Mining regains power as Gross Domestic Product rebounds

Australian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) improved 3.4% last December quarter indicating hope for a mining economic recovery shows the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.

Due to COVID-19 state lockdowns lifting in NSW, Victoria and ACT the national economy recovered significantly after a drop of 1.9% the previous September quarter.

The ABS Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product data reveals that at the end of December 2021 and before the pandemic started in September 2019 Australia’s economy had grown the same amount of 3.4% for those quarters.

Whilst GDP rebounded nation wide last quarter, mining production did not prove as vast a percentage points contribution to growth as other competitor categories, signalling improvement, yet with a way to go.

Within the highest categories: professional, scientific and technical services; accommodation and food services; and health care and social assistance contributed 0.4% each of the total 3.4% GDP whereas mining faired the worse contributing negatively with -0.1%.

Factors that impacted during the September to December quarter were a fall in the categories of: coal mining; oil and gas extraction; and other mining, although this was partly offset by a rise in iron ore mining, overall this resulted in mining percentage change to show a -1.0% decrease. 

Coal Mining production economy to rebound.

Coal mining decreased 4.5% because of heavy rainfall and labour issues impeding mine operations.

Oil and gas extraction dominated by maintenance activities suffered due to weather conditions and that caused a natural field slump.

Planned and unplanned maintenance activities impacted other mining, mostly copper production although this was partly offset by an increase in gold production.

This quarter the -1.0% mining decrease summary was calculated with the offset of a 0.7% rise in iron ore mining after a disruptive production schedule due to last years September mine upgrading.

International trade halted this quarter as coal exports fell due to the weather impacting extraction. 

Despite this, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries proved strong economic growth in the December quarter, countering the impacts of COVID-19 with Australia’s 3.4% GDP rise leading the way ahead of the United States and South Korea as top performers.

According to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources same quarterly December release Australia’s mining sector contributes to an estimate 10% of GDP, counts for more than half of Australia’s total exports and around a quarter of a million people have jobs in the sector.

Australia is the world’s number one exporter of metallurgical coal, mostly used to make steel, making up 55% of the top 5 exporters ahead of the United States, Canada, Russia and Mongolia.

As the world’s second largest exporter of thermal coal, Australia exports 21% used mostly in electricity generation of the top 5 countries behind Indonesia and ahead of Russia, South Africa and Columbia.

These promising statistics in The Resources and Energy quarterly publication counter the negativity in mining GDP percentage contribution, proving a strong outlook for Australia’s mineral exports as the economy rebounds from the energy shortages it suffered during the pandemic.

Although the same department’s quarterly forecast data predicts that at a world macro level Australia is going to reach peak economic growth of 4.1% this year, after a steady 6.5% increase over the past couple of years, before dropping slightly to 2.6% in 2023.

The Australian energy sector is still predicted to perform strongly, with selected exports thermal coal showing a $15,998 million value for the year 2020-21 which could increase to $27,432 million for 2022-23.

Similarly metallurgical coal had a unit value of $23,170 million in 2020-21 and that could increase to $37,083 million in 2022-23.

The Office of the Chief Economist predicts that COVID-19 cases might continue to influence Australia’s total economic recovery and impact export earnings and energy shortages, despite this a strong outlook remains for peak growth this year with finances just easing slightly afterwards.

Black Lives Matter protests spark effective Australian demonstrations

The American Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has caused homegrown protests with thousands of Australians campaigning against Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Australia’s protest groups started the country’s own BLM movement after the death of African American man George Floyd on May 25 last year in Portland, America.

The Australian Human Rights Commission said the death of Mr Floyd in custody and the violence that erupted in America reminds Australians of the unacceptably high rates of deaths in prison of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Indigenous Social Justice Association secretary Raul Bassi, who organised the vigil for George Floyd at the Sydney Town Hall on June 6, said between 20,000 and 40,000 people attended the protest and it was the biggest number he had seen in Sydney since the Invasion Day march.

“People don’t care about Aboriginal people, they don’t understand how they can live 20 years less than the rest of the population,” said Mr Bassi.

