces challenges such as the high Australian dollar, the strength of the resources boom in terms of capital and labour, more intensive global and regional competition and the continuing fallout from the global financial crisis.
The report made 40 key recommendations in an effort to map out ‘a power vision for the future of Australian manufacturing’ aimed at strengthening the local firms as they adapt to the changing economic environment.
The Federal Government has given in principle support to most of the recommendations, but has stopped short of supporting the call to further investigate a Sovereign Wealth Fund and a domestic reservation policy for gas.
The Federal Government has announced is has accepted the Taskforce’s recommendation to convene a Manufacturing Leaders Group to implement the its responses to the report.
The Federal Government has also announced it will bring together Industry Capability Network, the Buy Australian at Home and Abroad Supply Advocates, AusIndustry and Enterprise Connect to share information on opportunities for Australian manufacturers in large domestic investment projects, with a particular focus on the resources sector.
The Federal Government has announced tha the giant kelp forests of the south east coast of Australia will be protected under Australian law.
Federal Minister for Environment, Tony Burke, said the move to protect the giant kelp marine forests under national environmental law was a first for the country.
"After careful consideration of the advice from the Government's independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee, I have decided to list the giant kelp marine forests of south east Australia,” Mr Burke said.
"This is the first time that a marine ecological community has been listed for protection in Australia under national environment law."
The giant kelp marine forests of south east Australia are mainly found from Eddystone Point in the north east of Tasmania along the eastern coastline and around to the southern coast as far as Port Davey. They can also occur on the northern and western coast of Tasmania and in the coastal waters off Victoria and south east South Australia when conditions are favourable.
"Giant kelp forests are being progressively lost due to a warming of the sea surface temperature caused by climate change, invasive species and changing land use and coastal activities that contribute to increased sedimentation and runoff and biodiversity loss,'' Mr Burke said.
"The giant kelp forests provide valuable ecosystem services for the local environment, such as creating habitat for commercially significant marine species like the black lip abalone and southern rock lobster, filtering sediment before it gets into the wider ocean, and protecting our coastline from storm damage.
"Giant kelp marine forests are also important carbon sinks. It has been estimated that they may be able to hold over 80,000 tonnes of carbon per square kilometre, more than double that of some terrestrial forests."
Cooperative Research Centres (CRCS) will have a combined total value of $14.5 billion to the Australian economy by 2017, with their technologies, products and processes equating to substantial boosts for the country.
The report, compiled by Allen Consulting Group, was released as part of the National Science Week celebrations at Parliament House.
Federal Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans, welcomed the report, which shows that CRCs have already contributed $8.6 billion to the economy.
Projects like the Square Kilometre Array telescope and the CRC program show that when it comes to science, Australia already punches above its weight and has an impressive track record," Senator Evans said.
"In the middle of the mining boom it is an economic imperative that we are able to develop world-leading science and research that will provide benefits for Australia for decades to come - it shows that not only are we a mining nation, we are also a smart nation.
"Australia's universities and industry research facilities need to be world class to compete with the rest of the world, particularly with rapidly expanding capacity of the Asia Pacific.
Senator Evans said the Government aimed to double the level of collaboration between business, universities and publicly-funded research agencies over the next decade.
"That's why over the next four years, we will invest more than $625 million in CRCs to establish strong partnerships that can focus on delivering real impacts for Australia through the application of science and research," Senator Evans said,
The Federal Government has released a report aimed at assisting companies and local governments make informed decisions about where and how to build key infrastructure assets in the face of a changing climate.
The Economic framework for analysis of climate change adaptation options sets out ley adaptation techniques by using case studies concerning flood mitigation, long term water supply and the effects of heat waves on critical infrastructure.
"Infrastructure investors, owners and managers, as well as governments at all levels, need to find the most cost effective ways to prepare for the impacts of climate change in the future," Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Greg Combet said.
"The cost benefit approaches employed provide decision-makers with detailed information about trade-offs when choosing between different adaptation options.”
The main report sets out the methodology, three case studies apply the methodology to: flood mitigation around Narrabeen Lagoon in Sydney's northern beaches; securing a long-term water supply for towns in the Central Highlands region of Victoria; and reducing the impacts of heatwaves on Melbourne’s urban rail network.
Commissioned by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the report and case studies were completed by a consortium led by global consultancy AECOM.
The report and case studies are available through the department's website.
Telstra has posted its 2011-12 fiscal year results, showing a 1.1 per cent revenue increase, finishing at $25.4 billion for the year.
The telco reported adding a further 1.6 million to its mobile network, with the company citing its strong dedication to customer service as a key plank in its high customer retention and acquisition in the fiscal year.
