It’s your money they’re spending in this election-eve budget. Here’s how we’re covering the story

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Sunanda Creagh, Head of Digital Storytelling

Next Tuesday night is budget night, and it’s happening on the eve of a federal election where the Coalition is in for the fight of its life to hold onto government.

The Conversation’s team of editors and experts will be in the budget lockup at parliament house next Tuesday, where they’ll have early access to what the government plans to do with our money this year.

Read more: Expect tax cuts and an emptying of the cupboards in a budget cleanout as the billions roll in

On the night, we’ll bring you Chief Political Correspondent Michelle Grattan’s analysis of what’s set to be a last ditch attempt to woo voters ahead of the election next month.

And veteran economics correspondent Peter Martin will look in detail at where the money is going – and what the mooted tax cuts look like.

Economist Richard Holden will examine the government’s strategy, and former Chief Economist of the ANZ bank, Warren Hogan, now with UTS, will bring us the economic outlook.

And if you’re a podcast person, check your podcast app on Tuesday night for a fresh episode of Trust Me, I’m An Expert and Politics with Michelle Grattan (subscribe now, if you haven’t already). There, Peter Martin and Michelle Grattan will be speaking with political and economic journalist Tim Colebatch about this election-year budget.

We’ll also bring you some nifty graphics that will explain at-a-glance the big announcements from the budget papers. And as always, our experts will be on hand to respond to any big announcements in health, education, energy and infrastructure.

Keep an eye out for our special budget newsletter on the night (you can subscribe here), and on our Facebook and Twitter at @ConversationEDU.

New to podcasts?

Podcasts are often best enjoyed using a podcast app. All iPhones come with the Apple Podcasts app already installed, or you may want to listen and subscribe on another app such as Pocket Casts (click here to listen to Trust Me, I’m An Expert on Pocket Casts).

You can also hear us on Stitcher, Spotify or any of the apps below. Just pick a service from one of those listed below and click on the icon to find Trust Me, I’m An Expert.

Read more: Shorten to announce Labor’s ‘living wage’ plan but without an amount or timing

Additional audio

Kindergarten by Unkle Ho, from Elefant Traks

Sky News report.

Sky News report.


AAP/Mick Tsikas

ref. It’s your money they’re spending in this election-eve budget. Here’s how we’re covering the story –

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Did Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into One Nation overstep the mark?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Andrew Dodd, Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

The sheer audacity of Al Jazeera’s three-year ruse is astounding.

The news company’s investigation unit has carried out a sting that has captured both the National Rifle Association of the United States and Australia’s One Nation Party in all sorts of compromising positions.

The series, “How to sell a massacre”, has exposed the NRA’s manipulative media practices and revealed One Nation’s desire to cosy up to the US gun lobby to find ways of funding its domestic campaign to overturn our gun laws.

The documentary has exposed the thinking of some of the party’s most senior figures about taking control of the parliament and their obsession with Muslim immigration.

How to Sell a Massacre P1 | Al Jazeera Investigations.

Al Jazeera senior producer Peter Charley did this by placing actor-turned journalist Rodger Muller in the field to impersonate the head of a fake pro-gun lobby group called Gun Rights Australia. The pair then pandered to One Nation’s desire for financial support and international endorsement and exploited US gun lobbyists’ fears about Australia’s strict gun laws.

They got away with this for three years, gaining unprecedented access to the halls of the NRA and to the minds of two One Nation officials, Queensland state leader Steve Dickson and the party’s controversial chief of staff, James Ashby.

Read more: How Australia’s NRA-inspired gun lobby is trying to chip away at gun control laws, state by state

A matter of ethics

There are at least two ethical questions about this documentary.

The first is whether the producers have overstepped the mark by not only reporting what they saw but creating the scenario in which the events occurred.

The second concerns the program’s extensive use of hidden cameras.

On the first matter, the issue is whether the program created the meeting between One Nation and the NRA and therefore acted irresponsibly by entrapping the subjects of the film.

In his account of what happened, Rodger Muller put it this way:

Then Charley asked me to contact Pauline Hanson’s One Nation – a far-right pro-gun Australian political party. Charley wanted me to find out if any connections existed between One Nation and the US gun lobby. And so began another chapter in my life as an avid “gunner”.

