Women’s police stations in Australia: would they work for ‘all’ women?

Originally published on theconversation.com

Proposals to expand police powers, to criminalise coercive control and to establish specialist women’s police stations have all occupied a prominent place in Australia’s recent debate about responses to violence against women.

The proposal to establish women’s police stations has received a strong platform in mainstream media and academic journals. It has also featured in debates on policy development, such as in the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce currently underway in Queensland.

In the local and global movement for Black and Indigenous lives where associated campaigns are asking the public to scrutinise police powers and to discuss defunding police, many Australian feminists have been advocating for punitive solutions to domestic violence.

But there is currently no credible evidence to support the implementation of women’s police stations, and the research underpinning the proposal in Australia is problematic in several ways.

Read more:
Increased incarceration of First Nations women is interwoven with the experience of violence and trauma

What are women’s police stations?

Specialist women’s police stations are designed to respond specifically to violence against women. They have been a feature of policing in Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries since the late 1980s, as well as parts of Africa and Asia.

All Women Police Station Tiruvannamalai, India.

Some women’s police stations adopt a “multidisciplinary” approach to policing domestic violence. They are staffed with teams of police who work alongside social workers, psychologists and lawyers. However, women’s police stations are still police stations.

They vary in appearance, with some colourfully designed with play rooms for children and welcome rooms that are decorated with flowers and murals.

Their mandate is to provide services for women. It’s unclear whether the stations provide support for people who identify as women outside of the cis-gender binary.

What does the research say?

To date, Australian news reporting on women’s police stations has relied almost exclusively on research led by Australian criminologist Kerry Carrington.

Journalists and commentators have frequently used this research to report on and advocate for the establishment of women’s police stations in Australia. Investigative journalist Jess Hill states:

We don’t get cops to fight fires or drive ambulances, because that’s considered specialist work. So why don’t we just take the police who love responding to family violence […] and create a parallel force? […] It’s a proven model that’s existed across Latin America (and various other countries) for 35 years.

The evidence presented in favour of women’s police stations is largely drawn from two original studies. Both studies were led by Professor Carrington at the Queensland University of Technology.

The first was a study undertaken in Argentina over a three-month period.

This research included interviews with 100 employees from ten women’s police stations in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina. The research participants represented were selected by the province’s Ministry of Security – who the police station reports to.

The second study drew on the findings of 2 surveys conducted in Australia on attitudes towards the proposal of women’s police stations.

These two surveys were: one “workforce” survey, which was distributed to Australian police officers, non-governmental organisations and case workers; the second “community” survey, with recruitment of Australian adults via Facebook advertising.

The second study found people thought women’s police stations could improve the policing of gender violence in Indigenous communities in Australia if staffed by appropriately trained teams working from both gender and culturally sensitive perspectives.

The authors of the study concluded:

adapted to an Australian context where Indigenous women are many times more likely to experience domestic family violence, these specialist police stations will need to be appropriately staffed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous officers trained to work from both gender and culturally sensitive perspectives.

Issues with the studies

There are several concerns with both studies.

In relation to the study in Argentina – all 100 of the participants were paid employees of the two police stations being researched. Police officers made up 79%, and 21% were lawyers, social workers or psychologists employed by or otherwise engaged with the two police stations selected for the study.

The study doesn’t consider how the research participants’ statuses as employees of the police stations may have influenced their views.

A second concern is the study didn’t include interviews with survivors or their families or support networks. It also didn’t include interviews with the communities where the stations were located.

A third limitation (which the authors acknowledge), is the study does not examine whether these police stations reduced crime rates, statistics of domestic violence or apprehended violence orders.

In addition, no data is supplied about important factors to assess the claims of the benefit of women’s police stations in other matters related to domestic violence. Such as whether women’s police stations increase access to legal supports or whether they improve a person’s ability to report violence.

Finally, neither study examines whether there was a reduction in crime rates or statistics of domestic violence, femicide or apprehended violence orders.

It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of women’s police stations without this data.

Evidence to suggest women’s police stations don’t work

Evaluations of women’s police stations have had mixed results. For example, one recent evidence summary in India found “all-women police stations did not improve services for gender violence victims”.

Another study suggests no improvement in reporting or accountability with respect to women’s police stations in India.

And there is evidence to suggest women’s police stations are not free from discrimination and violence, such as reports of transphobia.

This paper from Spanish journal Delito y Sociedad in 2016, reported female officers associated with La Plata women’s police station apprehended and publicly searched ten transgender women. The women said they were threatened with being shot if they moved. They stated four of them were detained for no reason other than their visibility as trans women.

The event led to widespread condemnation of the La Plata women’s police station by transgender advocacy groups, particularly as station staff at that time included a trans woman.

There is also the death of Úrsula Bahillo that indicates these police stations aren’t always effective with protecting people who experience domestic violence.

Bahillo reported violence from her policeman boyfriend to a woman’s police station on at least 18 separate occasions. She died three days after reporting her case to a women’s police station in Buenos Aires province in February this year.

La Capital reported Bahillo’s family stated the women’s police station “did nothing.”

BBC Mundo notes that:

Úrsula Bahillo’s case became notorious for the repeated times she asked for help, denounced her aggressor [to police] and was not listened to.

Policing studies conducted in Australia and the UK suggest simply increasing the number of female police officers will never be enough to improve discriminatory policing.

Despite female leadership in policing in Queensland, there have still been reports of sexism and racism among police, including police posting on social media that women lie about domestic violence.

What about Black and Indigenous women?

We found very little research on the experiences of Black and Indigenous women with women’s police stations, besides one 2010 report, looking at Latin America, which observed:

Indigenous and Afro-descendent women have limited access [to women’s police stations] because few operators come from or understand those cultures and few speak their languages.

Indigenous advocates have repeatedly drawn attention to the police failure to protect Indigenous women and families.

An example of this involves the case of Tiffany Paterson, an Aboriginal woman from the Northern Territory who was violently assaulted after the Northern Territory Police failed to protect her.
Tiffany, who survived the attack, later sued the Northern Territory Police on the grounds of negligence and settled on confidential terms.