The results come after the company invested nearly $3.6 billion in capital works over the year, significantly extending the operation area of its 4G LTE coverage to over 1,000 base stations.
Telstra also confirmed a fully franked 14 cent final dividend, bringing the total dividend to 28 cents per share for fiscal year 2012, returning $3.4 billion to shareholders.
“We have seen two years of significant customer growth as our strategy continues to bear fruit. This has translated into strong financial results despite tough domestic and international economic conditions,” Chief Executive Officer David Thodey said.
“The results of our focus on our customers and simplifying our business can be seen in improved customer feedback. We delivered on our commitments, met guidance and demonstrated greater resilience than other sectors in a challenging market environment.
“We have achieved top and bottom line growth and expect to do so again in the 2013 financial year.”
A new multi-million dollar coal seam gas (CSG) industry supply plant has been officially opened in Toowoomba, and will begin supplying pipeline systems to the state's growing industry.
The $28 million facility was officially opened by Minister for State Development, Jeff Seeney, and will allow Iplex Pipelines, a division of Fletcher Building, to supply about 7,000 km of polyethylene pipe to two CSG projects - QGCs Queensland Curtis LNG and Santos GLNG.
Mr Seeney said Iplex had already proved its mettle, with pipe deliveries on its $120 million contract with QGC having started late last year from its factories in Townsville and Albury in New South Wales.
“Manufacture of pipe has progressed steadily since starting last October, with an average of 45 truckloads of pipe being delivered to the QGC site each week,” he said.
“These deliveries have been projected to continue over a two year period ending late 2013.”
The company also started production of pipe and fittings for its CSG contract for the Santos GLNG project last June.
Iplex Pipelines General Manager for Infrastructure Kevin Kellow said the factory would use the very latest pipe extrusion technology to achieve fast and efficient production with reduced energy processes.
“In addition to day to day business, this will allow us to keep up with the demand being generated by the factory’s two Queensland based CSG project supply contracts,” he said.
The Queensland Government has launched a new service that will provide landholders and regional councils throughout the state with access to information about exploration and mining activity in their local area.
Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps launched the new Local Area Mining Permit Report which will be available on the Queensland Government Business and Industry website.
“This free online service will keep the community and regional councils fully informed about any mining and petroleum activities in their local area,” Mr Cripps said.
“Users can tailor their search for resource activity by local government boundary, an individual property using real property descriptions, or within 2 km of a property in their area.
“The service will generate a user-friendly Local Area Mining Permit Report, including maps, showing all applications or granted permits for mining exploration, production or infrastructure tenure in the area.
“It will also highlight constrained land in the local area where resource activity may be limited, conditioned or prohibited.
“The report will be easy to understand and emailed to the user as soon as possible.”
Mr Cripps said the Local Area Mining Permit Report service addresses concerns by the broader community and local government about accessing information about resource development in Queensland.
The CSIRO has published a research study that shows that the country's oceans are already being significantly impacted on by climate change.
The report card provides information on the current state of Australia's marine climate as well as a predicted future-state of the health of the country's ocean environment and further impacts of climate change.
" Australia has some of the world’s most unique marine ecosystems. They are enjoyed recreationally, generate considerable economic wealth through fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism, and provide irreplaceable services including coastal defence, oxygen production, nutrient recycling and climate regulation," Project leader CSIRO’s Dr Elvira Poloczanska said.
"Although there are some concerning findings in the 2012 report card, the information we’ve compiled is helping to ensure that ocean managers and policy makers are best placed to respond to the challenge of managing the impact that climate change is having on these systems."
Key findings show
- warming sea temperatures are influencing the distribution of marine plants and animals, with species currently found in tropical and temperate waters likely to move south
- new research suggests winds over the Southern Ocean and current dynamics are strongly influencing foraging of seabirds that breed in south-east Australia and feed close to the Antarctic each summer
- some tropical fish species have a greater ability to acclimatise to rising water temperatures than previously thought
- the Australian science community is widely engaged in research, monitoring and observing programs to increase our understanding of climate change impacts and inform management
- adaptation planning is happening now, from seasonal forecast for fisheries and aquaculture, to climate-proofing of breeding sites for turtles and seabirds.
Led by CSIRO, more than 80 Australian marine scientists from 34 universities and research organisations contributed to the 2012 report card. The report card draws on peer-reviewed research results from hundreds of scientists, demonstrating a high level of scientific consensus.
'Our knowledge of observed and likely impacts of climate change has greatly advanced since the first card in 2009,' Dr Poloczanska said.
