EDITORIAL: Political debate over junk food

ONE of the most extraordinary things about Greg and Sylvia Ray’s 2010 book of photographs, Newcastle, The Missing Years, was the obvious contrasts it revealed betweenthe slim and wiry Novocastrians of the between-wars years, and the battle of the bulge weighing all toomany of us down today.

No matter how we carve up the figures, 21stcentury Australians are increasingly overweight, shaped by an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and a diet that relies all too heavily on processed and packaged foods.

Sadly, it has been the Newcastle Herald’s melancholy duty to report that things are as bad in some parts of the Hunter as they are anywhere in the country. The Australian Medical Association recently putthenational cost of obesity at almost $7 billion a year, and as various studies and surveys have shown, the problem is worse, on average, in areas of lower socio-economic advantage.

In simple terms, the richer you are, the healthier and thinner you are likely to be. There are exceptions of course, but when “big data” is crunched in the name of population health, the trends are undeniable. And they are only getting worse.

In Canberra this week, nutritional experts have been pushing the federal government to do more to convince Australians to eat less, but with limited success. An organisation known as the Obesity Policy Coalition –whose members include the Cancer Council and Diabetes Australia –has restated the case for a tax on sugar, but the initial response from the major parties has been less than enthusiastic.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson would have echoed the thoughts of many when she said it was up to the individual to take responsibility for what they put in their mouths. But if this logic had been applied to tobacco, then Australia would never have begun taxing tobacco in the ways that it did, leaving to massive and probably permanent drops in smoking rates. In a similar light, some argue that refined sugar is more of a poisonthan a nutrient, but as many foods are broken down to glucose in our systems, the evidence is perhaps less than clear cut. In reality, we are the shape we are for a variety of reasons, and diet is only one of them. The state does have a role in protecting us as consumers, but we, too, have our own responsibilities, especially when it comes to the food choices of our children.

In the meantime, why not join the crowd on Bathers Way, andwalk some weight off?

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Witnesses planned forgery to take Ron Medich’s money, murder trial hears

Ron Medich has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Michael McGurk. Photo: Peter Rae Lucky Gattellari is the key Crown witness against Ron Medich. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Two key witnesses testifying against Ron Medich in his murder trial conspired to forge his signature and take money from his bank account, a court has heard.

Mr Medich, 68, is accused of ordering the fatal shooting of his former business partner, Michael McGurk when the pair were suing each other for millions of dollars. But defence counsel claim Mr Medich is being scapegoated by the real mastermind, Lucky Gattellari, another business partner who was attempting to conceal massive thefts with the contract killing.

On Monday, a NSW Supreme Court jury heard two telephone calls from six months after the murder between Gattellari and his then driver and debt collector Senad Kaminic, 49.

The pair were heard discussing a plan to find a copy of Mr Medich’s signature in his office. At one point, Gattellari said words to the effect “Ron’s in Queensland”.

Mr Medich’s barrister, Winston Terracini, SC, questioned Kaminic about a proposed forgery.

“You were asked by Lucky Gattellari to get a copy of Mr Medich’s chequebook, or one owned by a company of Mr Medich, and copy his signature,” Mr Terracini put to the witness, who agreed.

“You knew that was wrong,” Mr Terracini said. Kaminic accepted it was.

He also accepted Mr Terracini’s suggestion “you were led to believe that Gattellari was going to get monies out of Mr Medich’s account”.

Gattellari has told the court he received $500,000 from Mr Medich to pay for the murder and passed on the bulk to Kaminic, who found the men who carried out the shooting.

Defence counsel has suggested Gattellari, who was in business with Mr Medich at the time, arranged a series of unauthorised loans that amounted to thefts.

While Gattellari said he owed Mr Medich between $14 million and $16 million at the time of his 2010 arrest, he denied he “milked him for years” saying it was “impossible to steal 10 cents from Mr Medich without him knowing about it”.

Gattellari denies he was afraid Mr McGurk, 45, would expose any financial misdealings.

