Penalties for animal cruelty double in SA, but is this enough to stop animal abuse?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Alexandra Whittaker, Senior Lecturer in Animal Welfare and Law, University of Adelaide

Australia is a nation of animal lovers, so when animal abuse is reported in the media, the public are understandably horrified. And they are enraged when the punishment for the offence is seen to be inadequate.

In 2016, a Tasmanian man was sentenced to 49 hours of community service and ordered to pay court costs of A$82.15 for beating six penguins to death with sticks. This caused a public outcry and led to more 50,000 people signing a petition calling for a review into the sentence.

Community outrage across Australia over the decade has led to a number of state and territory governments changing their animal welfare laws to increase the maximum penalties for offences. Queensland amended its maximum penalty for cruelty from two to three years in 2016. South Australia amended the Animal Welfare Act 1985 in 2008.

The maximum time for imprisonment in SA jumped from one to two years, and the maximum fine increased from A$10,0000 to A$20,000.

The SA amendments also introduced a new aggravated offence for particularly horrific crimes against animals, which were deliberate or reckless. Those found guilty of this offence can receive a four-year prison sentence or a A$50,000 fine.


Read more: Australia’s new bill to protect animals will do anything but

An increase in the maximum penalty for an offence in legislation doesn’t necessarily mean penalties increase in practice. Maximum penalties are put in place as a guide for the courts to benchmark the seriousness of a particular offence.

Judges have a degree of discretion, are guided by previous decisions and have to consider some basic sentencing principles in determining sentence.

Our research – undertaken in collaboration with the SA RSPCA, and published in the journal Animals – shows that penalties have in fact doubled in SA since the change in law. We also looked at the nature of offences in the state and the demographics of offenders.

Who is in charge of prosecution for animal cruelty?

While the police have powers to prosecute animal cruelty cases, the bulk of animal law enforcement in South Australia is done by the RSPCA. The state government has given the RSPCA (SA) powers to enforce animal welfare laws.

Most reported offences were against pets, and a minority included livestock. Drimtry Ulitin/Unsplash

Eight animal welfare inspectors respond to cruelty complaints made by the public through the RSPCA’s cruelty hotline. The inspectors communicate with in-house lawyers to determine whether they will take the case to court. RSPCA inspectors have comparable powers to the police when it comes to investigation and enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act – but they have limited manpower and funds.

Average penalty has increased

Until now the average penalty courts give for animal cruelty offences has remained unknown. We analysed 314 closed case files dated between 2006-2008 and 2016-2018 to compare the penalties given before and after the legal change.

We found the average fine increased from A$700 to A$1,535 over the 12 year period, from before to after the law change with the average prison sentences doubling from 37 to 77 days. But, the maximum prison sentence ever handed down for animal cruelty in SA is still only seven months; 41 months shy of the maximum available.

Is this poor use of statutory maximums unique to animal law? Well, probably not; this is a common feature of the criminal law in relation to so-called summary or minor offences. These can be heard by a single magistrate and include road traffic crimes and minor assaults.

Who are the main offenders?

We also investigated the types of offences committed against animals, and the demographics of offenders.

The majority of offences in our study involved companion animals, or pets, (75%) with the remainder involving livestock.


Read more: Want to help animals? Don’t forget the chickens


Thankfully, the percentage of serious, aggravated offences (at least those detected), is low – at 5% of the total. To be classified as a serious offence, the offender’s action must cause serious harm or death to the animal, which was deliberate.

The remaining were the lesser offences, often involving a failure of care, such as poor feeding, or failing to get veterinary treatment when needed.

Males were three times more likely to commit (or at least be charged) with an aggravated offence than females. There was no difference in the proportion of males and females committing the lesser offence.

The average age of offenders across all offences was late 30s to early 40s, with the aggravated offence tending to be perpetrated by slightly younger males.

Previous research suggests males rely on aggression more than females, and females tend to have more empathy for animals.

We found that a higher percentage of animal offences were recorded in Adelaide’s northern suburbs (31%). The north-western suburbs had the second highest rates (9%), closely followed by the southern suburbs (8%).

Adelaide’s northern suburbs were ranked as the most disadvantaged area in SA in the 2016 Australian Census. Since many cruelty cases result from a failure to provide basic care to animals, this is likely a contributing factor to these statistics.

Penalties aren’t enough

While the increase in average penalties is a good sign, it’s likely not enough to decrease animal abuse. The maximum penalty is more of a symbolic gesture to “get tough” rather than a practical figure.

There hasn’t been much research into whether increasing penalties for animal cruelty does reduce the abuse. South Australia hasn’t seen a decrease in offences reported by the RSPCA in their annual statistics, since the change.

Given socioeconomic factors appear to play a part in abuse, education programs in animal care and responsible pet ownership could be more beneficial. As could penalties that better fit the crime, or those that focus on rehabilitation (such as counselling and anger management) to tackle the root of the issue.


Acts of animal cruelty can be reported to your state or territory RSPCA, either by phone or email.

  • ACT: 0407 078 221
  • NSW: 1300 CRUELTY (1300 278 358)
  • NT: 1300 720 386
  • Qld: 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625)
  • SA: 1300 4 RSPCA (1300 477 722)
  • Tas: 1300 139 947
  • Vic: 03 9224 2222
  • WA: 1300 CRUELTY (1300 278 3589)

ref. Penalties for animal cruelty double in SA, but is this enough to stop animal abuse? – http://theconversation.com/penalties-for-animal-cruelty-double-in-sa-but-is-this-enough-to-stop-animal-abuse-108021

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Viewpoints: should teaching students who fail a literacy and numeracy test be barred from teaching?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Lynn Sheridan, Senior Academic Professional Studies, University of Wollongong

Starting this month, teaching students who fail or haven’t yet taken the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education (LANTITE) will not be able to teach in Victorian schools. Previously, around one in 20 teachers who had failed the test or hadn’t taken it yet received provisional registration. Prospective students who took the test late in 2018 received their results on January 11.

Victoria is the first state to implement these new standards. The test is a federal initiative. By 2020, all states and territories will be required to ensure all new teachers pass the test before registration.

The test is meant to ensure all new teachers can read, write and perform simple maths equations. In this Viewpoints, Lynn Sheridan argues this test can’t predict a teacher’s effectiveness, while Nan Bahr argues we should prevent teaching students who haven’t yet passed, or who fail the test, from registering.


Lynn Sheridan: The Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education (LANTITE) is limited in assessing the future quality of teachers. This test only assesses the students’ baseline literacy and numeracy skills for teaching in the classroom. It is modelled on year nine NAPLAN tests, complex to administer and expensive for students to access.