When I approached One Nation Chief of Staff James Ashby and mentioned my NRA connections, he told me he wanted to visit the US to meet them. I set up meetings in Washington and soon Ashby and One Nation’s Steve Dickson were on a flight to the US.

I was there, ready to meet them. And our hidden cameras were all primed and ready to go.

This suggests that Muller and Al Jazeera were catalysts and enabled the connection between One Nation and the NRA. But it also demonstrates that there was a desire on the part of One Nation to meet the US gun lobby, and – as later becomes clear – the party was motivated to do so to raise funds and make political connections.

So is this responsible journalism?

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance code of ethics – the protocols by which thoughtful journalists operate in Australia – is largely silent on this issue.

It doesn’t say anything explicitly about creating the news by making connections between players to observe what happens next. But it does stress the need to “report and interpret honestly”.

It calls on reporters to use “fair. responsible and honest means to obtain material” and to “respect personal privacy”. But the code also acknowledges journalists both scrutinise and exercise power. The preamble makes the point that journalism animates democracy.

Most importantly, in its guiding cause, the code states:

ethical journalism requires conscientious decision-making in context.

It allows for any of its other clauses to be overridden to achieve “substantial advancement of the public interest”.

So is it wrong to make and enable connections that might not otherwise happen in order to observe the outcomes? Is this fair and honest and responsible?

Like many things, the answer might be dependent on the motivation. From where I stand, it looks like Al Jazeera’s motivation was to get to the heart of something fundamentally important that would otherwise remain opaque.

Breaches of privacy and deceptive conduct

And while we’re pondering that one, there’s the perennial ethical question about hidden cameras.

This isn’t your garden variety case of a tabloid TV program exposing a dodgy car salesmen or a real estate scammer. In this film, the use of hidden cameras directly places several parts of the code of ethics against that all important public interest override.

The question is whether the public’s right to know is so important that it justifies the film’s deceptive conduct and breaches of privacy.

For me, the use of hidden cameras can clearly be defended when a publicly funded Australian political party, that knows what it’s doing is dodgy, is making connections to “change Australia” by gaining the balance of power in the parliament and “working hand in glove with the United States”.

It is highly likely the extent of One Nation’s behaviour could only be exposed through this sort of reportage. James Ashby is captured repeatedly reminding others they need to be secretive in their dealings with the NRA.

The public has a clear right to know what One Nation is up to. This is especially the case when part of its mission is to learn new techniques to manipulate the public debate to pursue an agenda of overturning the ban on guns following the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre.

The NRA are media experts

There’s something else about this program that justifies the use of hidden cameras. It exposes the utter cynicism of the media messaging and media training that underpins the NRA like nothing I have ever seen before.

Read more: What the NRA can teach us about the art of public persuasion

In a closed meeting with NRA officials, One Nation is given a crash course on how to deal with bad press, particularly following mass shootings.

Lars Dalseide, an NRA media liaison officer, is captured saying pro-gun lobbyists should smear supporters of gun control by accusing them of exploiting the tragedy.

He even provides a useful retort to anyone who might suggest that gun ownership might be a factor in a mass shooting. He says:

How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forth your political agenda.

“Just shame them to the whole idea,” he suggests, by arguing pro-gun campaigners should declare to opponents:

If your policy isn’t good enough to stand on its own, how dare you use their deaths to push that forward.

As he says this, Ashby is recorded replying: “That’s really good, very strong”.

Some of that phrasing seems familiar in the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch massacre, suggesting parts of the NRA’s playbook have already made their way down under.

This documentary underscores two things.

The brutal tactics of the gun lobby and the operations of One Nation need exposing. Journalism sometimes has to take on the unsavoury job of extracting the truth from those who do not want to share it.

ref. Did Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation into One Nation overstep the mark? –

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Drug problem in Philippines has ‘worsened’, admits Duterte

PDEA Director-General Aaron Aquino (centre) and PDEA Director III Irish Calaguas (left) led two operations in Muntinlupa on March 19, 2019, which yielded 166.5 kg of crystal meth worth an estimated 1.13 billion pesos. Image: PDEA

By Nestor Corrales in Manila

Despite the Philippine government’s brutal war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted that the drug problem in the country has “worsened” and warned that the country might end up like Mexico controlled by drug cartels.