Both he and Kaminic have received significant cuts to their sentences for pleading guilty to their roles in the murder and for testifying against Mr Medich.

Kaminic said Mr Medich described Mr McGurk as a “hero” around September or October 2008 and recommended Gattellari join his business ventures.

But by the following year, the relationship had allegedly soured to the point where Mr Medich called Mr McGurk a “piece of shit” and a “motherf—er”.

Kaminic previously testified that as the murder plot progressed, Mr McGurk became known as “our friend”.But on Monday he agreed under questioning that around the same time Mr Medich would refer to a certain woman as “our friend”.

Kaminic said he knew whom Mr Medich was talking about based on his tone.

“When he was talking about [Mr McGurk] he would talk more through his mouth and he was angry,” Kaminic said. “When he was talking about her, he was happy.”

The trial continues. 

Sydney CBD and South East light rail crowding rates exceed bus and train ‘crush capacity’

An artist’s impression of light rail at Randwick. Photo: SuppliedPassenger crowding on the $2.1 billion Sydney inner-city light rail is forecast to easily exceed “crush capacity” rates for buses and heavy rail, raising questions about patronage on key sections of the line.

The analysis is contained in a capacity report for the Sydney CBD and South East light rail, due to open in 2019, commissioned by Randwick City Council.

Discussing the Anzac Parade corridor, the report by EMM Consultants says passenger capacity is historically 2.5 people per square metre for Sydney trains and 2.8 people per square metre for buses.

But there is a maximum capacity of 466 people for each tram on the light rail, which the report says equates to 3.3 people per square metre.

This rate is “about 25 per cent higher than the average of the previously identified maximum crowding levels (which were defined as crush capacity) for either Sydney trains or buses,” the EMM report says.

However, it argues that the “maximum practical crowding level” is about 80 per cent of the stated capacity, or about 380 people per tram.

“Once an operating tram gets above this level of crowding (which is 2.65 persons per square metre ), there is going to be a tendency for passengers to wait on the platform and hope the next tram is less crowded rather than try and force their way on,” it predicts.

The report was commissioned by the council as part of its residential growth strategy.

It finds that when the light rail opens in 2019 the Randwick section will be at full capacity, meaning one-third of express bus services will need to be retained to meet commuter demand in its first year of operation.

By 2031, almost half the current 80 morning express services will need to be kept, the report says.

Tony Bowen, a Labor member of Randwick City Council who is opposed to the light rail, said the report “is another concerning feature of the entire proposal that calls into question whether the necessary studies were done at the planning phase”.

Opposition planning and infrastructure spokesman Michael Daley said the project was “destroying capacity on Anzac Parade and will carry no more people than the buses currently do. That $2 billion could have been much better spent in other places in Sydney.”

But CBD Coordinator General Marg Prendergast said the government has always said light rail “is part of an integrated transport solution to cater for growth and changing demand and will complement express, local and cross-regional bus services”.

The project “will deliver significant increases to public transport capacity throughout the day, in conjunction with a redesigned bus network that will continue to provide direct services between the South East and CBD, including existing peak period express services and some all-stops and cross regional routes”.

Is the black dog the elephant in the room for our football codes?

Mitchell Pearce at The Banksia Project mental health evening. Shane Webcke struggled with life after football.

Dan Vickerman played 63 Tests for the Wallabies. Photo: Jason Oxenham

I’ve been thinking about this column for a while. I just haven’t written it because, like most blowhard columnists, I can’t come up with a neat solution to put in the last paragraph.

I don’t even have a point. Maybe there isn’t one. Maybe the best we can do is just talk about this stuff and hope it helps. To tell others that they aren’t alone.

In the course of most weeks, I will talk to dozens of people around footy and other codes; coaches and chief executives and chairmen and past and present players, and they will regularly tell me about sportspeople wrestling with the very real thought of suicide.

“I have three current players seriously dealing with depression,” one club boss said on Monday. “And two former players. I talk to them about it every day.”