“David Dungay was attacked by six guards in Long Bay jail and…he started to say ‘I can’t breathe’, George, what happened with the police in the neck…he was saying exactly the same. ‘I can’t breathe’.”

“If we respond, if we make enough noise, they are going to be careful…what they do.”

“I hope one day the white people of this country understand the fact that the white people have an advantage in this country is on the basis of the tragedy of the Aboriginal people.”

“Whatever is worth [something] in this country is coming from the land and the land like it or not [belongs] to the Aboriginal people,” he said.

The United States Department of Justice Attorney General William P. Barr said, “the video images of the incident that ended with the death of Mr Floyd, while in custody of Minneapolis police officers, were harrowing to watch and deeply disturbing.”

Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance (WAR), organisers of the Melbourne BLM protest on June 6, said roughly one Aboriginal has died every month in prison over the last 30 years.

WAR said that no police or prison officer has been held accountable for the 438 deaths in prison since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Media advisor for climate change activist group Extinction Rebellion Victoria, James Norman said the Australian Black Lives Matter protests were inspired by what happened in America and the tradition of non-violent protest.

Mr Norman said that we need to work closely with Indigenous people and put them at the centre of the movement.

“I think the whole world was shocked when those images came out and sparked this current rise of protest so that has definitely led to a huge increase in those issues being expressed directly on the streets globally and I do think that’s a good thing,” said Mr Norman.

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology data, Indigenous deaths in prison custody have been consistently lower than death rates of non-Indigenous prisoners since 2003-04.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt said that every death in custody is a tragedy, and there was no simple solution, the factors that contribute to high Aboriginal incarceration rates need to be addressed such as health, education, and employment.

The Morrison Government is pledging $2.1 million over three years to “establish a formal Custody Notification Service (CNS) in Victoria…a critical step in ensuring culturally appropriate care is provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people detained by police,” Mr Wyatt said.

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service currently has an informal CNS and will deliver the expanded system.

A CNS will be established in NT and WA and the Morrison Government is continuing to fund the CNS in NSW and the ACT, with a total investment of $3.4 million next financial year.

The Australian Human Rights Commission regularly updates the public about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice issues.

Australia is at risk of running out of homegrown rice by early 2021

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows the value of Australian rice crops dropped a staggering 86 per cent in 2018-19 forecasting a homegrown rice shortage.

The data revealed that the gross value of the Australian rice crop commodity was worth $34.3 million in 2018-19 down from the previous financial year of $246 million in 2017-18.

Gross Value of Australian Rice Crop Farm Production 1979 – 2021 (forecast), source: ABARES

The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia president Robert Massina said recent water reforms have impacted allocations both at a State and Federal level which has made it difficult to farm rice crops with the water they require to grow.

“I would say early 2021 the availability of Australian rice in packets on Australian supermarket shelves will be very, very minimal.”

“To put it into perspective in 2018, 17-18, our farming operation delivered over 2,000 tonnes of rice into SunRice and since that time we haven’t delivered one single kilo, so the main cause of that is obviously drought,” he said.

A statistical summary from The Rice Marketing Board for the State of NSW shows there were 1,186 rice farms producing 799,676 tonnes of rice in the 2017 crop compared to just 104 rice farms producing 46,175 tonnes in the 2020 crop.

“I have a property right to water of 1,000 megalitres and, in the last couple of years, particularly in our valley, we have had zero per cent, so we have had no ability to access that 1,000 litres of property right,” said Mr Massina.

“Last year…temporary water in the Murray got up to $700 per megalitre. Today I can buy temporary water for about $130 or $140 so there is a big difference…that is all based on supply and demand… you can’t go and grow rice at $700 a megalitre…because you won’t make any money whatsoever,” he said.

An analysis of the ABS data shows in 2018-19 drought conditions meant only 75,600 megalitres were used to irrigate rice crops, a 90 per cent water usage drop on Australian farms compared with the previous year.

The ABS data also revealed a record high 66 per cent increase in 2018-19 of extra temporary water purchased for Australian agricultural farm production, although volumes purchased were down.