“Things have worsened. My policemen are at the brink of surrendering,” he said in a speech during the campaign rally of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-laban) in Cagayan de Oro.

“You can see the headlines — every day billions worth of drugs are entering the country. Look at the main screen and the crawler, the running news at the bottom. It’s always about drugs, drugs, and drugs,” he added.

READ MORE: Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines

The President cited the recent 1 billion pesos (NZ$28 million) worth of shabu seized by authorities, which he said could just be a diversion of drug traffickers in the country.

“Don’t believe that it’s one billion. The next day there will be another one-point-three billion. That’s just an excuse. That’s a bait,” he said.


“Actually there are other billions coming in. The Philippines is contiguous, island for island. There are seven thousand islands. Just choose where you want to land,” he added.

Duterte said the Philippines could end up like Mexico with the current drug situation.

“In the end, we will be like Mexico. We will be controlled by drug cartels. The Sinaloa has already entered the country and that is why drugs are being thrown in the Pacific. The same is happening in the West,” he said.

Data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) death count in the government’s war on drugs was now at 5,104 since the President launched his brutal war on drugs in July 2016.

However, human rights organisations and campaigners for victims cite much higher death tolls ranging between 12,000 and 20,000.

Nestor Corrales reports for the Philippines Daily Inquirer.

Article by

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Peta Clancy brings a hidden Victorian massacre to the surface with Undercurrent

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Anita Pisch, Honorary Lecturer, School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, Australian National University

Review: Peta Clancy, Undercurrent, Koorie Heritage Trust

The slaughter of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli in 1915 is claimed by many to be a key factor in the building of our national identity. However, warfare on our own soil has been concealed beneath a code of secrecy and silence.

Peta Clancy’s Undercurrent exhibition at the Koorie Heritage Trust in Melbourne’s Federation Square aims to bring this hidden history to the surface, exploring the frontier wars and massacres that characterised Australia’s colonisation into the early 20th century.

Comprising eight large, inkjet pigment prints and a 30-metre wallpaper installation, shot on 4 x 5 colour negative film, the exhibition seduces with familiar bush landscape views, then disrupts through slippages in time, space and context.

The exhibition seduces with familiar bush landscape views, then disrupts through slippages in time, space and context. Christian Capurro

Massacres and massacre sites have a long history of being concealed, especially after the 1838 Myall Creek massacre, in which at least 28 unarmed Indigenous people were killed by colonists.

Seven white men were found guilty of murder and hanged following this massacre. The punishment was intended as a message that these atrocities would not be legally condoned. But rather than acting as a deterrent, this led only to greater concealment of massacres and massacre sites.

Read more: How can we achieve reconciliation? Myall Creek offers valuable answers

In 1988, the year of the extravagant Australian Bicentennial celebrations, Bruce Elder’s Blood On the Wattle documented 26 frontier massacres Australia-wide. In the same year, the Koorie Heritage Trust compiled a Victorian Massacre Map showing the locations of known killings of Aborigines by Europeans between 1836 and 1853.

Far from comprehensive, the Massacre Map was published in 1991 and was an initial step in illuminating this hidden aspect of Australian colonial history. The publication of the digital map, Colonial Frontier Massacres in Central and Eastern Australia 1788-1930, by the University of Newcastle in 2017, further raised awareness of this issue in the national consciousness.

Australian artist and Monash University academic Peta Clancy first encountered the 1991 Massacre Map in 2016. She was researching her maternal lineage, connected to the Indigenous Bangerang people, traditional occupants of much of north-Eastern Victoria and areas of southern New South Wales, and photographing threatened butterflies and moths at Museum Victoria and the CSIRO in Canberra.

As her research progressed, her vision of the landscape was transformed by this undercurrent of hidden violence. Clancy sought a Cultural Heritage Permit to visit the massacre sites. In 2018, she undertook a 12-month residency at the Koorie Heritage Trust, collaborating with Dja Dja Wurrung Elders and community to create an artistic response to massacres on Dja Dja Wurrung Country.

