Saturday Aug 07, 2021
Saturday Aug 07, 2021
A decision to join the Australian Defence Force, be it army, navy or airforce, is a life-defining decision. The change that every recruit who becomes a soldier goes through, is forever. Military training and active service is an experience that re-shapes a person’s life. Our ADF personnel must be highly skilled, self-reliant, brave and courageous, and many become wired for conflict. The physical, emotional and mental demands on individuals in deployment are impossible to imagine for those of us who haven’t served.
When our defence personnel finish serving our country the transition back into civilian living is challenging for many. For some it is too challenging.
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found that 432 serving or ex-serving members suicided from 2001 to 2017. In 2018, 33 suicided.
Ex-serviceman are 3.1 times more likely to suicide if discharged for medical reasons than if discharged voluntarily.
And there are in excess of 5,000 ex-servicemen and women who are homeless over a 12 month period.
Successive governments have more than enough data that shows too many of our defence personnel are not getting the support needed to cope with defence force work, or cope after that work is finished.
A senate inquiry found that one in four returned solders had experienced a mental disorder and the rate of suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts, was double that of the general population.
It has taken so long, needlessly and excruciatingly long for the Australian Government to recognise the unique nature of military service and to establish a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. It’s disappointing that the Government’s own agency, the Department of Veterans Affairs, has shown disregard, disrespect and callousness towards our veterans and that it has taken until this year for parliament to force a Royal Commission. The stories are numerous and share a common theme of delay, deny and destroy.
Jesse Bird was a private with Townsville's Infantry Battalion who served an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2009-10.
He had been pursuing a claim for permanent impairment for almost two years and just weeks after losing the claim and pleading for help, Jessie committed suicide. After his death DVA approved his claim.
As a nation Australian must do better to recognise the service, sacrifice and immense challenge our servicemen and women and their families face, especially when it comes to returning to regular lives.
The Australian Government provides nearly $12 billion in federal funding to support 325,000 veterans and their families each year, yet too many remain unsupported. For some veterans, only other veterans understand well enough to help heal and re-integrate.
Highly skilled and motivated defence personnel upon retirement from the ADF must have access to meaningful work. Veterans cannot be courageously defending your nation this week and then be left with a void the next. As I've already said military training and active service is experience that re-shapes people’s life.
We need more organisations like Bootstraps, which are veterans for veterans, receiving funding in our communities. Only veterans know what veterans have been through. Our courageous servicemen and women need to know that Australians understand the vulnerabilities and frailties that can come from active service. Our veterans need better care, and a sense of honour and urgency from support agencies.
The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide needs to deliver for the men and women who have fought for our country. Veterans and all ex-service men and women need better mental health and transitional support and our country needs improved ways for veterans who are not actively seeking support to identify and get such needed support. Defence Force personnel and their families deserve that.
Our guests today:
SAM KAVANAGH served in the Army for 20 years and spent time in Combat Engineers, Signals and Corps of Intelligence. His father served for over 30 years in the RAAF. Sam set up Bootstraps, a group for veterans. Sam and Bootstraps are dedicated to Australians who have laced up a boot in service of our country.
DR SHARITH SIPPEL was trained as an Electronic Warfare Linguist which is communications and intelligence and served for 5 years. Sharry left the Navy 20 years ago and retrained as a chiropractor.
Our Nation Today. August 7, 2021
Sunday Aug 01, 2021
Sunday Aug 01, 2021
PFAS is part of a group of man-made chemicals sometimes called “forever chemicals”, because they break down so slowly.
These chemicals, used in firefighting foams from 1965 until 2005, have left a legacy of contaminated sites all over Australia. There are 900 contaminated sites including defence force bases and major airports. And because they break down so slowly it will take generations to remove the contamination.
PFAS has found its way to our homes into everyday products such as teflon coatings in our cookware and Scotchgard waterproofing.
There is a global treaty to eliminate PFAS and 5 other chemicals from the environment due to their harm to humans and wildlife. It is called the Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants and Australia is a signatory.
The European Commission has set a safe intake level for PFAS of 4.9 nanograms per kg of body weight because of the ill-effects on health. (A nanogram is one part per billion.)
