Immunisation message still vital, says AMA

Dr. Suzanne Davey prepares an immunisation needle at the Kambah Village Medical Practice. Photo: Graham TidyThe importance of immunisation from preventable diseases is still a relevant community message amid concerns about patchy immunisation rates and continued vaccination rates below 95 per cent, Australia’s leading medical association has warned.
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Kambah Medical Practice GP Suzanne Davey said vaccinating against illness and disease was the easiest way GPs could protect adults, children, the elderly and “immuno-compromised” people from vaccine-preventable infectious disease.

“The risk is far higher if you contract the disease of having a serious complication than from immunisations,” she said.

“Living in a community means sharing germs so vaccination protects you from infectious disease.”

Dr Davey said in the early part of her career she worked in Cooktown where there was a high unvaccinated population and said she witnessed children die from whooping cough and tetanus. She also pointed to how immunisation programs meant diseases such as polio were either no longer seen or extremely rare.

“In a population with a high unimmunised group of people, the infections can become very prevalent and spread very easily,” she said.

She said immunisation was vital to protect people from catching infectious diseases,

Australian Medical Association president Associate Professor Brian Owler said Australian GPs had been crucial in increasing Australia’s rates of immunisation.

“The importance of immunisation from preventable diseases remains a relevant community message amid concerns about patchy immunisation rates across the country and continued rates of immunisation lower than the 95 per cent mark, which provides herd immunity,” he said.

He said rates of illness and death from vaccine-preventable diseases had fallen significantly since childhood vaccinations were introduced in Australia in 1932.

Speaking during the AMA’s Family Doctor Week, Assoc Prof Owler said where immunisation levels were low, illnesses such as whooping cough and measles could be spread more easily.

A single case of measles was diagnosed in the territory on Friday, the third in the ACT this year.

Symptoms of measles may include fever, tiredness, running nose, sore eyes and a cough, followed by a rash which appears two to seven days later.

People generally develop symptoms seven to 18 days after being exposed.

Measles could be a potentially serious disease, which was highly contagious among people who were not fully immunised.

The recent confirmed case was the third for the ACT this year, after one in January and another in early February. Before that, Canberra had not had a confirmed infection since 2011.

Recent data from the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register shows the ACT continues to have some of the best vaccination rates in the country, with about 93 per cent of one and two year olds in the territory fully immunised compared with about 92 per cent of five year olds.

More information about immunisations is available from the Australian Academy of Science’s website.

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Julia Gillard offered secret deal for Greg Combet to become Prime Minister to fend off Kevin Rudd

Greg Combet, who Julia Gillard asked to contest the ALP leadership in June 2013. Photo: Brendan Esposito Julia Gillard and Greg Combet
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An embattled Julia Gillard secretly offered to stand down as Prime Minister in June 2013 and secure the leadership for then Climate Change and Industry minister Greg Combet in order to fend off  Kevin Rudd,  Mr Combet has revealed.

But dogged by months of ill-health, and unsure that a switch to a third leadership contender so close to an election would improve Labor’s position, Mr Combet declined the chance to be prime minister.

‘‘I was struggling a good deal personally by the time June [2013] came around’’ Mr Combet told Fairfax Media in an interview this week.   ‘‘I was in constant pain with the problems that I was having, and the thought of taking on additional responsibility and not being 100 per cent fit to do it, in that febrile environment,  it didn’t look easy.’’

He says he took a week or so to consider his ‘‘gut-wrenching’’ decision, which he discussed with his partner, ABC-TV newsreader Juanita Phillips.

But by the time Ms Gillard put the proposition to him he was already ‘‘90 per cent gone’’ from federal politics.

Mr Combet concedes his exit from Canberra dashed the hopes of many inside  Labor who  viewed him as a future leader, including former leaders Kim Beazley and Bob Hawke, who had both encouraged him to enter parliament with that ultimate goal in mind.

In a book co-authored with Mark Davis, The Fights of My Life, Mr Combet provides new insights into the toxic and ‘‘vicious’’ atmosphere which engulfed the federal parliamentary party in the  run-up to the September 2013 election.