This means students who don’t have the means to pay the A$185 fee (up to three times) will be barred from registration, regardless of their efficacy as a teacher. It also doesn’t test for a range of personal attributes essential to good teaching, including interpersonal and communication skills, resilience and passion for teaching. And it measures their test-taking ability, not their ability to teach that knowledge in practice.

Increased attention on how we select teachers for initial teacher education programs and employment is needed. Research shows we need to pay attention to both academic and non-academic capabilities to recruit the most appropriate teachers.

Ensuring initial teacher education programs are effective and high quality are now national education priorities. But there has been little systematic focus on how we make decisions about choosing teachers for the classroom, or students for initial teacher education programs.

Teacher effectiveness can only be measured by how they support their students’ achievement. A new teacher needs job opportunities and colleagues who support their teaching. Research shows practise is far more important than natural talent.

It takes time, practice and support for a new teacher to fully understand the demands of the profession and become an effective teacher. The personal attributes of the person selected, their development and commitment to improvement, teaching opportunities and guidance are crucial to good teaching.

Testing prospective teachers for literacy and numeracy alone is not enough. from www.shutterstock.com


Nan Bahr: The vital life skills of literacy and numeracy are learned and honed at school and they must be taught and demonstrated by every teacher. Send away applicants for teacher registration who can’t meet the mark. Link them up with support programs for literacy and numeracy, and only provide provisional registration when they have met the standard. We know parents expect it.

If we want our children to be fully literate, and numerate, they need to be taught by people who have a high level of personal skill. The literature, social media and intuition tell us how important it is for teachers to have strong personal literacy and numeracy capabilities. They’ll struggle to employ the required skills for instant feedback in spotting basic errors and appropriately correcting them: fundamental for enhancing learning. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to unpick complex texts, problems, and ideas with their students.

As teachers, they need a deep understanding of what it means to be literate and how they can lead learners to their own functional and critical literacy. Without this, our children will not be enabled to be effective communicators of their ideas or self-reliant as functional adults.

These capabilities are important life skills. Without numeracy and critical literacy skills, a person will struggle. A calculator won’t help without a conceptual understanding of what needs to be calculated and why. A spell check won’t help comprehension of the messaging in written communication. A grammar check won’t help anyone be a powerful writer capable of advocating for themselves or their families.

If we want these capabilities for our children, teachers must have them. Some might say to leave it as a requirement only for the English and maths teachers, but functional and critical literacy and numeracy are a feature of every discipline area.

The Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education regularly identifies pre-service teachers who struggle. There is an opportunity to re-sit the tests multiple times. But if a pre-service teacher can’t pass, they’re clearly not ready to oversee student literacy and numeracy development.

If a student teacher can’t pass the test, they’re clearly not ready to oversee student literacy and numeracy development. from www.shutterstock.com


Lynn Sheridan: The literacy and numeracy test (LANTITE) is a useful indicator of a graduate teacher’s ability to pass a year nine NAPLAN style test. It’s only a very simplistic “first pass” instrument to determine suitability of students for the teaching profession.

The LANTITE test does not determine a teacher’s level of personal skills, intuition or life skills. It simply tests baseline literacy and numeracy skills at a year nine level only.

Current research suggests it would be better to assess a graduate teacher’s suitability for teaching based on their teaching performance and teaching degree results.

Much more is required to develop quality graduate teachers. Firstly, they should be selected on both academic and non-academic attributes, then supported in their education and into the teaching profession. Through this coordinated, long-term approach, student teachers can develop as effective teachers.


Nan Bahr: There is definitely more to teaching than functional personal literacy and numeracy. I also agree tests are inexact measures for understanding the deep and nuanced dimensions of critical literacy and numeracy. But we shouldn’t forgive people who have not yet demonstrated functional literacy and numeracy and allow them to be registered teachers anyway.

A teacher’s perceived professionalism is undermined if their written communication is poor, or if they can’t do simple calculations. Even apart from the classroom context, a teacher’s letter to parents peppered with spelling errors, or assessments with miscalculated grades undermine the professional perceptions of the capabilities of teachers to teach complex ideas.

The profession’s reputation and status can’t withstand such a body blow. We should fully support the requirement for teachers to demonstrate basic literacy and numeracy skills prior to professional registration.

ref. Viewpoints: should teaching students who fail a literacy and numeracy test be barred from teaching? – http://theconversation.com/viewpoints-should-teaching-students-who-fail-a-literacy-and-numeracy-test-be-barred-from-teaching-109882

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Why Antarctica’s sea ice cover is so low (and no, it’s not just about climate change)

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Julie Arblaster, Associate Professor, Monash University

Sea ice cover in Antarctica shrank rapidly to a record low in late 2016 and has remained well below average. But what’s behind this dramatic melting and low ice cover since?

Our two articles published earlier this month suggest that a combination of natural variability in the atmosphere and ocean were to blame, though human-induced climate change may also play a role.


Read more: Record high to record low: what on earth is happening to Antarctica’s sea ice?


What happened to Antarctic sea ice in 2016?

Antarctic sea ice is frozen seawater, usually less than a few metres thick. It differs from ice shelves, which are formed by glaciers, float in the sea, and are up to a kilometre thick.

Sea ice cover in Antarctica is crucial to the global climate and marine ecosystems and satellites have been monitoring it since the late 1970s. In contrast to the Arctic, sea ice around Antarctica had been slowly expanding (see figure below).


Read more: Expanding sea ice is causing headaches for Antarctic stations

However, in late 2016 Antarctic sea ice dramatically and rapidly melted reaching a record low. This piqued the interest of climate scientists because such large, unexpected and rapid changes are rare. Sea ice coverage is still well below average now.

We wanted to know what caused this unprecedented decline of Antarctic sea ice and what changes in the system have sustained those declines. We also wanted to know if this was a temporary shift or the beginning of a longer-term decline, as predicted by climate models. Finally, we wanted to know whether human-induced climate change contributed to these record lows.

Hunting for clues

Sea ice cover around Antarctica varies a lot from one year or decade to the next. In fact, Antarctic sea ice cover had reached a record high as recently as 2014.

Antarctic and Arctic sea ice cover (shown as the net anomaly from the 1981–2010 average) for January 1979 to May 2018. Thin lines are monthly averages and indicate the variability at shorter time-scales. Thick lines are 11-month running averages. Bureau of Meteorology, Author provided

That provided a clue. As year-to-year and decade-to-decade sea ice cover varies so much, this can mask longer-term melting of sea ice due to anthropogenic warming.

The next clue was in records broken far away from Antarctica. In the spring of 2016 sea surface temperatures and rainfall in the tropical eastern Indian Ocean were at record highs. This was in association with a strongly negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event, which brought warmer waters to the northwest of Australia.

While IOD events influence rainfall in south-eastern Australia, we found (using both statistical analysis and climate model experiments) that it promoted a pattern in the winds over the Southern Ocean that was particularly conducive to decreasing sea ice.