It’s the plight of the former player that comes into focus right now following the heartbreaking news that former Wallabies second-rower Dan Vickerman, 37, died at his family home in Sydney on Saturday night.

“I think everyone was shocked by it,” former Wallaby and Brumbies captain Owen Finegan told ABC News. “It was devastating. We all play on an old boys team called the Silver Foxes and Dan had expressed a number of times how difficult his transition was and it is difficult for a lot of professional sports people, especially when you’ve had 10 or more years at the top of the game.”

Vickerman has been widely remembered as an intense player on the field, a beautiful soul off it. As so often happens when someone suddenly dies, those left behind wonder what they could’ve done to prevent it.

It would be premature and insensitive to mull over such things at this time. But it’s important to speak about the broader issue of depression among our professional sportspeople.

For sport, the black dog is no longer the elephant in the room. It’s been dragged out into the light.

But can sports do more to deal with it? Or are the major codes just putting up a Power Point display in front of some disinterested players but ticking the “mental illness” box nonetheless?

I’d suggest they are not. Players have rarely had so much support around them. But it’s clear that there can never be enough.

In rugby league, several young players have taken their own life in recent years. And then, last December, former Parramatta and Roosters player Chad Robinson was lost after a long battle with depression.

ABC broadcaster Craig Hamilton has been a mental health crusader since 2000 when he suffered a manic episode at Broadmeadow train station en route to cover the Sydney Olympics. When he’s not calling rugby league, he is often crossing the country talking about mental health.

When I phoned him on Monday, he was on his way to Central Queensland on a speaking tour with retired star Preston Campbell.

“When they are players, they become a person they think they are,” Hamilton said. “When they retire, they ask: who am I?”

In other words, players are given superhero powers for 10 years, maybe more. And then it’s suddenly taken away – the money, the physicality, the perfectionism – and the void can’t be filled.

Years ago, former coach Warren Ryan was in conversation with Broncos prop Shane Webcke, who admitted to struggling when he retired from playing.

“You need something to retire to,” Ryan said, “not something to retire from.”

After a long pause, Webcke said: “That’s probably the most profound thing I’ve ever heard.”

But sometimes having something to retire to isn’t enough, and on that score you can look at Grant Hackett.

He left the pool as an Olympic hero, and straight into a suit and tie and a high-ranking job at Westpac. He had a gig at Channel Nine and speaking engagements coming from all corners.

But none of that replaced the structure and discipline that came with eyeballing the black line at the bottom of the pool every morning.

Last Thursday night, Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce fronted the Banksia Project’s mental health lecture at the University of NSW. Having turned his life around in the space of the year, Pearce feels it’s necessary to give a little back.

Some readers lazily dismissed the ensuing story – which wasn’t solicited by Pearce or the club – as a cliched tale of redemption, but if they’d read it he actually had a warning.

“The war never stops,” Pearce said.

It’s a war that’s never going to be won, but Hamilton argues the best way to fight it is by talking about it.

“I don’t know how many phone calls I’ve had over the years from professional sportspeople,” he says. “I’ve never quoted them, never told anyone about those conversations but they’ve all said: I am really struggling. And they haven’t told no one.

“It’s important to let them speak to people who have been to hell and back. These were my symptoms. I wasn’t sleeping. I couldn’t eat. I had total social isolation. The normal things that made me happy no longer made me happy. I had dark thoughts. Then I had suicidal thoughts … I honestly don’t know many players in professional sport have heard those stories; the confronting, personal stories about what it’s like to battle mental illness. Those stories need to be told, they need to be heard.”

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All eyes on Julie Bishop’s visit to Washington for signs of normalisation between US and Australia

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will be scrutinised by global political analysts and commentators while she is in Washington. Photo: Louise KennerleyForeign Minister Julie Bishop has dashed to Washington for a series of high-level meetings as the US seeks to soothe relations with allies bruised in the early days of the Trump administration.

