Sharks. In and out of politics


In Australia, feline Aids affects 14-29% of cats tested, and one-in-six outdoor cats is estimated to be infected with the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. There are moves afoot to confine domestic cats indoors, where they won’t be such a threat to native birds and wildlife. Australia’s first threatened species commissioner, Gregory Andrews, would like all cat owners to keep their cats contained 24 hours a day. “It’s a journey that Australia has to go on,” he says.

Containment measures in the Australian Capital Territory already require cats in some suburbs to be kept indoors; if outside, they must be on a leash or in an enclosure. Passed along mainly in catfights, FIV is not transmissible to humans and uninfected cats can be vaccinated.

Misunderstood: a great white shark

Now to sharks: With the number of shark attacks rising from three, to 13 in New South Wales this year, and more sightings than ever before – possibly because of warmer ocean temperatures and great whites coming closer to shore because their territory is being fished out – the NSW government convened a shark summit of 70 experts in Sydney to discuss new technologies, among which were real-time tracking of sharks using a smartphone app, bionic barriers and an underwater rubberised fence.

“Dedicated Land-based Observation – used effectively in South Africa with people standing on high-points spotting sharks” was also discussed. Drones and other aerial methods. Hot air balloons, gyros and blimps hold out the most promise, experts say. There were doubts that personal repellents, such as a spray of a natural chemical found in putrefied shark tissue would deter a shark in attack mode.

Since 1900, Australia has had 277 fatal shark attacks; the US, 161; and South Africa, 104. The great white is a protected species. Known to grow as long as 8 metres, it can accelerate to speeds of 56km/hour, reaches maturity at 30 and can live to be 70. Its only predator is the killer whale. Great whites have receptor pores under their noses sensitive to tiny electric fields surrounding all moving creatures and they can detect blood in water from up to 5km away.

Next, politicians: As you will have read, one of Australia’s richest men, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, has “rolled” Tony Abbott to become the new Australian Prime Minister – the fifth change in as many years (although Kevin Rudd held the office twice). Turnbull, a former barrister and banker worth A$100million, is considered socially progressive in his centre-right Liberal party, and is in favour of gay marriage (Australia is to hold a very expensive referendum on the issue) and he differs with his predecessor’s climate-change scepticism.

He is also an ardent republican (Australia held a referendum in 1999 and decided to keep the queen). His ascension is a blow for the Labor Party, since he is a more popular, charismatic and credible leader than Abbott, and will be harder to beat at the election next year than the foot-in-mouth Abbott.

In 2009, Turnbull led the Liberal Party when in opposition, and was then rolled by Abbott. Turnbull, who now says he is sorry for Abbott, who must be in a “dark place”, will focus on economic management and provide a “new style of leadership that respects the people’s intelligence” instead of sloganeering.

His first crisis was the shooting last week of a police accountant by a 15-year-old Iraqi Kurdish teenager, outside police headquarters in Parramatta in Sydney’s west. The chairman of a Kurdish mosque, Neil El-Kadomi, told worshippers that if they “don’t like Australia, leave”. “We do not need scumbags in the community. We have to lift our heads up as Australians,” he told media afterwards. While pleading for mutual respect, Turnbull said the attack was a “shocking reminder of the consequences of radicalisation”.

One in five children won’t talk about problems, a “happiness” survey of 20,000 Australian children has found. “They sort of feel dismissed at home by parents – especially boys who tend to be told to ‘man up’ and that they’re not supposed to worry about things,” said one of the researchers. The ABC survey found that two-thirds of children had experienced bullying, 39% for a year or more, although that might be inaccurate labelling because the word had such currency, and what they are actually talking about is conflict. The good news is that 64% of children said they were happy most of the time.

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