Aspects of marine climate which have been analysed include changes in sea temperature, sea level, the East Australian Current, the Leeuwin Current, and El Niño-Southern Oscillation.
Marine biodiversity assessed for the report card include impacts on coral reefs; tropical, temperate and pelagic fish; marine mammals; marine reptiles; seabirds; mangroves; tidal wetlands; seagrass; macroalgae; marine microbes; phytoplankton and zooplankton. The two new sections included in the 2012 report card focus on the smallest and largest organisms in the oceans: microbes and whales.
The project has been funded by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, through the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility's Marine Biodiversity and Resources Adaptation Research Network, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, and CSIRO’s Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship.
View the full report card: www.oceanclimatechange.org.au
The National Centre of Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has announced the appointment of Sue Ferguson as General Manager Research.
The centre has hailed the appointment of Ms Ferguson, who brings a wealth of vocational research experience to her new role.
In her most recent role as Executive Director, VET Policy for the Queensland Department of Education and Training she led the development of the Queensland Skills Plan White Paper, the Queensland Post-secondary Education and Training Review project and developed the proposal and legislation for establishment of the Queensland Skills Commission.
Ms Fergusson also brings a long history in public finance, having held senior roles within Queensland Treasury including four years as Director of the Education and Innovation Branch.
“The role of General Manager, Research is a fantastic opportunity to combine my long held passion for education with a lengthy background in policy and research,” Ms Fergusson said.
“I am thrilled to be joining NCVER and very much looking forward to the challenge of leading a nationally recognised research program.”
NCVER Managing Director, Tom Karmel said he was delighted to welcome Ms Fergusson to the role.
“Sue brings significant breadth and depth of skills and experience to NCVER. We are confident she will be a real asset to our research work,” he said.
The Queensland Government has announced it will allow international students with Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) to access treatment at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.
The decision has been welcomed by the Federal Government, which has been pressuring Queensland to expand its services in the Brisbane area.
"This decision recognises the entitlement of international students to health care in Australia under their OSHC insurance, and the important contribution that international students make to Queensland's economy and society," Federal Minister for Tertiary Education Senator Chris Evans said.
"I strongly encourage all state and territory governments to adopt a similar approach and consider that these crucial services should be provided to international students who have served the appropriate waiting periods specified in their insurance policies."
Senator Evans reiterated calls for wider reforms that would give international students access to benefit from travel concessions that local students enjoy.
"It is time that the New South Wales and Victorian Governments act, as all other states and territories have done, to extend concession transport fares to international students," Senator Evans said.
The Sydney Theatre Company has announced the appointment of Andrew Upton as the group's new Artistic Director, a role he has previously shared with wife Cate Blanchet.
Mr Upton will take the role following the final co-production in early 2013 after Ms Blanchet stands down from the role.
"After an extensive national and international search for a new Artistic Director, which identified a number of outstanding candidates, we considered that Andrew would be the best person to lead the company as it evolves into the next stage of its artistic development," STC Chairman David Gonski said.
"We are very pleased that we were able to convince Andrew to accept another three year term to continue this terrific creative momentum, after he and Cate made the decision to continue living in Australia. The board considers Andrew to be the best person to build on the outstanding work he and Cate have achieved."
Mr Upton thanked the Board for his appointment, saying he felt honoured to continue his participate in the organisation.
Melbourne University has offered an extension to Professor Glyn Davis' contact as Vice-Chancellor, seeing the current contract extended to January 2017.
Professor Davis has indicated he will accept the offer, which was offered on the grounds of a number of key initatives continuing to roll out over the coming years.
Chancellor Elizabeth Alexander praised Professor Davis, saying: “The University has retained, and built upon, its very strong position under his leadership."
She said the University Council was keen for Professor Davis to continue past the conclusion of his current term.
“There are significant and exciting projects ahead that would benefit greatly from the leadership Professor Davis provides,” the Chancellor said.
Professor Davis thanked the Council for the invitation and said, “I much appreciate this vote of confidence from the Council, and look forward to working for many years yet with the Melbourne community.
“It remains an extraordinary honour to lead this great university.”
Professor Davis became Vice-Chancellor in January 2005, and was renewed in the role well before the conclusion of his first five-year term.
The Federal Government has announced the 83 private, Catholic and public schools that will share in $5.5 million in funding under the Empowering Local Schools initiative aimed at fostering cooperation and autonomy within the school education system.
Minister for School Education Peter Garrett and South Australian Minister for Education Grace Portolesi today announced the 61 government, 11 Catholic and 11 independent schools that will receive funding to implement the initiative.
