Medical council rules on IVF gender selection

Australia’s peak medical council has knocked back a push to allow parents to choose the gender of their baby in new national guidelines.


But the National Health and Medical Research Council left the door open for future changes, suggesting sex selection may be ethical.

On Thursday, the NHMRC banned clinics from offering gender selection for non-medical purposes in its long-anticipated guidelines for assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

The council’s working committee – the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) – had recommended the council consider condoning sex selection in certain circumstances.

But the NHMRC ultimately concluded the Australian public was not yet ready for such a radical change.

“Despite AHEC’s majority view that there may be some circumstances where there is no ethical barrier to the use of sex-selection for non-medical purposes (current regulations apply) until such time that wider public debate occurs and/or state and territory legislation addresses the practice,” the report read.

ART facilities, including IVF clinics, must abide by the guidelines in order to retain their accreditation.

Several IVF clinics made submissions arguing for families that already have at least two children of the same sex to be able to choose the gender of the third. Currently, gender selection is only allowed in Australia on medical grounds to reduce the risk of serious genetic conditions.

The power to choose a baby’s gender for family balancing is already widely available overseas and Australians are heading to the US and Asia for access, Fertility Society of Australia president Michael Chapman said.

There was “extensive debate” within the working committee and in the media concerning whether would-be parents should be permitted to make an autonomous decision about the sex of their baby for non-medical purposes, chair of the AHEC Ian Olver??? said.

“However there has also been significant community concerns about this practice,” he said.

AHEC did not wish to endorse or perpetuate gender stereotyping or cultural bias based on sex, Professor Olver said.

But the committee hoped a reference in the appendix of the guidelines that stated sex selection may be ethical would stimulate public debate needed to affect legislation.

Further public discussion needed to take place before sex-selection could be recommended, he said.

“Australian society needs to be ready both socially and politically,” he said.

The NHMRC also quashed suggestions that sperm donors be offered financial compensation, diverging from the UK’s decision to provide donors with $1278 in “gratitude”.

More than 200 submissions during the consultation period raised issues concerning ART, including counselling for would-be parents, commercial surrogacy and international surrogacy, genetic testing, and sex selection for non-medical purposes.

Accident on purpose

FISH OF THE WEEK: Sally Burns wins the Jarvis Walker tacklebox and Tsunami lure pack for this “accidental” mulloway hooked in Newcastle this week.


Sally Burns fired on Newcastle Harbour Wednesday night, reeling in her “accidental” Fish of the Week mulloway against all odds.

“I’m not even sure how it happened,” said Sally who had been targeting bream with a size 3 sinker and a 1/0 hook and 10-pound leader.

“I had all the odds against me, I was under gunned, I shouldn’t have been able to reel him in with the set-up I had, but he just took my bait and ran.

“Forty minutes later he was a fish out of water. If it wasn’t me telling the story i wouldn’t believe it either.”

Easter offeringsThe Easter holidays got anglers out en masse.

Eight-year-oldHudson Grodzki landed a 60cm salmon on Stockton Beach on Good Friday and according to dad Andrew, you still can’t wipe the smile off his face.

Bernard Law headed up to Scotts Head for the Easter weekend with son Sam andcaught a 20kg Spanish mackerel.

“It was the biggest fish ever to venture into the ‘outlaws boat’,” Bernard reported.

“After a 30-minute fight ‘Sam the Man’got the big fish into the boat. My dad [Boota] couldn’t believe it.”

The mackerel was caught on a 35lb line with live bait.

Lachlan Clement landed his first ever flathead over the break, a lizard measuring 48cm hooked near Belmont.

Meanwhile, young Talen Cummings caught two nice mullet in Lake Macquarie on a fishing trip with his dad and pop.

Snapper blitzGeoff “Kanga” Ruse from Freddys Fishing and Outdoors at Broadmeadow reports heaps of snapper on the move off the coast.

“Quite a few blokes have been getting reds off the reefs and rocks,” Kanga said.

“We’ve been seeing fish between the 45cm to 55cm range off the rocks which is very encouraging.”

“Lure fishos have been having a ball with things like theZ-man and Boom baits, combining them with Pro-cure scents.”

Pro-cure scents come in a gel form and are a very effective addition to your lure-fishing armoury, according to Kanga.

“It comes in a bottle and will last you a year,” he said.

“They’ve got all sorts of types of scents, each with real fish in it.

“Blokes have been using a lot of mullet and squid scent to get the snapper, tuna has been working well too.”

Running gameMullet, tailor and salmon are on the move at the moment.

“Guys have been spinning tailor up with metal spinner and duplexes –a heavy diving lure which youcan throw a mile,” Kanga said.

The tailorhave been coming off the beach, breakwalls and in the lake.

In fact, Freddys fishing expert Todd Miles “of Smiles”, has been bagging out this week.

“There’s a lot of flathead about but you have to cover ground,” Kanga said.

“Whiting and bream continue to go for the Vibelicious lures.”