Usually, the presence of an Australian foreign minister in Washington is barely noted beyond the canape tray of diplomatic circles – but this trip will be closely scrutinised, following so soon after the controversy about the now infamous “worst call” between President Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull.

Analysts are carefully watching – perhaps hoping – for signs the US is reverting to a more conventional foreign policy after the early volley of presidential firecrackers.

Australia has won a new notoriety in US politics over recent weeks, shared between popular late-night talk shows as well as foreign policy boffins, as a harbinger for how Mr Trump has performed.

Those judgments will inevitably feed into a contrast with the atmospherics that surround a state visit to Australia by China’s premier Li Keqiang, expected next month.

Ms Bishop will meet in Washington with Vice-President Mike Pence, who spent the weekend seeking to assure European leaders of America’s commitment to security for the continent.

She will also hold talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has carefully sought to dial back early threats to more aggressively confront China in the South China Sea.

But Australia’s agreement with the US to resettle refugees – which Mr Trump publicly blasted as a “dumb deal” – is likely to be played down as officials seek to quietly make progress.

Instead, the focus will be on a push for extra Australian forces in Syria and Iraq as Mr Trump’s self-imposed 30-day deadline for a comprehensive plan to defeat Islamic State expires next Monday.

That offensive began last week when US Defence Secretary Jim  Mattis held a 50-minute meeting with his Australian counterpart, Marise Payne, on the sidelines of a NATO summit.

Questions will undoubtedly be raised over whether Australia is acting in response to Mr Trump’s outrage over the refugee deal.

Ms Bishop was in the US in late January before the flare-up over the telephone call, and in the days the Turnbull government was still clutching to hope Mr Trump would not scupper regional trade talks, known as the Trans Pacific Partnership.

But that trip was not to Washington, and Ms Bishop made a point, when announcing this visit, to emphasise “Australia is an open, liberal trading nation” while also spruiking the benefits of the Australia-US free trade deal.

She will also want to settle dates for the next joint meeting of Australian and US defence and foreign ministers, known as AUSMIN, usually an annual gathering but never secured in the last months of the Obama administration.

And having just at the weekend walked the demilitarised zone with North Korea, Ms Bishop will need to be especially conscious of landmines in Trump’s America now, too.

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Kittens dumped in takeaway bag in McDonald’s restaurant

Caroline Dare, of Devonport holding the 4 rescued kittens who were discovered in a paper bag left behind in the Ulverstone McDonalds restaurant. Photo: Brodie WeedingFour newborn kittens have been dumped in a McDonald’s takeaway bag at one of its Tasmanian restaurants.

On Friday an Ulverstone McDonald’s staff member found the bag of kittens, no more than two days old, on a dining table.

Just Cats Tasmania founder Rachel Beech described the dumping as the “worst case we’ve ever had”.

The kittens were taken to the Ulverstone Vet before they were handed to a Just Cats Tasmania foster carer Caroline Dare in Devonport.

Ms Beech said the kittens were in good condition with the umbilical cord still attached.

She said there was concern for the kittens’ mother and said it was likely her milk supply was not being used – which could result in the cat becoming pregnant again in eight weeks.

While the RSPCA Tasmania investigates the case, Ms Beech was outraged with the way the kittens had been dumped.

“To place them inside a McDonald’s bag and leave it on the dining table – somebody else might have thrown them out or the bag could have been crumpled and the kittens squashed,” she said.

“There’s so many alternative ways to get rid of your kittens rather than dumping them in a public place.”

She said the most simple and effective solution to stopping unwanted breeding was to have cats desexed.

“Just one cat, not desexed, can produce 700 kittens in three years,” she said.

“Her kittens, many of those a female, then go onto have kittens and so forth.”

The dumping comes in a year where Just Cats Tasmania has been “inundated” with unwanted kittens.

With discounted desexing available from the RSPCA and Just Cats, Ms Beech said the onus fell to owners.

She described the positive take-up of desexing in 2015 as people jumping “on the bandwagon” but said it had “lapsed” in 2017.