“Over the last two years we’ve seen the second lowest and the third lowest crop ever …Australian, domestic consumption alone would take 250 to 300 thousand tonnes of…Australian rice and last year we produced 44,000 and the year before we produced 53,000 so SunRice itself has probably flexed its supply chains overseas,” said Mr Massina.

“We are just planning our rice crop now…it will be harvested in April 2021…so a fresh lot of Australian crop probably [won’t hit] supermarket shelves until the second half of 2021,” said Mr Massina.

Australian Rice Crop Areas 1970 – 2021 (forecast), source: ABARES

“It all comes down to climate and the Riverina lends itself very well to a climate for growing rice. It has been well documented and regarded that 98 per cent of the rice growing in Australia is grown in the Riverina,” he said.

“SunRice has invested in a small mill at Brandon up in Queensland in the Burdekin and there is a small amount growing up there,” said Mr Massina.

Aerial photography of rice field Queensland, Australia, source: Carnaby on Unsplash.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the Australian Government is investing $2 billion in water infrastructure to assist the agriculture industry to achieve their $100 billion growth target by 2030.

Mr Littleproud said the Government is spending $270 million on 11 initiatives to put communities at the centre of the Murray-Darling Basin plan.

“Water reform in this country in the last 10 years has made rice producers in Australia a high-cost producer so water has become the number one cost input, so the only way to fix that ultimately [is] to increase yield and decrease water use,” said Mr Massina.

“We have probably reached a target milestone of growing a tonne of rice per megalitre of water and our whole [Research and Development] focus is to be better than 1.5 tonne per megalitre of water,” he said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt have announced a Productivity Commission inquiry into national water policy that will review the efficiency of Australia’s water use for production in rural communities as part of the National Water Initiative (NWI).

The Commission will assess the water reforms agreed in the NWI, an intergovernmental national blueprint for water reform that reviews the process of Australia’s water resources sector every three years.

The next NWI is due for completion in 2021.

Reward to solve Janita McNaughton cold case

Victoria Police is offering a $1 million reward for information that will solve the cold case of Janita McNaughton’s death in 1983, Lisa Engelhardt has the story.

Lisa Engelhardt

Australian Government invests in Melbourne COVID-19 vaccine research

The Australian Government has invested $3 million from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Coronavirus Response into Melbourne-based COVID-19 research to develop two vaccines.

The University of Melbourne received the funding to develop the receptor binding domain (RBD) COVID-19 vaccine candidates: the protein vaccine at the Doherty Institute and the mRNA vaccine at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Melbourne-based COVID-19 vaccine research candidates secure Australian Government investment, source: Daniel Schludi on Unsplash.

Doherty Institute Immunology Theme Leader Professor Dale Godfrey said the coronavirus can be described as a crown where the spikes are the arms, and the tip of the spike is the hand.

“It is a bit like if you’ve got a home invader…the part that they use to get into your house is the hand…you can hold their arms, which is the spike, but they might still be able to open the doorknob, so really the most important part is the hand, the receptor binding domain…why don’t we make a vaccine that is only the hand of the virus, the RBD,” said Professor Godfrey.

“We are about to start doing challenge studies [testing on mice], so we know we can make a good immune response, we can make good antibodies, the question we don’t yet know is will the mice that we’ve immunised now be able to resist actual virus infection,” said Professor Godfrey.

“The research they have invested in is everything up to the point where we are ready to do a phase one clinical trial with humans,” he said.

Doherty Institute Immunology Theme Leader Professor Dale Godfrey speaking on the COVID-19 protein vaccine research.

“One thing that you really don’t want to do is to rush a vaccine to the point where it’s in people and you don’t know if it is safe, you don’t want people getting sick or dying because of your vaccine,” said Professor Godfrey.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said both vaccines are using different approaches to target the tip of the spike protein, the RBD, to compare which vaccine creates the most neutralising antibodies as part of Australia’s response to COVID-19.

Monash University Professor Colin Pouton said messenger RNA is new vaccine technology, the cell creates a message of RNA from the genetic information in the nucleus, the RNA translates the code for making a protein, so you can use the mRNA to vaccinate by injecting the code.