Clancy had initially planned to visit every massacre site on the 1991 map, however, over time, her focus narrowed to Dja Dja Wurrung Country in central Victoria. She visited sites with Traditional Owners, becoming particularly drawn to the metaphoric potentials of an 1870s massacre site known to the community. This site on the bank of the Loddon River had been flooded when a weir was constructed between 1889 and 1891, diverting the course of the river.

There is little detail on the massacre itself provided in the exhibition, perhaps out of respect to the community, but Clancy has developed her response to it through extensive collaboration with Dja Dja Wurrung people.

Victoria’s lush waterways and river beds, the sites of Aboriginal habitation where food and water were abundant, were also the most attractive spots for white settlement. The now underwater massacre site, near a popular tourist spot with caravan park, has a split existence as a place of ignorant bliss and concealed sorrow.

Clancy focused her exhibtion on an 1870s massacre site on Victoria’s Loddon River. Christian Capurro

Clancy’s working methodology reveals the dual nature of the site. Beginning by taking conventional landscape shots there, she returned months later with these printed and attached to custom frames. Cutting into the original photos to reveal the landscape behind, she then re-photographed the scene through the frame, creating a genuine capture of the juxtaposed double images.

Comfortable viewing of the familiar landscape is disrupted by contrasts in focus, exposure and colour, with water sometimes appearing to threaten to engulf the treeline. Clancy highlights the existence of two worlds on the one site: earth and sky, past and present, mythic and historic, Indigenous and settler, oblivious joy and hidden violence.

Although looking at the same landscape, the happy holidaymakers and the Dja Dja Wurrung community experience wildly divergent perspectives – a dissociative response to past trauma which is too painful and thus hidden from consciousness. Reconciliation can only occur when both realities are brought to the surface and acknowledged as part of the history of the site.

Clancy’s work exposes two worlds coexisting on the massacre site. Christian Capurro

Can a reviewer of European origin and other non-Indigenous observers make the attempt to alter our perspectives on the Australian landscape and admit another world view? Can we allow the possibility that shame over the massacres and denial of the truth continue to affect the present?

The land itself has been defiled. The ancestors denied an honourable death and those who carried murderous deeds to the grave haunt our collective present as well as our past.

Clancy sees the manual cutting of the photographic image as analogous to scarring. Although the images are rendered whole again, the scar line remains visible.

Despite signalling violence, Clancy views scarring in positive terms. “It is not the actual cut, which has healed,” she says, “but a reminder of the violence of the incision”.

Scarring is a sign of healing. Clancy reminds us of the trauma as a prerequisite for this healing to occur.

Undercurrent is on display in the Yarra Building in Melbourne’s Federation Square until April 28.

ref. Peta Clancy brings a hidden Victorian massacre to the surface with Undercurrent –

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Why new laws are vital to help us control violence and extremism online

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Dan Jerker B. Svantesson, Co-Director Centre for Commercial Law, Bond University

The terrorist attack in Christchurch is a horrific attack on society. We must consider all measures available to avoid something like this ever happening again, anywhere.

Now in Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to introduce new criminal laws for social media companies that fail to quickly remove footage like that broadcast by the gunman in the New Zealand massacre. The alleged gunman live-streamed his activities on Facebook, and the footage was republished across many platforms in the days following.

Read more: Morrison flags new laws to stop social media platforms being ‘weaponised’

This is an indication that Australian leaders may now be prepared to move beyond just blaming technology for its role in the Christchurch massacre.

Laws are typically based on social values and social duties. However, penalties can of course only stem from violations of law – not violations of social duties – and it is governments that make law.

How is the internet regulated?

Internet platforms such as Facebook and Google are already subject to a complex web of laws stemming from around the globe.

A project at Stanford University has started mapping out this web of regulation.