These surface winds blowing from the north not only pushed the sea ice back towards the Antarctic continent, they were also warmer, helping to melt the sea ice.

These northerly winds almost perfectly matched the main regions where sea ice declined.

Atmospheric circulation and sea ice concentration during September to October 2016. The top figure shows the Sep–Oct wind anomaly (vectors, scale in upper right, m/s) in the lower part of the atmosphere; red shading shows warmer, northerly airflow, and blue shading represents southerly flow. The bottom figure shows sea ice extent: green represents more sea ice than average, and purple shows regions of a reduction in sea ice (Figure 2a of Wang, et al 2019. Author provided

Though previous studies had linked this wind pattern to the sea ice decline, our studies are the first to argue for the dominant role of the tropical eastern Indian Ocean in driving it.

But this wasn’t the only factor.

Later in 2016 the typical westerly winds that surround Antarctica weakened to record lows. This caused the ocean surface to warm up, promoting less sea ice cover.

The weaker winds started at the top of the atmosphere over Antarctica, in the region known as the stratospheric polar vortex. We think this sequential occurrence of tropical and then stratospheric influences contributed to the record declines in 2016.

Taken together, the evidence we present supports the idea that the rapid Antarctic sea ice decline in late 2016 was largely due to natural climate variability.

The current state of Antarctic sea ice

Since then, sea ice has remained mostly well below average in association with warmer upper ocean temperatures around Antarctica.

We argue these are the product of stronger than normal westerly winds in the previous 15 or so years around Antarctica, driven again from the tropics. These stronger westerlies induced a response in the ocean, with warmer subsurface water moving towards the surface over time.

The combination of record tropical sea surface temperatures and weakened westerly winds in 2016 warmed the entire upper 600m of water in most regions of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. These warmer ocean temperatures have maintained the reduced extent of sea ice.


Read more: A 20-year plan welcomed for Australia in the Antarctic


Antarctic sea ice extent is seeing a record low start to the New Year. It suggests the initial rapid decline seen in late 2016 was not an isolated event and, when combined with the decadal-timescale warming of the upper Southern Ocean, could mean reduced sea ice extent for some time.

We argue what we are seeing so far can be understood in terms of natural variability superimposed on a long-term human-induced warming signal.

This is because the rainfall and ocean temperature records seen in the tropical eastern Indian Ocean that led to the initial sea ice decline in 2016 likely have some climate change contribution.

This warming and the recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole may also impact the surface wind patterns over coming decades.

Such changes could be driving climate change effects that are starting to emerge in the Antarctic region. However the limited data record and large variability indicate it’s still too early to tell.


We would like to acknowledge the role of our co-authors S Abhik, Cecilia M Bitz, Christine TY Chung, Alice DuVivier, Harry H Hendon, Marika M Holland, Eun-Pa Lim, LuAnne Thompson, Peter van Rensch and Dongxia Yang in contributing to the research discussed in this article.

ref. Why Antarctica’s sea ice cover is so low (and no, it’s not just about climate change) – http://theconversation.com/why-antarcticas-sea-ice-cover-is-so-low-and-no-its-not-just-about-climate-change-109572

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

How to feed a growing population healthy food without ruining the planet

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Alessandro R Demaio, Australian Medical Doctor; Fellow in Global Health & NCDs, University of Copenhagen

If we’re serious about feeding the world’s growing population healthy food, and not ruining the planet, we need to get used to a new style of eating. This includes cutting our Western meat and sugar intakes by around 50%, and doubling the amount of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes we consume.

These are the findings our the EAT-Lancet Commission, released today. The Commission brought together 37 leading experts in nutrition, agriculture, ecology, political sciences and environmental sustainability, from 16 countries.

Over two years, we mapped the links between food, health and the environment and formulated global targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production. This includes five specific strategies to achieve them through global cooperation.


Read more: How to conserve half the planet without going hungry


Right now, we produce, ship, eat and waste food in a way that is a lose-lose for both people and planet – but we can flip this trend.

What’s going wrong with our food supply?

Almost one billion people lack sufficient food, yet more than two billion suffer from obesity and food-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

The foods causing these health epidemics – combined with the way we produce our food – are pushing our planet to the brink.

One-third of the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change come from food production. Our global food system leads to extensive deforestation and species extinction, while depleting our oceans, and fresh water resources.

To make matters worse, we lose or throw away around one-third of all food produced. That’s enough to feed the world’s hungry four times over, every year.

At the same time, our food systems are at risk due to environmental degradation and climate change. These food systems are essential to providing the diverse, high-quality foods we all consume every day.

A radical new approach

To improve the health of people and the planet, we’ve developed a “planetary health diet” which is globally applicable – irrespective of your geographic, economic or cultural background – and locally adaptable.

The diet is a “flexitarian” approach to eating. It’s largely composed of vegetables and fruits, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils. It includes high-quality meat, dairy and sugar, but in quantities far lower than are consumed in many wealthier societies.

Many of us need to eat more veggies and less red meat. Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

The planetary health diet consists of:

  • vegetables and fruit (550g per day per day)
  • wholegrains (230 grams per day)
  • dairy products such as milk and cheese (250g per day)
  • protein sourced from plants, such as lentils, peas, nuts and soy foods (100 grams per day)
  • small quantities of fish (28 grams per day), chicken (25 grams per day) and red meat (14 grams per day)
  • eggs (1.5 per week)
  • small quantities of fats (50g per day) and sugar (30g per day).

Of course, some populations don’t get nearly enough animal-source foods necessary for growth, cognitive development and optimal nutrition. Food systems in these regions need to improve access to healthy, high-quality diets for all.

The shift is radical but achievable – and is possible without any expansion in land use for agriculture. Such a shift will also see us reduce the amount of water used during production, while reducing nitrogen and phosphorous usage and runoff. This is critical to safeguarding land and ocean resources.

By 2040, our food systems should begin soaking up greenhouse emissions – rather than being a net emitter. Carbon dioxide emissions must be down to zero, while methane and nitrous oxide emissions be kept in close check.

How to get there

The commission outlines five implementable strategies for a food transformation:

1. Make healthy diets the new normal – leaving no-one behind

Shift the world to healthy, tasty and sustainable diets by investing in better public health information and implementing supportive policies. Start with kids – much can happen by changing school meals to form healthy and sustainable habits, early on.

Unhealthy food outlets and their marketing must be restricted. Informal markets and street vendors should also be encouraged to sell healthier and more sustainable food.