It is broadly understood in Indigenous communities that police stations are not safe places for Indigenous people. They are also not safe for Indigenous people to call upon for assistance, with domestic or state-sanctioned violence.

We know Indigenous families and communities are often frontline responders to domestic violence. Indigenous women are more likely to report violence or seek support from staff within Indigenous organisations, not police nor non-Indigenous services.

We know policing of domestic violence plays a significant role in the removal of Indigenous children from their families. The deep mistrust of police within Indigenous communities is acknowledged by police themselves.

Read more:
Four Aboriginal deaths in custody in three weeks: is defunding police the answer?

Why women’s police stations are not the answer

Literature produced with Indigenous communities by Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars in Australia points to concrete alternatives for Indigenous women and families experiencing violence.

This includes community-based services and culturally safe legal support services.

White feminists must listen to Indigenous peoples and organisations who are at the frontline delivering evidence-based early intervention and prevention services, as well as Indigenous researchers with lived experience.

All those who have previously supported women’s police stations should read this important work and reconsider their position. Now is a crucial time for these discussions, on the 30 year anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and with Indigenous incarceration rates increasing and the preparation of a new ten year National Plan to address violence against women and children.

Crystal McKinnon receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Marlene Longbottom is employed by the University of Wollongong and is currently the VC Aboriginal Postdoctoral Research Fellow.

Amanda Porter and Ann Louise Deslandes do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Forget nose spray, good sex clears a stuffy nose just as effectively — and is a lot more fun

Originally published on theconversation.com


Medical news is full of stories about promising new treatments for challenging conditions, or for additional health benefits of routine behaviours and habits. Who doesn’t want to feel good about drinking coffee or eating chocolate?

In this rich vein, a study by German and British researchers published earlier this year — which just won the Ig Nobel prize for medicine — suggests orgasmic sex can clear nasal congestion as well as a nasal decongestant.

The Ig Nobels are awarded to “honour achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think”, with a ceremony at Harvard University and Nobel laureates among those handing out prizes.

This year’s winner deserves critical appraisal before deciding whether to prescribe orgasm for consenting partners with stuffy noses.

Read more:
Sniffles, sneezing and cough? How to tell if it’s a simple allergy rather than The Virus

A small but well-formed study

When we critically appraise research it’s important to look at “internal validity” first. Could the results have been caused by other factors, such as bias due to flaws in design or how the research was conducted? The next step is to ask whether the findings have “external validity” or can be generalised to the wider population.

Also, with most studies that aren’t using the “gold standard” study design of double-blinded, randomised controlled trials, we need to consider other factors to establish cause and effect. This includes consistency with other evidence and biological plausibility — or whether the findings tally with established understandings of our bodies.

The German-UK study was clearly not a double-blind study (the couples knew they were having sex) and was small in size (18 heterosexual couples), but each subject was their own “control” subject. That means each person had the intervention — sexual intercourse with orgasm — compared with a nasal decongestant spray applied the following day.

Nasal flow was measured at five time points: before sex, after orgasm and up to three hours afterwards. Subjects were tested with a questionnaire to determine which ones had pre-existing nose blockages over the past month. Nasal function was assessed subjectively by the participant and objectively with a portable device measuring air flow.

As such, this study was well-designed and conducted. That is, apart from one minor flaw: some participants were unable to focus on the device before and immediately after intercourse, leading to some missing data!

Some research data was lost in the afterglow.
Unsplash, CC BY-SA

Read more:
4 things about female orgasms researchers actually study

Going with the flow

The study did find a significant improvement in nasal flow immediately after orgasm and this was of similar size to the benefit from decongestant spray used the following day.

However, the benefit from sexual activity was short-lived and nasal flow was back to baseline within hours. Unsurprisingly, the improved nasal flow was only seen in those with pre-existing nasal congestion.

Though effective, nasal decongestant spray is probably less fun than sex.

Wait, there’s a connection between orgasm and noses?

The research paper notes the theory of “reflex nasal neurosis” was put forward by German otolaryngologist Wilhelm Fliess, a close friend of Sigmund Freud, in 1897. Both believed neuroses were mostly caused by sexual problems.

Fliess theorised there were specific “genital spots” in the nose that influenced genital function. Yet his theory failed scientific scrutiny and faded into obscurity.

However, exercise is known to cause an improved nasal flow and this benefit persists for up to 30 minutes after physical activity.

Observational studies have suggested people who have more sex are happier, but that might not be the whole story.

Read more:
I’ve always wondered: why your nose runs when it’s cold

The ‘take home’ message

There are some limitations of the research, such as the small sample size of volunteer couples, and the timing of nasal air flow measurements.

But overall, the study presents some convincing evidence that orgasm improves nasal obstruction, at least for an hour or so. And, as the researchers note: “I don’t think other methods to relieve congestion are nearly as much fun as sexual activity.”

The Ig Nobel winners suggest further research into whether masturbation has similar benefits, or whether multiple orgasm might provide longer relief of nasal congestion.

So, those with nasal congestion shouldn’t throw away their decongestant sprays just yet. However, all of us can bask in the warm glow of knowing we can add another health benefit to sexual intercourse and orgasm.

David King does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

‘Bloody fool!’: why Ripper the musk duck, and many other talkative Aussie birds, are exciting biologists

Originally published on theconversation.com

Recently, two native Australian birds have stolen the limelight with their impressive vocal imitations.

A superb lyrebird called Echo at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo has produced a painfully realistic vocal rendition of a human baby crying. Lyrebirds are already world-famous for their astonishingly accurate vocal mimicry, but these new recordings show their abilities can still surprise.

Then a new paper announced the arrival an unexpected newcomer to Australia’s vocal imitation scene. A male musk duck (Biziura lobata) named Ripper was recorded imitating two stereotypical Australian sounds: a loudly shutting gate and a person exclaiming “you bloody fool!”.