Ms Beech said anyone who had unwanted kittens or cats should surrender them humanely to a vet or Just Cats Tasmania. “We don’t prejudge,” she said.

The RSPCA is investigating the case of the dumped kittens and reviewing restaurant CCTV.

The Advocate

How an All Blacks icon helped Quade Cooper get back in the game

Reluctant Wallaby: Cooper and Drew Mitchell force an Australian cap on Ma’a Nonu in Toulon. Photo: FacebookQuade Cooper is as happy as he has been at virtually any stage of his career. Content and confident back with the Queensland Reds, the Wallaby playmaker says he has an All Blacks great to thank for helping him rediscover his purpose in the game.

There is some irony that affirmation of his abilities would come from a man who was part of a team that seemed to revel in tormenting Cooper on the field. Yet in Ma’a Nonu, Cooper found a larger-than-life mentor and now, a lifelong friend.

The pair met during Cooper’s brief stay in Toulon, where Nonu just signed a contract extension. And even if Cooper’s playing time in Toulon wasn’t a spectacular success, his tenure in France would be the ideal tonic to renew his energy for a fresh stint at Ballymore.

Part of that was down to Nonu. When Cooper arrived, he felt his game was at a crossroads after some lean years at the Reds. Drawing on his 103 Tests with the All Blacks, Nonu told Cooper not to reinvent the wheel, back his instincts and continue to develop the skills that had served him throughout his career.

The Reds look to be the beneficiaries. Cooper looked relaxed and sharp in a trial win against Melbourne and will command the back line as Queensland begin their Super Rugby campaign against the Sharks in Brisbane on Friday night.

​”You always wonder, when things aren’t going that well as it was here for a little while, whether it’s you … whether you’ve somehow forgotten how to play rugby,” Cooper said.

“But just being around him, he’s one of the best players in the world, he just reinforced a lot of things I already knew about rugby.

“It’s just being able to be confident in yourself. I was getting told things by the same people, or getting different messages from people in the same environment. But getting away from everything I knew, everything I was comfortable with, and to speak to someone I have huge respect for, it was one of the best experiences I could get.”

The bustling centre made such an impact that Cooper said he urged Nonu to come and join him at the Reds. Nonu has family in Brisbane and has been a regular visitor over the years.

“I always wished for opportunities like that. And I’m grateful to be able to stay in touch with him. He’s one of the best blokes … I even tried to tempt him to come here.

“He’s got a lot of family here and spends a lot of time in Brisbane. He’s just got a wealth of knowledge and everyone in rugby, even other sports, has so much respect for him.”

Cooper’s return to a Reds jersey ends an era of uncertainty as to where he fit into the big picture of the province. While grand-final heroes Will Genia and James Horwill were given a fitting farewell in their last game, Cooper’s contract was still in a state of flux.

On Monday, he was part of a select group of players awarded a special cap and pin as the result of seven years of painstaking research to document every player capped for Queensland since its first match against NSW in 1882.

“The farewell side was a tough one. I wasn’t sure if I was definitely leaving. And when I finally went, it was such a quick decision that I didn’t have time to say goodbye,” Cooper said.

“This place means a lot to me, it has been everything I’ve known in rugby since I was a kid. To leave like that, it was upsetting at one time. It would have been nice [to get an official farewell] but at the same time, I didn’t want to go. It was hard to accept I was actually leaving.

“I didn’t want to leave so I didn’t really want to say goodbye. It all worked out in the end. I was able to see the world, gain a little bit of experience and come home. I couldn’t be happier to be back here.”

Cricket Australia ‘really pleased’ with Geelong Twenty20 international crowd

Cricket Australia says it was “really pleased” with the crowd for Sunday night’s Twenty20 international in Geelong despite the attendance being smaller than at any AFL home and away game played at the venue in more than 25 years.

Not helped by a day of persistent drizzle, 13,647 ventured to Kardinia Park for the historic double-header in which Australia hosted New Zealand and Sri Lanka in women’s and men’s T20 matches respectively.