Read more: Let’s untangle the murky politics around kids and food (and ditch the guilt)


2. Grow what’s best for both people and planet

Realign food system priorities for people and planet so agriculture becomes a leading contributor to sustainable development rather than the largest driver of environmental change. Examples include:

  • incorporating organic farm waste into soils
  • drastically reducing tillage where soil is turned and churned to prepare for growing crops
  • investing more in agroforestry, where trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland to increase biodiversity and reduce erosion
  • producing a more diverse range of foods in circular farming systems that protect and enhance biodiversity, rather than farming single crops or livestock.

The measure of success in this area is that agriculture one day becomes a carbon sink, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Technology can help us make better use of our farmlands. Shutterstock

3. Produce more of the right food, from less

Move away from producing “more” food towards producing “better food”.

This means using sustainable “agroecological” practices and emerging technologies, such as applying micro doses of fertiliser via GPS-guided tractors, or improving drip irrigation and using drought-resistant food sources to get more “crop per drop” of water.

In animal production, reformulating feed to make it more nutritious would allow us to reduce the amount of grain and therefore land needed for food. Feed additives such as algae are also being developed. Tests show these can reduce methane emissions by up to 30%.

We also need to redirect subsidies and other incentives to currently under-produced crops that underpin healthy diets – notably, fruits, vegetables and nuts – rather than crops whose overconsumption drives poor health.

4. Safeguard our land and oceans

There is essentially no additional land to spare for further agricultural expansion. Degraded land must be restored or reforested. Specific strategies for curbing biodiversity loss include keeping half of the current global land area for nature, while sharing space on cultivated lands.

The same applies for our oceans. We need to protect the marine ecosystems fisheries depend on. Fish stocks must be kept at sustainable levels, while aquaculture – which currently provides more than 40% of all fish consumed – must incorporate “circular production”. This includes strategies such as sourcing protein-rich feeds from insects grown on food waste.

5. Radically reduce food losses and waste

We need to more than halve our food losses and waste.

Poor harvest scheduling, careless handling of produce and inadequate cooling and storage are some of the reasons why food is lost. Similarly, consumers must start throwing less food away. This means being more conscious about portions, better consumer understanding of “best before” and “use by” labels, and embracing the opportunities that lie in leftovers.

Circular food systems that innovate new ways to reduce or eliminate waste through reuse will also play a significant role and will additionally open new business opportunities.


Read more: Australian communities are fighting food waste with circular economies


For significant transformation to happen, all levels of society must be engaged, from individual consumers to policymakers and everybody along the food supply chain. These changes will not happen overnight, and they are not the responsibility of a handful of stakeholders. When it comes to food and sustainability, we are all at the decision dining table.

The EAT-Lancet Commission’s Australian launch is in Melbourne on February 1. Limited free tickets are available.

ref. How to feed a growing population healthy food without ruining the planet – http://theconversation.com/how-to-feed-a-growing-population-healthy-food-without-ruining-the-planet-108994

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

In the land of Storm Boy, the cultural heritage of the Coorong is under threat

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Kelly D. Wiltshire, PhD Candidate, Flinders University

When I go to see the new film Storm Boy, which opens in cinemas nationally today, my mind will turn to the landscape that forms the film’s backdrop. This is the Kurangk (Coorong), land of the Ngarrindjeri Nation. The Nation’s cultural heritage, testifying to the Ngarrindjeri’s enduring connection to the region, is being destroyed by off-road vehicles.

The film, starring Geoffrey Rush, Jai Courtney, David Gulpilil, and Finn Little, is a new adaptation of Colin Thiele’s 1964 novel, first made into film in 1976. The story, about a young boy who adopts a clever, orphaned pelican, is widely loved among Australians.

The Kurangk is found in south eastern South Australia and covers an area of 50,000 hectares. Its main feature is a long, brackish to very salty estuary that stretches 130 km in a south-east direction from the Murray Mouth, where Australia’s iconic Murray River meets the sea.

The southern Kurangk is an important breeding ground for Noris (pelicans), with the broader landscape supporting over 200 species of birds. As a result of these unique qualities and others the Kurangk has been recognised under the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Importance since 1985.


Read more: Australia’s problem with Aboriginal World Heritage

The region is an important cultural landscape that has sustained the Ngarrindjeri Nation culturally and economically since Creation. Middens comprising of discarded cockle shells, which can be found on the sand dunes of the Younghusband Peninsula that separate the Kurangk’s estuary from the Southern Ocean, are testament to this ongoing connection.

In the early 1980s, archaeologist Roger Luebbers documented the location, size and content of various middens in the Kurangk, demonstrating that these middens form the largest, most extensive evidence of Aboriginal occupation in the region. At the time Luebbers also worked with members of the Ngarrindjeri Nation, recording oral accounts to get a sense of people’s continued connection to the Kurangk since colonisation.

His work demonstrated an uninterpreted and continuing connection of the Ngarrindjeri Nation into historic times, which continues today through the ongoing management, use and enjoyment of this landscape.

Noris (pelicans) on the Kurangk at dawn. Photo: Amy Della-Sale/Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority Inc.

Disappearing under the wheel

Luebbers considered the cultural heritage of the Kurangk unparalleled in temperate Australia and argued for its long-term protection. But despite the high quality and comprehensiveness of these archaeological investigations, little has been done to ensure the long-term protection of this heritage.

Archaeologist Roger Luebbers examining middens on the Kurangk. Photo: Rhys Jones, AIATSIS, JONES.R05_CS-000141919

Studies have shown that sand dunes, where middens lie, are vulnerable to visitors to the Kurangk, especially off-road vehicles such as quad bikes and four-wheel drives. Since the 1980s these have become much more common. As a result, the number of visitors to remote, dune areas of the Kurangk has steadily increased over the intervening decades, coinciding with increased impacts to Ngarrindjeri cultural heritage, which are physically disturbed by the tyres of the vehicles.


Read more: Friday essay: how archaeology helped save the Franklin River


While there are signs in the Kurangk directing people to stay within fenced access tracks and designated camping areas, numerous visitors ignore or even vandalise these so they can access dune areas where the vast middens are located.

Given the large area the Kurangk occupies, illegal vehicle use can go undetected despite National Parks rangers regularly monitoring visitor use. Ngarrindjeri elders I have worked with over the years have described burial grounds within the Coorong turned to dust as a result of illegal vehicles.

Encroaching seas

Climate change is also having a dramatic impact on the landscape of the Kurangk. Vehicle tracks along the ocean have become reduced thanks to erosion linked to sea level rise. Tragically, some visitors have lost their lives trying to negotiate this thin strip of coastline.

Vehicle track along the ocean in the southern Kurangk. Author provided


Read more: Explainer: why the rock art of Murujuga deserves World Heritage status


As access to these parts of the Kurangk becomes more restricted, more people are encroaching illegally on the dunes where Ngarrindjeri cultural heritage lies. Stopping vehicle access to areas where people have historically had access is difficult. The South Australian government must also balance this with its obligation to allow continued public access due the Kurangk’s National Park status.