The gate sound, at least, proved a hit with one of Ripper’s male colleagues who also ended up mimicking the sound. Excitingly, these recordings — originally from the 1980s and dug out from archives — provide the first material evidence of any duck species copying a sound in its environment, disrupting current understandings of the evolution of vocal learning in birds.

So what’s the big fuss about crying and swearing birds?

Why musk ducks are odd

Vocal production learning is a highly specialised trait that’s rare among animals.
It requires flexible and sophisticated control over vocal production, and can be associated with enlarged regions of the brain relative to non-vocal learners.

For a long time, the only other animals known to possess similar vocal learning abilities to humans were parrots and male songbirds. But today, the musk duck joins a broad, but relatively small, list of non-human animals capable of vocal learning, including some bats, elephants, dolphins, whales and seals. Belatedly, we can now add female songbirds to the list of vocal production learners.

Dolphins are among few animals with capacity for vocal learning.

The loquacious “Ripper” was a captive-reared male musk duck at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra. When he hatched, with the help of a foster bantam hen, he was the only musk duck there.

But even in the wild, musk ducks are odd. Male musk ducks are up to three times larger than females and have a distinctive bulbous lobe of skin hanging from their bills. Their name comes from the musky smell emitted by dominant males.

In the breeding season, males group together (in “leks”) and perform an exciting aquatic courtship displays for females, performing both day and night. Each male performs a structured, audio-visual display with his tail over his back, inflating his throat lobe, and splashing water while whistling loudly.

In the wild, male display whistles seem to form local dialects — a signature of vocal learning. But this doesn’t involve imitations of other species.

Ripper produced many elements of wild display, but would avidly display to people. His bizarre mimicry of anthropogenic sounds formed part of this display.

Listen to Ripper say ‘you bloody fool’

Mimicking in captivity

The story of Ripper is part of a long scientific tradition. Captive-reared parrots and some songbirds mimicking human speech feature in ancient European writings, including the works of Aristotle and Pliny the Elder.

More recently, the possible complexities of parrot communication were explored in a pioneering study of “Alex”, the captive African grey parrot, who had a vocabulary of more than 100 words.

Alex video caption.

By and large, such accounts of human imitations involve a captive individual raised in isolation from others of its own kind, but in close association with a human caretaker. The human caretaker then becomes the social model for the captive bird’s vocal development.

So while these examples reveal an animal’s capacity for vocal production learning, they don’t show that wild animals imitate sounds from their environment. Indeed, very few of the animal species that mimic people in captivity produce anything other than their own, species-specific vocalisations in the wild.

However, this is not true of Australia’s lyrebirds and other avian vocal mimics.

Mimicry in wild Australia

Two lyrebird species are famous for the diversity and accuracy of their vocal mimicry: the superb lyrebird of the wet eucalypt forests of southeast Australia, and the Albert’s lyrebird of Australia’s subtropical east.

In captivity, male superb lyrebirds have been recorded mimicking anthropogenic sounds ranging from chainsaws, emergency vehicle sirens to this new recording of a crying human baby.

Superb lyrebirds have been recorded mimicking chainsaws, sirens and more.

In the wild, both males and females are proficient mimics of the vocalisations and wingbeats of other bird species — and occasionally mammals. A single individual male superb lyrebird can even mimic a flock of alarm-calling birds.

Despite many rumours, it remains a bit of a mystery when and how often wild lyrebirds mimic sounds of human origin.

Lyrebirds aren’t the only ones. Australia is the lucky home to a surprisingly large number of songbird species that regularly mimic in the wild, from tiny thornbills to the large enigmatic bowerbirds that, even in the wild, occasionally produce startlingly accurate renditions of humans.

Read more:
The mimics among us — birds pirate songs for personal profit

But not all mimics are what they seem. In a heartbreaking example, the mimetic song of the Regent honeyeater is both a consequence and a cause of the species’ decline. Wild males copy other species because there aren’t enough males left to pass on their song to the next generation.

Regent honeyeater are critically endangered songbirds.

Threatened archival treasures

Ripper the swearing musk duck, Echo the bawling lyrebird, and the forgotten songs of the Regent honeyeater show us how much we still have to discover about Australia’s extraordinary birds. Far from being the biogeographical oddity, Australian birds are still destabilising biological theory.

Ripper was a bird of the 80s, and we only know of his bizarre mimicry because Rippers’ recordist, Dr Peter Fullagar, was on a mission to establish a natural history sound archive for Australia. Like all good 80s singers, Ripper was recorded on cassette tape before Peter digitised it.

It’s only from historical archives that researchers could discover that original song of the Regent honeyeater was unique to the species and more elaborate than the songs of contemporary males. Simply listening to captive-reared birds or the dwindling singers in the wild is no longer enough to reveal the Regent honeyeater’s natural song: the baseline has shifted.

What other treasures lie gathering dust in forgotten sheds or library stacks? We must be quick, before those cassette tapes degrade too far to be read.

Read more:
Only the lonely: an endangered bird is forgetting its song as the species dies out

Anastasia Dalziell receives funding from the National Science Foundation (USA). She was recently a postdoctoral research fellow with the Macaulay Library: a scientific archive of natural history audio, video, and photographs.

Justin A. Welbergen receives funding from the Australian Research Council and the National Science Foundation (USA).

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the Anglosphere’s reassertion in the Indo-Pacific

Originally published on theconversation.com

University of Canberra Professorial Fellow Michelle Grattan and University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Paddy Nixon discuss the week in politics.

This week Michelle and Paddy discuss the revelation that anonymous donors covered some of former attorney-general Christian Porter’s legal fees incurred during his defamation case against the ABC.

They also discuss Scott Morrison’s upcoming trip to Washington for the QUAD forum, and what this means for the AUKUS partnership announced this week, which will see Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

On the money: Kate Sheppard and the making of a New Zealand feminist icon

Originally published on theconversation.com


In 1992 four New Zealand icons (and the queen) appeared on new banknotes. Part of creating national identity, these notable citizens were chosen to represent the pinnacles of achievement.