Kanga reckons the Vibes are walking out the door and if you’re keen to have a go, the guys at Freddy’s will give you a quick lesson on how to use it.

“Basically, it’s a just a cast out then a slow draw up off the bottom, just enough so you feel it kiking, that’s why they call it a Vibelicious because it’s vibes.

“Combined with the scent and you’re just about guaranteed to catch fish.”

Lure of jewAs our Fish of the Week winner indicates, there are mulloway about.

No surprise really with the fresh and the tailor, mullet and salmon running.

Pilchards and livies work just fine but for your lure types, Kanga recommends big Vibelicous, Storm Rip Shads, Storm Rip Curly Tails, 8-inch Z-man in the jerk shad and the trustyStorm Wild Eye Swim shad.

“I’ve heard of a few good ones this week but not as many as before Easter when it was really raining,” Kanga said.

Meanwhile, freshwater fishos have been revelling in the glorious conditions up country chasingbass. The weather has been amazing and the fish have been active.

Teralba newsTeralba Fishing Club spokesman Ian Guy reports the club kicked off its2017-2018 seasonthe weekend before Easter with many members weighing in bumper catches from both offshore and inshore fishing locations.

The club will hold its presentation night for the season just paston SaturdaySaturdaycommencing 6pm for 6.30pm at Teralba Bowling Club.

“So please make sure member and guests are booked in with president John on 0412 684 381 for this great dining extravaganza and presentation of awards,” Ian urged.

“A good time for new and current members is to meet socially at our club raffles on Fridays commencing 5.30pm.

“Also member and guests should be aware of the special fishing club members draw conducted after every weigh-in event so there is plenty of incentive to be or become a member of our fishing club.”

Missy Higgins’ old Bondi pad snapped up within a week for $1.72 million


Higgins family affair – North Bondi apartment formerly belonging to singer hits market

Missy Higgins: ‘I was a relationship addict for a long time’

Missy Higgins sells her Abbotsford warehouse for more than $2.2 million

What hope have first-home buyers when a two-bedroom apartment in North Bondi sells for $1.72 million only a week after it hit the market.

The Wairoa Avenue apartment made a gain of 170 per cent in the 12 years since it last traded when singer-songwriter Missy Higgins bought it for $636,000 from producer and director Anna Grieve.

At the time Higgins was no ordinary first-home buyer in Sydney’s property market. In 2005, she had won five separate ARIA Awards and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the MTV Australia awards.

That success came only a year after she broke onto the Australian music scene with her 2004 album The Sound of White, followed up by On A Clear Night.

Higgins owned the art deco apartment for a decade before she sold it to her parents in early 2015, who then did another family transfer to Higgins’ sister, artist Nicola Higgins, in November of the same year.

Monique March, of Raine & Horne Double Bay, had an asking price of $1.5 million ahead of the planned May 2 auction, but the property was snapped up on Thursday.

The buyers are a local medico couple who plan to live in the apartment while they renovate their family home and then hold onto it as a long-term investment.

It’s not the only property Higgins has parted with in the last few years – she also listed and sold her Abbotsford warehouse conversion, scoring over $2.2 million for the Melbourne apartment in March 2016.

The hit Australian singer-songwriter stepped back from the music scene in 2009 and took an extended break. She returned with the album The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle in 2012, touring again in 2016 – including performing at the 2016 ARIAs – and releasing a song inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis.

OpinionMicrobeads a macro marine menace

Sometimes we are not spurred into action until a chance physical encounter.At our recent scientific conference in Muswellbrook the poster by UON PhD Student Hasintha Wijesekara graphically detailing his project on microbeads in biowastes caught my eye. This was because it was accompanied by a practical demonstration of the huge number of tiny plastic beads that are in use in products such as toothpastes, body scrubs, shampoos and many others.


On display was a small vial with tens of thousands of beads extracted from one bottle of facial cleanser. Since their introduction into our households about 20 years ago, microbeads have become one of the biggest threats to marine wildlife because they are are too small to be captured and filtered out at the water treatment plant. They eventually end up in the ocean as indigestible targets for marine animals.Further, the plastic beads can accumulate dangerous toxins and heavy metals on their trip through our waste disposal network.

A typical usage of a facial scrub might flush 100,000 of these microbeads into the sewer and eventually into the marine environment.Along with plastic bags, microbeads are a major threat to our marine environment.These particles can be transferred to higher levels in the food chain, causing adverse effects and may serve as a global transport mechanism for accumulated contaminants such as persistent organic pollutants.

Many countries, including Australia, are encouraging industry to phase out microbead use, but progress is slow.I tried the free app, Beat the Microbead, and found that many of the barcodes on bottles in my bathroom were not recognised, but I commend it to you as a useful addition to your smartphone.