The site points to several laws in Australia that apply to internet platforms. Of these, the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) is most relevant. But this is a largely untested legal provision providing certain protections for internet platforms handling content posted by users.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated he aims to create laws that:

  • make it a criminal offence to fail to remove the offending footage as soon as possible after it was reported or it otherwise became known to the company

  • allow the government to declare footage of an incident filmed by a perpetrator and being hosted on a site was “abhorrent violent material”. It would be a crime for a social media provider not to quickly remove the material after receiving a notice to do so. There would be escalating penalties the longer it remained on the social media platform.

These laws would not prevent violent livestreaming from taking place in the first place, but if drafted carefully may help control its spread and impact.

Read more: Anxieties over livestreams can help us design better Facebook and YouTube content moderation

This is an important point, as there is a strong argument that banning live-streaming on the major platforms will not prevent terrorists live-streaming their acts via other outlets.

Along with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Attorney-General Christian Porter and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, today the prime minister will meet with representatives of Google, Facebook and Twitter and telcos including Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to discuss the responsibilities of social media companies when violence is streamed online.

Read more: Four ways social media companies and security agencies can tackle terrorism

Global examples for improving regulation

Recent activity around the world shows increasing attention paid to regulating online hate and terrorist content.

In October 2018, the US Department of Justice launched a new website to improve the identification and reporting of hate crimes.

And in the European Union, work has advanced to stop terrorists from using the internet to radicalise, recruit and incite to violence. The EU proposal includes a framework for strengthened cooperation between hosting service providers, member states and Europol (the EU’s law enforcement agency). Within that framework, service providers must designate points of contact reachable 24/7 to facilitate the follow up to removal orders and referrals.

Using the powers of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, New Zealand has banned possession and distribution of the “manifesto” said to be written by the suspect behind the Christchurch mosque attack. (This accompanies other measures like stricter gun control updated recently in New Zealand).

Australia can draw upon these experiences, copying the good and developing what needs improvement.

International cooperation is key

Morrison has placed the matter of social media platforms being misused to promote violence on the G20 agenda. This is a good step. The major tech companies are established overseas so this is an issue that can only be addressed via international cooperation.

However, the G20 is only one forum of many. Ultimately, what we need are multi-stakeholder discussions involving governments, the tech industry, civil society and academia.

A relevant example in this context is the work the Paris-based Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network, and more specifically its work on cross-border content take-down and blocking. Its work is advanced, and includes concrete suggestions aimed at managing globally available content in light of the diversity of local laws and norms applicable on the internet.

ref. Why new laws are vital to help us control violence and extremism online –

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

What is the Medicare rebate freeze and what does it mean for you?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Helen Dickinson, Professor, Public Service Research, UNSW

On the weekend, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he would end the Medicare freeze in his first 50 days as prime minister if Labor won the election.

Every day Morrison’s Medicare freeze stays in place is another day that families are paying higher out-of-pocket costs to visit the doctor. If I’m elected prime minister, I won’t waste any time stopping Morrison’s cuts to Medicare.

Health issues always feature strongly in election debates, but what is the Medicare rebate freeze and how does it affect what you pay when you see a GP?

How Medicare works

Medicare is our public health insurance system and funds a range of services such as GP visits, blood tests, X-rays and consultations with other medical specialists.

The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) lists the services the Australian government will provide a Medicare rebate for. Medicare rebates don’t cover the full cost of medical services and are typically paid as a percentage of the Medicare schedule fee.

Read more: Explainer: what is Medicare and how does it work?

GPs who bulk bill agree to charge the Medicare schedule fee and are directly reimbursed by government.

Those who don’t bulk bill are free to set their own prices for services. Patients pay for their treatment and receive a rebate from Medicare.

There is often a gap between what patients pay for services and the amount that Medicare reimburses (A$37 for a GP consultation, for example). This gap is known as an out-of-pocket expense, as the patient is required to make up the difference out of his or her own pocket.

Under an indexing process, the Medicare Benefits Schedule fees are raised according to the Department of Finance’s Wage Cost Index, a combination of indices relating to wage levels and the Consumer Price Index.

On Sunday, Bill Shorten blamed the rebate freeze for higher out-of-pocket costs to visit the doctor. James Ross/AAP

Organisations such as the Australian Medical Association (AMA) have long argued this process is inadequate and Medicare schedule fees have not kept up with “real” increases in costs to medical practitioners of delivering services.