Āpirana Ngata, Edmund Hillary, Ernest Rutherford and Kate Sheppard — all in circulation so their acts and values can be admired, celebrated and emulated.

Collectively, the banknote icons signalled a bicultural nation that celebrates Māori knowledge and success, a place where women are equal and where it is possible to lead the world, including in science and exploration.

But while positioned on individual pedestals, these people were also part of citizenship-building that relied on team efforts.

Ngata was one of many talented members of the Young Māori Party. Hillary didn’t climb Everest alone. And Rutherford’s scientific breakthroughs resulted from collaborative work that stood “on the shoulders of giants”.

A detail from Margriet Windhausen’s Kate Sheppard National Memorial, unveiled in Christchurch in 1993 by New Zealand’s first female governor-general, Dame Catherine Tizard.

Cast in bronze

So what of Kate Sheppard’s position? A year after she graced the $10 note, she was put on another pedestal, literally. Unveiled in 1993, the national memorial provides a useful interpretation of the suffrage leader’s place in the collaborative women’s movement of the late 19th century.

The memorial’s Christchurch location, Sheppard’s name in its title and her central position cast in bronze all recognise her leadership. But the monument also recognises how, after the victory, she brought together the networks that had formed during the suffrage campaign.

Sheppard became the first president of the National Council of Women (NCW) in 1896, but flanking her in bronze are others central to the women’s movement.

Read more:
The ‘epicentre of women’s suffrage’ — Kate Sheppard’s Christchurch home finally opens as a public museum

Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia of Taitokerau requested the vote for women from the Kotahitanga parliament. Amey Daldy was a leader of Auckland’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and Franchise League. Ada Wells of Christchurch worked for equal educational opportunities for girls and women. Harriet Morison of Dunedin was an advocate for working-class women and active in the Tailoresses’ Union. And Helen Nicol led the important women’s franchise campaign in Dunedin.

The monument also recognises the complex layers and themes of women’s suffrage, including the place of men such as MP Sir John Hall who played a vital part in the suffrage victory. Seven other prominent suffragists are also named. Smaller panels depict generic women going about their daily lives, all part of the wider movement.

The full Kate Sheppard memorial in Christchurch: layers of context and meaning.

An archetypal heroine?

So what makes Sheppard so iconic? As well as her role in a world-first episode in New Zealand history, I would argue Sheppard embodies many of the characteristics common to modern heroines globally.

She is emblematic of a mother figure, specifically as a maternal feminist concerned with home, purity and well-being. Metaphorically, her work involves giving birth to the nation.

Accompanied by an image of the symbolic white camellia flower presented to pro-suffrage MPs, Sheppard’s image on the banknote is part of her invention as a feminine, stylishly dressed, commanding figure.

But there are other dynamics at work, too. Sheppard is sometimes framed as a reformer, called to work for a more peaceful and egalitarian society. But the 2015
punk-rock musical That Bloody Woman portrays her as a rebel warrior queen, fighting with bravery and determination.

Read more:
Did a tragic family secret influence Kate Sheppard’s mission to give New Zealand women the vote?

Intrigue in her private life also adds to Sheppard’s appeal. Was her marriage to Walter Sheppard unhappy? They lived apart from 1905 until he died in 1915. Author Rachel McAlpine wrote a fictional account involving an extramarital affair and a love child.

And what of the rumours surrounding Sheppard’s friendship with William Lovell-Smith, who she married towards the end of her life after the death of his wife Jenny? Her private life hints at mystery and suggests a woman advancing new ways of co-habiting.

There is also tragedy. Sheppard lost her only child, Douglas, in 1910, and outlived her nearest and dearest friends and relations, including her only grandchild.

Sheppard’s shape-shifting presence leaves room for us to create our own versions to augment all the writing she left revealing her beliefs and ideas. The Kate Sheppard Women’s Bookshop aptly memorialises her, and her leadership is honoured through scholarships and awards.

All this has helped keep her memory alive, especially with the feminists who have always claimed her as a heroine.

Princess Te Kirihaehae Te Puea Herangi as a girl.
Ref: 1/2-005159-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, CC BY-NC

Who else but Sheppard?

Sheppard is on the money, then, but who else might represent the heroic archetype?
Waikato woman of mana and Kīngitanga leader Te Puea Hērangi is surely one, described by historian J.G.A. Pocock as possibly the most influential woman in New Zealand’s political history.

Te Puea was also a mother figure. A literal healer, she nursed her people back to health — especially after the smallpox epidemic of 1913 and the devastating 1918 influenza epidemic that killed a quarter of the population at Mangatāwhiri, leaving many orphans to be cared for.

Her motto is said to have been “work, eat, pray, work again”. Te Puea was called to help her people and was dedicated to leading their resurgence. In particular, her efforts secured the Kīngitanga movement. Part of her legacy as the most active leader of her generation was the building of Tūrangawaewae marae at Ngāruawāhia.

Like Sheppard, Te Puea’s health and welfare work included campaigns against alcohol and smoking. In the face of Pākehā resistance she built an impressive health facility at Tūrangawaewae. In 1951 she became the first patron of the Māori Women’s Welfare League.

Read more:
NZ was first to grant women the vote in 1893, but then took 26 years to let them stand for parliament

Her activism included seeking compensation for land confiscation. An early peace warrior, she led a non-violent campaign against conscription during the first world war. Like Sheppard, she was part of an international network and well-connected around the Pacific.

Also like Sheppard, Te Puea was strategic and collaborated with many men. She launched Māui Pōmare’s political career and later collaborated with Āpirana Ngata. Well known in the Pākehā world as Princess Te Puea, in 1937 she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

In many ways, of course, Christchurch and Ngāruawāhia were worlds apart. While both women challenged the state, Sheppard represented a mainstream Pākehā establishment, whereas Te Puea pursued mana motuhake for her people. Yet, placed side by side and viewed through an early 21st-century lens, both are important heroines in history.