Messenger RNA new vaccine technology research, source: Fernando Zhiminaicela from Pixabay.

Professor Pouton said vaccine research builds up over three clinical trial phase efficacy studies in human volunteers, which expose more people each time: a phase one trial might start with 500 patients, phase two 1,000 patients, up to a phase three trial in 30,000 patients.

“Some of the leading vaccines that have been developed commercially at the moment for COVID-19 are actually mRNA vaccines and presumably one or more of them will probably be the first mRNA vaccines approved for human use,” he said.

Professor Pouton said the first wave international mRNA vaccines have received a lot of funding but depending on how they progress through the clinical stages, Monash University and the Doherty Institute is providing an Australian COVID-19 vaccine research response.

“For the Australian Government you could say, well gosh, to invest a billion dollars in getting a product into production is a huge risk but on the other hand to vaccinate the Australian population is probably going to cost a billion dollars,” he said.

Monash University Professor Colin Pouton speaking on the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine research.

“The amount of funding you need starts to escalate dramatically once you get into the efficacy studies…the phase one study is a safety study and…is not that expensive that is the sort of study that we are hoping to do through Government MRFF funding,” said Professor Pouton.

Keep informed on COVID-19 vaccines with the Department of Health.

Refreshed Stonnington Leader stirs contention

Leader Community Newspaper reporter Kiel Egging has been a journalist with News Corp for four years and in June this year he took over as reporter for the Stonnington Leader.

Mr Egging explained when he started at Leader they still had newspapers published each week, although some people started subscribing to read the print replica online, on their tablet or computer if they didn’t get it delivered.

Mr Egging recollects there being 26 Leader titles when he started with the group. In April this year, there were twenty or so mastheads and now we cover about fifteen patches of Melbourne he said.

ePapers are an online replica of the Leader newspaper and they stopped in April, when News Corp suspended the print editions of the Leader because of COVID and followed with a restructure deciding to make all the Leader titles in Victoria digital only with online reporting Mr Egging confirms.

The Stonnington History Centre, dedicated to preserving the natural history of the City of Stonnington, dates the first Stonnington Leader newspaper back to 2000 and archived the last hard copy of the publication on March 24 this year.

Stonnington Leader Community Newspaper from July 28, 2015, source: Stonnington History Centre.

City of Stonnington Mayor Steve Stefanopoulos, elected by council for the last three years, said he was not surprised they decided to stop printing the Leader.

“I think the local publication has gone already, it was gone a number of years ago when they reduced the content [of local newspapers] from being very local to being metro wide…when you look at the newspapers back in the eighties and nineties, very different volume, and very different number of local articles and local issues,” explained Mr Stefanopoulos.

“It was not very news focused it didn’t have a lot of local news items in there, so it hasn’t been a real newspaper for a very long time,” he said.

The printed hard copy only had one or two articles that were Stonnington based and the rest were from elsewhere in Melbourne he remembers.

“When the front page of the Stonnington Leader was no different to any of the others in metro Melbourne you wonder why they even produced it in hard copy form,” he said.

A lot of councils are now producing their own newsletters, more often, with local stories, Mr Stefanopoulos remarks.

Stonnington locals can subscribe to an eNewsletter and a hard copy is distributed to residents by the council, funded by rate payers, he comments.

The Stonnington City Centre service centre, Glenferrie road, Malvern.

Mr Stefanopoulos argues “locals won’t be interested in buying, subscribing to a local newspaper, I don’t think there is an appetite in the community for that at all.”

People are not going read the Stonnington Leader online because you have to subscribe to the Herald Sun to get the content, locals aged 60 to 70 years are quite IT savvy and might, but I don’t think people under 40 would, Mr Stefanopoulos comments.

Conveying the news fairly in the community starts with “good quality journalism, that’s open, honest, that presents the facts, not fiction,” Mr Stefanopoulos confirms.

“Subscriptions have now become a thing and journos don’t work for free,” Mr Egging explains.