The rebate freeze compounds this financial challenge by continuing to keep prices at what the AMA and others argue are “unsustainable levels”.

How did the freeze begin?

Although the Coalition is largely associated with this issue, Labor first introduced the Medicare rebate freeze. The freeze was introduced as a “temporary” measure in 2013, as part of a A$664 million budget savings plan.

The AMA, the Coalition and others loudly criticised the then government for the freeze.

However, on being elected to office in 2014, the Coalition froze the rebate after the failure of a number of proposed health policies. The rebate was frozen initially for four years, starting in July 2014, and extended in the 2016 federal budget to 2020.

Read more: Rebate freeze will set GPs back $11 per general patient consultation, but they’re likely to charge them more

Although the freeze was to be in place across the board until 2020, since 2017 there has been a phased lifting of the freeze for GP bulk-billing incentive payments (July 2017), standard GP consultations and other specialist consultations (July 2018), medical procedures (due July 2019) and targeted diagnostic imaging services (from July 2020).

What impact has the freeze had?

The freeze means those medical professionals who have not seen it lifted are reimbursed the same for delivering health services today as they were in 2014.

Professionals are paying more for their practices, staff, medical products, utilities and just about anything else that goes into running a medical service. But the amount paid remains static.

Those who have had indexing return to their services have seen only a limited rise in their value – A$0.55 for a GP consultation, for example.

In the run-up to the 2016 federal election, Labor made a similar promise and told voters they needed to “save Medicare” from the government’s plans to privatise the system.

This tactic was dubbed the “Mediscare” campaign. Some saw it as being highly effective in driving a swing towards Labor in the last election.

The ‘Mediscare’ campaign drove a swing to Labour in the 2016 election. Dan Peled/AAP

Read more: Labor’s ‘Mediscare’ campaign capitalised on Coalition history of hostility towards Medicare

Last month the shadow health minister, Catherine King, blamed the Coalition for the freeze and argued this had driven up out-of-pocket costs for both GP and specialist visits, leading to more than 1 million people delaying or avoiding medical care.

There are a number of reports of GP practices and specialist services halting bulk-billing and patients having to pay higher out-of-pocket costs.

Yet the data on bulk-billing show bulk-billing rates have not fallen. In fact, the latest data show bulk-billing at an all-time high at 86.1%.

Read more: FactCheck: are bulk-billing rates falling, or at record levels?

Some commentators argue these figures are misleading as they are calculated on services and not patients and so may be an indication of the increasing number of health services that use the MBS.

GP groups have welcomed the lifting of the Medicare freeze, but argue the indexation rates still fail to reflect the genuine value of general practice.

For those in areas such as diagnostic testing, the freeze is argued to have a profound impact. The Australian Sonographers Association argues that for ultrasound alone the average out-of-pocket cost for patients has increased by 117%.

Many experts argue that just giving a little more funding to GP services will not improve the quality of the Australian health care system and far more fundamental issues need attention if we are to see significant reform.

ref. What is the Medicare rebate freeze and what does it mean for you? –

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

More fish, more fishing: why strategic marine park placement is a win-win

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Kerstin Jantke, Postdoctoral Researcher on conservation biology, University of Hamburg

Australia has some of the most spectacular marine ecosystems on the planet – including, of course, the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. Many of these places are safe in protected areas, and support a myriad of leisure activities such as recreational fishing, diving and surfing. No wonder eight in ten Aussies live near the beach.

Yet threats to marine ecosystems are becoming more intense and widespread the world over. New maps show that only 13% of the oceans are still truly wild. Industrial fishing now covers an area four times that of agriculture, including the farthest reaches of international waters. Marine protected areas that restrict harmful activities are some of the last places where marine species can escape. They also support healthy fisheries and increase the ability of coral reefs to resist bleaching.

Read more: Most recreational fishers in Australia support marine sanctuaries

One hundred and ninety-six nations, including Australia, agreed to international conservation targets under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. One target calls for nations to protect at least 10% of the world’s oceans. An important but often overlooked aspect of this target is the requirement to protect a portion of each of Earth’s unique marine ecosystems.