Both Australian teams lost, with a weakened men’s side stunned by the tourists off the final ball of the match for the second time in three days. The most recent AFL crowd at the venue to draw fewer people was a match in 1991 between Geelong and the Brisbane Bears, watched by 13,639.

The television audience on Sunday night was still strong, with a peak of 1.4 million viewers tuning in as Sri Lanka pulled off a miraculous escape.

The men’s fixture was a rare dalliance with regional Australia for the national side, who had only played in one non-state or territory capital before: Cairns more than a decade ago.

CA is set to bring games to regional centres as part of its expanded BBL next summer, with Geelong widely tipped to feature. Just whether the city will host another international any time soon looks less certain, although CA chief executive James Sutherland told Fairfax Media he was happy with the crowd number.

“In the end we were really pleased with the crowd in Geelong. It rained throughout the afternoon, which disrupted the women’s T20 game, and it was very cold, so it’s not surprising that some fans, particularly families, decided to stay at home and watch the match on TV,” Sutherland said.

“We had pre-sold 16,000 tickets, and normally expect a few thousand more walk-ups, so to get more than 13,500 in those conditions and on a Sunday night was actually a very good result.”

With the crowd again bolstered by a healthy contingent of Sri Lankan fans, Sutherland said the atmosphere at the ground was “amazing.”

“This is the strength of cricket, it is truly an international game that brings disparate communities together to enjoy sport and, as we saw, the T20 format provides some of the best skills and entertainment you will see anywhere,” Sutherland said.

As for the prospect of future internationals at the ground, Sutherland said Geelong had plenty working in its favour. “Both teams were very happy with the facilities at Geelong, and the pitch and the size of the ground made for two excellent games. When you take into account that they are building a new stand, you can see there is significant potential there. Overall we were impressed with the support of the local council, and the people of Geelong, and it has again demonstrated to us that regional centres can and should be putting their hand up to host elite cricket.”

Victorian minister for tourism and major events John Eren also lauded the fixture as a success. “Last night, Geelong had another chance to shine on the world stage and it didn’t disappoint,” he said.

More than 42,000 watched the first game of the series at the MCG on Friday night. The series concludes on Wednesday night in Adelaide.

Victims tell of agony of Ross River fever

Rosa Zull,one of more than 1000 Victorians diagnosed since January 1 with Ross River virus, speaks of the pain and exhaustion of the disease. Photo: Arsineh HouspianVictorians struck by the Ross River virus outbreak – including a doctor who says he was infected by a mosquito in Melbourne’s northeast – have described its debilitating symptoms.

While authorities insist most people infected will temporarily experience mild symptoms, for some it has already been weeks of severe joint pain, swelling and fatigue and for as many as an estimated one in four, these symptoms could last a year or more.

Most of the 1012 people believed infected since January 1 were infected by mosquitoes in regional Victoria; and the Health Department maintains the only reports of mosquito-bite transmission within the city were six cases in Frankston and Casey in Melbourne’s south.

But Brunswick GP Michael Levick, who is also on the board of the Australian Medical Association (Victoria), is confident he was infected in mid-January near the border of Eltham and Lower Plenty, in the northeast of Melbourne, which he said was reported to authorities last week.

“It was almost certainly at home,” he said. “I haven’t been anywhere but there or Brunswick and in Brunswick I’m inside all the time.

“Really all it takes is one person who’s been to Gippsland or Anglesea… to come back into the city, a mossie bites them, the mossie goes off and bites a kangaroo and then it spreads from there.

“I wasn’t able to sleep at night because my arm was going numb and then aching, then my feet, knees, particularly my right knee, my hands, neck, were all aching. My body and brain are both going at about half pace.”

A Health Department spokesman said: “There appears to be a risk for Ross River virus infection across Victoria, although fortunately the risk in metropolitan Melbourne is very low.”

Brandon Shaw, 43, who lives near Albury-Wodonga, thought he had sprained his knee when he awoke with swelling on New Year’s Day. Then came the pain, soon his whole body was aching and he was completely drained of energy.