Both stand for citizens working together for the common good. Kate Sheppard might be on the money to represent women’s rights as a fundamental part of Aotearoa New Zealand. But, as her memorial suggests, it’s important we don’t see her as the only woman worthy of being on a pedestal.

Katie Pickles received funding from Royal Society Te Aparangi James Cook Research Fellowship.

Fitzgibbon is quitting politics but this doesn’t mean Albanese can party

Originally published on theconversation.com
Joel Fitzgibbon and Anthony Albanese in parliament in 2018. Mick Tsikas/AAP

One imagines the retirement of Joel Fitzgibbon at the next election simplifies things for Anthony Albanese, as he crafts a climate change formula more in sync with the established science and the global consensus.

A vocal defender of coalmining and “hi-vis” jobs in the regions, Fitzgibbon had become a burr in the Labor leader’s saddle — and a gift to the Coalition — as he regularly lamented his party’s latter day “obsession” with emissions reduction at the expense of regional jobs.

The voluntary exit of a media-enabled critic should help Labor present a unified front. But the electoral dualism bedevilling the ALP, both championed and personified by Fitzgibbon, remains problematic.

The end of an era

Fitzgibbon, a trade-qualified regional MP of 25 years, represented a dying breed in a parliamentary peloton now typically populated by tertiary-educated cosmopolitans.

That dualism may yet pose real-world implications in Fitzgibbon’s regional NSW seat of Hunter, which has been held between him and his father Eric for almost a third of a century.

Joel Fitzgibbon has been a vocal critic of his party and its direction since the 2019 election.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Albanese knows that to secure a Labor majority, he must first wrest seats from the Coalition, not give away strongholds already in his column. Yet some in Labor believe the risk of losing Hunter — still a 62.4% Labor seat —has been overstated, anyway.

They say (or is it hope?) the savage 14-plus percentage swing against Fitzgibbon in 2019 “probably” represented the nadir of Labor’s support, citing an election blighted by mixed messaging over the Adani Carmichael coal mine and Bill Shorten’s proposed 45% cut to emissions by 2030.

Whatever the cause, there’s little doubt the 21.5% share of the first preference vote secured by One Nation’s Stuart Bonds sent shockwaves through the ALP. It was certainly instrumental in Fitzgibbon’s decision to step up his public criticism, complaining long and loud about his party’s “drift to the left”, driven by the concerns of inner-city professionals.

Restaurant chats and public spats

One ostentatious demonstration of this new muscularity was the formation of the OTIS group led by Fitzgibbon. The group first met at a Canberra restaurant of the same name ahead of parliamentary sittings in February, 2020. As Peter van Onselen reported in The Australian at the time,

the members want to see Labor move further to the right on policy scripts such as coal mining, climate change more broadly and how Labor best handles the threat of the Greens on its left flank.

Even more divisive was Fitzgibbon’s public spat with Labor’s climate change spokesperson, Mark Butler. In an uncommonly frontal public attack in November 2020, Fitzgibbon successfully called for Butler’s removal from the climate role in favour of a more conservative figure.

Read more:
With the release of a terrifying IPCC report, Australia must face its wilful political blindness on climate

A swap of jobs between Butler — a left-aligned Albanese confidant — and health spokesperson Chris Bowen of the NSW Right faction, duly followed.

‘Back to the centre’?

Albanese has since signalled Labor’s election pledge will be less ambitious arguing, among other things, an already steep emissions reduction path designed to begin in 2019, would be too sharp if commenced in 2022. changed precipitous to dangerous – still acurate/ok?

Either way, Fitzgibbon claims some of the credit, telling media that his work of dragging the ALP “back to the centre”, was largely done.

While the emission policy was only part of a wider sweep of policy initiatives blamed for Labor’s shock defeat in 2019, Fitzgibbon had called the 45% cut “crazy” in an interview with Sky News.

Read more:
View from The Hill: Kristina Keneally’s house switch stops one row, starts another

Announcing his retirement, Fitzgibbon continued to prosecute his case declaring the retention of Hunter would be contingent on Albanese’s “strong support” for an ongoing coal mining industry. As he told Radio National:

I’m confident that Albo has taken us sufficiently to the centre and put sufficient emphasis on hope and aspiration amongst working families that I can go comfortably knowing that Hunter is safe.

Local sensitivities are clearly front-of-mind. Albanese has endorsed Fitzgibbon’s choice of a successor, Daniel Repacholi, a former coal miner who also happens to be five times Olympic shooter — most recently in Tokyo.

The Labor leader has also parked his past objections to local ALP branch members being denied a vote, calling for Labor’s national executive to short-circuit the process of selecting Fitzgibbon’s successor if there is more than one nomination.

Albanese has been fielding red-hot anger in Labor ranks over the plan to parachute current deputy Senate leader, Kristina Keneally into the western Sydney seat of Fowler. But similarly, he expects the national executive to step in. cut back quote here – this ok?

Labor’s TBC climate policy

Once the politics here is navigated, the next challenge is one of policy.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese will face off with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in an election expected in early 2022.
Bianca De Marchi/AAP

Fitzgibbon has previously argued Labor should hold its tongue on emissions targets, leaving it for the government to set the policy.

So far this has been Albanese’s approach — wait until the Morrison government has determined its final position going into the UN COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November, before setting out a policy which is more ambitious, but not dramatically so.

It seems Labor’s previous terror of being picked off on its left flank by the Greens in the inner cities, has given way to another fear — a virtuous loss in the more conservative suburbs and regions. And potentially a fourth consecutive defeat.

Mark Kenny does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

When COVID patients are intubated in ICU, the trauma can stay with them long after this breathing emergency

Originally published on theconversation.com


The current wave of COVID cases is leading to more hospital and intensive care (ICU) admissions. Frontline health workers and experts use the term “intubation” for the extra breathing support some patients need in an emergency.

But many people don’t know what this procedure involves and the trauma it can cause.

Patients with COVID-19 who deteriorate and need additional support with their breathing require intubating and ventilating. That means a tube is inserted and a ventilation machine delivers oxygen straight to the lungs.