By  early June of that year, Ms Gillard was desperate to prevent a Rudd return, while the Rudd forces were equally determined to force her to stand aside without a party room vote.

Mr Combet advised Ms Gillard she should call on a ballot to ‘‘flush‘‘ out  Mr Rudd.

In response, he writes,  ‘‘she spoke to me privately and said she would stand aside if I stood against Rudd’’.

She told him that ‘‘my view is that Labor’s electoral position would be best served by moving to a new leader, and I think you are the best person to take it on … I will muster as much support as I can for you. I don’t know if it will be enough to get you over the line, but you are held in high regard and I would do everything I could to persuade people to switch their support to you.’’

Mr Combet writes that after declining Ms Gillard’s offer, he urged Mr Rudd to come out of the shadows, resulting in what he claims was a payback leak by Mr Rudd against him.

Mr Rudd was suspicious of Mr Combet’s union background – the latter had come into politics after being secretary of the ACTU – and told him when first offering him a junior frontbench position after the 2007 election that ‘‘you are going to have to be deunionised first’’.

Mr Combet writes: ‘‘After spending my life in the union movement, the idea that I needed to be cleansed of my union past was pretty offensive.”

He says he remains convinced that former opposition leader Kim Beazley would have won the 2007  federal election and become a highly successful Labor prime minister if Mr Rudd had not dislodged him.

ACTU polling as part of the Your Rights At Work Campaign in the run up to the 2007 election left him ‘‘completely convinced Beazley would have won’’, which would have resulted in a ‘‘vastly more experienced, mature person as prime minister presiding over, for want of a better description, a really grown up government, avoiding all the mistakes’’.

‘‘Neither Julia nor Kevin had had a lot of experience in leadership roles and I think that impacted on their capacity to do the job’’ Mr Combet told Fairfax Media.

Mr Combet battled illness and near-constant pain for much of his time as minister, including a vascular condition in one leg, and osteoporosis which left him with neck, shoulder and arm pain.

‘‘It was the most difficult time of my working life’’, he recalls.

He says that while he does not regret his decision to leave parliament,  it will not be the end of his political activism and that the  work he and others put into a carbon pricing scheme will pay off in future, despite the Abbott government’s axing of the carbon tax last week.

‘‘This is a battle that’s [been]  lost, but it’s not the war. [Labor] has to keep fighting.’’

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Paul Byrnes on Charlie Chaplin’s movie centenary

Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator.As the First World War began, 100 years ago, Charles Chaplin was making his first movies in Hollywood. While Europe tore itself apart, he became the biggest star the world had ever seen, the first truly international star. He changed not just the idea of what was funny, but the way that comedy was filmed. His talent as a director matched his talent as an actor almost from the start.
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His first film, Making a Living, premiered on February 2, 1914. He was working for Mack Sennett at Keystone for $150 a week. By March 1916, Chaplin was making a better living than almost anyone on earth – $US670,000 a year for the Mutual Film Corporation. His films were used to cheer up the wounded in Britain. In one hospital they rigged projectors to throw the image onto the ceiling for soldiers who could not sit up. An American neurologist wrote asking for signed photographs. They were to be used for soldiers with brain damage. If they could recognise his face, there might be a chance of recovery. That’s how well-known Chaplin had become in two years.

He was also controversial, because neither he nor his brother Sydney – also working in Hollywood – had volunteered for the British Army. Lord Northcliffe’s Weekly Dispatch singled out Charlie in 1917: “until he has undergone medical examination he is under the suspicion of regarding himself as specially privileged to escape the common responsibilities of British citizenship”. Charlie responded with a statement that he was ready to answer the call, once the British Embassy advised that he should go. The embassy supported him: “He is of as much use to Great Britain now making big money and subscribing to war loans as he would be in the trenches”.