How are we tracking?

The world is on course to achieve the 10% target by 2020, with more than 7.5% of the ocean already protected. However, our research shows that many marine protected areas are located poorly, leaving many ecosystems underprotected or not protected at all.

What’s more, this inefficient placement of marine parks has an unnecessary impact on fishers. While marine reserves typically improve fisheries’ profitability in the long run, they need to be placed in the most effective locations.

We found that since 1982, the year nations first agreed on international conservation targets, an area of the ocean almost three times the size of Australia has been designated as protected areas in national waters. This is an impressive 20-fold increase on the amount of protection that was in place beforehand.

But when we looked at specific marine ecosystems, we found that half of them fall short of the target level of protection, and that ten ecosystems are entirely unprotected. For example, the Guinea Current off the tropical West African coast has no marine protected areas, and thus nowhere for its wildlife to exist free from human pressure. Other unprotected ecosystems include the Malvinas Current off the southeast coast of South America, Southeast Madagascar, and the North Pacific Transitional off Canada’s west coast.

Marine park coverage of global ecosystems. Light grey: more than 10% protection; dark grey: less than 10% protection; red: zero protection. Author provided

Australia performs comparatively well, with more than 3 million square km of marine reserves covering 41% of its national waters. Australia’s Coral Sea Marine Park is one of the largest marine protected areas in the world, at 1 million km². However, a recent study by our research group found that several unique ecosystems in Australia’s northern and eastern waters are lacking protection.

Furthermore, the federal government’s plan to halve the area of strict “no-take” protection inside marine parks does not bode well for the future.

How much better can we do?

To assess the scope for improvement to the world’s marine parks, we predicted how the protected area network could have been expanded from 1982.

With a bit more strategic planning since 1982, the world would only need to conserve 10% of national waters to protect all marine ecosystems at the 10% level. If we had planned strategically from as recently as 2011, we would only need to conserve 13% of national waters. If we plan strategically from now on, we will need to protect more than 16% of national waters.

If nations had planned strategically since 1982, the world’s marine protected area network could be a third smaller than today, cost half as much, and still meet the international target of protecting 10% of every ecosystem. In other words, we could have much more comprehensive and less costly marine protection today if planning had been more strategic over the past few decades.

The lack of strategic planning in previous marine park expansions is a lost opportunity for conservation. We could have met international conservation targets long ago, with far lower costs to people – measured in terms of a short-term loss of fishing catch inside new protected areas.

This is not to discount the progress made in marine conservation over the past three decades. The massive increase of marine protected areas, from a few sites in 1982, to more than 3 million km² today, is one of Australia’s greatest conservation success stories. However, it is important to recognise where we could have done better, so we can improve in the future.

Australia’s marine park network. Author provided

This is also not to discount protected areas. They are important but can be placed better. Furthermore, long-term increases in fish populations often outweigh the short-term cost to fisheries of no-take protected areas.

Two steps to get back on track

In 2020, nations will negotiate new conservation targets for 2020-30 at a UN summit in China. Targets are expected to increase above the current 10% of every nation’s marine area.

We urge governments to rigorously assess their progress towards conservation targets so far. When the targets increase, we suggest they take a tactical approach from the outset. This will deliver better outcomes for nature conservation, and have less short-term impact on the fishing industry.

Read more: More than 1,200 scientists urge rethink on Australia’s marine park plans

Strategic planning is only one prerequisite for marine protected areas to effectively protect unique and threatened species, habitats and ecosystems. Governments also need to ensure protected areas are well funded and properly managed.

These steps will give protected areas the best shot at halting the threats driving species to extinction and ecosystems to collapse. It also means these incredible places will remain available for us and future generations to enjoy.

ref. More fish, more fishing: why strategic marine park placement is a win-win –

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pets and owners – you can learn a lot about one by studying the other

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Paul McGreevy, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare Science, University of Sydney

There’s an old saying that pets and their owners become more similar as time goes by. There may be some truth in that, but can we use information about owners to improve veterinary care?

Research is showing the health and welfare of pets can be influenced by personality traits in their owners.