Inserting the tube

Intubating a patient is a highly skilled procedure and involves inserting a tube through the patient’s mouth and into their airway:

patients are usually sedated, allowing their mouth and airway to relax. They often lie on their back, while the health-care professional stands near the top of the bed, facing the patient’s feet

the patient’s mouth is gently opened. An instrument called a laryngoscope is used to flatten the tongue and illuminate the throat. The tube is steered into the throat and advanced into the airway, pushing apart the vocal chords

a small balloon around the tube is inflated to keep the tube in place and prevent air from escaping. Once this balloon is inflated, the tube must be tied or taped in place at the mouth

successful placement is checked by listening to the lungs with a stethoscope and confirmed via a chest x-ray.

A laryngoscope is used to guide a tube into the airway.

Read more:
How are the most serious COVID-19 cases treated, and does the coronavirus cause lasting damage?

Can breathe, can’t speak or swallow

While intubated patients are attached to a ventilator and their breathing is supported, they are unable to talk or swallow food, drink or their saliva.

They often remain sedated to enable them to tolerate the tube. They can’t attend to any of their own needs and disconnection from the ventilator can be catastrophic.

For this reason any patient who is intubated and ventilated is cared for in an intensive care unit with a registered nurse constantly by their bedside.

American lawyer and editor David Latt recalled his experience of being intubated and ventilated following a diagnosis of COVID-19, saying:

When they were giving me anesthesia to put me to sleep so they could put a tube in my mouth that would enable me to breathe, I just remember thinking, ‘I might die.’ Sometimes in the abstract, you think, ‘If it’s my time, it’s my time.’ But when I was on that table […] I just thought, ‘No, I don’t want to go.’

Latt feared he would never see his two-year-old son or his partner again.

Taking the tube out

The length of time a COVID patient requires intubation and ventilation varies and depends on the reasons for it and the response to treatment. However, there are reports of patients being intubated and ventilated for over 100 days.

Once a patient’s respiration improves and they no longer require breathing support, the tube is removed in a procedure called “extubation”. Like intubation, extubation requires highly skilled health-care workers to manage the process. It involves:

a spontaneous breathing trial, which assesses the patient’s capacity to breathe unassisted before extubation to decrease the risk of respiratory failure

an assessment by the treating doctor, intensive care nurse, speech pathologist or physiotherapist of the patient’s ability to cough (so they can effectively clear their own throat and prevent substances entering the lungs)

treatment from a physiotherapist is usually required before and after extubation if the patient has had mechanical ventilation for more than 48 hours. This is to ease the process of weaning the patient off the ventilator and help them learn to breathe independently again.

Once extubated, patients remain in ICU and are closely monitored to ensure they can safely maintain a clear and effective airway. Once they are able to do this and are stable enough to transfer to the ward they are discharged from the ICU.

Intubation, ICU and trauma

Patients with COVID-19 who require intubation and ventilation have witnessed a number of stressful events in the ICU, such as emergency resuscitation procedures and deaths. This may increase the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Although we don’t have definitive long-term data, patients who have been critically ill from COVID often have a long and difficult journey of recovery. They will likely remain dependant on health care services for some time.

Many patients who have been intubated and ventilated recall it as being one of the worst experiences of their lives. Clearly it is something we should try to avoid for as many people as possible.

There are currently 138 patients patients intubated and ventilated in ICUs across Australia. That’s 138 patients who cannot communicate with their loved ones, who are scared, frightened and vulnerable.

Most of these patients have not been vaccinated. The most important thing we can do to reduce the risk of being intubated and ventilated as a result of COVID-19 is get vaccinated.

Read more:
We’re two frontline COVID doctors. Here’s what we see as case numbers rise

Deb Massey is also a Registered Nurse, Intensive Care Unit, John Flynn Hospital.

QLD police will use AI to ‘predict’ domestic violence before it happens. Beware the unintended consequences

Originally published on theconversation.com


The Queensland Police Service (QPS) is expected to begin a trial using artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the future risk posed by known domestic violence perpetrators.

Perpetrators identified as “high risk” — based on previous calls to an address, past criminal activity and other police-held data — will be visited at home by police before domestic violence escalates, and before any crime has been committed.

It is necessary to find better ways to improve safety for women subjected to domestic violence. However, using AI technology in this context may have unintended consequences — and the proposed plan raises serious questions about the role of police in preventing domestic violence incidents.

The approach relies on an algorithm that has been developed from existing QPS administrative data (QPRIME). All statistical algorithms must assess risk based on available data, which in turn means they are only as good as the data underpinning them.

Experts who criticise the use of data-driven risk assessment tools in policing point to the lack of transparency in the specific kinds of data analysed, as well as how predictions based on these data are acted upon.

Because of how police operate, the key data most consistently captured are information about past situations police have been called to, and criminal history data.

Using this information to train an AI algorithm could reinforce existing biases in the criminal justice system. It could create an endless feedback loop between police and those members of the public who have the most contact with police.

In Australia, they are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is not difficult to imagine that under this new regime Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be visited more by police.

QPS representative Ben Martain has said police won’t be able to charge someone they door-knock for a future suspected offence.

He also said for the pilot, attributes of ethnicity and geographic location were removed before training the AI model. But despite this, it seems likely Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue to be disproportionately targeted, since they are over-represented across all kinds of police contact.

Read more:
NSW Police want access to Tinder’s sexual assault data. Cybersafety experts explain why it’s a date with disaster

Introducing risk

The aim of such AI-based strategies in policing is to prevent or reduce crime, through an assessment of the risk of future offending. In theory, this means police would intervene early to stop a crime from occurring in the first place.

However, with this approach there are risks police may create crime. An unprompted police door-knock would be unwelcome in most households — let alone one where police have previously attended to carry out searches or make arrests.

In this “preventative” program, perpetrators and the victims they live with may be nervous, agitated or even angry at the police intrusion at their home for no apparent reason.

A visited person might use offensive language or refuse to provide their name. It would not be surprising if this led to charges.