The impact of visitors on Ngarrindjeri cultural heritage within the Kurangk is an ongoing issue, forming a range of broader concerns the Ngarrindjeri Nation wants to address with their long-term vision for country.

To protect this amazing heritage and the landscape where it resides, we’ll need to address visitor behaviour, improve infrastructure, and address the effects of climate change. Otherwise an irreplaceable record of the Ngarrindjeri Nations’ long-term and continued connection to this incredible cultural landscape will be destroyed forever.


The author would like to thank the ongoing support of Ngarrindjeri elders and colleagues, Grant Rigney, Amy Della-Sale and Roger Luebbers.

ref. In the land of Storm Boy, the cultural heritage of the Coorong is under threat – http://theconversation.com/in-the-land-of-storm-boy-the-cultural-heritage-of-the-coorong-is-under-threat-109944

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

How realistic are China’s plans to build a research station on the Moon?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Joshua Chou, Senior lecturer, University of Technology Sydney

The world is still celebrating the historic landing of China’s Chang’e-4 on the dark side of the moon on January 3. This week, China announced its plans to follow up with three more lunar missions, laying the groundwork for a lunar base.

Colonising the Moon, and beyond, has always being a human aspiration. Technological advancements, and the discovery of a considerable source of water close to the lunar poles, has made this idea even more appealing.

But how close is China to actually achieving this goal?

If we focus on the technology currently available, China could start building a base on the Moon today.


Read more: Will China’s moon landing launch a new space race?


The first lunar base

The first lunar base would likely be an unmanned facility run by automated robotics – similar to Amazon warehouses – to ensure that the necessary infrastructures and support systems are fully operational before people arrive.

The lunar environment is susceptible to deep vacuum conditions, strong temperature fluctuations and solar radiation, among other conditions hostile to humans. More importantly, we have yet to fully understand the long term impact on the human body of being in space, and on the Moon.

Seeds taken to the Moon by the Chang’e-4 mission have now reportedly sprouted. This is the first time plants have been grown on the Moon, paving the way for a future food farm on the lunar base.

Building a lunar base is no different than building the first oil rig out in the ocean. The logistics of moving construction parts must be considered, feasibility studies must be conducted and, in this case, soil samples must be tested.

China has taken the first step by examining the soil of the lunar surface. This is necessary for building an underground habitat and supporting infrastructure that will shield the base from the harsh surface conditions.

3D printed everything

Of all the possible technologies for building a lunar base, 3D printing offers the most effective strategy. 3D printing on Earth has revolutionised manufacturing productivity and efficiency, reducing both waste and cost.

China’s vision is to develop the capability to 3D print both inside and outside of the lunar base. 3D printers have the potential to make everything from daily items, like drinking cups, to repair parts for the base.

But 3D printing in space is a real challenge. It will require new technologies that can operate in the micro gravity environment of the Moon. 3D printing machines that are able to shape parts in the vacuum of space must be developed.


Read more: Want to build a moon base? Easy. Just print it


New materials are required

We know that Earth materials, such as fibre optics, change properties once they are in space. So materials that are effective on Earth, might not be effective on the Moon.

Whatever the intended use of the 3D printed component, it will have to be resistant to the conditions of lunar environment. So the development of printing material is crucial. Step-by-step, researchers are finding and developing new materials and technologies to address this challenge.

For example, researchers in Germany expect to have the first “ready to use” stainless steel tools to be 3D printed under microgravity in the near future. NASA also demonstrated 3D printing technology in zero gravity showing it is feasible to 3D print in space.

On a larger scale we have seen houses being 3D printed on Earth. In a similar way, the lunar base will likely be built using prefabricated parts in combination with large-scale 3D printing.

Examples of what this might look like can be seen to entries in the 3D printed habitat challenge, which was started by NASA in 2005. The competition seeks to advance 3D printing construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth, the Moon, Mars and beyond.

NASA’s Habitat Challenge: Team Gamma showing their habitat design. NASA 3D Printed Habitat Challenge

Living on the Moon

So far, we’ve focused on the technological feasibility of building a lunar base, but we also need to consider the long term effect of lunar living on humans. To date, limited studies have been conducted to examine the the biological impact on human physiology at the cellular level.

We know that the human organs, tissues and cells are highly responsive to gravity, but an understanding of how human cells function and regenerate is currently lacking.

What happens if the astronauts get sick? Will medicine from Earth still work? If astronauts are to live on the Moon, these fundamental questions need to be answered.

In the long term, 3D bioprinting of human organs and tissues will play a crucial role in sustaining lunar missions by allowing for robotic surgeries. Russia recently demonstrated the first 3D bioprinter to function under microgravity.


Read more: Five reasons to forget Mars for now and return to the moon


To infinity and beyond

Can China build a lunar base? Absolutely. Can human beings survive on the Moon and other planets for the long term? The answer to that is less clear.

What is certain is that China will use the next 10 to 15 years to develop the requisite technical capabilities for conducting manned lunar missions and set the stage for space exploration.

ref. How realistic are China’s plans to build a research station on the Moon? – http://theconversation.com/how-realistic-are-chinas-plans-to-build-a-research-station-on-the-moon-109942

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Recycling is not enough. Zero-packaging stores show we can kick our plastic addiction

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Sabrina Chakori, PhD Candidate, The University of Queensland

Wrapped, sealed, boxed, cling-filmed and vacuum packed. We have become used to consumables being packaged in every way imaginable.

The history of “packaging” goes back to the first human settlements. First leaves, gourds and animals skins were used. Then ceramics, glass and tin. Then paper and cardboard. But with the invention of plastic and the celebration of “throwaway living” since the 1950s, the environmental costs of an overpackaged world have become manifest.

Plastic now litters the planet, contaminating ecosystems and posing a significant threat to wildlife and human health. Food and beverage packaging accounts for almost two-thirds of total packaging waste. Recycling, though important, has proven an incapable primary strategy to cope with the scale of plastic rubbish. In Australia, for example, just 11.8% of the 3.5 million tonnes of plastics consumed in 2016-2017 were recycled.

Bananas wrapped in single-use plastic packaging. Sabrina Chakori

Initiatives to cut down on waste can initially be strongly resisted by consumers used to the convenience, as shown by the reaction to Australia’s two major supermarket chains phasing out free single-use plastic shopping bags. But after just three months, shoppers have adapted, and an estimated 1.5 billion bags have been prevented from entering the environment.

Can we dispose with our disposable mentality further, by doing something to cut down on all the packaging of our food and beverages?

Yes we can.

The emergence of zero-packaging food stores is challenging the idea that individually packaged items are a necessary feature of the modern food industry. These new businesses demonstrate how products can be offered without packaging. In doing so they provide both environmental and economic benefits.