“It’s an entirely digital product…the Leader is very much linked in with the Herald Sun obviously being part of News Corp…if we have a good enough story…the Herald Sun features it on their website [and] in their print edition,” Mr Egging confirms.

“All our coverage is…online through, as a part of the Herald Sun website…scroll down there and you will see local or Leader…if we still had the paper around that’s the kind of stuff we would be filling the paper with,” Mr Egging details.

Around the middle of the 2010s News Corp brought out their pay wall subscriber take out a subscription to the Herald Sun he explains.

“When I started in 2016…I can’t recall us having a big focus on subscription…I think it really just ramped up probably for Leader stories online…late 2017…that’s when we…were given instructions to make a few more of our stories subscriber only,” Mr Egging recalls.

Detail from the Leader Community family tree, source: State Library Victoria.

Now the Herald Sun subscription gets you a Leader subscription. Once you subscribe you get access to all the Leader news stories, as well as the Herald Sun stories or anything else in the News Corp network Mr Egging clarifies.

“On the Herald Sun website, the coronavirus information…is free…public health and public safety…[is] free as well.”

Mr Egging contends that breaking news remains the focus of the Stonnington Leader. “The key stories are around crime, emergency services, shopping, council and development is a big one,” Mr Egging comments.

“I’m always calling up the cops to see what incidents there have been,” he says.

“I basically just cover general news…filing stories for the website…managing the social media channels as well so we have to keep on pushing out lots of stories,” he describes.

The Chapel Street precinct obviously is a very bustling source for stories Mr Egging remarks.

“We provide a voice for these people…without us…council could just spin things their way, that’s why community news is…so important,” Mr Egging asserts.

“The president of the rate payers’ group…keeps telling me what interesting little tricks the council is up to and things like that.”

“Those who just love the papers or were used to it…could potentially be…disappointed with it the most, hopefully they can get their fix again online,” Mr Egging contends.

“I still got a thrill of holding a paper and you know reading it and finding my work in there…it is that kind of nostalgia element, which was really cool, so to see that go was sad but at the same time I am still very grateful I have a job…because lots of people aren’t as fortunate in my position,” he recaps.

“Community newspapers and community news is all about shining a light on those people who may not normally get their stories…we’re still here and doing that so it’s just in a different environment…without the printed edition now,” Mr Egging summarises.

Read the Stonnington Leader online

The push to mandate face masks in NSW

NSW Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Dr Danielle McMullen is calling for mandatory face masks on public transport during COVID-19.

NSW AMA Dr McMullen said the State Government should make face mask wearing mandatory on public transport, particularly on trains and buses as they are enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces where maintaining social distancing is difficult.

GP educator Elizabeth Hindmarsh said this is a new phenomenon and that we do not have the answers to what we should be doing so the recommendation is to do a lot of hand washing and social distancing and masks are another thing that can be helpful.

“At the moment the government hasn’t made that compulsory, so people are making their own decisions about that so there are a lot of face masks being worn, but it’s a personal choice in NSW at the moment,” Dr Hindmarsh said.

“If you are going to introduce mandatory…something you have got to have the evidence that it works,” she said.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant supported the call for face masks to be worn in areas where physical distancing was difficult.

“People are encouraged to wear face masks particularly in indoor settings where physical distancing is hard to maintain, such as on public transport,” Dr Chant said.

Paddington-Darlinghurst Community Working Group convenor Will Mrongovious said that it is a social responsibility for the government to give clearer face mask advice in NSW to address increased numbers of people returning to work in the CBD.

“In Sydney I have got to say mask wearing is not a big thing and the government gives mixed messages saying people will do the right thing or you know when you need to and they won’t say you have to so it’s really weird and in one instance the NSW Government has also encouraged you not to use public transport,” Mr Mrongovious said.

In a statement on September 15 Transport for NSW spokesperson said “it is encouraging to see the number of people wearing face masks while using the public transport network including Sydney Metro, has increased in recent weeks but Transport for NSW wants to see this number continue to rise.”

Currently NSW Health strongly recommends people always carry a clean face mask, for more information visit

NSW Government COVID-19 face mask recommendations.