Chaplin continued to receive white feathers even after it was reported that he had gone to a recruiting office and been turned down as underweight. As his authorised biographer David Robinson writes, these attacks did not come from servicemen: the Tramp was the soldier’s favourite. His films were even cited as having miraculous powers. A theatre owner in Lancashire wrote that “a wounded soldier laughed so much he got up and walked to the end of the hall, and quite forgot that he had left his crutches behind”.

Chaplin invented the Tramp just before the war, but he was the right character at the right time. Small but pugnacious, he had both virtue and vice. The troops saw someone who wouldn’t back down in the face of bullies and policemen; a man who always got up after a knockdown, and usually gave more than he got; a man of indomitable spirit, but down on his luck. If ever there was a character to make a soldier feel better, this was he, but where did he come from?

Early biographies claim the Tramp made his debut in Kid Auto Races at Venice, Chaplin’s second film at Keystone. In fact, David Robinson points out that it was in Mabel’s Strange Predicament, shot before Kid Auto Races, but released two days after.  Robinson quotes the legend of how the costume was created “spontaneously, without forethought” one rainy afternoon in the communal male dressing room at Keystone. “Chaplin borrowed Fatty Arbuckle’s voluminous trousers, tiny Charles Avery’s jacket, Ford Sterling’s size fourteen shoes, worn on the wrong feet to keep them from falling off, a too-small derby (bowler) belonging to Arbuckle’s father-in-law, and a moustache intended for Mack Swain’s use, which Chaplin trimmed to toothbrush size”. That was the Keystone publicity version. In fact, Chaplin set out to create “an ensemble of contrasts – tiny hat and huge shoes, baggy pants and pinched jacket”. Most of it was straight from the music hall, in which he had been performing since the age of nine. He had used elements of the character in his stage career, particularly the drunk act.

In his first films, the Tramp is almost always drunk. That makes him amorous, leading him to make a fool of himself chasing ladies. It makes him aggressive towards other men, who are always his rivals. It makes him fall down a lot, always with his legs at full inversion; and it makes him resentful of authority, willing to buck it, without thinking of consequences. That makes him childlike, which blunts the edge of malice.

The costume is fully formed in Mabel’s Strange Predicament, but it’s also there in nascent form in Making a Living, before he has invented the Tramp. He plays a toff-like chancer who’s broke but cunning. He wears a top hat instead of a bowler; his moustache has handle bars, like a stage villain, which is what he is. He carries a cane, wears a tight-fitting long coat and knotted tie. The only things missing are the voluminous pants and big shoes. Between the first and second films, Chaplin turned this man from villain to tramp, taking him down the socio-economic ladder. A toff doesn’t evoke the audience’s sympathy; the tramp does, because he’s from the gutter, which is where Chaplin had spent his childhood. His alcoholic father abandoned the family when Chaplin was still a child, and his mother went insane by the time he was nine, probably because of syphilis. Chaplin knew much more about being a tramp than being a toff, even if his later life became increasingly genteel. From that one decision, came comic immortality. Happy centenary, Charlie. Thank God you didn’t enlist.


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Greg Swann appointed Brisbane CEO

The Brisbane Lions have appointed former Carlton and Collingwood chief executive Greg Swann as the club’s new chief executive.
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Swann, who had also been linked to CEO role with the Gold Coast Suns, will be annnouced as the new Lions’ boss as soon as Friday.

Swann, who started at Collingwood in 2000 and was successful in rebuilding the Magpies, left Carlton only a matter of weeks ago, after the Blues opted to look for a new chief executive – which only this week was confirmed as long time Adelaide chief executive Steven Trigg.

Swann had also been a possibility to take up the chief executive role with Racing Victoria, but the AFL was keen for him to continue in the industry as a chief executive, and was believed keen for him to take up one of the positions in Queensland.

The Brisbane job is seen as both more challenging – given the club’s parlous finances and its difficulties onfield – than the Gold Coast job, for which chief operating officer Andrew Travis is among the leading candidates.

Swann’s experience and strong reputation within the industry appears to have won him the job over potential local candidates – with the football background and runs on the board rated higher than closer ties with Brisbane’s business community. The Lions’ chief executive role is regarded as among the most challenging in the AFL, with the club having had difficulties in retaining young talent and having been hit hard financially in recent years.