The zero-packaging alternative

Zero-packaging shops, sometimes known as zero-waste grocery stores, allow customers to bring and refill their own containers. They offer food products (cereals, pasta, oils) and even household products (soap, dishwashing powder). You simply bring your own jars and containers and buy as little or as much as you need.

Negozio Leggero is a zero-packaging chain with stores in Italy, France and Switzerland. Negozio Leggero

These stores can already be found in many countries across the world. They are more than just individual trading businesses making a small difference.

They are part of an important and growing trend promoting an environmentally sustainable “reuse” mentality. Their way of doing business shows we can change the current ‘linear’ economic system in which we continuously take, make, use and throw away materials.

Rethinking the system

Food packaging is part and parcel of a globalised food market. The greater the distance that food travels, the more packaging is needed.

Zero-packaging stores encourage sourcing locally. They can therefore play an important role in enhancing local economy and supporting local producers. They can help break globalised agribusiness monopolies, regenerating the diversity of rural enterprises and communities. The book Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market illustrates the benefits of reclaiming back the food industry.


Read more: Let’s reap the economic benefits of local food over big farming


Packaging also contributes to another problem with the current industrialised food system. It doubles as an advertising tool, using all the psychological tricks that marketers have to persuade us to buy a brand. These strategies appeal to desire, encouraging people to buy more than what they really need. This has arguably exacerbated problems such as obesity and food waste. It has given multinational conglomerates with large marketing budgets an advantage over small and local producers.

Next steps

Not all of packaging is wasteful. It can stop food spoiling, for example, and enables us to enjoy foods not locally produced. But what is driving the growth of the global food packaging market – expected to be worth US$411.3 billion by 2025 – is rising demand for single-serve and portable food packs due to “lifestyle changes”. Most of us recognise these are not lifestyle changes for the better; they are the result of us spending more time working or commuting, and eating more processed and unhealthier food.


Read more: Want to be happier, healthier, save money? It’s time to get cooking


Zero-packaging stores show, in their own small way, a viable and healthier alternative to the current system. Both for ourselves, local economies and the planet.

While these shops are still niche, governments interested in human and environmental health can help them grow. Bans on plastic bags point to what is possible.

How easily we have adapted to no longer having those bags to carry food a few metres to the car and then to the kitchen show that we, as consumers, can change our behaviour. We can choose, when possible, unpacked products. There is, of course, a small sacrifice in the form of convenience, but we just might find that we benefit more, both personally and for a greater environmental, economic and social good.

ref. Recycling is not enough. Zero-packaging stores show we can kick our plastic addiction – http://theconversation.com/recycling-is-not-enough-zero-packaging-stores-show-we-can-kick-our-plastic-addiction-106357

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

How Darling Harbour was botched (and could be reborn)

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Rob Roggema, Professor Spatial Transformation, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen

This is a long read. Enjoy!


More towers at Sydney’s Darling Harbour are among redevelopment plans for the inner city waterfront precinct and this has prompted recent debate.

Plans open for public commentary include proposals for new tall buildings at Cockle Bay and at the Harbourside Shopping Centre.

Critics include Russell Hand and Christopher Ashworth, senior planners at the City of Sydney, who have lodged formal objections.

Alex Greenwich, independent MP for Sydney, describes the Cockle Bay proposal as “very poor planning”. In the same article, Graham Quint of the National Trust says Darling Harbour would be “degraded” by overdevelopment.

Celebrated architect Philip Cox fears the area has “gone backwards” as it does not really create a unique urban space, nor does it contribute much to the city.

Plans for ever larger buildings, bringing in more people and attracting more tourists may mark a point of no return for the precinct. It would place increased pressure on the available space, which already houses a town full of people.

More development of the type proposed also leaves little space to regenerate the city, to create places where nature and open space can help to deal with floods or heat, let alone create a valuable ecological landscape.


Read more: Utzon Lecture: Re-imagining the Harbour City


To see where development of Darling Harbour went wrong and what we could do better, we need to consider the area as a whole. That’s Darling Harbour itself, Cockle Bay, the Darling Harbour Corridor, Barangaroo, Darling Park and Tumbalong Park.

Three examples highlight how development of the Darling Harbour area over the past 30 years has been botched.

1. Darling Harbour as a noisy neighbour

Walk down Darling Harbour towards Barangaroo on a random night and this is what you’ll face.

Noisy bars and restaurants along Cockle Bay are full; quieter places inside are, even for Sydney’s standards, expensive; bright lights compare with the neon of Shanghai’s Nanjing Road; and there is activity everywhere, even on the water where party boats disturb not only human but also animal life.

I am not against a lively precinct. But Darling Harbour is currently operating like your noisy neighbour — a nice guy but with too many bad habits. He eats too much, burps whenever it is convenient, grows fat and watches the same programs every day.

There it is, consuming tourists (4.6 million in the year ending March 2018), growing bigger buildings all around, producing noises no-one wants to hear, and looking like a huge TV screen flickering flashy lights into the night.


Read more: Will a casino be a boon or a bane for Barangaroo?


Barangaroo is the next stage of “badnertainment”, adding more expensive drinking and eating venues, increasing traffic congestion, and continuing the gambling boulevard all the way through to Headland Park. Compared to the former port facilities that stood there, at least people can enter this space up to the water’s edge.

But Barangaroo remains a private collection of colossal buildings, impenetrable if you don’t belong to the corporate world.

2. Tumbalong Park, hidden behind a highway

Tumbalong Park is hidden behind a highway, so far back no one can see the water. Though there are paths, plants and a stage, the overkill of lights and noise is not what you’d expect from a park.


Read more: Our cities need more trees, but that means being prepared to cut some down


Anyone who wants to spend time there on a hot day will experience the “heat island effect”. Here, heat is amplified compared with the surrounding area as the grass is surrounded by large chunks of concrete and glass. That, combined with a feeling of being observed from all sides, might explain why you hardly find people sitting on the grass.

3. Highway cuts up public space

Where do people plan a highway through a public space? In Sydney, this is quite normal. The Western Distributor splits the City from Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. A spaghetti of ramps, concrete traffic lanes and multilayered traffic disconnects surrounding areas including Ultimo and Haymarket from the real beauty: the water and water’s edge of Cockle Bay. What could be a coherent urban precinct is cut in half and displaces the urban front from the water’s edge.

Let’s transform this ‘blinging, boring barrier’

These three failings form an urban sink hole for Sydney’s residents — a gap in which tourists are trapped and the corporates show off. Through traffic and congestion dominate the area.

Darling Harbour is full of bling, the park is boring, and the highway is a barrier. Sydney created a blinging, boring barrier.


Read more: If planners understand it’s cool to green cities, what’s stopping them?