The Morrison Government refuses to accept that the PFAS chemical has caused any harm. The government is refusing to offer compensation and to relocate residents in these contaminated red zones around Defence bases, where a PFAS plume is spreading under their homes right now.
A recent Federal Court case awarded some residents compensation that averaged $150,000 after legal fees. It was $212m in total. This is a tiny part of what these people have lost, and of course, they are still trapped in the red zone in homes they can’t sell. They are still being infected today. This is negligent and dishonest.
Currently Australia does not have a designated safe level for PFAS. Contaminated cattle in the PFAS red zones are routinely returning contamination levels of 400 parts per billion, which is 80 times the European safe level of 4.6 parts per billion.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand are currently conducting a review and we do expect FSANZ to set a level, which we hope matches the European standard.
The graziers still need to be relocated to a like for like property so they can get on with raising clean, heathy cattle to feed Australia and the world.
The health impacts of PFAS are not going away. These are forever chemicals. Contamination is getting worse because remediation has been limited and based on a refusal to accept the pervasive nature of the problem and the serious health impacts it causes.
We cannot have residents living in the middle of these highly contaminated red zones, abandoned and unable to move out. The Government must offer them like for like relocation.
FSANZ must introduce a national standard for PFAS in food.
Meat and Livestock Australia must get involved and lead a whole of industry response to removing PFAS from the meat food chain.
The government should now honestly settle with these people and then go and get compensation from Dupont, as they have already done in US. Dupont put aside billions of dollars for settlement.
Saturday Jul 17, 2021
Saturday Jul 17, 2021
Saturday Jul 17, 2021
In this podcast two guests join us to a discuss our modern-day RSPCA. What might surprise you is that this isn’t a heart-warming story.
The Royal Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, known as the RSPCA, dates to 1871 when a public meeting was held in Victoria in response to the ill treatment of horses. The QLD RSPCA was formed in 1883. The RSPCA is a household name and many consider it a beacon of respect and care for animals.
Today, the RSPCA has capitalised on its branding of animal welfare with producers and brand owners being able to use the RSPCA logo to reflect their shared vision for animal welfare. Today we can buy RSPCA approved meat in our supermarkets. Typically, we don’t question the integrity of the claimed “animal welfare” standards as we take for granted that this iconic brand is squeaky clean.
Several QLD constituents contacted my office recently with extraordinary stories about how the RSPCA were conducting themselves. Since asking questions at Senate Estimates about the RSPCA, their methods and the legitimacy of their not-for-profit status, we’ve been flooded with more calls and emails. Their stories share many similar themes and the overall message is that there is something rotten in the state of the RSPCA.
The concerns being raised are varied.
The RSPCA’s charity status means that they are not-for-profit and enjoy a tax-free status. Looking closely at the recent annual report it shows revenue was $58 million and included in that is a $4 million Federal Govt grant. The hefty surplus of $8.7 million is what prompted Senate Estimates questions of the Commissioner for Charities and Not-For-Profits. My questions were about whether the RSPCA should continue to enjoy charitable status? We’re waiting for that answer as no-one could provide one on the day.
The RSPCA appears to be leveraging its charity branding to become heavily commercial. I have already mentioned the RSPCA approved meat and today RSPCA pet shops are being set up in the suburbs. On the face of it there is no problem. It is when we understand how the RSPCA is conducting itself under its Inspectorate powers, that we see the problem.
The RSPCA’s Inspectorate of RSPCA QLD, has power to investigate and confiscate animals that are poorly treated. That is the heart of what we expect from them. What we don’t expect is seizure of animals based on lies. We have dozens of examples where Inspectorate officers have entered properties and confiscated with no prior notification or investigation. All this is based on an anonymous tip off that is never disclosed to the property owners. The warrants JPs sign sometimes use photographs of animals in poor conditions, which do not match the animals to be seized. This is only the beginning. Some pet owners have then seen their animals online for sale within days. This is the problem when the RSPCA have a commercial arm alongside their charitable arm when they can confiscate and sell based on misuse of powers and lies. This is a clear conflict of interest.