Professor Tim Roberts is the director of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, at the University of Newcastle

What has changed for our returned service men and women in 100 years

SIMILARITIES: Victoria Cross winner Joe Maxwell wrote on Anzac Day in 1931 that the plight of many returned soldiers “and stands as a monument of disgrace to a country for which these gallant fellows sacrificed so much”.


As thousands flock to Australia’s war memorials today to honour the dead from wars long past, too many veterans of more recent military service are homeless, jobless and traumatised and too many are taking their own lives.

According to some statistics, seven returned service personnel have taken their lives so far this year, and 75 took their own lives during 2016.

A parliamentary inquiry into suicide by veterans and ex-defence forces personnel, due to report in June, has received hundreds of submissions, many of them alleging neglect, carelessness and incompetence on the part of the government authorities that are supposed to provide help.

When the NSW Governor, General David Hurley, spoke in Newcastle last month at a luncheon to celebrate the centenary of the City of Newcastle Sub-branch of the RSL, he urged the organisation to maintain its traditional concern for the returned service men and women of recent wars whose problems were just as real as those who came home from The Great War 100 years ago.

The RSL charity DefenceCare this month launched a national appeal to raise funds to help veterans in distress, reporting a 27 per cent increase in requests for help over the past year.

According to figures recently released by theNational Mental Health Commission, suicide rates are 13 per cent higher for former ADF members than in the average population, with the problem particularly pronounced among those younger than 30.

“These and other cases of attempted suicide and self-harm as outlined in the report, combined with other recent figures of veteran homelessness, speak to a great need to support veterans on a case-by-case basis following discharge,” Robyn Collins, general Manager of DefenceCare, said.

“We see the human face of these statistics play out on a daily basis, with the mental health issues faced by many veterans exacerbated by chronic physical pain as a result of their service to our country,”

Research undertaken for the recently-published centenary history of the sub-branch shows many disturbing similarities between the treatment of veterans today and those of 100 years ago.

One of Australia’s most highly decorated Great War soldiers, Victoria Cross winner Joe Maxwell, wrote in The Newcastle Morning Herald on Anzac Day 1931 that the plight of many returned soldiers was pitiful, “and stands as a monument of disgrace to a country for which these gallant fellows sacrificed so much”.

Maxwell described a tour of the Depression-hit streets of Newcastle, where he found scores of ex-Great War Diggers sleeping rough in parks.

“Near the gas works another “battalion” is bivouaced in dug-outs, shelters, and two hard-boiled members of the 18th Battalion have made their abodes in adjoining 6ft cement stormwater pipes,” Maxwell wrote.

“The crowd of men congregated at the municipal tip near the Sports Ground recall memories of Egypt, with its scores of hungry natives salvaging the garbage tins at the AIF camps, for scraps of food. To add to the family coffers – as one fellow confided – they collect old tins, pieces of copper wire, and, in fact, anything which can be bartered to the second-hand dealer, who calls each evening.”

This general neglect of returned Great War servicemen was not confined to Newcastle.

In 1932 the retiring president of the Coonabarabran RSL Sub-branch, Rev. Father C. Lonergan, wrote that the returned soldier was “without honour in his own country, and his fate writes a page in the history of this country of which no-one can be proud”.

“Amid rapturous scenes at their departure, Diggers were assured that: ‘living or dead, they were never to be forgotten’. They were to be placed high on the pinnacle of the nation’s gratitude,” Fr Lonergan said.

“Bravely and faithfully the duty was borne, with well-nigh infinite patience and steadfastness, even when all round appeared to fail. The world proclaimed it! But the war was scarce over when a change seemed to set in. Public opinion forgot the promises and the cheers.”

Newcastle’s RSL journal complained about the government’s treatment of Diggers: “Departmental failings: No perspective, no imagination, no sympathy, no ability worth anything; and the Digger suffers”.

Hunter Region wartime leader Brigadier-General John Meredith wrote that men had returned “with their ability dulled by years of service and unaccustomed work and we find that they must be classified as perfectly sound, totally incapacitated, partially incapacitated, shell-shocked and recurrent sick”.

“These men who have sacrificed the best part of their life to the honour and glory of this glorious Commonwealth are almost starving. The streets of the towns and cities are full of Diggers who are unable to work owing to their disabilities, and whose pensions are not sufficient to keep them, are compelled to ask charity of the public, who unfortunately look askance at them, and they are fast becoming derelicts with no thought of the future. They start to wander from place to place, and also many of them are dying in strange places without a friend or relation near them,” Brigadier-General Meredith wrote.

That was in the Great Depression, of course, and the huge number of Diggers in need was greater than today when relatively few need support in an apparently prosperous country at a time when the traumas of military service are said to be well-understood.

While Australians properly pay their respects to the warriors of the past, they might care to spare some thought for those of the present, and to ask themselves whether the nation has learned from the lessons of the history.

Amidst the hymns and exhortations to never forget, it seems, something very important is being forgotten after all.

The history of the City of Newcastle RSL Sub-branch is contained in the new book, The Hunter Region in The Great War, byGregand Sylvia Ray