Swann worked hand in glove with Eddie McGuire and Mick Malthouse at Collingwood before crossing to Carlton when poached by the Blues’ then president Richard Pratt. He was a key figure in the signing of Chris Judd from West Coast and then the decision to replace Brett Ratten with Malthouse. Ultimately, he came under significant pressure from Carlton’s demanding club board, which wanted a change.

With Carlton having just appointed Trigg as CEO, the Crows and Suns remain in the market for new chiefs, with a number of Adelaide identities, including ex-player and board member Nigel Smart, head of football David Noble and West Coast head of football Craig Vozzo among those who have been touted as potential candidates.

The AFL was keen for Swann to remain in the game, with the league mindful of the difficulty clubs have had in identifying strong and experienced chief executives.

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Rising star Ajla Tomljanovic to boost Australian tennis stocks

As Australian men’s tennis celebrates its greatest top-100 singles representation in more than 13 years, a major potential boost to the women’s game has arrived with the surprise defection of rising Croatian star Ajla Tomljanovic.
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Tomljanovic, 21, who started last season ranked 495th after returning from a bout of mononucleosis, has broken into the world’s top 60 since joining forces last December with Sam Stosur’s former coach, David Taylor.

She now plans to formalise her Australian connection by representing her soon-to-be-adopted nation at next month’s US Open.

A powerful prospect who upset third seed Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the round-of-16 on debut at this year’s French Open, and served for her second-round match against Sloane Stephens at Melbourne Park in January, Zagreb-born Tomljanovic has trained at Chris Evert’s academy in Boca Raton, Florida, since the age of 13.

At Roland Garros, her elimination of Radwanska coincided with the sensational toppling of world No. 1 Serena Williams by 20-year-old Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, who declared “now is the moment” for the next generation to emerge in women’s tennis.

Tomljanovic added: ”There are a lot of girls my age, around my age, who are doing big things, and I’m honoured to be part of that group.”

She will join Jarmila Gajdosova and the Rodionova sisters, Anastasia and Arina, among the former eastern Europeans who now call Australia home, as well as childhood immigrants Bernard Tomic, Jelena Dokic and Marinko Matosevic.

The No. 1 in her native Croatia, the only Australians ranked higher than Tomljanovic’s world ranking of 56 are Stosur, the former US Open champion who turned 30 this year, and Casey Dellacqua, who has reached a career-high No. 33 at the age of 29.

Next is Victorian Olivia Rogowska (106), Gajdosova (149), teenager Ash Barty (189) and Anastasia Rodionova (206).

The men bat deeper, headed by recent Newport champion Lleyton Hewitt ((40), Marinko Matosevic (52), Nick Kyrgios (65), Bogota title-holder Bernard Tomic (70), Matt Ebden (86) and the improved Sam Groth (92).

The acclaimed training facilities and support services at Melbourne Park’s National Tennis Centre are likely to have been a factor in Tomljanovic’s decision, which has been welcomed by Tennis Australia.

“Tomljanovic will play as an Australian at grand slam tournaments, effective immediately, and at Tour events once her citizenship is finalised. Tennis Australia welcomes Ajla to the Australian tennis family and wishes her well,” TA said.

Under international tennis rules, Tomljanovic can play under the Australian flag at the four majors, but not at WTA level until after completing a qualification process that starts with an application for permanent residency and ends with a passport.

In 2009, amendments were passed to immigration laws to help accommodate elite athletes whose travel requirements had prevented them from spending the requisite number of months in the country to gain citizenship.

Tomljanovic, it seems, will be the next high-profile tennis beneficiary, and Australia has won the allegiance of one of the game’s exciting young talents.

“She was a great junior and wasn’t 100 per cent sure about being one of the top pros until the last six months, because there’s been a little shift in her game,” Evert said in Paris.

“She’s not as passive and she’s playing more aggressive, hitting the ball harder, her serve is much better, so she’s surprised me.”

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