Many pet shop owners, registered breeders, private pet owners, animal rescuers and veterinarians have experienced the full force of the RSPCA’s misuse of power. Many have spoken out against this strong arm approach and suffered the consequences. Pet shop businesses have been sabotaged when the RSPCA advises their suppliers to blacklist them based on false accusations of animal cruelty. Veterinarians who have spoken out against this behaviour have also suffered from the RSPCA spreading false accusations regarding their standards of animal care. Business have been decimated through this belligerent behaviour.
My two guests, who both own pet stores, join us to share their experiences with the RSPCA. Their stories are confronting.
'Shell' and Nicole’s stories are extraordinary and not what we expect of a charity that is supposed to champion care and respect for animals. This unconscionable conduct is exploiting its charitable and tax-free status to create a multi-million dollar business. Its strong-arm approach is clearly outside of acceptable conduct under both the Acts.
The RSPCA have become a law unto themselves, issuing warrants based on lies, not going through due process to investigate before seizing animals, extorting money out of people for housing their stolen animals and then annihilating local private businesses through negative media and malicious lies. It’s quite a rap sheet for the warm and fuzzy RSPCA we all grew up with.
This belligerent and intimidatory behaviour must stop. Their exploitation business model must be stopped.
I am calling for the RSPCA to be de-registered as a charity. I urge everyone to take your complaints to the ACCC and to the Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission for investigation. Everyone who donates to the RSPCA, think again. Any RSPCA employees, past or present, are invited to call my office and share their stories.
This behaviour has gone under the radar for too long. We need to bring the RSPCA back to the animal welfare organisation it is supposed to be.
Saturday Jul 10, 2021
Saturday Jul 10, 2021
Saturday Jul 10, 2021
Participation in sport is a right for everyone. We know sport is great for our physical health, and for our social, emotional and mental health. Australia is a great nation of sports watchers and participants. Next month the world looks forward to the Olympics and this year there will be some fierce debate centred on some of the women’s sporting competitions. Namely those events with transgender females who are competing in female sports.
A transgender female is someone born male and then makes a decision to live as a female. To assist their transition they will take sex hormones and have surgery. Some transgender females now want to compete in women’s sport and that brings an immense challenge. At the Olympics the stakes are high. The training, carried out over many years, will have meant enormous sacrifice and to be pipped at the post by a biological man in a women’s sporting event just doesn’t seem fair.
It may seem inclusive, but is it fair? The IOC have stated “There’s considerable tension between the notions of fairness and inclusion, and the desire and need to protect the women’s category.”
What does this male advantage look like? Let’s quantify it. When males go through puberty they gain physiological advantages such as higher lung capacity, increased blood flow and greater bone strength. These advantage don’t diminish completely after a gender transition. In the final analysis a man is on average 7% taller and 13% larger. Women on average have only 66% of male lower body strength and 52% of male upper body strength.
At Olympic level, the pinnacle for any athlete, the difference between male and females world records are around 10% - across sprinting, distance and strength events.
Transgender women don’t always win, but a women will probably need to work even harder to win in her category. But the odds are tipped towards the transgender woman. In the US in 2017 and 2018, a transgender female won a high school track championships in the 55m, 100m, 200m and 300m events. Her closest and only real competitor was also a transgender female.
Some argue that sports is never an equal playing field and there are always inherent advantages in some people and disadvantages with others. While that may accurate putting biological men up against women is “not fair play”, nor is it safe play.
Everyone has a right to compete and participate and we need a solution that takes biology into account. Maybe our best outcomes is a women’s category and an open category. That way sport is inclusive, safe and fair.
Our Nation Today. 10 July, 2021
Saturday Jul 03, 2021
Saturday Jul 03, 2021
Western countries are experiencing an explosion of gender dysphoria in our children. Historically incidences of gender dysphoria were small and larger with preschool boys, yet the explosion in recent years has been in our teenage girls. This significant change remains largely unexplained.
There are two pathways to support these children. The therapeutic pathway and the medical pathway. It is surprising and worrying that many children are opting for the medical pathway, which includes experimental puberty blockers, hormones and irreversible surgery. All bring life long consequences
Our Nation Today. 3 July, 2021