“Empowering Local Schools builds greater cooperation and professional learning opportunities across schools and let schools tailor education to the needs of students and the local community.”
Minister Portolesi said selected schools will talk with their local community, including parents, business and local government, on what the school community needs.
“Principals and school leaders know their school community and Empowering Local Schools lets them turn this into action, so the changes they make fit their local needs, whether that’s improving student wellbeing, streamlining financial management or approaches to the use of social media,” Ms Portolesi said.
“This initiative will help South Australian schools build professional learning and give principals access to this expertise to decide what is best for their students and their school.”
The Queensland Government has opened the first round of the new Supporting Women Scholarships, aimed at assisting women to enter traditionally male dominated industries.
The first round will see 500 scholarships of up to $20,000 be made available over four years for women who wish to study subjects in male dominated industries and go on to work in those fields.
“These scholarships help address Queensland’s skills needs and will give more Queensland women the chance to work in agricultural science, architecture, engineering, geological science, building services and information technology,” State Minister for Education John-Paul Langbroek said.
“Women who are just finishing school, women looking to change careers and women who are out of the workforce and returning to study are all eligible to apply.
“With scholarships available to support study from Certificate IV through to postgraduate level, both professional and semi-professional pathways are an option.
“To be eligible for a scholarship, applicants will need to also apply for study through the QTAC process and gain a place in one of the designated fields of study.
“Winners will be able to use the scholarship money to offset costs associated with study, such as fees, textbooks and course materials.”
Applications will close on 12 October 2012 for scholarships starting at the beginning of the 2013 academic year. Recipients will be notified in December 2012.
Mr Langbroek said the selection committee for the scholarship program would consider merit, future potential and need.
The selection committee includes former Macarthur Coal CEO Nicole Hollows, the first female Australian Rhodes Scholar Dr Beth Woods, Queensland Chief Scientist Dr Geoff Garrett AO and the National Vice President of National Association of Women in Construction, Radmila Desic.
It is chaired by Skills Queensland CEO Rod Camm.
To apply for a Supporting Women Scholarship go to
The ongoing and increasingly public debate over TAFE funding in Victoria has descended into an unseemly brawl, with thousands of teachers descending on Central Melbourne to protest the cuts.
The $300 million cuts to the state's TAFE sector sparked across the sector, with the Public Service Union recently estimating that cuts across the broader education sector could result in as many as 950 jobs being lost, with the Australian Education Union (AEU) saying that figure could go as high as 2,000.
The State Government has defended its education record, saying that contrary to what the AEU argued, the country's TAFE funding has actually increased over the 2011-12 budget.
State Minister for Education, Peter Hall, issued a statement arguing that the $1 billion in funding over four years was more than sufficient to meet the demands of the sector.
"The Coalition Government's training reforms will ensure the state's uncapped demand-driven training system remains sustainable and relevant to Victoria's need for a skilled workforce," Mr Dixon said in the statement.
A report released by the Financial Services Institute of Australasia (Finsia) shows that developing close professional relationships is key to the the fair treatment of financial services customers.
The report highlights a number of areas where improvements could be made to improve customers’ perceptions of fairness and trustworthiness of their financial services providers.
“Australians are increasingly aware of the need to better manage their money and receiving fair treatment from their credit card providers, bank and financial advisers not only makes sound business sense but will increase the level of confidence in the industry as a whole,” Finsia’s chief executive Russell Thomas said.
The study was undertaken by Monash University’s Professor Steve Worthington and James Devlin, Professor of Financial Decision Making, Nottingham University and Director, Financial Services Research Forum.
“The results indicate that those financial service providers able to develop professional relationships with customers over a period of time have a distinct advantage over others in positively influencing their perceptions of fairness,
said Professor Worthington.
“Overall financial advisers did well compared with their bank and credit card counterparts. This was not surprising given the opportunities they have to build personal relationships with their clients.
“Interestingly, banks suffered significant decreases in perceptions of fairness as customer relationships lengthened. Customers did not perceive that long relationships with their banks led to improved treatment.”
The research included an online poll of 750 customers of the financial services industry.
iiNet has announced the appointment of Simon Hackett as the company’s new Non-executive Director, effective immediately.
The industry veteran and found of newly acquired ISP Internode, Mr Hackett has announced his excitement at being more involved in the business on a strategic level.
“My new role with the iiNet Group allows me to have input into broader strategic issues at Board level, while seeing Internode continue to flourish.”
iiNet’s Chairman, Michael Smith, welcomed Mr Hackett’s appointment.
“Smon has a strong grasp of technology and a deep appreciation of customer needs. His track record and experience will be a valued addition to the Board.”