Such charges might lead the visited person to become even more nervous, agitated or angry, and then they may find they are charged with assault and resisting police. This is popularly known as the “trifecta”, wherein a person who has otherwise not offended is ultimately charged with offensive language, resisting arrest and assaulting police.

The standard powers in the police toolbox are to arrest and charge. With QPS’s proposed plan, there is an obvious risk of widening the net of criminalisation for both perpetrators, as well as victims who may be misidentified as perpetrators. For instance, sometimes victims who have used violence in self-defence have been arrested instead of the perpetrator.

Bringing further harm to victims

The role of the victim in such a program is also of concern. Any program that deepens surveillance of perpetrators also deepens surveillance of victims.

Victims do not always want police to intervene in their lives. In some cases, this form of proactive policing might feel like an extension of control, rather than help. What happens when police visit and discover a high-risk perpetrator and victim are living together again?

Victims may fear child protection authorities will get involved and feel obliged to cover up the fact they are still with the perpetrator. And once a victim has been pressured to lie, they may be reluctant to call the police the next time they do need police intervention.

Victims of domestic violence may feel obliged to lie or withhold information from police to avoid child protection authorities getting involved.

In some cases, the perpetrator or victim may decide not to take the safety advice of police officers who visit. It is not clear what police might do in a situation where they ask a perpetrator to leave, or try to take a victim to safety, but they refuse.

The mission of any domestic violence intervention should be to restore power to victims. But we know interventions do not assist all women (or men) equally. Structural inequalities, including race and class, mean interventions are experienced differently by different people.

Will a victim have a say in whether police engage in proactive policing of their perpetrator? Should they have a say?

Read more:
Police access to COVID check-in data is an affront to our privacy. We need stronger and more consistent rules in place

Are there safer options?

In the context of risk assessment, many experts argue women often (although not always) have a strong sense of when they are at heightened risk.

Family court-ordered contact visits can be one of those moments of high risk. Yet in these situations women often report police refusing to help keep them and their children safe. How is the voice of the victim factored into risk assessment with this tool?

One particular concern is whether police are really equipped to intervene in circumstances where there is no crime. QPS representative Ben Martain said when perpetrators are “not at a point of crisis, in a heightened emotional state, or affected by drugs or alcohol” — they are “generally more amenable to recognising this as a turning-point opportunity in their lives”.

But police themselves have questioned their role in domestic violence circumstances — instead highlighting the potential role social workers may have, in their place.

It is not clear whether police are the best-positioned service to intervene when there is no identified disturbance. Queensland already has information-sharing protocols involving teams tasked specifically with responding to people involved in high-risk domestic violence relationships. These teams include community-based support workers.

This may be a better path for intervention during those critical periods of calm.

Heather Douglas receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Robin Fitzgerald receives funding from Australian Research Council.

Grattan on Friday: Porter’s funding from a ‘blind trust’ is as integrity test for Morrison

Originally published on theconversation.com

For a very intellectually smart man, Christian Porter often shows extraordinarily bad judgment.

After he was accused of historical rape, which he strongly denied, he believed he could remain as attorney-general, despite that being clearly not viable.

Then he chose to sue the ABC and one of its reporters for defamation, but quickly found this brought reputational risks and huge financial costs. The case was settled before going to trial.

Now Porter has disclosed, in an update this week to the parliamentary register of MPs’ interests, that he has accepted funds from a “blind trust” to help him pay his legal bills.

Unsurprisingly, there was a general outcry, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has his department advising whether this arrangement breaches the ministerial standards code. Once more, Porter’s frontbench future is hanging in the balance.

How this plays out is an integrity test for Morrison. Porter needs to leave the ministry or (taking the most lenient view of the situation) immediately have the trust repay all the money to those anonymous benefactors.

Indeed, Porter shouldn’t have to wait to be told by the PM – he should recognise this himself.

Regardless of the departmental advice to Morrison, acceptance of anonymous donations fails the standards of propriety that we should expect from MPs, and certainly from ministers.

Former PM Malcolm Turnbull – who admittedly is no fan of Porter for various reasons – described his action colourfully as “like saying ‘my legal fees were paid by a guy in a mask who dropped off a chaff bag full of cash’”.

Porter argued the government didn’t pay for his court action so these funds are coming to him in a private capacity. But regardless of the fact he was liable for his bills, he is a senior public figure – the debate surrounded his public role and anyway the “private” morphs into the “public”.

There are practical reasons, as well as the matter of principle, why political figures shouldn’t accept money from unknown sources.

While Porter says he doesn’t know the names of the donors, obviously others do. Potential benefactors must have been directed to the trust, which has administrators, with the funds provided to Porter’s lawyers.

Why do the benefactors want to remain anonymous? Do they believe backing Porter will cause them damage or embarrassment? These donors have helped Porter with money, but by staying in the shadows they have actually harmed him, as his present invidious position shows.

One day, their names may emerge publicly. If they don’t, they very likely will be known privately in Liberal circles. That just invites rumours, down the track, that so-and-so might have obtained favours from the Liberals because he or she helped Porter out. Compromising all round.

The rules covering the disclosure of political donations are woefully inadequate. Among much else, we can now see they should extend to cover donations made to politicians in their so-called “private” capacity.

The anonymous largesse to Porter is the latest example of the poor standards in political life that so alienate many of the public, fuelling distrust and cynicism.

At a governmental level, we’ve seen this in the scandals of the community sports grants and commuter car parks schemes before the last election, which were run essentially as vote-buying exercises. Proper process came a distant second to the pursuit of political advantage.

In the sport rorts affair one minister, the Nationals’ Bridget McKenzie, was finally forced to resign. But the reason given was a technicality; there was no admission by Morrison that the scheme – in which his office was intimately involved – had been shamelessly rorted. (All’s ended well for McKenzie – after the Barnaby Joyce leadership coup she was restored to the cabinet.)

Constitutional lawyer Anne Twomey, from the University of Sydney, in a recent speech pointed to the damage this sort of behaviour does.