Why can’t Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay be a sensitive space, where you can experience relative darkness and silence when eating and drinking, and you can enjoy the tranquility of dark water so close to the city centre?

Wouldn’t it be sensational if you could whisper a secret message to your darling instead of shouting how his or her working day was? Wouldn’t it be great if you could sit on the edge of the harbour, dangling your tired feet in the water? How great could it be if the space was green with trees, bush, ecofriendly river edges, where kids could explore water and nature?

Tranquility, darkness and human scale are the ingredients for an environment that can be completely green and still urban. Higher densities are possible as long as these are sustainable, we use environmental-friendly materials and are placed in a larger green and ecological zone fronting the water. This then creates the space for people to enjoy the environment and relax.

Climate change makes this urgent

This is urgent. Climate change will cause and enforce changes to city centres, especially when they’re fronting water edges, like Darling Harbour.

Rising sea levels (up to 2m by the end of the century), and more flash flooding as a result of more intense rain are expected.

So green buffer zones on either side of the water’s edge are required to deal with rising water levels and more intense rain events.

Environments must be flexible, adaptive and resilient to survive. The types of activities currently in the Darling Harbour area are mono-functional, inflexible and vulnerable to climate impacts.

Here’s what we can learn from other cities

Toronto

Toronto’s city centre has a series of greening projects along its waterfront. These include nature reserves, a bicycle path, sandy beach-like areas and zones in which urban water is purified at the same time made available for the public to use in playgrounds.

Toronto’s water purification site is also an urban playground. Author provided

New York

Another good example is in New York, where Manhattan is transforming its Hudson River edges with parks and green areas. There is open-air office space such as the Hudson Yards, and continuous parks along the river, such as the Riverpark Boulevard.

These continuous parks can not only protect the city from flooding but also suit the daily needs of the jogging, cycling or wandering New Yorker.

New York’s Riverpark Boulevard has been designed to protect the city from flooding, as well as providing people place to walk, jog or wander. Author provided

Shanghai

In Shanghai there’s a large program to green the river edge. Over 100,000 trees are being planted along the Huangpu River. This program is meant to clean the air, mitigate the urban heat island effect and offer space to occasional floods. But it also functions as an enormous park, with a continuous cycle-path and the option to run the marathon (once up and down).

Shanghai is transforming its riverside with more than 100,000 trees and parklands long enough to run a marathon. Author provided

Amsterdam

Finally, Amsterdam is redeveloping the northern shore of the IJ river. Here, new green spaces, water purification and ecological reserves are realised in the midst of a high-density mixed-use urban environment. One of the eye-catchers is EYE, the national movie theatre.

Amsterdam is transforming the IJ north shore. Author provided

Sydney, it’s up to you

These examples show that large, western cities are successfully implementing sustainable ecological developments along their waterfronts.

These are not realised because of some high-level green ambition, but out of pure necessity. People ask for cleaner environments so they can enjoy, exercise and play with their kids in a healthy and safe place.

In Darling Harbour, we’re faced with short-term economic benefits, with a focus on tourists, and a vulnerable waterline. Is this the long-term future for Sydneysiders?

Or could the waterfront become the lovely place for humans and nature, which also protects Sydneysiders living immediately behind the waterfront?

ref. How Darling Harbour was botched (and could be reborn) – http://theconversation.com/how-darling-harbour-was-botched-and-could-be-reborn-109869

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Australians lost more than $10 million to scammers last year. Follow these easy tips to avoid being conned.

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Damien Manuel, Director, Centre for Cyber Security Research & Innovation (CSRI), Deakin University

Many of us start a typical day by checking our phones to read emails, social media posts and the weather. Our phones are trusted devices we use constantly throughout the day to communicate. But the trust we place in our phones, and the way we interact with the world, also makes it easy for scammers to target us.

Our evolutionary past also makes us susceptible to scams. Humans are curious social animals, which means we are more trusting than we should be. That’s especially the case when we’re dealing with people over the phone, email or via SMS, where we don’t have the normal body language cues we would subconsciously process when making decisions.

We are also susceptible to fear and other psychological tools scammers use to create a sense of urgency that tricks us into making irrational decisions and taking action. Simply being aware that scams are out there is not enough to protect us from them. We also need to change our behaviour.

Scam using branding and authority to make you click to see the confidential information. Damien Manuel


Read more: Why ‘Nigerian Prince’ scams continue to dupe us


Who are these scammers and what do they want?

Scammers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are individuals, others are gangs. The more sophisticated scammers are criminal syndicates and foreign governments looking for a way to subvert international sanctions and obtain money through cyber crime.

The motivations of scammers ranges greatly, but can include:

  • stealing intellectual property
  • tricking you to install malicious software (to steal your data or hold you to ransom)
  • stealing your identity so they can pretend to be you and conduct fraud
  • tricking you to part with your hard earned cash
  • gaining control of your device to steal information at a later date or using your device to attack other people you know.

What techniques are they using?

Scammers are experts at social engineering and use a number of tricks to build rapport, credibility and trust with their targets.

Modifying the caller ID is a simple way to build credibility by making a call or SMS appear to come from an authority like the Australian Tax Office. The rise of cheap Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers and other online tools has made it even easier for anyone to exploit the phone systems and “spoof” other numbers.

An SMS scam that uses urgency and fear of fines to get people to click a link. Damien Manuel

In the VoIP phone system, the person initiating the call defines the caller ID seen by the receiver. This is the same for traditional phone systems, however the lower price of VoIP and ease at which the caller ID can be modified without any technical knowledge (via a simple web page) makes it faster and cheaper for scammers to cycle through a number of fake caller IDs in a single day. It also allows them to move to a new source number or VoIP provider very quickly, making it harder for telcos in Australia to block.

There are legitimate business reasons for allowing the caller ID to be modified, such as when companies operating call centres want all outbound phone calls from their staff to appear to originate from a single “help desk” phone number.


Read more: New ‘virtual kidnapping’ scam targeting Chinese students makes use of data shared online


Email spoofing is also common and easy to do. This is where an attacker forges the email header, making the email look like it originated from a friend, authority or service provider, such as a bank. A key way to identify a spoofed email is to check the email address itself (the reply field) rather than just relying on the display name in the “from” field.

Most email clients (such as Gmail or Outlook) on desktops or laptops are capable of displaying email headers. Unfortunately email clients on most smartphones and tablets make it difficult to see the real source and often only show the forged “display name” information.

Phone and email are the two main scam delivery methods. Losses from attempts to gain your personal information rose by more than 61% between 2017 and 2018. This trend shows no sign of slowing down. Last year, Australians lost more than $10 million to scammers.