About two weeks ago when the pain reached his other leg, making it too difficult to walk, he had to stop work. “I can sort of stagger around a bit but that’s really it at the moment,” Mr Shaw said.

“My doctor believes I am presenting a little more severe than most, this I hope, as I would not like to see anybody else go through this.”

North Melbourne woman Rosa Zull, 56, believes she was bitten over Christmas while taking an after-dinner walk in Angelsea, about 420km from where Mr Shaw was infected.

Previously a regular at the gym, Ms Zull said Ross River fever makes her feel 30 years older, and get so tired, “I think, ‘how am I going to get through this day’?”

When she stopped taking her now daily regime of six powerful anti-inflammatory tablets, “I couldn’t even open my toothpaste cap because my wrists were so sore,” she said.

“Even getting something out of my pocket, taking a cardigan off, or bending down to put my socks on, it’s just so painful.”

There is no cure, other than drugs for pain and fever, nor a licensed vaccine for the virus. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframe_117′);

John Fazakerley, professor of virology at the University of Melbourne’s Doherty Institute, said the Queensland University of Technology and Austrian company Baxter Bioscience had taken a vaccine through phase three clinical trials but often when there were a relatively small number of cases of a disease, a vaccine was deemed to be commercially non viable.

Professor John Aaskov, who designed the vaccine , said it was shown to be safe and effective in the trials. But he believes the millions of dollars required for licensing it and undertaking post market studies are preventing it from becoming available.

He said US company Nanotherapeutics, which bought Baxter’s vaccine division, was unlikely to spend the money without co-funding.

Taking steps to prevent mosquito bites remains the best defence, which includes covering up with loose-fitting clothing, using insect repellent on exposed skin and not leaving stagnant water around the home.

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Managing Director of Laing+Simmons Leanne Pilkington speaks at women’s networking event for real estate in Newcastle

Women in property urged to ‘push forward’ TAKING THE LEAD: Managing Director of Laing+Simmons Leanne Pilkington, pictured right, spoke about her own meteoric rise through the ranks at an event in Newcastle.

TAKING THE LEAD: Managing Director of Laing+Simmons Leanne Pilkington, pictured right, spoke about her own meteoric rise through the ranks at an event in Newcastle.

TAKING THE LEAD: Managing Director of Laing+Simmons Leanne Pilkington, pictured right, spoke about her own meteoric rise through the ranks at an event in Newcastle.

TAKING THE LEAD: Managing Director of Laing+Simmons Leanne Pilkington, pictured right, spoke about her own meteoric rise through the ranks at an event in Newcastle.

TweetFacebook Catch up with the property girls Pictures from a networking event at Bar Petite. +4Pictures from a networking event at Bar Petite. facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappcommentCommentsMORE GALLERIES

1234 – Managing Director of Laing+Simmons Leanne Pilkington has urged women in Newcastle’s real estate industry to step out of their comfort zones into leadership positions, instead of being content with playing a “good number two”.

Ms Pilkington, a Sydney high flyer and incoming president of the Real Estate Institute of NSW, was the keynote speaker at the ‘Catch up with the Property Girls’ function held at Bar Petite last week.

She reflected on her own experiences starting out as a franchise administration manager with Laing+Simmons in 1995 to become the head of the firm just five years later.

“It’s the things I did when I didn’t realise anyone was looking that set me on my leadership path,” she said.

“Leadership isn’t a job description.I’m not impressed by people that only do the things they’re required to do. If you have aspirations to be in a leadership role you have to actually put your hand up and take proactive action.”

Ms Pilkington said she nearly ran “screaming from the building” the first time she was offered a management position because she was lacking in confidence.

“That’s a typical female thing, unless we’re completely sure we have all the skills to do the job we just won’t put our hand up.

“It’s okay not to feel 100 per cent confident about what’s next and to actually take that step. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and just push forward.”

Nearly 30 women turned out for the event, hosted by theReal Women in Real Estate group.

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