“The notion abounds amongst politicians that the means are justified by the ends – that it is OK to abuse the rule of law and make unlawful grants to buy an election outcome, because the success of your side in that election is for the overall benefit of the country,” Twomey said.

“Even if that were objectively true in the short term, it is not in the long term. The corrosion of the rule of law and the seeding of future corruption are profoundly worrying. We are being set on a trajectory with horrific ends. Yet our own leaders cannot see beyond the immediate glittering prize of the next election.”

The “whatever it takes” mindset has become all-pervasive. It’s often partnered with “whatever can be hidden”.

The Morrison government is notorious for trying to conceal its workings. At present it is attempting to legislate to get round a legal judgment that found the national cabinet is not a committee of the federal cabinet and therefore it cannot claim cabinet confidentiality. Let’s hope the Senate crossbench stands up against the government’s bid.

A few years ago, both sides of federal politics doubted the need for a national commission against corruption. But after Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers pressed the issue, the Coalition government was reluctantly forced to accept the idea.

While attorney-general, Porter produced draft legislation in late 2020 for an integrity commission. His model was widely criticised; its many holes included that there would be no opportunity for whistle-blowers to directly lodge complaints against politicians and public servants, and investigations involving these figures would not have public hearings.

The government says it will introduce its legislation for the integrity commission before year’s end. We don’t know what changes it is making to the earlier version following the consultation process, but whatever the revised model looks like, it will be a stretch to get legislation through before the election.

An integrity commission is an overdue reform that will help promote greater trust in the political system. Australia Institute polling done in August in four seats – Brisbane (Qld), Braddon (Tas), Bennelong (NSW) and Boothby (SA) – found overwhelming support for setting up a commission. But it’s only part of the answer to the trust deficit.

To promote trust, politicians and governments need to feel proper standards matter – that there is a political cost (short of an integrity commission investigation) to doing the wrong thing, or cutting corners for political ends.

Reinforcing this point requires deterrents to bad behaviour in the form of institutional checks and transparency as well as sanctions.

But there also needs to be positive reinforcement wherever possible – within parties, inside a government, and from voters – of the message that high standards are a central KPI for politicians.

Without that messaging, lack of trust and public cynicism will only grow, poisoning the political system further.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Just 4.5% jobless during lockdowns? The unemployment rate is now meaningless

Originally published on theconversation.com

Australia’s labour force statistics for August again make the case for giving up on the rate of unemployment as an indicator of the state of the labour market.

In June the official unemployment rate dropped below 5% for the first time since before the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. In July it dropped again, to 4.6%.

With major lockdowns across Australia since late July, the rate for August was widely expected to go up. Yet the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ figures show that while total hours worked were 5.6% down on their May peak, the jobless rate defied all predictions and fell again, to 4.5%


To understand why this has happened, we just need to follow the COVID-19 trail.

Employment fell

The re-emergence of COVID-19 in Victoria in June and NSW in July had already reduced hours of work. That trend accelerated in August with simultaneous lockdowns in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT.

Total hours worked in Australia declined by 3.8% in just one month, and are now back below their pre-COVID level in March 2020.


NSW has, unsurprisingly, been hardest hit. Hours worked there have fallen 11.8% since May. This is a more severe downturn than NSW experienced with the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, when hours worked decreased by 9.9%.

Until July, the re-emergence of COVID-19 brought decreases in hours worked but not in the number of people employed. That changed in August. Employment in NSW fell by 173,000, or 4.4%.

Other states in lockdown, Victoria and Queensland, have also gone backwards but to a lesser extent. Victoria in particular appears to have got away lightly in the month to August. Hours worked did fall by 2.8% but there was a slight increase in employment.

ABS payroll data — a different measure to its monthly labour force survey — show much smaller decreases in jobs in Victoria than NSW in August across most industries.

This may reflect that Victoria’s latest lockdown started after NSW; or it may show that Victoria has managed to have its lockdown with less disruption to work. Data on employment for September will tell us more.

Hours worked fell more

Seeing larger falls in hours worked than employment tells us something important about how businesses adjust to needing less labour.

Rather than laying off their staff, at least in the initial stages of lockdown, businesses have chosen to reduce their hours of work.

This can be seen in the rise in the rate of underemployment between July and August, from 8.3% to 9.3%. Since May, the number of workers getting fewer hours than usual due to “no work, not enough work or stood down” rose about 490,000. Of those workers, about an extra 190,000 worked zero hours in the week of the survey.

People gave up looking for work

If employment fell between July and August, you might be thinking, doesn’t that mean more people unemployed, and a higher rate of unemployment?

Normally that’s what we’d expect to happen.

But it only happens if the people who lose their jobs stay in the labour market, looking for work.

In August, however, while employment decreased by 146,000, the number of people wanting to work — who the ABS counts as part of the labour force — declined even more, by 168,000. Thus unemployment fell by 22,000.

Withdrawals from the labour market were almost entirely concentrated in NSW. The state that saw the biggest decrease in hours worked also had the biggest decrease in people wanting to work — 3.8%.

Read more:
New finding: jobseekers subject to obligations take longer to find work

So the lower rate of unemployment in August is not a sign of improving labour market conditions. Instead it shows many potential workers decided it wasn’t worth looking for a job.

Young people and women most affected

Those bearing the brunt of these latest lockdowns are same groups most adversely affected by the initial impact of COVID-19 in 2020.

Youth (aged 15 to 24 years) make up just 15% of the population but accounted for half of the decrease in employment in August. It’s likely this disproportionate impact is again due to younger people being more likely to work in the industries most affected by lockdowns – such as accommodation and food services.

Read more:
JobKeeper and JobMaker have left too many young people on the dole queue

The story from 2020 is also repeating in the labour market impact of lockdowns by gender. From May to August, female employment fell by 90,000, compared with 25,000 for males. Women also withdraw from the labour force in much larger numbers than males, 119,000 to 80,000.

Jeff Borland receives funding from the Australian Research Council.