An example of a scam email. Damien Manuel

Signs of a scam

Ten common warning signs you are dealing with a scammer include the following:

  • being asked for password, PINs or other sensitive information
  • being told you are owed a refund
  • being told you have unpaid bills, unpaid fines from the police or a government department
  • being notified there is a problem with your email or bank account
  • being asked for urgent help
  • being congratulated on winning a competition (you didn’t enter)
  • being asked you to click on a link or open a document
  • being sent you an unexpected invoice to open
  • receiving a critical alert message with a link to click
  • receiving a tracking number and link for a delivery (you didn’t order).

A scam telling you your mail box full is designed to make you click on a link. Damien Manuel


Read more: More than just money: getting caught in a romance scam could cost you your life


Simple tips to avoid being conned

Firstly, don’t click on any links, don’t respond to offers to opt-out or unsubscribe, don’t call return calls from numbers you don’t recognise and, most importantly, don’t give out personal information – even if you think it isn’t important.

Remember, some scams are multi-step scams. The best thing you can do is to report the scam and tell your friends and family to be aware of the scam so they can modify their behaviours.

Scams can be reported to various government agencies, such as Scam Watch, the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and, in some cases, the service provider – for example, the ATO, Telstra, AusPost and the banks.

An example of a multi-step scam that validates your email is real and then harvests the credentials you enter. Damien Manuel

ref. Australians lost more than $10 million to scammers last year. Follow these easy tips to avoid being conned. – http://theconversation.com/australians-lost-more-than-10-million-to-scammers-last-year-follow-these-easy-tips-to-avoid-being-conned-109728

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Morrison’s Vanuatu trip shows the government’s continued focus on militarising the Pacific

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michael O’Keefe, Head of Department, Politics and Philosophy, La Trobe University

The foreign policy community met with relief the announcement Morrison’s first overseas trip for 2019 would be to Vanuatu and Fiji. The trip is a long overdue symbol of a priority outlined in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper: “stepping up our engagement in the Pacific”.

There had been much criticism of the PM’s failure to attend last year’s Pacific Islands Forum given the white paper’s stated aims to

engage with the Pacific with greater intensity and ambition, deliver more integrated and innovative policy and make further, substantial long-term investments in the region’s development.

Although Vanuatu’s prime minister, Charlot Salwai, visited Australia last year, Morrison’s trip to Port Vila on Wednesday is the first by an Australian PM since Bob Hawke in 1990.

The trip had a strong defence focus, with Morrison saying Australia’s contribution to Vanuatu’s police and security will ensure “the stability of our region”. He is also reportedly negotiating a bilateral security agreement. This represents a deeper militarisation of Australia’s Pacific foreign policy.

Morrison’s aims to formalise security relations are an attempt to gain influence in the face of China’s rising competition. Australia’s undiplomatic and somewhat hysterical response to rumours of a Chinese military base being built in Vanuatu in 2018 highlights Canberra’s sensitivity to “foreign” intervention in the South Pacific.

Although Vanuatu was quick to deny the rumours, debate in Australia raged over the geopolitical implications, with some commentators saying a strike could be launched from the base to Australia.


Read more: Response to rumours of a Chinese military base in Vanuatu speaks volumes about Australian foreign policy


The government’s recent pattern of providing support for PNG’s Manus Island naval base, Fiji’s Black Rock Base, or new Patrol Boats to 12 Pacific Island nations, is part of a tectonic shift that has occurred in foreign policy toward the Pacific.

Australia’s focus is security, concentrating on external threats and the possibility of internal instability. The Pacific’s concern, however, is sustainable development and climate change, which Australia seems to ignore.

The question is whether Canberra will simply continue framing the Pacific through the lens of Australian policy priorities or focus on what the Pacific wants.

Australia’s relationship with Vanuatu

Australia already has significant defence relations with the other Pacific Island military nations – PNG and Fiji. Canberra has a longstanding defence cooperation relationship with PNG and this trip will likely lead to greater defence cooperation with Fiji – especially as Australia beat China in the bid to build the Black Rock Base.

And in 2017, under then Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Australia negotiated a bilateral security treaty with the Solomon Islands security cooperation agreement. This agreement allows Australian police personnel to deploy rapidly to Solomon Islands (with the consent of both countries) if there is a threat, which includes natural disasters.

With regards to Vanuatu, Australia is already its main development assistance partner. And Australia’s trading and investment relationship with Vanuatu is as significant as is possible with a small island nation of 285,000 people. And out of the Pacific nations and Timor Leste, Vanuatu has the larger number of workers in Australia and New Zealand as part of the Seasonal Worker Program.


Read more: Vanuatu disaster exposes limits of Australian internationalism


In the 1980s Australia gave Vanuatu a patrol boat to police its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and will give a modern advanced vessel as part of the Pacific Maritime Security Program. This program, detailed in the 2016 Defence White Paper, is a A$2 billion commitment to the region over 30 years, and seeks to support regional countries in defending their maritime boundaries from transnational crime and illegal fishing.

While the Pacific is focused on development, Australia’s priority is security. DAN HIMBRECHTS

The Australian Federal Police also has a longstanding training relationship with the Vanuatu Police through DFAT’s Policing and Justice Support Program. In 2018 it was announced that Australia would train 300 new recruits.

Despite all of this, the Morrison Government is reportedly placing increased security cooperation with Vanuatu high on the agenda. So, why now? Perhaps because Canberra’s Pacific “step up” has not all been plain sailing and relations with Vanuatu have been strained recently.

Australia at odds with the Pacific

In the past, Australia’s relations with the Pacific had been characterised by aid and development rather than security. Canberra remains the region’s number one aid donor. However, under successive Liberal governments, the aid budget has declined.

This has continued under the Morrison government and there is concern militarisation will draw funds away from development projects that more closely meet the interests of Pacific Island nations.

The other key plank in the government’s Pacific “step up” was the announcement of a infrastructure development bank. This multi-billion dollar initiative is short on detail but plans to provide loans for “high priority” infrastructure projects including telecommunications, energy, transport and water.


Read more: If there’s one thing Pacific nations don’t need, it’s yet another infrastructure investment bank


The loans will be provided at concessional rates and the bank is aimed at countering Chinese influence. Australia has criticised China’s debt book diplomacy, so increasing the debt pool of Pacific countries seems at odds with these concerns.

Morrison’s Pacific pivot is in full swing. So far, the Infrastructure Bank raises more questions than it answers. The security focus of Morrison’s trip is likely to lead to more speculation about what Australia wants to give. If we want to build sustainable relationships, we should be listening closely to what Vanuatu wants to get from any security agreement.

ref. Morrison’s Vanuatu trip shows the government’s continued focus on militarising the Pacific – http://theconversation.com/morrisons-vanuatu-trip-shows-the-governments-continued-focus-on-militarising-the-pacific-109883

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media