More than 3,000 cat owners were measured across five areas: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism, and openness.

Read more: Vets can do more to reduce the suffering of flat-faced dog breeds

Those who scored highly on neuroticism were more likely to demonstrate a preference for pedigree rather than non-pedigree cats.

Neuroticism is associated with emotional instability. People high on this trait tend to be generally more anxious and moody than others and may also respond more poorly to stress, often overreacting to small challenges.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the same group were also more likely to report their cats were showing unwelcome behaviours. These included signs of aggression, anxiety and fearfulness and more stress-related sickness behaviours, as well as having more ongoing medical conditions and being overweight.

Other animal and human studies

Similar relationships have been observed elsewhere. Parents who score highly on neuroticism may be more likely to have children with clinical obesity.

When it comes to dogs, our own studies have shown that working dog handlers who score highly on neuroticism report more attendance at competitions but no greater success in farm dog performance.

And male owners with moderate depression are at least five times more likely than those without depression to use punitive and coercive training techniques such as hitting, kicking or yelling at their dogs.

The same group of men also reported their dogs as showing significantly more house-soiling (urination and defecation when left alone) and aggression towards other dogs.

Animal welfare

These important differences in personality and ownership styles may have a bearing on the welfare of pets.

The recent cat study shows owners high in neuroticism are more likely to keep their pets indoors or restrict their access to the outdoors.

This may reflect heightened concern about the risk of road traffic accidents or other hazards. It could lead to improved cat welfare, but only if such diligence is accompanied by behavioural enrichment indoors, such as toys and puzzle feeders.

Owner personality may also influence how often a cat is taken to a veterinary clinic. Owners who score highly in neuroticism may be hypervigilant in the way they scrutinise their cats, which can lead to extra trips to the vet.

This could actually compromise cat welfare, because many cats don’t like trips to the vet. Even the sight of a carry-cage can cause increased anxiety and flight response in a cat.

How to get a cat into a carrier.

On the other hand, such trips may lead to improved welfare if they result in better health, particularly if, upon arrival, the cats are subjected to low-stress handling.

Other findings from the cat study suggest some owner attributes may be associated with an extremely positive attitude towards their pets.

High scores for agreeableness were associated with cat owners tending to view their animals in a good light. These cats had fewer reported unwelcome behaviours and were less likely to be considered overweight.

Previous studies in dogs show owners are often poor judges of whether their pets are overweight or not.

Look to the owner

This evidence that attributes in the owner can influence how their pets are perceived, and the kind of life they experience, means anyone working with these animals needs some understanding of human psychology.

Behavioural change is often the first sign that an animal is unwell. One of the most revealing aspects of a case history is the behaviour changes that owners report.

The quality and accuracy of this information from owners on their pets is crucial. But this may be strongly influenced by the relationship that owners have with their pets, such as what they look for and the intensity of their appraisal.

This evidence that owner characteristics may influence many aspects of their pet’s life – including potentially how the pet presents to a veterinary clinic – prompts us to consider how we can improve the quality of data.

For clinical behaviour cases it is important to include video records of the animal’s unwelcome behaviour. Owners are already quite adept at capturing and supplying video evidence when consulting behavioural veterinarians.

But this video evidence can also help with veterinary consultations about other conditions such as neurological disorders and intermittent lameness.

There are tools that allow owners to capture and report data in real time, using apps such as doglogbook. They have the advantage of being simple to use and having a time/date stamp that may help to keep a chronological record of the owner’s observations.

A complex relationship

The relationship between owners and veterinarians can be extremely complex and take some time to mature. A veterinarian who knows both owner and pet well will be able to detect subtle clinical signs that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Yet each clinical case must now be understood in the context of the human background baggage that enters the consultation room.

Read more: Raw meat pet food may not be good for your dog, or your own health

It’s all too easy to overlook the role of the owner’s personality in their interactions with their pet, and how their personality may influence how they perceive the animals, how they manage the animals and how they concern themselves with the health status of the animals.

Further research will undoubtedly continue to provide new insights into the fascinating world of owner-pet relationships.

ref. Pets and owners – you can learn a lot about one by studying the other –

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media